The Thing About Lassie


My sixteen-month-old son has an obsession. We don’t watch a lot of television in our house, so I’m not sure how this even came about. The little man is completely and totally in love with Lassie. I don’t mean the old black and white TV series, I mean a very specific made-for-tv movie based on the original novel. This film was made in 2005 and features a star-studded cast, including Samantha Morton, Peter O’Toole and Peter Dinklage. Lassie scores 93% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer, and I’ve seen it about twenty times now, so I can agree that it’s a solid film. It’s feature length and my sixteen-month-old will watch it from beginning to end.

Not only will he sit quietly and watch this entire movie, but he also has favourite moments. We know these moments are popular with Noodle because he becomes quite animated and insistes that you watch, by grabbing you with his sweet little hands and often panting, which is his way of saying “doggie”. Every time his favourite horse comes on the screen he says “neigh neigh!” and he furrows his little brow whenever it’s a tense moment or tragedy strikes. He wants to watch this movie at least once a day, and we indulge him because, well, here’s why I’m writing.

I get a thick lump in my throat and a stinging behind the eyes when I witness how much my little baby boy loves this movie. It seems a ridiculous thing to get emotional about, doesn’t it? I don’t know why his love of Lassie affects me so…

It could be because I love dogs more than most people, and movies about dogs always make me very emotional. It could be because the little boy in the movie, with his serious face, prominent nose, and sticky-out ears reminds me of Noah. The little boy loves his dog and gets his heart broken. Maybe the film is making me realize that my own little boy is vulnerable and now that he’s old enough to appreciate film, he’s one step closer to being exposed to a world that can be quite cruel? Maybe his infatuation with the movie is making me aware of the depth of feeling that a tiny person can experience which is humbling? Am I depressed because my husband is allergic to pets and I don’t think our children (or I, for that matter) will ever get to enjoy a dog? Does his captivation with this movie  mean that Noah is growing up quicker than I realize and I feel like time is slipping away? I’m not pre-menstrual, could I be peri-menopausal?

Now when I hear the soundtrack from the film, I feel this incredible sense of melancholy or  perhaps its wistfulness. My son seems to understand every nuance of this story that he watches daily, and I’m amazed by this. I realize as I’m typing this that I want to witness him take in every amazing thing he will discover, but of course I can’t. Time is fragile and fleeting and I have such a short window where I get to observe him being moved, or delighted, or touched by the world around him. It feels like there is never enough time to breathe in all of his wonder.