NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL RingS in the New Year with a new season of DogTown

New Episodes Follow the Adoption of One of the Michael Vick Pit Bulls;

the Rehabilitation of a Shepherd Mix Rescued From the Lebanon-Israel War;

Dogs Abandoned Because of the Economy;

and a Morbidly Obese Chihuahua in Need of a “Biggest Loser” Makeover

10 New Episodes Begin Friday, January 1, at 10 PM ET/PT

(WASHINGTON, D.C. — DECEMBER 2, 2009) Ring in the New Year with a new season of DogTown starting Friday, January 1, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel.  The hit series returns with 10 new episodes that follow the rehabilitation of abandoned, neglected and misfit dogs at DogTown, the last-hope refuge that’s part of the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest no-kill animal facility in the country.

With the recent economic downturn, many families are forced to give up their pets, even as shelters overflow. This season we meet Lucille, a sweet-natured shar-pei mix who was abandoned and left behind due to a home foreclosure crisis. Her health deteriorated, and now it’s up to the DogTown staff to give her a canine bailout.  In January 2008 DogTown was entrusted with 22 of Michael Vick’s pit bulls.  Now, as Vick attempts to start over, we document the story of former Vick dog, Handsome Dan, as he is transformed from an emotionally crippled pit bull into one with a chance of finding a loving home. The tolls of war affect not only people — and the team finds that out firsthand as they rehabilitate a shepherd mix who survived the Lebanon-Israel war.  Also, as hard as it is for humans to lose weight, the challenge may be greater when it comes to a morbidly obese Chihuahua, so overweight she looks like she swallowed a pineapple!

On the front lines of each case is DogTown’s incredible team of trainers and veterinarians, including John Garcia, Michelle Besmehn, Sherry Woodard, Pat Whitacre, Dr. Patti Iampietro and Dr. Mike Dix.

New episodes this season include:

DOGTOWN: DOGFIGHT

Friday, January 1, at 10 PM ET/PT

The discovery of an illegal dogfighting ring on Michael Vick’s property made front-page news and shed light on the organized underworld of dogfighting. In this episode, we check in on some of the former Vick pit bulls, including Cherry, a pit bull mix who spent his life either in a cage or as a bait dog to improve a champion fighter’s confidence. See how DogTown manager Michelle Besmehn’s rehabilitation plan is teaching him not to be afraid of people for possibly the first time in his life. Next, see the progress DogTown manager John Garcia has made with former champion dogfighter Georgia as she becomes an amazing spokesdog, traveling with John to various events around the country! Finally, we journey to Detroit and follow investigators Debby MacDonald and Mark Ramos of the Michigan Humane Society on a mission to investigate and arrest an elusive dogfighting suspect.

Dogtown: Bright futures

Friday, January 8, at 10 PM ET/PT

When animal control seized pit bulls from Michael Vick’s property, 22 of the most severe cases were sent to DogTown for rehabilitation. While many of the Vick dogs have made steady progress, one in particular has been a challenge for DogTown manager John Garcia. When Handsome Dan arrived, he suffered from a crippling fear of people and had been known to face his kennel wall for hours on end. Under the expert care of Garcia, we’ll see how Handsome Dan has transformed from an emotionally traumatized pit bull into one who is ready for adoption.  Then, Dr. Patti Iampietro races to find a cure for Charlene, an elderly spaniel mix with a mysterious life-threatening illness. And finally, meet Billy, a behaviorally challenged rottweiler mix who has a habit of lashing out when strangers try to touch him.  Watch as behavioral consultant Sherry Woodard doesn’t give up on helping Billy.

Dogtown: Homeward bound

Friday, January 15, at 10 PM ET/PT

Meet one of DogTown’s toughest challenges, Clemance, a shepherd mix rescued from the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war. DogTown manager John Garcia helps the traumatized canine overcome her aggression toward people and other dogs when she is on a leash. John teaches Clemance through a strong relationship that meeting dogs while on a leash is no reason to lash out. Then meet Lake, a blind Lab mix forced to live in isolation because of her severe aggression toward other dogs. Dr. Patti Iampietro is part of the medical team that performs a complex procedure that may help Lake regain her sight and potentially curb her aggressive tendencies. Finally, two neglected Chihuahua mixes, Monte and Piñata, rescued from filthy and unsafe conditions, are skittish and terribly shy. Trainer Pat Whitacre creates a unique training program that teaches the dogs how to trust humans with the hope that it will lead to a permanent home for them.

DoGTOWN: SaNctuary

Friday, January 22, at 10 PM ET/PT

Shaggy, a mixed-breed feral dog, survived living in the wild near the Grand Canyon and may never have socialized with humans. After six years of extreme weather and hardship, Sherry Woodard helps Shaggy learn how to begin to trust and interact with humans. Next, Dr. Mike and his wife turn to John Garcia for help with their dog Penny, a mischievous beagle mix whose uncontrollable behavior must be corrected before she causes more damage to their happy home. Finally, Reggie’s family can no longer afford the veterinary care for this elkhound mix and surrender him to DogTown, where he is treated for a mysterious disease that is slowly destroying his nose and ears.

Dogtown: The road home

Friday, January 29, at 10 PM ET/PT

Shy dogs are often among the first to be euthanized in shelters because they are difficult to adopt, but not at DogTown, a no-kill facility. Little Girl, a Catahoula leopard dog mix, is given a second chance and learns to overcome her fears with help from John Garcia, in hopes that she will be adopted. Later we will follow a morbidly obese Chihuahua, Tuli, with a tiny head and a pineapple-size body, who must loose weight to become healthy enough for adoption. Finally, we meet Shockey, a terrier mix who is full of energy and excitement that makes her hard to control. See how DogTown manager Michelle Besmehn works to help Shockey listen to commands and overcome her stubbornness.

Dogtown: Close Calls

Friday, February 5, at 10 PM ET/PT

The economic crisis has forced countless families to give up their beloved animals. In this episode, we will meet Lucille, a shar-pei mix, who was left behind when her family’s home was foreclosed. She was in poor health and in need of surgery when she arrived at DogTown; after the surgery, Lucille developed severe seizures. Then travel with DogTown to the Animal Rescue League of El Paso (ARL), a no-kill shelter that depends on the nonstop energy of founder Loretta Hyde. Loretta hopes Sherry Woodard can help her rehabilitate unadoptable dogs to make room for more animals. In only one week, Sherry must help Loretta come up with a solution for ARL’s burgeoning dog population and work with Loretta on some of her tougher cases.

Other episodes this season will include a sick Catahoula mix who faces a life-threatening illness as the DogTown medical staff races against time to find her a cure. We will also meet a shepherd mix who is taught to dance in order to curb his aggressive behavior toward other dogs.  And finally, join the DogTown staff on a large mass breeder rescue mission in Missouri that saves nearly 200 dogs.

For more information, visit natgeotv.com/dogtown.

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