Thanks to Madman Films for the chance to see Pick of the Litter before its Australian release. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go and see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!
A movie without villians, filled with adorable heroes and heroines, and with a feel-good factor as warm and fuzzy as its leading stars – Pick of the Litter has it all. This documentary traces the formative lives of five sibling Labrador puppies in training to be guide dogs. Directed by Don Hardy Jnr..and Dana Nachman (who is also writer) they present to us an endearing and fascinating insight into the often intensive regime to become service dogs capable of assisting, and ultimately saving, the lives of visually challenged people. From the birth of the litter and spanning a two year period afterwards we meet Patriot, Potomac, Phil, Poppet and Primrose . All cute as buttons; all with their own personality. But as the saying goes it’s a dog-eat-dog world in this canine college and not all of our furry friends will graduate with honours.
Pick of the Litter also focuses on a couple of future guide dog recipients: Janet Gearhart, a fourth-time applicant, and Ronald Stother, awaiting his first four-legged helper. As the documentary progresses it becomes apparent that the puppies provide more than just an additional set of eyes; they give affection, loyalty, and a greater sense of freedom and independence. “To say I’m grateful is an understatement”, states Ronald, as he’s paired with his companion. To avoid any spoilers I won’t disclose who, out of the five, his guide dog is. But viewers are forewarned that, out of the 800 dogs born at the Guide Dogs For the Blind Association, only 300 will make it as far as becoming qualified attendants. This is due to the stringent requirements of the association. After spending time with foster ‘parents’, who are often heartbroken if their puppy doesn’t make the cut as a guide dog, the little Labradors then undergo comprehensive training under the acute eyes of qualified trainers.
What makes Pick of the Litter such a sweet documentary, apart from the obvious adorability of the puppies, is seeing the successful results of the fruits of theirs and their trainers’ labours. For, even if they don’t graduate as guide dogs, they may go on to become therapy dogs, offering psychological and physiological benefits to those in need. One of the five pups becomes a companion to an army veteran suffering from PTSD. Seeing the emotional security and affection this dog provides illustrates that these animals are more than just pets.
So, momentarily forget about political corruption, global warming and economic catastrophes and sit back and have your screen filled with sweet, four-legged puppies. You’d have to have a pretty cold heart to not have the strings tugged, if only to be thankful for not requiring the need of such creatures. Pick of the Litter allows us to paws in gratitude, yelp with delight and, ultimately, is a tail with a happy ending.
In Cinemas 10 January 2019