Due to an unfortunate childhood incident, I have never been a dog lover. But with director Cindy Meehl’s balanced portrait of hippy Dr. Marty Goldstein (and Heddy Honigmann’s short, Buddy, cross-reference below)—not to mention my daughter’s two well-behaved pets, I have become more enamoured with “man’s best friend.”
The perpetually ill 20-something Goldstein, discovered his own immune system wasn’t functioning at full steam, so traded in a diet of junk food for holistic and lived the expression, “Physician heal thyself.” And if that approach would work for humans…
Located in South Salem, New York (can you feel the notion of witchcraft wafting through?), the Smith Ridge Veterinary Clinic has come a long way since its modest beginnings as “The Shack”—Goldstein’s modest clinic in a house, where, if an X-ray was being done, the washroom was unavailable.
But the film’s real story is the great divide between medical science and “alternative” treatments. Prescriptions versus: supplements, acupuncture, and procedures such a cryosurgery (the goal of the alternatives is to beef up the immune system so as to let the body—human or animal—fight off its plagues on its own).
Goldstein opts to favour integrative veterinary science (a Cornell graduate) with the more traditional, prescribe-and-cure (or bury) Western, pharmaceutical infused “medicine”.
As heroic as Goldstein, his wife Meg (also a co-worker), and various staff members are (The Shack has come a long way in terms of economics…), it’s the patients who will capture the hearts of any film or animal lover.
Chief amongst those is the delicate, despairing Waffles, who, after various consults with “real” vets, ends up on Marty’s doorstep, with, perhaps, days to live. See the film to track his ups and downs, but what really comes across in his journey (and almost all other stories), is the unqualified love and devotion of “Mom and Dad”.
And that is the film’s power: These largely adopted creatures are not at all pets, but members of the family. Money to keep them alive is no object; wagging tails and wet kisses fulfill any deficiency in the pets’ balance sheet.
Quack or genius? Hug your pet, see the film and make your own decision. JWR