Christina Thomas and Samantha Wishman–co-directors of “Free Puppies!,” a documentary examining the scenario in which rescue dogs are regularly transported from the South to the North for adoption, but probes deeper into why the South is a repository for so many homeless dogs—describe their filmmaking experience prior to “Puppies!,” their feature-length debut. That experience includes Wishman directing a short, entitled “The Pitch,” that starred Thomas. Wishman recounts the genesis of “Free Puppies!,” notably her mom adopting a dog (after being dissuaded by Wishman from buying from a breeder), and in that process, seeing a transport truck hauling 80 dogs from the South. Wishman found that sight striking, and felt the same way about the driver’s comment that she makes that same trek, with 80 more dogs aboard, every week. This piqued Wishman’s curiosity, she says, spurring her to ask more questions, conduct research and delve into the confluence of factors that yield this sprawling cluster of homeless dogs. Although the practice of transporting rescue dogs due north has existed for many years, it would appear that the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is viewed as the pivotal launching point for the current phenomenon. This investigatory journey also led to realizing a cadre of remarkable women—exemplified by Monda Wooten, who owns a flooring store, but whose passion is chiefly canine—are working tirelessly to look after these dogs, extract them from dire circumstances, get them spayed or neutered, finding homes for them, or booking them on the next transport to do so. Wishman and Thomas speak to my observation that there seems to be formidable challenges to mitigating this long-term pooch predicament, including on cultural and financial levels—one area profiled in the film has long lacked a county animal shelter, because it’s long lacked the resources to operate one. The duo also address the decision to have “Free Puppies!” screen in theaters. (https://www.freepuppies.us, https://www.instagram.com/wefreepuppies/)
ALSO: I spoke briefly with Fred Metzler, owner of the Dog Bar, in St. Petersburg—which Metzler described as, essentially, dog park with a full bar, and which was slated to hold an event on Aug. 5 called “Barks For Sharks”: a party tied to “Shark Week”–but also aiming to raise awareness of the horrors of the shark fin trade. This is connected to the ongoing campaign to end that trade by Oceana, an organization devoted to protecting the oceans and its inhabitants with scientific measures. Metzler said proceeds from “Barks For Sharks” would be directed toward Oceana (https://oceana.org). He also outlines the activities on tap (as it were) for that event, including a Dog-Shark Costume Contest, music provided by DJ Danny Vintage, Sharky Jell-O shots, a food truck on hand, shark movies playing on the Dog Bar TVs, and more. (https://dogbarstpete.com, https://www.facebook.com/DogBarStPete, https://www.instagram.com/dogbarstpete/)
COMEDY CORNER: Brian Regan’s “Animals” (https://brianregan.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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