Although my family recently watched the 1943 “Lassie, Come Home” on TV, we haven’t seen the “in theaters now!” movie “A Dog’s Way Home” yet.
(Buying concessions to go with watching a certain super-hero who breathes under water left my BANK ACCOUNT under water.)
Based on a novel by W. Bruce Cameron, “A Dog’s Way Home” involves a dog named Bella who becomes separated from her beloved owner and begins an “epic 400-mile journey” to reunite with him.
The movie resonates well with teens who undertake an epic 400-mile journey to carry the garbage out to the curbside. (“No, I didn’t have to survive wolves and avalanches; but I was late responding to three texts and my classmates might have seen me and stuff.”)
Anyway, the premise of “A Dog’s Way Home” and similar films has gotten me started thinking about the amazing loyalty and directional skills of pets.
I can personally vouch for these attributes. When my wife and I moved into our home in 1993, we transplanted five of my parents’ cats. Four of them adjusted well, but poor Lambchop was never happy and walked several miles back to his birthplace. He was supremely proud of himself, until he got run over a week later and learned too late that this “9 lives” propaganda is Fake News.
Dodsey was a feisty stray cat who adopted us and promptly started driving our other tomcats away, one by one. We gave him away twice. The second time, he returned after a week and forgave us for our transgressions. We surrendered, gave him a “forever home” and supplied him the additional name “Ulysses.”
More amazingly, when my wife’s grandmother moved from New Jersey to Florida, she took her cat with her. The cat ran away. Several months later, the feline turned up in the old Jersey neighborhood, its little paw pads worn down from hundreds of miles of walking and an estimated 3,276 slaps on the snooze alarm.
Whether it’s loyalty to individuals or loyalty to familiar surroundings, the lengths to which animals will go are indeed uncanny. If you’ve spoiled them enough with the “Good boy!” routine, they’ll go to even greater lengths to impress you. (“I forgot to wear a Fitbit during my epic 400-mile journey. I’d better go back and do it again.”)
Different people have different ideas about how animals accomplish their navigation. Some believe God gave them the instinct. Others believe it evolved over time. This is why so many pets make a detour on their epic journey home. (“The comfy sofa can wait! I wanna visit Charles Darwin’s birthplace first!”)
I rarely write sequels to columns; but if enough of you write to me with your own stories, I just might make an exception. Be sure to mention the newspaper in which you saw this essay.
Yes, pets are resourceful about triumphing over impossible odds; but the hope that springs eternal within the human breast isn’t always justified.
I realize now that my brother and I were just grasping at straws when our childhood Boston terrier Pee Wee disappeared and we convinced ourselves that he had recognized a license plate and hopped a truck back to Kansas City.
Come to think of it, I’m starting to wonder why our childhood landlord would install a toilet that was a direct link to Goldfish Heaven…