Get out a whole box of Kleenex, one of the jumbo packs, before you see Mine. Movies about post-Katrina problems can be sad enough, but this documentary is about pets, too. You know you're not going to get through this movie dry-eyed unless you have no heart whatsoever. You may even find yourself headed for an animal shelter afterwards, if you're not careful. Director Geralyn Pezanoski skillfully tells an emotional story that rarely resorts to the obvious, or to "good guys vs. bad guys."
Mine focuses on Katrina evacuees who were separated from their pets (involuntarily in one case), and who are trying to find and reunite with the animals. The movie opens with Malvin, a man in his eighties, reminiscing about his dog Bandit while carrying the dog's leash, which he found in his yard after the floods. I immediately suspected this story wouldn't end happily at all. The movie then shows us post-Katrina animal rescue. Shelters and many hotels didn't accept pets, so many evacuees had to leave the animals behind. They assumed it would only be for a few days, but the impact of the disaster was such that people couldn't return to their homes for weeks.
In the meantime, animal rescue teams were able to find and round up many of the stranded pets. Some pets were taken to animal shelters in other states, some of which offered the pets not for fostering but for adoption. Heartbreaking situations resulted, and Mine focuses on a few of them. For example, Victor's dog Max was sent to Florida and adopted by Tiffany, who bonded with her new pet immediately. But Victor missed Max. How could this be resolved? The movie tries to show both sides of these situations -- we sympathize with Tiffany as well as with Victor. We admire the heroic work the animal rescue teams performed in saving the pets ... but the rescuers seem to have no idea about how to deal with human pet owners. If the animal is safe and well, they imply, it shouldn't matter whether it's with its original owner. There's also an implication that many of the animals are better off in their new homes than with the original owners -- that the owners "abandoned" their pets and are undeserving -- that sometimes seems to touch on class and race issues.
I was particularly touched by grandmotherly Gloria, who refused to leave her dog Murphy until the National Guard airlifted her -- and not her dog -- out of her flooded home, and she was sent to a shelter in St. Louis. The volunteers created a massive spreadsheet of possible dogs to track down her pet for her. Another volunteer in Canada worked to try to find Bandit for Malvin. Some pet owners file lawsuits, but many of the evacuees in Mine are simply unable to afford the resources needed to recover their pets.
The legal issues regarding the pets fascinated me, and I wished Mine spent a little more time explaining them. I was hoping some definitive ruling would have been handed down regarding ownership issues for rescued pets. The PETS Act now requires states to accommodate pets in disaster recovery plans, so this problem is unlikely to occur again in such magnitude. However, Mine is in no danger of becoming a period piece. The cinematography and editing are professional and high quality, and the film's sensitive portrayal of the people affected by this sad situation is compelling.