Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Victoria  Astudillo 

The Role of Dogs in Ancient and Modern Civilizations

The Universal Search for Fulfillment in William Bruce Cameronís Works

William Bruce  Cameron
William Bruce Cameronís protagonists, whether they are human beings, dogs, or Ė in one instance Ė the spirit of a Civil War soldier reincarnated as a bear, all seek fulfillment in their lives. The author deliberately focuses his novels on animals in order to convey his central message that all creatures, regardless of species, have some purpose to fulfill within their community. In A Dogís Purpose and A Dogís Journey, Cameronís canine protagonist is on a spiritual journey. As his soul is reincarnated repeatedly, he realizes that he can only enter heaven when he finds out what he is meant to do. The owners of each reincarnation of the dog are all coping with some tragedy, but the struggle leaves them unfulfilled, feeling like something is missing in their lives. In all cases, it is the dog that leads them to what is missing in their lives, and once his owners have fulfilled their purpose, the dogís lifelong journey is complete. This communicates the message of Cameronís works: it is only through helping others that one can feel complete as well.

Dogs throughout history have also helped humans find food, survive harsh environments, build communities, and even develop moral and ethical values. Beginning in 10,000 BCE, early humans developed hunting and gathering skills by observing wolf-pack hunting strategies. Learning how to survive was a crucial skill for humans. Dogs played a role in some ancient religious beliefs and ceremonies as well. Peoples of Ancient Egypt and the Inca Empire believed that dogs were guardians of the underworld. They believed dogs had direct links to nature deities, which allowed them to be treated with respect and value because of their connection to the spiritual world. In Victorian-era society, the religious concept of treating animals kindly created a moral and ethical understanding of how to treat other human beings. Humane societies were created by the Victorian upper-class in order to promote moral practices for the lower class. Dogs also served as status symbols of royalty in China and ancient Egypt. Dogs and humans enjoyed a rich, mutually beneficial relationship in many civilizations throughout history.

Majors Work Consulted:
Cameron, William. A Dogís Journey. New York: Tom Doherty, 2012.
--. A Dogís Purpose. New York: Tom Doherty, 2010.
Ritvo, Harriet. The Animal Estate. London: Harvard UP, 1987.
Schwartz, Maroin. A History of Dogs in the Early Americas. New Haven: Yale UP, 1997.
Photo Credit: Cameron, William. A Dogís Journey. New York: Tom Doherty, 2012.