We all know that dogs are the best, but there’s new research suggesting that perhaps humans love canine sweeties so much because they’re just like us. National Geographic has reported that, in fact, “man’s best friend often acts more human than canine.”
If you’re a dog person or, even better, a dog’s human, you have probably notices their glances being a little too knowing of what you’re up to. “Dogs can read facial expressions, communicate jealousy, display empathy, and even watch TV, studies have shown. They’ve picked up these people-like traits during their evolution from wolves to domesticated pets, which occurred between 11,000 and 16,000 years ago, experts say.”
Notable Life sat down with Kate Mara to discuss her experience working with Varko, the super sweet German Shepard who acted alongside her in her new film Megan Leavey. Mara plays a real-life Marine who becomes a handler for dogs trained to sniff out explosives and roadside IED’s (improvised explosive devices), then launches a campaign to be reunited with the dog (named Rex in real life) after she is discharged from the service.
Here’s what Mara had to say about her canine co-star:
Have you ever had an experience with a dog where you could tell it knew what you were thinking?
KM: Anytime I’m a little sad, they can tell. They start following me around the house which is just so sweet. In this movie, a few weeks into shooting, we had a scene where I’m emotional and quietly crying. The dog, his real name is Varko, is sitting next to me and I had some tears running down my face silently and he started licking the tears off my face. I know dogs feel emotions the same, if not more, than human beings.
Can you tell me a little about working with Varko the dog? How did you create a connection with him?
It happened really naturally, which I think is the only way. You can’t force a bond. We spent a few weeks training together. This was his first movie and I felt a little nervous about that. He’s supposed to be this incredible marine and so I thought, well, “why aren’t we getting an experienced animal in that way?” but it couldn’t have been more appropriate.
We learned together, we trained together, so everything was new. And it was very bonding for us. He was so proud, every time he achieved something, that it was so perfect.
Can you tell me a little bit about your dogs?
KM: I’ve got 2 Boston Terriers. One is 14 and his name is Lucius and my 15 year old is called Bruno and they’re both now almost completely deaf. One of them is half blind. But they act like puppies.
Do you have any thoughts about military service dogs?
That’s one of the things that I love so much about animals, and not just dogs. There are lots of other animals that we use for rehabilitation and therapy but my mom’s dog is actually a therapy dog, it’s a Boston Terrier too. The healing feeling we receive from animals can’t be denied.
Can you tell me a little bit about the film?
For me it was an incredibly inspiring story to read when I got the script and I’m somebody who hasn’t been to war. I was incredibly moved by this and I felt very connected to the film, and I think anyone can who has a passion for something and a will to fight for something they believe in. I think that we can all be inspired by that and it’s a good reminder to use your voice and never give up.
Is that what spoke to you when you were reading the script?
It’s so rare to sent scripts about female power, soldiers, marines. I think this story will stand the test of time.
If you were to give a voice to an issue right now, being a woman in power yourself, which topic would you be interested in speaking to?
I am very much involved with the Humane Society and speaking for animals. That to me is a very important thing in my life and it’s definitely worth the time and energy to fight for that.