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Film Review: “The Dog Doc“ Profiles a Maverick

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | March 12th, 2020

Film poster: “The Dog Doc”

The Dog Doc (Cindy Meehl, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.

Dr. Martin Goldstein is an “integrative veterinarian” in South Salem, NY, near the Connecticut state line. Integrative veterinary medicine is a practice that combines conventional (i.e., traditional) techniques with alternative (i.e., holistic/homeopathic) ones. By its very nature, it is therefore controversial, though it is hard to argue with some of the results. For years, animals who have been given up for dead have returned to a kind of – or complete – normal functioning and gained months, if not years, of pain-free living thanks to Goldstein’s ministrations. And the best part about the whole thing is that the man eschews invasive operations; his treatments involve, for the most part, bolstering his patients’ immune systems through nutrition and supplements. Yes, it might sound like quackery, but at least according to the footage we see in Cindy Meehl’s new documentary The Dog Doc, it appears to work more often than it doesn’t.

In general, Goldstein is a destination of last resort, as his services do not come cheap. We watch as desperate pet owners visit, having been told by their usual vet that there is no hope. The stories are heartbreaking, both for them and for us, and it can be difficult to watch their darling fur babies in distress. Not all will make it, despite the efforts of Goldstein and his dedicated team. But at least they will have been given one last chance. One might argue that it is best to limit the suffering of innocent creatures by ending their misery as quickly as possible, and I would usually agree, but seeing the renewed joy of those that recover gives me pause.

A satisfied customer thanks Dr. Martin Goldstein in THE DOG DOC ©Cedar Creek Media Productions

Beyond the tales of medical derring-do, we also follow Goldstein’s personal and professional history, and watch as he prepares to hand over the reins as retirement looms. Having finally achieved some credibility amongst his peers, he also now travels the country lecturing on his methods. One thing he never addresses is the considerable expense of his cures. As far as this viewer can tell, they involve food and vitamins (plus trained staff, for sure), and sometimes cryosurgery. How much should that all cost, and is it not unconscionable to prey on the emotionally distraught in this way? Then again, given my own bills for my beloved beagle, I’m not so sure that there is such a thing as a truly cheap vet. As long as the methods work, why not? Though director Meehl (Buck) may not answer all the questions she poses, The Dog Doc nevertheless shines light on someone trying, in his own way, to make a difference.

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is Managing Editor at Film Festival Today; lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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