media reviews
News: Guest Posts
A Peek at “The Bark Side”
Ingredients for a viral Super Bowl ad: Dogs and Star Wars

Dogs are to viral Super Bowl ads as wheels are to a bicycle. That is, essential. (Think: Doritos and Bud Light.) And early promo for Volkswagen’s 2012 Super Bowl ad looks to proves the point.

Taking off from last year’s Star Wars-inspired commercial (an adorable Darth Vadar wannabe tries to use the force on everything from a sandwich to his dog), Volkswagen released a teaser on Wednesday for this year’s Super Bowl commercial that features a chorus of dogs barking the “Imperial March.”

I love it, especially the scruffy Chewbacca growl. It’s almost enough to make me watch the Super Bowl—but not quite, since I know I’ll be able to watch and re-watch it at my leisure on YouTube.

Captivated by the Greyhound who steals the show in the last few seconds? Read about the creative Oregonian who conjured the Imperial Walker costume last Halloween.


News: Guest Posts
Three Dog Night at the Golden Globes
Hollywood Foreign Press Association loves Cosmo, Uggie and Snowy

Scene-chewing pups basked in the limelight during last night’s Golden Globes Awards. And, we have to say, we saw it coming at Bark. First, Best Supporting Actor winner Christopher Plummer gave a gracious nod to his canine costar, “my favorite Cosmo the dog,” from the lovely Michael Mills’ film Beginners, which Bark praised for its realistic portrayal of how we live with dogs.

Second, and even more high-profile, was the stage appearance of Uggie (another Jack Russell), who stole the show from his fellow Artist costars, when the silent picture stars took Best Comedy or Musical. Check out our interview with Uggie's owner/trainer Sarah Clifford in the current issue. (If you don’t believe me, watch the acceptance speech video.)

Another Bark favorite The Adventures of Tintin—based on a Belgian comic book series that featured a spunky co-pilot named Snowy—captured the prize for Best Animated Film.

We’ll be looking for more dog magic at the Oscars.

News: Guest Posts
Shelter Dog PSA’s That Make Us Smile [Videos]
There’s more than one way to inspire adoption

We’ve all seen the ads before: Chain-link fencing, sad eyes, heart-tugging music, a plea for help. Television commercials for animal shelters are incredibly effective at pulling the heartstrings—sometimes, so much that they’re hard to watch.

In recent years, though, some shelters and rescue groups are trying a different tack: humor.

The plight of homeless pets isn’t a light subject, of course, but new ads by organizations like The Shelter Pet Project and Best Friends Animal Society accentuate the positive. Instead of showing misery and helplessness, ads like these highlight the many happy—and extremely cute—outcomes of animal adoption.

They also point out what animal-adopters already know: Most shelter animals are wonderful pets that have simply found themselves in a bad situation. (Like Harvey.)

Here are a few examples of the new, cheerier breed of rescue commercials. Tell us what you think and/or point us to your favorites.

From petsaddlife.org (aka, PAL), two “dogs” discuss one of their favorite pastimes in an ad encouraging owners to find a pal for their pet:

While the American Pet Project Products Association, which backs PAL, has a vested interest in increased more pets in the home—we can’t argue with the cause.

A Beagle boy, newly in a home, marvels at his human’s funny habits in a Shelter Pet Project commercial:

The Shelter Pet Project is a public service campaign created by the Humane Society of the United States, Maddie’s Fund and The Ad Council in 2009 to encourage adoption. (Find more examples on The Project website.)

In this reimagined traffic stop, Los Angeles Animal Services shows us what life would be like if everyone loved you like your dog does:

Pups are home for the holidays in this sweet spot from Best Friends Animal Society:

Edie Brickell contributes a cute tune to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ light-hearted spot, including cheeky lyrics like, “If you’ve got/A little grass/Get off your a#$/Adopt a dog!”

Finally, the Valley Humane Society in Pleasanton, Calif., plays on the idea of dating sites and singleton’s looking for a lasting connection:

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs in Geek Culture
Does this top 10 work for you?

A friend sent me a “Top 10 dogs in ‘geek’ culture” list. (In many circles, “geek” and “cool” are practically synonymous.) The friend who sent me this knows I always that Doc Brown’s dog in Back to the Future was named Einstein, and I was pleased to see that he made the list.

It was also entertaining to see that Superman’s dog Krypto made the list. Krypto was introduced in the 1950s comics, though Superman has no dog in some movies and TV shows.

The rest of the dogs on the list are not a big part of my geek world. I liked Scooby Doo as a kid, but have not carried a profound interest in him into adulthood. To be fair, I had always found the phrase “Rut roh” to be comical, but I’ve recently learned that this phrase is wrongly attributed to Scooby Doo, and is actually the catchphrase of Astro from the Jetsons. Perhaps Astro should be on this list.

Who do you think is missing from a proper list of dogs in geek culture, whatever that means?

News: Guest Posts
Our First-Ever Dogging the Hound Award
To Gail Collins for never letting Romney off the hook

For some achievements in life, there are established awards. For others, awards must be created—inspired by an accomplishment. And so it is with New York Times columnist Gail Collins and her relentless mission not to let Mitt Romney off the hook for his massively ill-fated decision to put his Irish Setter, Seamus, in a crate and tie the crate to the roof of the family car for an eight-hour drive to Ontario.

Yes, it’s been reported. Plenty for some. But not for Collins. The episode is shorthand for Romney, a key to understanding the man. Where’s his empathy? His reason? Was he just too cheap to hire a dog-sitter?

She hit it most recently in her November 30 conversation with David Brooks. They surveyed the Republican field, and Brooks segued to the Massachusetts governor:

David: That gives us a chance to talk about Romney and his weaknesses, which are glaring.

Gail: Dog on the roof of the car. Dog on the roof of the car.

I’m thrilled she brings it up every chance she gets, even goes out of her way to flag it. According to a Collins watcher on Tumblr, the columnist has mentioned Seamus’s sad story 23 times since she first wrote about it. A key to her fixation can be found in the last line of that story, “… every time Mitt Romney walks on stage, a sodden Irish setter is going to flash before my eyes.” And ours—if she has her way.

News: Guest Posts
Hollywood Goes to the Dogs
So does the Roxie Theatre in San Francisco

We love seeing pups on film, especially in roles that show them woven into life in realistic ways that celebrate their positive role. And lately it seems a lot of directors agree with us. In the November issue of Bark, we preview several wonderful canine movie performances coming our way over the holiday season. From Leon the Beagle (played by four different canine actors) in We Bought a Zoo to a Jack Russell Terrier, Uggy, in The Artist, a black and white silent film from France. Uggy won the Palm Dog at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

A dog named Laika plays sidekick to an old man who befriends a young African stowaway in the French port city in Le Havre. Inca, a Siberian Husky, helps a lonely man in remote Canada find love in An Insignificant Harvey. And, finally, a Wire Fox Terrier named Snowy is brought to life by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson in the animated Adventures of Tintin, based on the famed comic book series of the same name.

The passion for canine film stars doesn’t stop there. Tomorrow, the Roxie Theatre in San Francisco hosts the BowWow Film Festival to benefit Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. Dogs are on the bill—Sniff, Pound (featuring a five-ish Robert Downey Jr.) and shorts by William Wegman—and invited to the event. The all-day party includes a dog parade, a dog show competition, DoggieVaudville and much, much more. Timmy from Lassie will be there!! So would I, if I lived in San Fran.

News: Guest Posts
Move Over James Herriot
Dr. Jan Pol’s the vet for the reality TV generation

In recent years, we’ve been hearing about a shortage of large animal veterinarians. As of last fall, nearly 1,300 counties did not have a single doctor for farm animals, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the problem was expected to get worse.

I’m thinking the unlikely television star of National Geographic Wild’s “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” might help to reverse the trend. Think of him as a sort of Dutchman-in-America-James-Herriot for the reality TV generation.

A 69-year-old small and large animal vet in private practice in Central Michigan, Dr. Jan Pol brings an engagingly cantankerous manner to his work. He can be brusque and even a little biting, especially when he teases his city-slicker son Charles, but you never doubt that he’s a truly compassionate, committed vet.

Whether he’s untwisting a cow’s stomach or yanking quills out of a hound dog’s muzzle (there are so many quills you have to wonder if the porcupine had any left), Dr. Pol gets the job done with a minimum of drama, which somehow makes for really good TV.

News: Guest Posts
The Unexpected Dog in Margin Call
Locating a heartbeat on Wall Street

I saw the new film Margin Call this weekend, a restrained, engrossing story based on Lehman Brothers’ sell-off of toxic assets, which helped precipitate the 2008 collapse. At the center of the story is Sam Rogers, a life-long Wall Streeter played by Kevin Spacey. Early in the film, we see Sam resting his head on the neck of his chocolate Labrador, who sleeps on a veterinarian’s gurney. We know the dog has cancer. It is a sad, human and completely unexpected moment in a film about ambition, greed and overreaching.

For the majority of the story, Sam’s relationship with his dog is one of the few personal facts we know about him (or anyone), and it is the only expression of authentic affection and empathy in the picture. It communicates Sam’s capacity for love. At the same time, he is not at the bedside of a child or a wife, nor is anyone with him when he visits the dog. So we also know, he is down to a last chip or two in terms of his loving connections. In just a few frames, writer/director J.C. Chandor accomplished so much—which got me thinking about what dogs mean to us and how often they are used to elucidate human character in movies, stories and, more cynically, advertising. Dogs are one of the ways we define ourselves—for better or for worse. In this case, for better.

News: Guest Posts
The Significance of Inca
Writer director Jeff Kopas talks about casting his dog in his first feature film

In the new independent film, An Insignificant Harvey, the three-foot-four Harvey (played by Jordan Prentice) feels as insignificant as he looks. Orphaned, isolated and angry, he works as a janitor at a ski resort in remote northern Ontario. His lonely life promises to stay that way until he crosses paths with a stray Husky. Like they often do, this dog sends Harvey’s life in new direction—a warm-hearted paradigm shift that many of us have experienced first hand.

The dog star of the film is a five-year-old Siberian Husky named Inca who belongs to writer-director Jeff Kopas. In the weeks before his movie hits the big screen, Kopas talked to The Bark about Inca—the actress and the character.

The Bark: How did this story begin? Was there always a dog?

Jeff Kopas: We started by developing a story about how everyone feels at some point in their lives insignificant. As we developed the story, it became about somebody who is actually, I mean, quite literally small. And the idea was always to bring in the power that an animal can have in helping us feel loved and therefore not feel insignificant in the world.

It was my first feature, so I was trying to write something I knew I could execute so you try use stuff that is at your disposal. I have a small family ski chalet up in Northern Ontario area where it was filmed, and, obviously, I had a good-looking dog who was actually pretty well trained.

I think it’s funny you thought incorporating a dog into your film would make things easier for you. A lot of filmmakers talk about how hard it is to work with animals.

It is. I came up doing commercials and one of my niches was working with children and dogs. Everyone says that’s the hardest. So I think I overcame that quite quickly in the beginning. [Although] I was a little nervous as I went into production thinking, ‘how much of an idiot will I be if I use my own dog and she won’t listen to me?’

You talk about how a dog’s love can make you feel significant. My impression of what I’ve seen of the film is that you explore how a dog can open your heart.

You hit it on the nail. That ended up being one of the cruxes of the story. It’s that idea of that first step of Harvey taking the risk to open his heart to another living animal and that opens up of a floodgate of a new life for him.

In the film, he refuses to take [Inca] in at first but he was orphaned and obviously this dog is orphaned and she won’t leave him alone, she follows him around for two days. And finally, she’s sitting outside his trailer in the middle of a farm and there’s this terrible storm, and he looks out the window and it’s just too much for him, he finally can’t say no. He opens the door for her and that’s it, once that happens it leads him on this journey that is life changing.

[You can catch a glimpse of this moment in the trailer.]

It was so great because they [Jordan Prentice and Inca] became quite good friends. They really bonded. So it was fun: When he opens the door, she bounds in and goes right onto the bed.

I was wondering about that. I imagine the chemistry between the dog and the actors is so important.

It is really important and I was nervous about that. And Jordan hasn’t had dogs, and especially big dogs like this, growing up. I tried to force them together before we shot, and luckily, she’s got a very sweet disposition (obviously, this is one-sided) and right away they connected.

Funny production story that I haven’t told yet: We had this fun night off [think: hot tubs and beer] and I couldn’t find Inca at the end of the night. She was always hanging around, but I couldn’t find her. So at four in the morning, I’m going, ‘Where the hell is the dog?’ And I finally found her; she was in bed with Jordan and his girlfriend.

I was like, ‘This is ridiculous,’ so I took her with me. Jordan was kind of mad at me the next morning. He’s like, ‘She wanted to stay with me and you took her away.’ It was pretty funny. In his words, she became part of the pack.

I’ve heard these things happen on sets.

Yes, we all bonded. She had this whole family for four weeks. She became very spoiled because she was the center of attention.

Was it fun having her on the set? It seems like it would give it a relaxed, family feeling.

It is. It’s funny you say that because when I am doing commercials, I bring her. I work with postproduction houses that are dog friendly; it just sort of fluked out that way. I’ll make sure the clients are OK with dogs, and then I’ll bring her, and it just calms everyone down. People can get very intense in those scenarios and it just has this amazing effect.

Do you think you’ll work with Inca again or is she retiring from film?

She’s actually been in a couple of commercials I’ve done, and she’s written into my next film, it’s a small scene.

She can make Alfred Hitchcock style cameos in the future—so we can look for her?

I don’t see why not.

You can look for Inca’s first film appearance, as an eight-week-old puppy, in Jeff Kopas’s short Dogasaur (at vitalitymedia.com in Narrative Film under “The Work”).


News: Guest Posts
NCIS Character Mentions Bark
The takeaway: Adopting mutts is hip

The Bark got an unexpected shout-out last night on “NCIS: Los Angeles.” About 14 minutes into the episode, Deeks, an LAPD officer played by Eric Christian Olsen, heads to a café with Kensi, a special ops field agent played by Daniela Ruah, to track down members of a Libyan resistance movement. In the backseat of their car perches an adorable rescue mutt named Monty. He actually looks a lot like Deeks, who tries to convince Kensi the dog will be perfect cover for their undercover work. He tells her, “it is actually requirement for young, hip couples in Los Angeles to have rescue dogs.”

He plans to have Monty pose as a service animal to get into the café. When Kensi looks skeptical, Deeks explains a little more about service animals. “I read about it in Bark magazine,” he says. “Did you get that? Bark magazine? Their motto is Dog Is My CoPilot? No? Not gonna fly?” At this point, Monty leans forward from the backseat and plants a big lick on Kensi’s face. (Of course, we wish the script had Monty join the pair in the café rather than leaving him in the car on a warm day—even with the NPR playing.)

Later on in the episode, named of all things “Deadline” (just as we were putting the finishing touches to our November issue), Monty is awarded a badge for his policing work. Nice touch! Go Monty.

The episode can be viewed on the CBS show website.