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News: Guest Posts
Tiger Is Headed for Sundance
Dog actor premieres at the big festival

Remember Tiger, the adorable Terrier-mix who had to learn to grab a pants leg and shake it for his role in Son of No One? His guardian and manager, Lorraine Goodman, wrote about his adventures on the set of the new Al Pacino film for Bark (October 2010) and she shared a few tips on getting your dogs into showbiz for TheBark.com.

  Yesterday, the full lineup for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival was announced, and Tiger’s movie (OK, Pacino, Juliette Binoche, Channing Tatum, Katie Holmes, Tracy Morgan and Ray Liotta are also in the film) will be among the premieres. At the time of her story, Goodman wasn’t revealing much about the plot but we learned from the announcement that it’s not exactly Disney fare. The story follows two men in post-9/11 New York whose lives unravel when violent secrets from their childhood surface.   We’ll be watching for the reviews. Good luck, Tiger!

 

News: Guest Posts
Hachi Debuts on Hallmark
Story of epic canine loyalty

From what I hear and read, it appears people either love the movie Hachi: A Dog’s Tale or, well, hate it. I’ve surprised myself by falling in with the fans. First, it’s hard not to swoon over the beautiful dogs portraying Hachi through the years—with their profound eyes and noble carriage. But more than that, I was impressed by the simple story, the slow pace and an unexplained melancholy that hangs over the small Rhode Island town, even when times are good.

  The film relocates the story of Hachiko, an Akita born in Odate, Japan, in 1923, to Rhode Island sometime close to today. The real Hachiko walked his human, a professor at Tokyo Univeristy, to and from the Shibuya train station every day for a couple years. One day, the professor died suddenly at the university and did not come home on the train. Hachi returned to the station and waited for the professor’s return every day for nine years. There is now a bronze statue at the station in his honor.   Knowing the story and that the film was heading for a Hallmark Channel premiere (Sunday, September 26), I worried it would be teeth-achingly saccharine. While I cry at the drop of the hat, I don’t enjoy being played, and I think director Lasse Hallström avoided that. Casting Joan Allen was probably one reason; she plays the professor’s wife/widow as a little hard and unsentimental. It also helps that the score features lots of piano that wanders rather than paces the story. Some of the train station folks—a bookseller, a food cart vendor, and Jason Alexander as the crusty stationmaster—are less convincing types.   Still, I happily bawled into my tissues watching scene after scene of Hachi waiting patiently through sun, wind, rains, snow and dark. When it was all over, I hugged my dogs and asked: “Would you wait nine years for me?” They held their tongues, but I figure I’d get a day, maybe two, tops.

 

News: Guest Posts
Tulip on the Big Screen
My Dog Tulip world theatrical premiere, Sept. 1

The animated film version of J.R. Ackerley’s best-selling memoir, My Dog Tulip, will have its world theatrical premiere on Wednesday, Sept. 1, at the New York Film Forum. Written, directed and animated by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, this decidedly adult story traces the small details of the 14-year relationship between Ackerley (voiced by Christopher Plummer) and his Alsatian in post-war England. We’re big fans of the classic, unsentimental memoir, which was first published in England in 1956, and now the lively, thoughtful film. Check out our Q&A with the Fierlingers in Bark (Summer 2010).

 

The filmmakers will attend the 8 p.m. shows on Sept. 1 and 2. My Dog Tulip runs through Sept. 14 (screening details here).

 

News: Editors
And Man Created Dog?
Nat’l Geo special explores canine evolution

Recently, I had the chance to preview a National Geographic Channel special, And Man Created Dog (airing Sunday, August 8, 9p.m. ET/PT). This show is about canine evolution; one of our favorite topics! I must admit I had trouble with its title (too human-centric) and its diorama-like reenactments that confidently state scientific conjecture as proven fact. There is also too much of a “golly gee” flavor to the narrative for my taste. But mainly, I am disappointed that alternative theories of canine evolution aren’t presented, including one to which we subscribe: co-evolution. It’s possible that wolves shaped us as much as we shaped them. Considering that wolves have been among the leading megafauna predators for millions of years, our ancestors would have had a lot to learn by observing their hunting prowess.

  Nonetheless, it is interesting and well worth watching. Two of our favorite researchers—UCLA’s Robert Wayne and Barnard’s Alexandra Horowitz—help explain the story, which includes an emphasis on the longevity of the canine/human partnership.   Another problem I have with the program is the lack of coverage about how closing breed registry books means that dog breeding (especially in the U.S.) has increased the prevalence of canine diseases and resultant health problems. This is such an important topic—it deserves more coverage (or a whole show unto its own). The program spends much too much time with more “exotic” storylines, such as how Italians train Newfies (and other water dogs) to perform water rescues. Or how Italians use dogs for their truffle hunting—seems as if some producer wanted to spend a paid vacation in Italy, perhaps.   Among the most poignant pieces of evidence for the long term association of “us” and dogs is an archeological finding from Chauvet Cave in Southern France: two sets of footprints—those of a dog (which are different than a wolf’s) and a young child—embedded close together in the fossilized mud of the cave floor. The propinquity of the two left no doubt that a prehistoric child and his dog were in that cave together 26,000 years ago! That is, in itself, worth tuning in for.

 

Meet a therapy dog named Tuesday, who helps an Iraq veteran suffering from PTSD in this clip from And Man Created Dog.

News: Editors
My Dog Tulip
J.R. Ackerley’s classic memoir adapted masterfully to film

I had the good fortune of viewing a very special film at the recent San Francisco International Film Festival—an animated adaption of J.R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip. Ackerley’s memoir, first published in Britain in 1956, revolves around his 14-year relationship with an Alsatian named Tulip. The book’s perceived raunchiness, highlighted by the author’s mediations on “defecation and mating” caused quite a stir when it first debuted but over the years has found its place as one of the “greatest masterpieces of animal literature” as proclaimed by Christopher Isherwood. This humorous and often moving book is a poignant observation of a friendship that proved to be the happiest years of author’s life. The masterful animation team of Paul and Sandra Fierlinger (Still Life with Animate Dogs) have created a rare achievement, an imaginative and faithful interpretation of a literary classic. The story is firmly rooted in a time and place (postwar England) but the simple routines of man and dog (walks, poop, pee, barking) are a source of examination that dog people will truly appreciate. The complexities of the human-animal bond are explored with a thoughtfulness rarely seen. Fierlinger’s drawing/painting style is magical and surprising throughout, making the characters come to life in the most imaginative ways. The film is a refreshing break from the hyperrealism that dominates today’s animated features, with the art showing the hand of the artist in all its quirky, lively expressions—and is better for it. The Fierlingers pulls off an amazing feat by depicting different levels of reality with distinct drawings styles, thus the imagined scenes in Ackerley’s head become delightful pixie renditions executed as stick figures, but for all their simplicity are absolutely hilarious. In short, the film has soul, something I find missing in much of today’s animation. Christopher Plummer lends his superb voice to the author’s character, and the late Lynn Redgrave, as the author’s protective sister, and Isabella Rossellini, as Tulip’s comforting vet, round out a first rate production. My Dog Tulip is set for a fall release, and should be on the list of everybody who loves a good dog tale. View the trailer here.

News: Guest Posts
New Movie Promotes Adoption
Provide a back-up for a dog in need

JLo is back in a movie that promotes adoption for dogs and artificial insemination for cougars. After a baby-making hiatus in real-life, Jennifer Lopez returns to the screen this month in a rom-com about baby-making entitled The Back-up Plan. So why do we care at The Bark? Because Lopez plays Zoe, the owner of Hudson Mutts, a Greenwich Village pet boutique that sets a good standard by emphasizing adoption and eco-friendly pet care. It also helps that Hudson Mutts was inspired by an adorable, paralyzed Boston Terrier named Nuts (played by a trio of canine actors, who are real-life rescue dogs). We haven’t seen the movie, which opens on April 23, but we’re excited about efforts to promote adoption (with the film’s release) this weekend.

  CBS Films and American Humane will host pet-adoption events—with free prescreening passes—at American Humane member shelters around the country including on April 17: Animal Rescue League of Boston and Pine Ridge Animal Center in Dedham, Mass., Denver Dumb Friends League, Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee, East Valley Animal Care Center in Van Nuys, San Diego Central Shelter, SPCA of Texas in Dallas, Houston SPCA, and Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Va. April 17 and 18: Humane Society of Missouri in Saint Louis, Chesterfield and Maryland Heights, Mo., and the Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia. On April 18: Animal Friends in Pittsburgh, April 18.

 

News: Guest Posts
The Dog in Greenberg
Small role, big impact

When I realized I hadn’t seen any of the Oscar-nominated films, I ratcheted up my movie-viewing in the days before the Academy Awards. That momentum has carried over and I continue to play catch-up on recent releases. Seeing so many major movies back to back (including Up at last. Hooray for Doug!), I’ve been surprised by the number of times dogs make significant appearances in what are by all accounts not dog movies.

  Sometimes it’s just a little comic relief, like the famed detective’s put-upon Bulldog in Sherlock Holmes or the little white pup scooped up by an eagle (not really) in The Proposal. Other times, dogs, even in small roles, are critical to the revelation of human character, such was the case in A Single Man—where a pair of Smooth Fox Terriers helps communicate profound love and loss.

 

It’s also the case in Greenberg. In this new film from The Squid and the Whale director Noah Baumbach, Ben Stiller plays the unlikeable Roger Greenberg—an anxious, grumpy 40-year-old only a confused Gen Yer (played by Greta Gerwig) or a dog could love. The dog in this case is a lushly furred German Shepherd named Mahler, who develops an autoimmune disease while in the self-centered protagonist’s care. When Greenberg performs small gestures for Mahler—administering his medication covered in peanut butter—we see that he is not entirely a lost cause. And his caring for a dog appears to translate into caring for another human. I wish Mahler had been given more to do than lie on his side, but I did like his role because it captures the way a dog can crack open a closed heart.

To see Mahler and experience the film's deadpan tone, check out this scene in a vet's waiting room (in all my years, I've never seen a waiting room this crowded or with such a diversity of creatures, so much for total realism):
 

News: Guest Posts
More Tech to the Rescue
Petfinder.com launches an iPhone app

As a rule, I steer clear of Petfinder.com, the mega database of adoptable companion animals. I have two rescue dogs in my home—and that’s pretty much my capability max. And I don’t trust myself to scroll through the photos and profiles without wanting to adopt—or strong-arming a loved one to the point of alienation over adopting—another dog. But, in the interest of research, I downloaded the new, free Petfinder iPhone application (also good for the iPod Touch) from iTunes onto my phone to see how it works. It took about 15 seconds to load and input my location.

Thirty-five minutes later—I kid you not—I put down my phone, my thumb tired from scrolling; my head conflicted over the pleasure of seeing so many lovely dogs and the unhappiness of knowing they don’t have homes. From the striking Catahoula Leopard Dog named Wizard to a Nick-and-Nora-ready pair of Airedale Terriers named Loki and Hank to an intense, shiny Pointer named Lexi and on and on. Is it my imagination or have the photographers and writers at rescues and shelters gotten crazy good at their jobs? Each photo captured doggy essence and seemed to say, “Yup, I’m a good and loving pup that will make your life complete.” Each profile stressed the good but made the challenges clear. All of this in the palm of my hand. I have to think this is a good thing. More of these wonderful dogs reaching more eyeballs, and those eyeballs attached to ever-networking fingers ready to share profiles and photos via Facebook, Twitter or quaint old email. This has to lead to more homes, while at the same time putting a compelling face (many faces, in fact) on the overpopulation problem.

News: Guest Posts
Animals in the Spotlight
Some not-quite-Oscars nominations for pup-stars

This weekend, I did a little pre-Oscar cramming with The Hurt Locker on Saturday night followed by a Sunday matinee of A Single Man. They’re both excellent films, the sort that inspire you to remain in your seat as the credits role and the soundtrack fades. The credits of A Single Man included a disclaimer from the American Humane Association’s Film and TV Crew, which vouched for the fact that no animals had been harmed during the filming. (See details here.)

The animals in Tom Ford’s directorial debut include some farm critters, an owl, a butterfly and at least two Smooth-haired Fox Terriers. While the dogs don’t get a lot of screen time, they are emotional anchors in the story. In one scene, Firth snuggles into the fur of a stranger’s Terrier puppy, describing the aroma as “buttered toast”—it is a poignant, mournful moment that I felt all the way to my toes.

In anticipation of the Oscars, the American Humane Association is spreading the word about its program to monitor the treatment of animals on film, TV and commercial sets. The AHA also proposed its own animal-themed, award nominations for 2009 including the Na’vi “direhorses” in Avatar for “Best Alien Animals”; Uno, the Neapolitan Mastiff in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for “Best Newcomer Actor”; and Hotel for Dogs for “Best Chase Scene.” Read more about how these films and other AHA award contenders. Or look up the movie of your choice to discover what happened to the animals on the set. Or tell us your favorite animal moments from the films of 2009.

News: JoAnna Lou
Helping Dogs via Facebook
DogTime helps shelter pets through social networking games.

If you’re a member of the online community, Facebook, chances are you know someone (or perhaps yourself!) who plays games such as Farmville. While these diversions have become known largely as major procrastination tools, DogTime Media has found a way to combine social networking games with the ability to help homeless animals.

Launched last year, DogTime’s apps, Save a Dog and Save a Cat, allow Facebook users to virtually foster pets. Users can search homeless animals at local shelters and choose two dogs and two cats to foster. 

Points are earned by virtually petting and walking the animals, and for inviting other Facebook users to co-foster your pets. For every 2,500 points earned, DogTime donates the financial equivalent of a cup of food to organizations like RescueGroups.org, a non-profit that provides free and low-cost technology services to animal shelters and rescue groups. 

To date almost 400,000 people have installed DogTime’s apps, which have generated over $36,000 in donations from DogTime and its sponsors, Hill’s Science Diet, Frontline and Fresh Step. 

Until now, I’ve resisted any time-sucking Facebook apps, but who can say no to playing a game for a good cause!

 

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