Netflix’s “A Dog’s Way Home” is a feel-good film that doesn’t require you to think in order to understand. It has the love and care that we have come to know from dog films, the most recent one being Rescued by Ruby (Netflix). The film shows the extent to which a dog is believed to love a human, so much so that she travels 400 miles on foot, enduring everything on the way to get to him. For the lack of a better relatable film, imagine a feel-good Revenant without the backstabbing. The film makes use of natural adversities to test Bella’s love for Lucas, almost as if to prove that love is a force of nature too.
‘A Dog’s Way Home’ Plot Summary
Little Bella (Shelby, Shepherd/Rottweiler) is a Pit-bull who lives under a demolished property in Denver, Colorado, with her brothers, sisters, mother, and other cat families. One day, her family, along with many cats, is captured by the animal patrol guys. Unable to be spotted, she is left behind alone, but only until she is rescued by Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) and her friend Olivia (Alexandra Shipp). Lucas takes her in, and years pass by as their love for each other grows. He also continues to feed the remaining cats at the demolished property, making himself a target in the eyes of the owner of the property, Gunter Beckenbauer (Brian Markinson), who wants to clear the property for himself. Vengeful, Gunter informs animal control about Bella, a Pit-Bull, a breed that is illegal in Denver due to its ferociousness. The same evening, Lucas is warned by Chuck (John Cassini), an animal control officer, who tells him that Bella will be impounded the next time she is found on the streets.
The following day, Bella leaves the house premises running after a squirrel and is caught by Chuck, who takes him to the local animal shelter. Lucas pays the fine and picks Bella up, but she is told that if she is captured again, she will be euthanized. Lucas thus decides to send Bella away to Farmington, New Mexico, at Olivia’s aunt’s place. She shall remain there until Lucas, and his mom are able to find a new home outside Denver’s jurisdiction. But Bella wants to be with Lucas. What follows is an arduous 2-year journey for Bella to get back to Lucas, one during which she touches the lives of a baby cougar and a homeless vet, as well as saves the life of a man and makes new friends.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Love in Its Myriad Forms
A journey is defined by its hardships. How Bella is able to get back to Lucas is a testament to the fact that it is the journey that earns the destination its importance. And Bella’s journey only enriched her love for Lucas, making her, as well as us, understand the importance of togetherness, care, hope, survival, and a never-give-up attitude. The pack of homeless dogs symbolizes that sometimes people we do not know turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The dogs helped Bella by giving her companionship, accepting her as a member of their group, and sharing with her.
After this, she encounters a baby cougar whose mother was shot by two hunters. She named her “big kitten” due to her large size compared to usual kittens. With no one to take care of her, Bella becomes her guardian, caring for her and providing her with food. That Baby Kitten is fond of Bella and remembers her, which we get to know when Bella is attacked by coyotes, and Big Kitten (all grown up now) saves her. The movie ends with Big Kitten and her baby staring out at Denver from the jungle, as if to look out for Bella. For Bella to become the mother figure for Big Kitten and teach her to survive, and then for Big Kitten to become a mother herself, is perhaps the film’s way of showing how the baton of Bella’s motherly care would be passed on to Big Kitten. This again stresses how love and care transcend the differences that are present among species, which is one of the most significant themes of the film.
This is followed by the event when she helps two guys and another dog, Dutch, save their owner after an avalanche hits them. When the owner disowns them, the gay couple decides to take both Dutch and Bella in. This seems to be a test for Bella, who now has a comfortable home to stay in and even a friend to share her “soft spot” with. “It started to feel like home,” she says. But her love for Lucas makes her give up comfort and hit the road. Sometimes, distance from the person we love can distance us from the love itself. We find solace in the fondness we find around us, which often contributes to the growing distance. However, Bella is adamant and holds on to the love she has for Lucas. She leaves Dutch in the couple’s care and hits the road. That’s what many of us wish we could do, right? Hit the road right away when you want to see the person who means the world to us. Perhaps only a dog can make us feel more human.
Next up, we have love as oppression. Bella is taken in by Axel, who is a homeless vet. Despite being a vet, his behavior is strikingly odd. He keeps Bella on a leash and even chains her to prevent her from leaving his side. He keeps on mentioning how much he loves her. The fact that Axel passes away, leaving Bella chained to his lifeless body, seems to portray how such a kind of oppression (in the name of love) can take its toll even after the person passes away. After a point, such love becomes normal, and we are unable to come out of it, no matter how much it hurts us. Fortunately for Bella, two kids set her free. If only there was someone who would set us free too.
It’s About Letting Go
Throughout her journey, Bella had to let go of a lot of things to get back to the one person she loved most, Lucas. This is perhaps the film’s way of portraying how we sometimes have to let go of many things in life for the sake of our loved ones. We need to accept things as they are. What matters the most is whether we are content with the person we love. And what better way to show this than with a dog?
The first thing that Bella lets go of is her new group of friends, whom she met right after leaving New Mexico. She realizes that all of them have homes to go to, and thus she, too, has to let go of them and return. After that, she lets go of Big Kitten after being rescued by the two hikers from a group of coyotes. Later on, she has to let go of Dutch’s companionship and the care she received in one of the hikers’ houses.
Bella’s journey to Lucas is no less than a journey of life, and no matter how much we deny it, life is all about letting go. But that doesn’t mean it is painful. Throughout Bella’s journey, she makes new friends, learns to survive, and she grows, not just physically but emotionally as well. She even received injuries on her way back, which symbolize the hurt that we also incur in life. But all this does not stop her sway from returning to Lucas.
“A Dog’s Way Home” attempts to break down the notion that people have about pit bulls and the false fear that these animals are regularly associated with and fall victim to. When Olivia says, “This is basically racism for dogs,” the film is trying to oversimplify a complex but very apparent concept that prevails in society, one that almost pertains to racism. Yet, we have to hand it to the creators for trying to uphold something that is majorly ignored when we talk about pit bulls being mistreated.
‘A Dog’s Way Home’ Ending Explained: Does Lucas Remember Bella?
Bella makes it home alive after the 400-mile journey that cost her two winters. Two winters only stress the amount of time Bella and Lucas have spent separated from one another. The film shows Bella’s journey, but we do not know anything about Lucas or whether he searches for Bella and for how long. Has he given up on her? From the looks of it, Lucas has moved on in life. Yet, all it takes is a single second for him to realize his love for Bella, something that he probably kept hidden all this time only to save himself the pain of her absence.
“A Dog’s Way Home” is a compelling dog film that uses man’s best friend to uphold cross-species friendship and has its heart in the right place, pretty much like every canine of every breed.
“A Dog’s Way Home” is a 2019 Feel Good Drama film directed by Charles Martin Smith.