They’re regular Bark Kents!
The new documentary “Superpower Dogs,” in IMAX theaters Friday, introduces viewers to amazing canines who help people by using their extraordinary abilities: rescuing humans from under rubble, saving lost skiers after an avalanche and emotionally aiding veterans with PTSD.
They’re super cute, too.
Determining which pups would be featured in the family film was a struggle for the filmmakers. “[It took] a lot of research and hard work to find the equivalent of the Doggy Avengers,” director Daniel Ferguson tells The Post. The Montreal-based filmmaker met dozens of skilled dogs — one as far away as Uganda — but ultimately chose just six.
Then, they had to figure out how to visually explain man’s best friend’s natural powers on-screen. For instance, dogs have 60 degrees more peripheral vision than humans do and a far keener sense of smell, allowing them to find a missing person at a disaster site in just minutes as opposed to the hours it could take a person. Through creative shots he calls “doggy vision,” and special effects to demonstrate strong scents, Ferguson gives us a pup’s eye view of the world.
The crew filmed the fearless Fidos for nearly three years, following the journeys of dogs such as Henry, Ricochet and Halo, a trainee we witness go from newborn puppy to full-fledged search-and-rescue dog when she takes her final exam in New York.
“We really wanted the ending of the movie to be in New York,” Ferguson says, adding that before 9/11 there were very few canine teams in the US.
“When we saw how those dogs contributed — that even if they didn’t make a live find they ended up ‘saving’ so many of the responders from depression and anxiety. They motivated everybody.”
Here, meet the superhero dogs.
Power: Disaster site rescue. Using his sense of smell, hearing and wide field of vision, Halo finds people who are trapped under debris after a major incident, such as a train crash, bombing or tornado.
Breed: Dutch shepherd
Fun fact: When Halo’s human partner, Cat Labrada, went to a Michigan breeder to find her new pal, she was looking for a dog who could stay totally focused — on playing. In a disaster situation, filled with noise and other distractions, it’s vital that a dog keep fixated on the task at hand. Being able to play with a toy, while ignoring other temptations is a strong indicator of that skill.
Power: Avalanche rescue. As a member of an elite team of dogs at a Canadian ski resort, Henry can hunt down a skier who is buried by several feet of snow — a nearly impossible task for a human.
Breed: Border collie
Location: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Fun fact: Henry has a need for speed. In the film, we watch as Henry and his human partner, Ian Bunbury, are skiing down the mountain with Henry on his shoulders — and it wasn’t staged for dramatic effect. “All those things you see in the movie — the snowmobile, riding on his shoulders — Henry does those things, and loves it,” says Ferguson.
Henry also has a silly side. “His funny habit is the ‘wiggle,’ where he gets on his back and wiggles,” says Bunbury. He especially likes to wiggle on the snow. We have a saying: ‘Any time is a good time for a wiggle!’ ”
Power: Emotional support — and surfing! Ricochet goes surfing with people suffering from physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities to help them find confidence and calm.
Breed: Golden retriever
Location: San Diego
Fun fact: Ricochet is the film’s biggest celebrity — after narrator Chris Evans, anyway. After he spontaneously jumped on a child’s surfboard in 2009, Ricochet became famous around the world for riding the waves, and helping kids and adults find confidence and emotional stability in the process.
Even cooler, the dog, who belongs to Judy Fridono, has a knack for sensing harmful triggers — which has become as big a part of his job as surfing. For example, he might be on a walk with a war veteran, see a military-like vehicle and stop in his tracks. This gives the vet a moment to take a breath and acknowledge what he’s feeling.
“Ricochet does emotional rescue,” says Fridono. “She is able to go deep into a veteran’s soul and help them heal.”