The PBS documentary special "Shelter Me" is rather straightforward in its goal. Director Steven Latham wants your next pet to be adopted from a shelter. And why not? Every year, several million animals are put down in American shelters. There simply isn't enough room or sufficient resources to house these animals indefinitely. And yet, the demands for pets has never really wavered. From a personal standpoint, I've never understood this disconnect. It would never occur to me to NOT reach out to a shelter. These creatures need a home. The twist in the two part "Shelter Me" is that not only do those profiled rescue the animals, but in many ways these abandoned pets go on to rescue their new owners. It's a lovingly created film that will inspire and touch you. While there is much unpleasantness in the topic of animal shelters, this 57 minute feature focuses on some specific and positive personal stories. And if you love animals, this is certainly a must-see endeavor.
In Part One, there are three main segments. I really liked the episode that trails a couple of stray dogs. We follow these two until they are placed with new owners, and it's all rather sweet. In addition to this more intimate story, we see how pets can provide guidance and help to those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and we see a prison rehabilitation program where the female inmates train dogs to become service animals. In Part Two, we see how shelter pets can become a positive influence when brought to the hospital in a volunteer program. There is also a rescue sequence as well as a pretty amazing story of shelter dogs being trained for dramatic search-and-rescue missions. Thematically, the stories are all over the place, but nevertheless, it's all pretty fascinating.
"Shelter Me" is sponsored by Ellen Degeneres' company Halo, Purely for Pets and is hosted by actress Katherine Heigl. The film shows only a few stories, but they are diverse and uplifting. By presenting these personal moments, the movie hopes to connect with a broader message. The next time you are looking for a pet, why not save one from your local shelter? Truthfully, those that watch "Shelter Me" are probably already predisposed to make such a decision. But you never know. If you save the life of a dog, maybe one day it will save your life in return (if only metaphorically). KGHarris, 4/13.