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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Geralyn Pezanoski
Film Movement 01/10 DVD/VHS Documentary
"Having a good dog is the closest some of us will ever come to knowing the direct love of mother, or God," spiritual writer Anne Lamott has observed. She is right, for many of us, our pets are more than our best friends; they are companions on our spiritual journeys with much to teach us.
During the evacuation of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, thousands of residents were ordered to leave their animals behind. They weren't allowed on the buses or in the shelters. It is estimated that over 150,000 pets died during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, which followed just a few weeks later. Animal activists from around the country organized rescue operations for the dogs and cats and other pets; many were found inside flood-ravaged homes with no food or fresh water. When there was no more room for the rescues in the area, they were shipped to various shelters around the country. Over 15,000 pets were shipped out, and many were then adopted into new families. This humane and engaging documentary directed by Geralyne Pezanoski explores this tragedy and the complications that ensued when dog guardians returned to New Orleans and were unable to locate their beloved companions. Or, when they found them, the new families would not return them.
The filmmaker presents the emotional stories of Malvin Cavalier, an elderly man who desperately misses his poodle-mix Bandit; Victor, who can't understand why his dog Max, found with his tags and address, hasn't been sent back to him; Gloria, an elderly nurse who enlists the help of many people to search for her black lab, Murphy; and Jesse who runs into countless setbacks and heartbreaks as first he finds his dog J.J., then learns he has been adopted, and then can't get the shelter to tell him where he is. Another woman is bluntly told that her German Shepherd is better off with his new family.
Pezanoski also presents the other side of the story with segments on those who adopted these dogs in other states and have bonded with them. The central moral question is, who has the best interests of the dogs? And what role does race and class play in this story? Who gets to say where the dogs belong?
Our hearts go out to the original guardians and the energy and emotions they spend during the years after Katrina trying to find their beloved companions. Since they don't have the financial resources to track down their dogs, it's a true blessing when volunteers step in to help them. One of these is a woman in British Columbia who takes it upon herself to track down Malvin's Bandit and have him returned to his home. She is present for the joyous reunion, a moment that will warm the heart of anyone who sees it.
Special features on the DVD include "Mine: Surprise reunion footage".
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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