W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog’s Way Home

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A Dog’s Way Home Summary

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A Dog’s Way Home is a 2017 children’s novel by American author W. Bruce Cameron. It follows an anthropomorphic dog named Bella who lives in an abandoned building with her family. Bella is discovered by Lucas who adopts and raises her. When Bella is taken by animal control, she embarks on a trek over hundreds of miles to find her owner. Along the way, she finds many people who support her, and some who want to thwart her reunion with Lucas. The novel demonstrates that virtues and positive connections such as compassion and companionship can overcome neglect, abuse, and separation.

At the beginning of the novel, Bella is introduced as a mutt who shares the crawlspace of a derelict building with her mom, siblings, and a colony of cats. Humans often mistakenly guess that Bella is a pit bull and assume she is aggressive or predatory, but she is none of these things. Bella’s home is threatened when a local real estate developer makes plans to demolish the building to make way for new construction. The developer’s first step is to rid the building of the cat colony. Lucas, a medical student working at the local veteran’s hospital, learns about the plan and tries to protect the cats. He and Audrey visit the building and try to move the animals out before they are hurt or sent to kill shelters. When Lucas meets Bella, they start an immediate friendship. Lucas decides to have Bella as his pet. Bella meets Lucas’s mom, and they get along well. She also visits the veteran’s hospital and comforts the patients.

Unfortunately, not all of the cats in Bella’s old home make it out before the demolition begins. Lucas tries to halt the project until they are safely removed, but the demolition manager, Gunter, opposes him. They get into an intense fight that ends with Gunter reporting Bella to animal control. Though he knows that Bella is not a pit bull, he tells the authorities that she is, to ensure that they come for her. He even bribes the responding officer, Chuck, to verify that Bella is a pit bull so that she can be confiscated. Animal control takes Bella to the pound. Lucas’s high school friend and girlfriend, Wayne and Olivia, sneak Bella out of the pound before anything bad happens. They place Bella with a foster family temporarily, while Lucas and his mother search for a new home for them all where pit bulls are legal.

Devastated to be separated from Lucas, Bella resolves to make her way back to him, though they are now separated by hundreds of miles. Not letting the daunting distance overwhelm her, Bella embarks on her trek home. For the next few years, she travels through the countryside, relying on her own food and shelter-finding instincts and the kindness of strangers. She faces many dangers, but perseveres through them; she even makes friends, from a baby cougar (who grows up and becomes her protector) to a fellow dog, Dutch. Dutch has an owner who neglects and abuses him. However, when his owner almost dies in an avalanche, Dutch and Bella save him. Dutch leaves his owner determined to find a better home with a loving owner. Bella travels on, passing between a series of temporary households and owners. She helps each owner deal with a problem in his or her own life. For example, she protects Sylvia from being beaten by her boyfriend, who is addicted to drugs. She comes to terms with the brevity and sadness of life when a homeless veteran friend, Axel, dies.

Bella remains determined to find Lucas. She makes it back to the town from which she was taken, only to learn that Lucas and his mother have moved. Then she travels to the veteran’s hospital, where she encounters Chuck instead of Lucas. Chuck remembers Bella and tries to impound her a second time. Fortunately, the veterans stand up to him, placing her in the care of Lucas’s mom. The hospital administrator tells Chuck that the county’s animal regulations do not apply within the bounds of the hospital, which is federal property, and the Sheriff puts Chuck on disciplinary leave. At long last, Bella goes home to Lucas, and they are overjoyed to reunite. At the end of the novel, Bella, Lucas, and Olivia all live together again. A Dog’s Way Home demonstrates that the friendship between a pet and her owner can withstand the test of time.