The documentary ‘Pick of the litter’ follows five Labrador puppies – Patriot, Phil, Poppet, Potomac and Primrose as they undergo training to become guide dogs for the blind.
It begins with a prologue in which sight-challenged persons recall how guide dogs saved their lives — from speeding cars and even the 78th floor of a World Trade Center tower. The two aspirants who need guide dogs are shown next – a partially sighted working woman and a man who lost vision early in his childhood. Both are buoyed with the adventures that a guide dog will bring into their lives.
The reality show like template comes to fore here and the camera follows the ‘P litter’ right from their birth all the way through to the 20 months of training.
The trainers also have a euphemism for pups who miss out on making as a guide dog —“career-changed”. These dogs become a pet or a parent to future guide dogs.
Whether or not the pups graduate adds a tint of drama into the narrative. This suspense is interwoven into the narrative and you’d be holding your breath as the pups undergo tests like avoiding traffic.
Unlike police dogs or anti-terror dogs, guide dogs aren’t only taught to obey commands, but also to disobey them. They need to exercise judgment against their human’s wishes so as to save their lives. Over the course of the documentary, it is shown how handlers train the dogs to disobey when they are given orders like marching onto the traffic.
It is awe-inspiring to see how many humans help at every stage of this journey – volunteers, foster families, trainers, and vets. Their heartache and delight in seeing their pup’s journey to help improve the life of a visually challenged person make for riveting viewing.
Complement this with watching is Quill, the Life of a guide dog (2004)
Dogs are special. They fill us up with unbridled joy and happiness – whether as a friendly doggo at work, a beloved pet or a working dog. Pick of the litter pays glowing tributes to these amazing pooches who go on to be the brightness in a life threatened by darkness.
Pick of the Litter is a wonderful reminder of the extraordinary relationships we have with our dogs. This uplifting, big-hearted celebration of the unique bond between humans & dogs deserves to be seen. After all, they are all good dogs and deserve all the love!
Guide Dogs for the Blind program began in 1942 to aid blinded soldiers back from World War II. Every year they train and match their guide dogs among some 1,100 applicants.