Sunday, October 21, 2018

Pick of the Litter

Today I saw the documentary, Pick of the Litter, starring Patriot, Potomac, Primrose, Poppet and Phil.

The story follows five puppies from birth through training, right up to decision day as part of the Guide Dogs for the Blind program. The nonprofit places qualified dogs with visually impaired persons to help them navigate life.

Dogs are bred specifically for the purpose of breeding or becoming guides, and those who do not make the cut after rigorous conditioning are "career changed" (which is a polite way of saying they're fired and going to live their lives out as a normal pet, or perhaps passed along to another organization who will work with their shortcomings to make them useful in other scenarios). Some of the most delightful of dogs are "career changed."

The puppies begin with "puppy raisers" who provide a loving, disciplined home for their first few months of life and record their behaviors to report back to the folks at the nonprofit. If the experts don't think the 'child-rearing' is preparing the puppies well enough, they will be re-assigned to raisers who have more experience. We see this happen during the film and it's hard on all involved, though it's most likely what's best for the animal.

After they have lived out their youth with their host families, they return to the Guide Dogs for the Blind campus for one-to-one training with an expert who schools them in everything from obedience to traffic reactions. Once those classes are complete, they are tested in five areas of excellence and must pass all five to become official guide dogs. Only a few from the group we take the journey with will make it.

We also see the impact to the recipients of the dogs; a man who has been blind since 18 months and a woman who lost her sight over several decades. Both are thrilled to be receiving these helpful friends and have waited great lengths of time to meet them.

Basically, this is the perfect film for the state of the world we're in right now. You'll laugh, you'll cry (in a cathartic way), you'll audibly "awww" several times and have your faith in humanity restored. Plus, you'll learn a lot about the wonderful people and animals who work every day to make this place a better world.


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