Dog's Best Friend

An animal lover's documentary that shows the inner workings of an Aussie rehabilitation centre for troubled dogs.

"Run by ex-soldier Jacob Leezak, the Canine Behaviour Expert Dog Psychology Centre is located on a property in outer Sydney that houses no fewer than 30 dogs at a time – all either abandoned, set to be euthanised or brought in by clients unable to handle their pet’s aggressive side. While Jacob will often allude to the media stigmatisation of particular breeds (the film even opens with some sobering euthanisation stats), Wilson wisely never centres the story on that debate. Instead, he focuses on the bond between man and dog, observing Jacob’s tailored process of rehabilitating misunderstood canines and the traumatic backgrounds that brought both him and his fiancée Jennah to this line of work." (New Zealand International Film Festival)

Trailers

Directed by

Documentary, Festival & Independent

78mins

Rating: Exempt

New Zealand

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Aaron Yap

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“Wanna get buried together?” This lovingly jokey question, directed by dog expert Jacob Leezak to one of his canine rescues, underscores the ever-present spectre of death that permeates Eryn Wilson’s film.

If you’re looking for the heartwarming fuzzies of the recent dogumentary favourite Pick of the Litter, Dog’s Best Friend may not have you reaching for tissues in quite the same way, but it’s still a thoroughly poignant, if much grittier, work, charting the day-to-day challenges of running a Dog Psychology Centre.

Located in the outskirts of Sydney, the centre isn’t a cushy, luxuriously funded and staffed dog-lover’s haven, but a lean, starkly conceived operation that stares euthanasia in the face and asks if there’s another way. For many of these dogs—neglected, abused, behaviourally troubled—Leezak is their final stop to a forever-home.

Though it allocates sufficient screen time for their colourful personalities to shine, including one particular three-legged fellow you’ll probably never forget, Dog’s Best Friend avoids back-patting miracle narratives. Instead, Wilson sensibly foregrounds the steely, preternatural diligence of Leezak, who’s also doing his best to fight against alarmist notions of “dangerous breeds”. A dog, he posits, is only as good as its human owner.

Dog’s Best Friend is equally a valuable inquiry into the curative power of canine company. The rehab is ultimately reciprocal. In their nursing of broken dogs, Leezak, and his child-expectant fiancée Jennah—the only other full-time staff member there—too are transformed, the lingering wounds of their violent pasts sutured by a daily dose of slobbery, unconditional affection.