Marley And Me. Hachi. Eight Below. Homeward Bound. The Fox and the Hound.
If you love dogs as much as I do, odds are you've watched (and cried during) these movies. There is a special place in our hearts for movies that show the unfailing and everlasting relationship between humanity and our canine friends. Most recently I have added a new favorite to my ever-growing list of dog movies: A Dog's Purpose.
The bestselling book, written by W. Bruce Cameron, now a major motion picture, is a heartfelt masterpiece that demonstrates the amazing impact dogs have on their owner's lives.
The movie follows a young canine, first named Toby, as he goes through multiple lives in reincarnated states. Narrated by Toby himself, the viewers join him on his search to answer a singular question: what is a dog's purpose?
In the movie we see him go through four different lives with the following people: Ethan, Carlos, Maya, and lastly an unnamed couple. Seeing Toby's lives through his eyes, we get a series of enduring and often heart wrenching lessons about what it means to be a dog and their relationship with humans. But most importantly I think we as humans can take some valuable lessons away about love, companionship, and friendship.
The first life of Toby is short. Born from a feral mother, Toby plays with his littermates and wonders whether the meaning of life is to merely have fun. Sadly, dog catchers take him within the first few minutes of the film and he is swiftly euthanized at an animal shelter.
In his second life, Toby (whose name is then Bailey) thinks his sole purpose is his boy: Ethan. The bond between the both of them is similar to that of many young boys and their dogs. Growing up together the pair are best friends, always having each other's backs. Ethan struggles with problems at home with an alcoholic father, and his relationship with his dog is the one constant in his life. Even when Ethan gets injured and loses his scholarship to college, his relationship with his loyal dog companion is enough to bring him healing and joy.
The thing people should take away from Bailey's life is the unconditional love that is shown between the boy and his dog. Through thick and thin, the two grew together and overcame whatever struggles life threw at them. Bailey made Ethan stronger, and Ethan served as the first example of a loving owner to Bailey. Many pet owners can relate to this kind of love, which is why this first life hit us straight in the heart!
The second life of the dog shows a very different dynamic. This time a female German Shepard named Ellie, who serves as a police dog. Her police officer, Carlos, is a somewhat lonely and bitter man due to the fact that he lost his family in a never-explained way. Regardless of his bitterness towards the world, Carlos and his dog become very close and Ellie excels at her job of being a search dog. This life tragically ends when Ellie is shot and killed saving Carlos from a gunman.
After Ellie very sadly passes away, the dog is again reincarnated. This time as a small corgi going by the name of Tino. Tino is adopted by a cheerful college woman named Maya. But while Maya has a bright personality, Tino notes to himself that Carlos and Maya are similar in the way that they both struggle with loneliness. Eventually, Tino helps Maya find love with another college student who also has a dog. In this life, Tino grows old and gets to stay with Maya as she passes all the milestones of life: graduating from college, getting married, and even having kids. Tino also has a love interest in this life, a dog named Roxy who belongs to Maya's boyfriend and eventual husband. As he passes away peacefully from his life with Maya, he states how this has been one of his best lives.
After his passing as Tino, he is reincarnated a fourth time, this time as a Saint-Bernard mix. He is quickly adopted by a young woman who fawns over his cuteness. She names him Waffles and takes him home. As time goes on and as Waffles gets older, she loses interest in him and leaves him tied up to a tree outside. Neglected, alone, and depressed, Waffles is eventually taken by the woman's boyfriend and dumped in an abandoned lot.
Not wanting to go back to his unfulfilling life with the couple, Waffles wanders into the countryside. After recognizing many familiar smells, our hero dog comes to the realization that he is very near his previous home with Ethan. Running through green pastures, Waffles runs towards Ethan (who is now a much older man) and jumps into his arms! It's a picture "paw"fect end to an amazing film.
The movie ends with the dog's realization of what a dog's purpose is: "Have fun, obviously. Whenever possible, find someone to save and save them. Lick the ones you love. Don't get all sad faced about what happened and scrunchy-faced about what could. Just be here now. Be. Here. Now. That's a dog's purpose."
This movie shines a light not only into the purpose of our loyal pups but also the beautiful power of love. This dog who loves unconditionally carries that love into each of his lives and makes an immeasurable difference in the lives of his owners. The author and director of this story wanted to demonstrate through these reincarnated lives that this love would never die, and in a way it never does.
So, the next time you get the chance to watch a heartwarming dog movie, watch A Dog's Purpose! Maybe like me, you'll look at your dog a little differently too.