CIFF Review- Pick of the Litter
(USA) If you are looking for a movie that will melt your heart and make you laugh then Pick of the Litter is for you. This film follows a litter of puppies from birth through their journeys into becoming guide dogs. It also follows the story of a blind man and woman who are waiting to get a guide dog. The process isn’t easy and everyone doesn’t make the cut.
The five puppies were 3 males; Patriot, Phil, and Potomac and 2 girls; Poppet and Primrose. Four of them black labs and the other two yellow labs. They are from the Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) breeding center and from birth they are being groomed for this pathway. After about two months they were placed with families who were going to help them in their training to become guide dogs. From this stage and on they would be evaluated closely by the GDB to make sure that they were where they were suppose to be developmentally. As you can imagine, some of these furry friends had a lot of energy and no interest in their training. If GDB determines that the trainer is not as effective as they hoped for, they would place the dog with more experienced trainers.
If a dog was determined to be unsuccessful with training, then he or she would be considered “career changed.” Of course most of the families were looking to be successful and not have that unsuccessful notch on their belt. Unfortunately, that isn’t how it played out for some of them.
For each family who dedicated their time in training their dog, you could feel the bond they shared and anticipate how hard it was going to be to let them go. At about 15 months, they dogs that hadn’t been career changed would return to GDB for more intense training. Watching the families say goodbye was heartbreaking but they knew the journey would end. Their mission at that point was complete, but it still didn’t hurt any less.
What impressed me most about this film was what they dogs had to learn when they went back to GDB. Learning how to not take a command if it was going to put the person that they are guiding in harms way. Train station platforms, not crossing a street if a car is barreling through a red light, or guiding their person on a street with no sidewalks but has parked cars are all examples of their training. GDB trainers would be walking their dog and another trainer would pull up on the curb to see if the dog would stop, back up, or continue to keep walking. These were all factors, along with commands, to determine whether they would pass or fail.
Seeing their cute faces up close and watching their journey made me appreciate the value in organizations such as GDB that dedicate their lives to helping those who are blind have a better quality of life. At the end of their journeys, those who were the pick of the litter were placed with the man and women who was waiting for their guide dog. The families who helped from beginning to end were invited for a reunion and photo session. It truly is a team effort from beginning to end. Two out of the five were successful guide dogs, one became a breeder, and the other two ended up being family dogs.
This movie was directed and produced by all women. I highly recommend that you see it whether you are a dog lover or not. I rate it E for Everyone.
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