What a surprise to find ourselves sitting on the edge of our seats, anxiously awaiting the next development, while watching a documentary about five puppies! But that was our experience during Pick of the Litter.
It opens with the birth of a litter of five Labrador Retriever puppies at Guide Dogs for the Blind, a San Rafael, California organization. They are named Potomac, Patriot, Primrose, Poppet, and Phil. Before long you will be rooting for them by name.
For their first year, they live with "puppy raisers" who are responsible for basic training and socialization. These foster homes are advised not to become too close to the dogs, advice you will quickly assume is impossible. We empathized with a high school student, new to puppy raising, who had to give his dog up to more experienced handlers. An Iraq War veteran struggling with PTSD works hard with Patriot, but he, too, must see his much-loved companion move on.
Always on everyone's mind is the possibility that a puppy could be "career-changed" after failing one of the evaluations for the guide dog training. They could be released to be pets or go into the breeding program. Those who prove to have the basic qualities of a guide go on to more intense 10-week training. Before being assigned to a blind person, they must pass a series of tests of their awareness, ability to focus without being distracted, working in a crowd, navigating an escalator, and even going into an airplane. One, in which the dog must disobey a command when following it might put his person in danger, reveals how amazing both the training and the learning of these animals really is.
Mixed in with the sequences about the dogs are interviews with two blind people on the list to get one of them. You will rejoice when they get news of a placement.
A remarkable group of people accompany this litter on their journey to discover where they each can be of best service in the world. At the end, you'll salute them as well as the dogs on jobs well done.