Why “A Dog’s Way Home” Made Me Cry (It Wasn’t Because of Anything Dog-Related)

Photo credit: Krists Luhaers via Unsplash

In honor of my daughter’s 11th birthday, I spent last Friday afternoon at the movies with five sobbing tween girls, which is not how you’d expect a birthday celebration to go. Because Lillian is a supreme dog lover, she wanted to have a “puppy party,” which consisted of going to visit the dogs up for adoption at the animal rescue league and then to going see A Dog’s Way Home before coming home for a slumber party—a veritable triathlon of fun. Except for the crying part.

I figured the movie might jerk some tears, so I brought Kleenex and would periodically pass a fresh clump of it down the aisle whenever I heard the sniffling reach a crescendo. But what I didn’t expect was that I would cry at several points during the movie too—but not for the same reasons as the girls.

The first time I cried was when I saw Ashley Judd, who played the main character’s mom. I hadn’t seen her on the big screen since the MeToo movement happened, and knowing that she had her own story of sexual harassment and yet here she was working…it got me. She was also playing an Army veteran who now suffered from PTSD and depression. It was heartening to see a main character living with mental illness without it being a major story line; it was just part of life.

Then I teared up a little when, at one point the titular dog, Bella, gets rescued by a gay couple. They lived in a gorgeous house and were clearly in love. Better yet, they were relieved of the burden of teaching an important lesson. Again, they were just a normal part of life.

I also got verklempt every time I saw a character of color, and there we many. I felt like I was seeing the beginnings of the new Hollywood, where way more different points of view and types of people are shown on screen.

(And OK, I admit, I cried when Bella said good-bye to the bobcat she befriended.) (Even though the bobcat was CGI and really didn’t look real.)

Before I walked into that theater, I knew intellectually that representation matters. I got that it’s important for kids to see a wide range of types of people on a screen so that they can see themselves as well all kinds of different people, genders, cultures, backgrounds, sexual orientations, races, religions. What I didn’t realize was how much representation mattered to me, and how much I had been missing it. And so I was crying too for all the movies we’ve all ever seen that haven’t been representative of all of us; and for all the times we went and gave our hearts and minds over to a movie that didn’t include the big beautiful diversity of us.

Of course, all these things flew right over the girls’ heads (except for the bobcat part). Which is fine. Because seeing people of all kinds on the big screen shouldn’t be a big deal. It should just be part of life.

Goals You’re Working On in 2019

I truly loved hearing about all the things you’ve got brewing for 2019. Here are some highlights of the goals you shared with me:

  • Write a letter from my future self, thanking me for all the positive developments I created in 2019
  • Have a baby
  • Publish a personal essay
  • Go on at least one short retreat
  • Be open to messages from the universe

If You Share a Goal of Writing and/or Publishing a Personal Essay, I’ve Got Just the Class for You!

My friend and writer colleague teaches a great online essay-writing class—I wrote and edited an essay in that class that I quickly sold to Yoga International. (Amy’s great about getting you writing AND about helping you find a paying market for it!) Her next essay class begins on February 11. Mention that you receive my newsletters and you’ll get $25 off your registration fee. For more information about the class visit www.amypaturel.com/classes and to save your spot, email her at amy@amypaturel.com. Tell her I sent you.

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