By DIANA WALDHUBER
Well, season three is over, people. Luckily for those of us who are new to watching this great series, National Geographic Channel is showing repeats from season one. Tonight’s DogTown episode was the very second one they filmed.
And what an episode.
It goes without saying tissues are de rigeur when it comes to watching DogTown. We met six dogs this week, but three of the dogs, puppies rescued from a Navajo reservation, had their story told as one.
Annie, a mix-breed, was the first dog we met. She had been adopted from a shelter, so we never really knew what her entire background was -- something which might explain her coming behavior. You see, Annie escaped her home and wandered into a yard with a small child. The child’s father, holding a baby, came out to shoo Annie away, and Annie bit the baby!
Well, her adoptive family gave her to a shelter, wanting her put down. Luckily for Annie, the shelter called in Best Friends and they took her, determined to rehabilitate her and ready her for adoption -- if they could be safe around small children. She was put into the hands of trainer, Sherry Woodard.
Then we met a sweet, loving old Chow Chow, Bruno. Poor Bruno. Sent to Dogtown from an L.A. shelter, Bruno wasn’t doing so well. He was drooling, disoriented, unstable and uncoordinated, his head hung to the side and one eye had sunken in.
Vet Mike Dix was concerned. Had Bruno been a young dog his problem would most likely be nothing more than an inner ear infection. But since he was old, Dr. Mike feared it was a brain tumor. Would they be able to save him?
The third story started on Navajo land. The Navajo nation is very poor and while Dogtown is working with one man on the reservation to spay and neuter all pets, there is still a large population of puppies and dogs that die from neglect or the heat from the desert. Lucky for three, the Dogtown van stopped to search a dumping area and found three pups.
Tiki was barely moving when they found him. He was so dehydrated they had to give him emergency fluids, for fear his internal organs would be damaged from the lack of water and food. Hemi was found in a pile of old tires and caused a ruckus as she was rescued. And Polly was found injured. She had a dent in her head, probably from another dog biting her, and the puncture wound had penetrated her little skull.
Sherry’s biggest obstacle with Annie was to train her not to bite when she was scared or nervous. So Annie started learning the skills every dog needs to make it in this society. But would she be able to be around toddlers?
Annie didn’t do too well in a park. Though tightly leashed, she was anxious and wanted to attack. Clearly she needed more training.
Finally, Sherry felt Annie was ready for the final test. A good friend of hers brought her two-year old to meet Annie. Annie was muzzled (which she hated; wouldn't you?), so even if she lost it, the baby would be safe. Annie passed with flying colors! She let the toddler pet her and was a nice, friendly dog. This meant Annie would be able to go up for adoption.
Bruno went to spend time at Dr. Mike’s place with his family and myriad animals. For a short time, Bruno did well, but then he got really disoriented and was throwing up. Things weren’t looking good. Bruno was getting lots of love and attention, but when he got bloat (the tummy twists and it’s really deadly for dogs), Dr. Mike had to make a difficult decision.
They put Bruno down. I was shocked they would do this. Somehow I was convinced all the stories they showed would always end well (although deep down, I knew that couldn’t always be the case). Everyone was upset, but at least you knew Bruno’s last few weeks were spent with love and comfort.
All three puppies were treated for mange and other things. And Tiki bounced back with no internal problems at all. Hemi was doing well; the only other puppy that had possible issues was the damaged Polly. Dr. Patti Iampietro ran tests on her to determine if she had any brain damage from the bite. Lucky for the little puppy, she didn’t. She’d have a funny shaped head, but she’d be okay.
All that remained for the rescue pups was training and then meeting possible new families!
Annie was adopted by a family with an older daughter and she loves her new home. The three puppies all found loving homes and Bruno was laid to rest in the Dogtown cemetery, with his own funeral and all his friends came to say goodbye. All the while the chimes rang. They say that there’s never been a funeral without the ringing of the chimes, which they believe is the dog saying he’s okay and having a good time in dog heaven.
This was a bittersweet episode, one guaranteed to make you cry but also one that makes you extremely glad people like the folks at Best Friends exist. They help all the animals find their way, no matter where their journey is leading, in comfort and with love.
See you next week.