Dogs are amazing creatures, so giving and willing to help us in any way they can. ‘Pick of the Litter’ is a film about five Labrador puppies, Patriot, Potomac, Poppet, Primrose, and my favorite, Phil, who we are introduced to right when they are being born. These are no ordinary puppies as they have been bred to become guide dogs for the blind. We go on a journey with these five dogs as they train to change the lives of the blind.
Directed by Dana Nachman and Don Hardy Jr., who also did the brilliant and touching film ‘BatKid Begins,’ ‘Pick of the Litter’ is a moving, funny and at times bittersweet film about some fantastic dogs that will melt your heart.
Note that not all the dogs will make it as guide dogs, as over 1100 each year attempt to become guide dogs but only 300 succeed through the 16 months of training. When a dog washes out, it’s not that the dog failed, it’s just that they have what the Guide Dogs for the Blind organization calls a ‘Career Change.’ Dogs can be washed out of the training because they just don’t have the right temperament; too much energy, short attention span, distracted easily, or just lazy. And the dogs can wash out at any time, even after they have been given to a blind person. That’s what makes this film so enthralling, you never know when a dog is going to be cut out of the program, and believe me, you root for all the dogs to make it. The dogs are much in demand as the Guide Dogs for the Blind organization gets over 1000 requests a year, and it takes up to a year for an applicant to get a guide dog. We meet a couple of people that are waiting for guide dogs. One is a woman who had a guide dog for almost ten years that had to be retired due to age and another man who is waiting for his first dog. The film does a great job of showing us how restricted these people feel without a guide dog, as their world is made much narrower without the help a dog to see for them.
The puppies are evaluated very early in their lives, testing to see if they are good candidates for being a guide dog; are they afraid of exploring new places, do the puppies socialize well with other dogs, and are they adventurous? After the dogs are weaned, they are given to puppy raisers, people that volunteer to raise and train the dogs for the next 16 months. We meet all the people that are raising the five puppies and the film does an exceptional job of showing us just how hard that job is, not in only the training but in the fact that they know they will have to give up the dogs (some give the puppies up early in training and are assigned to more experienced puppy raisers. Once the 16 months are up, the dogs go back to the Guide Dogs for the Blind organization to be trained and evaluated by expert dog trainers. If the dog makes through all the training and tests, and they are passed through, then they are given to a blind person who then trains with the experts, to see how to handle the dog and if the dog gets along with the blind person.
This is a very moving film, and I will tell you that I had tears in my eyes in the first few minutes of the film, as it opens with three people telling us how their guide dogs saved their lives. I was especially moved by a man whose guide dog guided down seventy-nine floors during the Twin Towers 9/11 attack. I was also touched when some of the puppies wash out, but it’s also an inspiring film that has many moments of joy and happiness. It’s very gratifying to see the elation and delight on the faces of the people when they meet their guide dog for the first time.
This is a marvelous and fascinating film that will tug on your heartstrings. It’s a better world with dogs, and the puppies that become guide dogs will dazzle you with their hard work, dedication, and ability to help a human live a better life.
My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst:
1). I Would Pay to See it Again
2). Full Price
3). Bargain Matinee
5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again.