Dog days

Net­flix docu-se­ries lov­ingly serves up the ca­nine-hu­man bond

The Day - - DAYBREAK - By LEANNE ITALIE

Ithese heated and oft-dif­fi­cult times, do we need dogs more than ever? Do we need to res­cue them, let them run free, ac­cept their pre­cious help with our most try­ing phys­i­cal chal­lenges and revel in their licks and lov­ing nudges?

Film­mak­ers Glen Zip­per and Amy Berg think ab­so­lutely yes. They worked to­gether on the new Net­flix Orig­i­nal docu-se­ries “Dogs,” avail­able now.

“We’re in un­de­ni­ably di­vi­sive times right now. We’re all search­ing for some­thing that ev­ery­one can agree on and dogs are prob­a­bly about as close to that as we get,” said Zip­per, who ex­ec­u­tive pro­duced the six-part pro­ject with Berg.

“My brother and I are on com­pletely op­po­site sides of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum,” he ex­plained, “but he’s got five dogs and I’ve got my dog, An­thony. We start talk­ing about the dogs and start feel­ing the love again.”

The se­ries is set around the globe, from sub­ur­ban Cincin­nati, Ohio, and the Lower East of Man­hat­tan to Italy’s Lake Como re­gion and the dan­ger­ous streets of Da­m­as­cus in Syria. There are hu­man he­roes, to be sure, but it’s the howl of Zeus and the watch­ful dili­gence of Ice, the com­mit­ment of curly-haired Rory and the undy­ing loy­alty of Max that drive these sto­ries.

The dogs them­selves take you to the brink, serv­ing to in­spire and uniquely frame the nearly hour-long chunks of sto­ry­telling set in lo­ca­tions and around cir­cum­stances cho­sen with the help of a cast­ing team, said Berg.

“We wanted to il­lus­trate the con­nec­tion be­tween all cul­tures with dogs and hu­mans, and the dog-hu­man love story,” Berg said.

There’s plenty of love, and none of some­thing in par­tic­u­lar that’s more of­ten than not a stan­dard in dog film fare through time: death. I re­peat. NO­BODY DIES. To heck with spoil­ers. No dog pro­tag­o­nists and no hu­mans, ei­ther. That isn’t to say that tears won’t be shed, in­clud­ing by you if you’re truly hu­man, and that peo­ple and dogs aren’t in dan­ger or sick or de­pressed.

Berg di­rected two of the episodes, in­clud­ing one fo­cused on Zeus, a Siberian husky with the mourn­ful cry of the breed. He’s trapped in Syria af­ter his mas­ter flees mil­i­tary ser­vice to Ger­many and that’s where their story be­gins. She was also at the helm of an episode that fol­lows a devoted Man­hat­tan an­i­mal res­cuer on a mis­sion to pro­vide sec­ond chances to 31 dogs from a Texas shel­ter, finding them homes around her city. The dogs have the names of fa­mous singers: Jimmy Buf­fett, Jay Z and Justin Tim­ber­lake, to name a few.

The other episodes were di­rected by a va­ri­ety of award-win­ning film­mak­ers, in­clud­ing one that uses drone footage to show us from above what it looks like to watch hun­dreds of for­mer street dogs race hap­pily along lush green hill­sides at a 300-acre sanc­tu­ary in Costa Rica, and the fi­nan­cial strug­gles in­volved to pro­vide them bet­ter lives.

An­other episode takes us into the world of com­pet­i­tive dog groom­ing. It fol­lows the jour­neys of two Ja­panese groomers, Miki in Hikone and Kenichi in Tokyo, to a com­pe­ti­tion in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia, as it re­flects on the Ja­panese cul­ture’s deep-rooted pas­sion for dogs as more

than just com­pan­ions, but chil­dren — let alone the unique style there of shap­ing dog hair into mas­ter­piece poofs with art­ful pre­ci­sion.

Kenichi is more than just a groomer. He whis­pers ador­ingly to his four-legged charges as he snips away, ac­knowl­edg­ing: “I'm not very good with peo­ple. I have a hard time talk­ing to them. But when it comes to dogs, I can com­mu­ni­cate well.”

Ser­vice dogs also rep­re­sent in the se­ries. One Ohio fam­ily wel­comes Rory into their lives to make life eas­ier for a young girl with epilepsy.

And that dog-hu­man bond? It's alive and well and liv­ing on a fish­ing boat in the tiny Lake Como vil­lage of San Gio­vanni, where Ice (he loves snow) and his man have been work­ing their nets for more than a decade, also serv­ing up their catches in the fam­ily restau­rant.

For Zip­per, the se­ries has brought him full cir­cle, to his own hu­man-dog bond with the now 16-year-old An­thony.

“For me, ‘Dogs' was a very per­sonal story. Be­fore I was a pro­ducer, I was a prose­cu­tor in Hud­son County, New Jersey, and I came across a stray pit bull puppy on the streets of Jersey City,” he said.

“That dog took me to the an­i­mal shel­ter, and I had never been in an an­i­mal shel­ter in my life. Once I was there, I was con­fronted by a world I didn't even know ex­isted. In a mat­ter of weeks, I had turned in my badge and started vol­un­teer­ing at an an­i­mal shel­ter. And a funny thing hap­pened. For the first time in my life, I was happy.”

NET­FLIX VIA AP

Dogs walk through a city street in the Net­flix documentary “Dogs,” stream­ing now.

NET­FLIX VIA AP

A scene from “Dogs”

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