Dennis Quaid stars in a scene with a dog named “Buddy” in the movie, 'A Dog’s Purpose.' CNS photo/Universal

Controversy overshadows film’s message of loyalty and service

By  Emily Barber, Youth Speak News
  • February 3, 2017

I was feeling a tad hypocritical about A Dog’s Purpose. For one, I’m not really a dog person and for another, this movie has been the subject of much controversy regarding the treatment of its canine stars.

But in spite of my initial hesitation, I came out of the film smiling. I was pleasantly surprised to discover it had a simple yet powerful message that dovetails quite nicely with the teachings of the Church. (Not to mention I felt more kindly toward dogs in general.)

A Dog’s Purpose, directed by Lasse Hollström, is based on the novel of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron. The film traces the path of one dog, voiced by Josh Gad, as he searches for the meaning of his existence through the humans he teaches to laugh and love.

The added twist is that the dog is reincarnated, living a total of four lives as four different dogs and breeds, each dedicated to its owner and each conveniently adorable enough for any audience to love.

There’s no question the on-set video, released by TMZ, of a dog struggling with its handler to avoid being lowered into rushing waters was bad publicity for the movie. There has been some damage control, and, yes, the dog in question was not hurt, but it is difficult to win back a dog-loving audience.

The various owners whose lives are touched by this dog are played by Britt Robertson, K.J. Apa, John Ortiz, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby, Pooch Hall and Dennis Quaid.

While not an overtly religious film, A Dog’s Purpose does exemplify the intangible value that comes from loving and giving of oneself to others. This dog, while playful and lively, shows a touching attachment to each of his owners that, despite their different situations, are all united in one common need for a dependable, loveable companion.

While this may be a very stereotypical portrayal of a dog, the theme about the value of companionship is one that we can all relate to our own lives, whether it is of the canine or human type.

Jesus teaches us that companions in life are indispensable. God did not intend for us to be alone, but to be in community with others to share the ups and downs life has to offer. Love is a two-way street, benefiting both parties with the joy it brings to each other’s lives.

Over and over again, A Dog’s Purpose works to reinforce the bonds that hold strong against any opposing force. Whatever else was going on in each character’s life, the saving grace was always the sight of their dog awaiting them with eager eyes — for the next game, the next walk, the next cuddle.

There are plenty of feel-good moments, and while we cannot always hope to attain the same level of cuteness as the dogs in this movie, they do remind us of what it means to makes lives seem just a little bit brighter.

While I am not condoning any actions of the filmmakers that may have been contrary to the safety of the dogs involved, I do maintain that the fundamental message of A Dog’s Purpose is a worthwhile one. It is not an overly complex message, but nonetheless is one that needs to be heard.

(Barber, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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