Patrick Aryee of Amazing Dogs talks wonder of nature

DOGS – An Amazing Animal Family. Host Patrick Aryee and a wolf. Photo provided by Smithsonian Channel.
DOGS – An Amazing Animal Family. Host Patrick Aryee and a wolf. Photo provided by Smithsonian Channel. /
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Amazing Dogs
DOGS – An Amazing Animal FamilyEpisode 02Series 01Starring America – Wolf Pups and Patrick Ayree©offspringfilms /

Dog O’Day – Why is the medium of television a good method for introducing viewers to unfamiliar concepts or creatures?

Patrick Aryee – When it comes to our trusty pet dogs, many of us, have a pretty good idea of what to expect. A four-legged mammal covered in fur, with a long snout …a loyal animal with a fantastic sense of smell, prominent canine teeth, and of course a wagging tail that tells us a lot about its mood and how it’s feeling.  But when we start looking at the wider family of canids, it quickly becomes apparent that there are so many other nuanced features and behaviours, that make each member, truly unique.

That’s where the art of cinematography, really takes these stories to another level.  It allows us to describe some technical bits of biology, in a way that’s much easier easy to understand.  Take the cute and utterly adorable arctic fox for example, thanks to a special network of veins and arteries its legs and feet, it’s able to withstand freezing temperature as low as -50°C (-58°F).  This is a mind-blowing ability that only gets more impressive when you see me stood next to one, all wrapped up, barely able to speak because my lips were so numb from the cold howling wind.

Thinking about it, that’s another equally important part of filming wildlife, capturing the soundscape; from animal calls, to the surrounding environment, down to the musical score and narration, they all come together to make the story of dogs even more powerful.

Dog O’Day – As a biologist, do you have a particular canid that is most fascinating to study, and if so, why?

Patrick Aryee – I think wolves are amazing!  They’re tough as nails!  They’re fast, agile, strong, and that’s just as individuals.  Together, hunting in a pack, wolves can take down prey as big as bison.  They are truly formidable creatures.  Sadly, they’ve had a bit of a tough ride over the years and by the end of the 1920s they’d been hunted to extinction in the US.

What many didn’t realise at the time was the key role they played when it came to keeping the ecosystem in check.  Without the wolves, elk numbers increased, leading to the over-browsing of vegetation like willow, the same vegetation that beavers rely on for survival.  With fewer beavers making dams, the vast network of wetlands they create, which supports SO much wildlife, slowly deteriorated.

Thankfully, wolves came to the rescue; after their reintroduction to Yellowstone in 1995, the landscape slowly began to recover, and it was all thanks to those amazing dogs!

Dog O’Day – Do you have any pets at home, or a favourite dog breed?

Patrick Aryee – I travel too much to have any pets at home, but if I had one and it was a dog, it’d probably a cute little Dachshund!

Dog O’Day – If a student was curious about working in one of the sciences, or in the realm of television, do you have any advice for how they might proceed?

Patrick Aryee – For anyone that’s curious about working in the sciences, or in the TV industry, or both, first things first: ask yourself, is it your passion?  Ever since I was a little rugrat, I’ve loved learning about new facts and ideas, not just about biology but about chemistry, geography, space travel too.

I also loved performing on stage and watching TV, a lot of TV, I mean, what kid wouldn’t.  Once you figure out your passion, the next step is to find a community of like-minded people and get creative.  Whether it’s science, TV, music, art, food, we’re so fortunate to live in an era where the internet and social media platforms allow you express your passion in a way that’s fun, engaging and exciting.  My advice is to use those platforms like an experimental portfolio, and as your proving ground.