Nello (Jesse James) is a lonely orphan boy who lives in poverty with his grandfather, Jehan (Jack Warden). Like his mother before him, Nello possesses a talent for drawing and dreams of becoming a great artist. Though mostly alone, Nello forms a bond when he nurses a battered Bouvier back to health. The grateful dog, named Patrasche, quickly becomes his greatest friend. When he gets older, Nello (Jeremy James Kissner) befriends Michel (Jon Voight), an eccentric artist.