Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

The Secret Life of Pets

Five Flicks With Talking Dogs


We always wish we could speak with our pets directly and because of that fantasy, talking dogs are constantly showing up on the Silver Screen.  Consider the following.

Oliver & Company (1988) This musical buddy comedy drama from Disney was a take off Charles Dickens classic Oliver Twist. This version though is set in New York City and Oliver is a homeless orphaned kitten, who joins a gang of street dogs in order to survive.  Naturally Oliver AND the dogs are all quite talkative.  It was a financial success that heralded a new age for Disney’s animation department and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song for “Why Should I Worry?”

Babe (1995) This delightful Australian-American comedy drama based on the The Sheep-Pig by Dick King Smith, tells the story of how Babe the piglet dreams of becoming a sheep-dog.  Some like Maa the old Ewe and border collie Fly support Babe’s goals but others like sheep-dog Rex consider this a reversal of the natural order.  It was filmed in New Zealand with the main animal characters played by a combination of real and animatronic pigs and border collies supplied by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.  James Cromwell does a charming, whimsical, turn as Father Hoggett who determines to enter his pig in the national sheep-dog trials.  It was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay and won for Best Visual Effects.  It also won the Golden Globe for Best Picture-Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film.

Men in Black (1997)  This blockbuster summer popcorn hit about a secret organization investigating extraterrestrial lifeforms on earth.  Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, and Vincent D’Onofrio, it launched one of the most successful sci-fi franchises of all time.  Among the many alien lifeforms Agents K and J encounter is Frank the Pug, an alien disguised as a dog.  Frank originally voiced by Tim Blaney and portrayed by trained pug Mushu would continue to be a recurring character in the series appearing in the sequel, the video game, and the animated series.

Up (2009) This gorgeous 3-D computer animated film from Pixar Studios of how elderly widower Carl Frederickson (voiced by Ed Anser) ties thousands of balloons to his house to see the jungles of South America and accidentally brings along young Wilderness Explorer Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai) for the ride.  Peter Doctor (Monsters Inc., Inside Out,) directed while Bob Peterson (Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo) co-wrote the script.  One of its many charming features was Dug (voiced by Bob Peterson the script-writer) a golden retriever who can communicate with humans thanks to a device on its collar.  In fact Dug is one of a pack of dogs with this feature and their antics provide much of the films humor.  Up was hugely successful financially and universally acclaimed by critics.  It received five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, making it only the second animated film to do so after Beauty and the Beast in 1991.

The Secret Life of Pets (2016) This 3-D Computer animated feature film seeks to answer the question of what pets do all day.  Max (voiced by Louis C.K) is a Jack Russell Terrier living with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) in a Manhattan apartment building.  During the day he also associates with other apartment pets in the building like adorable Pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate), dachshund Buddy (Hannibal Duress), and tabby cat Chloe (Lake Bell.)  However, Max’s easy routine is shattered when one day Katie brings home shaggy rescue dog Duke (Eric Stonestreet) home.  It has aa 74% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes and was the sixth highest grossing animated film not to be produced by Disney or Pixar.

Winnie’s book, The Dog-Walking Diaries – A Year in the Life of an Autistic Dog-Walker, can be bought for the dog lover in your life by clicking here to purchase on Amazon. 

Five Films Told From the Point of View of Man’s Best Friend


The Secret Life of Pets, currently playing in theaters, takes as its conceit the answer to the eternal question, what does your cat/dog/iguana do all day when you’re at work? Wiener-Dog coming out shortly chronicles a dachshund’s adventures among the mysterious homo-sapiens it cohabits with. These are just the latest in a series of cinematic efforts to get inside the minds of four legged friends.

Lady and the Tramp (1955) This beloved animated classic romance where an uptown girl meets a streetwise downtown guy has one of the most iconic scenes in movies where eating spaghetti becomes an accidental kiss for the leads. The fact that the romantic leads in question are a cocker spaniel and an alley mutt in no way diminishes the beauty of the moment or the sweetness of their star crossed love. Unfortunately, it must be said that the movie has some unfortunate stereotyping in its depiction of the infamous Siamese Cats; many found it offensive to Asians, and others found it unfair (though not unnecessarily untrue) in its depiction of cats.

One Hundred and One Dalmations (1961)  This classic animated adventure tale (based on the 1956 novel by Dodie Smith) of how two brave Dalmation parents Pongo and Perdita use the canine gossip line to save their puppies from Cruella DeVille (one of the most memorable and infamous villains ever depicted on screen), was an immediate box office sensation that made over 200 million against its four million dollar budget.

The Fox and the Hound (1981) This beloved buddy drama by Disney was inspired by the novel of the same name by Daniel Mannix.  Cooper a young hound dog puppy befriends Tod and orphaned red fox adopted by the family next door.  They vow to be best friends forever, but this is soon put to the test by their warring instincts and the social pressures that demand they be enemies.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)  This remake of the 1963 film The Incredible Journey (which was itself based on a novel) added dialogue and access to the thoughts of its main animal protagonists. American bulldog Chance (Michael J. Fox), golden Retriever Shadow (Don Ameche) and Himalayan Cat Sassy (Sally Field) are left at a ranch.  Fearing their owners have abandoned them they make a 250 mile long journey to San Francisco heading through the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Needless to say many perils and adventures await them as their frantic owners are searching for them as well.

Cats & Dogs (2001) This family friendly action comedy imagines a top secret high tech Cold War taking place between Cats and Dogs which the silly humans are utterly unaware of. Tobey Maguire voices Lou the beagle and main protagonist, Alec Baldwin as his mentor figure the older dog Butch, and Sean Hayes is delightful as the villainous Persian Mr. Tinkles. Alas, though, this is another Disney movie that takes an extremely biased viewpoint toward felines and draws on the most vicious of anti-cat stereotypes.

Winnefred Ann Frolik is writing a book about her experiences as a dog walker.

Top photo: Bigstock