Netflix’s Epic Dog Documentary Series, Reviewed by a Cat Owner

Netflix’s Epic Dog Documentary Series, Reviewed by a Cat Owner

I am an obsessive cat dad. If cats come up in conversation—and sometimes even when they don’t— within seconds I’ll whip out pictures of my fur son, Rajah, either on a leash at the park (yep, I take my cat to the park on a leash), wearing a Halloween costume (yep, I do this too), or in his incredibly Instagram-friendly cat backpack (yep, I own one).

I rejoiced when Bruno, the extremely extra, 25-pound shelter cat found a forever home. I love cat art and stan Félicette, the first cat in space. I weep for the cats that have been unwillingly shaven, stranded on telephone poles, forced to take acid, or castrated by the state of Israel. I don’t believe the propaganda about cats being mean-spirited, or creating hellish living environments for easily-manipulated humans. I grew up with one dog and many cats, and I’ve always felt more allegiance to the species that can’t be trained to heil Hitler.

However, Netflix’s new six-hour docuseries about man’s best friend, simply titled Dogs, has tilted the scale a tad. In it is beautiful footage of human connections to dogs that’s moving in a way the bite-sized dogtent that’s all around us—the copious Twitter accounts of adorable doggos, the Instagrams of dog influencers and canine-facing product hawkers—can only touch upon. Each episode is an hour-long cinema verite deep dive into how dogs make human life meaningful; a barrage of wholesome, impactful moments, one after the next.

The source of the wholesomeness is obvious. As for the impact: the show is much more complex than you might expect, and wades into issues like mental health, the environment, poverty, nationalism, and class in ways that are thoroughly profound and completely disarming. All of it told with expert care and considerable heart…through the lens of adorable dogs.

One episode follows a Syrian refugee who escaped to Berlin, but had to leave his dog Zeus behind. (No spoilers but your heart will shatter and be stitched back together over the course the hour). Another follows a family whose eldest daughter suffers from epilepsy. A seizure-detecting dog is her best hope for a normal life. One of the later episodes soars across the world to visit a socially-awkward Japanese dog groomer who has trouble connecting with other humans until a canine companion is in the room. He’s an artist with shears, fur is his canvas, and it’s mesmerizing to watch him work.

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Land of Mangy Dogs

The bite-sized stories and pictures of Very Good Boys that populate much of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are perfect for just that—tender, funny moments good for a smile, a share or a bit of our attention. Dogs goes deeper. The series is complex carbohydrates, where everything else is refined sugar. It’s a 12-grain whole wheat loaf next to Wonderbread.

Six hours of full immersion in dog love is refreshing, and I get dogs now in a way I hadn’t before. Don’t hold it against me, Rajah. Though I have a new understanding and appreciation of dogs, I still love you most, and will forever remain Cats 4 lyfe (yep, my cat has his own Instagram).

Dogs premieres on Netflix on November 16, 2018.

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