Study Guide

A Dog's Purpose

A Dog's Purpose Summary

Ah, let's settle in and read this book with a cuddly little puppy on the cover, shall we? We're sure it's going to be a sweet and heartwarming tale, one where the dog definitely does not die at the end.

Okay, here we go.

Our dog narrator is born in a ditch. He lives in the wild until he is captured by some humans who keep a bunch of dogs in a pen somewhere. Our dog is basically a canine Oliver Twist taken to a puppy orphanage. There, the woman in charge names him Toby and occasionally gives him a pat behind the ears. He barks and wags his tail, which is dogspeak for Thank you, ma'am, may I have another? He doesn't get another, because animal control arrives, says the people have too many dogs in poor conditions, and takes the dogs all away to gas them.

Whoa. Okay, at least the dog doesn't die at the end. He dies at the very beginning.

The dog is soon reincarnated as a different dog, but with all his memories from his first brief life intact. This time, he is born to a dog breeder. He has food and water, but he doesn't want to be in a cage. So he escapes, opening the cage door and running away. A nice man picks up the dog to take him home with him. He puts him in his truck but leaves the dog there when he stops for an unknown reason.

The dog sits in the truck with the windows up. The day gets hotter, and hotter, and hotter. Could this little puppy's life be even shorter than the first one's?

A rock flies through the window. A woman has smashed the glass to rescue the puppy. She takes the dog home and gives him to her son, Ethan, who names the dog Bailey. They become the bestest of friends, romping and playing like there's no tomorrow. Ethan nicknames Bailey "doodle dog," which is a nice way to say "stupid dog." They ride on sleds and go-karts together and swim and go fishing. Ethan makes a toy for Bailey to play with called "the flip."

It's just like Timmy and Lassie, except that Ethan doesn't fall down any wells.

Bailey, on the other paw, gets himself into more danger than James Bond. A neighborhood troublemaker—and by troublemaker, we mean serial killer in training—named Todd dognaps Bailey and appears to have the intention of harming the dog in some way. Bailey escapes and learns to stay away from Todd. But Todd won't stay away from him.

As Ethan grows older, he learns to drive, meets a girl named Hannah, and joins the football team. Todd tries to convince Hannah that Ethan is seeing another girl, but she doesn't believe him. When Ethan finds out that Todd lied, he confronts Todd, telling him that he's a weird loser who doesn't have any friends. (True.) Todd can't handle the truth, so he burns Ethan's house down.

Seriously. Todd sets Ethan's house on fire. Bailey sees Todd doing it and bites him, but it's too late. The house is ablaze, and Ethan must jump from the second story to save himself. His leg is badly injured, which leaves him unable to play football again. He loses his football scholarship, and his life changes forever. Bitter and depressed, he pushes Hannah away by being jealous of every able-bodied guy she happens to be within a two-mile radius of.

Soon Ethan goes off to college, leaving his beloved dog behind. Bailey is confused and lonely without his boy. Ethan's grandparents are nice and caring, but it just isn't the same. Within a year or two, Bailey is old and sick. The family decides to have him put down, and Ethan shows up just in time to say goodbye to his "doodle dog." Bailey is happy fulfilling his purpose of bringing happiness to this one human boy.

Yeah, well, the dog wakes up in yet another doggy body, this time as a female. She is confused, and not just at the change in sex: she thought she had fulfilled her purpose. Why has she been reborn? She is soon adopted by Jakob, a cop, who names her Ellie and trains her to be a K-9 cop. Call her Rin Tin Tina.

Jakob is bitter and lonely after the death of his wife, and he is a workaholic as a result. Ellie's job is to sniff out missing people. She finds a kidnapped girl, but the kidnapper shoots Jakob. He almost dies, and he is forced into retirement. Ellie's care is transferred to Maya, a rookie cop who trains hard to be the best master for Ellie.

Maya and Ellie travel to Latin America after an earthquake to find survivors. Ellie rescues someone trapped in rubble, but she injures her nose in the process. Unable to smell as a result, she can no longer do her job.

In retirement, Ellie is taken to schools to teach the importance of not getting lost. Stay put, kids, because the dog can't find you anymore. One of the girls at the school is Jakob's daughter, and Ellie is happy to see that Jakob has found a family. Ellie performs one last miraculous rescue when a kid—who clearly didn't listen to Maya's speech—goes missing.

Maya finds a family, too. A dude named Al proposes to her, she says yes, they move in together, and Maya gets pregnant. By this time, Ellie is pretty old, and she passes away, satisfied she has fulfilled her purpose of saving lives.

She's in for a rude awakening when she is reborn, again. Once again a male dog, the pup is really confused this time. Why can't he be free? Why is he eternally reborn? What purpose has he left unfulfilled?

The dog is bought from a breeder by a man who gives the dog to his girlfriend. She keeps the dog in a grungy apartment, where she often forgets to feed him and rarely takes him out for walkies. She's not supposed to have dogs in her apartment, anyway, so she gives the dog to her mother and stepfather. The stepfather abandons the dog in the woods.

Now he's back where he started, many lives ago, as a homeless drifter on four legs. Soon, he picks up a familiar scent. No, it's not the scent of existential despair; it's the scent of Ethan, his boy. The dog tracks the scent and finds Ethan living on the family farm they used to visit so many years ago. He's not a boy anymore, but a wrinkly old man.

Ethan feeds the dog but doesn't let him in the house. Soon, remembering his beloved dog Bailey, Ethan agrees to take the dog in. He names him Buddy, which gets no points for originality, but it's sweet. However, Ethan is still bitter, old, and lonely. Buddy can't do anything about the old part, but he feels like it's his purpose to take care of the bitter and lonely stuff.

At a dog park, Buddy meets a dog who smells like Hannah, Ethan's childhood sweetheart. Buddy follows the dog home. Turns out the dog's owner is Hannah's daughter, who lives with Hannah. Hannah reads Buddy's collar and learns he belongs to Ethan, her first love. She calls Ethan. As both of them are now old and single, they rekindle their old romance and fall in love.

Ethan has a family, and Buddy is content. But one afternoon, when no one is around, Ethan has an aneurysm and starts to die. Hallucinating, he not incorrectly thinks Buddy is Bailey, and he remembers playing with his favorite "doodle dog."

To give Ethan a final pleasant memory of his childhood, Buddy retrieves the flip toy from the closet. Ethan throws it out the window, and Buddy fetches it. When he returns, he keeps Ethan company as Ethan breathes his final breaths. Buddy resolves to do everything he can to support Ethan's family as they grieve. His purpose continues.

  • Chapter 1

    • This book is narrated by a dog.
    • This dog has just been born, so he does little puppy things, like eat, sleep, eat, sleep, eat, and sleep.
    • Even though this book is narrated by a dog, it isn't a talking-animal book like Animal Farm. These animals don't actually talk.
    • Our narrator mentally names his puppy brother Fast, his other puppy brother Hungry, and his puppy sister Sister. Her defining trait? She's female.
    • Fast and Sister hang out, leaving our narrator feeling stuck with Hungry, the runt of the litter.
    • There soon comes a time when Mother doesn't want her litter feeding on her, so she takes the pups out hunting.
    • During one trip away from the little creek bed where they live, the dogs encounter a fearsome creature: a man.
    • Our narrator feels Mother's fear and knows that men are "to be feared, to be avoided at all costs" (1.21).
    • Soon, Hungry lives up to his name. He stops eating and lies down to die.
    • It doesn't take long before a couple of men in a truck show up to frighten the doggy family. These men have poles with ropes on the end, and they use them to drag Mother away.
    • The men also capture Fast—not so Fast now, is he?—and our narrator, but Sister escapes.
    • Our narrator isn't scared by any of this. He's excited to be riding in a truck. It's like getting arrested but being happy just because you're in a police car.
  • Chapter 2

    • The truck stops at a house in the middle of the desert.
    • One of the men who captured the dogs is named Bobby, and this place appears to be an unofficial doggy rescue sanctuary.
    • Bobby doesn't think it's a good idea to add more dogs; some sort of official has told them they already have too many.
    • The woman who runs the place—our narrator calls her Senora—doesn't think three more could possibly hurt.
    • And how about a fourth? Senora sends a man named Carlos to try and find Sister, who got away.
    • Bobby leads our narrator and his family to a large fenced-in area behind the house. It's filled with dogs.
    • One dog in the pen, the only male, makes it clear that he is the top dog. Our narrator names him Top Dog. Creative.
    • When Senora comes to visit, she pets the dogs, lets them lick her face, and calls our narrator Toby.
    • Toby likes that name.
    • But Toby's Mother never seems to fit in. She sulks around the edges of the Yard a lot—until one day, when she manages to open the gate and escape. Whoa.
    • Toby decides to follow Mother, and off he goes.
  • Chapter 3

    • Toby doesn't make it far before Senora catches him and brings him back to the pen. At least she doesn't ask, "Who let the dogs out?"
    • Back in the Yard, Toby makes friends with a female named Coco.
    • Toby and Coco spend their days sniffing poops and tumbling around. Ah, young love. It's like a Taylor Swift song.
    • One day, the men bring more dogs to the Yard. One of them looks like Mother—but isn't Mother. And the other looks like Sister—and is Sister.
    • Fast is excited that his sister, Sister, is back.
    • But Toby is more excited by other things, like a new game in which he tries to play leapfrog with Coco from behind.
    • Toby is taken by some men to a cold room with a shiny table.
    • Toby falls asleep, and when he wakes up, he's wearing a cone-shaped collar and has an itch between his back legs.
    • After the collar is removed, Toby doesn't want to play leapfrog with Coco anymore.
    • Life in the Yard returns to normal. The dogs wrestle playfully. Sometimes they fight over bones. And Top Dog remains Top Dog.
    • "Right up until the day that Spike arrived" (3.65).
    • We know we can't trust the dude, because his name is Spike. If his name were Fluffy, we bet this would all go differently.
  • Chapter 4

    • Spike is the new addition to the yard.
    • Spike's covered with scars. Maybe he should have been called Scar, but that name has already been taken by another animal troublemaker.
    • Bobby warns Senora that he doesn't trust Spike, but she tells him, "There are no bad dogs, Bobby, just bad people" (4.18).
    • Spike might prove Senora wrong.
    • Spike and Top Dog get into a vicious fight—which Bobby breaks up by blasting them both with a high-pressure hose.
    • But when the water dries, one thing is clear: Spike is now Top Dog.
    • Does that mean Top Dog needs a new name? Second-from-the-Top Dog is a bit of a mouthful.
    • When Spike later mounts Sister, Fast jumps in to defend her doggy honor.
    • Toby joins Fast, and both dogs scuffle with Spike.
    • Spike clamps his jaws on Toby and is taken back to the cool room by Bobby.
    • There, the men either put a cast on one of Toby's legs or amputate it; it's unclear.
    • Either way, Toby is only able to walk on three legs now.
    • Toby doesn't have long to wobble, however, because authorities soon show up at the Yard.
    • Senora wails and cries that they can't take her dogs, but the authorities accuse her of keeping the dogs in "inhumane" (4.62) conditions.
    • The authorities' humane solution is to round up all the dogs and gas them.
  • Chapter 5

    • Toby wakes up as a puppy again.
    • What?
    • Toby's been reborn. He's a new dog, with a new family, in a new home. He's blond instead of brown. Do blond dogs have more fun?
    • The experience of resurrection leaves Toby wondering, could his existence have a purpose?
    • It's in the title, so we bet it does.
    • This new puppy is being raised by a breeder.
    • The conditions are much nicer than they were in the ditch he grew up in during his first life, but the man who owns the dogs clearly doesn't love them.
    • The dog formerly known as Toby decides to employ a trick he learned in his first life—opening the door to his cage and escaping.
    • Former-Toby runs for freedom, and a nice man picks him up, observing that he's a "purebred retriever" (5.48).
    • The man smells like smoke and alcohol, but he seems nice, so former-Toby allows him to pick him up and put him in his truck. And leave him there.
    • Uh-oh.
    • As the day gets hot, former-Toby gets thirsty, tired, and woozy.
    • This life might be a brief one…
    • But just as former-Toby can no longer bear it, a woman breaks the truck's window and rescues him. She should name him Nick, for just in the Nick of time.
  • Chapter 6

    • The woman nurses our doggarator back to health with a cold water bottle and then presents him to her young son, Ethan.
    • Our main pup is excited to learn that human children exist. He thinks they're "the most wonderful concept in the world" (6.18). Maybe because they smell the same as he does.
    • After convincing Dad to let him keep the dog, Ethan tries to name him.
    • Eventually, the fam settles on Bailey.
    • Bailey soon learns his place in the family. He's supposed to stay inside most of the time, but he goes outside when he's about to pee or poop.
    • Bailey also feels like he has a job: to play with the boy.
    • Bailey and Ethan play, and Bailey also plays with Marshmallow, a dog belonging to Chelsea, a girl in the neighborhood.
    • At night, Bailey gets to snuggle up with Ethan and feel loved.
    • Aww.
  • Chapter 7

    • The dog now known as Bailey spends his day learning new tricks. Gotta learn as many as possible while he's a young dog.
    • Bailey gets confused when Ethan has to go to school, leaving him alone in the garage.
    • Bailey doesn't understand that his dog door goes outside, so he stays in the garage and tears things up to pass the time.
    • Mom is upset with Bailey when she gets home, and she calls him "Bad dog" (7.22), the worst thing a dog can possible hear.
    • Dad buys Bailey a little doghouse for the garage, but Bailey still whimpers through the night.
    • Ethan sleeps in the doghouse with Bailey that night.
    • But the next day, Ethan is back at school, and Bailey is alone.
    • Bailey finally realizes that the dog door goes outside, and he has fun playing outside until Ethan comes home from school.
    • Ethan brings his friends over to play with Bailey.
    • One of Ethan's friends, Todd, plays with firecrackers and blows up dollhouses and scares Bailey.
    • On an afternoon when Ethan forgets to lock the fence, Bailey goes for a walk around the neighborhood.
    • Bailey's romp leads him past Todd's backyard, and Todd calls to Bailey to come inside with him.
    • Never having seen a horror movie before—because he's a dog—Bailey follows him in.
  • Chapter 8

    • Todd locks Bailey in his room and starts playing with mysterious chemicals.
    • Bailey hears Ethan calling for him outside, but Todd slaps Bailey when he barks in response.
    • Plus, Todd calls Bailey a "bad dog" (8.13), which is the worst.
    • However, when Todd's sister opens the door, Bailey makes a run for it. He chases Mom's car until Ethan sees him.
    • Ethan jumps out to grab Bailey. He hugs him and calls him a "bad dog" (8.20).
    • Bailey decides that in this case, being bad is somehow good.
    • Soon, Bailey is taken in for a weird medical procedure he remembered from his last life, the one that leaves him with a silly cone around his neck.
    • After the procedure, Bailey stays away from Todd's side of the street.
    • Seasons pass, and Bailey is taken to visit Grandma and Grandpa on their Farm.
    • It's a different world for Bailey, filled with different animals, like geese, donkeys, and a weird striped cat.
    • Also known as a skunk.
    • Bailey gets sprayed and has to be scrubbed down with tomato juice.
    • The next night, Bailey's sprayed again. Ketchup, lather, repeat.
    • Ethan calls Bailey stupid, but Grandma says stupid is an "ugly word" (8.51).
    • Instead, they all start calling Bailey a doodle dog. It's just like being called stupid, but without using the word stupid, so it's sweet.
    • Ethan takes Bailey fishing, and when Ethan falls overboard, Bailey jumps in to save him. Hope he brought a snorkel.
  • Chapter 9

    • Last chapter's life-or-death cliffhanger turns out to be totally lacking in the "death" part.
    • Ethan is fine. He can swim just fine. But he calls Bailey a "good boy" (9.5) for attempting to save him.
    • Grandpa, Ethan, and Bailey spend the rest of the summer playing in the lake.
    • But time passes, the family returns home, Ethan returns to school, and Bailey returns to prison. Well, it's the garage, but Bailey acts like it's prison.
    • With the humans gone, however, the prisoners run the show.
    • Bailey ends up opening the door to the house and chasing Smokey the cat all around the place.
    • When the family comes home, they call Bailey a—you guessed it—"bad dog" (9.43).
    • Bailey wishes they'd call Smokey a bad cat, but Smokey's not the one who opened the door.
  • Chapter 10

    • Over the next couple of years, Bailey realizes that no one plays with Todd anymore.
    • Guess everyone else grew out of the explosives-and-animal-abuse phase of childhood.
    • During the summer, the family still visits the Farm.
    • And on that Farm, the family has a new visitor—a girl named Hannah.
    • Hannah meets Ethan while he's playing with Bailey, tossing him a handmade toy called the "flip," which is a "cross between a boomerang, a Frisbee, and a baseball" (10.18). It can break windows from many yards away.
    • Mom, who came to the Farm without Dad that year, decides to go back home early.
    • Grandma and Grandpa drive her home, leaving Ethan home alone with Bailey.
    • That night, Ethan hears a weird noise in the house.
    • Ethan opens the gun cabinet and gets ready to investigate.
  • Chapter 11

    • Ethan and Bailey check out the house for the source of the noise, as if they're Shaggy and Scooby-Doo—but packing heat.
    • Ethan and Bailey find nothing.
    • The next day, Ethan rides Flare, a horse, into the countryside while Bailey follows.
    • A snake spooks scaredy-horse Flare, who runs away, stranding Ethan and Bailey.
    • Ethan has no idea how to get home.
    • Stranded and wandering for days, Bailey is afraid that Ethan will die.
    • But a man finds Ethan and Bailey. They are saved. No thanks to that stupid horse.
  • Chapter 12

    • The man who rescues Bailey and Ethan lets Bailey ride in the front seat.
    • That, plus people food, makes almost starving to death totally worth it for Bailey.
    • Ethan is taken to the hospital, and for the first night ever, Bailey is without his boy.
    • Ethan soon returns, but he is disciplined for leaving the house when he wasn't supposed to.
    • Hannah, the neighbor girl, visits, which cheers Ethan up.
    • But it's soon back to school once again.
    • This year is different, because Marshmallow, a friendly dog in the neighborhood, is missing.
    • Where could Marshmallow be? We hope no one made a Fluffernutter out of her.
    • That spring, all the kids are obsessed with Go-karts.
    • Ethan beats Todd in a Go-kart race, and they get into a physical fight at the finish line.
    • Ethan wins the fight, but that night, someone throws a rock through his window.
    • Bailey recognizes the smell—yep, it's a rock. Oh, and it has Todd all over it.
  • Chapter 13

    • Smokey the cat dies. Mom and Ethan are sad, but Bailey doesn't miss the cat. He knows he was a better pet, anyway.
    • Soon, Ethan learns to drive, and he takes Bailey with him.
    • Bailey loves riding in the truck.
    • Ethan takes Hannah for rides, too, and he misses her a lot when he returns home to go to school.
    • Hannah visits one night and watches Ethan play football.
    • Todd tries to stir up trouble, telling Hannah that Ethan is dating another girl.
    • When Ethan and Bailey return home, Bailey finds a random piece of meat inside the fence.
    • Never one to turn down free food, Bailey picks it up. But it makes his mouth burn. Plus, it smells like Todd. That'll kill anyone's appetite.
  • Chapter 14

    • Mom throws away the poisoned meat before Bailey can eat it.
    • At Christmastime, Hannah visits again, and she and Ethan go sledding.
    • Hannah and Ethan bump into Todd, but not in a literal Ethan Frome sense.
    • Hannah recalls Todd stirring up trouble at the football game.
    • Ethan calls Todd out on his bad behavior. "This is why you don't have any friends, Todd. Why can't you just be normal? You're always doing stupid things like this" (14.38).
    • That's sure to make Todd change his ways.
    • At night, Bailey climbs over a mound of snow to get out of the backyard and explore the neighborhood.
    • When he gets back, he sees Todd lighting a fire.
    • But Todd isn't trying to stay warm. He's trying to burn the family's house down.
    • Bailey attacks Todd, but the little arsonist escapes.
    • Ethan, however, is trapped inside the house. Will he get out?
  • Chapter 15

    • Ethan jumps out of the burning house into the bushes.
    • Paramedics, cops, firefighters, neighbors—everyone gathers around the burning house.
    • Ethan, whose leg is burned and broken, is taken to the hospital.
    • Todd, who isn't the smartest arsonist, left a trail of blood to his house.
    • Police track Todd and match his blood to the blood on Bailey's teeth. The perp is apprehended.
    • Mom, Dad, and Bailey move into a temporary apartment while waiting for their home—and their son—to be rebuilt.
  • Chapter 16

    • Ethan returns home, but he needs a cane to walk, and he is very depressed.
    • At the Farm, Ethan visits Hannah.
    • Ethan explains that he is sad because with his injured leg, he'll never get a football scholarship.
    • All his life plans are ruined. "All gone now, because of Todd" (16.41).
    • Time passes, and Ethan goes off to college.
    • Without Bailey.
    • Bailey stays with Grandpa and Grandma on the farm.
    • Bailey doesn't understand why he has to live without his boy.
  • Chapter 17

    • "Cars are fast" (17.1) is the opening sentence of this chapter, so get ready for Bailey to get hit by one.
    • Bailey chases a car until he hears a train.
    • Uh-oh. Dog's going to get hit by a train…
    • No, Bailey survives. Whew.
    • Bailey says goodbye to Ethan again, but Grandpa takes him home.
    • It's lonely on the Farm. Mom moves in—without Dad—and sometimes Ethan visits.
    • But Bailey's only friend is Jasper the donkey.
    • Time passes, and Bailey gets old and sick.
    • Now it's time for Bailey to die. We knew it was going to happen in this chapter.
    • The family takes Bailey to the vet, who is going to put him down.
    • Ethan shows up right before Bailey dies and says, "I'm going to miss you, doodle dog" (17.74).
    • Nothing like being called stupid right before you die, but it makes Bailey happy.
    • The end.
  • Chapter 18

    • Just kidding. Last chapter wasn't the end.
    • Bailey, the Lazarus of dogs, is reborn yet again.
    • This time, Bailey is a girl dog.
    • Girl dog is adopted by a man named Jakob, who names her Elleya, "Swedish for 'moose'" (18.25).
    • Better than Bullwinkle, we guess.
    • Jakob calls her Ellie for short, and he trains her to find his friend Wally and lead Jakob to him.
    • Jakob and Ellie do this a lot. Find Wally. Find Wally. Find Wally. Again and again. Does Ellie read these books for homework?
    • It turns out Jakob is part of an elite canine police unit.
    • One day, Jakob gets an alert over the radio.
    • It's time for a mission more important than finding Wally.
  • Chapter 19

    • Marilyn, an Alzheimer's patient, has wandered from her home.
    • It's Ellie—the dog formerly known as Bailey, formerly known as Toby—who has to find Marilyn.
    • Ellie sniffs a tissue and rushes off to find Marilyn.
    • Ellie finds the littering old women quickly.
    • Ellie realizes her new purpose is to save people.
    • But Ellie can't save Jakob from his own sorrow.
    • Jakob spends time at the cemetery speaking to his dead wife.
    • Ellie knows that Jakob respects her, but she doesn't feel the same love from the man.
    • There's no time for love when there are people to find, and soon enough we get another alert: a young girl is missing.
  • Chapter 20

    • Ellie descends into a canyon to find the missing young girl.
    • Ellie finds the girl at a cabin, but she isn't alone. The man who kidnapped her is there, too.
    • Ellie leads Jakob to the girl, and they get her to safety.
    • Jakob pursues the kidnapper, who opens fire on Jakob, hitting him.
    • Ellie attacks the kidnapper the same way she attacked Todd in her past life.
    • Jakob's partner calls Ellie back. The kidnapper reaches for his gun, but Jakob's partner shoots the man dead.
    • Jakob is taken to the hospital, which means Ellie has to sleep in the kennel at the police station. She feels punished for doing her job.
    • A fellow officer, Maya, starts taking care of Ellie while Jakob is presumably recovering.
    • But Maya worries she can't fill Jakob's shoes.
    • They're probably bloodstained, so maybe she shouldn't try.
  • Chapter 21

    • Maya takes Ellie to her house.
    • Ellie is excited to be out of the kennel, but she is less than thrilled about having to share a living space with multiple cats: Stella, Tinkerbell, and Emmet. At least they have good names.
    • At work, Maya trains with Ellie. At home, Maya fends off compliments from her neighbor, Al.
    • Maya is very sad because she feels she won't be able to get in good enough shape to get the job on the canine squad.
    • Maya cries in the bathtub, and Ellie jumps into the tub to cheer her up.
    • Even dogs love bubbles.
  • Chapter 22

    • Maya takes Ellie on a car ride to visit Jakob.
    • Ellie is excited to see her previous owner, but he has no plans to take her back.
    • Maya expresses her doubts to Jakob, as well as her thoughts of resigning, but he persuades her to stay. For Ellie's sake.
    • Maya tries super hard, and she passes.
    • Maya's Mama throws a party to celebrate her daughter's certification. Even Al arrives, and everyone is happy.
    • When an earthquake hits El Salvador, Maya takes Ellie on a helicopter to help find survivors.
    • Maya and Ellie find lots of people, but all of them are dead. They're both discouraged to find so many dead bodies.
    • But Ellie finally finds someone in the rubble, alive.
  • Chapter 23

    • Ellie burrows into the rubble to get to the live person. She barks, alerting Maya to the person's whereabouts.
    • In the wreckage, Ellie accidentally splashes into some sort of chemical that burns her nose.
    • Back home, Maya keeps Ellie's nose medicated with a cool cream.
    • When it's time to get back to work, it's discovered that Ellie can no longer smell. She'll have to retire.
    • Some good news, though: Al proposes to Maya, and she says yes. We smell a wedding.
    • Oh, sorry, Ellie. Too soon?
  • Chapter 24

    • Ellie is the ring bearer at Maya's wedding.
    • Maya and Ellie continue working, but in a different capacity.
    • The two go to elementary schools and talk to kids about what to do if they ever get lost.
    • The kids need to know this, because Ellie won't be able to find them. You're on your own, kiddos.
    • One day, Ellie and Maya bump into Jakob.
    • Jakob's daughter, Alyssa, goes to the school where Maya gives a talk.
    • Yep, we said daughter. Jakob is now married and has a family.
    • Ellie doesn't sense Jakob's sadness anymore.
    • After another school talk, a thunderstorm rolls in.
    • A teacher from another class says that one of his students is missing.
    • Maya says she can see if Ellie can find the boy, named Geoffrey, though she doesn't know if Ellie will be able to do it.
    • Ellie's sense of smell has miraculously returned: she finds the boy in a storm drain. Not a good place to be during a storm that needs draining.
  • Chapter 25

    • The policemen attempt to pull Geoffrey from the storm drain but end up accidentally flushing him down it.
    • Ellie jumps in after the kid, and when they spurt out the other side, she remembers learning to swim with Ethan in her past life.
    • Ellie keeps Geoffrey afloat and saves his life.
    • Speaking of life, Maya is pregnant.
    • Ellie doesn't get to see the new baby, though.
    • Feeling that she has fulfilled her purpose to save people, Ellie allows herself to get old and start to die.
    • Maya and Al take Ellie to the vet and have her put down.
    • R.I.P. x 3
  • Chapter 26

    • The dog formerly known as Ellie, Bailey, and Toby is reborn yet again.
    • Our dog is confused, because he believed he had fulfilled his purpose and would be released from this cruel mortal coil.
    • But the universe said wrong, and here the dog is yet again. This time, he is a black puppy born to a dog breeder.
    • The runt of the litter, ElBailTob is sold at a bargain to a guy named Derek.
    • Derek gives the dog to his girlfriend, Wendi, who isn't supposed to have dogs in her apartment.
    • Wendi names the dog Bear, but she can't bear to take care of him very well.
    • Wendi doesn't feed Bear enough, or exercise him at all. Bear feels his life has no purpose.
    • Unable to care for Bear, Wendi gives him to her mother, who doesn't want him, either.
    • That's not going to help with the abandonment issues.
  • Chapter 27

    • Victor, Wendi's stepfather, puts Bear in the trunk to take him for a ride.
    • That's not a typo.
    • Victor releases Bear in the wilderness. "You're free, now" (27.32), he says, and drives away.
    • Bear isn't living in squalor, but he still doesn't have a purpose or direction.
    • Bear wanders until all of a sudden, he realizes exactly where he is.
    • Gotta go to the next chapter to find out.
  • Chapter 28

    • Bear realizes he's in the wilderness where, as Bailey, he and Ethan got lost after their cowardly horse ran away.
    • Bear wanders around, eating other dogs' food and rooting around in garbage. He feels like a very "bad dog" (28.24).
    • One day, sulking around the dog park, Bear recognizes a scent on one of the dogs: it's Hannah's scent.
    • Hannah was the girl Ethan knew as a teenager. She must own the dog named Carly.
    • Bear decides he can use the tracking abilities he learned as Ellie to "Find Ethan" (28.35).
  • Chapter 29

    • After a week, Bear is still living at the dog park.
    • It seems that Operation Find Ethan isn't going too well.
    • When not failing to find Ethan, Bear spends his days playing with Carly.
    • Soon, animal control is attempting to control animals in the park—mainly Bear, the strange stray dog that has been hanging around.
    • Bear flees the scene and finds himself at the last place he spent with Ethan—the place where he was put to sleep.
    • Not wanting to relive that particular memory, Bear doesn't go any closer.
    • However, Bear picks up a scent in the driveway: it's the odor of Jasper the donkey.
    • Tracking the smell, Bear finds himself all the way back at the Farm.
    • An old man is inside the house watching TV. Bear scratches at the door to be let in.
    • When the man opens the door, Bear realizes he isn't any old man—he's Ethan.
  • Chapter 30

    • Ethan won't let Bear in the house, because he's a mangy stray, but he does feed the dog some old lasagna.
    • Does Ethan think the dog is Garfield in disguise?
    • Bear sleeps outside and follows Ethan to the barn the next morning.
    • Lonely old Ethan talks to the horse about missing Jasper the donkey.
    • Later that day, unexpected visitors arrive.
    • Animal control pulls up to take Bear to the shelter. Ethan called them, and Bear is confused and betrayed.
    • At the shelter, it isn't long before a family wants to take Bear home. But their plans to adopt the dog are interrupted when Ethan shows up.
    • Ethan has had second thoughts, and he's going to take that dog home. He doesn't care how many children he disappoints.
    • Ethan names the dog Buddy, and Buddy never leaves the old man's side.
  • Chapter 31

    • Ethan puts a collar on Buddy. It used to belong to Bailey, "a pretty special dog" (31.6) from a long time ago.
    • For Buddy, it's weird to be smelling his own old scent.
    • Ethan can't bear to let a different dog wear the collar, so he gets Buddy his own.
    • Buddy is happy to be back with Ethan, but he can't get past Ethan's overwhelming sadness.
    • Buddy realizes that his purpose is to save, not just to find.
    • Buddy thinks he can save Ethan by getting him a family.
    • Buddy follows Carly home, where Hannah lives.
    • Hannah reads Buddy's collar and sees that he belongs to Ethan Montgomery, somebody that she used to know.
    • Hannah calls Ethan and explains that she has his dog.
    • Ethan comes to get the dog, and the two catch up awkwardly.
    • Hannah explains that she moved back two years ago. Her pregnant daughter Rachel and Rachel's husband are living with her temporarily while their house is being renovated.
    • As he leaves, Ethan invites Hannah over for dinner.
    • Hannah asks Ethan if he can cook now.
    • "I heat things up, pretty well" (31.76), Ethan responds.
    • That's how old people flirt.
  • Chapter 32

    • Hannah and Ethan quickly grow close again.
    • That means Buddy has a new playmate: Carly the dog.
    • But Buddy thinks Carly's an idiot.
    • Rachel soon has her baby, and the house is filled with a big happy family.
    • Buddy feels as if he has finally fulfilled his purpose.
    • One spring day, Ethan has an aneurysm and falls over.
    • Buddy stays by his side as he starts to hallucinate.
    • Ethan thinks that Buddy is Bailey, his old dog. He's not wrong.
    • To prove that he actually is Bailey, Buddy goes to the closet and gets the flip, the little toy he made for Bailey as a child.
    • Ethan manages to haul himself to window and throw the flip.
    • Buddy runs out to get it.
    • When he returns, Ethan is on the floor. Buddy knows that Ethan is dying.
    • "I will miss you, doodle dog" (32.43), Ethan says to him.
    • And Buddy stays with Ethan as he slips away.
    • Buddy finally—for real this time—feels that he has fulfilled his purpose.
    • And maybe Buddy's glad not to be the one dying for a change?
    • The end.