A Dog's Life: A Dogamentary. DVD. color. 88 min. Kirschenbaum Prods. 2004. $24.95.
Gr 9 Up-Gayle Kirschenbaum, a single New Yorker, set out to chronicle the search for a husband for herself and her Shih Tzu, Chelsea. Internet dating (and how the man reacts to her devotion to Chelsea), introducing Chelsea to a possible mate (and getting to know his owners), and Chelsea's adventures with a doggie cam (to picture the world from her point of view) would have resulted in a light, entertaining film. But after 9/11, Kirschenbaum felt that this was too ephemeral to devote her energies to, and enrolled Chelsea in therapy dog training (therapet). Their volunteer work at a New York hospice, as well as Kirschenbaum's changed focus after the terrorist attack, became a part of the film, the project, and their lives. The result is a funny and touching film about how dogs and people interact and about the impact a therapy dog can have on the dying and their families. Gayle clearly demonstrates that Chelsea (even before 9/11) was a major part of her life, and discusses her feelings about their relationship. Filmmaker Albert Maysles interviewed Gayle in the early days of the first incarnation of the film, and after 9/11 filmed some of the hospice segments. The DVD includes a 36 minute and a 52 minute version. Extras on the longer version include a director's cut, deleted scenes, and Kirschenbaum answering questions about the film, Chelsea, and her life. This well-made, entertaining, and meaningful film has a lot to say about life, death, pets, and relationships. Pet and owner are natural and comfortable on film, and Gayle is at ease even with strangers approached on the street. Useful in classes dealing with death and dying as well as the relationships between people and their pets.-Melody Moxley, Rowan Public Library, Salisbury, NC