"For those of us who understand what it is to know and love a dog, this makes perfect sense. There is something miraculous about the dog’s interaction with the world, driven by instinct and biological need, often in direct conflict with our socialized, sterilized lives. To watch them exist, and be part of their existence, makes us pay closer attention to the world. There is intimacy in handling another creature’s excrement.
Film rarely addresses the baser aspects of animal companionship; when I polled my friends for memorable movie dogs, the most common answers were Benji, Old Yeller, or the gang from Homeward Bound. These are noteworthy canines, touchstones for a particular kind of movie manipulation (read: tears), but they’re a bit too sappy for my taste. I’m interested in something deeper, something that may seem silly or overwrought to people who don’t have animals in their lives. I’m talking silver screen love stories between human beings and their dogs, the deep connection that makes holding a baggie full of shit an act of love. What follows are not necessarily the most famous or most lauded dogs on film, but a few of my personal favorites, the human-dog relationships that ring most true.
Spoiler alert: the dog dies.
Maybe not on film, maybe not immediately after the credits roll, but always, eventually, the dog will die. That’s the thing about falling in love with a creature with a creature whose lifespan is 1/8th our own. We always know how this story is going to end.”
(illustration by Hallie Bateman)