For better or worse, many people, probably most people in Canada, consider the dog's prime place in society to be that of family pet, and not as a tireless worker out in the field or ferocious guard of one's property - not that some dogs don't still hold those duties but they are the minority.
Certainly, in Canadian cities, where there are no livestock to tend or vast acreages to patrol, the need for dogs to earn their living through labour is not usually a requirement. A dog living in an urban environment earns its keep by being a companion to its human keepers. City dogs are family dogs.
The thing most modern bred dogs do best is provide real and constant companionship - and that's no mean feat considering the increasing competition for our attention. But, spurious Facebook friends are as plentiful and fleeting as snowflakes and the social interactions we conduct the most nowadays require batteries. Neither are particularly warm blooded and neither provide a connection to earth.
I suppose if one day humans become just brains floating in jars, interconnected wirelessly to a great data cloud gathered and constantly changing on some corporation's vast hard drives, then the role of dogs will be no longer necessary and dogs will be defunct. Until then, we'll still need something to help keep us human.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be doing a series of photos of ex-pound dogs, now family dogs, in their adopted homes with their owners (eventually, this might turn into some kind of fund raising gig for animal shelters but right now, it's just a personal project). We so often see photos of pound dogs gazing woefully at us, unwanted and hoping to be adopted. That is indeed a sad reality for so many but the public also needs to be shown that these animals are not just discards but can also be wonderful companions if given a chance. There are pound dogs all over the country waiting to be rescued and, in return, the happiness these dogs bring to their adoptive families can be immeasurable.
Kate and Mike saw Winnie at Toronto Animal Services South several months ago. She had just arrived from Montreal and back then she was at first a shy but nevertheless curious young dog, barely out of puppyhood. Indications were that she'd been abused. Half her tail was chopped off and she flinched whenever someone raise a foot.
The scraggly looking mutt in the pound photos didn't look too promising at first but within an hour of meeting her, Kate and Mike were won over by Winnie's personality.
They took Winnie home and a week later, Kate wrote TAS to tell them "we're smitten" (you can read her letter here).
It can be a leap to go from being unfettered to suddenly having the responsibility of taking care of a dog. Kate is a reporter for the Globe and Mail and Mike is a engineering consultant so it's not as if their schedules weren't already full. Kate told me what it was like. People are busy, she said, but you get a dog and you don't mind giving it the time it needs.
It would indeed be hard to begrudge Winnie one's attention. She is now a happy, gregarious dog. She's generous with her kisses if you let her. She knows her basic commands and is well-behaved enough to not run away when off-leash.
Recently, Kate had Winnie DNA tested for breed. There were no surprises when the results came back saying she was German Shepherd with some Rottweiler and a dash of Doberman Pinscher. All three breeds have a reputation for being guard dogs and yet Winnie has not a hint of guarding behaviour in her.
She is indeed a perfect family dog.