Stray (CREDIT: Magnolia Pictures)

Starring: The Homeless Dogs and People on the Streets of Istanbul

Director: Elizabeth Lo

Running Time: 72 Minutes

Rating: Unrated (But It Would Surely Be a G)

Release Date: March 5, 2021 (Theaters and On Demand)

I recently had the pleasure of watching the documentary Stray, which follows a trio of homeless dogs around the streets of Turkey (the country, not the famous answer from Family Fortunes). The runtime clocks in at a perfectly reasonable seventy-two minutes, though I would certainly be happy to spend even more time with these pooches. The three lead mutts are Zeytin, Nazar, and Kartal, who seem to be local celebrities in their neighborhoods, but alas that fame doesn’t mean that anyone is available to offer them a furever home. At least they don’t seem to mind too much; if you let a dog roam, it’s gonna roam!

If these pooches were wandering the streets of America, I imagine that they would end up in a shelter and quite possibly be euthanized. But Turkey has a no-kill, no-capture policy toward stray dogs, and that sensibility seems to have permeated the general attitude of the Turkish people. The humans that we see in this film accept the dogs as a fact of day-to-day life in much the same way that the dogs accept the humans. Director Elizabeth Lo accordingly offers a straightforward, essentially dog’s-eye view that allows viewers to simply discover this fact of life if they weren’t aware of it already.

While looking over my notes for Stray, I noticed that I happened to have written down on the same page some thoughts about the most recent Puppy Bowl, and I was struck by the juxtaposition of these two very different facets of canine culture. The Puppy Bowl is a beloved annual event in which the dogs are coddled and catered to, with the promise of a permanent residence at the end of it all. Meanwhile in Stray, the pooches are just as much the star of the show, but the resources aren’t quite there for them to have regular lodging. If you’re as much of a dog lover as I am, then you’re liable to fall for both the Puppy Bowl and Stray equally hard, since they’re both about dogs being dogs. And that leads me to the conclusion that I think Elizabeth Lo would like us to draw and that I would happily co-sign, which is that dogs are eternally watching and emulating.

Stray is Recommended If You Like: The philosophy of Diogenes the Cynic, Fights over street meat, Making new friends and running around with them

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Howls