With a few exceptions, Outside is a shamelessly pro-canine publication. So as soon as we heard that Netflix was releasing a high-end documentary series about our relationships with dogsâa doguseries, if you willâwe rounded up some staffers to watch with their best friends. Dogs features six episodes, each helmed by an accomplished director, and we watched every single one. Our reviewers also noted how many times their dogs took interest in what was happening on-screen, which is the closest we could get to their honest review.
This was a piece of television that seemed designed almost exclusively to make viewers cry, but it didnât succeed with meâand when dogs are involved, itâs usually pretty easy to make me cry (and reach for Cabot, my lab mix). My main quibble with this episode ofÂ DogsÂ is that it didnât really introduce us to a dog; it introduced us to a girl named CorinneÂ who has epilepsy. Her and her familyâsÂ lives revolve around her unpredictable seizures, and I did feelÂ sympathy for them. But the hour-long episode left me with a lot of questions about the dog.Â About halfway through the episode, the family meetsÂ Corinneâs service dog, Rory, for the first time. AÂ trainer at the facility gives a stern lecture about âprotecting the bondâÂ between the dog and the human itâs there to serve, which meansÂ siblings are not allowed to give treats to the dog, ever. Corinneâs sister glumly walks out of the room, and that moment was when I came closest to crying. Couldnât the trainer have explained âprotecting the bondâÂ in a kinder way? Why didnât the producers of this episode show us more about how Roryâthe dogâwas trained? We get that Rory is supposed to bark when he sees Corinne having a seizure, to sound an alarm for help. But we never see or even hear about him successfully doing that for her; the episode ends shortly after Rory has gone home with Corinne.
At the beginning of the episode, we learn that Corinneâs mom sleeps on the floor in her daughterâs room every night, so she can be there in case Corinne has a seizure. My mom used to do that for me, tooâIâm a Type 1 diabetic, which puts me at risk of middle-of-the-night seizures, so I really had sympathy for this particular aspect of the familyâs story. But at the end of the episode, even after getting Rory the dog, Corinneâs mom is still sleeping on that bedroom floorÂ and says she thinks she âprobably always will.â Then why did you get this expensive dog that your other daughter isnât even allowed to play with or give treats to? In the end, I still had no sense of how effective Rory will be in his role, and I didnât know anything about his personality.Â
Cabotâs review: She usually notices when Iâm watching something that features other dogsâsheâll look up when she hears barking, for example. But she slept through the whole episode, despite having a front-row seat on my couch.
âSvati Narula (associate social media editor)Â and Cabot (lab mix)
The cold heart of mine thatÂ refused to melt while watching Corinne and Rory, in episode one, turned to mush the instant I saw Zeus. Zeus is a Siberian husky trapped in war-torn Syria, waiting to be reunited with his owner,Â Ayham, who has fled to Germany. AyhamÂ frantically checks in on Zeus with frequent FaceTime calls to his friend Amer, who has been entrusted with Zeusâs care. While Ayham is navigating Berlin as a refugee, Amer and Zeus are living in a crumbling building, with Zeus barking when he hears gunfire and bombs dropping. The situation appears hopeless, but Ayham does, miraculously, find someone willing to facilitate what is essentially a rescue mission for the dog. The obstacles to that mission piled up with more suspense than I could handleâI was aÂ wreck while watching this andÂ spent much of the episode with my head in my hands and on the verge of tears. Watching a dog flee Syria when so many humans canât, of course, adds another layer of pain to this. But the producers donât forget to show us Amerâs fate, too, effectively weavingÂ a deeply human story into the journey of one very good boy.
Cabotâs review: She noticed that IÂ seemed to be distressed, threw me a head tilt, then went back to begging for food. Halfway through the episode, Koda, the dog of Outsideâs social media editorial assistant, Abbey Gingras, entered the room, and then Cabot and Koda were too busy wrestling to notice anything elseâuntil the moment I exclaimed, âZeus is such a good boy!âÂ and they both thought I was talking about them.
âS.N. and Cabot
Like most of this series, the focus in this episodeÂ isnât really on the ten-year-old Labrador named IceÂ but on the issues surrounding his family. His owner, Alessandro, fishes on Lake Como and runs a small family restaurant. But the lake is inexplicably running out of fish, causing fear among the fishermen in town, while Alessandro also worries about the future of his restaurant if his children decide to pursue their own careers. Itâs an intimate look at a family just trying to get byâsomething I can relate to despite having a radically different life. Iceâs role in the family is not unlike my dogÂ Kodaâs: serving as a reliable, comforting presence in the face of uncertainty and change (their uncertainty being fish populations, and mine being the future of Facebook). I liked this episode, but IÂ could barely contain myÂ jealousyÂ that Ice could sit at the kitchen table without trying to eat everything in his reach.
Kodaâs review: HeÂ didnât seem very interested in Ice. I can only blame this on Iceâs quiet watchfulnessâhe barely barked, so I donât think Koda knew there was a dog on screen.
âAbbey Gingras (social media editorial assistant) and Koda (husky mix)
As the dog mom of two mutts who hate the groomer even more than the vet, I was nervous to watch âScissors Downâ with Ted and Stella. The plot follows two extremely passionate Japanese groomers who are headed to the U.S. to compete in a contest. These are not your average PetSmart stylists. Clients drive three hours, and sometimes even fly in, to seek out the services of these groomers. One of them compares her work to a day spa, and the other is referred to as an artist by his fans. (Think: fluffy white poodles coiffed into perfect balls and matching outfits for dog and owner.)
Ted, Stella, and I are a family of three that likes to roam the desert, sleep in our truck, and bathe less than frequently, so we were all a bit skeptical of the Vogue-worthy styles showcased in this episode. But as we watched, we were moved by the passion of the two main characters. At one point, a judge said that she was impressed with how one Japanese contestant had groomed a dog because he made it look cute in spite of its very short legs.Â But then Netflix cut to an interview with the groomer, explaining that he picked the dog out of many options because he felt the short body would showcase the style he was going for. This hit especially close to home,Â because both Ted and Stella measure in at about a foot tall. Although there were a few dull scenes in the middle of the episode (how many snipping shots did we really need to see?), by the end I teared up a little, Ted cuddled in close, and Stella didnât even let out a single snore (a great feat!).
Ted and Stellaâs review: They did not bark at the screen onceâIâd like to think this was thanks to their impeccable training, but in reality, I think the speakers on my laptop just werenât loud enough to attract their attention.
âAbigail Wise (online managing editor), Ted (poodle and cattle-herding mix), and Stella (pug and hound mix)
Every day with my dog Beep is filled with chaos and uncertainty. What thing that I value did she eat today? Why wonât she ever let me sleep in past 6 A.M.? Why wonât she stop barking while I try to watchÂ this episode? (I had to put headphones in.)
The chaos and uncertainty at El Territorio de Zaguates in Costa Rica is different. The sanctuary, the largest of its kind in the world, is the morally ambiguous solution to a man-made problemâCosta Ricaâs two million stray dogs, or zaguates. At the center of El Territorio are Alvaro SaumetÂ and Lya Battle, a married couple who now look after 1,200 dogs on a 300-acre free-range shelter. (OutsideÂ wrote about them in 2017.)Â Whether or not itâs going well depends on your definition of success.
The episode takes its time to get where itâs goingâlike the lifestyle at El Territorio, the plotÂ feels undetermined. Youâll find your line, however, with Jonny, El Territorioâs seizure-prone head caretaker, and Max, the dog that chose him. The episode is a reminder of the way our animals feel our strife, and why we try to save themÂ even when the odds are stacked against us. Yes, I cried. Yes, Beep drank sneakily from my mug of hot chocolate (sheâs fine) while I was sucked into the drama.
Come to this episode for the insane aerial shots of hundreds of dogs going for a run through the rainforest. Stay for Maxâs love for Jonny, Jonnyâs love for his brother, and your newfound hatred for one specificÂ murderousÂ tapir.
Beepâs review: She did not like the sequence of dogs barking at the beginning of the episode, butÂ bravely defended our apartment from the 1,200 caninesÂ that she thought wereÂ encircling it. (Cue the headphones here.)
âMadeleine LaPlante-DubeÂ (editorial production fellow) and Beep (border collie and Aussie mix)
In Costa Rica, a zaguate isnât just a stray: itâs a lowlife. Itâs filthy. Not so in New York City. âIf youâre different,â a voice says at the beginning of this final DogsÂ episode, âif youâre a loner, a straggler, you can make yourself a home here.â New York, we discover, is where los zaguates become dogs. Â
Iâll admit I watched this episode sans Beep. Despite her adorable name, she does not like the sound of car horns, of which there were plenty. The dogs in the episode donât seem to mind, however, and there are loads of them: more dogs live in NYC than people live in Cleveland, the episode states, and having spent four years in Ohio, this stat rings true to me.Â
The gooey center of this sweet episode is Heart andÂ Bone, a rescue organization that takes dogs from kill shelters and organizations that are at capacity, and disseminates them throughout a foster networkâand laterÂ an adoption oneâin the city. We see in detailÂ the quiet herculean efforts of Anna, our resident dog rescuer and Heart and Boneâs head honcho.Â
Cry when adoptive family Neal, Emily, and their daughter Julia reflect on their recently deceased Mickey, theÂ sweet mutt that used to lay his head on Juliaâs belly when she cried. Cry more as Julia says, tearily, âAdopting a new one can [make you]Â have that happy feeling again,â when the family announces that theyâre ready for another dog.Â Laugh at the absurd amount of city dogs toted in bags, purses, strollers, arms, and outfits. And witnessÂ not the weakness or fragility of the human spiritÂ but the softness of it, as dogs make their humansâÂ lives happier, fuller, and more purposeful.Â
I need to go get Beep now. Watch this series.Â