HBO Documentary: 'One Nation Under Dog' about dogs and dog owners in AmericaPublished June 13, 2012
HBO documentary: 'One Nation Under Dog'
On June 18th at 9pm (EST), HBO premieres the documentary One Nation Under Dog, which explores the passion and devotion that dog lovers have for their furry best friends.
The show offers unique perspectives from three award-winning directors who cover complex issues regarding dogs and their owners in our society. The film’s subtitle, “Stories of Fear, Loss & Betrayal” is unfortunate because the negative connotation may discourage potential viewers from watching.
Here is a story of the Taffets, a New Jersey family taken to court by neighbors who felt terrorized by the Taffets aggressive and not properly restrained Rhodesian Ridgebacks. In one incident a young girl’s entire ear was bitten off. While it was chilling to hear Dr. Taffet complain about court fees, “It’s cost a lot of money, at least two years college tuition at a good school,” I found it impossible not to feel some empathy for the Taffets who clearly love their dogs.
Much to the surprise of the community, the judge’s ruling on one case found their dog was only “potentially dangerous” i.e., not dangerous enough to be euthanized. The court ordered that the dog be kept in a secure six-foot high double-fenced area. Mrs. Taffet lamented, “I tell people when they’re coming to my house, we’re the only house on the block with a fence,” but one of six bite victims required 30 stitches and others needed plastic surgeries. The story reached a climactic end.
Part Two “Loss”
This segment opens on a pet loss grief group. I found it reassuring to know groups like that exist because I’m petrified I won’t survive the death of my dog. A great Will Rogers quote filled the screen: “If there are no dogs in heaven then I just want to go where they went.”
There are at least 500 U.S. pet cemeteries, the oldest of which is in Hartsdale, New York where 35,000 dogs are buried. The camera spanned across Hartsdale and revealed elaborate gravestones and mini mausoleums shaped like doghouses. It put me in mind of my Dad’s warning when I got my Spaniel, “A dog is a heartbreak waiting to happen.” But watching the outpouring of love onscreen also reconfirmed that my beloved pooch is worth every tear I will shed.
Another fascinating dog tale comes from Edgar and Nina Otto who paid $155,000 to have Lancelot, their Labrador, cloned from cryogenically frozen DNA. Nina spoke as only the mega rich can, “He cost less than a Bentley; less than the cost of a really nice boat.”
Long before it was even possible to clone a dog the Ottos planned ahead. They took Lancelot’s DNA after he was diagnosed with cancer at age 7. After Lancelot died, Nina came across an article about cloning and ran to the phone and authorized a lab in Korea to clone Lancelot. “It is possible to have your favorite dog with you your entire life,” said Edgar. “Just keep cloning him.”
However, citing birth defects and concerns for animal welfare, the company that cloned Lancelot went out of business and released a statement, “This technology is not ready for prime time.”
And for that, thank goodness, because approximately 4 million dogs are euthanized every year in America’s animal shelters. It would be better for the Ottos of the world to adopt already existing dogs. For me, the highlight in this film is the story about Julie Adams, a hero who lives on her Missouri farm with 110 rescued dogs. She made me want to sell my Manhattan co-op apartment, buy a farm and spend the rest of my days saving dogs.
Hers is a compelling story. When she was young she lived with her grandmother and two dogs. Julie was only 9 when her grandma died and her parents came to get her but refused to take the dogs. “I kept pounding on the car glass as we drove away. I was yelling to go back for my dogs, Buster Brown and Duchess.”
Julie’s dad kept hound dogs for hunting. When one pair had puppies Julie was ecstatic and showered them with love, food, and affection. When her father found out he was furious and accused her of spoiling them. Julie tells the story with tears in her eyes, “He killed those puppies. He said I killed them. To this day I always thought puppies died because I loved them.” Now she rescues every dog she can. She finds homes for as many as possible. Rescue organizations pay for vans to transport these dogs to new adoptive families all around the country. The unadopted pooches live out their lives with her on the farm. Julie said, “If anybody asked me if my life was successful I’d say, ‘Yeah, mine was.’” Keep a big box of tissues handy, you’re going to need them.
Part Three “Betrayal”
The last segment focuses on overpopulation and the necessity for neutering and spaying, and an exposé of shelters and puppy mills. It also features volunteers who provide the only hope of survival for many of these canines. You will fall in love with Connecticut rescuer/trainer John Gagnon (“Dogman”) who devotes his life to rehabilitating aggressive, difficult-to-adopt dogs and works with organizations to find them good homes. Another hero is Shawn South-Aswad who raises money to rescue dogs and place them with foster families.
Alternating between shocking and inspirational, this film has a lot to say and I highly recommend it.
Rated TV-MA (for mature audiences).
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