2016-07-21 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“The Secret Life of Pets” raked in over $203 million at movie box offices in just two weeks. I went to see the animated film, hoping I’d love it because two of the promos featured friends. Instead, I realized I remain a classic Disney devotee. I was disappointed by the violence and the message. (Spoiler alert: This “Pets” may reveal details you would rather be surprised to see in the theater.)

Have you ever wondered what your pets do all day long when you are at work or school? Most of us assume they sleep all day but this film sets us straight. It’s “Risky Business” without Tom Cruise. In this Manhattan setting, unattended pets climb fire escapes to visit each other, while certain city dogs with traveling owners host wild, continuous parties. The full-figured cat “Chloe” helps herself to a whole turkey in the refrigerator. “Leonard,” a Standard Poodle, switches the stereo from classical music to hard rock the second his owner leaves.


“Jasmine” the Afghan on the “Today Show” during interview for “The Secret Life of Pets” “Jasmine” the Afghan on the “Today Show” during interview for “The Secret Life of Pets” Many of us have come home to pet party spoils-something behaviorists refer to as “separation anxiety.” As a pup, “Juliet,” my first Afghan, used to pull curtains off the rods, phone off the hook and foil from the burners on the stove. She’d also jump up and swat the pendulum clock, stopping it at 8:50 a.m. so I knew most of her shenanigans happened as soon as I left for school. Her demolition derby ended the next year when we adopted her Afghan brother, “Alfie,” from Babylon Shelter. We never knew if she relaxed because she matured, or if she was comforted by the presence of a canine clone.

My Afghan boys “Alan” and “Trevor” lived together for nine years. One day I was greeted at the door by a wall of white cotton as if a cloud descended to earth. The cumulus trail led me to the living room. One or both boys had decided to redesign a sofa cushion. Nothing like this ever happened again. We will never know what provoked that pillow fight.

Promos: David Frei, voice of Westminster Kennel Club for 27 years, and my boss there for the last six, made two promotional videos for “The Secret Life of Pets.” As David leaves for the day, he tells his Brittany “Grace” and Cavalier “Angel” to be good. As soon as he shuts the door, you see a paw hit the remote so his “Home Alone” pups can watch a tape of David announcing a Westminster show.

Universal Studios invited my rescued Afghan goddaughter “Jasmine” to a two-day photo shoot at Liberty Park in NJ to film ads for the movie. The first day the dogs did activities at the park with the NYC skyline and Statue of Liberty in the background. “Jasmine” stood on a picnic table while her Mom Annette brushed her for hours. Both days the dogs and owners were chauffeured in golf carts to the gourmet food tent.

The second day the dogs formed a canine audience for a “Today Show” interview with stars of the film -Louis C.K., voice of the hero-”Max” the Jack Russell, and Kevin Hart, voice of his nemesis- “Snowball,” the discarded magician’s white rabbit and leader of the “flushed” pet army. A Basset, several Rottweilers and Jasmine were supposed to do a 15-minute down/stay to watch the interview.

The trainer thought Jasmine would break and go to Annette so he put her leash under the interviewer’s chair. The rest of the dogs were off-leash. The following Monday the interview aired on “The Today Show” for five full minutes. You see the other dogs for a second, and then they wandered off. Only Jasmine, the blonde co-anchor, remained for the whole interview, at times upstaging the stars or the interviewer.

The Secret Life of Punching Pets: I’ve never been a fan of slapstick, the Three Stooges or over-the-top violence. This family film had plenty of it. It reminded me of Sherlock Holmes movie with Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. In both I expected something more cerebral or clever, not an explosion or power punch in every frame. “Lady & the Tramp” showed the secret life of both title dogs. A romantic Bella Notte with a shared strand of spaghetti washed down with a good Chianti is more memorable than pets clobbering each other in every scene.

Meanwhile, the animation is amazing. Too bad the film didn’t focus on developing certain characters or subplots. The pets are so real and move in creative ways. The Dachshund climbs a ladder like he were a Slinky. The ancient Basset “Pops” in his arthritis mobility cart is by far the speediest.

Flushed Sewer Pets: The creepy flushed pets-every species from Sea Monkey (brine shrimp) to a huge alligator-were discarded by their owners. Now they’ve banded together against humanity in their sewer hideaway. They are determined to kill people.

This portion of the film is too dark and scary for impressionable young kids. The notion that ex-pets plan to kill people as revenge sends the wrong message to small kids. Pets will defend themselves but they don’t seek revenge. They tend to forgive us for our transgressions. Only humans (and perhaps a few great primates) are that cold-hearted. Then again- what do I know? “The Secret Life of Pets” has generated $203 million in two weeks.

For Adoption at Babylon Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Webster” 16-352 is an adorable, stray Chihuahua who carries his bowl around in this mouth. “Cooper” 6-170 is a precious, Russian Blue-type kitten growing up at the shelter.

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