By Hyun O’Brien
I have an unusually soft, keen spot for dogs. When I saw that the annual Miami International Film Festival was featuring a film with a dog, ``Darling Companion,” it was a no-brainer to go to the event.
This film, a Hollywood feature, was a bit of an outlier for the festival, which usually showcases independent films, but it featured personal appearances by Kevin Kline and others involved in the making of the movie, including the dog, which sounded like fun.
We marveled at the interior of the Olympia Theater, built in 1926 in the grand old style of movie palaces and one of the many venues for the festival. We had seen Kline doing Shakespeare in the Park some years back, and enjoyed his comic gift in ``A Fish Called Wanda.” The well-known writer and director Lawrence Kasdan came on stage along with Kline to welcome the audience to the viewing. All this was fun, but the best part was to see the dog star on stage ― and of course he stole all the attention from the human celebrities.
The ``darling companion” in the movie was a stray dog who was adopted by a couple, and whose disappearance from their mountain home and the resulting search for him provided the main action of the movie. I was genuinely sorry not to get to know the dog better. The film did not really establish or develop the character of the dog or show the depth of the relationship that caused the despair of the heroine upon her pet’s disappearance. It was a disappointing effort.
This year’s Oscar winner`` The Artist,” a film set in Hollywood during the end of the silent era and the beginning of talkies also featured a dog, much more successfully. The charming character and personality of the dog Uggie, a Jack Russell terrier, and his loving relationship with his owner, was fully developed. I am certain that their tender relationship deepened and increased people’s fondness for that film. I personally thought Uggie should have been the Oscar winner.
As I said, I’m always a sucker for dogs. Even the silly TV series “Lassie” always catches my attention and stirs up something warm inside me when I catch a rerun. Stories of faithful dogs ― Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye terrier who became famous in 19th century Edinburgh for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died himself, or the similar story of Hachiko in Tokyo (made into the 2009 film ``Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” starring Richard Gere) ― all choke me with emotion.
We have two ``darling companions,” both Papillions. Lappi is now 14 and Ziggy is 11. We cannot imagine living without them, even though at times they limit our comings and goings and give us great shock, concern and pain when they are sick or injured. Ziggy is a nervous dog, anxious about everything. He hides whenever there is thunder and lightning and trembles at any loud noise. His nervousness brings out in me a strong sense of protection and mothering instinct.
However, I am rewarded amply by his thoughtfulness and attentiveness. Whenever the telephone rings or someone knocks at our apartment door, or if my husband calls me from a different part of our apartment, he rouses himself up even from sound sleep to come to my side to make sure that I know of this happening and do something about it. The other day we left Lappi outside our door, mistakenly thinking he had come back in from our outing. Ziggy whined and whined at the door until I came to check what the problem was. His delight at being reunited with Lappi was quite visible.
Whenever the four of us are out taking a walk I tend to lag behind, and it is Ziggy who comes back again and again to check that I am still there. Lappi, on the other hand, is a totally secure dog. Nothing seems to faze him. He is quiet most of the time but when we return from a long absence (which for a dog may be a matter of hours), his character changes completely ― he circles around and around madly and yelps with relief at seeing us again.
As Roger Caras said: “We derive immeasurable good, uncounted pleasures, enormous security, and many critical lessons about life by owning dogs. Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.”
I wish all the people in the world could experience at least once the joy of being with dogs and know what it is like to be greeted by them with total abandon. May the loyalty and devotion of our canine friends be a lesson to us all!
Hyon O'Brien is a former reference librarian now living in the United States. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.