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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Dog movie ‘sniffs’ out service animals’ lives

    If it had gone the route of a traditional documentary, the audience for “”Sniff the Dog Movie”” would have been more limited. But, by including the story within the story, director Barry Stone greatly expanded his audience.

    The camera follows two British actors employed as concierges of a fancy dog hotel in San Francisco and their quest to make a movie about the dogs they encounter.

    “”Sniff,”” which will be playing at The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St., on Saturday and Sunday, is anything but traditional. With the “”making-of”” aspect of the story, a conflict emerges between the two concierges, who can’t agree on their film’s focus. Should zany, skateboard-riding, pool-inhabiting dogs get the limelight? Or should the heroic occupations of search-and-rescue and guide dogs take the cake?

    “”By the end of the film, (the concierges) become more in tune with each other, and it takes on a serious tone,”” Stone said. “”We’ve made it entertaining so that we can bring this issue that pet owners have and what it’s like to be a service dog to a broader audience.””

    This is not Stone’s first attempt to get inside the mind of a dog.

    “”I made a film in 1979 called ‘Dog,'”” Stone said. “”It was seven minutes long and about what a dog’s thinking while trying not to be anthropomorphic. So often, in movies, dogs are like little people with fur.””

    And particularly in “”Sniff,”” making dogs seem human-like is the opposite of the goal. The stories of Mikey the guide dog and Gabby the search-and-rescue dog are told organically and with respect for the animals themselves. Indeed, the press release lists Mikey and Gabby right alongside Neil Morrissey and Amanda Plummer, the human stars of the film.

    “”I’m kind of a believer that the universe will give you what you really want,”” Stone said. “”We got the best dogs.””

    Both Mikey and Gabby were raised and trained to be guide dogs at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, Calif., but it soon became clear that Gabby was too rambunctious for the job.

    “”She’d pull a blind person over,”” Stone said.

    So, better suited for search and rescue, Gabby was relocated.

    With Mikey and Gabby’s stories told in parallel with that of the concierges’ filmmaking, documentary and fiction blend to create a hybrid fitting for the topic.

    “”The overall goal is to bring an awareness of service dogs to a broader audience,”” Stone said.

    Fittingly, 10 percent of proceeds from this weekend’s DVD sales will go to Hope Animal Shelter, Tucson’s only no-kill shelter for dogs and cats.

    “”Sniff”” also features an audio-descriptive track, which makes the film more accessible to blind moviegoers.

    “”What’s great is that blind community members come and bring their guide dogs,”” Stone said. “”They wouldn’t otherwise necessarily come.””

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