A Dog's Purpose

12-year old munchkin Charlie and me

Almost 12 years ago, when I wasn’t yet all up in the grown-up life, a white little ball of fur entered my life. After being around my aunts dog ever since I can remember, I thought it was time to have one of my own. So I basically blackmailed my parents into getting one. Even though they weren’t too happy with having another little devil walking around the house, they can’t miss him for a day. My Jack Russell/Malteser Charlie has been one of the biggest supports for me as a kid, growing up in difficult surroundings. Still to this day, he manages to cheer me up everyday and put a smile on my face. I just can’t describe how much my dog means to me.

That’s also why I was extremely upset last week. While I was scrolling through Twitter, I stumbled upon a video by TMZ. I only noticed that it said “A Dog’s Purpose”, and I recognized it as the movie that would be coming out soon. Not reading any further, I just clicked on the video and started watching. What I saw completely shocked me.

A Dog’s Purpose: abuse?

It shows a German Shepard and it’s handler on the set of the movie, where they were shooting a scene by VERY turbulent water. The dog named Hercules is visibly uncomfortable, and even though he’s resisting, he is dipped into the water. You can even hear someone behind the camera say “just throw him in!” while laughing. Then the video cuts, and it shows Hercules going under in the violent water. As Hercules starts DROWNING, everybody panics and someone starts swimming to get to him. Then someone yells to “cut it” and the video ends. You can watch it for yourself below, but warning: it may be disturbing.

Ofcourse everyone started freaking out immediately. Director Lasse Hallström quickly stated on Twitter that he “did not witness the actions in the video” and that he was “very disturbed“. Production company Amblin Entertainment followed with a statement saying that “Hercules did not want to perform the stunt, so the production team did not proceed with filming that shot.” Also that “Hercules is happy and healthy“. Quite a weird statement if you ask me. Indeed, Hercules did not want to perform the stunt, but as seen on the video, the team DID proceed with filming. Shortly after, they canceled the scheduled Los Angeles premiere. The American Humane Association, which ensures animal safety on movie sets, then announced that it suspended it’s representative who was on set and that they are going to conduct an independent investigation.

Gavin Polone

Producer Gavin Polone now speaks out in a piece on The Hollywood Reporter. He starts off with his love for animals and how he was not aware of what happened, and felt terrible about it. In his own words, two things were evident:

“1) the dog handler tries to force the dog, for 35 to 40 seconds, into the water when, clearly, he didn’t want to go in; and 2) in a separate take filmed sometime later, the dog did go into the water, on his own, and, at the end, his head is submerged for about 4 seconds. These two things are absolutely INEXCUSABLE and should NEVER have happened. The dog trainer should have stopped trying to get the dog to go in the water as soon as the dog seemed uncomfortable, and the trainers should have had support under the dog as soon as he came to the side of the pool and/or had less turbulence in the water so he never would have gone under.”

You would think that he’s fully admitting that what happened is wrong. Then there comes a very big BUT. He starts defending himself and others and basically just destroys everything he said before. He goes on a huge rant about PETA boycotting A Dog’s Purpose, which is a whole other discussion. Whether PETA has made mistakes or not, that is beyond the point. The point is that an animal was harmed in the making of this movie, which ironically enough is all about our love for animals. What bothers me even more is that he talks about how this is “INEXCUSABLE” but then goes on about how the video is manipulated to make it look like the dog was in danger. Isn’t this a bit contradicting?

Rehearsal footage

He also rambles about footage of the rehearsal for the scene, and how the dog was “desperate to jump in” and not at all afraid. He goes on and on and also says that its “clear from viewing all the footage that the dog was never forced into the water.” Well Mr Polone, where is this so called footage? If the footage exists, why not just throw it out there? He is certainly eager about showing screenshots with a dog manipulated into the scene with CGI (computer-generated imagery). Although it’s unclear what he’s trying to prove with sharing these, why not share the footage? Above all, why was it necessary to throw a dog into swirling water if CGI is perfectly possible? He says that it would be too expensive to not use real animals and make the whole movie with just CGI. But sure it was possible to make the scene showed in the screenshots?

A lot of the things Gavin Polone and others say just don’t make any sense. I do believe that Polone has a heart for animals and that he maybe didn’t know what happened. But, there are too many excuses. They should just OWN UP to it and that’s that.  NO excuses. Make sure this never happens again. I do agree with Polone on the fact that The American Humane Association and their work should be investigated. It’s obviously not doing what it’s supposed to do.

DO NOT watch this movie

Obviously this is a discussion that will never end. Nobody will step up and take their responsibility. These people are just trying to save their ass and making sure their money doesn’t go to hell. Well, if it depends on me, they don’t earn a single penny from this movie. But they probably will. If they were really willing to fix what happened, they would donate all proceeds to a good cause for animals. But they aren’t. So my message is clear; don’t support animal abuse and DO NOT watch A Dog’s Purpose. It’s simply NOT OKAY to harm an innocent animal for our own entertainment. Instead, go to the bookstore and get the book. There were no animals harmed in writing it.