Pet Projects

I love animals (except birds, who seem to have a personal vendetta against me). My family has two cats and two dogs, and we spend a considerable amount of time each day “speaking” for them. We talk to them, too—of course. We ask them all sorts of questions about what they’d like to do, eat, where they’d like to go, etc..

Archie  Paden  Poe  Checkers

But when I say we speak for them, I mean that we watch their facial expressions and their body language, and then interpret it aloud. On occasion our whole family will have lengthy conversations that are mostly the “words” of the cats. (The dogs generally just say, I love you, Food! and Let’s go.)

They definitely have personalities. Poe—our 13 year-old black cat—is hateful and lazy. She prefers the company of my husband and oldest son, and seems to think that she is the owner and master of the house. Checkers—our 5 year-old tortoise calico—is loveable and playful. She does not understand why Poe won’t cuddle with her.

I suppose most folks love animals to some degree or another. Consider how much the media covered the devastation of the horse farm or the recovery of a single dog after the Moore, Oklahoma tornadoes. Animals are integral parts of our lives and families.

I think back to one of my favorite movies of my youth, Oh Heavenly Dog, (1980) starring Chevy Chase, Jane Seymour, Omar Sharif, and mostly Benji. (My dog, Archie, looks a lot like Benji.)

Oh Heavenly Dog
For the Love of Benji

This is a fun family whodunit with a little canine twist. Chevy Chase is a detective who is murdered at the beginning of the film. He returns to earth to solve his own murder in the body of a dog. He must communicate with his human friend, Jane Seymour, not only to solve his murder, but to save her life as well. After his character’s demise, Chase provides the voice for Benji. The audience can hear the loveable dog’s thoughts, but the other characters cannot.

This provides the perfect vehicle for human empathy with animals, and allows us to connect in ways we’ve always suspected, but never proven. It’s also loads of fun.

While Oh Heavenly Dog is not appropriate for very small children—it’s about murder and a love-triangle—it does make for a fun family movie night. If you haven’t seen it, you’re sure to enjoy it—if you love dogs, that is.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

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