AFTER A COUPLE OF DATES, THEY wanted me to meet their pets. I was agreeable to it since I loved animals. When I arrived at their front door, I expected to hear a dog barking or them holding a cat. Once inside, I saw 2 large fish tanks in opposite corners of the living room. There was greenery inside each but there was no water. I was led to one of the tanks to be introduced to Charlie. As I approached closer, I saw a hint of movement among the greens. They lifted the lid off from the tank so they could extend both arms inside, where they gently lifted a large snake. I tried hiding the shock on my face but might not have done a good job because they said it was okay, the snake was not poisonous. Oh, what a relief! The snake began to slither up one arm, across the back of the shoulders, then down the other arm until its head was resting in my date’s hand. My mind was reeling with all the possible scenarios where the snake would be a comfort to its owner. Would it snuggle up to them on the sofa? Would it follow them around the house? Would it play with any toys? I could not find one scenario that would work for me; but I understood, if they found comfort in what I would consider an unusual choice for a pet then who was I to judge? WHATEVER ANIMAL BRINGS A PERSON COMFORT is the animal they need. For me, I was fortunate to experience comfort from a bird, a dog, a horse and a cat. I remember a particularly “bad” week in school. The bullies were extra active, and I had multiple tests taking place through the week. Friday night we were going to visit a relative who had a dog I absolutely loved. When we got to her house, I immediately sought out the dog. We settled into a cushy sofa in the den; me nestled into the corner of the couch and her curled into my lap. I would alternate between petting and scratching her. If I stopped for a moment, she would turn her face towards me and kneed my upper thigh with her paws. A sense of peaceful comfort settled over me and the trials and tribulations of the week faded away. It felt so good that I did not want to leave my spot when dinner was ready. That dog taught me one of my earliest lessons about what it means to give unconditional love. From my experience, I found myself totally in synch with the main character in this adventure, family comedy. AGAINST HER UNCLE’S BETTER JUDGEMENT, A young girl gets to keep a little red puppy that will show her it is okay to be different. With Darby Camp (The Christmas Chronicles franchise, Big Little Lies-TV) as Emily, Jack Whitehall (Jungle Cruise, Mother’s Day) as Casey, Izaac Wang (Good Boys, Think Like a Dog) as Owen, John Cleese (A Fish Called Wanda, The Meaning of Life) as Bridwell and Tony Hale (American Ultra, Veep-TV) as Tieran; this movie was based on the popular children’s book series. I have not read them, but I can only assume the message is true to what the books portrayed. Little kids will love this film and I must tell you I enjoyed it as well for a multitude of reasons. The message was wonderful, the humor was light and clean, plus the dog was cute. I felt this way despite the fact the script was filled with predictability and was formulaic. There was a cartoonish feel to several scenes and yet, I simply enjoyed the simplicity of the whole story. And despite Clifford’s size he certainly was a lovable dog.
2 2/3 stars
SOME OF YOU MAY LAUGH, BUT I learned about the reproduction process from a dog. I was at a relative’s house and was walking their dog. We had only gone to the end of the block when a dog from the corner house came up to us. My relative’s dog was backing up into me because of the neighbor’s dog’s aggressiveness. Luckily the neighbor came outside and retrieved her dog. As we started to head back home, I heard barking sounds behind me. With a look over my shoulder, I saw two dogs trotting towards me. Where were these dogs coming from, I wondered? I picked up my relative’s dog and started running back to the house. The 2 dogs behind me were in pursuit and they were faster than me. I started yelling at the dogs to get away, pushing then with my leg. My relative had heard me and came out to rescue us. Once back inside I asked why these dogs were after us. The reason given to me was their dog was in heat. I was confused by the use of the word heat, so my relative explained the dog was giving off a scent that male dogs were attracted to because she was releasing an egg. This answer only made me ask more questions. By the time we were done I promised I would never walk their dog again when she was in heat. FROM THAT EXPERIENCE, I NEVER LOOKED at dogs the same way. All through my early years my only contact with dogs was if a relative or friend had one. Some of them were smart, others not so much; but they were all friendly dogs. The first time I saw a service dog was at a department store. I was of high school age and saw this dog leading a blind woman through the store. Up until that time I did not know dogs could do such a thing. I kept my distance, but I followed them for a short distance because I was so fascinated by it. After that meeting, I discovered a whole new level of working dogs; from guarding scrap yards to being a service dog for the elderly. A week after 9/11, I was at the airport where I saw dogs doing something I had never seen before; they were sniffing all the passengers in line for explosives. The guards who were leading them kept telling us not to pet or engage with the dogs because they were working. It was both amazing and scary watching these dogs. Now from watching this emotional documentary, I know there is another function dogs perform that could be lethal. WHEN HANDLERS AND THEIR DOGS WORK side by side during military conflicts, it creates a unique bond that can last their entire lives. Directed by Deborah Scranton (Earth Made of Glass, The War Tapes), I feel even if one is not a dog lover, they will be moved by this movie. The story focused on a few veterans and their K9 companions. Seeing the bond between each of them was a glorious sight. I was not familiar with military dogs; I do not know anyone who worked in such a capacity. As I watched this film, it did cross my mind that some of the dogs could be the canine version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I do not want to say too much about the individual scenes; it is best if the viewer goes in and experiences the stories for themselves. From the time I was small, walking a dog that was in heat, up to my love of animals as an adult; I have never seen such a world made up of veterans and their dogs working side by side and loving each other as they are doing it.
DOG LOVERS: 3 ½ stars NON-DOG LOVERS: 3 stars
AS WE CROSSED THE THRESHOLD; I saw one standing guard by the door, another lounging on a chair and a third smaller one acting as the greeter. It was some scene; these white powder puff dogs with their individual, distinct roles in the household. The “guard” dog was the only male; I do not know if that had any bearing on him assuming his role in the house. I will say he was good at his job; any little sound from outside would trigger him to jump on the sofa to peer out the window for any intruders, before he would run to the door to make sure it was secured. The one dog who was reclined on the cushion of the chair was an attention seeker. Evidently, her goal in life was to get everyone to come and pet her. The smallest one was the youngest of the group and her motivation for greeting everyone at the door was to find someone to play with her and her toys. Each of the dogs had their own personality; yet, they got along quite well for the most part. The only time the three would fuss was during mealtime. Like little kids in a candy shop, they always wanted more food than what they got in their bowls. As soon as one was done eating, he/she would go to one of the other bowls and try to get a portion of its food. ALONG WITH THOSE FURRY SIBLINGS, I HAVE met some other extraordinary dogs. One dog understood commands in both English and German. He was a water rescuer; in other words, he was deployed to accidents that occurred in water. For example, things like boat crashes and missing people. Another dog I knew had an amazing vocabulary. This dog could retrieve specific items from different rooms in a home. You could ask the dog to get you your hairbrush from the upstairs bathroom and the dog would know exactly where to go to get it and bring it back to you. I found it both incredible and a bit freaky at the same time. I would be remiss if I did not mention the service dogs that help their blind owners and the ones that help with security. It was because of my early experiences around dogs that originally led me to study veterinarian science. One of the things I used to say back in school was I never met a bad dog, only a bad dog owner. When it comes to the dog in this family, adventure drama; all I can say is I never met a dog like that one before. SPANNING FROM CALIFORNIA TO THE ALASKAN YUKON, a dog’s journey would change the lives of the people it encountered along the way. Adapted from the classic novel by Jack London, this movie starred Harrison Ford (Ender’s Game, Star Wars franchise) as John Thornton, Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Not Another Happy Ending) as Mercedes, Cara Gee (Empire of Dirt, The Expanse-TV) as Francoise, Dan Stevens (Lucy in the Sky, Beauty and the Beast) as Hal and Omar Sy (The Intouchables, Jurassic World) as Perrault. Having read the book years ago in school, I still retained the feelings I felt for the dog, Buck. I do not know if this will be a spoiler for some; but Buck in this film was completed created by CGI effects, as well as all the other animals. Normally, I am fine with CGI effects; however, in this picture I found it to be a distraction. Having animals displaying human facial features was too weird for me. Even the landscape was created with CGI which resulted in me not enjoying this movie. There were a few scenes that were decent; but overall, I found this film was not dog friendly.
1 ¾ stars
IT OCCURRED TO ME THAT I was watching different groups in this movie, with origins that spanned the globe, working together as one. There weren’t any indications of dislike, envy or hatred; in fact, it seemed as if their differences enhanced their capabilities to do good. They all had different physical differences. Some were darker, some were smaller, some had both dark and light color mixed in them and it did not matter. What a world they were living in where these things had no bearing on one’s feelings. I would have enjoyed experiencing the world they were living in. Those that were quite big were not picked on or made fun of, unlike my own past experiences. One was handicapped, and it appeared to me no one treated them different from anyone else. If I had seen this as a kid, I would have been surprised because of what I saw growing up. There was a student in class who had a health condition, something to do with their blood, that prevented her from participating in any physical activity. This student was shunned by other students; they considered her weird. Granted, they did not know the details of her situation; but, why did they immediately choose to treat her different was perplexing to me. RELIVING THESE MEMORIES MAKES ME NOW wonder if humans have an inherit tendency to shy away from others that are different or is it something that must be taught. Isn’t that a frightening thought if adults have been handing down that fear to their offspring. Based on what I have been seeing and hearing presently, it seems as if more people are less tolerate of those they perceive to be different. Because of the differences between us, I feel we are seeing more conflicts around the world. People are fighting and arguing for the simple reason they cannot accept someone being different. It does not matter if it is politics or religion or lifestyle; there is a pack mentality that gets formed where people only want to live with their own kind. I am saddened by what I read in the newspapers. Young adults are being killed because they dress and act different than what is “expected” of them. It is horrific, and it is wrong. So much more can be accomplished when the participants come from different backgrounds, to bring their unique skills to the forefront. Maybe those that do not believe me should take a look and see what the different animals in this animated, adventure comedy accomplish by working together. A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD AWAITS MAX and Duke, voiced by Patton Oswald (Young Adult, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and Eric Stonestreet (The Loft, Modern Family-TV), when their family takes a vacation out in the country. How will Max handle so many new experiences? With Kevin Hart (Night School, The Upside) voicing Snowball, Harrison Ford (The Age of Adaline, Raiders of the Lost Ark franchise) voicing Rooster and Jenny Slate (Obvious Child, Gifted) voicing Gidget; this sequel came with its own built in charm. If you enjoyed the 1st film, you will enjoy watching this picture. The humor was fun, and the animation added to it. The children in the audience certainly were having a good time watching this movie. Now it appeared to me the movie studio did not want to deviate from the winning formula of the past film; however, by doing so there really was not anything new in this sequel. I thought there were too many story lines taking place at the same time. But here is the thing though, it did not take away my enjoyment from seeing what was happening in the story. Though there was nothing new with the characters, I liked seeing the way they worked together to tackle issues. Now if only they could teach humans that lesson.
2 ½ stars
EVERY day starts with him coming outside to begin his squirrel watch. He stands still in the middle of the backyard with his head tilted upwards, scanning the tree branches for any movement. If something even twitches for a brief moment, a plethora of barking takes place as my neighbor’s dog begins racing around the tree trunk, daring the animal to take a step down towards him. Having recently celebrated his 2nd birthday this dog is actually a big hunk of crazy love. Anytime I come out of my garage and he is in the yard, he squats down on the ground like an ancient sphinx, waiting in anticipation for me to call out his name. You see he will not run up to my fence until I call him. Now here is his secret; he is being trained to be a search and rescue dog. His owner, my neighbor, told me about one of the exercises he performs with the dog. At the facility’s swimming pool, my neighbor pretends he is drowning. The dog is released and jumps into the pool, swims over to the man, grabs a hold of any piece of clothing or a limb in his mouth and begins pushing or pulling the man to the edge of the pool. SOME of the other stories my neighbor has told me have been extraordinary. There is such a bond between this man and his dog that is quite noticeable. When both are in the backyard, the man will do exercises with the dog; some are with verbal cues while others are done only with different hand gestures. It amazes me that within the span of 2 years, if even that, this dog has achieved so much with his owner. As I said before just looking at him running around and barking his head off in the backyard, you would think the dog is a hyper bundle of energy. I would love to see him on one of the search and rescue missions, just to see how he focuses on the task. Until then I will be satisfied watching the dog in this film based on a true story. WITH nowhere to go in her hometown Megan Leavey, played by Kate Mara (The Martian, 127 Hours), enlisted in the army. Assigned to cleanup duty at the dog pound that housed one of the most aggressive dogs, Megan would have to confront her fears. This biographical war drama also starred Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, A United Kingdom) as Andrew Dean, Common (Selma, Now You See Me) as Gunny Martin, Geraldine James (Sherlock Holmes franchise, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Dr. Turbeville and Bradley Whitford (The Cabin in the Woods, Scent of a Woman) as Bob. The script was kept simple; there was not much surprising about the story. However, the script with the directing created an engaging story filled with bits of drama, tension, tears and joy. The actual story is incredible; though I felt things were kept more subdued overall in this movie. I think it would be hard for someone not to enjoy watching this picture. For me I honestly never gave much thought to the role dogs play in the military; my only encounter on this type of level would be in the security lines at the airport or city events. When a friend asked me if they might cry watching this film, I asked them if they planned on bringing any facial tissues.
I used to think there were some dogs that were just bad, but I came to my senses. It turned out it really was the dog owners that were bad. My original train of thought was due to a loose dog in the neighborhood where I grew up, that tried biting me as I rode my bicycle down the street near its house. Luckily as I grew up there was a relative of mine that adopted a black poodle that changed my views about dogs. This poodle really showed my what it was like to have a dog be a member of the family. In my adult life I encountered many dogs that were the children of friends and family. I realized like children dogs were not born bad, they had to be trained or not be trained to act in a non-appropriate way. There was one dog in particular that touched me in a special way that cemented my feelings about dogs. This mixed breed dog was not only a loving creature, but was able to express empathy. I will never forget the time when its owner was lying on their bed crying and the dog quietly jumped up and lied down next to them, putting its front paw across their back. I was nearly speechless as I witnessed this sympathetic act. Now when I hear a story like I did last week from a member in my class about walking their dog when the neighbors 2 dogs ran out to attack her dog, I know it says more about the owner instead of their dogs. I believe this even more now that I have seen this heartwarming film. UNABLE to be handled by anyone else after his handler Kyle Wincott, played by Robbie Amell (The DUFF, The Hunters-TV movie), was killed in the line of duty; the military had only one option left to avoid putting down Max, the bomb sniffing dog. They hoped Kyle’s parents Pamela and Ray Wincott, played by Lauren Graham (Evan Almighty, Bad Santa) and Thomas Haden Church (Easy A, Sideways), would take Max in and make him part of their family. Would they and their remaining son Justin, played by relative newcomer Josh Wiggins, want to have this dog in their house, reminding them of their tragic loss? This adventure family film won me over simply by having Max star in it. I was unfamiliar with this breed of dog, thinking Max was a German Shepherd mix. The script would have been stronger if it remained on the main story instead of going off with Kyle’s buddy. Also, I was quite aware I was being manipulated but still teared up because at the end of the day there is nothing like seeing a heroic dog.
2 3/4 stars
Walk down my street and you cannot help but hear a dog barking or a cat meowing. Within my block there are close to a dozen cats and dogs, granted six of them live next door to me. The interesting thing about my next door neighbors is how everyone on the street knows their three cats and 3 dogs. Davidson is still a puppy, but he is a very big puppy that is over 60 pounds so far. If he is in the backyard when I pull into the garage, he settles down onto the ground like a Sphynx from ancient Egypt and waits for me to come out from the garage door. Once I call out his name he bounds up like he was in starter blocks for a race and runs to the fence between our properties. I have to give him a rub down his back as he leans into the fence. Two out of the 3 cats are always outside; they prefer eating al fresco if you know what I mean. I do not know which one but for some horrifying reason Becker or Mercury have the need to leave their leftovers right in the middle of my sidewalk, to make sure I will see what they had for dinner. It drives me crazy. When I come home late at night I not only have to watch where I am stepping; but before I open my front door, I have to look down and make sure Becker is not around because he will quickly try to run inside. I feel like the animals are part of my family since they are always hanging around my house. Everyone on the block knows them and keeps an eye out to make sure the animals do not get in trouble. WHEN the red furred dog arrived he would listen to no one in the small Australian community; but that all changed when John, played by Josh Lucas (A Beautiful Mind, Poseidon), became a resident. This film festival winning comedic drama was based on a true story and what a story it was for me. Avoiding the cliched sentimentality associated with the usual animal driven stories, I thought the script did a great job in telling this remarkable story. With cast members Rachael Taylor (Transformers, The Darkest Hour) as Nancy, Rohan Nichol (Fool’s Gold, South Solitary) as Jocko and John Batchelor (Danny Deckchair, Sea Patrol-TV) as Peeto; I thought this eclectic mix of characters kept things exciting. One would think with the boozing and betting, hard driving guys, this would not be a family film; but it certainly was one. I had no trouble with the flashbacks in the picture; this DVD was a real treat. Afterwards I had to go out and pet my next door 4 legged buddy.
3 stars — DVD