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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.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
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!

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
iPhone App for Haiti
Silver Lining Ideas helps animals with technology

Now you can help animals in Haiti by buying Silver Lining Ideas’ latest iPhone app, Lucky Day. 100 percent of profits will be donated to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which is coordinating with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) to organize an emergency relief mission in Haiti. Deployed teams will be treating injured animals, administering vaccinations against rabies and leptospirosis, and distributing basic care.

Steve Cobb and Ruthanna Sweatman founded Silver Lining Ideas to use technology, such as iPhone applications, to raise money for animal rescue groups. Normally the company donates 25% of proceeds to rescue organizations, but all proceeds from the Lucky Day iPhone application will be donated.

Lucky Day puts a new spin on the classic Magic 8 Ball where users can shake their iPhone to make a wish or ask a question. Those who figure out how to enter Ka Ching the Panda’s secret room can win an iPod Touch or Apple iTunes gift cards. Hints will start on February 10th and a new one will be added each Wednesday until the prizes are won. 

Help animals by playing a game? A win-win for everyone.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Puppy Bowl VI
Let the games begin!

In my family, we joke that the Super Bowl is similar to a religious holiday. By that we mean that we honor traditions, spend time together as a family and eat large amounts of wonderful food. We stop short of considering it a spiritual experience, but we do love the party atmosphere and always hope for a great game.

  Since not everyone is a football fan, it’s nice to have alternatives when so much of the country is obsessed with the coin toss, the halftime show, the commercials, and, oh yeah, even the game itself.   Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl is a great option. (For you football fans, note that terms such as “option” are clearly on the brain this week. I don’t mean to, but lately, I say things like “safety,” “lateral,” “stats,” “snap,” “records,” “pocket,” “audible,” and, of course, “wildcat” and “spot” in contexts that make their usage questionable.) The project earned the American Humane Association’s “No animals were harmed” disclaimer to put at the end of their credits for the sixth year in a row.   This year’s action is on a mini-football field and in addition to dogs, there are cats, rabbits and hamsters. The bunnies are cheerleaders and the hamsters make their appearance in a blimp. Naturally, all of these animals are “Saints” so it’s surprising that no “Colts” appear in the show.   For great fun seeing dogs play around and be their adorable selves, check it out. It premieres on Animal Planet on February 7 from 3-5 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific time) and is scheduled for five repeat showings.    

 

News: Guest Posts
Shibu Cam, Returns
A little island of sweetness with no responsibility

I've been watching Shiba-TV. After a short grooming session, mom is off and the pups are sleeping. Ahhhh.

Why is this live-stream of a Shiba Inu and her pups so watchable? Who thinks it's watchable? you ask. Oh, only 100,000-plus people.

News: Guest Posts
On the Radio, Tonight
Learn more about case of cattle insecticide sold for dogs

In December 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency slapped Hunte Kennel Systems and Animal Care, Inc., of Goodman, Mo., with a $56,632 civil penalty for “repackaging, relabeling and selling an insecticide meant for use on cattle and hogs as a flea and tick treatment for dogs.” In a few hours (Jan. 2 at 10 p.m. EST on WOR 710), Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins talks about the case and offers advice on how to protect your pet from fraudulent products as well as fleas and ticks. You can call in with questions at 212-766-7100. If you live outside the tri-state or have other plans tonight, listen at your leisure via Tracie Hotchner’s Dog Talk & Cat Chat radio show podcast.

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