Review by Sarah Williams
The Dog Doc is a perfectly serviceable human interest story, even if it lacks any interesting filmmaking. Despite feeling like an informational news segment at times, It is an empathetic and hopeful look at what can be done to save animals who have been considered hopeless cases in the veterinary world.
Three stories of sick pets are woven together to create the resounding success felt. Dr. Marty Goldstein is a veterinarian with a radical now way of caring for animals that are thought to be doomed by the rest of his colleagues. He is able to save many of these animals, though the industry doesn’t believe it, by taking a natural approach to medicine.
The world of holistic medicine is often looked at as a solely human tool, even though it is about connection to nature. The veterinarians never prescribe some miracle cure, they instead go back to nature and look at what helps animals fight off disease in the wild. Domesticated animals are often looked at as unlike their wild relatives, so we often forget that wildlife is able to regulate without us. By strengthening their immune systems, the animals can perform what is looked at as a miracle by many and pull through.
The real triumph of science is seeing how the body can heal itself with the right resources. Often the holistic healing is as simple as a change in diet, and these nutrients can be what strengthens the animal, instead of unnatural chemical treatments that often sap energy away that is needed to fight disease. The natural treatments aren’t the only thing used, as Dr. Goldstein is able to use liquid nitrogen to destroy tumors through freezing, a method some consider barbaric.
Plenty of work is put in to show opposing perspectives, and those who doubt Dr. Goldstein’s method do get to speak, but we are only given snippets of disbelief, and never their reasoning. Instead of actually hearing why the holistic approach is frowned upon, it instead becomes a game of proving worth to the irrational, despite the supposed irrational being trained medical professionals in the field as well. There is also the risk of the ideas presented being used as evidence by anti-vaccination groups, who will take the idea that natural medicine has benefits to mean that all other forms don’t work. The holistic method is not just about natural remedies, but about blending these with new advances in science to aid their effects.
It’s the kind of film that is unapproachable for many due to the cliche question– does the dog die in the end? As opposed to, say, last year’s similarly subjected TIFF premiere Murmur (tells the story of a lonely woman who adopts animals from the shelter she works at that are about to be euthanized in order to fill a hole in her life), there is at least some hope here. We aren’t quite going to answer that question, but the film is about what seems to be miracles in the veterinary world, so it’s not a total Old Yeller situation. While not being anything special in the filmmaking department, Cindy Meehl’s The Dog Doc is an inspirational look at creative approaches to saving lives.
The Dog Doc opens in theaters on March 13.