Top Picks: 'Through a Dog's Eyes,' 'Climate Refugees,' small donations, and more recommendations

PBS documentary about service dogs on DVD, book about climate displacement, a donation that changes the world, and more top picks.

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    The HBO documentary 'A Small Act' follows the competition between three gifted students vying for a scholarship that may be their only chance to continue school and change their lives. Kimani (left), a high-spirited boy, sees education as the only way he will be able to take care of his ailing mother. His academic rivals are the shy and quietly ambitious Ruth and her best friend Caroline, who also struggle because they canʼt afford to go to secondary school.
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A dog's perspective

People think they pick the dog, when the dog clearly picks them. That's Jennifer Arnold's assessment of the bonding process that goes on at her Canine Assistants organization in Atlanta, the focus of a new PBS documentary "Through a Dog's Eyes" (on DVD, $24.99). What follows is a tender look at how these dogs are trained to assist people with special needs. It's not so much the practical help but the dogs' extraordinary perceptiveness that transforms people's lives.

Cold-war stories

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

A new, three-part PBS documentary, "Turmoil and Triumph: The George Shultz Years," takes us behind the scenes of the Reagan White House during the tumultuous cold-war years. The three hours feature interviews with the former secretary of State himself, as well as with former secretaries Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Henry Kissinger, not to mention the prime mover behind perestroika, Mikhail Gorbachev. Airs July 12, 19, and 26, at 10 p.m.

That sinking feeling

"Climate Refugees" (MIT Press, $29.95) takes us on a striking visual voyage through cities and countries that have seen the harshest consequences of rising global temperatures. From Alaska, where the slushy sea no longer freezes over, to low-lying Tuvalu, where ocean levels threaten to pull the island under water, the photographs and text by 10 French journalists make an emphatic statement about the global crisis.

Horse power

If little girls handed out Oscars, this film would clean up. "IMAX Horses: The Story of Equus," now on DVD (Warner, $14.98), follows the lives of three steeds – a black, a chestnut, and a bay – from shaky-legged foals to shimmering, muscular adults. Two are carefully trained, with varying results. One (the black) is a breakaway that joins a mustang herd. The aerial shots of that wild child running flat out are among the most stunning. A lilting Celtic soundtrack and warm-toned Gabriel Byrne narration round out a satisfying 45-minute presentation.

No act too small

"A Small Act" is a gentle reminder of a simple truth: One individual can change the world – if not all at once, certainly for one other individual. When Swedish schoolteacher Hilde Back decided to sponsor rural Kenyan Chris Mburu for a few dollars a month, it lifted him out of a dead-end life as a coffee picker to a Harvard Law School education and a career as a global human rights activist. In addition, Mburu started his own child-sponsorship foundation in her name. Airs July 12, 9 p.m.

Listen to nature

At nature.org/podcasts you'll find tales from the field about bilingual birds, baby elephants, and other natural wonders.

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