Two weeks ago, another Sunday afternoon, another Marlies hockey game in the arena beside Toronto Animal Services. As mullet rock begins playing on the outdoor speakers, more people start heading to admissions. There are parents with their happy, excited toddlers. There are elegantly dressed couples who look like they're going to a black tie event. There are the throngs of fans who are just there for an afternoon of hockey.

Sometimes the crowds make the dogs anxious but not Dallas, a Rottweiler cross I'm walking. Dallas is completely at ease with everyone, doesn't pay the passers-by much heed unless they stop to say hello to her.

There's a tour bus parked up ahead. Guys, in their twenties, are wandering in and out of the bus. Some stand around and talk and laugh. Some head to the stadium. The bus driver, in uniform, is pacing on the sidewalk. Maybe he's having a smoke - I can't remember exactly. As I walk towards the bus, I hear something on the bus' loudspeaker system. It doesn't sink in at first because it's lost in the general hubbub of the crowds but then I realize someone's saying over the loudspeaker, "Pick up that shit." As I walk by the bus, the message gets more insistent. "Hey, you, pick up that shit!" followed by giggling. I hear it one more time as I walk past.

I take Dallas to a quieter spot I use for photographing dogs except this afternoon, with the warm thaw, the ground there is too wet and muddy. I try another location but it's the same thing so I take Dallas back the way we came.

We walk towards the hockey fan bus again. I can see through the front window. There's a guy in the front seat chugging something from a brown bottle. He's been watching me and he keeps watching me as I get closer to the bus. Behind him are a couple of his buddies. He leans over over something and speaks and I hear over the loudspeakers, "Pick up the shit," and then giggling from his pals behind him and with more encouragement, the guy at the mike says in a louder voice, "Yeah you. Pick up the shit," followed by laughter.

It's strange but I don't actually feel bad for myself. I feel bad for Dallas. I know the taunts are directed at me obviously but it's like she's the one who needs to be protected against this bus of drunken assholes even though she's of course oblivious to all this.

We continue on past the bus. The message over the loudspeaker gets repeated over and over and louder each time as the speaker's bravado climbs, egged on by his pals.

I see the bus driver still pacing the sidewalk. I walk by him. I hear again, "Pick up the shit! Pick up the shit!" I stop. I turn around and ask the bus driver who these guys are. The bus driver, a man in his fifties, looks at me and shakes his head and rolls his eyes.

"They're just ... " and he trails off.

"Pick up the shiiiit," again, this time in some fake, drawn out monster voice. The passengers in the back of the bus are rapping on the windows like wannabe prison inmates rapping on their bars. I can hear laughter coming from inside.

I'm about to do what I'm about to do and the words "stupid", "reckless", "asinine" are echoing somewhere in the more civilized outer regions of my brain but I'm not listening. A reptile's taken over.

I walk onto the bus. I look at the guy in the front seat. He's already hidden his bottle. I see his face. I hate it. It's puerile. One of his pals retreats. The other stays up front with a stupid beer grin on his face.

"What's your problem?" I ask.

"Uh," manboy at the mike stares at me.

"What the fuck is your problem?" I ask.

Manboy's pal beside him says, "Pick up your dog's shit," and giggles.

"She's not my dog," I say.

"Who's dog is it then?" manboy asks.

"What do you care?" I say.

"Pick up your dog shit" the pal chants. "Pick up your dog shit."

Manboy says. "Uh, a friend back there said he saw your dog take a shit. You should pick it up." Manboy's fluttering now, trying to excuse his rude assault with a lie.

"Wrong dog," I say.

"Is it your shit then?" the pal asks and gapes a grin.

"No, I think it's yours," I say to the gaper. I can't think of a better comeback than that. Too much adrenaline. Looking back at manboy I say, "Your friend in the back there is an idiot or lying."

"Did your dog take a shit?" manboy asks. Now he's playing interrogator.

"Yeah, but your imaginary friend didn't see it," I say and it's true. Dallas had taken a dump while we were walking around looking for a photo location but that was blocks away from the bus, away from the crowds, away from anyone in view.

"And did you pick it up?" from Manboy.

"Yeah, I did," I say.

"With your bare hands?" the pal asks and giggles at his own wit.

Manboy tries a different tack.

"If that dog's not yours, whose dog is it?"

Manboy's pal suggests something about my mother.

"Why don't you step off the bus and I'll show you whose dog it is," I say.

Manboy's easily got twenty pounds on me. His mouthy pal is a skinny runt but still another body. And there's a half bus load of frat boy mentality hockey fans behind them. I don't know what I'm doing. My brain is under remote control. My blood feels like lava.

"C'mon, step off the bus," I say.

Manboy pauses. His pal stays quiet, still grinning. Then, "I don't want to get into a fist fight," manboy says.

"That's not going to happen," I say. "Just step off the bus." I'm not looking for a fight either. I've got some half formed idea about taking them into TAS since they want to know where Dallas is from. There would be no fighting but they still think I'm a threat.

"We're just here to support our team," someone says.

"Step off the bus," I say one last time. "I'll show you who owns the dog."

No takers.

I back out of the bus. The bus driver walks up to me. He's apologizing. He's asking me to just walk away. I want to say something to him but what's the point. They're not his children. As I walk away, the pounding on the bus windows start up again.

Later, I'm standing near the TAS front entrance talking to one of the animal control officers. I see the guys from the bus start to come out. Manboy is surrounded by his posse. Over the conversation I'm having with the ACO, I hear, "Let's go kick his ass," coming from the bus boys but they see I've got someone with me now so they keep walking.

Even later, I realize this: Dallas, an unwanted, homeless dog, who remained calm at my side throughout this whole episode, had more sense and composure than any of us human goons.



7 Comments to “Regression”

  1. Biscuit says:

    I suspect their bus was too long.

  2. Deva says:

    It's a shame you didn't find out who they were. The Powers That Be really should receive a note outlining how their boys represented the organization in the streets of Toronto.

  3. Dallas was calm because she knew you had her back.

  4. How disgusting. It really irks me when people behave this way. Honestly, these are the kind of people I want my pets way from, and I stay away from. Everything is laughter, a joke, or a means to humiliate someone or an animal to them. I get very defensive, too, Fred. I am just glad things did not escalate. I would have felt like punching one of them.

  5. Also, I hope those idiots did not mistreat the bus driver either. My mum drives a tour bus, and she has often endured stupidity of this sort, and I get very defensive when it comes to my family as well. GAH! *breathes*

  6. martha says:

    I checked it out- if the game was 2 weeks ago on a Sunday- the Marlies played the Texas Stars March 20th and lost 2-1 darn

  7. Fillyjonk says:

    Thank you for sharing that story. It always amazes me how inane humanity can be. These dogs, some of them abused and neglected, are often sweet, friendly and just looking to love someone - even after they've been hurt. People, on the other hand, lash out at animals and each other and feel superior. I'm glad you told them off.

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.
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