'DogTown' TV show on the National Geographic channel

'DogTown' TV series about Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and the homeless animals we save scheduled to begin airing on the National Geographic Channel.
By Michael Rinker

Millions of people worldwide are about to learn what Best Friends Animal Society members and visitors to our sanctuary have known for a long time: that what we do here makes the biggest difference in the lives of abused, neglected and abandoned animals.

National Geographic Channel's TV series "DogTown"

Beginning January 4, the National Geographic Channel will air the first episode of a weekly TV series based on the good work we do at the sanctuary.

Titled "DogTown," the show "takes viewers on a journey inside the bustling grounds to meet the dogs and the skilled professional team dedicated to ensuring that even the toughest cases survive," according to National Geographic. "This expert team of caregivers has a single mission – to transform hopeless dogs into loving pets."

In addition to meeting – and falling in love with – dogs who’ve persevered through the worst life can throw at them, viewers will get to know members of Best Friends’ dedicated Dogtown staff and witness the miracles they perform every day.

Episodes feature multiple story lines, with individual staff members helping each dog to face his or her own unique challenges.

The work we do at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

The sanctuary, located in southern Utah, hosts several hundred dogs, as well as cats, birds, rabbits, horses and other farm animals – about 2,000 animals at any one time. A staff of more than 60 attend to the lost canine souls who find shelter in one of 12 lodging facilities at Dogtown. With the hope of finding these dogs new, loving homes, the dedicated caregivers provide medical care, training, rehabilitation and TLC.

However, with millions of homeless pets being euthanized each year in this country, the sanctuary can do only so much. Much of our work takes place well beyond its boundaries.

In addition to disaster relief efforts around the world – including Hurricane Katrina, this summer’s devastating earthquake in Peru and recent flooding in Mexico – we help when we can to stabilize at-risk shelters, such as Pets Alive in New York, and intervene in emergency situations where the lives of many animals are in immediate danger, like the Great Kitty Rescue in Pahrump, Nevada, this summer.

As part of our No More Homeless Pets campaign, Best Friends educates and supports local shelters, lobbies for legislative initiatives, and helps individuals who have questions about the care and well-being of their pets. Each week, our Animal Help Department fields an average of about 500 inquiries.

National Geographic has produced three episodes, which are listed below with a synopsis of each and their scheduled airtime. If the series proves successful, the production crew will return to Best Friends to begin work on subsequent episodes. So, encourage your friends, family members, co-workers – and even strangers – to watch the show!

DOGTOWN: Crisis Dogs

A puppy mill – a facility that mass-breeds dogs – is raided by Nebraska state authorities. Over 170 dogs are found in terrible condition. Dogtown arranges an emergency flight for trainer Sherry Woodard to bring back some of the most traumatized dogs. Among them is a terrier mix she names Animal, who’s been driven to the brink of madness.

Meanwhile, Dogtown’s head veterinarian, Dr. Mike Dix, faces a baffling medical mystery: a gentle male dog named Porto suffering from an undiagnosed illness. If Porto’s ever going to find a home, his condition has to be diagnosed and treated.

Two sibling hounds – Remington and Ruger – have been rescued from a polygamist sect in which unwanted dogs are often shot. They’re safe in Dogtown, but to have any hope of adoption, they have to be split up. Trainer John Garcia has the difficult job of separating two dogs who have never lived apart.

DOGTOWN: Second Chances

An older chow named Bruno heads to Dogtown for much-needed medical attention. His extensive ailments include a sunken eye and balance problems – symptoms indicative of a possible brain tumor. Dr. Dix and his staff do all they can for him, but will it be too late for Bruno? The staff faces a decision every family dreads: When is it time to let a beloved animal go?

Meanwhile, Dogtown heads out on a rescue mission to a local Indian reservation. As the mid-day sun beats down on them, Dogtown manager Michelle Besmehn and other staff members search a garbage dump, hoping to save any abandoned dogs. The team finds two scared puppies on the brink of dehydration hiding among the trash.

Back at the sanctuary, Sherry Woodard fosters one-year-old Annie, a behaviorally challenged dog with a serious history of biting an infant. Annie’s next challenge will bring her face-to-face with one of her biggest fears – a two-year-old child.

DOGTOWN: The Outsiders

A one-year-old bulldog named Wiggles arrives at Dogtown with unusual symptoms: he falls frequently and can’t control his bowels. Dr. Dix must determine if Wiggles’ condition is life-threatening, or if he’s stable enough to live in a home.

Trainer Pat Whitacre faces a different kind of challenge: transforming spaniel-mix Jolene from a painfully shy, fearful dog into a happy, friendly one. Step by step, Pat attempts to socialize Jolene so she has a chance at adoption.

Zoey, a Rotweiler/hound mix, suffers from crippling allergies to the environment and to humans. No allergy medication has worked. Dr. Dix works on a new plan of attack.

As a caregiver at Dogtown, Thomas Foyles feels a connection with the most aggressive dogs, like Bones, a Vizsla street dog who was rescued and brought to Dogtown 11 years ago. When he arrived, Bones was known for attacking other dogs, but in the last few years he has mellowed. Now, Thomas believes Bones could live in a home for his last few years. So Bones will undergo an official assessment to see if his violent tendencies are truly gone.

Adopt a dog from Best Friends.

Support the dogs in need at Best Friends.

Photos of Puppy mill party (Kelli, Sherry, Krisit and dogs) by Molly Wald

Photos of Dr. Mike and Wiggles, and Bruno by Troy Snow

National Geographic contributed to this article.