A Dog’s Purpose is not a good movie. Its characters, both human and canine, are two-dimensional. Its narrative structure, which jumps from one unrelated dog owner to the next, is lumpy. Its premise, that dogs are reincarnated and retain memories and habits from their past lives, is highly dubious. If you are an even mildly discriminating filmgoer, you will roll your eyes throughout A Dog’s Purpose.
But you will also have to brush a few tears away from those eyes—after all, this is a movie about dogs dying. And because it was clear from the outset that this is a movie about dogs dying, I found myself on tenterhooks throughout the film, sure that dog death was lurking right around the corner. In a way, it was like watching a horror movie—was this the scene where the dog was going to die? Every time a car was shown on screen, I was sure it was about to hit the dog.
If for some reason you are still seeing or thinking about seeing this film, you should emotionally prepare yourself for the repeated battering your heart will take over the course of the movie. To that end, here is a complete list of all the ways the dog dies in A Dog’s Purpose, and another of all the ways it seems like the dog is going to die but then doesn’t. If you read up before you go, maybe your viewing experience won’t be as stressful as mine was?
All the Ways the Dog Dies
1. The first dog, a stray mutt puppy without a name, is captured by a dogcatcher and then euthanized off screen. (This goes by very quickly and subtly in the first few minutes of the film, and as a result I imagine many parents will have to explain to confused, tearful children what sometimes happens to stray dogs who can’t find homes.)
2. The second dog, a golden retriever named Bailey, is put to sleep in a veterinary office after suffering kidney failure.
3. The third dog, a German shepherd police dog named Ellie, attacks a kidnapper on a bridge to save her owner’s life, and then the kidnapper shoots Ellie, who bleeds to death.
4. The fourth dog, a corgi named Tino, dies of old age and heartbreak after his longtime canine companion, Roxie, is put to sleep.
5. The fifth dog, a St. Bernard–Australian shepherd mix named Buddy, doesn’t die! Not during the movie. Though if we can take any lesson from A Dog’s Purpose, it is that he will still die eventually, in extraordinarily heartbreaking fashion.
Near-Death Experiences That the Dog Survives
1. Bailey, the golden retriever, is locked in a hot car as a puppy and almost dies of thirst.
2. Bailey almost dies in a fire after a boy who is bullying his owner, Ethan, puts a lit firework through the mail slot in Ethan’s house.
3. Bailey chases after an ambulance holding Ethan after Ethan is injured escaping the fire.
4. Later, Bailey chases a car that Ethan is driving as he leaves home for college. (Granted, it would be pretty dark if a dog got hit by his own owner in a movie like this. But I get nervous when any dog chases cars! Don’t let your dog chase cars, people.)
5. Ellie, the German shepherd, jumps off a bridge to save the life of a girl who was thrown in the water by the aforementioned kidnapper. (According to leaked footage from the shoot, the jump was not quite as voluntary as it appears in the movie.)
6. Tino, the corgi, eats lots of junk food and is told by a vet that he needs more exercise, which made me worry that he might develop canine diabetes or heart disease.
7. Buddy, the St. Bernard–Australian shepherd mix, is adopted by a woman and man who chain him to a tree in the yard and neglect him for years.
8. Eventually, the man drives Buddy to a rail yard and abandons him there with nothing to eat.
9. Buddy runs through traffic as he searches for a new home.