Life in the Doghouse: A Documentary Film Review
With the rise in awareness for animal welfare also comes the rise in number of various dedicated organizations and individuals aiming to help rescue animals. Decades ago, the only rescue that comes into mind would probably be People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Nowadays, more people invest time, energy and money in helping these poor, abandoned creatures. There are more animal rescue institutions.
The 2018 documentary film, available for streaming on Netflix, Life in the Doghouse - a literal reference to the set up of the rescue organization– features one of the most outstanding non-profit animal rescue organizations, named after its founders and active leaders, Danny and Ron’s Rescue located at Camden, South Carolina.
It truly is a doghouse
What creates a striking and unique impression about Danny and Ron’s Rescue is the amazing fact that truly, it’s a Life in the Doghouse, because they house at least 71 dogs inside their own home. Yes, not in a separate lot or area, but literally inside their home – in their bedroom, in the living room, in the laundry area, in the home office, in the garage, just everywhere.
They care for the dogs as if they are their own - housing them in their own home before they are adopted by potential fur parents, taking them on walks, letting them roam free around the yard, preparing their food and medicines everyday while taking note of who eats, who doesn’t, et cetera. It is just an amazing feat to behold – the dedication and the sacrifice it takes to pull that off is truly remarkable.
How it all started
Back in 2005, during Hurricane Katrina, they were able to save 600 dogs that were displaced or abandoned. That incident sparked their intense need to help care for abandoned dogs that needed loving homes, and prompted the eventual creation of the Rescue. They focus their adoption in the horse community, where they work. Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta are professional horse trainers and they take good advantage of that opportunity to bring the dogs in various horse shows in different parts of the country, to have them adopted. It’s an effective strategy because at the time of the filming, they are about a hundred dogs away from hitting their 10,000th adoption, an incredible achievement.
They coordinate with shelters which has no choice but to put some of their dogs to sleep. In the film, Ron explains that the shelters have what they call a “red code day” – a day for euthanasia. Danny and Ron get e-mails from at least 20 shelters about lists of dogs, under the euthanasia list, that they could probably save. As much as they could, they would try to save these dogs. They try to get the dogs - dogs that need medical attention, heartworm positive dogs, and dogs with unique conditions, not as adorable as the others, aggressive and for other various reasons - that have lesser chances of getting adopted so that they could have a better chance at life.
“Seeing their faces and knowing they're going to die, that drives me harder to want to save more.” – Rob on visiting shelters and seeing dogs that are lined up for euthanasia.
They are also struggling with the financial aspect of the organization, but they try to give the best care they can to these homeless dogs. They solely depend on donations and they do receive donations from many people during the Christmas season. However, for the remainder of the year, there is a lack of incoming donations which can be very challenging for the organization.
Trivial but at the same time, I think it’s noteworthy to mention that Danny and Ron attest to the fact that their “Doghouse” don’t smell like dogs. The house is kept clean at all times of the day, kennels and dog areas are cleaned at least five times a day. That, alone, is impressive and shows how dedicated their group is in looking after these dogs.
This movie shows how Danny and Ron are truly inspiring and amazing. They, along with their whole team, make it seem so effortless. They’re shining examples that anything is possible as long as you put your mind and heart into it. They have extraordinary devotion to helping dogs and eventually bringing happiness into other people’s homes - giving these homeless dogs a second chance at life and giving other people a chance to help and adopt.
The Harsh Reality
The movie also touches on the disheartening realities about animal welfare – the truth about shelters and their need to euthanize animals.
“Picture that every dog and cat in the country will be dropped off in your driveway, do you have to euthanize?” – Ron on people who criticize and bash local shelters who have no other option but to euthanize.
“It’s very easy to get on your podium and shake your head and say, “Oh my god, this shelter is a kill shelter. They’re killing all these animals.” But it’s not the shelter’s fault. It’s the community’s fault. It’s because we have people who will not spay and neuter their dogs so we have multiple litters of cats and dogs. But you know the shelter is the one that gets the bad press because they’re a kill shelter. But basically, they’re doing the dirty work for our community.” – Ron Danta
In the film, Danny and Ron also talked about the animal cruelty perpetuated by puppy mills and how patronizing or buying dogs in pet shops somehow help continue these puppy mill businesses.
“Growing up, my mom always said, “Don’t buy a dog. Let’s save a dog.” I remember when I really wanted a Dalmatian, mom said, “There’s always people for those but there’s not people for shelters where so many will be euthanized.” - Danny Robertshaw
Danny and Ron give us hope
Despite all of these, the film still leaves you with a positive and hopeful feeling. The film is truly an enlightening and inspiring piece that is worth a watch. There are sad truths about animal welfare, but knowing that we have people like Danny and Ron who will go the extra mile for this vocation - helping abandoned animals - lightens up our hearts’ load. Along with the awful reality, Danny and Ron make one realize that there is also love, kindness and hope. Hopefully, it also inspires others to make the same commitment, even if not to the same extent.