What is the nature of the possibly mysterious bond between dogs and humans?
Following a screening of “The Way Home: A Century of Finding Loving Companions for Shelter Animals” on August 18 at the Chatham Orpheum Theater, a six-member panel will explore this connection, each in their own unique way.
“The Way Home” is a 50-minute documentary directed by Geoff Bassett and Kim Roderiques. Bassett manages the Orpheum and for “The Way Home” he served as cameraman, cinematographer and director. Roderiques is a photographer and author known for her 2015 book “Dogs on Cape Cod” and for her collaborations with John Whelan on both volumes of “We Are of Cape Cod.” She produced “The Way Home”, funded by Rockland Trust.
At the heart of the film is the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL). For many years, Roderiques volunteered at the ARL’s Brewster Animal Care and Adoption Center, photographing animals ready for adoption. As she recalled in a phone interview last week, one day in 2020 she said to herself, “the story needs to be told.” She approached ARL President and CEO, veterinarian Edward Schettino, “one of the most beautiful and amazing people I have ever met.”
After Schettino accepted the film, which would focus on the Brewster installation, Roderiques and Bassett set out to interview 17 people on camera. The result? “Wonderful stories from Cape Town – very upbeat,” says Roderiques. “Nothing sad. All optimistic.
Filming was done during the pandemic, adding a layer of challenge for Roderiques, Bassett and their subjects. When filming was indoors, a masked Roderiques sat just offscreen to interview her subjects. A lot of filming was done on farms. “I went to all these places that I could never find again,” says Roderiques. In fact, after living in Cape Town for 46 years, she was shocked at the number of farmhouses nestled in the woods.
She interviewed a woman who rescued 97 birds and a mother-daughter team who rescues cats. Animals rescued include horses, pigs, dogs, cats, goats, rabbits, birds and a donkey.
Because Roderiques has a day job – she is part owner of The Trading Company on Main Street – she worked sometimes 8-11 on the project before going to the store, then continued again on project evenings until 10 p.m. intense,” she recalls.
The film was screened for the first time on September 2 to commemorate the 100e anniversary of the ARL Brewster Animal Care and Adoption Center located at 3981 Rte. 6A, Brewster.
Roderiques wanted to screen the film again for a new audience and wondered how she could breathe new life into the project. This is where the six-member panel comes in.
Joseph Carr, founder and winemaker of Joseph Carr Winery and animal welfare philanthropist, will moderate the panel on the human/animal bond.
Here’s a rundown of the panelists: The ARL’s Schettino will be joined by Steven Xiarhos, retired Deputy Chief of Police from the Yarmouth Police Department and now the state representative for Barnstable County’s Fifth District. Xiarhos was instrumental in passing Nero’s Law last February, which allows paramedics to treat and transport injured police dogs.
Nero is a Belgian Malinois. He was the K-9 partner of Yarmouth Police Sgt. Sean Gannon, who was shot and killed while trying to execute a warrant at a house in Marston’s Mills. Nero was also shot that day in April 2018. Yet state law prohibited paramedics from assisting Nero, who was instead transported to a veterinary clinic in a police cruiser.
Yarmouth Police K-9 Officer Peter McClelland is recognized as the premier police K-9 manager and trainer in New England law enforcement. McClelland formed Nero in 2016, and after Nero was shot, he walked into the house and took it away. During Nero’s long recovery, McClelland even slept with Nero in his crate. “Very few can handle police dogs,” Roderiques says. McClelland received a Professional Hero Award from the Red Cross, among other honors, for his work with Nero. Nero has made a full recovery and is now retired from Yarmouth Police.
Derek Hill is a former U.S. Marine Corps Special Forces Operations Command raider and government clandestine services operator. Hill has participated in multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He credits Jaxx, a yellow Lab who is his service dog, with saving his life, Roderiques says. Hill suffers from post-traumatic stress and relies on Jaxx to wake him from his nightmares.
Sarah McCracken is Executive Director of the Northeast Region of Dogs for Better Lives, an Oregon-based nonprofit. McCracken, based in Falmouth, trains dogs for foster programs. The dogs would later work with veterans, people with autism, and people who are blind or deaf.
Kat Pannill is Development Manager for WE CAN in Harwich and former puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Guiding Eyes puppies go through a 14 week training and socialization program. If a puppy fails, the person who raised him has the first option to adopt him. Pannill recently adopted a black lab who failed the program. She has two dogs, Vin and Pemberly.