“There’s a lot to learn
from our animals." Says
K9 Search & Rescue expert Matthew Zarrella. "Dogs
have a special connection to humans. Sure they can hunt, and many breeds
can survive well on their own, but they thrive on human companionship… and
love. There was a time they could have done without it but now that
they’re used to it, they thrive on it. And I thrive on that too…
It’s not the humans that I learn peace from… it’s from my animals.”
RELIANCE is also a story of searches, some
urgent, where the consequences of “trusting your dog” can mean life or death
for a missing victim, others where the goal is to provide answers and closure
for sometimes decades old tragedies.
finally, RELIANCE is the story of the
remarkable transformative power of empathetic connections between humans and
dogs. It documents with pathos and
surprising humor, rich, productive relationships in which both species learn to
trust each other, and rely on each other, in performing their crucial tasks.
a child, Matt Zarrella found solace and confidence in his relationships with
his family’s dogs. As an adult he used
that confidence, coupled with a sense of duty to help those in need, to succeed
as a police officer, and ultimately as an internationally renowned K-9 search
and rescue specialist.
on Zarrellas video diaries, filmmaker interviews, and extensive verite footage which
chronicles searches and follows a class of trainees from their initial pairings
to certification, RELIANCE will
provide a window into the extraordinary work done by these “bands of” humans
Matt Zarrella & his lead dog Panzer
push through triple canopy jungle to search for remains of American
Soldiers in Vietnam, 2003. Over ten hours of video was taken by
Veterinarian John Turco, who volunteered two months away from his
private practice to assist Matthew and his dogs on the hot, treacherous
searches. The mission was conducted by the Joint Task Force, Full Accounting/POW/MIA (JT FFA) US Military in cooperation with the Rhode Island State Police.
Above Left: Veterinarian John Turco tending to Max on mission in Vietnam, 2003. On Right: Panzer and Max take a break on a one-hundred degree day. Vietnam, 2003.