He's a bit portly but it must be hard to say no to that face.
Toronto Animal Services.
One day, a long time ago, when I was a child, I took my sled and my mixed Husky dog Sheba out onto the snow covered field behind my backyard. I got onto the sled and then waited for Sheba to pull. Sheba always pulled on our walks so I figured she might as well do something useful and pull me on the sled.
She took a couple of steps forward then turned around and looked at me for a bit and couldn't figure out what was going on. Why was I sitting down? What was wrong with me? She came back around and stuck her paw in my face deciding that I probably wanted to wrestle with her in the snow. I said, "Get off," but that only got her more excited and she jumped on me and then I had to stand up to fight her off. I ended up standing in the snow and Sheba was on the sled. I pulled at it, trying to dislodge her, again yelling, "Get off," but she just crouched down, claws gripping the foam padding. I started pulling her around to see if I could make her fall off but she stayed on until I got tired of the stupid game and shoved her off.
"Dumb dog," I said but of course, looking back on it, I was obviously wrong.
Well, this isn't Sheba. It's s Luna, but I'm sure she's just as smart. She's the second Siberian Husky to come into TAS recently. She'll win the award for best couch warmer/lap blanket on those cold winter nights.
She was alone and looked down upon the earth and with her breath blew the snow across the plain. She came down, landed upon the ice and started to walk but all around her, the living creatures scurried into their shelters whenever she approached. She traveled in this way, by herself, for days until she grew accustomed to her loneliness and resolved to not let it ruin her. She walked amongst the snowdrifts and ice fields. The flat horizon bored her so she took the ice and snow and lifted them up and created mountains of glaciers and gave them the colour of the sky.
On the seventh day, she awoke and there was a creature beside her against her. Its eyes were black as coal and this frightened her a little but its muzzle tickled her face; its fur warmed her hands; and, its songs thawed her heart. The animal brought her to meet its family and they welcomed her, the first creatures to do so since she'd arrived. They showed her how to hunt and how to run swiftly across the snow and how to talk to the moon and, though she did not need this, how to stay warm. She spent that first winter with them and at the end of it, it was time to depart. Before she left, she marked this tribe so that whenever she returned, she would be able to identify them and their children. As she kissed each creature goodbye, each one opened its once black eyes and revealed the reflected blue of glaciers.
From the new owner of Rollo, now Sam:
Mac was transferred in from another rescue. From his former rescue:
Mac came out of a kill shelter where he was on the euth list after being there for 2 months.... this would have been his second summer in my rescue.
Mac has always been sweet to the other dogs and i have never noticed any issues with children.... he hasn't lived in a house with them though so I can't tell you for sure. Just an FYI there is one very dominant female here that he did not get along with ~ she is a large shep/mastiff mix who is very vocal with the other dogs....
Mac's biggest passion is a tennis ball, he will carry it everywhere, only dropping it to eat or drink. Mac is very sweet, he deserves a home and I really hope you can find him a good one.
Thank you for giving him another chance.
This red Doberman Pinscher has got the Clint Eastwood "are you feeling lucky, punk?" stare down pat and I'm pretty sure he's going to be a sidewalk clearer for his future owner. Ironic because this guy is one of friendliest Dobermans I've ever met. He's not one to be looking for fights. He's looking for kisses.
Sarah Kalnajs was in town this past weekend giving a two day seminar on identifying the stress signals dogs display as precursors to possible aggressive behaviour and conducting risk assessments on dogs in home environments. In no particular order, here are some things:
Sarah is a clear, energetic, fun speaker who passed along a huge amount of information and managed to keep the audience's attention despite the long stretches after lunch, sitting in a dark room, watching projected videos. I would've been asleep in five minutes if I'd been listening to anyone less captivating especially after those three pieces of cheesecake. Oink.
She handed out bags of "rewards", mentioned her possible urinary tract infection, passed around a dog toy which resembled a pink dildo and smelled like vanilla, kept commenting on how polite Canadians were, got people to dance to Bieber, and made half the room cry with her story about euthanasia or maybe it was the whole room - I don't know because my vision suddenly went blurry.
There were a couple of women who chattered throughout the seminar, whispering between the two of them loud enough so that everyone around them had to concentrate a little harder to listen to Sarah. One of the women brought a dog with her. The dog was very well behaved but being a dog, it got restless every once in a while and every time it made the slightest noise its owner would tell it to be quiet.
When it's raining really hard out, the ceiling in the Commonwealth Ballroom at the Don Valley Parkway Hotel leaks.
Judging by attendance, 99% of the people involved in dog rescue are women.
The best leash is a hands free leash, one that wraps around the hips. Several reasons: your joints don't get repetitive stress injuries; less pulling on the leash from the human results in less counter-pulling by the dog; with the leash wrapped around your center of gravity, it's very difficult for even the largest dogs to pull you anywhere if you are well grounded (eg. not standing on ice); dogs seem to heel better when the owner's arms are relaxed as opposed to holding the other end of the leash; convenient for when you'd like both hands free. Sarah sold her own version of this type of leash and it looked like the pile she brought with her sold out pretty quickly. You can always make your own or buy something similar.
The crux of Sarah's seminar was about aggression signals and risk assessment and she passed on a loads of information with accompanying video examples. I wish I could write an outline on the seminar but it would be like trying to do a single post on human psychology. Aside from listing details, what I got out of the seminar was that dog behaviour is not easily reducible, not easily quantified and not easily studied. Dog behaviours, like human behaviours, are complicated and must always be taken in context with their situation and their other concurrent behaviours. A human crying might indicate extreme sadness or extreme happiness. It can't be determined until the context is known. Similarly, a dog rolling on its back, in one case, may be asking for a belly scratch but in another case may be displaying submissive behaviour and asking an intrusive person or animal to please back off. Sarah discussed various ways to determine which was which and it was always based on putting the behaviour in context.
Stress leads to arousal which leads to fear and aggression issues. Nothing is 100% guaranteed but one way to test if a dog is stressed is to offer it a high value treat and see if it will eat it. If it doesn't or is unusually slow to accept it, it's stressed. Another way to check in with the dog's stress level is to ask it do a sit or shake a paw. Sit and shake are the two most well known commands for dogs.
It's very difficult to work on improving a dog's behaviour when it is stressed.
Sarah's assessments deal with practical risk. She asks the question, is this dog's behaviour acceptable in its particular environment. This means that a small dog biting someone's feet with shoes on is not ranked as bad as a big dog biting someone's arm. This means that an easily stressed dog in a calm environment is not ranked as bad an easily stressed dog in a volatile environment. She takes everything in context so everything is relative and there is no simple pass or fail. Well, not usually. Unless the recommendation is euthanasia in which case that would obviously be a fail.
Yes, Sarah does sometimes recommend euthanasia. I didn't ask for stats. She herself has a license to euthanize because she's decided that if she's going to recommend euthanizing a dog then she must be willing to do it herself, if the situation demands it. She believes that any behaviourists who recommend euthanasia should be ready to it themselves so they know and feel the full impact of their decisions.
It's amazing what you can teach a dog - almost everything necessary - only by using rewards.
It's amazing what you won't be able to teach a dog - almost nothing, nothing good anyway - using positive punishment (eg. hitting, choking, shocking). This, however, does not preclude setting boundaries and saying "No". You don't want to end up with a spoiled brat.
Sarah didn't say that positive punishment techniques never work but usually the punishment has to be extreme (ie. scare the crap out of the dog) and then there's the risk of other undesirable behaviours resulting from the experience. Why would anyone want to take that kind of chance with their pet? Sarah referred to the training of bomb sniffing dogs in the U.S. military and how nearly half of them fail due to fear induced stresses (and are thus subsequently euthanized).
When we try to force a dominance based social model on dogs, we are trying to mirror dogs' behaviours to our own. Interactions are much more hierarchy based and more rigid and prevalent in human groups than in dog groups. Dogs, in a free roaming situation, don't form permanent packs and alpha roles constantly change. See this post by Ian Dunbar.
Like most people, the thought of spending a whole weekend indoors listening to lectures is not that appealing a prospect but in this case, I was glad to be proven wrong. If you get a chance, check her out the next time Sarah's in Toronto.
People sometimes wonder why rescues and shelters in Toronto go to the trouble of importing dogs from Quebec to adopt out here.
1. The people of Toronto are pretty good about how we treat our dogs (relative to other cities, we're actually pretty great). While there are the occasional horror stories that pop up in the news and systemic injustices like the Ontario Pit Bull ban which we have to suffer with, people don't generally abandon their dogs here. We are, for the most part, responsible pet owners.
Torontonians are also pretty good about adopting. The more adopters, the better, of course, but relatively speaking, we're doing okay and we're getting better. Adoptions are going up as public awareness increases about the quality of shelter animals and the cost savings associated with adopting vs. buying.
Responsible pet ownership and willingness to adopt means that sometimes, especially within the larger shelters and rescues, there's space available to take in animals from other jurisdictions. If there's an empty kennel, it only makes sense to use it to save a life.
2. Here's the other reason. The following is a video clip from an upcoming CBC news show, Enquête, on Berger Blanc, one of the many private pounds in Montreal. It's graphic, it's sickening and many people involved in Montreal rescues know this is happening but have been powerless to do anything about it.
From Penny's new owners:
Thanks for all of your help in our adoption of Miz Penny. She is awesome and has fit in well with our family; even Gramma adores her! No big probs with other dogs, just remaining consistent with her. We love her! Will send photos periodically. Thanks to you all for taking good care of her until we found each other!
Music video from Haley Dreis in support of dog adoption from Pets Inc., a shelter in Columbia, South Carolina.
The disaster in Japan is nowhere near fixed even though it's slowly being pushed aside in the media by more current news. Here's a news segment on Isabella Gallaon-Aoki who works with Animal Friends Niigata rescuing dogs out of the disaster zones.
Cute Roulette. Just click on it. You know you want to.
(Continued from here.)
The next day, or maybe it was the day after, I started sifting through all the dog emails from CAACQ which were in the trash folder, still undeleted. Why? I don't know. Maybe because I didn't have enough nails lying around to jab into my eyes.
After looking through all the dog profiles, I decided to find out more about the SPCA de Val d'Or so I went online but couldn't find much information on them. They didn't have a website and most Google hits pointed to nondescript address listings.
There was this, though, from the Forum Canin Abitibi Temiscamingue:
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.
It was only a matter of time before Toronto Animal Services started to feel the squeeze coming down from City Hall with their new belt tightening policies. There were promises of no cuts to essential services during the election but of course one's person essential service is someone else's second helping of gravy.
There used to be five animal control officers on-call for after hours work for all of the GTA. These are the people who would be called if there is an injured or dying animal on the road after being hit by a car or if the paramedics are faced with a snarling dog protecting its unconscious owner or if the police are doing a drug bust and they're uncertain about the guard dog in the dealer's apartment.
These calls, on average, take about an hour which would include driving out to the location, securing the animal, driving the animal to where ever it needs to go and taking appropriate action - of course some take less time but some take much longer especially if securing the animal is an issue. Five ACOs for all of the GTA is not a lot and on-call nights could get pretty busy for them and this after pulling a full day's shift and to be followed by another full day's shift.
Now the five on-call ACOs are being cut back to only two, one person working west of Yonge and the other east of Yonge. It wouldn't be a far stretch to imagine there are likely going to be nights when it's going to be impossible to get out to all the emergencies or at least get to them in time. This means that when an animal gets hit by a car and lies suffering on the side of the road and someone calls it in, that animal may just have to wait an hour or two before an ACO shows up to assist it, if anyone shows up at all.
Perhaps I shouldn't be so pessimistic. Maybe this will be the year when animals finally evolve and learn that they shouldn't get into trouble after hours and save all their accidents for 9 to 5 and then we won't need all those on-call ACOs after all.
Or maybe not.
So, if one night you stumble upon an animal, injured and unable to move, and you call Toronto Animal Services and they tell you all two of their ACOs are busy and there's no one else available, you'll know it's a direct result of a bunch of city politicians and bureaucrats deciding that alleviating animal suffering is just too much gravy.
Animal Rescue Corps rescues puppy mill dogs. Maybe they'd consider opening up a chapter in Quebec.
Elsa's Lullaby, a song by Canadian singer songwriter NEeMA about her dog who she took in when it was a stray pup.
This is an old update I just saw today about a dog rescue which started with the Just One Dog video that went viral at Christmas 2009.
Thank goodness there are still some places in Canada where dogs like Stanley can find sanctuary and aren't automatically killed because of their looks.
And finally, an interesting quote from Jane Goodall taken from a recent Globe and Mail article:
“My favourite animal is a dog. I love dogs, not chimps,” she declares. “Chimps are so like us: Some are nice and some are horrid. I don’t actually think of them as animals any more than I think of us as animals, although both of us are.
Shera is a very shy dog. I opened her kennel door and I sat quietly for ten minutes before she would come out to say hello. The whole time she exhibited submissive behaviour - looking away, sniffing the floor, retreating. Once we finished our walk and she got to more used to me, she became quite affectionate and demanded a seat on the bench beside me and there we sat in the afternoon sun watching the people go by.
Okay, so I'm one day late. Anyway ...
Hope springs eternal. Does anyone know how a dog can survive three weeks at sea with no food and water? Can dogs drink sea water?
Kandu, an adopted two legged dog, gets a new set of wheels and more.
Looks to me like the dog cheated a couple of times.
I can't quite place my finger on it but I'm pretty sure the following video has been faked. I know this because there's no way it would take six minutes plus for a dog, especially a Lab, to finish that small a meal.
Skateboard dog. This is kind of a cute animation but don't try this at home.
dog skateboard from theAMIGOunit on Vimeo.
Skateboard Dogs. The following short came out about the same time as the one above but this one is a bit weird/creepy, I think.
Dogboarding from DANIELS on Vimeo.
Extreme animals. Animal photographer, Ren Netherland, takes photos of dogs with surprising haircuts.