There is something fascinating about watching someone do what they were seemingly born to do. Tiger Woods was born to swing a golf club. Jimi Hendrix was destined to wrap his fingers around a guitar. Jacob Leezak is a man who was born to be with dogs.
Jacob rehabilitates dogs at the Canine Behaviour Expert Dog Psychology Centre, just outside of Sydney. The Centre is a canine paradise, sitting on acres of fields, filled with long grass and ponds for the dogs to play in. Before coming to Jacob, some of these “problem dogs” have been left to die at shelters, while others have simply become too much for their owners to control. Some of the dogs live at the centre permanently, some stay temporarily. He specialises in pit bulls, but there are all sorts of breeds in his pack. And that’s how he refers to his dogs; “My pack.”
In order to get to know Jacob and his pack, Director Eryn Wilson went and stayed with them for days on end, including one stretch where he spent four nights sleeping on a couch with a pit bull. Wilson manages to convey that sense of closeness in the film. He makes you feel like a member of Jacob’s pack by often placing the camera in amongst the various dogs, jostling for position, vying for Jacob’s attention. It’s from here we get to see Jacob work his magic. He always exudes a sense of calm authority, but even as he literally whispers to his dogs, he tells us that he hates the term “dog whisperer”. He’s not here to control or manipulate the dogs. He’s here to help them heal.
And Jacob knows a thing or two about healing. Much like their dogs, Jacob and his wife Jennah have had to deal with the damaging effects of society themselves. Jacob is a former soldier who served in multiple war zones for the Australian military, while Jennah has lived a life of abuse and hardship from a very young age. Jacob and Jennah’s personal traumas undoubtedly feed into their dedication to healing the damaged members of their pack.
As a dog owner myself, I learnt a lot about my dogs just from watching this film. Realising all the mistakes I’d been making over the years. However, there’s more to glean from the film than just dog care strategies. This simple but subtle film made me think about not only how we treat our canine companions, but how we treat each other. How we deal with the “problem dogs” in our society, often resorting to simple, easy punishment instead of tackling the harder process of healing and compassion.
I think we could all learn a lot from Jacob and his pack.
Click here to rent Dog’s Best Friend for $15.99 and watch online.