I’ve taken some time to think about the movie Dean Spanley and how the story was able to evoke such an emotional from me. As a huge dog lover, part of me is forever grateful to the scene in the movie that portrays a beautiful day in the life of two dogs who formed an unlikely friendship.
When I welcome new dogs into my home, it is my hope that they still are given the freedom to exult in their dogness from time to time and forget about the demands of being part of a human family. Just the same, I recognize that I am responsible for their protection and there are always limits on how far I allow them to run – even at the secluded cottage where they love to roam.
In my own book, A Dog’s Religion, I portray the dogs at the Shelter as religious types. For instance, Tory is a mixed breed boxer who tends to prefer the company of other dogs. I view him as representing a humanistic religious type. Lady, on the other hand, is so wrapped up in pleasing her master that she knows no joy outside of this relationship. She represents the fanatical religious type.
Likewise, in Dean Spanley, a religious theme is explored, only in this situation a case for metempsychosis is made. Dean himself is suspected to be the reincarnation of a family dog, with memories of his past life that pour out of him when he starts to drink a rare type of wine called Hungarian Tokay. The movie isn’t really as much about dogs as it is an invitation to reflect on how little you know about existence.
The love of a gruff, bitter old man for his old dog and the heart melting explanation for the dog’s sudden disappearance is as rare and exotic a work of art as the wine Spanley drinks. When thinking about this movie, it’s as though I can only do so in sips, fully taking in the aroma and flavour of something uniquely satisfying. When I reflect on the scene of the two dogs and their celebration of caninehood, I almost inevitably end up hugging my own dogs.
I am indebted to this movie and I hope it not only changes the way we view dogs, but our perspective of the people we encounter in life as well.