Full Frame Review: Buddy

Remember that woman who tried to bring her service peacock onto an airplane recently? How about those time when you’re out and you see a rather unhelpful pet being passed off as a service animal? It’s easy to view this all as a scam so that people can bring their dogs, cats and turtles into bars and restaurants by slapping a vest on them that reads service. Luckily Buddy reminds people that there are service dogs and they do more than just look cute in a vest. The Dutch documentary from director Heddy Honigmann and crew explores the bond between six people and their service dogs.

All of the six people have major issues that need help. A retired soldier has back issues and PTSD from his time in the warzone. He speaks of having to sit in observation positions and not do anything while watching civilians get attacked in their homes by the enemy. His dog is there to do so much from him. At night, the dog will wake him up when he’s having a bad dream. During the day, the dog keeps an eye behind his master to make sure nobody sneaks up behind them. There’s a pre-teen with major health concerns who seems to responds better to the dog than his mother. A woman with muscular issues needs her dog to open cabinets, pick up her groceries off the shelf at the supermarket and even push the plunger when she gives herself an injection. Her dog does the work of a nurse. The dog can even turn her around in bed and take off her socks. There are people with various degrees of blindness who would rather rely on their dogs instead of a can. A paraplegic woman uses her do to get down the stairs. None of these dogs have an easy life of just running around the backyard, tearing apart toys and waiting for their dinner bowls to be filled.

Buddy really shows how amazing things can be with a service animal. How much they cared for the people who needed it most. The concern the dog had for the PTSD soldier was near human. They even do a small experiment to show how the dog changes his focus when the solider is on the park alone versus with his wife next to him. There are quite a few handkerchief moments during the film that will get tears from dog lovers and non-dog lovers alike. The Dutch speaking dog owners are subtitled. Buddy reminds us of the sacrifices dogs make to help the people in their lives.

Buddy was reviewed at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.

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