A bald terrier mix saved from a hoarder and suffering from a startling and mysterious skin condition, an aggressive chow mix brought out of isolation and taught to see the world in a different light, and a pack of Florida hunting beagles saved from certain euthanasia and transported to Best Friends.
Those dogs and their compelling stories compose the premiere episode of the third season of "DogTown," about the livesaving work Best Friends’ Dogtown does on a daily basis.
Titled "The Survivors," the episode airs March 20 at10 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel.
"DogTown" has no doubt been a hit, drawing 24.8 million viewers and 16.6 million households last season. The series is not only compelling entertainment, it also educates viewers about the hurdles Best Friends and other animal organizations face in caring for and rehabilitating dogs who have been subjected to abusive situations such as puppy mills, dog fighting and hoarding.
The success of "DogTown" was underscored by the nomination it received last month for "best unscripted TV show" from the Genesis Awards, presented to works in the media that raise awareness about animal welfare issues.
"The show really speaks to the core of who and what Dogtown and Best Friends are," says Chris Albert, executive director of communications for the National Geographic Channel.
Albert says the show "really came into its own" with the episode about the Michael Vick dogs, the premiere episode of season two. "Since then, it’s only increased in popularity," he says.
Another indication of the show’s success: "DogTown" has become a staple of National Geographic’s Friday night lineup, the channel’s most highly viewed night of the week. Albert attributes its popularity not just to the dogs featured in the show, but also to the dedication of the Best Friends trainers and veterinarians, which the show frequently highlights.
"We have such admiration for the work Dogtown and Best Friends does, and we feel really honored that we get to tell these stories week after week," says Albert.
That dedication is on full display in the upcoming season, kicking off with an episode about Dr. Mike Dix’s efforts to discover the cause of Aristotle’s painful skin condition, the worst that the Best Friends head veterinarian has ever seen.
Rescued from a hoarder in California, the terrier mix arrives at Best Friends with scabs all over his hairless, raw skin. But Aristotle proves to be an ideal patient, maintaining his rambunctious and affectionate personality as he’s being treated. (Aristotle is one of the many animals who have benefited greatly from Best Friends’ Guardian Angel program, designed to help animals with extreme special needs.)
"The Survivors" also features Waylon, one of the dogs at Pets Alive, a sanctuary in New York that has fallen on hard times. Best Friends is called in to help the neglected animals and rehabilitate the sanctuary. Waylon, a chow mix, has a history of lashing out at people. Best Friends trainer Pat Whitacre takes the dog under his wing, working patiently to curb Waylon’s aggression and bring out another, sweeter side of the dog.
In the third story in the episode, Best Friends animal behavior expert Sherry Woodard and Dogtown co-manager Michelle Besmehn hit the road to pick up a pack of beagles in Florida. Part of an excess of dogs bred for hunting, the eight beagles would otherwise have been euthanized had it not been for Best Friends. One of the dogs, Electra, has a potentially fatal case of heartworm, which doesn’t stop a couple volunteering at Best Friends from considering her for adoption.
We encourage Best Friends members to tell their friends, family and neighbors about "DogTown" and the work of Best Friends. One fun way to do this is by hosting a Party with a Purpose, a get-together built around watching episodes of "DogTown." They’re a great way to introduce newcomers to the Best Friends mission and help us achieve our goal of No More Homeless Pets. Check out how to host a Party with a Purpose.Written by Ted Brewer
Photos (l-r) Electra, Waylon, Aristotle by Best Friends staff
As part of Best Friends’ 25th anniversary in 2009, our goal is to double our membership, so we can double our efforts to bring about a time when all companion animals have a forever home. What can you do to help? Give the Gift of a Best Friends membership to family and friends.