ADVENTURES OF RUFFUS AND ANDY: BREATHLESS
Credit Valley Hospital Educational Services Department, 1992. VHS cassette, 22 min., $99.00
Volume 21 Number 5
This video features the puppets Andy and his dog Ruffus as they find out about asthma. The rest of the cast are actors and three guest stars from the hockey world: Don Cherry, and Lucien DeBlois and Dan Marois of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Andy's friend Simone becomes breathless while playing hockey and must be hospitalized. Her friends are worried about her and ask questions, which provide the opportunity for explaining the terminology associated with asthma. Ruffus is especially concerned, since Andy insists that as a dog he will make Simone sick. In the end Ruffus learns that although he should not visit Simone at home, he can play with her outside. The children also learn that asthma need not be a handicap, and that most people can carry on active lives as long as they are careful. Lucien DeBlois and Dan Marois explain how they cope with asthma.
The intentions of the producers are obviously good. The puppets and child actor; of various ethnic origins should make children feel comfortable. Pain has been taken to make this a non-sexist production and to provide an interesting hockey context. The production values are not slick: the acting is unpolished and the scene shifts are occasionally awkward. However, this is not really a problem, since in some ways it adds to the immediacy of the events.
Unfortunately, the guilt trip laid on the dog is distressing, even though he is eventually absolved of blame. I was uncomfortable with the ostracism he suffered; I think a child who was attached to a pet would be very upset. The same information could have been presented in a more low-key manner. The medical information is passed over relatively quickly, although there are breaks in the action to allow the viewer to rerun the pertinent sections and reinforce the information.
I would recommend this video with the reservation that it be used in supervised situations where anxiety about the dog can be defused immediately, and where the medical information can be reviewed and discussed.
Christine Jacobs (Montreal, Que.) is a freelance indexer who for the past seven years has indexed films and videos for Film/Video Canadiana.
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