Have you ever passed a guide dog on the street and wondered what was involved in their training? Curious about the process that occurs between the time a dog is a puppy up until the moment they graduate and go on to help their human partner? Well you are not alone. In fact, it was these very questions that inspired Don Hardy and Dana Nachman to create their newest documentary Pick of the Litter. We sat down with Don to learn more about the making of the movie and some of the things that he learned along the way.
This documentary follows a litter of puppies from Guide Dogs for the Blind, emphasizing the highs and lows involved with training guide dogs. It is clear from the film that the path is not as straight forward as many would think and that in the end all dogs weren’t cut out for guiding. Don mentioned in the interview that even they, “had no idea which dogs were going to make it and what was going to happen”. He believes that they did a good job passing this on to audiences as during screenings many, “people started rooting for their favourite dogs.”
Although there were many things that Don learned while making this film, one of the things that surprised him the most was the community and “how many hands touch these dogs on their quest.” He was particularly astounded by the volunteer puppy raisers who he said, “were the real heroes in this.” “These families love the dogs and have to go through the heartbreak of turning them in. But they do it knowing that if the dogs are successful, they will go out and do amazing things for a person who are visually-impaired.”
The film has been recognized at many film festivals including Hot Docs, Slamdance, as well as been given an audience choice award at both the Omaha and Cinequest Film Festivals. Don mentions what is so great about this movie is that it can be enjoyed by those of all ages and “for about ninety-minutes can take away some of the problems of the world and just surround you with a story that is good, honest and doesn’t have a political agenda. It can just be a fun time at the movies.”
Pick of the Litter is available on Netflix (in Canada), Hulu, Amazon, Microsoft, iTunes and many other streaming services listed on the website. A feel-good, yet educational film, Don says Pick of the Litter is, “people doing good for each other, using animals as the connective tissue. It really doesn’t get any better than that.”
Special note: After conducting this interview, Don reached out to tell us about some exciting news. Pick of the Litter is now being turned into a documentary series for Disney+. The series will follow a new group of dogs and their human companions on their quests and will expand on several elements that were only glimpsed at in the film. The series will premiere on Disney+ in December. Check out the announcement and don’t forget to check out this docuseries this winter.