This morning on the way to the Y to swim, I heard of a controversy about a new movie coming out called "A Dog's Purpose". I had seen the trailers for the movie and had already told my partner we had to go see it. She is the movie buff, not me, and it is rare for me to say that, so I was looking forward to it. The premise is that a boy has a dog, grows up with the dog, the dog dies. The dog is then reincarnated over and over until he is eventually reunited with his owner, now an old man. To me, this dog was the man's "forever dog": that one dog that gets in your heart and never leaves. I had such a dog; he was my angel and saved my life on more than one occasion. I went through a severe depression and quite possibly would have suicided, but for Oreo. Who would have taken care of him? Oh yes, he saved me. So when I saw the trailers, I knew that I would have to go see it.
The controversy? A video of the filming of a scene in which the dog is to be in a fast-moving river. Apparently the dog is terrified to go into the water; the trainer is wrestling with him to get in. When they eventually get the dog into the water (by throwing him? I don't know), they have to cut the scene because the dog becomes submerged. They are on a set and can stop the rapids to get the dog to safety, but he shouldn't have been put in danger in the first place. I won't watch the video; I can't. I was going to put a link to the news story in this post, but when I googled it, I saw a still image and couldn't go any further. And I don't want to. It would make me angry and sick at the same time. I would feel the dog's terror, not just be a witness to it. Just hearing about it reminded me of when I was a young child, around 12, and I saw video of a seal hunt. I remember seeing the club being brought down on that defenseless creature and I actually screamed "No!" at the TV. I think it is the breaking of trust that hits me hardest. Not that the seal trusted humans the way a dog would, but it likely had no reason to (or understanding that it should) fear humans. And dogs DO trust us. If a human performer said "I don't feel safe; I am too tired to safely do this scene" we would trust that the performer knew his limits and we would listen. Dog's senses are way more in tune than ours; this poor dog was saying "something is not right" and the person he trusted didn't listen.
I am sure that the fact that I am emotional and tend to 'put myself in their shoes' is what makes me a good Vet Tech. If a patient is 'misbehaving' when we are trying to complete a procedure, I try to see what it is that they are reacting to. We can't explain what we need to do in words so every single step is a surprise to them if they have never had it done before. Are we making them feel more vulnerable than we have to? Are we crowding or cornering them when we don't need to? Do we need to just slow down and break the procedure into smaller parts so they can adapt/adjust to this new experience? How can we get done what we need to do without breaking their trust?
So what is a dog's purpose? Is it to do what we tell them to do, blind trust, no questions asked, go against their instincts even if everything inside them is screaming "NO!"? So that we can make a movie? There are calls to boycott this movie now. I am not sure I can go see it. What else happened on that set to the canine actors? By going to see the movie am I endorsing that treatment? There is supposed to be a Humane Society or SPCA representative on the set to ensure the animals are treated properly. Where were they? I don't know what the answer is. I think more will be revealed and hopefully some learning will come out of it. Time will tell.
I have a new little dog now. She is not Oreo reincarnated. Far from it. But when I come through the door and she runs to the couch to greet me, squeaking with joy, wriggling her whole body, nothing that happened that day matters. Her only purpose in that moment is to say to me "I adore you. I trust you. You are my everything." I better do everything in my power to earn it.