Documentary Review: Pick of the Litter
I know, I know, just last blog I said that I am not willing to watch any form of entertainment that could perhaps end with a dog getting hurt in some way but here I am, telling you about a documentary involving a litter of puppies that are on the road to becoming Guide Dogs. At first when Carolyn suggested it I said “Oh you have to be kidding me. I don’t want to cry today, life is hard enough.” But she assured me that all of the dogs had a happy ending. I told her “Listen, I don’t even want the dog’s feelings to get hurt! What if they don’t make it through the program? Will they know that? Will they feel like a failure? Is there enough petting and nose booping so that they feel special?” Carolyn assured me that all the dogs feel special the entire time so I reluctantly agreed.
So the whole documentary starts off with 5 brand new, price tags still on them, lab puppies from the P group. All of the dogs are literally born into the program from parents that have good temperament for these types of services. So we start off the doc with them training tiny little beeper faces named Patriot, Primrose, Phil, Poppet and Potomac and this is when I start to worry about their sense of self worth...pretty much as soon as I see their tiny faces. And then the documentary introduces the program's term for those dogs that don’t make it all the way through the training: They are referred to as Career Change dogs. This euphemism immediately delighted me as it filled my head with images of Primrose putting on a pantsuit and deciding to finally take that leap and open her own law firm. Or Potomac deciding that he wanted to wear black and try his paw at photography instead. Those images, along with their possible wardrobe changes, allowed me to dive right into this doc, knowing that the water was just fine. I am also quite certain that’s why the organization uses this term.
The documentary shows just how hard that dogs have to train in order to be a Guide dog. One of the craziest things that they have to do involves training with actual cars. As in, the trainers get in a car and try to, essentially, run over the dogs. This made my heart skip beats at first because I was like “Um, they are going to hurt those dogs and I am going to have to yell at Carolyn for making me watch this” but it soon became very clear that the trainers knew exactly what they were doing. I actually found myself laughing at the absurdity of the exercise.
The trainers used the same car each time to test the dogs’ buffers zones and I swear the dogs recognized the cars. The car would jump up in front of the dogs and their trainers and the pups were like “Listen, I don’t know what you did to this car to make them want to hit you, but you gotta stop. Do you have a death wish?! I ain't gonna get run over today because this car has it out for you. Just listen to me and we won’t get hit, sheesh!” Obviously, this is a very important part of the training but you could tell that the pups were pretty apPAWlled by the whole thing. (See what I did there?)
In the end, not all of the dogs made it to be guide dogs but all of them ended up having great lives. The two that are now guide dogs had a big graduation ceremony, replete with graduation pictures and little graduation caps. OH you had me at dogs with grad caps, you sneaky doc, you. And one of the people that got chosen to have a guide dog said that the night before meeting her new bestie she kept thinking “‘Oh I wonder what my dog is doing right now?” GAH! Are you serious? I thought I wasn’t going to cry but then the doc had to go and show me THAT! The excitement, the love, the joy... way to make me FEEL something ya big jerk! And after she met her pup friend she said “I haven’t had a walk like that in a long, long time.” Melt my cold, dead heart, why don’t you?! There goes my tough-gal image! Now I have to go and start a bar brawl to save my street cred (And with all the bars closed too!)…thanks a bunch!
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the journey of these tiny beeper faces and I recommend it to everyone wondering what they should watch that doesn’t involve weird tiger wranglers/murderers. The number of times I have squealed while watching it might be responsible for the return of dolphins to the Delaware River. The Earth is healing. :)