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
WHO WILL REMEMBER THE MEMORIES WHEN the keepers of the memories are gone? I think about this from time to time. At a recent get together I started thinking about it again as the people in attendance were going over old, family photographs. There were several photos of people whose identities were unknown to the people at the party. These strangers, one had to assume, were related somehow to the family; but there was no one left from the previous generation who could help identify these strangers. I sat and wondered how many generations would have to pass before all the people in the photographs turned into unknown beings. As the gathering continued, I recalled from when I was little a neighbor who had lost many relatives due to war. She was a survivor herself. In fact, the first time I ever saw a tattoo was the one on her arm. It was a series of numbers and I remember asking her what the numbers meant. Looking back, she explained as best she could without frightening me how she was given the tattoo when she was in a concentration camp. Being so young I had not reached an age where I could comprehend the words, she was telling me; yet, though she is long gone I have not forgotten what she had said to me. NOW THERE ARE TIMES WHERE I wished I was privy to a person’s memories, especially when they have a historic factor. I knew several Viet Nam veterans, but that is all I knew about them. They never talked about their time away, what they did or what they saw; it was a subject one realized quickly they never wanted to talk about to anyone. I remember a friend’s family where one of the siblings was a soldier in Viet Nam. The family’s mailbox became their only connection to their son and brother. I was over at their house when a letter had arrived from overseas. The family huddled close together as a parent carefully opened the envelope and took out the onion skin piece of paper. Seeing the joy in their faces is something I have never forgotten. Being curious all these years, I had the privilege of talking to a Viet Nam veteran recently and asked him if the norm was not to talk about one’s experiences during the war. He explained the possible reasons for someone not wanting to talk about it, then generously shared his story. I carry his memory with me as I do now of the heroic act that took place in this dramatic, war film. THOUGH WILLIAM PITSENBARGER, PLAYED BY JEREMY Irvine (War Horse, The Railway Man), had the opportunity to save himself from the heat of a battle, he chose to remain behind and help save his fellow soldiers. Those who were saved wanted to make sure William was never forgotten. This film’s story was inspired by true events and I must tell you I was surprised with some of the things I saw in this picture. With Samuel L. Jackson (Shaft, Jackie Brown) as Takoda, Sebastian Stan (Captain America franchise; I, Tonya) as Scott Huffman, Diane Ladd (Joy, Chinatown) as Alice Pitsenberger and Christopher Plummer (The Man Who Invented Christmas, Knives Out) as Frank Pitsenberger; I thought the cast was excellent. Seeing the older actors display their gift of acting made the characters come alive for me. I found the story unbelievable to the point it started playing out like a mystery. The issue I had, however, was with the directing and the script. Instead of coming across like one continuous emotional journey, the scenes felt like snippets of events which damaged the build up of emotional depth. I would start to connect to a character but then the scene would jump and sever that feeling. The story I felt was important enough that it needed more time to blend scenes together and tighten up the script. Essentially, this film lacked drama for me. Now maybe those who have gone through the war will have a different feeling, which I would certainly understand. Still, I am glad this story came to light and now I know and remember it.
2 ½ stars