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What Happens to Unwanted Dogs When They're Not Adopted

The Obama 2012 campaign is panting to give first dog Bo a starring part in its re-election bid, prominently featuring the handsome Portuguese water dog in official campaign advertisements and fundraising efforts in an effort to court the canine-loving contingent. One of those efforts is "Bark for Obama," a cute collection of designer dog apparel; consulting on the collection was none other than Obama's most fashionable fundraiser, Vogue's Anna Wintour (who is known more for her love of fur coats than live animals, but whatever).

It's all a sad reminder of how the president missed a golden opportunity to help a tragically under-represented American demographic. In 2009, after winning many dog lovers' hearts by hinting at the possibility that his family would adopt a shelter mutt, the president instead accepted the gift of a purebred pup from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Had he made good on his promise to scoop an underdog from one of the country's many overburdened animal shelters, the gesture would have gone a long way toward reversing the nation's crushing homeless-dog crisis. The all-American mutt would've gained overnight celebrity as a status hound. But instead of casting their vote for the all-American mutt, copycats bought ... Portuguese water dog puppies.

Now, a new documentary reveals, in graphic detail, just what that missed opportunity has cost the dogs of America. It's called One Nation Under Dog, and it airs tonight at 9 p.m. on HBO, as the opening film of the annual HBO Summer Documentary Series.

There's no question that we Americans love our dogs. There are 78.2 million owned dogs in the United States, and statistics from the American Pet Products Manufacturing Assocation show that we spend some $50 billion per year on their care, feeding, and other amenities. If we love dogs so much, then how come so mind-bogglingly many of them -- a conservative estimate puts the number at about 4 million -- are killed at our country's animal shelters every year? That's the hard-nosed question posed by One Nation Under Dog.

Subtitled "Stories of Fear, Loss & Betrayal," it presents, in anthology format, stories of individual dogs and people that will haunt you. One Nation Under Dog is rated TV-MA (for mature audiences) because, among other things, it reveals in graphic detail what happens to unwanted dogs at animal shelters when they're not adopted.