Judge Clark Douglas has a robotic personality.
Innovations that benefit both animals and humans.
In an episode of the superb television series Louie, an elderly doctor (played by Charles Grodin) offers the following observation:
"Do you know the only thing happier than a three-legged dog? A four-legged dog."
I kept thinking about that line all through My Bionic Pet, a PBS special which makes the persuasive case that we should do everything within our power to ensure a certain level of happiness for the animals in our care. We've all seen disabled animals before. They seem to get by well enough, right? One of my best friends owned a three-legged dog for years (he had been hit by a car), and the dog seemed to make the best of his circumstances. Even so, he surely found the reduced mobility frustrating. The veterinary world has been working on ways to keep animals healthy for quite some time, but much less research has been done in the realm of keeping animals comfortable and happy. As such, many of the artificial limbs we see employed over the course of this special were essentially invented specifically for the animals they're attached to.
One of the most intriguing creatures we meet is a pig named Chris P. Bacon (yes, really). Chris was born with a birth defect which robbed him of his two back legs. As a result, he's had to pull himself along with his front legs—he can move around, but he's much slower than a pig ought to be. His owner came up with a brilliant solution: attaching a pair of wheels to the pig's backside in order to give him greater speed and support. The plan works like gangbusters, and in no time at all the pig is flying around at top speed. In case after case (we see lots of dogs given artificial legs, and a swan given an artificial bill), the pure joy the animals receive from being somewhat restored is obvious. If this is something we're capable of doing—and more importantly, something we're capable of doing in relatively inexpensive fashion—why isn't it being done more often?
My Bionic Pet isn't really a call to arms so much as a simple, pleasant, moving portrait of animals whose lives have been improved immeasurably by their lovingly-crafted devices. The special also spends a good deal of time examining the relationships humans and animals share, and suggesting that maybe the term "owner" is one which ought to be retired (as it suggests that animals are mere property, rather than living, breathing creatures) and replaced with "caretaker." I dig it.
My Bionic Pet sports a solid standard-def 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, though it's a pretty simple affair visually. Some pleasant animal footage is interspersed with a lot of talking head interviews, but this isn't the sort of visually remarkable affair many Nature specials are. The Dolby 2.0 stereo track gets the job done nicely, too, with a pleasant, low-key score blending nicely with the dialogue. No supplements are included.
A warm and good-hearted Nature special, My Bionic Pet is worth checking out.
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