DOCUMENTARY; 1hr 20min
DIRECTED BY: Don Hardy Jr & Dana Nachtman
Where Guide Dogs for the Blind is concerned, many are called but only the premier litter picks are chosen. After all, not any shaggy old hound is up for shepherding a blind person through a user’s manual of potential perils. To discover what it takes to make that exclusive grade, Hardy and Nachtman follow a GDB-bred litter of five Labrador puppies from birth to graduation day two years later.
Right off the bat, Patriot, Potomac, Primrose, Poppet and Phil are so lovable you’ll want to leap up and cuddle the screen.* Equally touching, and necessary, are the balancing stories of Ron and Janet, who rely on canes to get about and are each separately awaiting their new besties-slash-lifelines with, as Janet neatly puts it, the excitement of someone heading to a blind date.
In the final ten weeks of training, the dogs must pass scrupulous tests of temperament, comprehension and discipline, even down to disobeying commands that unwittingly place their owners in danger. Those who succeed are awarded a harness and a lifetime of service. The fails will either go on to become GDB breeders or, as happens with one of our P’s, a grateful person’s pet. You could say it’s a paradox that this no-nonsense view of their formative process is a big ol’ weepie from nose to tail; ditto that canine metaphors are laboured and lame. But make no bones about it, tears will be shed.
* Full disclosure: Dog person.