In “A Dog’s Courage,” W. Bruce Cameron brings back the courageous and intrepid Bella, the dog we first met in “A Dog’s Way Home.” In this sequel, which also works as a stand alone story, Bella and her human family, Lucas and Olivia, are separated when there is a huge, all-encompassing forest fire that rages out of control in Colorado, where they are camping.
After the three make a heroic stand with others to protect an animal shelter from being abandoned to the fire, and managing to save the building and the animals, Bella finds herself in the company of Big Kitten, a mountain lion she had befriended as a young cub when her mother was killed. Now Bella helps Big Kitten, who remembers her dog friend, care for her two young cubs as they try to get to safety.
Cameron has Bella narrate the story of her adventure, and he really does “doggy” well. There’s nothing cutesy about how Bella relates the events, and Cameron doesn’t give her magical understanding of what the humans are saying or what is happening. But we are rapt, and as we turn page after page, we just want to know how Bella will finally get safe and be reunited with her family again.
And while it might seem crazy that a dog and a mountain lion could be friends and companions, there have been much stranger incidents of different species befriending each other. In “A Dog’s Courage,” we experience vicariously the terror of being caught in the middle of a forest fire. We hear the cracking and roar of the flames, we smell the cloying, thick smoke that fills lungs, and we feel the unbearable heat of the fire through the blankets covering us. Especially with the horrific wildfires in the recent past, reading these pages will evoke sadness and fright as we imagine what those who live there endured, some dying from the conflagration.
And, of course, Cameron gives us a happy ending. While we don’t know the fate of Big Kitten and her two rambunctious cubs, we do know that Bella ends up with her family after almost 300 pages of sometimes-tense action and ever-present danger.
When dogs are involved, we all want happy endings, don’t we?
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Forge Books, the publisher, for review purposes.