Mine: movie review

'Mine' is a moving documentary about rescuing abandoned animals in the wake of the Katrina hurricane in New Orleans.

By , Film critic

Ever wonder what happened to the pets lost in the wake of hurricane Katrina? This may seem like a minor horror compared with the images of people stranded on rooftops or bunched in squalid heaps in the Super Dome. But lots of people left homeless by the

disaster also left behind, sometimes by choice, their pets. “Mine” is about the attempts of rescue workers and animal rights activists to reunite dogs with their loving owners.

If you’re a cat lover, you may want to protest, since only pooches are in the spotlight. (Cats, as one rescuer comments, were more difficult to rescue than dogs because “cats don’t bark.” Ah yes, but they meow.) The bond between dog and dog lover is laid on a bit thick here, but it’s impossible not to be moved, and also a little flabbergasted, by these case histories.

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Take Malvin Cavalier, for example. A nattily dressed widower and, as he proudly announces, “a full-blooded Creole,” Malvin lost his white terrier, Bandit, in the hurricane and frets nonstop. He even builds a doghouse with the name “Bandit” emblazoned over the entryway, as if this act would magically summon his friend home.

Then there’s Jessie, a hotel worker from the Seventh Ward who was formerly homeless and grieves for the loss of his beloved mixed-breed, J.J. Or Victor, whose possessions were wiped out but says the only irreplaceable loss was his dog, Max. One woman during the rescue operation had to be forcibly separated by National Guardsmen from her big black Lab, Murphy Brown. (Why not Murphy Black?)

All these folks and others go about searching for the whereabouts of their pets, and miraculously, through the intervention of animal rights activists, many are located. To my untutored eye, most dogs of the same breed look basically alike, especially if you’re trying to identify them from photos posted on the Internet. But the obsessive diligence of these rescuers knows no bounds. If you’ve ever lost a pet, or grown misty at the sight of a lost-pet poster, this movie will raise your hopes.

The problem the film raises is: What happens when an adopted dog is claimed by its original owner? This may look like a parody of parental custody battles but the stakes, in some cases, are high. Malvin, for example, seems almost bereft without Bandit. On the other hand, many of the new owners, unaware of any prior claims on their pets, are reluctant to relinquish control. The feeling at the time was that most of the dogs had been mistreated anyway, and, in general, there’s some evidence to back this up. The director, Geralyn Pezanoski, shows us a succession of shots of pit bulls whose faces have clearly been scarred in combat.

But the owners on view in “Mine,” with the possible exception of one woman who looks as formidable as Mo’Nique in “Precious,” appear to be exemplary. So, as it happens, do a few of the new owners. But, as one lawyer representing an original owner claims of his client, if you didn’t care about your dog, why would you go to so much trouble?

Many of the motels and shelters offering refuge from Katrina refused to accept pets. This was one big reason why so many were left behind. Domesticated animals suddenly found themselves in the wilds. Under the circumstances, it’s a wonder how many of the rescued dogs seem
untraumatized by it all. When they are reunited with their owners, there’s the fear that they will no longer recognize, or nuzzle, the person who has gone half batty trying to find them. This does not happen here – at least Pezanoski doesn’t show it to us. “Mine” gives new meaning to the phrase “a dog’s life.”

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