'World premier' in small-town Utah

Best Friends gives townspeople of Kanab a sneak peak at the season premier of National Geographic Channel's 'Dogtown.'
By Best Friends Animal Society









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Call it the gala event of the season, at least for a small town in southern Utah. The Kanab "world premier" of "Dogtown" brought the community's leaders, the stars of "Dogtown," and the founders and CEO of Best Friends all together in celebration of the tremendous impact Best Friends has had on behalf of animals, and on Kanab, the town nearest to the sanctuary and the place where most of the organization's 450 employees live.


The mayor of Kanab, city council members, a state senator, and several local business owners turned out for the catered meet-and-greet followed by the screening of National Geographic Channel's "Dogtown: Saving the Michael Vick Dogs" at the Crescent Moon Theater.


The organizer of the event was John Polis, Best Friends' public relations manager. "As the largest employer in Kane County, we wanted to make sure people had a chance to observe the great work Best Friends does on a daily basis," Polis says. "Kanab is our home base, and we want everyone in the community to share in the joy we feel about the sanctuary and the broadcast of 'Dogtown.'"


Dennis Judd, longtime owner of western-wear shop Denny's Wigwam and a former councilman, opened the screening with memories of when the Best Friends founders came to town and bought the ranch the sanctuary now occupies.


"I remember everyone in town wondering, 'Why are those people buying so much dog food?'" he quipped before reviewing the tremendous economic impact Best Friends has had on Kanab. "Thanks to Best Friends, my son-in-law was able to move to Kanab and work here."


Paul Berry, Best Friends' chief executive officer, spoke before the presentation of "Dogtown," explaining that the show "captures the spirit of why we do what we do at Best Friends."


Once the screening ended, the crowd broke into a rapturous round of applause. Berry then introduced the Best Friends employees featured in the series, including trainers Ann Allums, John Garcia and Pat Whitacre, animal behaviorist Sherry Woodard, and Dogtown manager Michelle Besmehn, as well as Elissa Jones, managing producer of "Dogtown." Berry added, "And there are some 450 more people like this up at the sanctuary."


"I think it was an excellent show," Mayor Kim Lawson said upon exiting the theater.


"Tears," said Valerie Heinz, co-owner of Laid-Back Larry's coffee shop, when asked what her reaction to the program was. "I want to e-mail all my friends and tell them, 'This is what's really happening five miles away from Kanab.’ And tell them, 'Watch 'Dogtown!'"



Story by Ted Brewer




Photos by Sarah Ause




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