But the wonder pup lives and, in a modest backwater, finds meaning as a work dog, rescuing humans as he rescues himself from the pampered precincts of privilege.
Firehouse Dog is a touching, family-friendly entertainment about a dog and his boy, in this case Rexxx, who is rechristened Dewey, and Shane (Josh Hutcherson), a troubled tween who becomes the dog's first human reclamation project.
The pensive Hutcherson is emerging as the Jodie Foster of Generation Y.
It is Hutcherson's performance, nicely complemented by that of Bruce Greenwood as Shane's single dad, Connor, that grounds Firehouse Dog in the realm of real emotions.
Rexxx/Dewey lacks the animal magnetism of movie pooches such as Lassie, Beethoven, Benji or - my favorite cine-canine - Fly, the border collie in Babe.
Not only does the dog humanize the humans, which is usually the point of films like this, but also the humans let the pooch be a work dog instead of a show dog.
In a film that's effectively the canine version of Doc Hollywood, the title character learns to sift false from true values. It's barking up the right tree.
Firehouse Dog *** (out of four stars)
Produced by Michael Colleary and Mike Werb, directed by Todd Holland, written by Claire-Dee Lim, Mike Werb and Michael Colleary, distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Running time: 1 hour, 51 mins.
Shane Fahey. . . Josh Hutcherson
Connor Fahey. . . Bruce Greenwood
Joe Musto. . . Bill Nunn
Pep Clemente .............Mayte Garcia
Parent's guide: PG (animal in peril)
Playing at: area theaters
Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey
at 215-854-5402 or firstname.lastname@example.org.