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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Puppies rule in Pick of the Litter, a seriously cute account of the breeding and training program that prepares service dogs to become guides for the visually impaired. National non-profit Guide Dogs for the Blind, based in San Rafael, Calif., breeding program births 800 puppies a year, but fewer than half are found suitable as guide dogs. Through an intensive training and evaluation program, GDB identifies both dogs and clients considered appropriate for pairing, giving visually limited people the chance to develop more independence and self-confidence in their lives.
The filmmakers start right at the beginning of the guide-dog training process, when specially selected Labrador retrievers give birth to pups. GDB veterinary staff dub the new arrivals the "P" litter, distributing five of the puppies at 8 weeks old to volunteer individuals and families. These "puppy raisers" are given responsibility for training and socializing the dogs for the first 16 months of their lives. If the dogs are able to meet GDB's rigorous screening criteria, they return to the San Rafael campus for 10 weeks of training to qualify as guide dogs.
The puppy raisers range in experience from novices to true experts who have nurtured 10 or more dogs over the years. When they're out in public with their temporary trainers, the dogs wear little green vests labelled "Guide Dog Puppy." In the process of evaluating the dogs at three-month intervals, GDB staff decide to transfer several of the P-litter dogs, due to the inexperience of the raisers or when the pups start developing behavioural problems. At the end of 12 months, four of the dogs remain. As adorable as the P-litter pups surely are, there's a good deal of human drama here too, since applicants typically wait up to a year or more for GDB to select a suitable dog. While Pick of the Litter stands out for its canine characterizations, it's fundamentally a film about the endlessly fascinating, constantly evolving relationship between dogs and humans, cultivated over millennia of advantageous interaction.