Cameron Woo is The Bark's co-founder and publisher.
After a 10-year separation, canine siblings meet
July 19 2017
We wondered what a 10-year reunion would look like for dogs, littermates who had been separated as pups. We adopted Lola when she was about 10-months old. She and her brother were found wandering the country roads of Yuba county in northern California. The woman, Julie Duarte, who rescued the pair specializes in rescuing Pointer-type dogs, and she got them from the local sheriff who had told her that they had been spotted for some time, out alone, fending, somehow, by themselves. Seeing Lola’s photo on Petfinder made us think she was a scruffy mutt, we found out later that she was actually a German Wirehaired Pointer. She came to live with us in Berkeley and became the lead Bark office dog. Her brother, Jack, was adopted a few weeks later by a couple living in Utah. We stayed in touch via Julie, sharing the occasional photo and update. We had hoped to make plans to rendezvous when they came out west during their travels but never managed to do so until this year.
When I learned that Jack’s family would be traveling to southern Oregon in June for a mountain biking holiday, I was determined to meet up with them and told Lola she was going to a family reunion. We didn’t know what to expect when Lola and Jack saw each other again after a decade apart. Would they recognize each other? Would they jump for joy the way BFF dogs do at the dog park? Research suggests that dogs have the power of memory, and stories of canine recognition after years of separation are common.
To reach our destination, the small town of Oakridge, Oregon, we drove north 7.5 hours, split up with an overnight stay in Klamath Falls. We wanted to be fresh for our meeting. We had considered meeting up at Crater Lake, but were reminded that National Parks do not allow dogs off-leash—not a good option. So we decided to connect at the small off-road campsite that Jack’s family had been staying … secluded, no traffic, next to one of the many streams that feed into the Willamette River. Familiar territory for Jack. When the moment arrived, we let the two dogs out of the cars, off leash and stood back. Sniff, sniff … a few turns … but no hoopla. No outward signs of recognition, jumping for joy or howls. Lola didn’t express anything out of the regular interaction with any dog, which is one or two sniffs, and ready to move on. I’m not an expert and there may have been clues that escaped me. Erin and Ryan (Jack’s people) think that Jack showed more than the usual interest, something they interpreted as recognition. In fairness to Lola, she’s a little shy and reserved in nature under normal circumstances, and on this trip was exposed to new and changing surroundings, her normal routine completely disrupted. A show of celebration may have been too much to hope for.
None of us expressed any disappointment with the subdued greeting, and Erin and Ryan’s second dog Skye was let out to join the party. Skye is a very sociable senior GWP–Lab mix, Jack’s partner in the field. All the dogs were revved up and we immediately started on an hour-long hike down the narrow trail surrounded by forest. The dogs took their place in the procession—Jack in front, doing what GWPs do … scouting ahead and turning back regularly to check on the group. Lola followed closely behind Jack, the two moving in tandem. We started to recognize something that resembled teamwork, one dog moving further ahead, then returning to check in with the humans, then the other dog taking the lead position, then returning for a visual check. When we stopped at the stream, Lola and Jack “coursed” around (i.e. hunted) in a small meadow of grasses, rummaging through old logs, smelling holes, leaping into the air (as GWPs do) towards furtive movement in the foliage. That is typically Lola’s favorite activity and one that she usually is loathe to share with any other dog—we believe, she thinks that other dogs are “intruding” on her intense concentration.
But with Jack, her reaction was much more inviting to her bro, she seemed to relish having a partner with a similar skillset. Erin, Ryan and I all agreed this was very typical behavior for both dogs but now they were working in tandem. Skye did not join their expeditions, instead hung out with us. We saw this as a clear sign of a bond that was either familial or common to their breed. And since these two dogs had been pups “on the run” early on in life, and learned that pairing together was best for them, it was great to see them pick up that closeness again as seniors. Either way, real or imagined, this provided us the satisfaction we were seeking—littermates do maintain a connection over time and space.
After our walk, we all sat campside and shared stories of the dogs, comparing their similarities and differences—at 70 lbs. Jack was much larger than Lola, who is a petite 42 lbs. (and small for their breed). Jack has a lot more fur and his coat is really curly, Lola is fearful of loud noises, Jack is not and he is definitely more rambunctious … more of a … boy while Lola tends to be demur! They shared many of the same gestures, and we relished the kind of behavioral traits and anecdotes that only “family” would care about.
We talked of plans for our next gathering, perhaps in Utah or out west next summer. It was thrilling to share time with Jack and his family, to renew the bond between littermates and to find kinship with his people. We’re fortunate to have that connection that Julie, their rescuer made possible. We even recounted all the hoops that she, as a very picky matchmaker, made us both go through in order to adopt our dogs. Glad that we both passed the test. I am curious to know about other canine family reunions, and how dogs express their familial bonds.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Whistle (and bark) while you work
June 21 2017
This Friday marks the annual Take Your Dog to Work Day—created by Pet Sitters International to celebrate the great companionship dogs offer and promote their adoption. Since its inception in 1999, TYDTWDay® has brought awareness to dogs in the workplace and help encouraged the practice. Today, being able to bring one’s dog to work is a bonafide perk—right up there with great health benefits and a gourmet lunchroom. In speaking to companies who welcome dogs, some best practices jump out. If your company is considering instituting a dog-friendly policy or looking to tweak their existing program, take note …
Best practices employed by dog-friendly companies
It is common practice to require a 2-week or 1-month trial or probationary period to see if the dog (and people) work well together. It is only after the trial period that the dog is officially granted “office visits” status. This lets people know that nothing should be taken for granted and that people and dogs have to be on their best behavior. This is a practice recommended to offices rolling out a dog-friendly policy.
Some companies required dogs to wear work ID badges, photo and all—including dog’s name, office location, owner’s name and telephone … it comes in handy more than you’d think.
The main points of responsibility to get across to people is that dogs should never be left by themselves or permitted to wander. Any issues of aggression or even high alertness (ie. barking when somebody enters a room) should be addressed. A dog doesn’t need to growl and bare his teeth to be disruptive.
Over time, there will probably be dogs who are so well adjusted and mellow, that they may be able to wander the office or hang out at various (sunny) spots on the premises. Most dog-friendly offices have these kinds of “roaming” dogs. But you don’t start out that way. Abiding by rules and agreed upon structure are essential when rolling out a program.
Like any other new program that requires employees to have ownership, it might help to put together a small group of workers, dog owners, management and non-dog owners to work out the rules and regulations. Trupanion, the Seattle-based pet insurance company has a great program that is led by a committee who meet quarterly (or when needed) to review policies, mitigate issues and develop dog-related programs.
Dog owners need to understand that having a dog-friendly office is a privilege and not a right— so everybody needs to be committed to making it work.
Autodesk (San Rafael, CA) is one of the first software companies to allow employees to bring their dogs to work back in the early 1980s. According to company lore, programmers worked such long hours that they began bringing their canine companions to the office so they didn’t have to run home to feed and walk them. Recognition of a dog-friendly workplace is so key to the company culture, that it is even written into Autodesk’s corporate bylaws. About 5 percent of the company’s 9,000+ employees take advantage of this benefit. Other perks include offering a dog insurance group plan and dog training classes scheduled during lunchtime.
Autodesk shared their ten-point rules for a successful dog-friendly work environment:
1. Dogs are to be kept on a leash when inside company facilities.
2. Dogs should stay with their owner or designated watcher at all times and should be in the employee’s office when the employee is there (in cubicles baby gates are often employed or dogs are tethered).
3. Dogs with fleas are not to be brought to the office.
4. Dogs are not allowed into bathrooms or into the café serving and seating areas.
5. Dogs are not to brought into meetings.
6. Employees are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs should the dog have an accident inside the facilities.
7. Employees are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs outside the buildings. All receptionists have “doggy bags” for this purpose.
8. If a dog has three accidents inside the building the dog will need to stay at home at least until the owner can demonstrate that the dog has been through some kind of training program to mitigate the issue.
9. Any incident of aggressive behavior by a dog is unacceptable and the dog may not be brought back to work. Loud, repetitive barking or eating another employee’s food is also not acceptable.
10. Employees with allergies to animals may ask a dog owner not to bring a dog to the office if that dog makes it difficult for the allergic employee to work.
This dog-loving artist’s first full career retrospective.
June 21 2017
Roy De Forest’s paintings, drawings and sculptures invite the viewer into mythical terrains of mountainous vistas and overgrown foliage. Set within those landscapes are mysterious figures, boats, planes and animals, particularly dogs. With titles that often suggest a journey or a quest, De Forest’s works are densely composed, complex mélanges of textures, colors and shapes … phantasmagorical universes where humans and animals wander in awe.
The artist, who died in 2007 at the age of 77, had a long and successful career. His visionary creations drew comparisons to folk and aboriginal art, and to the fantastical works of Henri Rousseau and H. C. Westermann. A life-long dog-lover, De Forest favored squat working types, particularly the hearty Australian Cattle Dogs who shared his life (along with his wife, Gloria, and their children) in Northern California.
De Forest’s love of dogs began in childhood. Born in Nebraska in 1930, the son of migrant farm workers, he grew up in Yakima, Wash. As a young boy, he had several dogs in succession, each of whom he named Hector. The rural landscape, his affection for pulp adventure magazines, model planes and local Native American crafts would all influence his art.
Beginning in 1950, De Forest studied on a scholarship at the San Francisco Art Institute, deeply immersed in Abstract Expressionism and exposed to the burgeoning Beat movement. He went on to teach art at the University of California, Davis, from 1965 to 1992. Art created by De Forest and his eclectic group of UC Davis art department colleagues— among them, Robert Arneson, William Wiley and Manuel Neri —was dubbed California Funk. Other monikers include “Dude Ranch Dada,” which referenced the works’ humorous, anti-authoritarian nature. De Forest, who didn’t like these labels, supplied his own: Nut Art. In the catalogue for a 1974 retrospective mounted by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, De Forest identified himself as an “obscure visual constructor of mechanical delights.”
The image of naïve outsider, however, belied De Forest’s vast knowledge of art history and interest in a wide variety of disciplines, including poetry, literature, philosophy, psychology, science and mathematics. He enjoyed slipping obscure historical references into his work: animals assume postures found in Medieval art, and his compositions draw from sources as diverse as mid-19th-century romantic landscape painters to modern geometric abstractions.
This summer, the Oakland Museum of California is showcasing a comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s oeuvre. Titled Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest, it is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue written by the show’s curator, Susan Landauer, and published by University of California Press.
Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest
Premiers on ABC, Wednesday, May 17 2017, 9:30 pm
May 10 2017
Downward Dog will be the newest entry into must-view TV when it premiers on ABC next Wednesday, May 17. The unconventional comedy centers around Martin, a soulful mutt, whose person, a millennial named Nan, struggles to find her way in relationships, work and life in the modern age. Through it all, they have each other—their day-to-day trials commented on philosophically by Martin. You see, Martin talks … to the camera, as a device to share his inner thoughts. And before you cringe at the memory of Mr. Ed (the talking horse), this show ensues broad comedy aiming instead for a satisfying mix of smart and sweet. It succeeds due to the clever writing (Samm Hodges, who is also the voice of Martin) and fine performances from Allison Tolman (recently seen in Fargo) as Nan and Ned, an endearing rescue dog, as Martin. We caught up with Hodges and Tolman after a recent screening.
Bark: Congratulations on a wonderful show—are you longtime animal lovers?
Hodges: I was always around dogs growing up, my mom was always bringing home mutts who had ran away—we had a menagerie of dogs around the house. Currently, I don’t have a dog but look forward to getting into a routine and adding one to our family.
Tolman: I have a cat and it’s really hard for me to be away from her. I take my cat with me when I am filming whenever possible. I grew up with dogs and a houseful of animals, my mom has always been very into animal rescue, so we had lots of rescue dogs and cats at home — she couldn’t be more pleased with my involvement with this project!
Bark: Can you talk about the concept of the show, and Ned’s communication to viewers.
Hodges: Martin is not actually a talking dog. In our rules, it’s more a conceit to give us access into the thoughts of the character. So much humor associated with animals is goofy and detached from reality — this was a way to keep the world real and treat the canine character with some seriousness and gravitas. It’s hard to do that when you have a dog talking because then he’s no longer a dog. So all the time that Martin is not talking to the camera, he’s acting 100% like a normal dog, it allows us to honor the reality of what dogs are.
What we have in common with dogs is that as people we don’t make logical decisions, we react to environments, and later justify our actions, so in that way, I think Martin is very human in that sense. He’s an animal who is completely controlled by his instincts and later has to deal with the consequences.
Allison: The first episode reflects the lead character’s dilemma of the push-pull of her personal and professional life and the effect it has on her dog. It was important to tie those two things together in the first episode, and say these things are inextricably linked. The writers did a great job constructing the episodes so that big things happen in Nan’s life that mirror the small things that happen in Martin’s life that he thinks are huge.
Hodges: We all struggle with self-love, it’s something that Nan’s character wrestles with. There is something genuine about how a dog just accepts you as you are. The personal growth of Nan’s character throughout the season is learning how to accept who we are and in the process make us more loving of others.
Tolman: That is the very best part of loving an animal — having this other creature who thinks you are the moon and the stars, it’s so powerful.
Bark: Tell us about Ned, the dog who plays Martin.
Hodges: Ned is a rescue from Paws Chicago, he had been at the shelter for a long time. He’s the kind of dog that people often don’t adopt. He wasn’t a puppy, he wasn’t a pure breed. We found his photograph and thought his eyes were so emotive, I just immediately wanted to write for him. We rescued him and the trainers had about six weeks to evaluate and work with him. They are amazing and it’s been remarkable to watch Ned heal from a fairly traumatic life over the past year. It’s been an amazing transformation.
Tolman: From my experience with my mother working in animal rescue — what made him less adoptable for many people, made him perfect for us and this role. Ned is kind of a somber and a serious dog, not excitable, not a tail wagger. He’s not motivated by praise, he’s very much his own man. When you go to the shelter to find your dog, you want the one who is effusive in his love for you. And Ned’s not really like that, you really have to earn it.
Hodges: This impacts the writing as well … you’d write a script where the dog is supposed to look scared, and you film it and the dog doesn’t look scared at all — so you go and rewrite the plot around whatever the dog’s face is doing that day.
Tolman: The character who Martin is has been shaped by the kind of dog Ned is and that is charming. This is who Ned is. I hope that this will really speak to pet owners, because most people don’t have the kind of dog who appear in dog food commercials in their home — they have dogs who are temperamental or a little bratty or pout, and that’s who this dog is.
Hodges: The whole show thematically is about a mutt in the back yard in a regular neighborhood of Pittsburg who is asking if he matters. When you look at a dog in a shelter that nobody wants and say that this dog matters—we are turning our lens on a relationship which up until now has been thought of as too small or too incidental to focus on. This relationship between this woman and this dog does actually matter, and suggest how we all matter.
Bark: That’s a very existential storyline.
Tolman: That’s right, It’s palatable because it comes from this dog, and never seems preachy or too heady, it makes you think about these things and also makes you smile. It’s a very sweet, sweet show.
Hodges: Plus, there are poop jokes!
Downward Dog premiers on ABC, Wednesday, May 17, 9:30 pm, then moves to Tuesday nights 8–8:30 pm beginning May 23.
Modern master, Influential Teacher, Dog Lover
September 28 2016
The dog lies on a rug in the center of the room, head on the floor, one leg stretched across the train of an elegant white dress worn by the painting’s subject, a young woman comfortably settled in a blue chair. The woman’s head is turned in conversation with the artist, who, from his seat nearby, leans forward, palette in hand. The 1880 painting by William Merritt Chase is entitled The Tenth Street Studio, and is one of the artist’s most celebrated works.
For Chase (1849–1916), this New York studio was the center of his artistic life. In addition to painting there, it was where he held court, welcoming collectors, journalists, students and fellow artists to his ornately decorated and lavishly furnished space. His much-loved dogs were frequent observers of the rarefied mix of theater and ideas that characterized Chase’s gatherings.
The Gerson sisters, Virginia, Alice and Minnie, with
A dog at rest also appears in The Open Air Breakfast (above) (c. 1888), another well-known piece. The garden dog is fast asleep on her side, as though exhausted after a morning of socializing and play. The scene’s casual air is arresting, and provides a snapshot of life in turn-of-the-century American society.
Chase, a prominent member of the international avantgarde, was an inf luential artist and teacher who counted painters John Singer Sergeant, James McNeill Whistler and Winslow Homer among his circle of friends. As a young man, he had studied in Europe, reveling in the rigor of a classical art education. During his six years in Munich, he focused on the masters of European art, and developed a deep appreciation for Spanish, Dutch and French painting. He also became acquainted with a new style of painting that came to be labeled Impressionism.
Upon his return to America, he accepted a teaching position at the Art Students League in New York City, which he embraced with vigor. During his 36-year tenure, he instructed thousands of students—including Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe and Joseph Stella, who would go on to break new artistic ground themselves—as well as championed American art and contributed to internationalizing its stature. Through his art, his teaching and his advocacy, Chase helped usher in a generation of American modernism.
By all accounts, he was an exuberant and generous teacher who introduced a fresh approach to his subject matter and a vibrant use of color and brushstroke. His own landscapes depicting city parks and Long Island beaches are considered to be among the finest examples of American Impressionism.
Photographs of Chase show him as a dapper bon vivant with a well-coiffed beard and an upturned mustache, often dressed in a dark three-piece suit complete with a carnation in the buttonhole. In her book, The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1917), Katherine Metcalf Roof described Chase “in his famous hat, accompanied by his almost equally famous Russian Greyhound, which, if not the first Russian Greyhound to be seen in New York, was at least the first one to become a marked character of the boulevards. Indeed, in those days of his bachelorhood there seems always to have been a dog in Chase’s life, usually an English or Russian hound.”
“Before returning to America Chase purchased the beautiful white Russian hound Katti which he used in several pictures, notably the pastel of one of his sisters shown in the sale exhibition in May, 1917. The dog, a fastidious and aristocratic person, spent the following summer with Chase’s parents, where he was the most considered member of the family. They found him rather a trying guest as he refused to eat anything but beefsteak, and they were in constant fear of losing him. He survived, however, to be painted by Chase and caricatured by Church and Blum for several summers.”
—The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase by Katherine Metcalf Roof, 1917
No poor, starving artist, Chase lived well; portrait commissions and teaching provided him with opportunities for travel as well as a comfortable life in New York and summers in the Hamptons. The natural light and rural vistas of eastern Long Island were popular draws for artists of the region, including Chase. In 1891, he helped establish the Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art, the first school in America devoted to plein-air (outdoor) painting, near the western edge of Southampton Village.
His life and work during this period are well documented in the holdings of the Parrish Art Museum, on Long Island’s East End. The museum holds the largest public collection of William Merritt Chase art (more than 40 paintings and works on paper) and an extensive archive, including a thousand- plus photographs relating to his life and work, in particular, family photographs of summers spent on the island. Tintypes and blue collotypes (the photographic prints of the day) show the artist in his studio and relaxing at his summer residence. His beloved dogs are ever present; a large, white Borzoi and a dark-colored Greyhound are shown lounging with family members and wandering the countryside and seashore. A white, longhaired Wolfhound named Katti appears in several of Chase’s portraits, often with children. Katti can be seen in commissioned works, such as Portrait of James Rapelje Howell (1886), and in his paintings of family members—Good Friends (1888) and Alice with Russian Wolfhound: Friends (1903).
From the Chase family album:
Virginia Gerson, sister of Mrs. William Merritt
William Merritt Chase with pet dog, Florence,
This fall, a major exhibition of Chase’s work opens at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, after a much-lauded showing at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. In early 2017, the show will travel abroad to the Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art in Venice.
In the catalog that accompanies the exhibition, Erica E. Hirshler, Croll Senior Curator of American Paintings at MFA Boston, sums up the artist’s impact on American art: “Chase is a major figure in late 19th-century American art both for his own work and the attention he brought to the potential of American art during that period.” The breadth of his painting, from striking portraits to evocative still lifes and glorious landscapes, is on full display in the retrospective, which commemorates the centennial of the artist’s death, and is evidence of his important place in the history of American art.
August 25 2016
Ever wonder how your dog feels about your musical tastes? To celebrate National Dog Day (Friday, August 26), Deezer, the on-demand digital music streaming service has assembled a couple of playlists that should be enjoyed by the entire pack. Deezer worked with animal behaviorist Dr. David Sands to study how dogs hear and react to different kinds of music based on beats per minute. The results are two playlists that they claim are scientifically proven to help energize or calm your pup. Unlike previous studies of the impact of music on dogs and recommend the classical genre … there’s no Brahms or Mozart in sight. Instead there’s a selection of more contemporary musical styles including Shutdown by Skepta; Sit Still, Look Pretty by Daya plus favorites Hey Ya! by OutKast and Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees for the “happy” playlist. For the “chill” side, Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself; Adele’s Someone Like You and Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Could You Be Loved top the list for a calming vibe.
Not only is it important for dogs to be healthy and happy, but it’s equally important for their people to be as well. When canine guardians are calm and in good spirits, they project the same feeling of happiness onto their dogs. The normal resting heart rate of an average adult is between 60 to 100 beats per minute, but listening to favorite music tracks can raise the heart rate to match the increased heart rate pups experience from the exact same tunes.
“Your overall health and happiness has a huge effect on your canine counterpart,” emphasizes Dr. Sands. “Both humans and dogs are stimulated by the frequency range, pattern and volume of the beats in music. This is why turning on your favorite tunes cannot only positively affect you, but also your dog.” So, take off the headphones and share the music …!
Here are the complete Deezer’s playlists …
Songs to Make Your Pooch Happy
Songs to Chill Your Canine
July 27 2016
This past Saturday, July 23—“Clear the Shelters” brought together over 650 animal shelters, rescue organizations and media outlets to address the overcrowding issues that local animal facilities experience in the summer months because of spring litters. In events around the country, shelters waived adoption fees, offered training lessons and free dog and cat food to encourage as many adoptions as possible. The day’s results show 45,252 shelter pets were adopted. That number more than doubles the tally from 2015, the first year of the nationwide effort. Our local event in Berkeley, CA, reported 135 adoptions. Kudos to the organizers and all of the participants, and most of all—congratulations to everybody who welcomed a new animal into their home!
July 6 2016
W San Francisco invites all dogs and their two-legged friends to join the hotel’s first Yappy Hour of the season from 5:30 pm-7 pm on Thursday, July 7. The summer party, taking place at Hunt Lane, an outdoor space adjacent to W San Francisco, will feature specialty cocktails and treats for both dogs and owners, a photo station and more pawsome fun. The signature W pink carpet will be rolled out for all guests, and star-studded pups Little Cooper Bear and Sailor the Doodle, Hula & Bean Sprout, Boe The Bear Coat and Sneakers the Doodle will be in attendance.
The world-class W San Francisco is pet-friendly hotel and welcomes dogs and cats to the property through its P.A.W. (“PETS ARE WELCOME”) program. The hotel enhances animals’ stay with dog-walking and grooming services. At check-in, guests receive pet toys, pet treats, a W Hotels pet tag, clean-up bags, details about pet services available through the Concierge team and items available through Whatever/ Whenever® service. Pet stays also include a custom W Hotels pet bed, food and water bowl with floor mat, a pet-in-room door sign, an in-room dining dog menu featuring 8 oz. pan roasted natural beef and grilled natural beef patty, and a special treat at turndown.
To RSVP for W San Francisco’s Yappy Hour, please email email@example.comWHEN: Thursday, July 7, 5:30 pm-7 pm WHERE: Hunt Lane at W San Francisco 181 3rd Street San Francisco, CA 94103 COST: Cocktails: $13-15, Complimentary hors-d’oeuvres
June 28 2016
Todd Solondz’s new film is titled Weiner-Dog and is classified as a comedy. The director has a unique brand of filmmaking—he’s known for creating off-beat, dark character studies that stretch the boundaries of satire and humor. Many critics champion his work (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Storytelling) while others find them cruel and over-the-top downbeat. It’s not for nothing that he’s been called the “King of Feel-Bad Cinema.” Still, his films are serious and thought-provoking, grappling with life’s most difficult issues—alienation, human frailty, mortality. I was interested to see what he would do with a film centered around a dog.
If you intend to see this film, warning … read no further. The dog does not come to a happy end. And it is not off-camera. The gruesome hit-and-run scene seems to be inspired by Sam Peckinpah, the ’70s filmmaker noted for his ballet-like depictions of death scenes (The Wild Bunch). This cringe-worthy moment is one of many that animal lovers will suffer through. There are several other scenes of antiquated dog “training” and “care” that made viewers wince. Real as they may be, it’s hard to watch. That’s not to say that all film featuring animals must be obligated to end happily. We know that is not how life is. In an interview, Solondz talked with Gawker about the film’s subject matter:
“It’s very complicated in some sense that if you have a pet, a dog, it can be a vessel that one fills with one’s illusions or yearnings or hopes and so forth. That oftentimes has very little to do with the actual dog itself. It’s hard to see a dog in its own dogness. We’re so anthropocentric, it’s hard not to anthropomorphize. I think that when people see an animal harmed, it’s something that’s emblematic of the purity of innocence. Nothing can rival a little dachshund in its cuteness, and in fact, as you are probably aware, people have a harder time with that than harm befalling humans.”
Still, with all of the publicity surrounding the film (reviews in the New Yorker, on NPR) and misleading blurbs portraying the film as a comedy—we feel our readers should be forewarned. This is not a film for the faint of heart and certainly not suitable viewing for children. But don’t take our word for it, check out this review and others, and decide for yourself.
June 22 2016
Today, actor David Duchovny (The X-Files, Aquarius) launches the “Lick My Face” campaign to support the nonprofit organization, Target Zero. In a new online video, Duchovny’s rescue canine, Brick, devours the actor in licks—whereby for every lick, Duchovny offers to donate at least one dollar to the zero-kill cause (to boost the lick count, peanut butter is applied). Duchovny challenges all of his social media followers, as well as fellow celebrities, ex-wife Tea Leoni and X-Files co-star, Gillian Anderson, to do the same. It’s a playful take on the hugely successive viral Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon that benefitted ALS a few summers ago.
All silliness aside, Duchovny is committed to zero-kill and helping shelters meet the challenge. He is an active board member of the Target Zero non-profit and a longtime shelter advocate. “Target Zero is showing a clear path to end the euthanasia of adoptable shelter animals through its proven-to-work mentorship model. We’re currently in ten Fellow Cities, but I’d like us to be in 20, 30, 40 more as quickly as possible to keep saving more and more lives. My hope is this campaign will get the word out far and wide that we're here to help,” enthuses Duchovny.
Co-Founded by social entrepreneur and goodwill activist Tracey Durning, Target Zero provides comprehensive strategies to decrease shelter intake and increase live release rates to achieve the 90+% shelter save rate. Launched in 2013, Target Zero has already gotten two cities to zero; Waco, Texas and Huntsville, Alabama, with Brevard County, Florida set to get there by October 2016. The organization currently works in ten Fellow Cities. “No kill” is defined as 90% or more of cats and dogs getting out of a city’s shelters safely. 10% or less is accounted for by animals that will die from illness regardless of medical treatment and/or large dogs with nonrehabilitative aggression issues.
Visit lickmyface.org to get involved. The challenge is simple and easy, plus fun for the licked and lickee!
Lick My Face Guidelines
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