Sad puppies are just about the most shameless thing to build a movie around (and I’m not above a tear or ten). So it speaks well to the seriousness of Mine, a Katrina-pets-in-jeopardy documentary, that a deeper, more vexing subject is prodded in addition to the sobbing reflex. After an excruciating few minutes of pooches stranded on New Orleans rooftops, the movie shifts to the nuts and bolts of rescue efforts and then—with surprising evenhandedness—to issues of property rights, abandonment and legal custody. Were pets left behind? Undoubtedly, and one enraged animal-rights advocate, noting their poor health, calls the storm and professional reclamation “the best thing that could have happened to them.”
But only a self-righteous ideologue (we meet several) could dismiss the sad pleas of a forced Ninth Ward evacuee who’s lost everything else; many of these subjects go to great lengths and expense to find their missing dogs. These human stories are buried under a bit too much sweet-smelling kibble: the dapper octogenarian who used to dress his “Bandit” in a kicky little kerchief; the formerly homeless guy whose “J.J.” helped him turn his life around. Most fascinating are the situations in which the normal shelter process has led to the placement of animals with loving new owners. Then the thorny mess of race, class and desperation washed up by Katrina comes back, with only common-sense compassion saving the day.