Summer Documentary: ONE NATION UNDER DOG

By Jef Dinsmore on Jun 19, 2012 to Documentaries

Every Monday night for the next seven weeks HBO will premiere a different documentary film in an annual summer series. Each film will depict something totally different from the next. The first one premiered last night (06.018.12). HBOWatch has already provided a detailed preview of it so I am going to comment a bit differently about it. This post and the others that will appear after each documentary premieres will be a gut reaction response to the topic featured.

Overview: When I first saw the poster for this documentary I focused on a dog, a healthy looking canine and then the show’s title ONE NATION UNDER DOG. I thought it rather odd that HBO would offer an ode to man’s best friend or a history of various breeds. That sounded like something for Animal Planet not HBO. And then I took a second look at the poster and noticed the subtitle. It reads “A TALE OF FEAR, LOSS AND BETRAYAL. At that point the fence shown between the dog and the viewer pops out more prominently. The connotation now changes from one of “the pup safe in its yard” to one of “this dog is imprisoned.”  Now that sounded like an HBO documentary.

Expectations:  The title defines my expectations. I want to feel fear, loss and betrayal by the time this piece is over. I strongly suspect with the stories that are to be told that I won’t feel to jolly by the time this documentary is done. That is OK with me; I want programs to move me. My ‘review’ of this piece will all hinge on how well I am emotionally caught up in the film.  

Gut reaction: Bow wow WOW! I not only felt fear, loss and betrayal but also, anger, hurt, shame, disgust and sadness. It was a powerful message told in eight stories about life with dogs. It also added statistics and quotes from famous people to complete a concept that make my emotions run rampant.

But, just sticking to the three segments in the film, we start with FEAR. It was intended to be the fear humans should have for certain dangerous dogs. Clearly, there are such animals out there but as lower animals than we they need controlled and disciplined and tended. Those types of dogs take more time and training to make them suitable. I believe that all dogs with the proper training, even the Ridgebacks and the Pitbulls can be trained to be more docile. I’m sure I would get great argument on that point.

LOSS was the theme that is most humorous in this film because of the segment on the cloned dog was played so light-heartedly. I was OK with this segment. Everyone handles loss and grief in their own fashion. As a person who has had one dog or another every year of my life I can relate to the sentiment of dogs being a part of the family. So, I can understand the counseling and the cemeteries. The cloning, however, was an extreme instance that again played for levity.

You need the levity before seeing the third segment called BETRAYAL. Dogs as companions and workers have not failed us. Mankind as failed in being loyal and helpful to them. The images and sounds of waning howls of gassed canines will stay with you for a while. The film leaves me with a feeling that mankind is poor at being stewards, but that there is still hope and second chances for some dogs out there thanks to the angles who rescue and the families who adopt.

In Conclusion: I suppose there are some who might not be fazed by this documentary, though they are likely never to watch it anyway. There are those that believe that all “lower” animals, including dogs, are just natural resources to be used. And there are those, like me, who value all of them as lives that have a place. The filmmakers and HBO have delivered a powerful message about some of the not so nice relationships humans have with dogs. I encourage you to watch ONE NATION UNDER DOG: TALES OF FEAR, LOSS AND BETRAYAL on HBO or HBOGO, but be prepared for a rollercoaster ride of emotions far beyond the ones of the subtitle.

  • Jimmie Speed

    After watching this movie I believe Owning a dog should be as extensive as having a child or owning a gun. Background check, psychological check etc. 2 million of these poor creatures are being gassed or killed by lethal injection annually.

    This is most egregious and the fact is repeat offenders are not targeted and met with any justice. While I don’t believe in animals as human being I do believe they are a very communicative and sense things on a evolutionary level attached to humans.

    This explains the obsession and love for dogs in America. I am glad that someone is on the front line in rescue, adoption and info about neglect and overall care. This is a National epidemic and shows the sickness of our nation. That scene where they gassed those poor dogs while they screamed for their lives was too much…….

    Then they put other live puppies on top of the dead bodies and murdered them also. Their screams were even louder.

    • Jef Dinsmore

      The gassing scene was certainly the hardest moment to take in in the film. Our abuse of the planet and ALL its inhabitants is appalling.

  • Kim

    I watched the the show it was sad but brought the reality of what really goes on in unwanted animals. I have been working in the animal field for 21 years and started out in a humane society it was a hard job but I wanted to say all shelters are not the same. There is no need for gassing it is cruel and takes a long time for death I have had to put animals to sleep before and it has always been by injection with compassion and love. We would not have to do these acts if people would take responsibility by not buying from pet store aka puppy mills and spay and neuter there pets. Speak loudly for those who cannot speak for themselves . Do not stay silent stop animal cruely stop gassing, puppy mills and spay neuter your pets.

  • Jefd

    There is far to much apathy about a number of issues. Care, common sense and compassion for other forms of life on this planet is one such issue. This documentary does its part on raising the awareness.

    Watch it Jacob, without the spouse if you must; then come back and tell us what you think.

  • Diane

    I don’ t think you are horrible people at all..maybe uninformed..some folks do buy pets online without seeing where the puppies come from and it is always recommended to see the place where the puppies are from. there are many breeding facilities which are awful. The websites only show cute puppies..but not the animals who are being bred and kept for years and years to breed over and over without any sort of care or socialization..I recommend you watch the HBO documentary and make up your own mind.. it sounds like you are interested in the issues, and that is a good thing!

  • I want to watch this but my wife won’t let me after I told her it was going to be sad. Please advise.

    • Diane

      Jacob, you can’t just look away if something is painful. There are sad scenes, and uplifting scenes and scenes of hope. Just don’t look away. People need to know the truth, then you make up your own mind. Unfortunately, too many people consciously avoid ‘sad’ scenes..but in order to do something about it, those of us who open our eyes, can make change.

      • Yeah.. I think we might be part of the problem. We just got a Shiba Inu a few months back as opposed to adopting. Are we horrible people?! Google Shiba Inu and tell me you don’t love them!

  • Jefd

    Thanks for your added comments here, both of you. the information you offer will help others in battling this injustice.

  • Kelleefornia

    I set this to record and remembered it was on and turned it to HBO. The first segment I saw was dogs being euthanized by gas and upon their death puppies were placed with the recently killed dogs so the puppies could be euthanized as well. I got goose bumps from horror and shock and then I vomited. I couldn’t turn the channel, because turning the channel would not mean this didn’t happen. It would simply mean I wasn’t willing to acknowledge that it was happening and help make it stop.

    I want to do more. I want to encourage people to do better by my actions and I believe I have accomplished that small task. It is not enough. This is a soul-less act and must be stopped. Sincerely, what can I do? What contribution can I make to help put an end to this?

    • K9 Rescuer

      Kellefornia, there are numerous things you can do.

      1. spay/neuter
      2. educate others on spay/neuter importance
      3. find a 501c3 rescue in your area and volunteer
      4. open your home to foster a rescue dog
      5. help transport for rescues (http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Dog_Rescue_RailRoad/)
      6. lobby your local government for spay/neuter laws and higher licensing fees for unaltered animals
      7. help a local rescue with home visits, vet checks, application processing
      8. help a local rescue or shelter at adoption events

      These are just a few to get you started. There are infinitely many ways to help. To find more, contact a reputable rescue in your area. They are always DESPERATE for volunteers!

      • Kelleefornia

        Thanks for your response K-9 Rescuer. I actually do every single thing that you suggested. I am on the board of directors for my local Doberman Pinscher rescue group, I transport, evaluate, train, foster and educate for 2 seperate 501c rescue organizations. I advocate spaying and nuetering for irresponsible breeders (not to be confused with responsible, reputable breeders that health test, educate and always, always take back any of the animals they bred). I live my passion and try to lead by example. I was hoping for…. more, though. I should have been more clear that I’m not your average fancier. These are great suggestions for people looking for a place to begin and I appreciate your time.

      • Cathy Boruch

        I too am an Executive Director of a local animal rescue organization. Things will never change, we can all keep playing, “whack a mole” … one dog or cat is rescued, three more appear in our shelter, unless we restrict breeding. Any newspaper you open in any town has lots of puppies to sell, back yard breeders are not regulated. The bigger picture depends on our ability to lobby to have only reputable dog breeders have licenses and the rest cannot. Until we stop backyard breeding and puppy mills, we will have this adopt one, euth 3 syndrome. Yes spay and neuter are most important, but birth control of our dogs is even more, we need better lobbyists. So sad, so many good animals are put down every day. So the bigger picture is to get animal welfare people to work on bills to stop puppy mills and backyard breeders.










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