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Tag: movie

Denali: A “little” film with a big message

Denali from FELT SOUL MEDIA on Vimeo.

Denali is a short film, but definitely not a “little” one.

Documenting the bond between a nomadic photographer and his dog, it is beautiful and sweeping, both in its photography and in what it says about the human soul, the dog soul, and that “team soul” that often forms when dog and person are thrown together.

Ben Moon and Denali came together in 1999, when he and his girlfriend adopted the dog from a shelter. After breaking up with the girlfriend, Moon and Denali hit the road, traveling around the Pacific Northwest as Moon photographed surfers, rock climbers and other adventurers.

In 2004, Moon was diagnosed with cancer. While in the hospital for surgery and, later, long chemotherapy sessions, nurses permitted Denali to be in the room — and you get the impression neither of them would have allowed it any other way.

Moon beat the cancer, and the pair hit the road again.

More than a few times, in the years that followed, Denali was featured in Moon’s published photography.

In 2014, Denali, at the age of 14, was diagnosed with cancer.

One month later, he was gone.

In Denali’s last weeks, Moon began compiling what would turn into the movie, Denali — his tribute to the dog he’d traveled with, over peaks and valleys both literal and figurative, for nearly 15 years.

A collaboration between Moon, director Ben Knight, and cinematographer Skip Armstrong, the film premiered at 5Point Film Festival, winning both Best of Festival and People’s Choice.

It’s a beautiful thing to watch, and I highly recommend viewing it on your full screen. And given it’s a work aimed at exploring emotions — not tugging at them — you may also watch it with a fully open heart.

It shows us how resilient humans can be, how resilient dogs can be, and how that resiliency — and the joy of life — can reach even greater heights when dog and human bond.

In his eulogy for Denali, Moon noted that, painful as losing him was, it was a time to celebrate.

“…However difficult the transition, it’s cause for reflection and a celebration of how much love and joy this incredible dog brought into my life.

“Thank you Denali for giving me the courage to hit the road with a camera, a van, and no plan back in 2001, for never taking your eye off me through a year of cancer treatments, surgeries and countless other challenges. Thank you for your uncanny ability to walk into a frame at precisely the right moment to elevate an image, for teaching me patience and the joy in the simple quiet moments as I watched you grow older, and most of all, giving selflessly the unconditional love that only a true friend can give. It’s impossible to put into words all that you were and will always be to me — I was always convinced you were more human than dog, and all of the countless lives you touched felt the same.

“Thank you for your unwavering belief in me, happy trails my friend!”

Animated Short: Dog movie wins an Oscar

If there’s any dog breed that could be described as an “animated short,” it has to be the Boston terrier.

So it’s fitting that a Boston Terrier — an animated animated Boston terrier — is the star of “Feast,” which won the Academy Award for animated short film Sunday night.

The Disney film depicts a relationship, over the years, between a voracious puppy named Winston and the young man who feeds him.

Through the miracles of animation, this paean to doghood didn’t take 12 years to make.

“Feast” was first-time nominee Patrick Osborne’s directorial debut.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the choice of breed for the film wasn’t taken lightly:

“Because Disney has a long tradition of animated canine superstars — Pluto, Goofy, pampered cocker spaniel Lady, Tramp and the 101 Dalmatians, among them — Osborne watched the studio’s films to make sure he wasn’t repeating a character. He also wanted a dog that wasn’t too big and that had a light-dark pattern that would make its movements more visible.

“The compact, intelligent Boston terrier — a.k.a. the American Gentleman, known for its amusing, bright and friendly personality — fit the bill.”

One of the story artists working on the film had Boston terriers, Osborne said, and brought them in so that their motions and behavior could be observed.

The movie chronicles Winston’s growth, and the coming of age of the boy who owns him.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we saw a puppy go through from being a young dog to grown up below the table as part of the family and enjoying these meals together?’” Osborne told The Times.

For $1.99 ($2.99 for HD) you can watch it in its six-minute entirety on YouTube.

Osborne said he grew up with dachshunds. “They are all gone now, but there is a little bit of them alive with the short, because of my memory of how they moved and acted.”

While he doesn’t have a dog now, he said he felt like he had one a dog during the year he worked on the film about Winston and his eating habits.

“I spent a lot of time with him,” Osborne said.

Filming begins for “Marshall the Miracle Dog”

The story of Marshall — an abused, bullied and neglected yellow Labrador who was rescued from an animal hoarder — is on its way to becoming a movie.

Shooting began this week in Edwardsville, Illinois, according to NewsChannel 5 (KDSK in St. Louis), which has been following Marshall’s story for four years.

Marshall was one of about 60 animals rescued from an animal hoarder by the Humane Society of Missouri in St. Louis.

He arrived there with a hole in his cheek, a leg so mangled it had to be amputated and other serious injuries.

Vets say is heart stopped three times on the operating table.

Humane Society officials credited his survival to his strong will to live, and they dubbed him the miracle dog.

Cynthia Willenbrock adopted Marshall, and wrote a children’s book about how he triumphed over the tragedies that confronted him.

The movie is based on that book, “Marshall the Miracle Dog.”

“It’s about that whole message of kindness to animals, kindness to each other, kindness in general,” said Willenbrock.

The movie, being shot mostly in Illinois, stars Shannon Elizabeth.

“I read the script and I fell in love. I was crying all through the script,” said the actress.

It also stars Max, a 1-year-old Lab playing the role of Marshall.

In addition to the book and movie, a school curriculum has been designed based on Marshall’s story, aimed at empowering high school juniors and seniors to serve as mentors to middle school and elementary students, passing along Marshall’s “five cornerstones” — empathy, strength, courage, kindness, and forgiveness.

The Ace Files: What to do when your dog won’t let his claws be trimmed

Ace was born and raised a city dog, and however mean one might consider the streets of Baltimore, they (and its sidewalks) always did a good job of keeping his claws filed down to a less than deadly length.

That was a good thing, because, when it comes to a toenail trim, Ace will have no part of it.

Groomers, vets and I have all attempted it, only to receive the clear message from him that — as much as he likes to have his paws played with, as much as he likes to hold hands — bringing any sort of grooming tool near his claws is a declaration of war.

Ace’s claws, for that very reason, have always been too long.

That poses problems, to himself and others. Ace is quick to shake hands, and sometimes does so unsolicited. In Baltimore, when he was working as a therapy dog, I feared he might inadvertenly and with all good intentions rip apart the small children reading to him, and I monitored him accordingly.

They were too long when we pulled out of the city, for a year-long, John Steinbeck-inspired tour of America. But by being constantly on the go, his claws remained at least at a tolerable length during our travels.

They were too long, despite daily walks around the block, after we ended up in Winston-Salem, N.C. and moved into the apartment of my birth.

ursula 053And since becoming a country dog, when we moved to a little house in tiny Bethania, N.C., they’ve only gotten worse — to the point they may now be described as a tad freakish, if not lethal weapons.

Once again, I went out and bought some expensive clippers, having  misplaced several old and never-used ones. But the latest attempt didn’t work either. No brand, no style, no method of claw trimming seems to work on Ace.

He doesn’t snarl, or bite, he just bucks and flails and, at 115 pounds, overpowers anyone attempting to trim his nails. What’s much scarier is the immense stress it seems to cause him. His heartbeat speeds up. He pants and drools and squirms. His eyes get a frightened look. Maybe I just imagine it, but he even starts to exude an odor. The smell of fear?

Once, back in Baltimore, I asked Ace’s vet to trim his nails. Ace resisted. The vet muzzled him and tried again. Ace resisted more. Then the vet called two burly men into the room to usher Ace upstairs.

From below, I heard the ruckus. It sounded like a professional wrestling match was underway, and about two minutes later they brought Ace back down, saying they’d been unable to accomplish the task — despite their muscles and whatever implements of restraint were upstairs.

It was concluded then that the only way to do it would be by sedating him. The idea of that scares me at least as much as how stressed he gets.

For my my most recent effort, I bought the most expensive professional nail clippers I could find. I let them lay around the living room for a week so Ace would get used to them. Then I recruited a friend, and had her feed him treats as I attempted the deed. Despite even that incentive, he balked. By the time it was over, I was almost fully sprawled atop him while whispering sweet nothings into his ear. He bucked me off, and not a single nail got trimmed. (Anybody need some expensive professional nail clippers?)

I described all that to Ace’s most recent veterinarian, here in North Carolina, at his check-up last month.

He suggested we start jogging on sidewalks. Then, seeing my reaction, he suggested I find a young and energetic friend to jog with Ace on sidewalks.

He also suggested a complete blood work-up that, in addition to checking for any health problems, might also help determine how well Ace would handle sedation.

We didn’t take him up on the second offer, deciding to wait until Ace turns 9 for that.

We did consider his  other suggestion — though not to the point of taking up jogging.

Since moving to historic Bethania, and having our own back yard, Ace doesn’t go for a walk every day. Bethania doesn’t have a lot in the way of sidewalks.  Three or four times a week we take a short walk — mostly on the street — to the little post office where I pick up  my mail. Two or three times a week we walk the dirt trail that meanders through Black Walnut Bottoms, behind the visitor center.

Once in a while, Ace will hear a hunter’s gunshot there, prompting him to turn around and head home. Ace also fears loud, cracking noises — anything from a bat hitting a ball to the crackle of the fireplace. His fears, as he grows older, seem to become more pronounced, but then maybe that’s true of all species. Whatever little fears we have turn into big looming nightmarish ones. Probably, there is a drug to help deal with that. But I am increasingly fearful of pharmaceuticals.

Given the lack of options, I decided Ace needed to spend more time pounding the pavement — and at a pace quicker than the slow one at which I prefer to move along.

So we took some of the vet’s advice, and reshaped it to fit our lifestyle (OK, my lifestyle). We headed down to the golf course where I work as a bartender a couple of nights a week. (Ace not having appeared in a movie in a while, I took my new camera along, too, to test out its video capabilities.)

I’m thinking of making it a twice-a-week routine. The mile-long trot seemed to make an immediate difference. His claws weren’t really any shorter, but they were much less sharp and pointy.

Ace slept great that night, but then he sleeps great every night, with only occasional scary dreams that makes his paws flutter as he emits little whimpers. I don’t think he’s chasing rabbits in his dreams. More likely, he’s running away from scary monsters that want to clip his nails.

(Ace has appeared in one professionally made movie, and several unprofessional ones. You can see some of the latter here.)

The shocking truth about elephant star

Movie star electric shocked from Animal Defenders on Vimeo.

Tai, the 42-year-old Asian elephant who stars in the new movie “Water for Elephants” may not have been harmed in the making of that particular film — but he learned the tricks he does in it by being repeatedly shocked with electricity, an animal welfare organization says.

Animal Defenders International said a six-year-old video of Tai being trained has been posted on the Internet, shows trainers administering electric shocks as they teach him tricks.

“Water for Elephants,” a romantic drama set in a 1930s-era American circus, stars Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson. It is premiering this month.

Tai, supplied by Have Trunk Will Travel of California, plays the role of Rosie, an elephant who is brutally attacked with a bull hook by by the circus owner.

The American Humane Association monitored production of the movie — and it, as well as the producers, stars, and trainers have said Tai was treated with nothing but kindness during the movie’s making.

A representative of the American Humane Association stated during the making of the movie, “all these animals have been treated fairly and humanely throughout the entire course of their training.”

Gary Johnson, a founder of Have Trunk Will Travel claimed: “Tai was never hit in any way at all,” according to ADI.

ADI, however, says video filmed at Have Trunk Will Travel in 2005 clearly shows Tai being shocked as part of his training.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI said: “We were uncomfortable with the message of this film, but the more we saw the repeated assertions that this elephant has been treated with love and affection and never been abused, we realized that we had to get the truth out. The public, the stars and the filmmakers have been duped. This poor elephant was trained to do the very tricks you see in the film by being given electric shocks.”

ADI said it was sending copies of the video to the film’s stars and makers.

“I believe that Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson will be horrified to learn what Tai went through,” Creamer said.

ADI has also contacted American Humane Association, urging them to re-evaluate how they assess the use of animals in films. ADI is also calling for a boycott of the film.

From “The Office” to the dog house

For all those wondering what Steve Carell would do after “The Office,” now we know: He has agreed to star in and co-produce a new movie about talking to a dog.

It may sound cutesy, but it’s not.

“Dogs of Babel” will be a film adaptation of the 2003 novel by Carolyn Parkhurst, described as a tragic story of love and loss, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Carell — pretty much a virgin when it comes to serious drama — will play a linguistic professor who comes home to find his wife dead in the backyard.

When the police rule the death an accident, the professor has some doubts, and he attempts to teach his dog Lorelei — the only witness – to talk, so he can learn about the final moments of his wife’s life.

“Sometimes love really is a bitch”

“My Dog Tulip” — J.R. Ackerley’s classic account of how a dog entered his life, stimulated his curiosity, broadened his horizons, and brightened his otherwise cranky golden years — is now out as an animated movie, and the book has been reissued in paperback.

“Unable to love each other, the English turn naturally to dogs,” the British writer wrote in what’s perhaps the most famous line of the 1956 book about the bond between dog and man.

“Sometimes love really is a bitch,” reads the tagline, updated for the times, of the new movie.

The movie came out late last summer, directed by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, who are also responsible for the hand-drawn animations that, on screen, are like a New Yorker cartoon come to life.

The film is narrated by Christopher Plummer, in the role of Ackerley, and also features the voice of Lynn Redgrave, who died in May and to whom the movie is dedicated. One review called it “the most sophisticated dog movie ever made.”

It tells the story of a lonely gay man who has all but given up on finding a longtime companion and “ideal friend” in the human world.

Enter Tulip, or, as was her name in real life, Queenie, a German shepherd Ackerley acquired from his neighbors when he was “quite over 50,” and with whom he would spend the next 15 years.

“She offered me what I had never found in my life with humans: constant, single-hearted, incorruptible, uncritical devotion, which it is in the nature of dogs to offer.”

Ackerley died in 1967, and though the book is now 55 years old, it retains a sense of freshness attributable to the fact that Queenie was his first dog. His keen observation of inter-species interaction is that of someone who just landed on the planet, as opposed to being an old hand with dogs.

“It seemed to me both touching and strange,” he says at one point, “that she should find the world so wonderful.”

We long-time dog lovers know exactly what he means. It’s what makes dogs so lovable — they see the world as wonderful, and, no matter how curmudgeonly we may be, they help us see it that way too.