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A Review of Alpha & Tribute to My Best Friend

“Alpha” & My “Woman’s Best Friend” Story

I was thrilled when I saw the trailer for “Alpha”. I love dogs. In fact, for most of my life, I’ve enjoyed having a canine companion who has chosen me specifically as her own. So perhaps you’ll understand when I tell you my excitement over the “Alpha” trailer was short lived.

These days, I bristle at “it’s a man’s world” stories. I’ve already seen the “man’s best friend” movie and read the book. And watched the TV show. I’ve been watching these types of shows my whole life. I’ve seen the “how man tamed the Wild West,” “how man saved the world,” and “how man conquered the universe” movies over and over and over again.

And I’m over it.

I’m over it and I’m yearning for women’s stories.  Especially when it comes to stories like the one the “Alpha” trailer promised.


Introducing Woman’s Best Friend

This year, I lost my best friend of 15 years. Olive. Yes, she was a dog. She was an incredible dog. I got her when she was two years old and I was a young mother of two young girls. From the moment I met her, she chose me.

Shortly after bringing her home, we realized that Olive had either been abused, or had simply never seen anything outside the little trailer home we took her from. She was frightened of almost everything: the wind blowing through trees, squirrels, harmless-looking people sitting quietly on the street.

She was literally terrified of everything…except me.

Olive & Me

Olive chose me from day one. While she was an incredibly skittish mix of lab and shepherd, she was also brilliant. She knew every command and had no need for a leash. We went on walks every day together and she soon learned my mannerisms and unconscious hand gestures. She almost seemed to respond to my thoughts before they ever became the words she was trained to.

I introduced her to the world so she could grow to love and feel comfortable in it—and she gave me unquestionable loyalty and companionship.

Life with Olive

Olive helped me raise two little girls. Then she was my doula through the pregnancy and four days of labor with my son. As everyone else came and went from the bedroom I labored in those four days, she remained stubbornly by my side. When my friends and family took breaks to sleep each night, as I woke and slept to the rhythm of contractions every 15 to 20 minutes, she laid quietly at my feet.

After I had my son, she learned to mom a newborn with me. And then, when I found myself grossly overweight after a bout with postpartum thyroiditis, she became my running partner. I went from running two miles with her to training for an ultra marathon with her.

My husband would take us out into the High Desert wilderness, drop us off together, and we would run for miles. I never had to worry about cougars or crazy men, because she never let me out of her sight. She’d run ahead and make big circles to check everything out, but she never strayed far from me. If I wanted her, I just called and there she was.

It was an indescribable feeling, that experience…that connection with another living being.

In 2013, I moved to Portland for a job and had to leave her behind for a couple of months. Once during that time, after visiting my family, I found her in the open trunk of my car. It was either an attempt to keep me from leaving or to smuggle her way aboard.

I did end up moving her to Portland earlier than I had planned.


Saying Goodbye

Olive lived with me in Portland for just over five years, which is impressive. I found a giant tumor on her chest about three years ago. At that point in time, I thought she had months to live. But she held on. There were no more runs for us, just slow walks. She spent most of her time lying by my feet as I worked.

Olive’s health declined this year, and mid-summer I had to make the choice to let her go. It was one of the most difficult decisions and experiences of my life, but I don’t want to dwell on that. I’d rather focus my thoughts and words on the amazing friend she was throughout her life. I’ll just say that her absence has had a significant impact on me.

“Alpha”: A Review 

This all brings me back to “Alpha.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking for a movie to watch with my son. After we found the tumor on Olive, we adopted a puppy for the kids, hoping it would cushion the loss should she pass fast. His name is Scout, and my son Jude is his person.

My son loves dogs as much as I do.

So while I was bitter about “Alpha” being another story about “man’s best friend,” I decided to rent it for my son. And I am so glad that I did.

“Alpha” is a visually-stunning story about the origins of man’s (and woman’s) best friend. It is subtitled, but the dialogue is limited, so it didn’t detract from my 8-year-old’s ability to enjoy the show.

This adventure begins with a young, sensitive boy named Keda. He is the son of his tribe’s leader, and the viewer follows him as he embarks on his first bison hunt with his father and other men from his clan. This is his opportunity to prove his ability to eventually take his place as the tribe’s Alpha.

During the hunt, he is thrown off a cliff by the prey. His father is forced to leave him for dead. The rest of the story is a thrilling, emotional and heartfelt story about how Keda meets the wolf, “Alpha”, and this predator eventually becomes the boy’s tribe.

Alpha Spoiler Alert

So on its own, “Alpha” was just a great movie. But, there is a reason I ended up loving it so much, and I want to share that with you. In order to do so, I have to reveal the big reveal at the end, so consider this your Spoiler Alert!

I was won over by the near-end of the movie, but the end sealed the deal. After several near-death experiences, Keda and Alpha barely make it back to Keda’s human tribe. They are both in dire condition, and it appears that Alpha might even die.

Both Keda and Alpha are being tended to when a woman, who I believe is a medicine woman, runs her hand over Alpha’s abdomen, looks down by her tail and picks a puppy up. Alpha is a female!

It was a shock to everyone in the room and I nearly leaped off the sofa and cheered. Mind you, this show had zero female characters for almost 90% of it.

In the end, Alpha is responsible for saving Keda’s tribe’s ability to survive. You’ll have to watch the movie for the full story, but it’s definitely a “she saves the day” kinda tale.

And that’s the kind of story I love.

Two Weeks Later

I’ll admit it, I’ve been depressed. Olive’s passing isn’t the only thing that has me down, but man, it’s a big contributor. About a week ago, shortly after watching “Alpha”, my household decided I should consider finding a new canine companion.

When they told me they were in support of adding to our family, I have to admit, for the first time in a very long time, my heart filled with happiness. I immediately started looking for the pup who would make me her person.


Introducing Coraline

Last Sunday morning, after visiting multiple puppies, I saw a photo of Coraline and knew I was hers. I called the owners, jumped from my bed into my clothes, and raced out to La Center, Washington to meet her. It was love at first sight (at least on my end).

I’ve had Coraline for just four days now, but we definitely belong together. I am enjoying these puppy days and very much looking forward to our first run together.

I’m not going to lie; puppies are exhausting. I’ve had very little sleep and am even writing this as quickly as I can between potty runs, play, and feedings. But, if there’s one thing my Olive taught me, it’s that I need to enjoy every minute I get, because they all pass way too quickly.

Olive gave me great patience for my new little girl. And even as I write this, tears spring to my eyes, I can feel her here with me. There’s no replacing my dear Olive, but it makes me happy to know that she is present in my raising of Coraline. Perhaps some of Olive will rub off on her. Wouldn’t that be something?

I suppose this is my “woman’s best friend” story.

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Annette Benedetti
Annette Benedetti
Annette is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier—one of her favorite places on earth.
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