As I’m writing this, I’m lying in bed next to my husband who’s just returned from three weeks on the road. He is snoring which, given how often we are separated by distances measured in time zones, isn’t irritating but rather sweetly comforting. When you spend so much time apart from your beloved, it is the little things that mean the most.
Though, to be honest, I am not really lying next to him. I am lying next to two dogs who are lying next to him. There is a deaf dog at my feet keeping watch out the window and a fourth dog is on the dog bed, twitching and yelping in his sleep.
We lie here, a modern family, a contemporary twist on canine pack life. We are living the new normal: two people, regardless of gender, lawfully married, grounded in the presence of each other, sharing our bed with our family- which in our case is a pack of deaf and hearing dogs bonded to us as much as we are bonded to them.
There is something enigmatic about the bond between a dog and his boy. Though the relationship between human and dog is symbiotic in many ways, it is the dog who exudes a loyalty beyond most human comprehension.
As humans, we think and talk about the human-canine bond from a human perspective. How can we not? We are, after all, human.
What I am intrigued about and wish I could experience is the perspective of the dog. I frequently daydream about being transformed into a dog and getting to be a dog with my dogs. I want to know what humans mean to them, to know what dogs need from humans that we might not be giving them, and why oh why must dogs spin in a circle 97 times before settling down and going to sleep.
I tell Darwin all the time, “One day, buddy, we’ll get to be dogs together, and you can teach me to run through the grass and leaves and jump over logs and roll in the dirt and how to do a proper play bow.”
Lately, as an extension of my interest in the canine experience, I have been researching the work of service and therapy dogs. Whether it is helping military veterans coping with PTSD live a more robust life, dogs trained to help autistic children and their families, therapy dogs providing comfort, distraction, stress-reduction or emotional safety to sexually abused children or military working dogs (MWDs), I am in awe of the lengths a dog will go to help their boy.
As life is full of awesome coincidences, there is a new film coming out in a few days that I can’t wait to see. The film explores the lives of service dogs, the consequences of war on MWDs, veterans and their families and, of course, the human-animal bond. That movie is Max.
Max is about a military working dog deeply bonded to his boy, U.S. Marine Kyle Wincott. Working together on the front lines in Afghanistan, Kyle is killed in the line of duty and Max, unable to cope with both the loss of his boy and his own PTSD (yes, dogs experience PTSD too), is deemed unable to serve.
He is adopted by Kyle’s family back in Texas. The family is still reeling from the loss of their oldest son and is also dealing with internal conflict between Kyle’s father and his troubled younger brother, Justin.
Though initially uninterested in taking on the responsibility of caring for Max, in time Justin connects with Max, helping Max overcome his PTSD. Max, as dogs always do, helps Justin find his way and come to terms with the loss of his big brother in the process.
Inspired by the heart wrenching videos of MWDs lying next to the casket of their handler that have popped up on social media in recent years, Max is a film I’m really looking forward to shelling out a ten-spot to see.
The film stars Lauren Graham, whom I adore, as Kyle and Justin’s mother, Thomas Haden Church as their father, Josh Wiggins as Justin and Carlos, a Belgian Malinois, as Max.
The film opens nationwide on June 26, 2015.
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