Foreword by Jon
Although I have only seen a trailer for this film, I watched the interviews and excerpts Paul has linked in this article and found them very moving.
In these days of uncertainty and fear it is heartening to see and read about a relationship founded on unconditional love.
It signifies to me that it is the quality of our relationships that makes the difference in life, not material possessions – and then how we go about finding more examples of these in our everyday lives.
This is all about Trust
The prompt for writing this particular Post was the other evening Jean and I watched the film The Soloist. I’ll come on to that later.
Before I do, I want to look at another aspect of learning from dogs; that is the question of trust. We have so much to learn from dogs with regard to trust.
Because dogs spend so much of their time living in the present, just being a dog in the ‘now’ moment as it were, they seem to be able to read another dog very quickly. Dogs don’t have ‘hidden agendas’.
You see we humans can be (and should be) as happy in the present as dogs are. But so often our fears, worries and concerns for the future hinder our ability to experience the present, to enjoy the NOW.
Look at the faces of others around you when you have a moment. (Or, indeed look at your own right now in the mirror.) Do you see a face serenely happy unencumbered with the past or the future? Rarely is my guess.
That’s why a dog can read another dog in micro-seconds and know everything about that other animal. There are no secrets – what you see is what you get.
Look at this picture.
This is Poppy (8 lbs/3.5 kg) picking up food droppings from Pharaoh (90 lbs/40 kg). In fact, within seconds of taking this picture, Poppy had pushed between Pharaoh’s front legs and put her face in the dish and started eating Pharaoh’s food, at which point Pharaoh went over the Poppy’s dish and started eating from there. (NB. Anyone that has dogs in their home will know how possessive they can be at feeding time.)
Immediately when Pharaoh met Poppy, when he and I ended up in Mexico in 2008, they instantly trusted each other. This is a beta level (second in status to the alpha, i.e. dominant) pure bred German Shepherd bonding with a Yorkie mix female dog that was found, hairless and starving, on a Mexican construction site – rescued by Jean after almost certainly being thrown out after she had made some Mexican a few pesos from selling her puppies.
Here’s another picture of these two:
Now to the film. It wasn’t a blockbuster and didn’t get rave reviews but if viewed from the simple perspective of trust and friendship it delivers a powerful message that is beautifully compelling.
There’s an official trailer on YouTube here but the better review is this extract from the 60 Minutes programme below.
You need to watch this film to see how trust is built up, and out of that trust comes a wonderful friendship. But you will get a taste of the sheer beauty of this true story by this 12 minute YouTube video. Try and put aside these few minutes so you can watch this without interruption.
And here’s a link to another extract from the 60 Minutes programme concentrating on Mr Ayers playing his heart out.
If you want to read the column in the LA Times that Steve Lopez wrote in December 2004 about Mr Ayer’s Christmas present, just click here.
Finally, the film closes with these words from the actor who portrays Mr Lopez. Please read them to yourself, aloud if you can.
Points West by Steve Lopez
A year ago I met a man who was down on his luck and thought that I might be able to help him. I don’t know that I have. Yes, my friend Mr. Ayers now sleeps inside. He has a key, he has a bed, but his mental state and his well-being are as precarious now as they were the day we met.
There are people who tell me that I helped him, mental health experts who say that the simple act of being someone’s friend can change the brain chemistry, improve his functioning in the world.
I can’t speak for Mr Ayers in that regard, maybe our friendship has helped him, but maybe not.
I can however speak for myself. I can tell you that by witnessing Mr Ayers’ courage, his finality, his faith in the power of his art, I’ve earned the dignity of being loyal to something you believe in, holding on to him. Above all else, I believe him, without question that it will carry you home.
And now recall that when you were reading those words, you were totally and completely living in the present. Keep that feeling of grace close to you forever.
By living in the present, you offer yourself as a friend to the world.
By Paul Handover