Interview With A Man Who Made A Movie About His Dog Saving His Life

We all think our dogs are great, but filmmaker Mitch Davis’ dog actually saved his life. Davis was struck by lightening on a camping trip and alludes to an encounter with a bear — we’ll have to see the movie to find out more — and in both situations, his dog, Pluto, came to the rescue.

Pluto the Wonder Dog from the movie <em>The Stray</em>.
Pluto the Wonder Dog from the movie The Stray.

The story of Pluto saving Davis was reserved for the family, but after encouragement from his son, Davis has now turned it into a movie titled The Stray. Davis says the role Pluto played in their lives was much bigger than just a family dog saving his human, as if that is not enough, but it is also the story of how Pluto saved the family in more subtle ways.

Davis has written and directed several movies, perhaps the most well known being The Other Side of Heaven, which starred Anne Hathaway. The Stray stars Michael Cassidy, who plays a character in one of my current favorite comedies, People of Earth, and Sarah Lancaster.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Davis about the movie and was provided video interviews with the movie’s cast that can be seen at the end of this article.

Alejandro Rojas: This movie is all about events that happened to you, right?

Mitch Davis: The true story of The Stray is actually my own story. This is a true event that happened to me and my family about 25 years ago. It sort of lived in our family history without much fanfare until two years ago when our youngest son who -- his name is Parker -- was the only one of our children who was not living when these events occurred. He grew up hearing these stories and he came to my wife and I and said, “Hey I want to write a screenplay about Pluto and the lightning bolt.” My wife and I discouraged him and said no, no that is just our family story. Nobody cares about that. But like all good children he disobeyed his parents and he wrote a script, gave it to us a couple months later and we really, really responded to it. We realized that there was a beautiful movie here. So I've done some re-writes and directed the movie, but it all started with our youngest son Parker.

Rojas: It sounds pretty extraordinary, were you worried people wouldn't believe it?

Davis: Yes, I was worried and still, when we show the movie to sneak preview audiences, in the question and answer session afterwards, the first question is always, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, did this really happen? And what about the bear and where did the lightning hit you exactly? Did you ever go to a doctor?” They all find it kind of incredible, but it's absolutely true.

Rojas: And what do you think makes Pluto so special?

Davis: We call him Pluto the wonder dog because we never knew where he came from.

Pluto showed up as kind of an angel in our family's life when we needed him most. We had a young family, I was working at Disney Studios, and we did not have a lot of money. We did have a lot of stress, a lot of dysfunction. We were all kind of searching for what we could do to help our family slow down a little bit and heal a little bit. I actually suggested to my wife maybe we should get a dog and she just about laughed me out of the neighborhood. But she added a parenthetical ... she said, “I tell you what, if a stray shows up I'll think about it, but no way am I going to go get a dog on purpose.”

Lo and behold, a couple of weeks later, a stray dog did show up. It followed our oldest son home from school. He immediately made himself at home and set about kind of healing our family's wounds, helping us. You know, he always seemed to be able to tell who needed to throw a ball or who needed to wrestle, who needed to give him a scratch or who needed to take him for a walk. It was kind of an interesting turn of events, because he showed up pretty skinny and hungry, so we kind of saved Pluto by taking him in, but then he ended up saving us; first, sort of psychologically, and then physically when I got struck by lightning.

Michael Cassidy (right) playing Mitch Davis and Enoch Ellis playing Clark LaCouture in a scene from <em>The Stray</em>.
Michael Cassidy (right) playing Mitch Davis and Enoch Ellis playing Clark LaCouture in a scene from The Stray.

Rojas: What do you hope people get from the movie?

Davis: Angels come in many forms; sometimes your angel might even be a stray dog. I think the other thing that I hope they take away is that families are where it's at. Families are hard, they're the hardest thing, but they're the most important enduring best thing there is. And sometimes a stray dog can be an essential part of a family.

The Stray will be released in select markets this Friday, October 6, 2017.

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