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Does “Marley & Me” teach irresponsible pet ownership?

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‘Marley & Me,’ the film adaptation of John Grogan’s bestselling book, has topped box office revenue lists since its release Christmas Day. But while it’s won legions of fans (including the American Humane Assn., which gave it an ‘Outstanding’ rating), not everyone is singing its praises.

A notable naysayer? Times film columnist Scott Collins, who writes:

No, I have not come to bury ‘Marley & Me’ for its corny sentimentality and Christmas-card triteness -- many others have already beaten me to that. My beef is that the film ... represents a toxic hazard to dog owners as well as anyone who ever comes near a dog -- basically everyone, in other words.

Marley’s owners, played by Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, ‘sit by with a kind of bemused helplessness’ as their wayward Labrador commits bad deed after bad deed, Collins says. Marley, he ponders, might be a perfect candidate for celebrity dog trainer Cesar Millan, who’s known for his emphasis on training dog owners to ‘stay calm and assertive’:

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Now Millan’s ‘rehabilitation’ techniques are themselves not without criticism. (The American Humane Assn., for example, in 2006 attacked ‘Dog Whisperer’ for training that was ‘inhumane, outdated and improper.’) But Millan’s focus on the need to train the owner -- rather than simply the dog -- falls well within the mainstream of opinion among dog experts. People being naturally lazy, most owners bend Millan’s mantra into an imperative more to their liking: much affection, minimal exercise, zero discipline. And that’s more or less the strategy on display in ‘Marley & Me.’ A lot more people are going to see the movie than will ever watch ‘Dog Whisperer.’

What do you think? Does ‘Marley & Me’ promote negligent dog ownership?

-- Lindsay Barnett


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