I watched a documentary called Pick of the Litter, about puppies in training to become guide dogs for the blind, and I’d like the record to reflect that there should definitely be more movies about puppies.
Pick of the Litter isn’t all roly-polies and snuggles and yips: The star dogs of the film work their tails off as they are trained to become service animals, and their journey is emotional, tense, inspiring. (And yes, cute as hell.)
The film starts with a fresh litter of squeaky baby Labrador retriever woofers, called the “P litter” because they all get P names: Poppet, Patriot, Potomac, Primrose, and the everyman, Phil. (“Phil would let you borrow his truck,” explains a highly-trained dog handler, who has just convinced you that Phil probably could actually own and operate a truck.) They are squirmy, bitey little monsters that I would die for, and they all have the potential to change the life of a vision-impaired person who’s been on a waiting list for years.
We follow the five Ps through their highly regimented early lives that start at a breeding center, then move on to puppy raisers (DID YOU KNOW “PUPPY RAISER” WAS A JOB TITLE THAT YOU COULD HAVE AND ARE YOU RETHINKING SOME OF YOUR LIFE CHOICES?), to an academy, and, finally, at close to two years old, into the hands of a person who needs them. And because the squishy geniuses change hands so many times on their path to work, the film contains many, many minutes of people saying very emotional goodbyes to dogs or hellos to dogs. If you’ve ever done one of those things, you’re going to cry.
While Pick of the Litter is rich in puppy antics and super soothing dog vibes, it also captures a lot of tension. Not all of our five fuzzy best friends of the P litter will have what it takes; only 40 percent of the pups in the program make it. Some may be destined for breeding, and some may be “career changed” (that's the nice way of saying “kicked out of the program for trying to eat paper”), and it could be that the most squirrelly, chompy dogface that nobody suspects will succeed will, in fact, become a decorated service animal.
In conclusion, if you’ve read this much about a movie about dogs, you obviously need to watch the actual movie about dogs. Dogs are the best. Dogs!