I’ve always loved dogs, which puts me in a unique category along with what, maybe two or three billion people?
What’s not to love about an animal who will sit in your living room all day long, waiting for you to get home, and even if you need to work late and then stop for a stress-relieving beverage on your way home, when you unlock that front door, is absolutely overjoyed to see you? How could you not adore an animal who senses when your day is not going well and tries to cheer you up by dumping a sodden tennis ball in your lap?
I was probably 8 years old, playing in the back yard of our house in Prairie Village, KS, when my dad opened the gate and in rushed a 9-week-old Labrador puppy. I fell to my knees and spread my arms and that dog leaped into them as if we had loved each other our whole lives. It’s a scene that shows up in A Dog’s Purpose—a puppy and a boy meeting each other the very first time, both of them full of unrestrained joy.
And, of course, there came a time one day when I had to say goodbye to my childhood friend. The first time one loses a pet it’s devastating, a pain like no other. It feels as if someone has ripped out your soul with a fork.
The woman I was dating in late 2008 had lost her very first dog and was unprepared for how hard it would hit her. I knew what she was going through, and wanted to say something to her to help her cope with her loss—but what words could possibly alleviate such grief?
I am a storyteller by inclination and profession, so finally I began telling her a tale about a dog, a very, very special dog, one that is reborn over and over again and remembers each life. Along the way, the canine in my narrative teaches and learns life’s greatest lessons, such as true love never dies, and our real friends are always there for us if we know where to look. The reincarnating pet had a purpose, and spent his lives searching for it.
The story became, of course, the A Dog’s Purpose series. The woman I told it to liked it so much she married me! She also has said the book healed her, helped her find the courage to adopt a new dog, our little mixed-DNA roommate Tucker.
I hear from people all over the world who say the same thing, that this is the one “dog book” that assists them in coping with their loss. I’m humbled to think that my story eases their grief and prepares them to search out another canine companion.
I’ve been a writer my whole life, but any material success has come to me rather late in life. There are a lot of unpublished books taking up storage space in my closet, a lot of rejected manuscripts and screenplays gathering dust. I’d like to think that, with each failure, I learned more about my chosen craft and brought myself closer to being the sort of author who could write a book that is (I’ll say it because I believe it) as important as A Dog’s Purpose.
I can’t promise you that A Dog’s Purpose will make you love your dog more—how could it do that. But I’ll tell you what a lot of people have told me: after reading A Dog’s Purpose, you’ll never look at your dog the same way again.
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