Study Guide

A Dog's Purpose Abandonment

By W. Bruce Cameron

Abandonment

Something told me that one of those days she wouldn't come back. We would have to fend for ourselves. […] Mother wouldn't be there to look after me. (1.33)

Early on, our narrator learns that he isn't to trust or rely on other dogs. They are almost always on the lookout for only themselves, and they will abandon another of their species to save themselves.

Mother never [played], though—she had dug herself a hollow behind the railroad ties and spent most of her time just lying there. When I went to see how she was doing, she growled at me as if she didn't know who I was. (2.40)

Mother feels abandoned and alone in the Yard. She is a feral dog, and even though life is harder for her in the wild, she prefers it to being cooped up in the Yard. Our narrator doesn't understand this, and feels that his mother has abandoned him. Both of their feelings are complicated, as they want different things out of life.

Then she turned to look at me, her eyes bright. The message in them was clear: my mother was leaving. (2.45)

Mother is leaving, but is she actually asking the dog to come with her here? It doesn't seem like she has had much of a desire to look after him after they were captured. Why would she start caring now?

The last I saw of my mother she was doing what she did best: sliding into the shadows, unnoticed, unseen. (3.1)

This moment right here may be the last straw with our narrator and his relationship to his dog mothers. He follows his mom out of the Yard, but she clearly has no desire to take care of him; she is only looking after herself, and that really hurts our dog narrator's feelings.

The boy was only gone one night, but it was the first time since we'd been together that I had slept without him, and I paced the hallways until Dad shouted, "Lie down, Bailey!" (12.5)

It's very confusing for Bailey when Ethan goes off to college. Bailey had been under the impression that he would be with Ethan forever, so when his loyal companion disappears, Bailey doesn't know what to think. But he never takes it personally or holds it against Ethan, because he knows Ethan loves him.

Where was my boy? (15.102)

It's very confusing for Bailey when Ethan goes off to college. Bailey had been under the impression that he would be with Ethan forever, so when his loyal companion disappears, Bailey doesn't know what to think. But he never takes it personally or holds it against Ethan, because he knows Ethan loves him.

"No, Bailey, it's okay. You Stay." (16.69)

Stay is capitalized because of the severity of the command. Bailey has to Stay because he is being left behind while Ethan goes away for college. Ethan will be gone for months, leaving his dog behind.

Wherever he was, whatever he was doing, I hoped he was happy. I knew I would never see him again. (18.34)

It's not anyone's fault that the dog feels lonely here. He has learned to accept that life goes on without him—even though, you, he's still alive at this point. It's almost like practice for all the death and reincarnation the dog goes through in this novel.

When I thought about Jakob, I realized that his cold dedication to Find helped me get over my separation from Ethan—there was no time for grieving. I had too much work to do. (22.70)

When some people—and dogs, it appears—feel abandoned, they become workaholics to avoid the grieving process. Can feelings of abandonment be avoided entirely, or must people (and dogs) return to them at some point and confront these feelings?

I would not have been so good at work if I hadn't had the experience of being Ethan's dog—Jakob's cold distance would have been incomprehensive and painful to me. (26.3)

Here, Ellie (now reborn as another dog) suggests that she was able to endure Jakob's distance because Ethan had loved her (as Bailey). Ellie had love in her memory to fall back on and cushion her from Jakob's less-than-warm treatment of her.

If I was such a good dog, why was I being abandoned by my owner? (26.67)

Bear doesn't understand that while Wendi wants to love him, she is unable to show it, either because she doesn't have the financial means, or because she just doesn't know how. By trying to find a better home for him, Wendi is trying to improve his life. Either that, or she doesn't want to get in trouble with her landlord. Maybe a little of both.

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