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Christian Living

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In New Movie The Stray, 'God Sends a Dog' to Save the Day

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

Who doesn’t love a movie where a loveable dog saves the day?

In the case of The Stray, a new faith-based family movie opening in theaters nationwide this Friday, a loveable dog named Pluto not only saves the day but saves someone’s life as well.  Starring Michael Cassidy (Argo), Sarah Lancaster (Chuck, Everwood), and Connor Corum (Heaven is for Real), the movie demonstrates how the things we sometimes value least in life are actually the most important.

I recently spoke with director/co-screenwriter Mitch Davis and Lancaster about this heartwarming new film that delivers an important message of hope for the entire family.

Mitch, The Stray is based on a true story in your life.  It has been more than 25 years since you were struck by lightning. Why did you wait so long before bringing this to the big screen?

A lot of time has gone by, and I can now look back at that period, both with fondness, clarity, and not be as self conscious as I used to be. You know when I was a young man, I guess I probably cared a lot what people thought of me. And now that I’m a grandpa, I don’t really care if people are impressed by how I used to act or used to be. 

You know there are scenes in this movie that don’t make me look very good, and there are scenes that my son Parker (co-screenwriter) wrote, and I rewrote. And I’ve had a few people say, “Wow you were really a jerk.” And I don’t think I was really a jerk; I think I was just doing the best I could, and I want to make this movie for people that are in that place. People that are doing the best they can and it’s still not quite enough.  So they prayed for help and God sent a dog.

What are some of the overarching themes that viewers can look for when watching the movie?

Sarah: This is a movie about family and hope.  I like the idea of second chances in life.  That is something that attracted me to the story.  It is never too late to live the life you want to live.

Mitch: One theme is that God lives. He loves us. He knows what we’re going through. He knows where we are, and He knows what we need. In the case of this movie, there are two or three examples of that. Number one, we were a family in crisis, and we were all praying for help at that time. My wife was praying for help. I’m sure the kids were praying for help. I was praying for help. And God sent a dog.  I guess he could have sent a marriage counselor, but he sent a dog; and in our family, in our life, that dog was angelic. He performed an angel’s function. He came and helped us, and healed us, and ended up saving my life in reality.

And then the second time that God knew what I needed was when I was on that mountain having been struck by lightning. You know that was not a small thing. According to the boys, they thought I was dead. They said I wasn’t breathing. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know that in my own mind and spirit, I experienced a kind of death and I pleaded with God for relief and recovery. He heard and answered my prayer in a most miraculous and beautiful way.

You just mentioned that God sent a dog to save your family.  In relation to this movie, what was so special about Pluto?

Sarah: Timing is everything, right?  This dog came at the right time when everybody needed a little something.  Maybe Michelle (Mitch’s wife) needed a little levity in the house. Mitch needed that connection.  I just think everything happens for a reason and that dog found them at that time for a very important reason.

Mitch: What Pluto did is he just kind of seemed to know when one of us was in need. He knew when my son, Christian, had had a bad day at school. He knew when I came home at three in the morning and needed to wrestle in the back yard. He was just there, and I think dogs kind of teach a lesson to us all about happiness. What does it take for a dog to be happy? Well you know, a little food, a little water, and an occasional scratch on the belly. And we as human beings are constantly striving, striving some times for things that don’t matter very much.

Mitch, you have mentioned that during this period in your life that both you and your family were really struggling to make it and at times you wondered if everything was just going to fall apart.  This dog certainly served as a catalyst to help make things better.  What are some ways that we can heal our broken relationships, or at least try?

Mitch: We need to realize and accept the fact that our family does come first, that no other success can compensate for failure in the home. It just can’t. I don’t think the world thinks that way. I don’t think the world teaches us that. I don’t think the world rewards us very much for being a good mom and dad. You don’t get promoted at work, because you went to your kid’s baseball game; but you might have a son who loves you a little more and feels a little more about you. So listen to each other, adjust your life wherever, however possible, and put the family first.

Why is it that sometimes the things we value least in life are in fact the most important?  Why does it sometimes take a lightning strike, literally, to make this realization?

Sarah:  I think if we all knew the answer to that we would be leading different lives.  I think people get caught up in the day to day and Mitch was certainly caught up in making things happen in his career and getting to a certain place in his life.  He was interested in providing in a certain way for his family.  I can see that.  I can identify with that. He just lost sight of everything.  We’ve all lost our way at some point and ultimately he was given a gift and was able to find his way.

Mitch: I just think as flawed humans, we are really susceptible to a kind of blindness, and a busyness that requires an earthquake, a hurricane, a lightning bolt to get us to just stop. In my case, I literally just stopped, meaning that my body stopped working. I couldn’t move. After I finally regained consciousness on that mountain, all I could do was get the boys to sleep, say some prayers, and lay there and contemplate what my life was all about. Sometimes we have to be grabbed by the lapels in order for us to understand this.  It’s because we’re busy. I wasn’t busy working on my golf swing. I wasn’t busy building monuments to myself. I was busy trying to feed my family and trying to pay the rent. Amongst all of that busyness, certain things began to get lost in the whirlwind.

What would you like audiences to take away from The Stray after they see it?

Sarah: Hold your loved ones near.  I would like people to realize the importance of family and that life is short.  Live the life that you want to live and be with those that you love.  Put your time and energy into that and don’t worry about superfluous things.

Mitch: I’d love for everyone who sees the movie to realize how beautiful their stressful, crazy, family life either is, or was, or will be. It’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times. It’s the craziest of times, the most hectic of times, but it’s just beautiful. What is happening around you when you’re raising a family is the most beautiful thing. It’s been a beautiful sacred experience for our family to make this movie together about a period in our family’s life and some experiences that it’s easy to just forget about them, and not even remember that these things happened.  And I believe that God hears and answers prayers of families in need.

Watch a trailer for The Stray:

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