Hallelujah, happy days are here again…it’s summer! Even though I may not be heading to a tropical isle, my mind searches for mental vacations in light reading and family-friendly movies. I came upon The Stray, released in 2017, the true story of screenplay writer Mitch Davis and his family.
Mitch dreamed of moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in screenwriting. He and his wife, Michelle, have given up everything and gone into debt to make his dream come true. As with many dreams, reality looks very different. LA is hot and crowded, the traffic a nightmare we can relate to, and Mitch works around the clock while Michelle struggles to raise their three young children alone. Their oldest son Christian doesn’t fit in and bullies at school make his life miserable. Paradise is a raggedy and exhausting disappointment. In a ridiculous moment, Mitch suggests they get a dog, the last thing Michelle needs. She says the only way that will happen is if a stray just comes along and decides to stay. As Christians often love to joke, “Be careful what you pray for; you just might get it.”
Through a series of divine appointments, Pluto, an Australian Shepard, appears and inserts himself into the Davis family. With personality plus, Pluto fills son Christian’s loneliness, tends to the younger children, and bolsters the sagging spirits of the parents.
His presence seems to remind them of the simpler pleasures of life, of family relationships and quality time spent together. Dogs do that; they live in the moment, love unconditionally, and enjoy just being alive. If you’ve never heard it, listen to Paul Harvey’s poem, And God Made a Dog.
Children need their father, a wife needs her husband and Mitch needs the love of his family. The rat race has robbed them all of a complete family. They pack up and head to rural life in Colorado where Mitch can return to his love of writing. Emotionally depleted, they struggle to adjust to a new home and become reacquainted with each other. Michelle tries to remember why she married Mitch in the first place. Christian is sullen and angry with his father. Pluto gently moves from one family member to the next, offering comfort and cheer. Mitch says, “Pluto takes better care of us than we take of ourselves.” He is an angel in white fur whose only mission in life is giving to them.
Hoping to revive his relationship with his son, Mitch takes Christian and two new friends on a camping trip. Of course, Pluto goes along to care for his pack and it’s a good thing, because this not-so-rugged crew is made up of rookies. The Colorado scenery is stunning and wild, eye-opening for the city kids exposed to the beauty of God’s green earth for the first time. You can almost see them grow and stand a little taller with confidence gained. The Stray has many life lessons but I most appreciated seeing the boys learn what it means to be a real man, about teamwork and that putting others first is a sign of maturity.
The Stray proves once again that God works in mysterious ways, using the most unexpected souls to teach us the precious value of life. It is rated PG because true life is messy and often hurts. As the credits roll by, pictures and home movies of the real life Pluto and Davis family bring a smile. Pluto was a clown filled with loving kindness for the family he took under his paw. Fathers and sons and anyone who loves dogs will love The Stray. It is available for rental online.
~ Cheryl Kurtz