Aug 16, 2019
By Shepherd Bliss
The film “A Dog’s Way Home,” 2019, is now available on DVD from libraries and elsewhere. The maker of the recent, popular award-wining “A Dog’s Purpose” also made this new film. Both are exciting and informative family adventures, which have been receiving rave reviews by film critics and others.
Cats play a key role in this film. Bella the dog was raised by cats, whom she helps feed and protect. They make a loving family. Bella--Spanish for “beautiful”— embodies the playfulness of dogs, as well as the presence, restraint, and wisdom that dogs can have. Emotional scenes occur between Bella and her human, cat, and other friends.
What does it means to be separated from one’s family of origin and home and how can one re-find them? Bella went off on what begins as a walk down a street and becomes a 400-mile quest into the wilderness. If you ever feel lost, this is the kind of film that can help you find your way home, as well as have some fun on the trip.
The film reminds me that I am my dog’s “person.” Many people are human-centric. I am the “odd man out” in my family of origin; I find my deepest companionship with dogs, redwood and oak trees, berries, and other wild things on the Kokopelli Farm where I have lived for nearly 30 years.
The film reveals how dogs might think. For example, Bella is on a quest to “Go Home!” as she keeps reminding us. She works to assemble a pack to help achieve her goal. This is a real live dog, not a computer-generated copy. She is one vital “service dog” by nature, which can help people deal with our Post-Traumatic Stress. She even looks like my beloved dog, who is trained to be a protector.
In my veterans group we do not consider ourselves to be “disorders,” which is a clinical term, which it is hard to recover from. An alternative term we use to describe ourselves is “moral injury,” which indicates that there is a problem, but it does not mean that the person is a “disorder.” Healing is possible.
Along the way on her epic journey, Bella meets “Big Kitty,” whose mother had recently been killed by a hunter. We later learn that “Big Kitty” is a cougar. Bella becomes her “Mother Cat” and adopts her. The film has touching scenes of human-dog contact, including playing together and the messes that dogs can make.
The film evokes both laughter and some sadness. Bella saves the life of a man under the winter ice. She experiences both kind and not so good people, including dogcatchers.
Though Bella does not move her mouth and speak as if she were human, some words do emerge from her. I do not like films where the animals speak English, as if they were humans. Bella’s few words and crying brought tears from my eyes, as I tried to imagine what she was feeling and thinking.
Was it dogs who trained humans to meet their needs, or humans who trained dogs to meet our needs? Dogs--as well as cats, horses, and other animals—can bring so much love into a family. If you ever feel lost, geographically or otherwise, this is the kind of film that might help you embark on a journey and find your way home.
Bella’s protection from the mean dogcatcher includes military veterans, which this writer also is. Her allies work at a veteran’s hospital. They back down the dogcatcher who has been trying to capture and put her down. “Bella helps me with the Post-Traumatic Stress that I suffer from,” explains one of her military allies. Amen!
My dog Daisie is about the same size as Bella, even looks like her, and helps me with my substantial, lingering Post-Traumatic Stress, even after these many decades.
I took Daisie to a Veteran’s Center for many months to help train her, as well as myself on how to care for her. Both Bella and Daisie seem driven by love and loyalty. They also each enjoy squirrels, which I have never seen either of them catch. It feels as if the small squirrels are consciously taunting the dogs.
The special features are worth watching. I also found myself watching some scenes more than one time.
The real stars of this film are an alive dog and nature. Bella seems to be guided by a higher power, which she can help connect us to. Fortunately, according to the film, “Dogs have faith in us.” Lucky us!
(Dr. Shepherd Bliss is a former military officer and retired college professor. He has mainly farmed for the last 30 years and has contributed to 24 books.)
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