In Praise of Bitzer, A Very Good Dog

The animated patron saint of people who would just like to do their job.

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t find Shaun The Sheep utterly charming. Certainly I would count myself among that number as I consider the show – and its movies – just wonderful. They are gentle, sweet, funny, simple and wholly entertaining in a way not many properties are. It never gets too ambitious but always knows exactly what it is and who it’s made for.

While the title sheep gets much of the attention as the focal point of the action, we need to take a moment and consider just how vital a supporting character is to what happens in each episode and how much he has to offer each story.

We Gather Together to Celebrate Bitzer

It may seem at first as if Bitzer, the canine companion of The Farmer, is the antagonist in the world of Shaun The Sheep. He is, after all, the one responsible for making sure the sheep and other animals on the farm are doing what they’re supposed to and not getting into trouble. So he is often doing his best to wrangle the sheep away from whatever shenanigans they’re involved in, whether it’s hanging out with aliens to accidentally starting a pizza delivery service.

But Bitzer is, in this reading, profoundly misunderstood.

He has been given a job – or jobs – by The Farmer. Sometimes that involves herding the sheep for a bath. Sometimes it involves remodeling the barn on the property. Many of these are jobs one wouldn’t expect a dog, even one as anthropomorphized as Bitzer – to be able to perform.

Yet in each case, no matter how crazy the request might be, Bitzer gets to it. He paints, he builds, he signs for packages. He does it all.

More than anything else, though, he relies on his trusty clipboard. It is his foundation, the focal point of all he has in front of him. Checking things off his To Do List on that clipboard is seemingly what brings Bitzer the most joy as he feels the satisfaction of a job done, and done well.

In this way he is among the most relatable characters in popular fiction.

Bitzer just wants to do his job and go home at the end of the day. He would like the approval of his boss. He wants to check his responsibilities off his list and insure everything is lined up as it should with a minimum of hassle.

If that’s not something we can all get behind, I’m not sure what is. How many of us just want the workplace hijinks to calm down so we can get our job done? How many of us just want a single day to be simple and easy instead of filled with terrifying circumstances involving having to dodge the boss, cover up for our less-disciplined coworkers, and do twice as much work as necessary because Carl over there decided to take everyone out for “brainstorming” coffee 30 minutes before the presentation was due?

What’s even more amazing about Bitzer is that while he may growl and make liberal use of his whistle to get the sheep, pigs and chickens back in line he never really works against the others on the farm. Shaun and the others aren’t trying to get Bitzer in trouble, nor are they working actively against him. It’s just that sometimes they’re version of what needs to be done doesn’t jibe with his.

It’s not an antagonistic relationship on the farm, then, just one of competing priorities. And while Bitzer may sometimes seem like the heavy, he shouldn’t be judged solely on his role as the enforcer of the rules. He’s just a very good dog trying to do a very good job who deserves to be praised.

Celebrate Shaun The Sheep GIF by Aardman Animations - Find & Share on GIPHY

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