Pick of the Litter

I was sent an email link to watch this DOGumentary awhile ago, and when I finally sat down to watch it, the link had expired. So, my wife and I were having Thai food in Hillcrest and decided to walk over to the Landmark to check it out. It’s already been out for a week, but after continually walking by that adorable poster of the Labrador puppies at other screenings, I had to see it.

We see five newborn pups (Patriot, Potomac, Phil, Poppet, and my favorite — Primrose) that are trained by the nonprofit Guide Dogs for the Blind here in California; they’ve been training dogs since the early ‘40s.

Directors Don Hardy Jr. and Dana Nachman were smart enough to not only show the pups as they grew and the training got more intense, but kept us abreast of the various people that had the dogs a brief time to help in the training process. I didn’t realize I’d be crying my eyes out watching a high school kid having to give up his dog because it was too wild at school…or a soldier that fought two tours in Iraq and suffered severe depression and PTSD…who says training these dogs gives him a purpose in life and keeps him from harming himself. Then our hearts break as he cries, having to give his dog up for the next level of training. I was just surprised Hardy and Nachman decided to go with such a manipulative score. It wasn’t necessary.

Of the over 800 dogs that are bred, only 300 complete the vigorous training. We watch as this happens, sometimes being shocked as one person in a car goes right at them to see if the dog will stop before it meets the car bumper. I did think some aspects of the training was vague. I wanted to know more about what was going on in more detail. My wife even asked at one point, why the dogs were allowed to play and jump all over new people that they met. We thought the guide dogs were always working, but apparently, we’re wrong about that and they do have play time when they’re not walking their owners somewhere.

GDB receives well over 1,000 applications from blind folks looking for a dog, and when we crunch the numbers, we can’t help but root for the five pups to succeed. Sure, if they don’t make the cut, they still have a nice life (adopted out to nice homes, or to become a breeder for future guide dogs), but still.

Since Fantasy Football has a hold on me this time of year, I couldn’t help but think how much fun this movie would’ve been with my male friends and us placing bets on which of the five dogs would make it through the program. Instead, I was watching it with my wife, and since they call it a “career change” when a dog doesn’t make it through the program, I’d just lean into her and guess which career the dog would then go into (those guesses included: haberdasher, mailman, plumber, and PE teacher). I’m guessing, with all the praise and cuteness overload this movie is getting, some cable channel will decide to make a series out of it. There might not be betting involved, but I’m betting that would be a successful show.

Who’s a good documentary?! Who’s a good documentary?! Yes, boys…you’re a good little documentary!!! Who wants a treat? A Red Vine stick, and a walk around the block to the theatres…

3 ½ stars out of 5.



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