THE SHOW "Through a Dog's Eyes"
WHEN | WHERE Wednesday night at 8 on WNET/13
THE DEAL Jennifer Arnold, founder of Canine Assistants, one of America's largest service dog organizations, is the passionate heart of this touching and engrossing PBS special.
Produced by filmmaker Naomi S. Boak ("The Forgetting: A Portrait of Alzheimer's") and based on Arnold's book of the same title, the hourlong program follows several people with disabilities as they go through the life-changing and sometimes challenging process of being matched with a service dog that may transform their world. Clients range from a veteran of the war in Iraq to children with cerebral palsy.
The special also looks at the science behind the training methods used by Arnold, who works up quite a head of steam when she talks about alternative training styles - drawn from studying wolf behavior in captivity - based more on domination than reward.
"Somebody has to stand up and say, 'This is wrong!' It's not that I have one method and you have another method," Arnold says at her suburban Atlanta headquarters during a break in working with clients who are getting new service dogs. "One of them is just morally wrong. And I'm literally praying that if people see that you can teach a dog to help with the laundry using just a little [treat], you don't ever have to hurt them."
HER STORY Arnold herself was drawn into the world of service animals as a teenager, when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and spent two years in a wheelchair. Her father, an Atlanta physician, decided to start a service dog program in Atlanta but was killed just three weeks later by a drunken driver. Arnold and her mother carried through on his dream, and, after 10 years of hard work, opened Canine Assistants in 1991.
Originally envisioned as a small-scale local operation, the family-run nonprofit now has a waiting list of nearly 2,000 prospective clients who need dogs, but, despite support from Milk-Bone, financial constraints limit the group to placing only about 100 dogs a year.