Our den was scooped out underneath the black roots of a tree, and was cool and dark during the heat of the day. (1.4)
If this story were about humans, it would be a rags-to-riches (to-rags-and-back-again) story like something straight out of Dickens. Our narrator is born a poor dog in a ditch, but soon he'll find a warm loving home with humans who care about him. What more could a dog want?
I began to think of what it would be like to leave the Den. (1.34)
Already, our narrator is curious about the outside world. He no longer wants to stay in his "home," where it is relatively safe. He's willing to risk that safety for the chance of something more.
I loved my world, the Yard. I loved running through the mud by the water trough, my paws making a dirty spatter that flecked my fur. I loved when we'd all start barking, though I seldom understood why we were doing so. I loved chasing Coco and sleeping in a pile of dogs and smelling other dogs' poops. (2.39)
The dog likes being a dog—having an environment where he can run, play, and explore. This world is pretty instinctive: the dog doesn't exactly understand why he loves barking and smelling poops, but this kind of canine bonding just happens naturally.
This is what happened to dogs who tried to live in the world without people—they became beaten down, defeated, starved. Sister was what we all would have become if we'd stayed in the culvert. (3.16)
But doesn't this thing happen to dogs who live in the wild because people make that life almost impossible? It seems like our narrator is becoming conditioned to being imprisoned by humans—he prefers it to living out in the world. Being domesticated is better than running wild. Cats, on the other hand, apparently didn't get that memo.
But I was a different dog than Mother. I loved the Yard. I wanted to belong to Senora. My name was Toby. (4.3)
It might seem traumatic that Toby is taken from his "home" in the wild and put into a pen with a bunch of other dogs—but he likes it. He considers this new place his home. What makes the Yard so special to him? Why is the Yard a home when the place he was born was not one?
A few months later, we all moved into a different house with a much better backyard. It had a garage, too, but thankfully no one suggested I sleep out there. (24.3)
Over the course of the book, the dog has a few different homes. He doesn't get particularly attached to any specific place; it's the people who make a place feel like home, not the place itself. Although not being confined to the garage is a nice bonus.
"Not allowed to have a dog! It's in your lease!" I cocked my head at the word "dog," wondering if I might be the source of the man's anger. I hadn't, as far as I knew, done anything wrong, but all the rules were different at this crazy place, so who could say? (26.36)
Although we said in the last quote that the place itself doesn't matter, in this case it does. Wendi isn't supposed to have dogs, so being hidden and confined is stressful for the dog. But, the people matter here, too. If Wendi actually cared for the dog, she wouldn't try to have him in a place that doesn't allow dogs.
"I'm doing you a favor. You're free now. Go catch some rabbits or somethin.'" (27.32)
Victor leaves Bear in the wilderness, and so the dog is able to return to a feral state. That's how he was born a few lives ago, right? Well, yeah, but the thing is that back then, the dog didn't know any better. Being wild seemed pretty great. But now, now he longs for a home where he can cohabit with humans and feel some love.
When Ethan came outside the next morning I shook myself off and ran over to him, trying to restrain myself from showering so much affection on him. He stared at me. "Why are you still here, huh, boy? What are you doing here?" (30.23)
Okay, we're back to talking about how it's the people who make a home a home. Bailey was never particularly attached to the house at the Farm when he would stay there over the summer. But now that Ethan lives there, the dog runs in as if he's always lived there. It feels like home now.
About the only thing involved with the new arrangement that was less than perfect was the fact that when Hannah started sleeping with Ethan I was summarily dismissed from the bed. (32.9)
Buddy the dog is really excited that Ethan has made a new home with Hannah. The side effect, though, is that Buddy gets kicked out of bed. It's a bit of doggy humor, as the dog doesn't realize the real reason why—but the dog doesn't take it too hard. He's happy to be under the same roof, even if he isn't under the same sheets.