Documentaries About Dogs
Netflix’s Dogs, a new six-part documentary series about, appropriately enough, dogs dropped this month.
I binge watched it over Thanksgiving weekend. It hit all the right doggy parts of my brain. I laughed when I was supposed to, cried when I was supposed to, you know what happens when I watch movies about dogs! And Netflix certainly isn’t being subtle about its promotion of the show, these are the tags it uses to describe Dogs: Sentimental, Heartfelt, Feel-good, and Emotional.
Here’s the trailer:
One thing I quickly noticed about each episode is that they really weren’t about the dogs. Of course the dogs feature prominently in each, but the dogs’ tales were actually devices used to tell the stories of the humans who love them. With one exception — episode three — you never really get to know the dogs all that well, but you definitely come away vivid portraits of the people.
The six episodes take place in far-flung locations. Syria, Lebanon, Germany, Italy, Costa Rica, Japan, Ohio, California, and very close to home, my neighborhood in New York City. Each episode was beautifully made by a noted filmmaker. I’ll give you a quick run down of what each episode is about, starting with the last one, Second Chances.
Second Chances is about a young New Yorker who rescues dogs from Texas. What was particularly cool about the episode for me was that many of the Manhattan scenes were filmed near our apartment in Peter Cooper Village. There were scenes shot in the dog park I take Bodhi to near Beth Israel Hospital and there were several scenes shot at Boris & Horton, the nearby dog cafe in the East Village.
The first episode is called The Kid with the Dog and it’s about young girl with epilepsy and her service dog.
Episode two is called Bravo, Zeus. This one is particularly effective (ie. Sentimental, Heartfelt, Feel-good, and Emotional.) It’s about a young man, a Syrian refugee in Berlin, and his efforts to be reunited with his Siberian Husky, Zeus.
My favorite is Ice on the Water. It’s about the relationship between a Labrador Retriever named Ice and his owner, a fisherman. They live in Como, Italy and face an uncertain future because the fish population in Lake Como is on the decline. The fisherman has such affection for Ice, and Ice is such a warm, reassuring presence in his life, it just gave me the warm and fuzzies from the moment it started until the last shot of Ice sitting in the fishing boat on the lake in the early morning light. This episode has some really beautiful camera work, including the use of drones, showing Ice exploring Como and its environs.
The fourth episode is called Scissors Down. It’s about a shy Japanese dog groomer and how his love for dogs gives him the courage to run his own business and to enter high profile dog grooming contests around the world. One thing I learned is that there is a Japanese dog grooming style and an American style. Judges definitely have their preferences.
Territorio de Zaguates is probably my second favorite episode. It’s about the famous shelter in Costa Rica where dogs largely run free on nearly 400 acres of mountainside. The Territorio became a sensation a few years back when video of hundreds of dogs running around with their keepers hit the internet. I interviewed a friend who visited the shelter for a post on Urban Dog. This episode is probably the most complex of the six. It tells several stories: the troubles the founders face running the operation, the illness of one of the workers, and my favorite, the story of the main animal handler and his dog, Max. This episode also features some great camera work, especially the use of drones to film the huge packs of dogs running around the mountain.
Here’s a link to Netflix’s Dogs page, so you can learn more about the series.