Confident, loyal, devoted, agile and intelligent are all words used to describe the hardy Rottweiler, one of the oldest — and most misunderstood — working dog breeds.
The Rottweiler is the focus of a new documentary called “Black Beauty Breed,” which features a Flathead Valley couple.
Director Angie Ruiz wanted to break through negative portrayals of the Rottweiler as an intimidating and unstable dog, and get to the essence of the breed’s positive character traits and inherent working ability.
“Black Beauty Breed” traces the Rottweiler’s origins and highlights what the breed does best — working and being a loyal family member.
The documentary features Rottweiler’s roles as therapy, search and rescue, herding, carting and K-9 Unit police dogs.
“I knew these stories had to be told,” Ruiz said. “It’s been such a journey first meeting incredible people who have devoted their whole lives to the breed.”
To help tell the modern-day life of the Rottweiler, Ruiz traveled to the Kila home of John and Dawn Peine, where their two rescued “rotties,” Smith and Wesson, reside with three other dogs.
The Peines were recently flown to Hollywood to see the documentary and meet other people profiled in the film.
“It’s just wild. It’s so neat in the movie they have dog herding cattle in a desert-y scene then, all of a sudden it opens to green trees and mountains and you see the Kila sign,” John said.
Smith and Wesson are not the first Rottweilers to become members of the Peine family.
Retired Capt. John Peine was in charge of the K-9 Unit for the Riverdale Police Department in New Jersey. His three Rottweilers — Kody, Cubby and Kali — were always at his side until their passing.
“The idea behind the movie is to show they are not just a junkyard guard dog. They are a devoted breed — to their handlers and to their families,” John said.
Kody was the first dog on his K-9 Unit and holds a special place in John’s heart. In addition to police work, Kody also served as an ambassador when John took him regularly to school assemblies.
“Everyone knew Kody,” John said.
Ruiz initially learned about John through his and Kali’s involvement at Ground Zero.
Kali, whose full name is Kalispell Montana, was deployed at Ground Zero in the days following 9/11 as part of the American Canine Association Search and Rescue team.
“I said to the NYPD guys, ‘Hey, I have a search and rescue dog. Do you want me to come and get her?’ They said ‘absolutely.’ It turned into a recovery, as we all know. We didn’t find anybody that was alive,” John said not wanting to go into any more details.
The Peines adopted Smith and Wesson in 2008 from death row. Being in charge of the K-9 Unit, John regularly received and circulated emails regarding dogs up for adoption.
“I get this email about Smith and Wesson. They were 4 years old and needed a home. I already had three dogs, so I passed it on. Well, a little time went by and the next email they were in Newark, New Jersey, on death row,” John said. “I looked at their picture and said ‘you got to be kidding me.’”
After repeated calls to the shelter, John finally got hold of someone who said the only way the dogs could be released was if the original owner got them.
John found the original owner and the dogs were released. John said the original owner had been through a divorce and the dogs were passed around and abused.
“She [Smith] was marked as not being able to live with any animals and he [Wesson] was marked as a man killer,” John said.
When John took them to a vet he learned why they were labeled as such. Wesson was found to be cross-eyed, which meant he couldn’t focus on objects and could be startled by fast movements, causing apprehension. Smith had a birth defect in her legs, which caused some mobility issues.
“She can’t move that quick. I could see her being apprehensive of animals,” John said. “Now, she lives with 20-some chickens, a pig, two miniature donkeys, horses and a cat that sleeps next to her.”
Thursday afternoon, after introductions, Smith and Wesson settled in and snoozed through the hot day or nudged a leg, a sign they wanted to be petted.
“Oh, they’ll lay at your feet, but when you ask them to go to work, they’ll do it,” John said with a smile.
“Black Beauty Breed,” is a personal journey of director Ruiz that began in 2007 when she rescued her Rottweiler, Samson, who is now 8 years old. The documentary is her directorial debut and took six years to make.
Ruiz initially wasn’t planning on rescuing Samson. She was just transporting the then 9-month-old, who weighed in at roughly 100 pounds. But Samson captured her heart.
“It really changed my life,” Ruiz said. “At the time I didn’t know anything about the breed.”
A majority of what she came across on the Internet was negative.
“As I began to understand that socialization and training were important, I did that right away,” Ruiz said.
Samson became part of the family, yet when she took him for walks, people crossed the street.
“One lady said, ‘that’s a dangerous dog. He’s going to turn against you one day,’” Ruiz said.
When her daughter was born people warned her to get rid of him.
“Samson was so misjudged by people who didn’t know the breed,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz began journaling about her dog and other Rottweilers, which became the impetus for the documentary.
Ruiz, who has traveled to East Africa and India to observe lions and leopards for other documentary work, saw the Rottweiler was just as majestic and beautiful.
“I’m hoping with the film people will get the full picture of the Rottweiler,” Ruiz said.
For more information visit www.blackbeautybreed.com
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.