REVIEW: “A Subject Struck With Gold” – ‘Life In the Doghouse’ (2018)

To begin with, I will admit, with a heavy heart: Life In The Doghouse is not an outstanding documentary. The film finds itself abiding to a generic documentary style that does not make heads turn. However, and I cannot stress this enough, Life In The Doghouse has struck gold with its subject.

Danny and Ron’s Rescue in Camden, South Carolina is a small paradise for the thousands of dogs who have landed in their care. The two men have opened their home and their hearts to abandoned dogs, many of which have been saved from euthanasia lists. Now, having successfully rehomed thousands of dogs, their aim has not lessened even slightly. It is this central topic that allows this documentary to win over your heart. As the documentary meets Danny and Ron, their home is inhabited by seventy-one dogs freely running around every square foot of the house. With their small but efficient workforce, all hands are constantly working to feed every mouth, clean every dog bed, and rotate every dog for a walk around the yard. 

The documentary touches upon the heartbreaking issues of euthanasia and overpopulated shelters that are widespread across the US, however, the film mainly remains optimistic in its portrayal of the positivity of adoption. Yet, moments of underlying reflection provide perspective on the two men and their mission: “Not everyone’s born with the very same gifts and the same luck.” Danny voices with complete clarity that both himself and Ron care so deeply about these animals. Their lives are dedicated to providing the best chance for these dogs, promising no matter their colour, age, size or past, they will find a home with them. Their chosen family consists of two men and a house full of dogs, where love is stabilising. A quietly sincere reflection of the LGBTQIA+ community, where people can find a sense of belonging they may have lost.

Time is given to Danny and Ron as they reflect on their youth, processing the relationship with their parents as well as their internal journey of discovering their sexuality. Life In The Doghouse may have not intended to, but the film naturally comes to represent a topic that so many LGBTQIA+ individuals come to terms with: the fear of abandonment. Having done nothing wrong, these dogs find themselves being disowned. In a similar way, there is an emotional parallel existing in the lives of Danny and Ron; the journey of their coming out involved this very fear of abandonment. Being ostracised, unfortunately, is still an outcome for many, but as Danny and Ron show, it can be the unconditional love of a few that build a network of support.

This deeper sense of human intuition displays human and dog sharing an empathetic bond grounded in an understanding of this neglect. A personal, yet reflective, portrait of one small rescue comes to provide an outline of the emotional connection so apparent in LGBTQIA+ spaces. Danny and Ron appear as the fathers to thousands of adopted dogs who had no where else to go, offering them a second opportunity at life.

These two men who found love together have opened their home to share their safe space with any dog that needs it. Their kindness, reflected in their selflessness, is at the heart of Life In The Doghouse. Danny and Ron allow themselves to be vulnerable on camera, sharing their personal stories and the emotional reasoning behind their drive to rescue all these dogs.

Although Life In The Doghouse may not be creatively challenging in the scape of documentaries, there is no need for an impressive boasting of filmmaking here. Rather, the minimalist, straightforward production allows for the subject to bask in the full attention of the film. Touching and heartwarming, this is a sincere film that is one of the gems in Netflix’s catalogue. The film is a celebration of gays and dogs; a heaven I wish to be a part of.

Check out the work of Danny and Ron’s Rescue: 

Dir: Ron Davis

Life In The Doghouse is available on Netflix.