Potential Guide Dog Puppies are Adorable in Pick of the Litter
If you love dogs and/or humanitarian causes, here is a must-see film that combines both. Pick of the Litter (directed by Don Hardy Jr and Dana Nachman) is a behind-the-scenes documentary about the preparation of guide dogs to serve the blind. Compared to the white cane commonly used by the visually impaired, a guide dog permits the blind to walk without restrictions and to explore unknown, complex areas. Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) breeds guide dogs, arranges for volunteers to raise them, trainers to train them, and then matches dogs to requests from the blind.
In the film, five beautiful Labrador retrievers are born to a female dog selected by a committee for her positive traits. These five pups are predestined to be raised as guide dogs. At two months old, they go to the volunteer raisers who teach the dogs obedience and manners. If the dogs progress satisfactorily, they return to the center at 16 months, where they will be specifically trained to be guide dogs for the blind.
Will the Puppies Make the Grade in Pick of the Litter?
The journey for these five puppies has built-in dramatic tension. Will all the young dogs make it to the training phase? Will the trained dogs pass their tests? And will the benefactors bond with the puppies?
A couple of the puppies in the film are frisky and distractible from the beginning. Two of them are eventually reassigned to more experienced volunteer raisers. Later, a couple of the dogs do not make it to the training phase – they are what GDB terms “career changed.” The disappointment of the volunteers is palpable; they express a sense of failure and sudden loss of relationship.
I can speak from experience that all of the folks involved in prepping a puppy to become a guide dog are dedicated and committed. I spent several weeks fostering two different young labs when their raisers went on vacation. Caring for these dogs is not a willy-nilly experience like a personal puppy. As the doc portrays, there are rules to follow. The biggest is that the dogs cannot be off leash; this restriction alone is more work than it sounds.
The three puppies in Pick of the Litter who do progress spend several months with a trainer and then must pass a series of tests. These tests are fascinating in and of themselves. For example, the dogs must be able to obey commands, direct a person down the middle of a sidewalk, guide a person along the curb when there is no sidewalk, and even disobey commands when safety is at risk. Compelling stories from guide dog recipients describe how the dogs prevented the duo from falling down stairs, being hit by trains, and so on.
There are plenty of tears shed onscreen during in the film, and these moments are truly touching.
More information on Pick of the Litter Screenings
Look for Pick of the Litter in multiple cities including NYC opening on August 31.
Encino, Pasadena, and select cities nationwide on September 7.
Glendale, Palm Desert, San Diego, and more cities September 14.
Claremont on September 21.
Full information and details on the website: pickofthelittermovie.com
Karen Henry is an Associate Editor at LA YOGA who volunteers in a variety of capacities for nonprofit organizations and artists around Los Angeles. She practices yoga as a counterbalance to her daily impact sports and is a mother of four grown children who also practice yoga . Now, she’s working on teaching yoga and joy of life to the grandkids!