Book Review: A Dog’s Way Home

A Dog’s Purpose author W. Bruce Cameron is back at it again with another heartfelt tale to tell about a dog and its human. Toss away the bookmark, because once you crack open the cover you won’t stop reading long enough to lose your place. But if you’re an animal loving softie, you may want to keep a box of tissues on standby. You know, just in case you have to blow your nose, or something.

This time around, A Dog’s Way Home is Bella’s story. Born in a crawlspace underneath an abandoned house that’s about to be torn down for a new apartment complex, Bella lives alongside a colony of cats until one fateful day a young man named Lucas, who’s been sneaking into the site to care for the cats, discovers and adopts the puppy while helping animal rescue get the feral felines out of harm’s way before their home literally comes crashing down on top of them.

Bella begins a happy new life with Lucas, playing “games” like Do Your Business, No Barks, Go Home, Good Exercise, and Tiny Piece of Cheese. Every pet owner will no doubt immediately relate to enjoying the same games with their beloved animal. (For me and Sydney, my Australian Cattle Dog of 15 years who passed a few years ago now, a favorite treat game was Last Piece of the Banana.) As always, Cameron’s doggie first person storytelling leaps off the page with a playful spirit and sense of humor that is such a joy to read, and complements the heavier dramatic elements throughout.

Lucas, on the other hand, lives at home with and cares for his mother, a veteran dealing with seizures and alcoholism after returning from a tour in Afghanistan. Adding Bella to the family begins to help his mother, as well as other veterans at the local VA hospital where Lucas works, in the capacity of an unofficial service pet. However, a whole new set of troubles come into play as a smarmy building developer, angered by Lucas’s confrontational attitude and constant interference with his apartment project, and a stereotypical “bad guy” dog catcher, take advantage of Denver, Colorado’s vague dog breed laws against pit bulls to try and have Bella taken away out of spite. Lucas does everything he can to sneak Bella around without getting caught, but eventually he is forced to make a tough decision that sets in motion Bella’s grand homeward bound adventure through the harsh Colorado wilderness.

From this basic plot, A Dog’s Way Home dips its paw into a myriad subjects: breed-specific legislation, depression, addiction, domestic violence, homelessness, veteran affairs and PTSD. The story covers as much ground as Bella does on her journey home, but while the effort to raise awareness for some of these issues is admiral, the topics are shallowly examined. In particular, the topic of breed-specific legislation and laws regarding pit bull ownership in Denver, Colorado, is used as the primary plot device to set up the narrative; however only one side of the argument is ever presented, and it’s done so in a pretty vague manner that doesn’t fully inform the reader. The characterization of the many humans Bella encounters simply isn’t fleshed out enough to properly delve into the serious societal issues the author broaches.

Fortunately, the main purpose for reading a novel like this isn’t for robust social commentary, but rather to get swept up in a touching story centered first and foremost on the relationship between a dog and its owner, and in that respect the book wholly succeeds at tugging at an animal lover’s heartstrings. While the first half of the story is spent developing the bond between Lucas and Bella, the latter half focuses exclusively on Bella and a bunch of little subplots that come and go as she encounters other animals and people. Bella not only is a good dog for her human, but for everyone she comes across, ultimately showing how the unconditional love of a single animal can immediately touch the lives of so many different people across such diverse walks of life. In the end, though, Lucas is Bella’s human, and a strong nose along with the constant urge to play Go Home keeps her pressing on.

A Dog’s Way Home once again demonstrates W. Bruce Cameron’s innate knack for being able to craft a story from a dog’s perspective and pull readers whimsically into the mindset of man’s best friend in a way that is endearing and human and relatable to all pet owners. I don’t know if the story quite measures up to A Dog’s Purpose in terms of emotional impact or overall memorability, but it sure is a rollicking canine caper that will leave you smiling, laughing, and maybe even teary-eyed by the end.

Buy From: Amazon or Macmillan Publishers for $24.99.

Disclosure: A copy of A Dog’s Way Home was provided to VGBlogger.com for review purposes by Forge Books.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles.

Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere.

Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn’t mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!