That all changes when Marty and his friend SAMANTHA find an abandoned truck in the woods. At school the next day, rumors are flying. Apparently, the truck belonged to a man with whom Judd had a fight. Many believe that Judd killed him. Marty is reluctant to buy into the rumors, but his friend, DAVID, is anxious to prove that Judd is guilty.
A few days later, at David’s house, Marty’s friend goes over his theory. He thinks Judd killed the missing man and then dumped the body, trying to cover his tracks by having the car accident that injured his leg. Marty thinks it’s a silly theory, but without anyone else to blame, no one is willing to give Judd the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile, life in the Preston household marches forward as usual. Concerned about Judd’s dogs being chained up, Marty asks the advice of DR. COLLINS, the local veterinarian, and Marty’s boss. Dr. Collins recommends that the dogs be kept in a fenced in area instead of being chained up, which will make dogs act ferocious in order to protect themselves. This gives Marty an idea, but one that will have to be put on hold until after a visit to his grandmother in a nursing home.
The Preston family goes to visit HETTIE and GRANDMA PRESTON, RAY PRESTON’S sister and mother. Grandma Preston is in a nursing home, much of her mind gone, and Hettie is the only one who lives close enough to take care of her. Although no one really wants to spend their time at the nursing home, Ray emphasizes the importance of visiting his mother. The trip starts off a bit rocky, when Grandma Preston doesn’t seem to remember anyone. However, Marty is quick to form a connection with the elderly woman, drawing on her happy memories from the past.
Arriving home that night, the family is surprised to find that Shiloh has wandered away. He returns the next morning with a piece of bright orange material clutched in his teeth. Marty doesn’t recognize it, but shoves the scrap in his pocket.
A few days later, while playing in the woods, David and Marty seem to confirm David’s theory about Judd when they find an old boot buried near the site where Judd had his accident. David believes that the boot must belong to the missing man. Judd was obviously trying to get rid of it. Marty is still doubtful, but decides to investigate nonetheless.
The next morning, Marty goes to visit Judd, taking the boot with him. Under the pretense of seeing how Judd is faring with his injured leg, Marty goes out to Judd’s trailer. As usual, Shiloh stays at home, refusing to cross the bridge that leads to Judd’s property. Even after a year, the dog still seems worried that Judd will take him from Marty.
Arriving at Judd’s house, Marty finds that the older man is once again driving. Marty makes a little bit of small talk and offers Judd the boot. Judd takes it, claiming that it was his. The paramedics took it off of him on the night of his accident. He figured he would never see it again. Marty accepts this explanation, if still a little suspicious. On his way out, Marty takes a moment to glance in the back of Judd’s truck, seeing a large iron bar. Arriving home, Marty finds David waiting for him. The missing man’s body has been found. He was killed by a blow to the head. Marty immediately remembers the iron bar in Judd’s truck.
In the days following the discovery, rumors run rampant through the small town. Everyone seems to think that Judd is the killer, including Marty’s little sisters, BECKY and DARA LYNN. Marty refuses to give in to the gossip. He truly believes that Judd is trying to be a better man,
Meanwhile, Marty decides to help Judd’s dogs by building a fence in Judd’s yard, a place for them to run free. Visiting MRS. WALLACE, the owner of the local store, Marty agrees to haul her old fence away if he can keep the materials. She agrees. Going to see Judd, Marty proposes his plan, but Judd refuses. His dogs are fine just where they are. Marty is furious and goes home that night hating Judd. However, his feelings change when Judd calls and reverses his position. As long as Marty does the work, Judd will accept his offer.
The next day, Marty and Ray drive to Judd’s and put up the fence. When it’s finished, Judd seems truly happy with the results. His dogs are definitely happier. Driving home that afternoon, Ray and Marty stop for lunch at the same bar where Judd and the dead man had their fight. The owner tells them that Judd was wild with anger that night. He doesn’t want to add to the gossip, but Judd seemed crazy enough to commit murder after that fight.
In the meantime, a string of robberies plagues Marty’s town. Most people believe it is Judd, but again Marty tries to defend him. It’s no use. No one in the town seems to want to give Judd a chance. Late one night, Marty is awoken by Shiloh’s barking. The entire family rushes outside to find that someone has broken into their shed and stolen several items. Moments later, Judd arrives. He saw someone on his property and thought they might be heading for the Preston’s. Ray thanks him, but there is little to be done that night. Now on alert, the Preston family returns to bed.
A few days later, while playing in the woods again, David and Marty come upon an old abandoned shack. It’s falling apart, but the boys want to investigate it anyway. Inside, they find several of the stolen items. Outside, Shiloh starts barking, alerting them that someone is coming. The trespassers are TWO MEN who chase the boys and Shiloh from the shack. Barely escaping, Marty and David run back to Marty’s house where they call the sheriff.
After a thorough investigation, the sheriff finds two county jail jumpsuits at the shack. The men were escapees and the ones responsible for the thefts and probably the murder. Back in town, while trying to rob the general store, the men are captured by quick thinking by Ray and able assistance from Shiloh.
With the mystery solved, Judd is absolved of all his guilt, but the townspeople are still reluctant to trust him. While trying to help Marty put a gate on the fence, Judd accidentally steps on one of the dogs’ paws. In defense, the dog lashes out, tearing into Judd’s leg. Desperate, Judd throws the animal across the pen area while Marty tries to restrain Judd whose pain anger push him into a rage. Marty flees from Judd’s anger and starts to once again question whether everyone else is right about Judd and he is wrong. The next day Judd seeks out Marty to apologize and tell him that his dog was okay.
Although Marty tries to explain the situation to his friends and the other people in the town, no one wants to forgive Judd. They’d be happier if he moved away. Marty is worried that all of his hard work in trying to help Judd mend his ways will be for nothing.
Days later, Marty, Becky, Dara Lynn, and David are left alone at Marty’s house while Mrs. Preston goes to the dentist. The babysitter is late, but Marty assures his mother that everything will be fine. However, moments after she leaves, the boys receive a phone call from one of their friends saying that a dead body is floating down the river. The children run out to see it, but realize that it is only a dummy. They walk back towards the house, but Dara Lynn, trying to show off, climbs up on the railing of the bridge and falls 50 feet into the river below.
Desperate to save his sister, Marty jumps in the water with Shiloh following. Marty swims to Dara Lynn and rescues her returning her to shore. Unfortunately, Shiloh is caught in the current and can’t swim to shore being driven back towards the falls by a raging current. Marty jumps in after him, but gets tangled in and stuck mid-stream. David and Dara Lynn watch helplessly from the shore, a neighbor sees what’s happening and runs for help and find Judd, who seemingly takes off in the wrong direction in his truck. However, we surprisingly find Judd does jump in after Marty and Shiloh and pulls them both to safety. Teary-eyed and eternally thankful for Judd’s daring rescue of Shiloh, Marty embraces him, letting Judd know that he considers him a true friend. Warming Judd’s heart to the point of new felt emotion, they embrace. Now the town hero, Judd’s reputation has taken a different turn, and his friendship with Marty, as well as with Shiloh, is finally solidified. It took only one caring boy to reach out and a feisty, brave little dog to change a man’s life and fill it with love.
Marty reports that after the events at the river Judd became a town hero. His actions proved his good intentions to the town and finally vindicated him. Marty and Dara Lynn started getting along better, especially after Marty gave her a kitten for her birthday. Finally, Shiloh made peace with his fear of Judd, crossing the bridge for the first time and going with Marty to visit the dog’s former owner, now a changed man.