The other day Facebook did that thing where it shows me a post I made years ago, this one describing how Mystic River was the most upsetting thing ever and left me a snotty sobbing mess at the end. I’m sure it would still have that effect, I’m not going to test that theory, but it’s no longer the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen. No, that honor goes to Amores Perros by Alejandro González Iñárritu (director of Birdman and The Revenant more recently). And just this week I’ve had reason to flashback to that one way too much.
(Spoilers ahead. It is a fantastically well done movie I highly recommend seeing for yourself, the first thing I ever saw Gael García Bernal in and I love him in everything. Bookmark this post, go watch the movie, then come back. And now that you’re a weeping snotty mess too…)
OK, there are multiple plot lines in Amores Perros. The owner listening helplessly as their dog trapped and lost under the floorboards is attacked by rats is quite upsetting enough, but that’s not the scene that haunts me. No, the really upsetting story line is about the older man, a squatter in an abandoned building living with a dozen or so strays like a big canine family, all piling on the bed together to sleep. He takes in a dog that used to be a pet but has recently been used in dog fights. He was so successful in the pit that the guys losing their money and dogs have shot him and as he’s bleeding in the backseat of the car his owner crashes. The people are pulled free but the dog is ignored by all but the old man, who brings him home to his dog family, patches him up and cares for him. Then he goes out and while he’s out the dog does what his previous owner had trained him to do: kill all the other dogs. The man comes home to see all of his dogs dead or dying, the lone dog looking up at him with an “aren’t I a good dog?” look on his face.
But why I was remembering it just this week in particular is another story. One of our cats recently died, and we decided rather than get another cat we’d get another dog. We haunted the American Humane Society website and watched for likely dogs, looking for something female and less than a year old. The dog we settled on was 9 months old but over 40 pounds already. I was worried she was too big, but she was such a lover. My husband had seen her already but when I came to meet her and the two of us approached her kennel she rushed forward like she knew him already. She came when called, sat on command, and was so cuddly, a total sweetheart. She had been a stray who had had a run-in with a porcupine she was still healing up from, because an interesting back story is important.
We brought her home and introduced her to Mugen in the neighbor’s yard, neutral ground. They sniffed each other and Mugen was a little freaked out because she was so big but she didn’t seem bothered at all. Then we brought them in the house and things were still cool. I gave them both a treat and they regarded each other as they chewed. Mugen went to hide the rest of his for later, then came back to see the new dog. I guess he got too close, she didn’t growl or anything she just lunged at him and put her mouth on his throat in that killing bite I knew so well from that movie. She backed off when I told her to and never broke the skin, but man. Those flashbacks. In an instant she was a whole different dog to me.
We tried to smooth things over the next few days but clearly this sweetheart of a dog had a whole Jekyll/Hyde thing going on and had no patience for my active (frankly, a bit of a spaz) rat terrier. We tried separating them in different parts of the house with a baby gate, but she was a brute and could knock that gate right down.
So we had to take her back. Hopefully someone else takes her in. In a lot of ways she was a dream compared to my little spaz, so mellow when he wasn’t around, cuddling, tail wagging the entire time she ate, standing patiently at the door waiting for the leash and walking calmly beside you. I almost think she was too mellow for me, but she will make someone else a perfect dog, provided they don’t already have a spazzy little dog. (We never introduced her to our cat Spike at all.)
We have 90 days to pick out another puppy. I’ll definitely be going for something smaller than Mugen this time, at least one that is currently smaller so I’m not stuck with breaking up a fight by coming down on the underdog since he’s the one who knows my commands (he got sprayed with so much water trying to keep him from upsetting the big dog). And this next one will have a much slower introduction. The whole thing was very upsetting, feeling like we let that sweetheart of a dog down because we’d all fallen in love with her (not the least my eldest who was surprised to find not all dogs hate him like ours kind of does).
I spoiled big plot points for Amores Perros, but I didn’t tell you how it all ends. It’s one of my favorite movie endings ever, one that is uplifting but not overly optimistic. It’s perfect by not promising more than feels possible for that man and that dog. (And I didn’t tell you everything about that man, not by a long shot). If you like viscerally intense movies, check it out.