Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dogtown Returns &
Michael Vick's Dogs

Behind the Scenes of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary as Former Fighting Dogs Rescued From Vick's Property Learn to Curb Aggressive Behavior and Live Peacefully Two-Hour Season Premiere Friday, September 5, 2008 at 9 p.m. New Episodes Air Every Friday at 10 p.m. beginning September 12

In April 2007, the nation was shocked when dozens of traumatized pit bulls were discovered during a police raid on a property owned by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. The dogs were housed at Bad Newz Kennels, an illegal dogfighting venture operated by Vick and three other men. At Bad Newz Kennels, poor-performing dogs were executed, and many of those that survived showed signs of past injuries and psychological trauma. Many people believed that these pit bulls were too far gone to be rehabilitated and should be put down, but 47 were given a chance at a better life. The 22 toughest cases were sent to Dogtown.

National Geographic Channel's (NGC) popular series Dogtown returns with a special two-hour season premiere, Saving the Michael Vick Dogs, on Friday, September 5, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Viewers follow the journeys of four of the most challenging dogs -- Cherry, Meryl, Denzel, and Georgia -- as Dogtown's team of dedicated experts works to help them overcome their violent pasts and live happier, healthier lives. On the front lines with the Vick dogs are assistant dog care manager and trainer John Garcia; dog care manager Michelle Besmehn; veterinarian Dr. Patti Iampietro; and trainer Ann Allums.

Dogtown, a shelter for lost canine souls, is part of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, one of the largest no-kill animal facilities in the country. Located on 33,000 acres of southern Utah canyon country, the sanctuary hosts hundreds of dogs from all around the country, along with cats, horses, rabbits, goats and various other farm animals -- about 1,500 animals at any one time. For the animals that find a home in one of 12 lodging facilities, a staff of more than 60 oversees their every need -- including medical attention, training and rehabilitation -- with the eventual hope of placing as many as possible with loving owners. Dogtown is often the last hope for dogs requiring specialized or urgent medical attention or for abused and neglected animals. This is especially true for the group of dogs from Bad Newz Kennels.

In Dogtown: Saving the Michael Vick Dogs, the team faces its toughest challenges yet. The four dogs the special episode follows are Cherry, Meryl, Denzel and Georgia.

Cherry, who may have been used as bait to train more aggressive fighters, is terrified of people. It will take a lot of love and support to help him gain confidence. When he arrives at Dogtown, Cherry flattens himself to the ground and refuses to walk on a leash. By slowly introducing him to new faces and experiences -- including a recording of dogs "laughing" -- Cherry's trainers begin to draw him out of his shell. Can Cherry overcome his extreme fear and possibly become ready for adoption?

Meryl is seriously aggressive and was ordered by the court to stay permanently at Dogtown. Trainer Ann Allums loves a challenge and believes that a patient approach can help calm Meryl's dangerous impulses. After she gains Meryl's trust, Allums starts the dog on obedience training -- always focusing on rewards instead of punishments. Meryl proves a quick study and moves on to agility training, seeming to gain confidence and self-control from her new skills. Although this unpredictable pit bull can never be adopted, she now has a chance for a happy life in Dogtown.

Denzel arrives with a potentially life-threatening illness, and Dogtown's medical team must determine what's making him so sick. He is diagnosed with a tick-borne parasite sometimes found in fighting dogs, which may mean the other pit bulls rescued with him are at risk as well. At first he seems to respond to treatment, but he soon relapses. Can a new medication help Denzel recover?

Georgia's body tells the story of her hard life. She has the scars of a prize-winning fighter, shows signs of having had many litters and had all her teeth pulled at some point in her past, possibly so she could be forcibly bred. Can this traumatized pooch learn to interact with humans and other dogs? To break Georgia of the bad and potentially dangerous habit of guarding her food, trainer John Garcia tries feeding her by hand -- a risky maneuver. Even with no teeth, the dog's powerful jaw could still do serious damage. Soon Georgia is making great progress and easily mastering basic commands. If she can pass Dogtown's Canine Good Citizen Test, Georgia has a chance at a better life in a loving home.

In additional episodes we meet the rest of the Dogtown team, including medical director Dr. Mike Dix, animal care operations manager Jeff Popowich, behavior & training consultant Sherry Woodard, trainer Pat Whitacre, adoption coordinator Kristi Littrell, and caregivers Analia Gutierrez and Betsy Kidder.

Future premieres include:

Dogtown: New Beginnings
Friday, September 12, at 10 PM ET/PT

A young hound named Wylee heads to Dogtown for much-needed medical attention. Hit by a car and left for dead, Wylee can no longer use one of his front legs. Veterinarian Dr. Mike Dix decides to amputate the mangled limb and then works to help Wylee make the difficult transition to life on three legs. Meanwhile, assistant dog care manager John Garcia meets new arrival Nochi, a terrier mix with a history of biting. Garcia falls for the feisty little dog and resolves to get to the bottom of his bad behavior. A walk into town provides an opportunity for Garcia to help Nochi find new ways to channel his excitement. Back at the sanctuary, dog care manager Michelle Besmehn decides to personally foster Willa, a Scotty traumatized by her experience as a breeder in a puppy mill. Besmehn hopes that the extra attention and calm environment will help the dog overcome her fear of the world so that she can be adopted into a loving new home.

Dogtown: Project Rescue
Friday, September 19, at 10 PM ET/PT

Johnny, a one-year-old golden retriever, is happy, affectionate -- and seemingly incapable of learning. Can trainer Pat Whitacre help the wayward pup perfect the social skills he needs to live happily with a family? Meanwhile, dog care manager Michelle Besmehn and animal care operations manager Jeff Popowich rush to the Nevada desert to save a group of dogs left neglected by a hoarder. Among them are Baxt, a young puppy with possible head trauma, and Tuffy, a little dog near death from wounds suffered in a vicious attack. Under the watchful eye of caregiver Analia Gutierrez, little Baxt gets the nourishment and attention he needs to thrive. Although Tuffy's deep wounds and serious infection seem grim, veterinarian Patti Iampietro has high hopes for his recovery. Throughout the dog's ordeal, Popowich checks in on Tuffy, hoping that the pooch he rescued can have a chance at a better life.

Dogtown: New Lives
Friday, September 26, at 10 PM ET/PT

Wycheck, a border collie mix, arrives at Dogtown unable to walk without extreme pain. He has a dislocated hip, likely the result of being hit by a car. Dr. Mike Dix hopes some time on Dogtown's high-tech underwater treadmill will help Wycheck lose weight, which will help take the stress off his hip. Another new arrival, a senior Weimaraner named Knightly, is paralyzed with anxiety. Until recently, he had lived in a loving home. When his elderly owners became sick and required daily visits from caregivers, Knightly became confused and anxious by the presence of strangers and his owners' inability to take care of him. After a nipping incident, he was removed from his home. Now behavior consultant Sherry Woodard must help Knightly regain his self-confidence so that he can be adopted by new owners. Meanwhile, trainer Ann Allums has a different kind of challenge on her hands. Her latest charge is Karina, an out-of-control stray. Can this exuberant pup learn to behave and manage her energy?