(director: Cindy Meehl;  cinematographer: Nelson Hume; editors: Steve Heffner/Toby Shimin; music: Todd Griffin; cast: Dr. Marty Goldstein, Meg Goldstein, andie Shane, Jaqueline Ruskin, Jennifer Lenarz-Salcedo; Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Alice Henty/Cindy Meehl; FilmRise; 2019)

“It could be an infomercial but it’s not.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The conventional dog documentary by Cindy Meehl (“Buck”) is about a caring vet, Dr. Marty Goldstein, called Dr. Marty by his fans, who practices an unconventional holistic medicine in South Salem, New York, at the Smith Ridge Veterinary Clinic, and who specializes in trying to save terminally ill dogs (animals labelled not treatable elsewhere). It could be an infomercial but it’s not. Instead it’s a feel-good story about the Cornell-trained veterinarian who was a pioneer in the use of homeopathy, acupuncture and “vitamin C therapy” in his treatment of animals. He calls this practice integrative veterinary medicine, and has all the faith in the world in it despite some objections from vets who think he’s a “snake oil” salesman and that his science goes astray when the facts don’t please his agenda. I thought Dr. Marty, who has been a vet for the last 45 years, was right to get on the vets using too many vaccines, but I thought the conventional vets were right that there were times to use vaccines. Dr. Marty’s reasoning about vaccines, whereby he claims not to be anti-vaccine, still seemed too fuzzy to just accept his word without questioning his science–something this partial filmmaker never does.

Meehl talks with the confident doctor, and follows his able doctor and vet tech staff as they treat in their humane way dogs with such fatal diseases as cancer and kidney failure. We’re told they give the pet owner some hope that their pet can be saved (tell me a con artist who doesn’t do the same). The price never becomes a subject for the affluent clientele, but is probably steeper than for your normal vet.

Alternative medicine has its believers and its doubters, and from basing an opinion to go the alternative route just on watching this film, where some dogs inevitably die, I would want to know how much this treatment will cost and I would also want to know how effective is it overall (info not given here). Documentarian Cindy Meehl has already made up her mind the good doctor’s treatment works, so the viewer should be on guard against all the sentimentality expressed and the bouquets thrown by the doctor’s loyal patrons at his feet–as his theories might sound good but are not necessarily always based on scientific evidence.

For me, building up a bad immune seems to be a good treatment for people, therefore should also be good for dogs (as advocated by the true believer Dr. Marty and not necessarily pitched by most conventional vets). But there’s something creepy about watching this sermonizing film, geared for the privileged class, while there’s a deadly pandemic going around the world that’s been incompetently managed and we’ve been told by the science people we probably will be saved only by a vaccine (something the good doctor speaks about out of both sides of his mouth).

REVIEWED ON 3/26/2020  GRADE: C+