A month ago, I reviewed Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School, a memoir by Bruce Atchison. Now, Bruce has returned the favor by reviewing my poetry collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver on his blog. You can read his review here.
This morning, as I sat in our back yard on a beautiful eighty-three-degree day, I read a blog post by John that asked this question. As I felt the cool breeze caress my legs and heard my next door neighbor try many times and finally succeed in starting his lawn mower, I pondered this question but couldn’t come up with an answer.
One thing I’ve learned about independence over the years is that sometimes, in order to be independent, you have to ask for help. When I attended the Arizona State School for the Deaf & Blind in Tucson, I was taught what I call the eleventh commandment. “Thou shalt not ask for help.” The twelfth commandment was, “Thou shalt do it yourself.” It took me many years to unlearn these commandments. Now, I own my own house and care for my totally blind partially paralyzed husband at home. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of this if I couldn’t ask for help.
Why do I seem to have dogs on the brain lately? It just so happens that I was reading a book about a dog when I got the idea for last week’s post. Now that I’ve finished the book, I’d like to tell you about it.
A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans is the story of a dog who goes through four life cycles, realizing he has a purpose and until that purpose is fulfilled, he will continue to be reborn. In each life, he’s a different dog with a different breed and name, adopted by different people, but he remembers his past lives.
In all four lives, the dog is born into a litter of puppies. In his first life, his color and breed aren’t clear. He and his mother and siblings run wild until they are caught by some humans who turn out to be an elderly woman and a few men who work for her. The woman names him Toby. She keeps about twenty dogs in a corral behind her house. Some are fierce, and others are not. Toby gets into a fight with another dog in the corral and injures his leg. Soon afterward, the constabulary arrive, claiming the woman is violating the law by keeping so many dogs, and all the dogs are taken away. Because of Toby’s leg injury, he is considered unadoptable and immediately put down.
In his next three lives, this dog and his mother and siblings are cared for by breeders before ending up in their permanent homes. In his second life, the dog, a yellow Labrador, uses the tricks he learned from his mother during his first life in the wild to escape from the breeder. Fate leads him to a couple with a little boy named Ethan who calls him Bailey. Over the next ten or twelve years, Ethan and Bailey grow up together, living in town during the school year and spending many happy summers on Ethan’s grandparents’ farm. When the family’s house in town catches fire and Ethan is injured, Bailey helps catch the arsonist and stays by Ethan’s side through his recovery. He also witnesses Ethan’s relationship with the girl next door and many other landmark events in the boy’s childhood. While Ethan is in college, Bailey becomes ill, and the vet says there’s nothing to be done. He ends his second life, surrounded by Ethan and his family.
In his third life, the dog is a female, a black German shepherd, adopted by Jacob, a policeman. He calls her Ellie and trains her for search and rescue work. After Jacob is injured in the line of duty and retires, Ellie is adopted by Maya, a policewoman who also uses her for search and rescue work. A year or so later, after rescuing victims from an earthquake in El Salvador, Ellie’s nose is burned, effecting her sense of smell. Since she can no longer work as a search and rescue dog, Maya retires her and takes her to schools where she explains to kids how the dog used to work. Maya also marries her next door neighbor, Al, and they have a baby. After about ten years, Ellie becomes ill and is taken to the vet. She ends this life with Al and Maya at her side.
In the dog’s fourth life, it is again not clear what his breed is, only that he is black in color. He is adopted by Wendy who calls him Bear. When she’s threatened with eviction from her apartment because of the dog, she leaves him with her mother who lives with Victor, an abusive type. When a neighbor complains to the authorities about how Bear is treated, Victor takes Bear out in the country and abandons him. Bear makes his way to a creek and then realizes he’s not far from Ethan’s grand[parent’s’ farm. Using the techniques he learned as a search and rescue dog, he eventually finds the farm. Ethan is living there, an old man, never married, with no family. Of course Bear is a different dog so naturally, Ethan doesn’t recognize him, but he eventually takes him in and calls him Buddy. Ethan is sad, and Buddy senses this is because of his break-up years ago with Hannah, the girl next door. Again using his search and rescue techniques, he finds Hannah and is instrumental in reuniting her with Ethan. They’re married, and about a year later, it is Ethan who dies with Buddy by his side, realizing he has finally fulfilled his purpose as a dog.
According to W. Bruce Cameron’s Website, he was born and raised in Petoskey, Michigan. When he was in the fourth grade, he tried to write his first novel about a boy growing up in Chicago and managed to produce twenty-six pages. At the age of sixteen, he sold his first story to The Kansas City Star. After college, he became a freelance writer. To support himself, he took a number of day jobs including an ambulance driver, salesman, computer programmer, and financial analyst. In 1995, he started an Internet column and ended up with forty thousand subscribers in fifty-one countries. In 1998, The Rocky Mountain News began featuring him weekly in their home front section. One of his columns, “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teen-aged Daughter,” was made into a book produced by Workman Publishing in May of 2001. It was fourteenth on The New York Times best seller list. He was featured on CNN and in People, USA Today Weekend, and on The CBS Early Show, and various national radio programs. Oliver North took an interest in 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teen-aged Daughter and introduced him to Creator’s Syndicate which picked him up in October of 2001. He wrote two other humorous books: How to Remodel a Man and 8 Simple Rules for Marrying My Daughter. He has three children and a dog.
A Dog’s Purpose has been on The New York Times best seller list. W. Bruce Cameron has written a sequel, A Dog’s Journey. You can purchase these books from his Website. I downloaded a recording of A Dog’s Purpose from Audible, and although it wasn’t read by the author, the narrator did a pretty good job. A Dog’s Journey is also available from Audible, and as soon as I get another credit, I plan to buy it. If you love dogs like I do, you’ll love these books.