North Van filmmakers trace the lives of man's best friend
Given that her previous documentaries delved into RCMP scandals, gang violence and mental disorders, North Vancouver’s Helen Slinger wasn’t completely surprised by the skepticism she was sometimes met with when telling people that her next film would be about dogs.
She laughs, “I did get some funny looks.”
However, Dog Dazed, which is produced by Maureen Palmer, also of North Van, quickly reveals itself to be something considerably more rigorous than a glorified YouTube clip of canine antics. Its 44 minutes are loaded with unique insights into the widespread impact dogs have on our lives and the world around us. Vancouver viewers will be particularly interested to learn the effect that off-leash dogs are having on Stanley Park’s heron population.
“I wanted to send the message that you have to be mindful of your impact,” says Slinger, a longtime dog owner. “To me, it’s an environmental story.”
Slinger’s own wake-up call came a couple of years ago when she found herself balking at new leash regulations around the environmentally sensitive Capilano watershed.
“I truly did wake up the next morning as if a thunderclap had gone off,” she recalls of her misplaced priorities. “I’d been willing to trade all sorts of deeply held values for my dog’s freedom and my pleasure.”
Quite aware that dog owners don’t always respond well to criticism, Slinger ensures that Dog Dazed’s tone remains light, interspersing finger-wagging with charming vignettes and fascinating revelations, including the fact that dogs trigger the same bonding chemical in us as babies.
“[I want] people to have a version of the experience that I did... Just seeing your behaviour in a way that isn’t shaming,” says the filmmaker. “We all know that we can be incredibly self-centred. We have these blind spots where we can rationalize our behaviour. I wanted people to be able to laugh about that and maybe think about changing.”
Dog Dazed premieres on CBC’s Doc Zone March 21 at 9 p.m. Repeated on CBC News Net Saturday, March 23 at 11 p.m. and again Sunday, March 24 at 6 pm.
- by Curtis Woloshuck