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5 things our favorite movie pets taught us about pet health

Posted by Dr. Ernie Ward on Feb 24 2016
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Give me a movie about animals and I’m as happy as a Lab in a tennis ball factory. I’m especially fond of movies that share a heartwarming message or lesson about pet health. Here are five things some of our favorite movie pets taught us about animal health and welfare.

Old Yeller and Rabies Prevention

I rarely meet a veterinarian or pet lover my age or older who wasn’t influenced by the 1957 movie Old Yeller. I caught this classic on television several times as a youngster and it stuck with me permanently. As a kid, I didn’t know much about rabies until this movie. Set in the 1860s just prior to the discovery of a rabies vaccine in 1885 (it wouldn’t be until 1979 that a canine rabies vaccine would be available), it subtly teaches viewers about transmission, symptoms and death associated with the rabies virus. Old Yeller probably also influenced my passion for rabies eradication to this day.

Harry and Tonto and Growing Old with Cats

The 1974 Oscar for Best Actor went to Art Carney for his portrayal of an aging father trekking across the country with his beloved cat, Tonto. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it. Rarely has a film captured such chemistry between human and animal. Even rarer is an honest depiction of human and cat aging. I’d like to share more, but I’d be giving away the ending. I will warn you to bring your tissues.

Benji the Magnificent Mixed Breed

Benji is the quintessential dog movie in my opinion. Maybe I saw myself in Benji; I know I shared his love of exploration and hoped to be as brave as the fearless little mutt. I think that's what impressed me most: Benji was no different than me or my menagerie of mixed breeds. Benji proved that a pedigree isn’t a prerequisite for heroism. I also believe Benji helped make pet adoption a cool thing to do.

It’s a Rich Life: Marley and Me

Marley and Me is based on a best-selling book. John Grogan’s book is simply a pet-lover’s masterpiece, difficult to replicate in any format. Tender and authentic, funny and engaging, Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston perform their best movie magic to match Grogan’s vividly-penned characters. The unrivaled star is Marley and the movie deftly delivers the challenges of raising a rambunctious pup, the bond that develops in adulthood and the emotional pain of losing one of life’s anchors. Read the book, watch the movie and then take your dog for an extra-long walk.

Fat Cat Garfield

What we can learn from the pasta-chomping, lazy, wisecracking kitty is that fat cats are real. If I had written the sequel, I would’ve called it “Garfield: A Tail of Two Insulin Injections.” As founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, I’ve had to endure innumerable fat cat Garfield jokes. Skip the movie and learn the lesson: Obesity is our pet’s greatest health threat.

Good movies transport us to another realm. Great movies move us to action. I love movies and am grateful for expanding my imagination and exposing me to new ideas, beliefs and concepts. I hope you enjoyed these lessons about living with animals half as much as me. See you at the movies or the dog park!