Patrick Gallagher: Lover of Dogs

Patrick Gallagher stars as Teo in the recent film A Dog’s Way Home. He recounts moments in his childhood on how dogs became influential to him.

ATM: How does playing the opposites of light and dark in a character reveal a sense of you that was not disclosed before?

PG: You tap into different parts of yourself. The part of TEO is a little bit more empathetic and soulful. I do not get to tap into much as an actor like I would like to. It was nice to play. This is closer to my personality. You sort of figure out what is going on in the scene. You find as much truth as to how you would do it. You tap into that part of yourself. This film got me to tap into my empathetic side. The side that wants to help people. I play a lot of bad guys or “heavies.” Playing bad guys are fun because you get to do a lot of stuff you cannot do in real life. That is a part of what is fun about acting. The play-acting part of it like being a kid. For example, in film I get to shoot guns at people. I wouldn’t want or like to shoot a gun at anyone in real life but is fun to do it when it is all pretend. I like to do this . . .acting because it exposes more of what my personality entails.

ATM: Do you have a dog?

PG: I do not right now. I have not had one for a long time. I live in a building that does not allow me to have one unfortunately. I had German Shepherds when I was young. I love dogs and I am pretty good with them. My favorite on was Jason, then we had Shep and Sheeba who were all pure-bred German Shepherds. We also had a collie named rain when I was like 6 or 7. We had Jason the longest, he was my favorite.  

I grew up in a place called Chilliwack which is 60 miles east of Vancouver. We lived on Chilliwack mountain, which was very remote at the time. There were four houses when we moved there during the 70s. My friend Andrew lived down the hill. I would go to this house and we would hang out. I remembered I had to walk home sometimes while it was pitch black outside because no streetlights. I would call my mother to say I was walking home. She would let Jason out. Out of nowhere I would hear these paws on the pavement, and I would feel better and safer with Jason. He would always be there to help me feel not afraid of cougars, dogs, or bears and irrational kid fears. {laughs} He was such a great dog…. We went on a family trip one year and left him on the kennel. The kennel loved him so much they let him wander free instead of keeping him in a pen, and unfortunately, he drank cleaning fluid and passed away. 

ATM: This is very sad.

PG: I was 14 when this happen. The person was very sad and apologetic. This is how we got Shep and Sheeba. It was a replacement but never the same. The kennel owner liked him so much and let him walk free. He was a curious dog. 

ATM: So, you had conversations with them?

PG: Yes, I did. We had him from when I was young. We had him since I was nine. Yes, I talk to dogs and I still talk to my friends’ dog. They are the only animals I would want to own. They are the connections between humans and dogs. There is no other connection in the animal kingdom like it. We breed them to be loyal partners. Jason would always do this thing where he turns his head, like he was listening or trying to understand. I got the sense he knew what was going on. We have all heard the stories of dogs being able to sense a seizure coming on and things like that or of dogs that could sense tumors. There is some kind of sense dogs have that we do not understand. I saw the movie Alpha, which was a movie about how humanity domesticated dogs. Cats domesticated themselves. I am not a huge cat fan. I am more of a dog person. 

ATM: Why not cats?

PG: Cats make me nervous. You never know where they are. They only come out for a massage and when they want someone to clear up their bathroom. To cats, we are just massage therapists, bathroom attendants and smorgasbords in my opinion. {laughs}They make me nervous, they just appear out of nowhere. Eventually even when they seem happy and are purring, they will swat at you. I have only met one cat in my life that I trusted to never swat at me at some point, his name was Sofi. The never did by the way. I am not really a cat person. You cannot play with a cat. I do not feel any love between cats. I want to feel love with a pet. You feel love between a dog and a human. If you throw a stick at a cat, then they will look at you like you are crazy. 

ATM: They look at you with the question “Are you going to go get that because I am not?” 

PG: Yes. It is always on their terms. I saw a show where they put a tracker on some cats. Then stopped feeding them for a week to see what would happen. Three out of the ten cats bolted from their owners. They had been with them for years. See no love {laughs} (they all got returned by the way and the owners were in on it from what I remember). They are solitary individuals and I gravitated more toward animals that live in groups. My favorite animals are dolphins, chimpanzees, Orcas, and wolves. I have realized it’s the animals that live in a sense of community that I gravitate toward. This is probably why I do not like cats. I like the aspect of companionship and compassion. If people want to have cats, then this is fine, but I am ambivalent about cats.

ATM: Do you think it is possible that dogs can talk?

PG: They will understand a sound, and relay this to an action. I am not a biologist, but a scientist would know this for sure. From my understanding is that they feel emotion and they are incredibly intelligent. They can associate a sound with an action. They understand the word sit. They are not thinking “I have to sit down,” but they understand what action you want. They are intelligent animals in so many ways. Animals are much more intelligent then we give them credit for sometimes. I watch a lot of shows about animals. They are most more intelligent. Crows are very intelligent. Whether we can go to this point of actual language understanding, I do not know. I wonder if it will get to the point as to whether we can breed this into them, and this is sort of an ethical point. 

As our technology develop and science in 100 years, can we be able to do this? Well I guess the question is, should we? A lot of it comes out of breeding. I was watching a show where a Russian scientist wanted to see how quickly they could breed out feral instincts of foxes. It only took like five generations to breed a basically domesticated fox. It happens quickly with dogs how we can manipulate their characteristics and traits. I would like to be able to talk to my dog. They are wise and know things. I remember talking to my dog. I have friends that talk to their dogs, which is what we know is technically alone way conversation, but we are feeling something back from them. 

ATM: In some imaginary world, if they could speak would you become nervous?

PG: If I was walking down the street and heard a dog speak to me, then I would go “What the heck?”, but It would be a great thing wouldn’t it. It is humanity’s best friend. If we can talk to our best friend, then this is not a bad thing. They would be great at finding packs, as the movie is about. Sometimes they can find their way home when we cannot. They could be like living tour guides or google maps if they could talk This would be good jobs for them. If the animals were our google maps. “Take a left at the mountain. Head through Colorado.” They could help us with this. Do you have a dog?

ATM: Yes.

PG: Big dog or little dog?

ATM: It’s a little dog. York Terrier named Cocoa. 

PG: I use to not like little dogs. Like I said we had the Shepherds mostly. I have a lot of friends with smaller dogs and recently have grown to like little dogs, but I like all dogs. Do you talk to your dog?

ATM: Sometimes. I more so look to receive a comic relief. You just look at them and go aww. Your day becomes better.

PG: It is nice that they can. It is the silent comfort Sometimes you need or want to talk but want to have something there to feel better. I wish I could have a dog. It would be nice to have a dog that gives you unconditional love. This is what I love about dogs. You do not get this from cats. They are more of a one-way relationship, their way lol. Dogs love us and feel love I think This is why there is a big connection. 

ATM: They understand humanity even deeper than humans.

PG: True and they are loyal as hell. This is a great thing. This is what I worry about if they get the chance to talk. They are great the way they are right now. They tap into our humanity in a way no one else can. It is all about feeling when it comes down to it. Our ability to think separates us from the animal world. Our emotions and love deep down makes us human essentially. You are not in your head with dogs, but you are in your heart and soul with dogs. They are fun to play with and walk. Not to pick up their poop. Always feel bad seeing a dog having to poop. They always get that face like they know everyone is watching them. They have the look like “Do not watch. I am pooping.”  

ATM: They have to go the bathroom in front of people. At least we have bathrooms.

PG: They use the bathroom and then run away.

ATM: Yes. For a split second they forget the humiliation. 

PG: I do not know what we would do without them. They have been a huge part of human development. They have been a part of humans defending themselves and farming. I watch a lot of shows about the intelligence of animals. It is always fascinating. 

ATM: I always wonder what they think about us.

PG: A lot of it is feeling. I would like to think they like us. It is a symbiotic relationship. I think they do. I am glad they are around. People need to make sure they take care of their pets. 

ATM: It is sad for some people who contribute to animal cruelty. 

PG: It is really sad. I have never understood this.

ATM: They remember things when they get older. If a kid is mean to them as a puppy, then they will remember this. Some will attack you when you become older. 

PG: They also get to the point where it is not always with them. They can forget the trauma. If a dog feels safe and loved, then it will go away. I am envious of this. They do not hold on to trauma like we do. It is amazing that you hear stories from New Orleans and Katrina for example where they found their way home to owners who had moved across the country. Bella is going to find Lucas and she is not just go back to a town. People should go see the movie. It is a bit of a tear jerker, but there is nothing wrong with feeling emotion.

ATM: You cried?

PG: I cried a little. . . maybe. . . Actually, It was dusty in the theater. This is my story and I’m sticking to it. But yes, I did cry, and that’s good when a movie can make you feel.

ATM: Did you use Kleenex or a napkin to wipe your tears?

PG: I used my sleeves. I am that type of guy.

ATM: You are a sleeve type of guy?

PG: Yes. I am a sleeve type of guy. I had used my sleeve. All my napkins had popcorn grease on them. 

ATM: Oh no, you do not want popcorn grease in your eye. 

PG: Nope.