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The PG film “A Dog’s Way Home” is mostly family-friendly, although it has a few elements that will trouble parents.

Lucas is a caring, 20-something man who will do anything to save animals in harm’s way—perhaps even risking jail.

So one day when he spots several endangered animals across the street inside a fenced-off condemned area, he and his girlfriend, Olivia, break the law by sneaking through the fence to save them.

The lot owner tells them to beat it, but not before Lucas and Olivia free the cats and escape with a dog that will be a gift to his mom, a war veteran. Dogs, Lucas says, can help veterans suffering from depression.

His mom loves the dog (they name her “Bella”) but doesn’t realize the breed is illegal under city code. That’s because Bella is classified as a pit bull—even though she doesn’t look like one.

Soon, the lot owner reports Bella to animal control, and soon after that, she is in the pound. Lucas pays a fee to get her back, even though he knows she can’t stay with him and his mom. So he takes her to Olivia’s out-of-state parents, where Bella will live until Lucas moves to a location where he can legally keep the dog.

It sounds like a good plan. That is, until Bella escapes and runs through the forest and down the highway—with the goal of traveling the 400 miles back to Lucas.

Will Bella make it?

The PG film A Dog’s Way Home opens this weekend, starring Jonah Hauer-King (Little Women, 2017) as Lucas; Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) as Olivia; Ashley Judd as Lucas’ mom, Terri; and Bryce Dallas Howard (Pete’s Dragon) as the voice of Bella.

The live action-film is told from the perspective of Bella, who is raised by cats before being saved by Lucas—or as she calls him, her “person.” It is the latest in a recent series of pet-centric movies: Dogs Days (2018), Show Dogs (2018), A Dog’s Purpose (2017) and The Secret Life of Pets (2016), among them.

It is a cute, mostly family-friendly film (details below) that dog lovers especially will appreciate. The movie has two larger purposes: 1) highlight the positive role pets can play in companionship with veterans, and, 2) support the Humane Society’s “all dogs are equal” initiative, which opposes breed-specific bans and policies. City officials are attempting to impound Bella, even though she is friendly and looks nothing like a pit bull. Her kind demeanor is further underscored when she takes care of a cougar cub.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Minimal/moderate. We see animal control workers catching stray pets and taking them to the pound. We hear a cougar shot and killed and then see its body; its cub is orphaned. Wolves chase Bella and a baby cougar. A man is buried under an avalanche; he survives. Wolves fight a dog. A dog is hit by a car. A homeless man dies near a river; we see his body.


None. We hear a woman jokingly say a man is not “hot.” Additionally, parents may want to know about a couple of related issues. (See “Other Stuff You Might Want to Know”—below.)

Coarse Language

Minimal. A couple of coarse words: h-ll (1), OMG (1). One instance of “oh my gosh.” A dog is nicknamed “shaggy butt.”

Other Positive Elements

Children will enjoy watching Bella take care of a cougar cub and helping it find water and food. Perhaps that doesn’t happen in real life, but there are lessons to be learned on kindness.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Two men enter the story midway through the film, and it is implied they are a gay couple. They don’t kiss, hug or even hold hands, but they ski together and live in a nice home together (Older children might ask questions; younger ones likely will not).

In the film’s final scene, Lucas and Olivia are living together. Maybe they’re married by now, but it doesn’t appear that way; he’s not wearing a ring (Most kids won’t notice, though).

Life Lessons

The primary message of A Dog’s Way Home is this: Pets need us, and we need pets (See Worldview, below). But it also provides lessons on kindness (Bella, Lucas, others), companionship (Bella, Lucas, a homeless man, veterans) and taking care of those who can’t care of themselves (Lucas, Olivia and Bella).


A proper view of pets requires a proper view of animals: Humans are more important than animals (Genesis 1-3), and God gave mankind dominion over them (He told us to eat them, and He even crafted clothing out of animal skin).

If mankind didn’t have dominion over the animals, then there would be no such thing as pets. Pets, after all, are animals that were domesticated by humans.

But do pets need us, and do we need them? The former is certainly true. I even suspect God expects us to take care of pets. That’s because we have trained them to rely on us. It’s our responsibility to help them. In A Dog’s Way Home, Bella likely would die if Lucas didn’t help her (God takes care of animals, too: “He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call”—Psalm 104:21).

Do we need pets? For some people, the answer may be “yes.” Pets provide companionship. They provide entertainment. They provide unconditional love. They even can provide protection. Of course, they also teach responsibility.

Pets are one of God’s many blessings—as most children already know.

What Works

The relationship between Bella and her cougar friend. I could watch a movie just on that.

The scenery (The film’s setting is Colorado).

What Doesn’t

A Dog’s Way Home is a very simple movie with a thin plot. Some will find that enjoyable. Others will be bored.

Discussion Questions

  1. Does the Bible support the modern-day animal rights movement?
  2. What is our responsibility with animals? With pets?
  3. Why do some people need/want a pet more than others?
  4. Are there people who shouldn’t be given a pet?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG for thematic elements, some peril and language.