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TV summer fare is going to the dogs

- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer television used to mean reruns. This year it's gone to the dogs.

Several new shows star dogs and their owners in need of help. CBS has the lone network show in "Dogs in the City," starring comic, dog trainer and businessman Justin Silver. It's joined by documentaries on PBS and HBO and a series in the works for the Disney Channel, among others.

Each Wednesday at 8 p.m., Mr. Silver will try to help hound and human tackle unsettling problems such as joint custody after divorce or dealing with significant others who just moved in.

Is man or mutt usually to blame for problems? It's 50-50, he said, but "a dog's behavior is shaped by the people in its life."

Mr. Silver said he won't be the one solving problems, even though he jokes that he speaks dog. Instead he will provide techniques and experiences so owners can fix their own problems.

"It's that old adage: Give a man a fish and you'll fill his belly. Teach him how to fish and he'll never starve. I am teaching you how to fish. But no one learns how to fish perfectly in one hour. It takes constant practice."

"Dogs in the City" seems to have a lot in common with "The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan" on the National Geographic Channel and "It's Me or the Dog" with Victoria Stilwell on Animal Planet. "Bad Dog!" is another Animal Planet show, although it uses videotape to capture misbehavior in a test of sorts to see how far an owner's love will stretch.

Two documentaries explore the rewards and redemption of shelter dogs. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says between 5 million and 7 million companion animals enter shelters every year and 3 million to 4 million of them are euthanized.

"Shelter Me," a PBS documentary showing Wednesdays, is narrated by actress Katherine Heigl and is sponsored by the pet food company co-owned by Ellen DeGeneres. It follows an animal-control officer, adoption workers, female inmates who train rescue dogs and vets who acquire former shelter dogs.

" 'Shelter Me' is about the lives that are changed when shelter pets are given a second chance," Ms. Heigl said.

Andrew J. Trotto, an Army veteran from Mission Viejo, Calif., was teamed up with Teka, a black Lab rescued from a Wyoming shelter by Freedom Service Dogs in Englewood, Colo.

"If it wasn't for her, I'd be dead right now," Mr. Trotto says in the film.

"I was an evil person. I hated you or wanted to kill you," he said, describing the post-traumatic stress disorder demons that haunted him. "People say suicide is selfish. But when you are in the zone, you're not thinking about that. The terror in your head drives you insane. [Teka] will wake me up out of my night terrors."

"Shelter Me" will air across the country in June (check local listings).

HBO will premiere a documentary called "One Nation Under Dog: Stories of Fear, Loss & Betrayal" at 9 p.m. June 18.

The film looks at America's obsession with dogs, how far individuals will go for their pets and what it will take for people across the country to treat all dogs humanely.

The 73-minute documentary looks at the odds stacked against shelter dogs, spay and neuter education, puppy mills, dog bite victims and how some owners respond when their dog attacks.

The Disney Channel also has a new dog show in the works for the fall and while it does involve a rescue dog, that's where reality ends. The live-action, multicamera series called "Dog With a Blog" revolves around a dog named Stan (who is really a 4-year-old named Kuma).

In real life, Kuma is a husky, golden retriever and border collie mix who was rescued from a shelter. In the show, he is adopted to tame a pair of feuding stepbrothers. Turns out Stan can read, write and blog.

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