Sure, you might notice them, guide dogs for the blind. And sure, you might marvel at how well-trained they are. What is easy to forget, though, is that they start as puppies, cute puppies, with various personalities that will hopefully lead them to being great, guide dogs.
“Pick of the Litter” tells the story of five puppies, Patriot, Potomac, Primrose, Poppet, and Phil, and their respective journeys to determine if they have what it takes to be the most trusted companion for the blind. It is a story filled with joy, struggle, and touches of sadness, oddly, when the destiny of a few of the puppies ends up that they just get to be dogs.
The documentary takes you through the entire guide dog cycle. It begins with the puppies being born, through the process of foster families who start the initial training and development of the puppies, and into the advanced training the little ones must go through to eventually graduate to their new life as a guide dog. Through the process the dogs, and the foster families, are observed and assessed sometimes with surprising evaluations and heartbreaking realities for the foster families, but the folks at Guide Dogs for the Blind (guidedogs.com) have their goals, to develop the best companions for the blind and find those dogs who might be better as breeding dogs rather than guide dogs, so tough decisions must be made.
Yes, there is a ton of puppy cuteness in “Pick of the Litter,” but the documentary does its best as it shows the challenges for all involved, from working on breaking bad, dog habits, to the physical demands of training, to the difficult decisions that have to be made when a puppy just doesn’t have what it takes to be a guide dog.
Whether or not you are a dog lover, this film tells a wonderful story of a developmental process those of us with sight probably take for granted. It’s not always easy to train a dog, but just the thought of training a dog to actually disobey you is enough to make your head spin. Yes, a guide dog must be trained to disobey its companion when the dog can “see” the danger that the blind person cannot.
You will probably get a little weepy for some of the dogs and their foster families when things don’t go well, you will probably get a little weepy for some of the dogs as they graduate, and in the end you will get a new-found appreciation for the work an organization like Guide Dogs for the Blind has to do to bring mobility and joy to those without sight.
It’s five adorable puppies out of five, okay, five stars out of five, for the touching and enlightening “Pick of the Litter.”
That’s it for this one! L8R!!