September/October 2005  (Volume 20, Issue 5)

A Dog's Life: A Dogamentary
(2004) 36 min. DVD: $24.95 ($124.95 w/PPR). Kirschenbaum Productions. Color cover.

Emmy award-winning filmmaker Gayle Kirschenbaum is--as she says herself--a 117-lb. single Jewish woman living in New York City with her 13-lb. female shih tzu named Chelsea. Both the lady and the dog are--to quote those noted romantic experts Bad Company--"ready for love," and the HBO/Cinemax-aired A Dog's Life (tagline: Sex and the City meets Best in Show meets Lassie) chronicles the day-to-day slings and arrows of outrageous (mis)fortune in the love lives of Gayle and Chelsea as they meet gentleman callers (or barkers, as the case may be), embark on blind dates, or simply accost strange men/dogs (yes, I know the distinction can be meaningless) to enquire as to their marital status. Rigging up Chelsea with a "doggie cam," the pair hit the sidewalks, talking with legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, testing the canine dating waters with a hunka-hunka burning shih tzu love called Shanti (whose owner says that "he's faithful; he knows how to commit"), and working on their physical and mental health (Gayle goes to aerobics, while Chelsea--who has "abandonment issues"--leaves a very unladylike sign of disapproval on the apartment floor). And then came September 11, 2001, after which the documentary shifts course, as Chelsea becomes a trained therapy dog whose volunteer work at hospitals brings much-needed brightness into the fading eyes of terminal patients, eventually attracting national media attention. Whether it's a romantic partner (human or canine) or a person who needs a helping hand or a sympathetic shoulder, "it's about relationships," as Kirschenbaum says, "how to love, how to give." A very funny and heartfelt "dogamentary," DVD extras include the full-length (and differently structured) 52-minute director's cut, bonus interview clips, a screening audience Q&A, and a music video. Recommended. Aud: P. (R. Pitman)