In Mike Mills’ new film, Beginners, a Jack Russell plays a main part. In this quote from an interview with Mills, it’s clear that he and I are kindred spirits when it comes to viewing dogs as different-but-equal to humans. Indeed, it sounds like the movie might be something of a paean to the canine set:
I inherited my Dad’s Jack Russell, and the whole movie is people trying to figure out who they are really, and who they are in relation to others. And when I had that little bit of Oliver explaining to the dog that he is an invention of this man named John Russell, who invented that breed in the late 1800’s to hunt, and their specific heights so they can get into fox holes—I was, like, “that’s really the movie, everyone trying to figure out how they got here.” The dog doesn’t know that it chases tennis balls because it was bred to chase foxes, and we all have our own version of those tennis balls and those foxes, and we’re trying to figure those out. [...] I think that animals aren’t less intelligent than humans, they’re just of a different intelligence. We have five million smell sensitive cells in our nose, they have two hundred and fifty million, they can smell emotion. They can smell different types of emotion, they just have an other type of intelligence. I talk to them like they’re little aliens… I worked on the script for so long that conversation just sort of went from down there on the floor to up there on the page and kind of kept going.