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THE DOG DOC (2019) review

March 29, 2020

 

 

THE DOG DOC Poster

 

produced by: Alice Henty and Cindy Meehl
directed by: Cindy Meehl
rated: not rated
runtime: 101
U.S. release date: April 28, 2019 (Tribeca Film Festival), March 13, 2020 (limited) & March 20, 2020 (Amazon & Apple+ TV) 

 

If you consider yourself a dog person that means you’ve owned a dog at some point in your life. If you’ve owned a dog, you probably never considered that canine as a pet, or something you owned. Instead, he or she was another family member, a loyal companion that brought love, joy and comfort during the ups and downs of your life journey, and you’d do anything to keep him or her happy and healthy. And, if your dog becomes sick, you would go out of your way to find the best possible medical care for your good boy or girl.

Dr. Marty Goldstein understands this and works to help terminally ill furry patients at Smith Ridge Veterinary Center in South Salem, New York. It’s a place where people come from around the world to bring their pet when they’ve tried other resources. “Dr. Marty”, as he is known to many, is the subject of  documentary called “The Dog Doc” – a title with at least two meanings – which is directed by Cindy Meehl (who helmed the 2011 horse-whisperer doc, “Buck”), and while it certainly revolves around the integrative veterinarian, it is as much about the bond between humans and their dogs (a couple of felines are shown as patients, as well)  as it is about the narrow-minded view towards health care for animals (including the human variety). It’s an invitation to learn about a facility that combines holistic medicine with compassion and empathy as they treat hopeless terminal cases.

 

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What sets Dr. Marty apart from other veterinarians is his approach to treating the more extreme health conditions of dogs and cats. Using a combination of conventional and alternative medicines, including intravenous Vitamin C therapy (typically a three-day program) and cryotherapy (primarily used during procedures), in order to support the patient’s immune system, “so they can heal itself, ” acknowledging that, “we are their very last hope”. Surgery is a last resort, and while patient recovery has been exponentially high, then there are no promises of survival.  At no point in “The Dog Doc” does Dr. Marty say he can reverse cancer in patients, but moreso that he and his fellow physicians can help boost the immune system, stating that there’s no reason why the kind of holistic treatment that work for humans should work for animals.

Throughout the documentary, Meehl introduces viewers to a handful of ailing patients and their desperate owners, as well as the doctors who also work at Smith Ridge. One adorable 12-week-old pup named Waffles has suffered from a mysterious illness that has left him sluggish and almost immobile. When Dr. Ruskin evaluates him in the presence of his owner, the touching empathy in the room is palpable. We also meet Mulligan, an 8-month-old dog who was born with a genetic congenital kidney disease in which 15-20% of his kidney tissues are functioning, as well as 15-year-old Shadow, who suffers from arthritic paralysis and will receive electromagnetic therapy to help with his mobility. They are being treated by Dr. Jenna and Dr. Shane, two other compassionate women who work alongside Dr. Marty, some of whom have left their own practice to come and work for him after news of treating overall health rather than just treating disease proves to be quite transformative.

 

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Dr. Marty did not come upon this line of treatment during his days as a medical student at Cornell University, but rather when he was in his twenties on a steady diet of junk food and other bad health decisions. After realizing his unhealthy lifestyle was shortening his life, he turned things around for himself and began to realize that the same changes he made for himself can be applied towards sick canines and felines. However, it took quite a while for the makers of dog food to come around to an alternative healthy approach to nourishment, since many of the brands from the 70s were devoid of food, instead filled with chemicals, dyes, and flavor enhancers. We learn of all this as we hear Dr. Marty recount his past and what he has learned in his 45 years of treating patients.

While other doctors question the alternative medicine (such as homeopathy and acupuncture) that Dr. Marty uses , claiming “that’s not medicine”, there’s no doubt he and his team have either prolonged life or restored it to health.  Sadly, topics such as immune-system support and nutrition aren’t curriculum topics for most veterinary and medical students. Dr. Marty may be exasperated by this, but the film makes its points by demonstrating the effects of his care.

Meehl does a fine job zeroing in on the hopeless patients and the optimistic medical providers. With the help of cinematographer Nelson Hume and editor Steve Heffner, the director manages to fluidly establish each scene, whether its moving through the bustling waiting room or lingering on the sad faces of the patients and their owners. While it would’ve been helpful to breakdown what the treatment at Smith Ridge actually costs or if insurance covers any of it, “The Dog Doc” ultimately offers hope and a visionary look at caring for animals and ourselves in a heartwarming and inspiring manner.

 

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RATING: ***

 

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