Val d'Or is a city about 400 km north of Montreal. Someone found gold there in 1923 and it's been a mining town ever since, but more recently it's been beleaguered with high unemployment and low incomes. Add to that the rather lousy weather (191 days of annual precipitation, -23C average temperature in January) and perhaps that's why Val d'Or has won the dubious award of being one of the worst places to live in Canada, though I'm not sure a magazine about personal finance is necessarily the best source I'd go to for advice on where to live, but regardless, ranking that low is probably not a good sign.
It's not a surprise then that the local SPCA in Val d'Or is underfunded. Sure, saying that any animal charity is underfunded is like saying black is dark but when underfunding means that abandoned animals are still being gassed to death because killing with gas is cheaper, then there's a real problem.
Last week I was cc'd on some emails sent out by CAACQ on behalf of SPCA de Val D'Or. They were looking for assistance in adopting out 16 of their dogs. Often when I get emails from high kill shelters looking for help in rehoming their dogs, I don't look at the accompanying photos because I hate looking at pictures of dogs who are probably going to be dead in a week - all those hopeful stares. If I look at the photos and do nothing, it feels like I'm the one sticking the needle in and pushing the plunger, or in Val d'Or's case, slamming the door and hitting the gas release switch.
I was tempted to just trash all sixteen emails and I did at one point but I never deleted them from the trash. I ended up perusing the written descriptions of each dog. There were sixteen emails and each email had the profile of one dog attached and each dog was numbered from 1 to 16.
One especially piqued my interest. It said the dog was a Berger Anglais which I knew meant an Old English Sheepdog. When our dog Smitten first arrived from Quebec, she too was described as an Old English Sheepdog (though she turned out to be a Bearded Collie) so then, of course, I had to look at the photo.
In the photo, it was obvious the dog was large, all white and could maybe be an Old English with its coat shaved down or a poodle mix of some kind. It was wearing a red scarf, lying on the wooden floor of what looked like someone's house. It didn't appear as if the photo was taken in a shelter. Maybe a photo taken by the original owner in happier times, then - not that it mattered now. I stared at the picture for a few minutes, enlarged it in Photoshop, compared it with images on Google and still couldn't really distinguish the breed with certainty.
Regardless of breed, I got the usual sick feeling thinking about how it might be gassed if someone didn't volunteer to take it in. Then it got personalized to "What if this were Smitten?" because even though it didn't look exactly like her, it did look sort of like her with her hair trimmed. And then, having looked at the one photo, I had to look at all the rest and that was an even bigger mistake. There were Poodles, German Shepherds, Labs, Pekingese, Spaniels, some young puppies and a bunch of mutts or maybe they were all mutts to varying degrees. I couldn't tell and again, it didn't matter.
What mattered was that these dogs might not be long for this world and I regretted having looked at any their faces.
I left the computer, did some work around the house. Later, I was back in front of the monitor working on some photos.
Email went "ping".
I opened it up. It was from James at Toronto Animal Services. The subject line said:
Re: FW: S.P.C.A VAL-D'OR DOG #3
and the body of the message was:
i will take this dog
I looked up the dog #3 email and saw it was a female Bichon puppy, named Cherly (Cheryl? Shirley?), 3 months old.
Well, that's one at least, I thought and then went back to working on photos.
Email went ping again.
This time it was in regards to dog #2 and it was the same message:
i will take this dog
Dog #2 was also a puppy, Bosco, related to Cherly, white fur instead of black.
So maybe he'll take all the puppies I thought. And why not? After all, puppies, especially small breed puppies, would be easy to adopt out.
Then email pinged again and this time there were three more emails and I saw the rest of the pups were indeed going to be taken but now also Tao, a one year old male Lab mix, 80 pounds.
I got a total of seven emails. Seven dogs saved. But then the emails stopped. The Berger Anglais wasn't one of the chosen ones.
At the end of the evening, I turned off my computer and I tried not to think about the dog with the red scarf who didn't look exactly like Smitten but sort of did.
(I'll continue this post tomorrow.)