Don Hardy, co-director of “Pick of the Litter”

Don Hardy—co-director of the new documentary feature, “Pick of the Litter,” which tracks a litter of puppies from birth as they travel the challenging path in pursuit of becoming a guide dogs for the blind — recalls the pre-film history he and co-director Dana Nachman had with Guide Dogs for the Blind, having done brief news pieces covering the organization. Then, some years later—while kicking around full-length film ideas, Hardy says– someone came up with the notion of chronicling the story of one litter as they undergo the long journey from prospective guide dogs to (in some cases) those who end up paired with a blind or visually impaired person. Hardy outlines the key story lines that propel “Pick of the Litter,” noting that while dogs were the film’s focus, humans—including puppy raisers, trainers, and assorted Guide Dogs for the Blind staffers—sometimes occupy the center of the narrative. Hardy discusses breeding: Guide Dogs for the Blind puppies are carefully bred, as the film makes clear, and I ask Hardy to address the topic that often surfaces on “Talking Animals”: with the shelters overflowing and countless dogs available for adoption, some wonder why guide dogs, Canine Companions for Independence and others—who meticulously breed dogs for that work, yet only see a success rate of around 40-50%…why couldn’t they select a segment of carefully-screened shelter dogs (particularly Labs) undertake the same kind of training, and perhaps fare just as well? The conversation also touches on “intelligent disobedience”—wherein these highly-trained dogs possess the judgment to ignorea command, like when a car unexpectedly rolls through a crosswalk that a guide dog and its human were about to step into—the process of naming a litter, like the one depicted in the film (and, specifically, how the relaxed, folksy traits attributed to a person named “Phil” materialized in the dog with that name), and how the documentary has generated highly positive reviews in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and other prominent publications. “Pick of the Litter” has been screening at an increasing number of theaters across the country; it’s due at the Tampa Theatre on Sept 29. (https://www.pickofthelittermovie.com, https://www.facebook.com/PickOfTheLitterDoc/)

COMEDY CORNER: Joe Zimmerman’s   “Animal Attacks”  (http://www.zimmermancomedy.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.

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About the author
Duncan Strauss is the producer-host of “Talking Animals,” which he launched at KUCI in California in 2003, combining his passions for animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy. The show has aired since late 2005 on Tampa’s WMNF. Strauss lives in Jupiter Farms, FL with his family, including four cats, two horses and one dog. He spends each day talking to those animals, and maintains they talk right back to him, an as yet unverified claim.

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