Study Guide

A Dog's Purpose What's Up With the Title?

By W. Bruce Cameron

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What's Up With the Title?

What's the Point?

See Spot. See Spot run. See Spot have an existential crisis and wonder what the point of his never-ending existence is.

As the title suggests, this is a book about a dog finding his purpose. This purpose stuff is not on his mind during his first life, but at that point, he doesn't know he's on his first of a series of lives. All he cares about in this first life is romping and playing, although very early on, he does say, "I couldn't see that my brothers and sister had any purpose whatsoever" (1.2).

This suggests that he thinks he might have a purpose, which is either a nice bit of foreshadowing or a sign that he's pretty darn conceited for a dog.

By the end of his short life, the puppy brings up the concept of purpose once again. He thinks, "Of all the things I'd ever done, making Senora laugh seemed the most important. It was, I reflected, the only thing that gave my life any purpose" (4.81). He believes his whole purpose in his brief life was to make one woman smile. Does that make his life worth it?

Fate says no. The dog is reborn again, with all the memories of his previous life intact, giving him a philosophical outlook on reincarnation that is surprisingly sophisticated for an animal that's about a year old. Here's what he ponders in his kennel:

I was seized with an inexplicable question, a question of purpose. This didn't seem like the sort of thing a dog should think about, but I found myself returning to the issue often, usually as I was just dozing off for an irresistible nap. Why? Why was I a puppy again? Why did I harbor a nagging feeling that as a dog there was something I was supposed to do? (5.11)

We know we've wondered the same thing before falling asleep.

It's in this next life that our dog sets his big wet puppy eyes on Ethan and decides it's his purpose to be this boy's companion to the very end. He doesn't realize how true that'll be.

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