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TV Reviews : Dogs Have Their Day in PBS Special Tonight

Dogs run, bark, slobber, jump, lick, sleep and make beer commercials. That’s their job.

Cats ignore you. That’s their job.

Take it from a cat owner (or, more accurately, someone owned by a cat), the difference between the two species was never clearer than in “Those Wonderful Dogs,” a “National Geographic” special airing on PBS tonight (7:30 on Channel 50, 8 p.m. Channels 28, 15 and 24).

Written and produced by Barbara Jampel, it’s a gratifying, if somewhat narrowly focused hour that chronicles the unique relationship between human and canine and mostly profiles dogs that are in the work force.

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There are dogs here that pull sleds, help the disabled, rescue people, act in movies and herd sheep. By the end of tonight’s program, in fact, you will have profound respect for the skills of sheep dogs. Some of your best friends may not be as bright.

There are 350 recognized canine breeds, and obviously an hour program can only skim the surface of dogdom. There are wolves here, but no African wild dogs. There are happy dogs here, but no dogs in pounds and none in laboratories. There are dogs here that race, but no greyhounds, who are routinely killed when their racing days are over.

Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of all dog stories are happy, and this program repeatedly reflects the love and deep bond between these animals and humans.

We meet Alaskan sled-dog trainer Susan Butcher, for example, who once “slept on a vet’s floor for 10 nights to be near her dog.” Anyone who has ever looked into a dog’s eyes and been moved will understand.

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