A Dog Year (2009) - full transcript

Jon Katz is close to burnout. He's a writer with writer's block; his wife has left for her sister's because he's emotionally distant; he rarely answers his phone. A kennel sends him a border collie that's undisciplined because of abuse. Despite a series of mishaps, Jon decides to keep trying with the dog, and he rents a dilapidated farm house to give the dog room to run. A local handyman refers Jon to a woman who might be able to help him train the dog. Reluctantly, Jon gives her a try. Is the dog the problem, or the owner?

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Hello. Wait. wait. wait.

- Who is this?
- Richard. Where are you?

- What's going on?
- Richard. l'm at the airport.

- What are you doing there?
- l'll explain later.

l need to know
if you're doing the book.

- Richard. l'm not
- Where's the booh?

l'm not gonna write it. l'm not gonna
l'm not gonna give them what they want.

You have a contract. Jon.
You have to do it.

- Think about the contract.
- Hey. they can take the house.

- They can sue me. l don't care.
- Grow up. Jon. Write the book.

We'll talk about it later. l gotta go. Bye.

l was keeping the crate here until you
claimed him. Thought he might be dangerous.

Thanks. Devon?


Let's get a look at you. boy.

Yeah. Hey.

That's a leash.

l'm gonna put this on you now.

That's it.

- l'm gonna open the door. l'm coming in.
- Don't open the door.



Would everybody please keep back?

l don't like dogs.

- Excuse me. excuse me.
- Whose dog is that?

Ma'am. ma'am. you have to stay calm.

- ls this your dog?
- Yes. yes.

Get a leash on him. please. All right.
If he bites someone. it is your responsibility.

That's very helpful. l appreciate that.
Come on now. Devon.

- Be still. ma'am.
- Sit. Devon.

- Would everyone please step back?
- Okay. Okay.

- Devon. Devon. Devon.
- Sir?

Devon. Devon. Devon.
Devon. Devon. Devon. okay.

- Sir. you can't go up there!
- Okay.

Come on now. Sit. Devon.

- Devon. Devon!
- There's a dog running wild. Gate 7.

l'm gonna need backup here.

For security reasons.
please keep your luggage...

...with you at all times.
Unattended luggage....


Excuse me. Devon? Devon.

Stay. Stay.


Easy now.

Good boy.

lt's okay. It's gonna be okay.

l'm Jon Katz.

l'm a writer.

l'm 56.

l have a bad back.

Devon. Iook.

Devon. l have a treat for you.

Yes. l do. Look.


lt's good. Look. Take it.

You know? Not good enough
for you? Okay.


Stay. Devon.

Come here. That's a boy.

Devon. Devon. Devon.

Yes. good boy.
We're going home.

Okay. Okay.

No. no. no. We're gonna go home now.

We're gonna go home now.


Julius and Stanley
are waiting for you at home.

l don't know what you've been through.
but l work at home.

l'm gonna stay with you.
give you lots of walks...

...lots of food. Iots of patience.

Come on.

Stanley? Julius?

Here he is. guys.

That's Stanley and Julius.

All right. get back. Coming in.

No. no. no. Come on. Come here.

Come here. Let me see.
Come here. come here. come here.

Let me see. That's a boy. Okay.



Yeah. That's a boy.


Hey. hey. hey!

What are you doing?

This is Emma's room.
She's away at college.

Come on. Hey. hey. hey.

Are you-? You looking
for the missus of the house?

Tough luck. pal. She's gone.

Come on. Come on.

Come here. come here. come here.

Come here!

- Don't even think about it.
- Jon?

- Who do we have here?
- This is Devon. the dog from hell.

Where did you get him?

This breeder in Texas.

She read one of my books where
l mentioned Julius and Stanley...

...thought l could help this dog.

She tells me that she's
rescuing this abused dog...

...and needs a home
for him and. you know...

...l said yes. l don't know

What was l thinking?

Come here. Come here.

Go to town.

So how are you doing?

You know. l'm - l'm alone.
my back is killing me. l'm fine.

lt's the dog that's the problem.

His eyes are infected.

- His breath is foul.
- Tell me about it.

Got abrasions on his back.

- He has one back here too.
- Yep. Abrasions on his right hind leg.

He's got two on his left hind leg.

You see how his back
is hunched and crooked?

Some of his nails are broken.
l've seen that condition before in dogs...

...who have been locked in cages
for months at a time.


You know when l see that?

l see that when a dog
has been beaten by his owner.

That's why he's pissed off.
He's pissed off at the world.

Okay. Devon. Let's give you a bath.

Read these.

"This is a tireless. high-energy breed."

Tell me about it.

"Without meaningful work. border collies
will become bored and depressed...

...and may develop behavior problems."

Join the club.

"Border collies have been
bred for centuries...

...to chase things that move."

Says you're supposed
to be intelligent.



...we'll see. huh?

Come on.


Okay. okay. okay.
Come here. come here.

- Oh. Max. you have got to see this.
- Let's go. Iet's go.

Slow down. Devon.

Why would Jon Katz
want to get a new dog?

Come on.

Come on. come on. come on.

All right. all right.

All right. this isn't working.
Come on. come on. come on.


All right. get in there.

Come here. Get around.
get around. Come here.

Sit now. Sit. Let me see.

Okay. come on.

All right. all right. All right.

Come on. come on.

Jon. you got a new dog.

Come on. come on. come on.
Just keep moving.

We don't wanna talk to anyone.

- Seriously. what are you gonna do with him?
- Seriously. Margo. l don't know.

Come here. come here. come here.
Hey. Devon.

No! Devon!

Deyon, no!

Shit. Devon.

Hey! Hey!






Devon! Stop!


There's a weird old man
running after us.



What the hell are you doing?

What the hell are you doing?

Come here.

How did you do that?

One new message.

Hi, Jon. It's me.
Just leaving another message.

l got a call from Margo
saying we got a new dog.

ls that true?

l'm trying to give you some space
so you can write...

...but that means
you actually have to write.

l don't think you have any idea what it's
like living with you. You iust check out.

And l can't have
a relationship on my own.

lt's too lonely.

Have you even changed
your clothes, Jon?

ls there anything in the fridge?

Would you call me?

My sister sends her love.

Cleanup in Aisle 6.

Hey. Jon.

- No time like the present. right?
- Okay.

- Maybe you should talk to him now.
- Okay.

Go ahead.

- Hey. Jon. can l talk to you a minute?
- No. no. no.

l've got a lot of
experience with dogs.

Max has won six blue ribbons.

l don't care how many ribbons
your dog has won.

We have been watching
the way you walk your dog...

...and we're trying to help you.

And we're trying to keep
the neighborhood safe. Jon.

Jon. you have got to do something
about your dog. l would like to help you.

l could come over
and give you some training tips.


My little baby.

Did you miss your mommy?

Hello. Devon.

There you go. there you go.

What's the matter? No pee-pee?

Devon. Devon! Enough now.

- Come on now.
- Damn you. Jon.

- That dog is dangerous.
- Devon. come on. Come on now.

Bad boy. Devon. Bad boy.

That's a doggy. Okay. Okay.

l have...

...absolutely no idea.

Oh. God.


Oh. come on.


No. no! How?

Come here.
How did you get up there. huh?

All right. l'm impressed.

Come here. Hey.


l know. you're afraid.

Are you hungry?

Come on.

l know. l'm not going to hurt you.

You gotta be brave.

What are you doing?

Hey. Dad. it's me. Are you there?

Mom's been having trouble
reaching you...

...so l wanted to call.
l heard you got a new dog?

l'll be coming home this weekend
to pick up some stuff.

So can you call me bach?
l won't mahe you talh to me.

Just please call
so that l hnow you're ohay.

- Holly? Jon.
- Oh. my savior. How's it going?

- Not good. It's not working.
- What? Mow, l thought you were sure-fire

- Well. because
- Why. Jon?

Because he's the dog from hell.
that's why.

- But. Jon. l - Jon?
- Yeah. l'm sending him back.

l paid to send him to you.
l told you it'd take time.

- lt's not. You were wrong.
- Do you hnow how much it cost?

Holly. l want you to call the airlines.
make a reservation and call my machine.

Leave word what flight
you want me to put him on.





- Yes?
- Oh. God. Jon.

Finally. Where the hell are you?
We had a date.

l'm sitting here and
women are hitting on me. Jon.

- Come on. Get your ass over here.
- Richard. hey. l'm sorry.

l couldn't make it.

What are you talhing about?
We gotta

- Jon. we gotta talk about the book.
- l know. Listen....

Come on. Hurry up.
Get over here. You know

l can't help it. You know.
l wanna write something...

- ...as much as you want me to...
- Jon. come on.

- ...but l - l can't
- Don't do this.

l'm gonna just have to...

- ...find something different.
- You're in violation of your contract. Jon.

Or. you know. l'm gonna shoot myself.

Don't say that. Jon.

Are you taking your meds?
Are you heeping up?

We all take them.

You hnow, hey, l - l'm your agent.

l just want
l want what's best for you...

...you know. Jon?

l have no idea what l want to write.

Jon. Jon


Jon. you okay?

l am gonna kill you...

...you jerk. You jerk.

Okay. Okay.

- Holly? Holly?
- How's it going?

- l'm not sending him back.
- Really?

- But l paid for the return tichet.
- No.

l'm not sending him back.

Are you ready?

How do you like that?

How'd you get to be
such a train wreck?

Good boy.

You want some air? There you go.

No. Devon. Devon. Devon.
What are you doing? What are you doing?

No. no. no. no. Devon.

You like that. huh?

You kind of like it. don't you?

Come on! Julius!

Look at you. what an oil painting.

Okay. you guys just stay there then.

lt's chow time now.


Come here. come here. Hey. hey.

Get away from there. Come here.
Come here. Devon.

Sit. Devon. Devon. get down off there.

Come here. Look. Sit. Devon.

Devon. sit.

Devon? Come here.

All right. We're gonna
have to work on that.

You know. people...

...used to come to me
for advice on dogs.

l got Julius first from a breeder.

And l got Stanley
from the same breeder.

l got the dogs for Emma...

...but. naturally...

...they became my dogs.

And my best friends.

And my only friends.
All right. you stay there now.

Go on. no. no. no. Come on.

Get out of there! Hey. hey!

Hey. Hey.

Are you happy now?




Hey. what's going on?

Oh. l'm just getting out of
the shower. l'll be right down.

Hey. What are you doing home?

- Told you l was coming home.
- You did?

So l could pick up some of my stuff.

- l like what you've done with the place.
- Hey. you wanna see my new dog?

Go outside. Get Stanley and Julius.
l'll meet you out there.

Hi. Hi.

l missed you.

- Hello.
- Emma?

- Yeah?
- Are they in?

Yeah. yeah. Come on. guys. go in.

lnside. Come on.

Get inside. Good boy.

Stand back. You ready?


Devon. Iook who's

Look who's here to see you.
It's Emma.

Stand still now.
He - He's afraid of people.

He's weird.


What's he doing?

He's herding you.

- Why would he wanna hurt me?
- No. no.

Herding you. He thinks almost anything
that moves is a sheep. That's his instinct.

That's very interesting. Dad.

Look at him. He's so good. huh?

What do you think?

l have no idea what to think.




Hey. Jules. Hey.


Hey. buddy. What's the matter?


Something's wrong with Stanley.

Stanley is lagging. it turns out.
because his heart rate is way down.

lt's far below what it should be.

ln fact. he may have already
had a small stroke.

And the x-rays confirm severe hip dysplasia.
That's common in Labs.

lt's become painful for Stanley
to run or walk.

l'm surprised he can
chase that blue ball.

But it's the decline in heart rate
that's the most alarming.

lt's probable his heart will give out soon.

Does Devon have
anything to do with this?

Oh. God. no. No.
This would've happened anyway.

You're gonna have to decide
what you're willing to put Stanley through.


Stan. it's your blue ball.

lt's your favorite.

Oh. Stan.

l love you.

My sweet guy.

- Dad. Please don't sing that song.
- What?

That's their favorite song.

Dad. it's so corny.

Everywhere but on the paper. huh?

Oh. God.

See you tomorrow now.


Hey. Dad.

Oh. you're still up.



What's going on. Dad?

Are you doing any writing?

l've been. you know. journaling.

You're paying more attention
to the dog than to your work.

l'm not getting rid of him.

l'm gonna check on the dog.

Mom asked me to come here...

...because we are worried about you.

Emmy. Emmy. Emmy. Emmy.

l miss you. Em.

l know that.

l miss you...



He's gone.


Are you ready?

Are you sure about this?

Maybe l should stay.

l'm okay. Are you okay?


All right. Don't miss your classes now.

Don't worry about me.

- Are you sure?
- l'm good. l'm good.

Go. go. Come on.


Let's go for a walk. Devon.

Oh. my God.





No! Devon!

No! No!

Come here. Come here. come here.

Go. go. go!

Go. go!

Goddamn you!

My God. l hate you. you bastard!

We're finished!

Don't you understand?

lf you don't change. you can't live here.

So you don't think your roommates
are gonna mind?

Julius is a great dog. you know that.

Dad, tell me what's going on.
Why do l have to take Julius?

Look. Devon. he's down in the basement.

He can't come upstairs.
l gotta lock him in.

- He hates that.
- Dad?

Em. everything's gonna be fine. l just
don't want anything else bad to happen.

What does that mean?

Em. the other line's ringing.
l gotta take this. Hold on now.


- Yeah?
- Good news, Jon.

lt turns out the house is available.
It's a perfect place to write.

Great. Wonderful. Yeah.

- Yeah. l wanna see it right away.
- Now?

Yeah. l'm on my way up.
l'm getting in the car right now.

- Do you want me to find you a hotel?
- No. l'm gonna sleep in the car.

This is the place you want.

lt's 42 acres.

Been on the market for three years.

The owners are definitely
willing to rent...

...if you understand that
it's an as-is situation.

Now. the rent is low
and the owners are elderly...

...and live in Florida. So they're not
gonna be able to come up here...

- ...and do any small repairs.
- That's okay.

This isn't gonna be permanent.
Will they rent month-to-month?

l think they'd be happy to see
any money come from this place.

Oh. down there is Bedlam Corners.

We can drive down there. l can
introduce you to a few people. if you like.

Oh. no. l don't wanna meet anyone.

You can't get a cell-phone signal
on the mountain.

Oh. thank God.

And there's no phone service
to the house...

...but l can call the phone company
for you.

No. not necessary.
l don't want a phone in the house.

Hey. stay in here now.

Sure is good to see someone
in the Matthews' farm again.


- Okay. Thank you.
- Help yourself.

You can see my farm
from your window.

Oh. yeah. The whole town
can see your farm up on that hill.

You can see everything?

Yeah. we don't miss anything
around here.

What kind of work do you do?

l don't know what l do.

Aren't you the man with that dog?

Yes. l'm the dog man. Thank you.

Oh. that'll be a dollar.

l'm sorry. Yeah.

l never met a writer before.

- What was the last thing you wrote?
- Who told you l was a writer?

You put anyone's name in a computer.
you can find out what they do.

Come here. come here. come here.

You need any work done
on the house?


l can fix anything.

l don't need anything fixed.

- What's this?
- l found a woman...

...who can help you with your dog.

Hey. l don't need any help
with the dog.

Oh. yes. you do.


- You got a phone call at the store.
- All right.

- Hello.
- Jon. is that you?

- Paula.
- What the hell is going on?

Emma gave me a number
for a payphone...

...in the middle of nowhere.

Where are you?

l rented this place in the country.

Why. Jon?

Even for you. this is crazy.

Look. l'll come home.
Let's figure this out. Meet me.



Jon, l thinh l'm losing the connection.
Jon, can you hear me?


Hello? Now

You're not barking.

Who are you?

- Jon Katz.
- Right.

You're the man with the abused dog.

This is Joe.

l'm gonna give your dog a test.

- My dog doesn't like tests.
- Too bad.

- l don't like tests.
- lf you're gonna be my student...

...you're gonna take my test.
Come on. Joe.

l take my payment for
the first session up-front.

lt's $200.

l only take cash.

Get your dog.

Border collies are working dogs.

They've been herding sheep
for centuries in Ireland...

...and Scotland. all over the world.

Pay close attention because you're next.

Get back. Joe.

Step back with your dog.

Out. sheep.

Away to me. Joe.

Lie down.

Walk up. Joe.

Away to me.

Attaboy. Joe.

lt's your turn.

l need to see how your dog
responds to the sheep.

lt's what l call the instinct test.
Are you ready?

Come here. come here. come here.
Hey. hey. hey.

Devon. Devon. Devon. now.
l want you to do good. okay?

Okay? Okay. All right.

- Are you ready?
- Yeah.

Out. sheep. Out. sheep.

Unleash Devon.


Now he should begin
to circle around the flock.

Why is he going that way?

Oh. he's circling them.

Do you see the difference
between the two dogs?

Where Joe is calm...

...and can move the sheep
by eyeing them...

...your dog is struggling.
He's lunging.

All right. that's it. Call him in.

Devon? Devon.

Devon. Devon!

Come here. Devon!


Oh. you little shit!

Come here!

Why are you such a mess?

Away to me. Joe.

Come here. come here. come here.
Devon. Devon. Devon.

Come here!

Away to me. Devon. Come on...

...work with me. Devon.

Come on. come on. come on.
Come here.

Away to me. Joe.

Away to me. Joe.

Hold still.

Attaboy. Joe.

Just circle the sheep.
that's all you were asked to do.

He failed the test. didn't he?


You've gotta see this dog
for who he is.

He's lost his connection to the world.
He's lost his connection to himself.

He's lost his instinct
and you're not helping him find it.

l don't understand
what you're talking about.

lt's not the dog that's messed up.
you're messed up.

This dog is the least of your problems.

Come on. come on.

You paid $200.

l'm gonna give you $200 worth.

l didn't pay $200 for your psychobabble.

- Get back here.
- lt's my problem?

- Yes.
- My problem?

- Yes!
- lt's me?

Yes. You are one angry
son of a bitch.

Come on. Come on!

Come on!

Son of a bitch.

Hello. hi. Don't need any help.

- l don't need any help.
- Name's Anthony.

Wonderful. you have a name.
What don't you understand...

...about "l don't need help."

What's this? Oh. no.

lt works better if it's on.

All right. all right. all right.


First-time operator.

- You gotta keep it square.
- Yeah. yeah. yeah.



All right. all right.

Come here. come here.

l got a shepherd-husky mix.

He doesn't have half the power
of this dog.

You married?


- She's not here.
- No. she's not.



No. we have a great marriage.
We're independent. you know?

We accept short absences
from each other.


...she accepts them
with disturbing enthusiasm.

- So let me know how much l owe you.
- Yeah.

l'll send you a bill.

Hey. take it easy there. old guy.

All right. Anthony.

That dog's got a lot of energy.

Who is the owner of this crazy dog?

- Be nice.
- Here he comes.


- This is my daughter. Ida.
- Hi. Ida.

l've been telling her about your dog.

Who are these guys?

They wanted to see him too.

He's running.

What do you feed this dog?

Special dog food.

High in protein. high in fat.

Anthony says you
brush this dog's teeth.

His teeth were rotten when l got him.

Hey. how much you spend
on feeding this dog?

Forty dollars a week.

l can't spend that much on a cow.

Well. my dog's smarter
than your cow.

l'd like to be this guy's dog.

lf he's so much trouble...

...maybe you should just get rid of him.

l'm not getting rid of this dog.

l'm not giving up on him.

Leave your dog in the car.

Go take your anger out
on that hay.

And when you're finished.
come and see me.

The first thing you do...

...is stay calm.

Make eye contact...

...say his name...

...and give him a treat.

- Devon. Iook here.
- No.

Only say his name.




Do it again.




Do it again.


Do it again.



- Again.
- Devon.

And again.


Let's try one more thing today.

Look him in the eye. say his name...

...and then ask him to sit.




Good boy.

Good boy. That's my boy.

- Good boy.
- Well. that's about it for today.

That's it?

One small step at a time.

You're welcome to...

...come back and continue
whenever you can.

Beginnings are hard.

Come on.

l should've been there
when you got there.

l'm sorry.

When are you coming home?


- When?
- Paula. l

You know. soon.

Yeah. l'll - l'll

l'll be home soon.





Oh. shit!




Come here.

- Hey.
- Hey.

- What's up?
- Hey.

Those are the keys to the farmhouse.

l'm going home.


l'll be back.

- You're coming back?
- Oh. yeah. l'll be back.

Maybe l can get my wife and daughter
to come up. you know?

You think you'd be able to
take care of the place for a while?

- Yeah.
- Yeah?

Glad to.

All right.

You need me to do anything
right away?

That faucet in the kitchen. l could
never get that thing to stop leaking.

- l'll take care of it.
- Okay.

Thanks. Anthony.

See you.

See you. Devon.

Good boy.