FILM INFO: Gander was rescued from a kill shelter and later trained as a Service Dog in Denver. He was paired with Lon Hodge, a Veteran who suffers from PTSD and autoimmune issues. Together they travel the country advocating for Veteran Suicide Prevention and Service Dog Awareness.
WRITTEN BY: Stacey Stone DIRECTED BY: Stacey Stone GENRE: Doc TIME: 27 minutes.
Right away, in my books, this title had two things going for it. The first being that I'm a sucker for feel-good, inspirational stories. The second, and this is a big one, was that it was dog-related. That old saying of a dog being man's best friend is a definite reality for me. As you can imagine, short of being a complete disaster, this film was going to score big in my books. I wasn't disappointed. "Gander: America's Hero Dog" was just what I was hoping for and much more. Maybe only dog lovers will understand, but there's something genetically build into every K9 that almost always make them a perfect companion. A dog doesn't need to have the smarts that say... Gander possesses, or any other service dog for that matter, to make them a perfect best friend for an individual or family. You just know they love you and know they have your back. Cat's may be cute, but dogs have something cats and most other pets don't have: A need just like yours and mine, to be loved and accepted. Having a dog isn't a one-way street, my friends. It's beneficial to both or all. So what's all this have to do with the film? Simple really. Without coming right out and saying it, "Gander: America's Hero Dog" lets the viewer know everything I've written above, and doesn't stop there. Through television clips and photos, as well as interviews and personal videos, we get the chance to be a fly on the wall, peering into the lives of Lon Hodge and his K9 pal Gander. Filled with funny and touching moments, this short film will not only warm up your insides but arm you with a little knowledge as well. We all know a dog is smart, but did you know the amount of time it takes to teach a service dog what he or she needs to know? How about the cost? Or who does the training? That's all part of the story within these twenty-seven minutes. Do you fully understand the impact these furry friends can have on people? Not just those suffering from a physical or mental difficulty, but everyone in general? That's all here as well. Any animal can help fend away depression, but a trained service dog can do so much more. Regarding Gander himself, this particular dog almost looks human with his actions and expressions. Especially during some of the personal, close-up shots held within the film. You'll have no problem understanding why this pooch should be, and is, getting some special attention. I'll admit I had a scare in the final segments dealing with a problem that had arisen. It may have only been a shadow of what Lon Hodge must have felt, but it was enough to let me know that Stacey Stone had done a fine job with this film. On the money mixing the information with the heartfelt segments, this is one title that does the trick and pulls you right inside. The power to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, while teaching you something to boot. What more is there for any film? Production-wise this is a standard documentary with the standard fare included. Interviews, pics, and clips. Just what you'd expect. The pacing felt spot on, introducing, showcasing, and ending. Just what any good editor will tell you needs to be done right. Inclusion of the potentially sadder elements, near the end really kept the movie from dragging. An excellent idea to keep the pace up while nearing the finish line. That "Oh-No" feeling I received kept my eyes glued to the screen, waiting to find out what happened as I hoped for the best. Some excellent work all around. "Gander: America's Hero Dog" is more than the sum of its parts. It's so much more than a play-by-play of what a service dog does. It's a pet thing. It's a dog thing. Most importantly, though, it's a people thing. -JT