Friday, September 19, 2008

Film highlights Animal Shelter

'Dog Bless You' to be screened at festival

Express Staff Writer

One of the dogs seen in "Dog Bless You" is Kenya, a Labrador mix whose ears were cut off before being abandoned at the shelter in June 2007.

The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley is the subject of the world premier of An Annenberg Foundation Film Production called "Dog Bless You." It will be screened at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 21, at the Sun Valley Opera House.

"Dog Bless You" is a moving documentary about the non-profit, "no-kill" shelter. The movie demonstrates the healing power of pets along with the work done by the shelter staff as they rescue, protect and find homes for Idaho's abandoned dogs and cats.

The movie was made as part of producer and philanthropist Charles Annenberg Weingarten's "Explore" project. He will speak at the screening, as well as at the screening of the other "Explore" movie, "A Visual Journey of Philanthropy and Service."

Weingarten lives in the Wood River Valley part-time and so knew of the animal shelter.

"This past winter a crew came to shoot at the shelter," said Jo-Anne Dixon, the shelter's executive director. "We didn't have much prep time. We just said, 'Come on in and we'll show you around.' We introduced them to our 'residents.'"

A few months later the producer requested follow-up information on the animals they'd highlighted.

"Amazingly, even though it was such a random group of animals, they all had a good story," she said.

For instance, one of the dogs, Kenya, was found when the staff arrived at work one morning in June 2007. Someone had left her in one of the outdoor kennels the night before.

"The reason Kenya has been consistently overlooked for adoption has nothing to do with her personality," Dixon said. "Whoever owned Kenya before she was left at the shelter decided that to try and make her look mean and tough that they would cut off her ears, much like you see with the fighting pit bulls. Unfortunately this was not done professionally but, from the looks of it, she was disfigured with scissors at home, likely with no anesthetic. They did a terrible job and left her disfigured."

Good news. Kenya was recently adopted.

Dixon tells another story: A pair of pups was found when a land surveyor from Hailey found them on some farmland in Carey. The land surveyor and his wife asked the farmer what was going to happen to the pups. He said he was going to drown them because he didn't want them and the mother wasn't adequately feeding them. The couple brought the pups to the shelter where they were adopted within a month.

"There's not one animal that comes through here that is just average," Dixon said. "They all have something—a life experience or a life lesson."

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