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Monthly Book Discussions > July 2011: A Dog's Purpose discussion

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message 1: by JudgyK (new)

JudgyK I'll probably start reading this one over the weekend, but I won't have any internet access. In the meantime, if there's anything anybody wants to talk about, feel free to toss it up here!

Suggested reading schedule
July 10: Chapters 1-9
July 17: Chapters 10-19
July 24: Chapters 20-32
Gives us lots of time to start what with the holiday weekend, and then about 100 pages a week.

Happy reading!


message 2: by JudgyK (new)

JudgyK Well, I started the book in the car on Monday and finished it in a few hours before I even got home. It was definitely a quick read!

What did you think about Toby? I was sort of surprised that his portion of the book ended so quickly.

Did you find it odd that he almost instinctively liked people? Similarly, if Sister or First Mother got reincarnated, do either of them stand a chance at being a Bailey-like dog for a kid like Ethan, or are they too gone the feral route?

Do all dogs get another chance, or just those who pause right before they die to think about their "purpose"? (I thought that part of the book was cheeeeeeesy)


message 3: by Sherri (new)

Sherri I too found it a quick read. Started it Thursday night and finished Friday night -- even worked an 8 hour day on Friday.

As for Toby, I wasn't surprised his portion was so short. He was only needed so the dog could learn how to open the gate so he could "find" the boy.

I think only the dogs who wonder about their purpose in life would be reincarnated. The inquisitive nature would be a necessary element in remember past lessons learned and continually wondering to reach the ultimate karma. Sister and First Mother were too feral and simply survivors.


message 4: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jennyt8675309) | 33 comments I finished it Friday night, loved the book and it made me cry like a little girl, it was so heart warming.

Amie, I agree that the "purpose" and another chance was a little cheesy, but I also smiled a little over the idea.

I think the concept was based on the idea that everyone (humans too) are trying to answer the question, "why are we here". For some reason a lot of us feel we need to be "here" for a reason . . .

In any event, I really enjoyed the book. I grew up with dogs and while I don't own one currently, I am surrounded by dogs owned by various members of my family. I laughed over the confusion the dog experienced as a "house" dog over the cat and getting trained to go outside to do his business.

I agree with Sherri, I wasn't surprised that Toby's life was so short. He lived on the streets and the introduction of a "fighter" dog can't be that uncommon in overcrowded shelters.

I felt sorry for Mother and (to a certain extent) Sister. Mother probably knew no other way, and she did the best she could to teach the pups to fear humans and remain hidden. That distrust is not uncommon to people living on the streets.


message 5: by JudgyK (new)

JudgyK For chapters 10-19:

Did you suspect Todd was as bad as he was when he was first introduced?

Did you find yourself wondering when / how Bailey was going to die? I fully expected him to get hit by a car or train when he went chasing after Ethan's car to college.

What do you think about Jakob? And about Ellie's job and life with him? Is it just about working dog instead of companion dog, or is there more to it?


message 6: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jennyt8675309) | 33 comments With Todd, yes I suspected he was rotten right from the start. There was just something about him and the fact that Bailey picked up on it in the first encounter, made me suspect the worse. It seems that animals have the uncanny ability to sense things like this, at least that's been my experience with dogs and cats over the years.

I too thought Bailey would die in an accident, he didn't always pay close attention to his surroundings so I was a little surprised he wasn't hit by a truck or bus.

Jakob is interesting, while he didn't mistreat Bailey, he also didn't treat him like a pet, just a working dog. My parents got a dog years ago from a breeder who wanted to get out of the breeding business. Max was 3 years old when my parents adopted him. While he wasn't treated badly, he too was only treated as a working dog during his first 3 years. Max had a lot of quirky habits as a result. For example, any toy or bone he got, he would take it somewhere and hide it rather than play with it. Eventually, Max grew out of these habits as he got used to being treated as a pet.

I thought a lot about Max reading the Jakob and Ellie section because Bailey reminded me a little of him. He was obedient and did his job, but he was so much happier with Ellie because he was treated more like part of the family which is what he had with Ethan.


message 7: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 20 comments I always expected Todd to be as bad as he was. The blowing up things, the dark edge, the disappearing dog, all pointed to sociopathic behavior. I actually thought that Todd was going to kill Ethan, not just seriously injure him.

Did anyone think about the fact that had Todd not injured Ethan, there was a good chance Bailey's job or purpose would have been finished, or significantly altered? Ethan's injuries drove him and Hannah apart, and Buddy ultimately brought them back together, using everything he had learned.

All the talk about past memories made me wonder if all the dogs had past memories, or was Toby/Bailey/Ellie/Buddy the unique in the aspect. Why couldn't the rest of the dogs remember things from their previous lives?

All in all, I was actually fighting back tears near the end of the book.


message 8: by JudgyK (new)

JudgyK For the remaining chapters (20-32)-

Who was your favorite human in the book? Why?

Did you believe for a second that Ellie was the end, and that the purpose had been achieved? I sure didn't. Having too many pages left can quickly ruin a false ending.

Overall impression of the book? What were your favorite parts? Least favorite?

I think it would have been a stronger book without all the self-searching "what's my purpose?" mumbo-jumbo. The title could have stayed the same, and we could have seen each life show up in the next piece-by-piece, without having it spelled out so clearly. It was a bit too spoonfed. Every time the dogspirit started yapping about its purpose I got annoyed. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the book.


message 9: by JudgyK (new)

JudgyK Jenny wrote: "I thought a lot about Max reading the Jakob and Ellie section because Bailey reminded me a little of him. He was obedient and did his job, but he was so much happier with Ellie because he was treated more like part of the family which is what he had with Ethan. "

Do you think all dogs would be happier as part of a family? Or are there some worker dogs who just want to work?


message 10: by JudgyK (new)

JudgyK Rachel wrote: "Did anyone think about the fact that had Todd not injured Ethan, there was a good chance Bailey's job or purpose would have been finished, or significantly altered?"

Nah, I don't think so. Even if Ethan had gone on to play football at Michigan State (when I saw his two options were MSU and that other school, I threw down the book and declared to my husband, "If this kid ends up being a skunkbear, I'm NOT FINISHING THE BOOK." Luckily it wasn't an issue.) he and Hannah might have still drifted apart. They were kids when they met, and still had a lot of life to live to get to that point.


message 11: by JudgyK (new)

JudgyK Rachel wrote: "All the talk about past memories made me wonder if all the dogs had past memories, or was Toby/Bailey/Ellie/Buddy the unique in the aspect. Why couldn't the rest of the dogs remember things from their previous lives?"

Good question. What does everybody think?


message 12: by Becki (new)

Becki (beckalina) | 73 comments I'm way behind in this discussion, but I will try to hit some of the main discussion points.

I have spent the past year rescuing feral cats. And even though cats and dogs can be very different personality wise, I still was able to relate Toby and his family to the cats I've dealt with. It is not all that unusual for some ferals to instinctively trust humans and others fear them. And there are some that want to trust humans but only know life as a feral and it takes them time to warm up.

I thought Todd was rotten from the start. I fully expected him to be the one who killed Bailey. He was always trying to get close to him and it concerned me. And like others have already said, dogs are good at picking up that kind of thing. So when Bailey had a strong distrust for him, so did I.

One thing I noted that I really enjoyed about the book was that the animals didn't "talk" to each other. Which almost made it feel more realistic to me. I loved the thoughts that went through Bailey's head. And I could imagine (and have imagined) my parents' dogs that I grew up with thinking the same things. But the fact that the animals all communicated by reading each other's actions and facial expressions made Bailey's point of view seem more realistic and less cheesy. Although, I agree with others that "purpose" process was sweet at the beginning, but eventually I found it harder and harder to imagine a dog having these deep life's purpose inner thoughts. But what did you all think of the narrative and the way Bailey conveyed his point of view?


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