Thursday March 21, 2013 AT 9:00 PM on CBC-TV
Saturday March 23 at 11 pm on CBC News Network
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Canada’s dog population has doubled over the past decade. And, with 84 million dogs now sharing public space with human beings across the continent, conflicts over canines are breaking out all over urban North America. As boomers age and millennials stall on starting families, our demographics are going to the dogs. There are now more households with dogs than kids, and that means that the canine has clout. Otherwise intelligent and reasonable human beings turn rabid when anyone criticizes their dog or attempts to limit his freedom. Non-dog owners, forced to defend their increasingly limited turf, howl in protest.
In DOG DAZED, filmmaker Helen Slinger (listen to an interview from The Current) wades into both camps and drills deep to discover what’s fueling this insanity. With a light touch, she reveals the social and environmental impact of these furry family members. Beginning with the obvious - North American dogs deposit some 30 thousand tons of poop daily - through vicious fights over off-leash parks, to desperate bird lovers guarding precious nesting sites, Slinger takes us on a battlefield tour of the frontlines in North America’s dog wars.
“I got the idea for this film after going to a meeting to personally protest limiting my own dog’s off-leash freedom in a nearby watershed,” says Slinger. “Woke up the next morning very embarrassed that somehow I’d forgotten about the environment. Oops! A classic example of human myopia – always rich territory for a documentary.”
DOG DAZED marries classic documentary storytelling with animation created by two-time Oscar nominee Cordell Barker (The Cat Came Back) to straddle the line between send-up and serious journalism. Winnipeg-based Cordell Barker: “I think we ended up with a film that’s a terrific blend of eye-opener and entertainment. I tried to capture the goofy free-spirited quality of a dog just being a dog. If I was a dog owner I might have attempted to engender all kinds of anthropomorphic personality to the dog but, since I've never owned one myself, it allowed me the distance and perspective to view the dog as a simple stimulus response creature - not so unlike ourselves.”
DOG DAZED digs down into the science of why we’re so dazed by dogs with best-selling author Alexandra Horowitz (Inside of a Dog). Horowitz calls “explosive” the combination of the dog’s olfactory (smell) prowess and its unique ability to read us. “Dogs wind up being expert readers of our attention and it all starts with eye contact. They’re looking us in the eyes in the way no other animal is, no other domesticated animal and no wild animal. And then they seem to have learned how we’re using our eyes.”
And since science has now proven that we get a hormone rush when we look into our dog’s eyes, similar to what we experience looking at a human baby, it’s small wonder that people will go to the wall for their dogs, valuing them more than wildlife and more than the neighbours.
DOG DAZED crisscrosses the continent, introducing viewers to a fascinating cast of eclectic dog lovers – a couple who share their bed with a 220 pound Mastiff; a couple who went for legal joint custody – of their dog; a woman who will be interred with her dog. Viewers will also be catapulted into the middle of skirmishes between dog lovers and non-dog people in Vancouver, San Francisco and Toronto – where the fight over a tiny off-leash park had people at each other’s throats and cost the city more than $100,000.
We also see some out-of-the-box solutions to the tons of poop - from DNA testing dogs at a housing complex to turning dog doo into electricity. And from New York City, world-famous theatrical dog trainer Bill Berloni (Annie, The Wizard of Oz, Legally Blonde) shares tips on choosing the right dog to reduce conflict – for you and the dog.
DOG DAZED celebrates our love affair with canines and encourages a new relationship that values the environment, and the neighbours, as much as the dog.
DOG DAZED is written and directed by Helen Slinger and produced by Maureen Palmer and Helen Slinger for Bountiful Films in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.