The movie Togo came out on Disney+ in December of 2019. If you haven’t watched it you should, and if you do not have Disney+ find a friend who does, and tell them you are coming over for movie night. Haha! I have watched it multiple times and it makes me cry every time dang it!
It is an amazing movie about the sled dog Togo and his owner Leonhard Seppala, played by Willem DaFoe, and the great serum run of 1925. (Many actually will remember the serum run because of the dog Balto.) You can watch the trailer for Togo below.
A Man and His Dog: Togo Spoilers Ahead
To understand why Togo makes me cry every time I have to tell you a little bit about the movie and then also about working dogs. So, just be aware if you haven’t seen the movie spoilers are ahead. In the movie, while Leonhard (Willem Dafoe) and his sled dogs are doing their portion of the serum run we get flashbacks to when Togo was a puppy. Togo is the runt of the litter and is not, in Leonhard’s professional opinion, working sled dog potential.
He tries to rehome Togo a couple of times, but Togo keeps coming back. Eventually, Leonhard realizes Togo is a lead dog and Togo wiggles himself into Leonhard’s heart. Togo ends up being Leonhard’s best sled dog, and his lead dog through his leg of the serum run. (Over 250 miles.) By the end of the movie, Leonhard is in despair because he believes Togo is dying, all because he worked him too hard, but Togo pulls through and lives out his life with Leonhard and his wife.
Togo is a heartwarming story, but being a working dog is tough. A lot of people don’t understand the kind of relationship between a working dog and its owner/handler. (And it can be different based on what work the dog does.) What’s the difference between a pet dog and a working dog? Working dogs are not pets. They are a tool that serves a purpose and has a job to do. You can look them in the eye and see/know they are different from regular pet dogs. They are smart and they understand more than you think.
For example, a lot of working dogs know and respond to commands in multiple languages, whistles, hand gestures, and more. They also know, through training, what different work they are expected to perform based on the leashes, collars, or the work gear put on them. Their sense of smell can find bombs, objects, people, etc. Their drive is to complete the task given to them and obey the owner/handler that is theirs. Often the owner/handler must keep an emotional distance from their working dogs dependent on what work the dog does. (The job comes first. Emotions come second.)
So, Why Does Togo Affect Me So Much?
Togo is a fantastic and moving movie. It was created to tell a story and tear at your heartstrings. It was very well done, but the biggest reason why it makes me cry every time is that I am the owner of a retired working dog, and I can relate to it. The retired working dog I own is a retired Police K9. He is my husband’s first K9 partner, and he is a character. For the longest time after my husband brought Dasty home, he did not even acknowledge my existence. (The dog not my husband. Haha!) Dasty’s sole purpose was to bond with and listen to my husband. After a couple of years Dasty “warmed” up to me because he knew I fed him sometimes.
Some police K9 dogs can be integrated with the officer’s whole family, but as I said Dasty is a character so he only interacts with my husband and me. (He acts like a grumpy old man.) Haha! Now that Dasty is retired after many years of service he gets to spend his days with me at home. I can now, many years later, pet and give him belly rubs. When I go to give his muzzle a rub I can see in his eyes his intelligence, understanding, drive, and sometimes sadness at not going to work anymore.
There is Nothing Like the Love Between a Dog and Their Person
Dasty listens to me more, but still not always. When I watch Dasty and my husband interact I see the love, devotion, and connection Dasty and my husband have. One of the reasons Togo is so good is because I saw this same connection between Willem Dafoe’s Leonhard and Togo in the movie. In Togo, I saw the drive of a working dog. The same drive I see in Dasty every day. So, excuse me if we are ever watching Togo together because I will be a blubbering mess.
Don’t Forget Them: Help Support Working Dogs
The movie Togo reminds us that being a working dog is not easy, but they are essential for many things. As I mentioned before many remember the great serum run because of the dog Balto, but it was Togo who did the hard work to get the serum where it needed to go. Through history, Togo was overlooked, and I am so happy Disney’s new movie is bring light to his story and accomplishments.
But being overlooked or forgotten happens often to working dogs. Life for them can be hard both physically and mentally. Just like a person they can be injured on the job, they can get PTSD, and sadly they can also die. Many working dogs when they have completed their work, especially K9’s who have served in the Armed Forces, cannot continue to live with their owner/handler and have no place to go. (Some even get left in the country where they were serving.)
Organizations Helping Working K9 Dogs
So, as the owner of a retired working dog, I ask you not to forget or overlook working dogs who have given everything. If you are interested in learning more about working K9’s or donating here are some amazing non-profit organizations that help K9 working dogs. The Warrior Dog Foundation helps provide a comfortable life for retired special operations K9’s. Another organization, Vested Interest in K9’s, donates stab and bullet protective vests and more to Law Enforcement K9’s and other agencies. These vests help to keep the K9’s safe while on duty. Working dogs are also used to help people heal. K9’s for Warriors is an organization that trains and provides service animals so they can be used to help individuals, such as military veterans, who are suffering from PTSD and other trauma.
After watching Togo if you are looking for more movies to watch on Disney+ make sure you read my reviews for Lady and The Tramp and Noelle!