The Dog I've Always Wanted

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Back to the Blog 4 “My Dog Tulip” the film

October 25th, 2009 · · Back to the Blog, Film Review

A trip to the Ottawa International Animation Festival to see a film version of J.R.Ackerley’s  book, “My Dog Tulip” was more than worthwhile. This was an amazing hand drawn animated film,some 83 minutes long, made by Sandra and Paul Fierlinger.
Tulip Still
I read the book last year and was extremely impressed by the devotion of J.R.Ackerly to his Alsatian bitch Tulip and the rich description he offers of their life together. The film is narrated with selections read from the book by the rightfully esteemed Christopher Plummer. It was, for me, pure delight. Visually beautiful the fluid pen and ink and water-colour work not only illustrates the text but illuminates it.

J.R.Ackerley himself claims Tulip (whose real name was Queenie) as ” the love of his life”. He further states that the 15 years he spent with her were the happiest of his life. He describes himself as ” unable to manage a human relationship” due to “some psychological failing”. I have been perusing his diaries and other writings and it does seem to be the case. Except for his father and his sister he does not seem to have had any relationships that were of any significant duration or depth. The single exception being his connection with his Alsatian, Tulip.

According to accounts by friends and acquaintances, the dog was spoiled and unruly. (In contemporary terms she could be described as desperately in need of a visit from the Dog Whisperer!) Yet he loved her so much that he was always eager to return home to her from his office and he devoted himself to the pursuit of her happiness, her fulfillment. One can only speculate that he saw in her some primitive life force that he felt he lacked, some instinctual capacity for self-realization that he yearned for, and a freedom from the social censure which he himself could never escape.

It is a poignant tale. Movingly told. This film should be seen and savoured. It is a masterpiece.


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