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A Dog’s Purpose for a mom and daughter

Grace and I read A Dog’s Purpose over winter break in December, using two bookmarks.

It was the first time we have read a book at the same time. I had suggested it when I found out that the author W. Bruce Cameron and his wife, screenwriter Cathryn Michon, are part of the Erma Bombeck writers’ tribe to which I also belong. Though I’d never met either one, I felt a kinship with them. I needed to read and see their work. More importantly, my daughter and I needed something to bond us together during the trying times a teenager and her menopausal mom often experience. And we both love dogs.

On Jan. 26, we attended a private showing of the movie. Granted it didn’t officially open until Jan. 27, but I knew it would start playing a day earlier than advertised. I learned this a few years back when our family went to the theater to buy tickets the night before Divergent was to open. We discovered the movie would show in a few minutes, so we parked the car and went in to a practically empty theater then, same as now.

We chose seats two-thirds of the way up and in the middle, sharing a large bucket of butter-drenched popcorn for our dinner. I made a Snapchat video to commemorate the occasion. It was a privilege to sit alongside my 15-year-old daughter and pretend this was our private screening of A Dog’s Purpose, with the exception of a man down front and two women who came in during the previews and sat a few rows behind us.

We leaned close and talked in hushed voices about how the movie differed from the book, like only hearing “doodle dog” spoken once when it had been used repeatedly in the book. There were scenes in the movie that never occurred in the book, like the swallowed coin, and vice versa, like the police dog having two masters. That is, of course, the way it is with book-to-movie scripts to condense some dozen-plus hours of reading into less than two hours of screen time. Some don’t succeed with the transition; this one did.

On our way out of the theater, Grace said she thought the book was better because more things happened. I think the real reason that may be true is because the book gave us more time together as we plowed through its pages. She never wanted me to get ahead of her either, so it made it a fun competition as reading became a priority over other daily distractions, such as checking social media and putting away laundry.

But the movie was great, too, she quickly added. Greater still, I believe, was sharing both with her, from laughing and crying as we talked about the chapters each of us had just read, to whispering at our private showing between more giggles and tears.

The book and the movie certainly served their purpose for us. Five stars and two thumbs up for that.

— Lisa Marlin

Lisa Marlin, a marketing professional, started her career as a journalist. Her essays have been published on the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop blog and in The Denver Post, The Dallas Morning News and Dallas Child Magazine — penned under various last names that she has tried on over time. Four children call her Mom, and each of them has provided their (un)fair share of writing prompts throughout their 28, 25, 22 and 15 years of life. Find her at, on Twitter @lisa_marlin and on Facebook at @lisamarlinwriter.

Reflections of Erma