The Movie Diary
May 3, 2018

A dog’s life

By Dom Cioffi

In my life, I have had deep, personal relationships with three dogs.

My first dog – the dog that was already around when I was born – was Skipper. Skipper was a portly beagle with a mild disposition. He could bark with the best of them, but avoided it much of the time because it was likely too much trouble.

Skipper’s favorite pastime was to head out into the neighborhood in search of accessible garbage, which he would then bring back to our yard and bury in our flower garden. On more than one occasion, my mother found discarded lobster shells and chicken bones occupying the same space as her rose bushes, dahlias, and marigolds.

I barely remember Skipper – he died when I was about 7 years old – but there are a few surviving photos that suggest we had a classic “boy and his dog” bond.
After Skipper died, my parents bought another beagle, this one called Cheala, (apparently she was named after a foreign exchange student that my older brother had dated).

Cheala was a bit rowdier than Skipper, which didn’t bother me. I liked the energy because it matched my own. Skipper would fetch a ball, but it was an exercise in patience. Cheala reacted like you would expect a dog to react, by running after the ball aggressively and returning to your side as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, that aggressive nature occasionally got Cheala into trouble with the neighbors (remember this was long before Invisible Fence, so most dogs roamed free).

Not more than a year after we got her, Cheala got very sick. My mom took her to the vet and was told that several dogs from our side of the city had been brought in with the same illness, clearly from ingesting something poisonous. The vet suspected foul play and suggested we either move Cheala to another location or rope her off in the yard.

It was decided that Cheala would be better off at my parent’s friend’s house outside the city. They had a lot of property and a farm-like environment where she would be free to roam and safe from deviant neighbors.

Apparently, I took the relocation of Cheala hard and begged for another pet. Sometime later, a friend of my father suggested we adopt their dog since they were moving into a complex that didn’t allow pets. My father scooped up Ripley, and brought her home to see what I thought. It was love at first sight.

Ripley was a small lap dog, part toy poodle, part Yorkshire terrier. She had the most loving disposition and because she had already been trained, she knew several tricks and was incredibly well behaved.

Ripley and I were best pals from our first moments together. In fact, everyone loved Ripley. She also roamed the neighborhood, but never got into trouble. Wherever she went, people knew her name and were always willing to give her a scratch.

One of my biggest thrills was when I entered Ripley into a local dog trick contest run by the recreation center. I was over the moon when we took third place (we even got our names in the paper!).

Ripley was with me throughout my childhood, right into my college years. She was in my lap whenever I allowed and happy to run around the yard whenever I had time. When I was gone for my first semester of college and returned home, the greeting from her was overwhelming.

Eventually, time took its toll and one day, with her eyesight failing and health deteriorating, Ripley asked to go outside and never returned. My mother called me at college and broke the news, which was tough to hear. For years, every time I went home I always expected her to run up to the door to greet me.

She’s been gone many years now, but the memory of Ripley is ingrained in my soul.

This week’s film, “Isle of Dogs,” is about another young boy who experienced the same bond with his pet dog. Their bond, however, is put to the test when all dogs are suddenly banished to a remote island because of disease.

This is another selection from the creative mind of filmmaker Wes Anderson. Once again, Anderson utilizes stop-motion animation to deliver a quirky little film, featuring some of the most recognizable voices in Hollywood.

This is a wonderful story and because it was told through the lens of Anderson, it offers a rhythm and cadence that is unique to his style. Not everyone may like the approach, but there’s no denying that this filmmaker always delivers an interesting movie.

A gruff “B” for “Isle of Dogs.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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