A Howling Good Double Feature: Life in the Doghouse and Canine Soldiers: The Militarization of Love - Reviewed

According to the ASPCA, around 6.5 million pets are put into animal shelters in the United States every year. Out of those, about 1.5 million animals are euthanized and about 3.2 million find new homes. While the ASPCA maintains that this euthanization rate is a sharp decline from 2011's numbers (2.6 million dogs and cats euthanized in 2011), that's still a staggering number of animals that are simply tossed aside annually because people refuse to adopt. It's easy to become enamored with that puppy dog that stares at you through the glass at the pet store, or the new litter of puppies your neighborhood breeder is selling soon. But when compared with the staggering number of animals being simply dumped into shelters, whether from negligence or voluntary surrender, adoption would appear to be a much more noble endeavor.

In the ten years since they've started their rescue mission, Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta have saved more than 10,000 dogs who would have otherwise been left without a home- or worse, a life to live. Their lives and work are immortalized with the heartwarming and sometimes tearjerking documentary Life in the Doghouse, which follows the two around the country as they take their van around in search for lost and needy dogs. Their shelter is based entirely in a standard household, and their daily duties in caring and looking after each dog they rescue is told in tremendous detail. 

Life in the Doghouse also goes into some personal details about the two men's lives and how they came to shape them into who they are and what they do today. Dogs can be some of the best and most faithful companions we'll ever have, and have been scientifically proven to be effective at aiding in depression and anxiety. Adopting a dog can just be another step in that kind of self-fulfillment- knowing that you rescued a helpless creature and took them in as your own can give you an indescribable sense of happiness that can't be found almost anywhere else. They help shrug off the bad things in life and look forward to the good- and this doc does plenty to ensure that you have enough dogs on the screen to remain content for at least the next few hours. Recommended to watch with your pup- it's streaming on Netflix now.

Canine Soldiers: The Militarization of Love

At a brisk 58 minutes, Canine Soldiers gives a relatively thorough and in-depth view at the extensive amounts of training and trials that military dogs go through before being selected for active duty. According to the doc, only 50% of dogs put into military training are actually accepted into active duty, and after seeing the rigorous amounts of legwork these animals have to go through to get to that position, it's not hard to understand why.

But it's not just about the training segments. Canine Soldiers also goes into detail about the mental impact that assisting in wars can have on our canine counterparts, some even suffering from PTSD symptoms after coming back from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a modernized world of IED's and landmines, trained military dogs have become invaluable in detecting live explosives before troops can set them off unawares. 

It becomes clear that, as the soldiers train and improve and evolve over time with their strategies and knowledge, so do these dogs. The documentary tries to convey a kind of coexisting transformation that both dog and trainer-soldier undergo when put through the wringer, and if you didn't already appreciate everything dogs can and do do for us, then this will probably kindle a newfound admiration for them that you never thought of before.

-Wes Ball