The Dog, Ray by Linda Coggin
This book reminds me a bit of A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron, but for middle school readers. It is written by a British author and set in the U.K. The book is narrated by a girl named Daisy and opens with her death at the age of 12 in a car accident. Daisy’s soul is sent back to earth as a newborn puppy. But she still remembers her life as Daisy. She spends the beginning part of the book trying to get back to her parents. She has been born as a dog in the same town where she lived as a girl and sees a newspaper article about her accident. Her father survived, but is now paralyzed.
Daisy starts out her life as a dog with a mean boy and his mother, but she runs away from them and ends up with a homeless man named Jack who is kind to her and introduces her to 14-year-old Kip, new to the streets after running away from foster care following the death of his mother. Daisy ends up being named Ray by Kip and she becomes his dog for better or worse as they travel in search of Kip’s father, who doesn’t know he exists.
Daisy does actually meet her parents at one point in the book, when she is at an animal shelter, but the reader comes to realize as the book goes on the bittersweet truth of Daisy’s new existence: being with her parents again isn’t meant to be – this is a new life. Daisy slowly begins to lose the memory of who she was and becomes more dog-like in her thinking and actions. The reader sees her transform from human in a dog’s body to dog. A beautiful and poignant story of life, loss, and love, with serious issues handled gently. The story is also interspersed with humor from Daisy’s first-person narration, so it is not too heavy. It does also have a happy ending when Kip tracks down his father and he and Ray are happily taken in by him and his family. We also see Daisy’s parents again, who adopt a service dog, so their lives go on also.