I’m late to the game, but having recently watched it, A Dog’s Purpose becomes more than just a movie, it is a teaching tool for profound topics. I’ve got all the feels for it – a movie that’s beautifully shot, well-acted, charmingly written, and poses questions about mortality, kindness and mindfulness for children and grown-ups alike.

A Dog’s Purpose follows a dog’s quest for his, er – purpose?, over the span of several reincarnated lives as several men’s and women’s best friend.

“Bailey”, charmingly voiced by Josh Gad (so you can tell your children “That’s Olaf’s voice.”) cycles through several lives, some thrilling, some sad, some long, some short.

If you’ve ever had a dog in your life, you best bring some tissues. I mean – why DO we cry so much over the loss of cinema canines? I’m about to foist “Old Yeller” and “Where the Red Fern Grows” onto my kid because of the unforgettable tragedy and emotion it conjured in my youth. I can’t wait to share that experience with her. Am I an emotional masochist?

But I digress.

What particularly moved me was the provocative questions the movie inspired: thoughts about reincarnation, mortality, kindness and mindfulness.

The day after watching, on the way to school, my younger kid asked, “Why do dogs have many lives but humans don’t?”

We then had several blocks of talking about profound human beliefs. That led to more spirituality, speculation and religion after I said, “Religion is often what comes from people asking un-answerable questions about the world and about life and particularly about what happens to beings after death.”

He responded, “Uh-huh.”

It was 8:15 in the morning. Too much for him, too.

Anyway.

Talking about the life cycle while watching A Dog’s Purpose when children ask “why does he have to die?” and “Oh, good, he came back to life.”

It’s tough to chat with children about death, but there are beautiful and constructive ways of doing so and develop constructive life-long coping mechanisms. Death is part of life. We shouldn’t deny that fact from our kids.

Kindness entered our post-viewing conversation as we observed the treatment of the dogs by their owners. Some were neglectful, some strict, some were…uh…euthanizing, but most were quite loving. Kindness isn’t a hard concept for children, but it’s often glazed over or discounted. We all could use more modeling of kindness, right?

Finally (and most profoundly for me): mindfulness. Throughout the movie, Bailey is on the search for his (and in one life her) purpose. Discussing with children, “Why am I here?” and “Do I have a purpose in life?” ain’t easy. It’s tough for adults, too. But  it’s a question that renders life stimulating for our feeble brains. (That old “the unexamined life…” adage.)

By the end of the movie, Bailey shares with the viewer: “So, in all my lives as a dog, here’s what I’ve learned:”

  • 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.

Isn’t that simple and wonderful and pure?

Life would be so much better for us all if we relentlessly sought a purpose, played more, didn’t get scrunchy-faced about the past or the future and learned to be here – now.

Simple and thought-provoking, A Dog’s Purpose is a must-watch for families.