Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Shelter Me

Have you ever wondered about Shelter pets?  Far too many of them are euthanized and never get the second chance they so richly deserve. Dropping a pet at a shelter can literally mean signing that pet's death warrant because fewer are adopted than killed.  A new film, Shelter Me, addresses the issue of adoption and what pets can do for us as well as what we can do for pets. 

Produced by Virgil Films and sponsored by Ellen DeGeneres' pet food company, Halo, Purely for Pets,  the film is narrated by Katherine Heigl of Grey's Anatomy. The film introduces viewers mainly to shelter dogs with only a random shot or two of a cat.

Shelter Me's various segments include following an animal control officer in South L.A. as she picks up a couple of stray Pitbulls. Rather than the "vicious" dogs that had been reported she finds two really sweet dogs who haven't fared well on the streets. Why would they?! One has what appears to be a large abscess under her chin. Another dog, a small scruffy mixed breed, is street savvy and runs from her.  She takes the two Pitties back to the shelter where dogs are kept for 4 days for their owners to locate them, and then they're put up for adoption.

After they are eligible for adoption we see two different potential adopters arrive at the shelter. Each spends time with one of the dogs and each decides to adopt the dog. The one with the abscess goes to a new owner to whom it is made perfectly clear that there isn't enough money for the shelter to remove the abscess, the new owner will be responsible for that after adoption. The dogs have, however, seen a vet tech for some basic care on intake, as well as vaccinations. Despite the bad rep that pitbulls have gotten over the years, their sweet nature come out in this film.

In another segment, a woman comes to choose dogs to be brought into a system at a women's prison where the inmates train the dogs for disabled people. The women are taught to train the dogs and it did my heart good to see that they were using clicker training (operant conditioning). The finishing touches to the training are done after the dogs graduate from the prison program. The dogs obviously make a huge impact on the prisoners who must have clean records in prison in order to be part of the program. The dogs go on to help handicapped people, so the dogs, the prisoners and the recipients all "win."  The women in the prison program who have done their time and been through that program don't return to prison. Clearly this program makes a huge difference. While this program is in California, I distinctly remember the first such program which was done in Seattle and started by The Delta Society. It's nice to see good work spread to other places.

The segment on rescue dogs who are trained to help returning veterans with PTSD is, perhaps, the most moving. Men who have served the country, who have been at death's door in a kill or be killed situation come home to an anything-but-normal life. Paired with a rescue dog, the dog helps the veteran's emotional health. No longer suicidal and suffering a depression most people can't imagine, where simple items look like something to be feared, the dogs help make life normal. One recipient visits other veterans with his dog and soon they want one, too.  Those dogs are saving lives of the often-suicidal vets.

This 57 minutes long film is entertaining, educational and moving.  

Shelter Me is being aired on PBS and is available for purchase at $19.95. It would be a good film to show in schools, churches, synagogues, anywhere people meet. It's a film to be shared, to teach, to lead to understanding of what we can all do to help in some way.

This is only one view of the shelter situation. No Kill Nation is another. But see Shelter Me and watch what a difference a New Leash on Life can make for everyone concerned.


NOTE: I receive no compensation for this review. I was given a review copy to watch so that I could review the film.


steve said...

Sounds like an important film - looking forward to seeing it!

Darlene said...

It is important, Steve. I think you'll enjoy it and see its value.

Laurie said...

Love the sound of that prison program. And isn't it cool that the pitbulls were still so well adjusted after being abandoned on the street. It's great that they were both adopted, but I hope it won't make viewers think that always happens ... sadly it doesn't :(