A dog's best friend
Budding Kiwi film-maker Eryn Wilson packed in some adventures of his own to film an inspiring collection of great dog tales.
Auckland-based Wilson is making a feature-length documentary on the work of Sydney dog behaviour expert Jacob Leezak.
Wilson's screenwork included getting up close with members of Leezak's 27-strong dog pack on a recent trip across the Tasman.
"I literally slept on his couch with a pit bull for four days," Wilson told Sunday News. "It was awesome for the immersion [into Leezak's life and work]."
Leezak is a former semi-professional boxer and ex-Australian soldier who served in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
His love and commitment to dogs, including rescuing some whose behavioural problems left them on death row, will be the subject of Wilson's documentary.
Leezak runs the Canine Behaviour Expert Dog Psychology Center based in Rouse Hill, about 40km west of central Sydney.
He has 27 dogs at his house, ranging from a 2.5kg Chihuahua-cross, right through to a 85kg Cane Corso - a cousin to the neapolitan mastiff.
"You can go away on holiday, and if your dog has a couple of issues he [Leezak] can help sort those out while you are away," Wilson said. "But he also insists that the owner gets involved with the dog's therapy.
"He also rescues dogs. If he doesn't think they can be rehomed without being managed by someone who knows what they are doing, if it could become dangerous or bad for the dog or the human, he will take the dog on himself. That's how he's got 27 [dogs] . . . they are very much his pack."
When Leezak marries next year, one of his dogs will act as his best man.
One of Leezak's mantras is that we "humanise" our dogs too much. He also believes "bad" dogs are the result of bad owners.
He is the last hope for many of the dogs which arrive on Leezak's doorstep or would otherwise be euthanised.
Leezak's rehabilitation work with the animals includes water therapy, in which he gets into a pool with the dogs. He also gets them onto treadmills to burn off excess energy and engage their brains.
Wilson's mother discovered Leezak through his business' Facebook page.
After reading Leezak's posts and checking out videos on his YouTube channel, Wilson approached him about making the documentary.
"I love talking to real people about their real stories, and I love dogs," Wilson said.
"I said, ‘Would you be keen for me to come over and do a doco on you?', and he [Leezak] said, ‘It sounds great, come and stay for as long as you like'."
Wilson will use Kickstarter to help fund the production.
He has already set up a Facebook page on the making of his feature-length documentary.
Wilson said his time to date with Leezak had taught him about his own dog, a 12-year-old Border Collie-Newfoundland cross.
"I want it [the doco] to do the same thing that it has done for me so far," he said.
"For me it is a human interest piece, it is a celebration of the work that Jacob does. I just want people to enjoy watching this man's story and who he is, but also get educated about dogs and start thinking about their own dogs."