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Review: Cute is just a cover for the hard-working guide dogs of ‘Pick of the Litter’

Review: Cute is just a cover for the hard-working guide dogs of ‘Pick of the Litter’
Phil, a guide dog puppy at Guide Dogs for the Blind in the documentary "Pick of the Litter." (Sundance Selects)

Meet Patriot, Potomac, Primrose, Poppet and Phil, the adorable stars of the documentary “Pick of the Litter,” directed by Don Hardy Jr. and Dana Nachman. It’s a complete delight, a much-needed balm for the soul. This film — which follows the process as a litter of puppies make their way through training to become guide dogs for the blind — shows us the best in humanity, as well as the best in dogs.

Cuteness notwithstanding (although it’s truly squeal-worthy), “Pick of the Litter” is about hard work — the work that the dogs do to train, and the efforts of the many people along for the journey as volunteer raisers and trainers, all in the service of making the world more accessible for just one person. It requires an inordinate amount of selflessness.

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It’s also incredibly suspenseful. You might find yourself holding your breath as the dogs train, and ultimately test, to avoid traffic, steep platforms and other hazards, or devastated when one of the puppies is “career changed” out of the program. It’s staggering to witness what goes into training these animals, teaching them to be perceptive, intelligent and make decisions for those who don’t have all the information.

“Pick of the Litter” will draw tears too — happy ones. It’s simply amazing to see how these animals will open up the whole world for their handlers.

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‘Pick of the Litter’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Royal, West L.A.

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