A couple of weeks ago I went into my local Barnes & Noble and walked past the giant table full of best-sellers. My intent was to pick up a few things in the technology section, but a light blue book with a sweet-faced, large black dog (lab?) on the front cover caught my eye. I flipped it over and read the back. The description said it would make me laugh out loud and cry. Great. The world needs another “heartwarming” book about dogs.
In a vain effort to prove to myself this would be a kitschy tear-jerker, I turned to the last page and found myself choked up in the middle of the store. My husband wandered over and asked if I was okay. Through sobs, I tried to explain the two paragraphs I’d read. When we got home, those last few sentences were still with me. I downloaded it and started reading.
This book may be heartwarming, but it is anything but kitschy.
W. Bruce Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose is the beautiful story of a dog trying to discover the answer to the age-old question, Why am I here? This first-person narrative is written from the dog’s point of view, and Cameron masterfully stays in the dog’s voice throughout as Bailey navigates several lives trying to get to the bottom of things. The result is an incredibly charming tail, er, tale that will have dog owners howling with laughter at the dog’s interpretation of some of the common mischief we’ve all experienced with our four-legged family members. There are some jaw-dropping, suspenseful moments, and yes, there are some real tear-jerkers.
I can’t recall ever having such strong emotions while reading a book. I laughed – and cried – so hard my husband wanted to know what was happening. With our two Yorkies, Caesar and Lizzie, snuggled up in my lap, I read section after section back to him, and we laughed and cried together. During one of the sadder passages, he asked why I kept reading if it had such an effect on me. All I could say was, “Because I just have to.”
At 42 I’ve managed to avoid ever reading or watching Old Yeller. Growing up I’d heard it was sad, then an episode of The Cosby Show where Claire teased Heathcliff about sobbing every time Old Yeller came on sealed that book’s fate with me. I know how other people feel when someone finds out they’ve never seen Citizen Kane and asks, “Really? You have no idea who Rosebud it?” Mention Where the Red Fern Grows in front of my husband and he tears up and starts talking about Old Dan and Little Ann as though they had been his own childhood pets. I was on the fence about Marley & Me until the movie came out a few months before our first Yorkie, Cheeky, passed away. I opted out of that one, too.
When it comes to dogs, I’m a huge softy. I still have no plans to read Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows or Marley & Me, but I knew the dog genre would eventually catch up to me. I’m glad it did.
Yes, I could be Puppy, I could be Fella, I could be whatever they wanted, and when the woman swept me up in her arms, heedless of the wet splat I made against her blouse, I kissed her until she closed her eyes and giggled.
I sat, panting, and he stroked my face. The sun and his touch warmed me in equal measure.