Pick of the Litter, a new documentary that follows a litter of puppies on their journey to become guide dogs, shows the complex process of preparing dogs for the ultimate responsibility.
The film follows five puppies, Poppet, Phil, Patriot, Potomac, and Primrose, over the course of two years, as they are trained to become guide dogs for the blind. The film was directed by Don Hardy Jr. and Dana Nachman, the team behind Batkid Begins.
The five Labrador puppies face the rigorous challenge that many dogs ultimately fail. The documentary, which premiered at Slamdance in January, is scheduled for release on August 31. The film recounts how several blind people were saved by guide dogs from speeding cars, steep staircases, and even the 78th floor of a World Trade Center tower on September 11, 2001.
The five black-and-tan Labs were born at the San Rafael, California, Guide Dogs for the Blind campus, and began their training immediately after birth. After eight weeks, they were sent to “puppy raiser” families who foster them while they undergo 16 months of socialization and preparation for the task at hand.
Only a few are assigned to the blind. Patriot is a bit mischievous and is given to an Iraq vet suffering from PTSD. Phil is transferred to a fixer for “problem dogs.” After being fostered, the remaining dogs go back to campus for 10 weeks of “formal guide work” with a staffer who wears a blindfold to test how the dogs react to obstacles, traffic, and verbal commands.
The successful graduates are paired with one of the 1,100 applicants that request a guide dog each year. The film ultimately shows the many reasons that dogs truly are man’s best friend, there through thick and thin.
Guide Dogs for the Blind has campuses in San Rafael, California, and Boring, Oregon. Founded in 1942 by Lois Merrihew and Don Donaldson to help veterans blinded in World War II, the organization has roughly 2,000 guide dog teams across the United States and Canada.
The first dog to graduate from the program was a rescued German Shepherd named Blondie, who was matched with Sgt. Leonard Foulk. Today, Guide Dogs for the Blind is the largest guide dog school in the United States, providing services to blind and visually impaired individuals from the United States and Canada at no charge.
Guide Dogs for the Blind is a nonprofit organization supported entirely by private donations. It receives no government funding and donors can contribute through general contributions, bequests, grants, memorial and honor donations, charitable remainder trusts and other planned giving options.
For more information, visit www.guidedogs.com.