Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends posted a trailer for a documentary on her FB wall. It looked intriguing. So last night, I decided it would be worth watching.
The documentary, Life in he Doghouse, follows the life of Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta, two experts in equestrian dressage training who developed a passion for rescuing – and adopting out to good homes – over 10,000 new fosters, at the time this movie was made.
These aren’t just your typical cute puppies and custom boutique breeds – Danny and Ron travel to dozens of shelters around their native South Carolina, picking up as many of the most unloved or unwanted or unclaimed animals that they can.
For example, they will take as many dogs from kill shelters as they can, knowing that the only option for these dogs is rescuing them Saturday or they don’t live past Sunday. They’ve saved breed dogs and poorly bred dogs from puppy mills, frightened and emotionally unstable dogs from hoarding situations, and dogs that were previously abandoned, surrendered or dumped at shelters.
There’s even a scene where in the film where Danny and Ron rescue and repatriate nearly 600 dogs who were left behind in the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina – at that time, rescuers were saving humans, and were told to leave the dogs behind.
While watching this film, I texted one of my friends – who I knew had rescued dogs and who had saved those animals from a life of dread and gave them a life of respect – and suggested that she watch this film. She texted back and said that she had been advised that there are some scenes in the film where dogs do not come out alive and that it would be upsetting to watch. So I agreed to watch the film from front to back for her and let her know what’s going on.
And there is one scene in the film that is very startling – but it’s important to see.
At one point in the movie, Danny and Ron visit an underground kill shelter, where the animals are brought to them one by one – and if they don’t take the animals right then and there, the dogs would be put down after the two left. They had planned to save six dogs from that kill shelter; they drove home with fifteen. But after that, there’s a scene where a white pickup truck pulls up to the kill shelter, and euthanized dogs are dumped into the truck’s bed. A few moments later, the truck drives to an open grave, where the dogs are dumped like unwanted trash. This occurs at about 56:00 of the film, so if this makes you uncomfortable – and it should – you know when to fast forward.
But through the film, Danny and Ron make it clear that there are so many important things to know about dogs. They stress that it makes no sense for a family to acquire a puppy that would “grow up” with their kids; a five-year-old dog will bond with a family in two days or less. Dogs should be spayed or neutered as soon as possible; and that puppy mills are atrocious. They explain that 99% of the puppies you see at the shopping mall pet stores are bred from puppy mills, where dogs sit in rabbit cages their entire life and are force-bred to produce puppies – which, in turn, are taken away from their mother before they’ve finished weaning.
The film also discusses how Danny and Ron’s rescue is not exactly a financial goldmine – Danny at one point has to take out an equity loan against their house just to keep their staff paid, and that they judiciously search for sales on online pet store products, because their animals do eat and poop as often as your dog does.
There’s also plenty of hardship at the dog rescue – and there is a scene where one of the dogs, who had survived several tumors, was in the final stages of his life. Danny and Ron wrestle with the concept of allowing the dog to life a full life against having the dog life a life without pain. And in the end, they have to give the dog one final day at the veterinarian – they hug the poor dog, they give it a blanket, and slowly the dog’s final day is complete.
At times, the documentary is heartwarming and sad and inspiring and joyful and funny and scary. All the things you want a documentary to contain.
If you want to find out more about Danny and Ron’s Rescue in South Carolina – including adopting a dog from the facility, or to donate to the cause – visit this website for more information.
And definitely watch Life in the Doghouse on Netflix. It is a very entertaining watch. Especially when you see dogs from the opening moments – including a stubby-legged puppy named Moose – grow to maturity in a new home with a new forever family.