Study Guide

A Dog's Purpose Love

By W. Bruce Cameron

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In the Yard I adjusted quickly to life in the pack, I learned to love Senora and Carlos and Bobby. (4.2)

It seems like the dog loves his human masters more than he loves his own doggie family. Why is the dog more attached to the humans than to his siblings and his mother? Could it be that while the humans provide safety and security, nothing is guaranteed in the dog family?

The man didn't love us at all. (5.32)

Did Senora really love her dogs? She kept so many of them that they ended up being taken away; it seems the conditions were maybe not the best. So was this love really about the dogs, or was it more about Senora herself?

[Dad] regarded me with mild affection—nothing like the berserk adoration flooding out of Ethan, though I could feel that was how much Dad and Mom loved the boy. (6.61)

Love appears to be a mostly human phenomenon that rubs off on the dog simply by virtue of the fact that the dog spends so much time around humans. Is this a convincing characterization of animal emotion? Or do you think animals might have their own unique emotions?

The boy loved me; we were the center of each other's worlds. (6.71)

Does Bailey think "love" and "being the center of each other's worlds" are the same thing? If so, that could account for his disappointment years later when Ethan leaves him to go to college. Does he think Ethan loves him less at that moment?

He crept over to the doghouse and arranged the blanket on the thin pad inside. I climbed in next to him—we both had two feet sticking out the door. I put my head on his chest, sighing, while he stroked my ears. "Good dog, Bailey," he murmured. (7.39-7.40)

Ethan shows his affection for Bailey by sleeping with him in the doghouse. As if his love weren't already apparent, Ethan says, "Good dog"—which to a dog's ears is basically the same thing as hearing "I love you." It's the cherry on top of this little loving sundae.

"Bailey, Bailey, Bailey, I'm going to miss you, doodle dog," Ethan whispered in my ear. His breath was warm and delightful. I closed my eyes at the pleasure of it, the sheer pleasure of love from the boy, love by the boy. (17.74)

The last thing Bailey experiences before he dies is the love of his boy. It's a big deal for him, because he has never felt this sort of unique love before. Although he may have loved Senora and the others in his first life, they cared about all their dogs equally. With Ethan, Bailey is special.

"I love you," Jakob whispered. Then he turned and walked away. (19.35)

For Jakob, love is reserved for humans—in this case, a dead human. Jakob's life is filled with mourning for his lost love, which leaves no room for him to love the dog with him, or anyone else. Including himself.

"You are the most wonderful woman in the world," he said. "I…I love you, Maya." (23.68)

Here we see romantic love between two humans as Al proposes to Maya. Ellie sees how happy this love makes Maya, and in her next life, the dog will attempt to find the same love for Ethan.

Wendi's love for me was instant but confusing, a jumble of emotions I didn't understand. (26.31)

It's difficult to tell if Wendi's "love" for the dog is love at all. She is a jumble herself—and by jumble, we mean a hot mess. She's the type of person who shouldn't have a pet, because she doesn't know how to take care of herself.

"You're such a great dog, Buddy, I don't know what I would do without you," Ethan said on one such evening. (32.16)

Buddy has transcended being merely a "good dog": he's been upgraded to "great dog," meaning that Ethan might love him even more than he loved Bailey. Sure, they're basically the same dog, but Ethan doesn't know that, and Buddy is happy to see that he remains in his owner's high esteem.

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