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Interview: Indie "Gone Doggy Gone" Explores Furbabies, Dog Culture

Abby (Kasi Brown) and Eliott (Brandon Walter) hold their pride and joy
Abby (Kasi Brown) and Eliott (Brandon Walter) hold their pride and joy
Gone Doggy Gone Online Press Kit

As “Time” reported earlier this month, Pope Francis suggested that married couples focus on having babies instead of treating “four-legged friends” as children. Encouraging husbands and wives to be fruitful and multiply, the Pope pointed out that childlessness could lead to loneliness and bitterness later in life.

The protagonists in “Gone Doggy Gone,” however, would definitely disagree with the Pope. Abby (Kasi Brown) and Eliott (Brandon Walter) Harmon treat their little dog Laila like a beloved child. When their furry friend goes missing, they focus all their energies on getting her back. Along the way, they are forced to reexamine their relationship as man and woman.

For Brown and Walter, the directors and stars of this piece, the pontiff’s statements actually turned into an unexpected bonus during the 2014 Dances with Films Festival in Hollywood. The filmmakers even staged a protest, pitting the parents of “furbabies” against those with human children.

Suffice it to say, BabyBjorn carriers were the order of the day on both sides.

“We planned the flash mob for quite some time, and when the Pope made that statement, we were like ‘Oh my gosh! This is perfect,’” Walter explained when reached by phone for an interview. “This is just great—perfect timing.”

“Gone Doggy Gone” and the Los Angeles dog culture

It’s safe to say that as a whole, Los Angeles residents really, really love their dogs. On a typical Saturday afternoon, pet owners take their well-groomed, well-loved and—in many cases---well-dressed dogs out for a walk.

Joining Walter on the call, Kasi Brown said that she knows a lot of people in Los Angeles who treat their pets like Abby and Eliott do in the film.

“I work in the film business as a set medic on commercials and TV. At one point, I was working and I went into the motorhome. One of the producers turned around, and I almost died laughing because she had a tiny dog in a BabyBjorn on her front,” Brown said, laughing. “There’s a dog boutique store on every corner that has doggy clothes and strollers and BabyBjorns.”

Brown also is the proud owner of Laila, the cute Yorkie who is kidnapped by her over-zealous dog walker in “Gone Doggy Gone.”

“This girl that used to take care of her, her dog sitter, started to call Laila her BFF. She took her everywhere: she took her to the movies and her waxing appointments and out to lunch with friends. She would send me pictures of Laila all day long,” Brown explained. “She would bring her home later and later, and Brandon said ‘What if Jill decided to keep Laila?’ An idea was born.”

“Gone Doggy Gone” seems to resonate with people in Los Angeles and other cities across the country.

“We took it to Dubuque, Iowa for the Julien Dubuque Film Festival, and people were really loving the movie. All ages, too, which was really surprising to us, that our movie was accepted by so many people,” Walter offered. “Because everybody knows someone who treats a dog like a baby; they’re not the person, their friend is. It’s a universal story.”

Brown points out that relationships with animals also are evolving: “As they treat [pets] like babies, they become like ‘starter babies’ for our generation of people who aren’t ready to have a baby. It’s like a practice baby. Or perhaps there is a couple like ours in the film, Abby and Eliott. They use the dog to avoid dealing with the conflicts in their relationship.”