I have a thing for movies about dogs. Show me the hokiest, dumbest movie you can think of, but if there’s a dog in it, I’m all over it. These movies know how to tug at your heart and leave you feeling sappy all over. If you ask me, dogs in film have a heightened charm factor. Think Marley, Benji, Old Yeller and Lassie. Deep down they were each appealing in their own way. Even crazy-eyed Cujo had that certain something.
Dogs in film can do all kinds of tricks that leave their everyday counterparts like my dog, Henry, in the dust. These dogs don’t run, they frolic—unless it’s Lassie running to save the day. And these dogs can jump through a ring of fire if the script calls for it. Dogs in film are fiercely loyal to their humans, too, but who can blame them when you’re an Asta and your humans are William Powell and Myrna Loy, as in the “Thin Man” movies, or you’re Hooch and your sidekick is Turner (aka, Tom Hanks)? Dogs like these are faithful, even in the face of implausible danger.
Frankly, these dogs have me worried. Worried that my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Henry, cannot live up to these standards. Henry could never trek hundreds of miles, dodging danger every step of the way, all for his undying devotion to me. No sir, there’s no “Incredible Journey” in this cavalier. Henry’s knees would give out after walking a half mile. He’d complain about his luxating patella acting up and yelp in pain. Then he’d lie in a heap, all out of breath and I’d have to come pick him up just to avoid the ASPCA hunting me down.
Nor could Henry rescue me when the bad guys have me tied to a track with a train barreling in my direction. And forget about pulling me out of a blazing fire. Not going to happen. Face it, I’d be toast.
Recently, the bar was set even higher by Hachi, a dog devoted to his human. Only this one spent nearly a decade showing his love in a most improbable, hopeless way (which I won’t tell you in case you haven’t seen it yet). I loved “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” now out on DVD. Based on a true Japanese story, the film stars Richard Gere as Hachi’s owner. I consider Gere a good choice, largely because of his personal interest in Eastern mysticism, which lends itself very nicely to this film, and also because he’s as handsome and dapper as ever, if you ask me. Hachi is obsessively devoted to Gere, to the point that the dog no longer seems to care whether he has food, or a place to sleep.
Now, there is no way my Henry would ever stop wanting food. It’s ALL he cares about. Give him the choice, me or a tasty treat and the treat wins hands down. Henry only cares about me when I’m in the kitchen. That’s when he stares at me until I feed him, and I can’t help but feel like I’m in that movie, “Little Shop of Horrors,” the one where that menacing plant keeps demanding, “FEED ME!” Only instead of a plant, it’s Henry and I swear I’ve seen him give me the stink eye when I’ve refused him a snack.
So Henry is no Hachi. But it’s not entirely his fault. Here’s the real difference between these two dogs: Henry doesn’t have a stand-in whereas Hachi had six in the film. Plus, Hachi had 20 stand-ins in his puppy scenes! When Hachi #1 got tired of filming, Hachi #2 stepped in. And so on. So now I know what Henry needs in order to be the perfect dog: 20 stand-in’s, give or take. Henry #1 doesn’t want to go for a walk? Enter Henry #2! Henry #3 won’t fetch the newspaper? How about Henry #6? Henry #4 barking like crazy? Let’s bring in Henry #18! After all, we could all use a stand-in now and then.
- Film Has a Dog and Two Big Names, but No Big Screens (nytimes.com)
- Hachi, a dog’s tale (mhbd.blogspot.com)
- Dogs Go to Hollywood – Famous Canines in the Movie Business (brighthub.com)