Simon Needham, a British photographer, comes face-to-face with a friendly elephant in South Africa.
With Girl Scout Cookies in short supply, choosing between Thin Mints and Tagalongs is even harder.

“Critical Cookie Shortage!” My e-mail blares at me with this ominous message from the Girl Scout Digital Cookie Platform. Personally, I think the word “critical” should be reserved for things like low blood-donor supply, but I do appreciate the alliteration. In fact, I would like to propose a threefer for added drama: Critical Cookie Crisis.

WhatsApp messages from Troop Leaders and Cookie Liaisons appear in rapid fire, adding to the sense of panic and alarm. My daughter and I knew we would not be able to snag the debut cookie, Adventurefuls, due to a low supply, which was fine for us because the brownie-flavored treat, which is filled with caramel-flavored crème and sea salt, seemed a bit too complicated anyway. Now, though, ordinary cookies like S’mores and Samoas are at stake, affected by labor and ingredient shortages at the bakeries.

The booming Girl Scout Cookie market was once serviced by many different bakeries, but that number has since dwindled to two, with each troop’s regional council choosing which one they prefer. I pray that our regional director has the good sense to pick the bakery that’s rumored to make a slightly superior Thin Mint.

In 1984, the Girl Scouts expanded their troops to include kindergartners—the Daisy Program—so that leadership skills could be taught as early as possible. I do not think that they had the foresight at the time that this would involve teaching young children complicated economic concepts like labor shortages and the supply chain.

Bess Truman, President Harry S. Truman’s wife, grabs the first cookie box of the 1951 Girl Scout sale.

I tell my five-year-old daughter to imagine that 16 people were doing a job, but suddenly 14 disappear and the remaining 2 can’t keep up. I also try to explain that a boat got stuck in a canal with a lot of stuff and people on it, and that set off a chain reaction. I search the house for a dominoes set to explain a chain reaction. The Suez Canal blockage of 2021 probably has no effect on the domestic distribution of Girl Scout Cookies, but it seems like a good image to teach with.

I signed my daughter up for the Girl Scouts for many reasons, but mostly to learn about camaraderie, community, and confidence. Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts whose hobbies included blacksmithing, made the iron gates for her own estate in Savannah, Georgia. I have a fantasy of my five-year-old building iron doors for us. Instead, we are slinging cookies on social media.

This just in, even more urgent news: the place where every troop goes to pick up their supply, the Cookie Cupboard, has been depleted. Going from S’mores and Samoas being endangered to no cookies at all feels even more ominous and threatening. Passive aggressive texts come in from friends watching late-night television without their precious Thin Mints. I scan through the list of orders to rate who I would like to let down less in the event that only part of our order is fulfilled. Somehow, it feels like Girl Scout Cookies, which are supposed to bring people together, are tearing us apart.

Fortunately, good news arrives at last! The Cookie Cupboard has inventory and we can pick up our order. My daughter and I race over to the Cookie Liaison’s house, where Samoas have shown up unharmed and S’mores are expected before long.

But then we find out about another casualty: Toffee-tastics have fallen victim to transportation issues. —Anna Ephron Harari

Channing Tatum and his co-star show off their good side in Dog.

It’s a question that sounds like a riddle: How do you train an animal to misbehave? That was the challenge facing the makers of Dog, a new movie starring Channing Tatum. He plays a former Army Ranger tasked with transporting Lulu, an army K-9 unit dog, to the funeral of her main handler.

Both man and dog have been traumatized by their experiences in combat, and both act out in their own fashion. This meant that the three different dogs who play Lulu had to tear up upholstery, slip their leashes, run randomly through the woods, watch too much TV, and bite people (or pretend to), all on command. Which might sound like fun, at least for the dogs, but was hard, serious work for both animals and filmmakers.

Lulu is a Belgian Malinois, a close cousin to a German shepherd. It’s a breed “highly sought after as police and military K-9s,” according to the American Kennel Club. Altogether, it took five trainers to put the three movie Malinoises through their paces.

One dog, Britta, did most of the work, appearing in about 80 percent of Lulu’s scenes. “She’s our hero dog, she did most of our acting,” Reid Carolin, who co-directed Dog with Tatum, told the Web site MovieMaker.

For the film to work, audiences have to slowly fall in love with Lulu, just as Tatum’s character does. (Sorry. Spoiler.) Carolin said the key to Britta’s performance was her “very expressive face.” Air Mail Pilot can confirm that Britta is indeed quite lovable on screen, even soulful. If only there were Oscars for animals …

For decades, animals and humans have co-starred in movies. Bruce Davison (left) and Ernest Borgnine (right) acted alongside rats in the 1971 film Willard.

Another Malinois, Zuza, took care of Lulu’s most combative scenes, the lunging and upholstery tearing. But Carolin insisted Zuza isn’t aggressive in real life, just “goofy” and “high energy.”

The third dog, Lana 5, specialized in more passive scenes, like when Lulu flops over for a belly rub or allows Tatum to carry her around on his shoulders. There are probably many humans who, even without training, would be very happy to be carried around on Channing Tatum’s shoulders, but dogs have their own ways.

Air Mail Pilot trivia bonus: Guess what? Once upon a time, there was an Oscars for animals, sort of. Organized by the Hollywood chapter of the American Humane Association, it was called the PATSY Awards (PATSY being an acronym for Picture Animal Top Star of the Year). The first were given out in 1951, in a ceremony hosted by future president Ronald Reagan. Among the winners over the years: the mule who played Francis the Talking Mule in the 1951 movie of the same name; Elsa, the lioness in Born Free (1967); and the rat who starred as Ben in Willard (1971), a horror movie about killer rats, and its sequel, Ben (1972).

That last movie also featured an Oscar-nominated title song sung by Michael Jackson. It was a love song to the title character—a rat, as we’ve already mentioned—that includes the lyrics: “Ben, most people would turn you away / I don’t listen to a word they say.” It’s true: your grandparents grew up with weird movies. —Bruce Handy

Joe McKendry teaches AIR MAIL Pilot readers how to make a construction paper landscape.