IMAX Documentaries have always been a favourite of mine. So when the beautiful IMAX imagery is paired with a selection of good dogs, it is a match made in heaven. Narrated by Chris Evans, a superhero in his own right, Superpower Dogs explores the wonderful world of our favourite four-legged friends and their incredible roles in society.
First up we are introduced to Henry from the Whistler Ski Resort. Together with his handler Ian Bunbury, Henry is at the forefront of the Senior Avalanche Rescue Team. If you are ever unlucky enough to be struck by an avalanche, then Henry is definitely the one you want searching for you. Dangling from a helicopter strapped to Ian, they drop in on an avalanche site and Henry immediately swings into action. With his incredible sense of smell, Henry is able to find a person trapped under meters of snow.
To be a Superpower Dog takes a lot of training, time and patience and it all starts when they are tiny cute little puppies. This is where we are introduced to the star of the film, Halo and her handler Cat Labrada. After flying to Detroit, Cat is in search of a special dog, which just happens to be the runt of the litter. You wouldn’t think it, but whilst her brothers and sisters roll around playing, Halo is focused on her toy. This level of focus is paramount to be a successful search and rescue dog. With her new companion in hand, Cat and Halo return home and begin training. Over the next two years, they will forge a remarkable bond that will lead them to the ultimate test: the Federal Emergency Management Association’s Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) and Certification Exam (CE) in New York. But first Halo has time to just be a cute, playful puppy.
Halo isn’t the only Superpower Dog that this documentary is about. We are also introduced to Reef, Tony & Piper and Ricochet. Reef, a four year old Newfoundland, is a water rescue dog that patrols the waters around Milan, Italy with owner Commandante Ferruccio Pilenga. The Newfoundland is a special breed that has been evolutionary engendered for the water. Due these special abilities, Ferruccio founded the Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs that not only recognizes the breed’s importance in water rescue, but also trains other breeds to expand their special water rescue unit.
Humans are not the only ones that are saved by these incredible dogs, but endangered species also need protection and which brings us to Tony & Piper‘s story. Patrolling the savannah of the LEWA Conservancy in Kenya, these clever bloodhounds have the unique ability to pick up the scent of a possible pack of poachers and track them from hundreds of miles. In their time with the conservation crew, Tony & Piper have assisted in over 40 arrests and countless missing people when all other efforts failed.
Missing people, buried under rubble and snow, tracking poachers are all incredible feats. However for me the most incredible story is the one of Ricochet the Surfing Dog. Not only is this 10 year old Golden Retriever an incredible surfer, but she is also has a sixth sense for people that are emotionally struggling. Whilst down at her local beach catching waves, Ricochet met a young boy with a sensory disorder and instantly built and emotional connection. Their bond enabled the boy to step out of his shell and jump on a surfboard. The smile on the kid’s face brought tears to my eyes. But the tears didn’t stop there, they continued to stream down my cheeks as Ricochet’s story continued as we are introduced to Staff Sergeant Persons B. Griffith IV Ret (Griff), a Marine combat veteran with PTSD. In her latest initiative, Waves of Empowerment program, Ricochet is partnered with veterans and kids with special needs. Griff would be out walking around with Ricochet, able to sense sounds or triggers that may set of his PTSD, Ricochet would firmly plants all four paws and stays still. This is her way to saying that everything is going to be okay, making herself a focal point so that Griff is distracted from his surroundings. I found discovering this truly magical is something that has to be seen to be believed.
Between each of these stories of incredible Superpower Dogs we return to the underlying story of Halo and her journey to become a qualified Search & Rescue Dog. Her training is tough and Halo needs to learn to ignore the temptations and distractions whilst performing her duties. From fluffy toys, to a burger and fries, she needs to stay focused on the task at hand. At the end of the film, Halo faces her toughest challenge yet: the Federal Emergency Management Association’s Foundation Skills Assessment in New York. Not only is this a challenge for Halo, but it is also a test for her owner and handler. Cat has spent the last two years training and raising Halo for one purpose, to assist with search and rescue to locate people trapped in disaster areas. Does Halo have what it takes to become the next member of Miami Dade’s Task Force 1? Well, you will have to go see the film to find out!
Superpower Dogs is a beautiful, heartwarming tribute to our fury four legged companions and their incredible abilities that normally go unrecognized. From search and rescue, to conservation of our most endangered species to mental health, each of these dogs are special in their own right. Personally, Ricochet is by far my favorite of the film. Her innate ability to help those struggling with mental health is truly special. And something that gets me emotional just thinking about, even writing this I am fighting back tears.
If there is one film you need to see in IMAX this year, it is Superpower Dogs. This incredible film had me smiling from ear to ear from start to end, I laughed and I even cried. I love Dogs, I love IMAX, put the two together and it is a match made in heaven. Superpower Dogs is out now exclusively to IMAX and you can catch it at the IMAX Melbourne theatre up until the end of Winter School Holidays. This ‘Dogumentary’ is full of good doggos and is a h*ckin good film. 15/10 would watch again.