CBS Aired "Dogs in the City,"
New York City dog guru Justin Silver is the host of "Dogs in the City." (Credit: Heather Wines)
(CBS News) It looks like Cesar Millan will now have some doggie trainer competition.
Started Wednesday, May 30, there is a new canine expert on the block. The New York City block, that is.
CBS aired "Dogs in the City," starring Manhattan-based "dog guru" Justin Silver, who is described as a master at resolving issues between dogs and their owners. Silver says many times the issues lie with the owners, not the dogs.
Throughout the series, Silver will meet with New Yorkers who have a range of canine issues — from a couple looking to move in together with a dog to a newly divorced couple whose dog is having a rough time adjusting to joint custody. He even calls in his own dogs, pit bulls Chiquita and Pacino, to help out by leading by example.
Dogs are having a television moment, with three very different programs about them turning up in the next few weeks on three very different outlets. Together they provide a dizzying display of reprehensible behavior, inordinate neediness and striking devotion by humans.
“Once you bring a dog like that into your home and into your life, they appreciate it”, Silver says. “They know what they’ve got, because they’ve been without.”
“Dogs in the City,” with its inherent reminder that it takes work to be a competent owner, serves as a useful counterpoint to “Shelter Me,” a film by Steven Latham that is showing on PBS stations in May and June (check local listings). “Shelter Me” is single-minded in its goal: It wants people to consider adopting a dog from a shelter.
Shelters, the program says, are overwhelmed with animals, especially now, when people are abandoning pets in a bad economy. Early on, Mr. Latham’s camera lingers on a blunt sign at a Los Angeles shelter: “Los Angeles Animal Services cannot guarantee placement of your animal. Animals turned into the shelter may be euthanized (killed) after the legal holding period.”
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says that is the fate of three million to four million dogs and cats each year. “Shelter Me” aims for the heartstrings in trying to change the numbers, showing shelter dogs that have been trained to help people with disabilities, and others that are filling an emotional void for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“A lot of people think that dogs from a shelter are there because they’re bad dogs, because they’ve done something wrong, and that is a complete misconception,” Cassian Sandeberg, an animal behaviorist, says in the film. “A lot of these dogs are great dogs that people just can’t look after anymore.”
The film is so eager for people to adopt dogs that it doesn’t address its own contradiction: that shelters are jammed partly because not everyone can be a successful owner. A more nuanced approach is used in “One Nation Under Dog,” a riveting film showing June 18 on HBO.
This film also encourages dog adoption, but the first of several factoids it displays on the screen is this: “There are 4.7 million dog bite victims each year in the U.S.” That introduces an unsettling segment about a New Jersey dog owner who fought draining legal battles in defense of his dogs after they were involved in several biting incidents. In one, a girl’s ear was ripped off.
From this cautionary tale, the film grows even more stark, showing hard-to-watch footage of shelter dogs being thrown into large bins and gassed, then even harder-to-watch images from a raid on a wretched puppy mill in Tennessee.
“We found dogs living with dead dogs,” Scotlund Haisley, one of the animal rescuers at the scene, says. “One dog was using the two dead dogs as a blanket.”
The rescuers at the puppy mill, like the animal advocates in “Shelter Me,” seem somewhat overwhelmed by the cruelty they witness and the scope of the pet overpopulation problem. But it’s heartening to see them keep plugging away. A special prize should go to John Gagnon of the rescue group PAWS New England, who in “One Nation Under Dog” visits a shelter and specifically asks to look at the dogs with behavior and health problems.
"Dogs in the City" will are weekly on Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. First week… a Big Paws Up!!! JOMP