As any lover of dogs will tell you, there’s nothing quite like the friendships between human beings and their canine companions. A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron gives us humans a chance at a dog’s eye view of the world, and next month it’s coming to the big screen! We sat down with the author to talk about adaptations and, of course, dogs – on and off set.
How has the movie, A Dog’s Purpose, changed your life?
I have always been so interested in reading that I forget that most people don’t dispose all of their income at the bookstore. When one of my novels is published I’m surprised it isn’t mentioned on the floor of Congress or put into the minutes at the UN. What seems hugely important to me doesn’t really register with most folks. So for a long time I’ve had to tell people what I’ve written and what it’s about. Now, though, when I say I’ve written A Dog’s Purpose, they’ve all heard of it. That has given me the illusion that I am more popular.
What was it like to interact with the canine stars on set?
Okay, you caught me. I was supposed to be talking to the actors, the producer, the director, and instead I spent all my time playing with the dogs. I bonded with the Corgi to the point I think he and I both thought he would be flying home with me, and rolling around with the dogs on set was the most fun I’ve had in some time. I don’t think the dog trainers were too happy with me, though. I was a bit of a distraction.
What, creatively, is the difference between writing a novel and adapting a screenplay?
Adaption is like sitting down and deciding which of your fingers to cut off. It’s all about what to throw out, because if you try to take all of A Dog’s Purpose and cram it into a movie, you’re going to have a five-hour movie. There is so much story that has to go, so much character detail. It’s like tossing ballast out of a hot air balloon—for it to fly, you have to dump stuff. I think the movie is magnificent, but it is not the whole picture. For that, you have to read the novel. I think understanding, for example, what is going on in Todd’s head, or why the dog’s first starts thinking about purpose, or why Buddy returns to the dog park, will really enrich the movie-going experience.
Will there will be a sequel to the A Dog’s Purpose movie?
If enough people go to the movie when it comes out, everything is in place to begin work on the sequel almost immediately. So, fingers crossed.
You have your own dog at home, Tucker. How did he come into your life?
Tucker was abandoned as a newborn with his siblings in a box outside of a city shelter, an act of heartlessness that is the inspiration for my novel The Dogs of Christmas. (Spoiler alert: it’s really happy). My daughter runs an animal rescue in Denver (www.lifeisbetter.org) and picked up the puppies and gave them to a mother dog who had just weaned her pups the day before. The mother dog nursed the little abandoned puppies until they were old enough to be adopted, and by that time, my daughter knew Tucker was the dog for us. She had a real talent for that: matching people with pets. She brought Tucker to us and he’s been in charge of the house ever since.
What else do you have in the works?
I have a set of books for younger readers that are based on the A Dog’s Purpose Ellie’s Story details the life of Ellie, the search-and-rescue dog. Bailey’s Story tells the life of Bailey, the childhood pet. Both of those are just out. And in the fall of 2017 we’ll see the publication of Molly’s Story, the cancer-sniffing dog. On the adult front, A Dog’s Way Home will be out in May. It tells the story of a dog banished by breed-specific legislation who, taken far away from her family, decides to find her way back—through hundreds of miles of wilderness. And in June, A Dad’s Purpose, which is a humorous look at what it is like to be a father in today’s world.
I’ve read A Dog’s Purpose—what should I read next?
I would highly recommend the next novel in the series: A Dog’s Journey continues the story of the dog in A Dog’s Purpose, pretty much picking up right where the first book left off. A Dog’s Journey actually has a high reader-rating than A Dog’s Purpose, but I’ll leave it up to the individual to decide which one is better.
Buy A Dog’s Purpose here: