Can't smile big enough.
Looks like Mason got adopted yesterday already.
Toronto's Core Services Review Executive Committee meeting is taking place right now. Over three hundred concerned Torontonians have signed up to speak in front of the mayor and his Executive Committee. With all the speakers, this meeting won't likely finish before 10 p.m. tonight and will probably continue on tomorrow.
Changes to time allotments.
List of Speakers, over 300.
Watch the live broadcast here.
The deputations and results in yesterdays Licensing and Standards review went well for Toronto Animals Services but that's not the end of the story. Next up, on Thursday, is a chance to speak in front of the Executive Committee. They're the ones who will have final say over cuts to Toronto services. More information, as well as the request to speak link, can be found here.
Even if you don't want to present a deputation, attending one of these is quite interesting. It gives you a lot of insight into how our elected city officials think, act and speak. And Rob Ford is going to be the chairperson at this one.
The final decisions on cuts won't be made until the fall which gives us some time to get the message out to the general populace and not just the us in the animal welfare community. There is the petition here which will be delivered to council and of course personal letters written and addressed to your councilor and those on the executive committee are even more helpful.
We need city-wide, broad based support on this matter and spreading the word is the best way to get it. People of all political stripes in Toronto love their pets and won't tolerate animal cruelty brought on by service cuts. Let's remind everyone of what Toronto Animal Services does and what the for-profit alternatives will mean for our animals in need.
The licensing committee meeting went well. Some motions which would have put the adoption services of TAS at risk were presented by councilor Nunziata but rebuffed by the other councilors. Glenn De Baeremaeker did a great job defending Toronto Animal Services. I missed most of the deputations (11 of them) but was told they all supported TAS and everyone did a great job.
The video about Berger Blanc was also shown. It had to be stopped at one point because it was too hard to watch and someone in the audience had to leave the room because she was crying.
You can watch all the proceedings, including all the deputations, here.
Here are the Decisions passed by the committee:
Requested that the City Manager include the following in his report to the Executive Committee meeting on September 19, 2011:
a. Any opportunities for further integration of By-law Enforcement.
b. The possibility of expanding animal licensing in Toronto.
c. The possibility of updating the online licensing system.
d. The possibility of maximizing online donations to Toronto Animal Services.
e. The possibility of establishing an animal services sub-committee of the Licensing and Standards Committee.
f. The feasibility of requiring micro-chipping of dogs and cats as a requirement of licensing.
g. A review of pet licensing options, including the option of a lifetime licensing system to replace the current annual licensing fee, with micro-chipping dogs and cats as a requirement.
People, outside of staff, who spoke at the meeting:
Peter Newell, Vice-President, Toronto Humane Society
Liz White, Animal Alliance of Canada
Nathalie Karvonen, Executive Director, Toronto Wildlife Centre
Stephanie Cliff, Toronto Animal Services
Deena Elieff, Toronto Animal Services Volunteer
Ferne Simkin, Toronto Humane Society Member
(Letter submitted to the committee reviewing cuts to Toronto Animal Services from blog reader and concerned citizen, Dianne.)
I am a resident of Toronto and a lifelong pet owner. I have been involved in rescue, fostering and transport. I have fostered kittens for Toronto Animal Services and dogs, cats and kittens for several other organizations. All but one of my owned animals have been rescued animals.
In respect of Toronto Animal Services (“TAS”), the section of the core services review report available online relating to animal services (“RRAS”) appears to consider only the following:
- Pet licensing and enforcement
- Animal by-law enforcement and mobile response
- Animal sheltering and adoption
- Animal care and enforcement.
The RRAS does not appear to contemplate the additional valuable services provided by TAS:
- Working with rescues to improve the chances for adoption of animals;
- Spay/neuter clinic for cats;
- Reuniting lost pets with their owners;
- Humane education;
- Dog bite prevention education for schoolchildren;
- Volunteer opportunities; and,
- Low-cost euthanasia to the public.
I find the RRAS confusing, as it lumps together unrelated services such as animal care and enforcement when those are very different services. It does not explain why it finds certain services to be “high standard” and I fail to understand the issue with a high standard of service.
Without the TAS financial data, I am unable to directly address specific issues. However, according to the RRAS, reducing TAS services does not result in any appreciable saving for the City. The suggested savings are low to medium and are mid- to long-term cost reductions rather than immediate savings. The RRAS also does not contemplate the social and ethical impact of the proposed changes.
Small “tweaks” to the TAS revenue model could generate additional revenue and remove any consideration of reduced services.
Sheltering and Adoption
There are only two options for an unclaimed animal in a shelter. Death or adoption.
A shelter cannot be run for profit. To do so is to do it on the backs of the voiceless creatures a shelter is supposed to serve. To do so is to turn a shelter into a slaughter house.
Any outsourcing or privatization of animal care has the potential to create a situation of animal cruelty. To produce profit, a for-profit operator may employ unqualified people (for lower overhead), permit inhumane handling of animals (for efficiency), stint on food and medical care for sheltered animals (solely for the bottom line), kill for convenience (solely for the bottom line) and use inhumane methods of killing (solely for the bottom line). A for-profit pound has no interest in working with rescues to save animals. A for-profit operator may not wait the requisite “stray claim” period of time before selling microchipped and owned animals to research laboratories (which I understand has happened in Ontario). A for-profit operator will not see the sentient being, only the dollar signs.
There is the issue of the four shelters which were built with taxpayer money and the land on which they are located. These assets should not be surrendered to a for-profit operator.
A very important issue is that a for-profit operator may not be transparent in terms of animal care and financial information.
A for-profit operation may deteriorate to the level of Berger Blanc in Montreal, a for-profit pound that has tainted the reputation of the City of Montreal internationally.
I cannot think of a not-for-profit agency with the resources necessary to run the City’s shelter system. The City must not contemplate external agencies that do not support pet ownership such as Humane Society of the United States and Peta; that can only lead to disaster. These organizations spend millions on lobbying against pet ownership but virtually nothing on supporting animal rescues and shelters.
Animal by-law enforcement
This is another TAS service that cannot be outsourced. By-law enforcement is a very important role and is part of the public safety responsibility of the City, particularly with regard to dogs running loose and attacks by dogs on humans and other animals.
A for-profit operator will either refuse to take on this service, or take every opportunity to make money from the situation. This may lead to unjust or false charges against City residents (in an attempt to collect more money from fines), resulting in damage to the City’s reputation and increased legal costs for the City as residents fight the unjust or false charges. A for-profit operator may also send out untrained staff to retrieve aggressive dogs which may result in injury to the staff and/or the dogs.
I would also point out that cruelty to animals has been proven to be a precursor to cruelty to humans, particularly the vulnerable - women, children and seniors. TAS can run a two-pronged approach to this social problem, using humane education in an attempt to reduce animal cruelty and its care investigations to identify individuals who may escalate to cruelty to humans.
I am not clear on KPMG’s comment about delivering the services city-wide instead of by district. Surely providing the service by district allows animal control officers to learn the problem areas and owners in their district, as well as providing quick response. If an aggressive dog is threatening your children in a schoolyard, I doubt that you want to wait several hours for a response.
Having TAS pick up surrendered animals prevents abuse of the animals and more strays in the streets. There are enough “dumped” animals now; please do not add to the number. Implementation of this suggestion will not reflect well on the City.
TAS pickup of dead wildlife and domestic animals from the streets prevents bacterial growth and additional animal deaths (of predators willing to eat dead animals). Leaving corpses in the streets for additional periods of time is a public health threat as well as a blight on the City to those who live and visit here. It is akin to having people pour their waste into the streets, a process which caused numerous cholera epidemics and the “Great Stink” of 1858 in London, England.
There is another reason not to outsource this. Untrained staff may not care enough or be able to distinguish between dead and severely injured animals, resulting in live animals being thrown in with the dead and either crushed in a garbage truck or incinerated alive in a crematorium.
There is also the ethical issue, not addressed in the RRAS, of leaving an injured and suffering animal to die in the street by increasing the time for mobile response. Implementation of this suggestion will not reflect well on the City.
This is a very important service provided by TAS to the City, particularly in light of the Province’s requirement that a student serve a specific number of volunteer hours before graduating from secondary school. This also allows residents to participate in animal care by dog walking, cat and rabbit grooming, fostering of animals, and serving at special events. This raises the profile of the City of Toronto as caring and compassionate.
Licensing is essential revenue and should be retained as mandatory, as license revenue goes to operation of the TAS shelters and services. Instead of marketing it negatively by pronouncing “it’s the law”, it should be marketed positively by detailing the benefits an owner receives from licensing, such as:
- A free ride home for a lost licensed pet if the owner can be contacted; and,
- Emphasizing that the money from licensing goes to animal services in the city and detail the services – the adoptions, the work with rescues to place special needs animals, the low-cost cat spay/neuter, the educational services, the veterinary services and the humane euthanasia for injured animals.
One improvement in the licensing process would be putting a “change of contact” function online so that a pet owner with a licensed pet can, using the license number, easily update business or residence information. This would improve the rate of return for lost pets without the administrative cost of processing a telephone call, fax or e-mail.
TAS should consider collaborating with veterinarians, rescues and pet supply stores, placing license application forms with veterinarians, rescue organizations, groomers and pet supply stores. The veterinarians, rescues, groomers and stores would not be agents of the City and would not be responsible for collecting and remitting revenue. Instead, they would be promoters of licensing and provide new pet owners with the knowledge of how and why to license their pets.
This is a well-used service and must be retained. The cost could be increased slightly, by $5 or $10, which considering the number of animals spayed could generate an increase in revenue.
It is also an area where I would like to see the City expand its role and, if the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association can be convinced of the need and benefit, have a mobile spay/neuter clinic that would travel to neighbourhoods in the City, providing low-cost spay/neuter “on the ground”. A mobile spay/neuter clinic has been run very successfully by Pasado’s Safe Haven in the United States (see http://www.pasadosafehaven.org/spay-station/ ). A mobile spay/neuter clinic could be made possible by the City partnering with charitable foundations and with pet supply manufacturers, reducing the initial and operating costs to the City, reducing the number of unwanted and stray animals and ultimately improving the livability of the City.
The RRAS shows only low to medium potential cost reductions over the mid- to long-term, without any consideration of the wider role of TAS or of the social and ethical impact of the proposed changes.
Slight adjustments to the TAS revenue model could increase revenues and support TAS operations.
Cashew is a spirited dog who would run to the moon and back if he could find his way there. He'll need lots of exercise and in return he'll give you lots of love.
When we first got Smitten from Toronto Animal Services, we knew she was a special dog but we didn't know she had a love for the beautiful game. Every chance she gets, she's out there practicing and improving her technique.
Yes, I know she's cheating when she picks up the ball with her mouth but that's nothing compared to how she cheats when she plays chess.
Oskar and Dexter, two Doberman pups found discarded in a dumpster, were adopted out to two sisters who live close enough together that the dogs get to occasionally hang out which is great because their sibling bond is strong. Here's an update:
We are puppy sitting this week so both Oskar and Dexter are coming to work with me. I thought that the woman who found the boys may want to see how loved and handsome they are now and how grateful we are to her and you all for bringing such craziness into our lives. They are 10 months old now, beautiful dogs with very different personalities, both of whom love a cuddle and think they are lap dogs. Oskar is taller and more muscular than his brother, probably due to his daily runs in the vineyards as well as his raw food diet, and is the pushier, more adventurous of the two. Dexter is more of a softy, used to living the life of Riley in a big house in Orangeville and is newest baby of the house now that my nephew is about to head off to university. I know that you all deal with horrors every day and see first hand how awful people can be to animals so I wanted to pass on a very big thanks from our two families. We love and adore our 85 pound giraffes and cannot imagine life without them.
Hope you like the photos, Oskie has floppier ears and Dexter has tighter ears and a narrower face.
I'm sure you all remember the horror recently brought to light by a CBC investigative news show regarding treatment of animals at Berger Blanc, a for profit pound in Montreal, but if not, here's a summary.
This Australian Cattle Dog is kinda hyper in a big goofy kid sorta way. One moment he'll be on the couch licking your face, the next he'll be pulling on the leash to go out for a scramble.
This guy's high energy zest for life won over most everyone he met and by the time I got his photo picked and processed, he'd already been adopted out (but here it is anyway).
This fun loving people dog just wants to play play play but hasn't realized yet that he's got to learn a few rules as well. Someone willing to put a bit of time into training this guy will get an eager and loyal companion for life.
Over the weekend, a more than kind Linda Diebel wrote an article about this blog and me for The Toronto Star and as a result, it's brought a bunch more readers here so first off, welcome everyone. Thanks for dropping by.
When I started blogging in 2008, I wanted to focus on the dogs so I kept myself out of it. No pictures, no full names, not much personal stuff unless it involved Stella or Rocky. I was blogging and people were reading and for the most part, no one knew who I was and that was fine. I felt like I had a secret identity.
Same with this blog when I started it. I wanted to concentrate even more on the dogs, less on animal welfare politics and personalities. I wanted this blog to do one thing and that was to get more dogs adopted from Toronto Animal Services. Inevitably, I sometimes strayed off topic but I think I generally stayed the course.
Reposting some of the old blog's posts this past week made me realize that simply cataloging dogs misses something. Or maybe it's that I miss something. I miss the writing.
As a result of that, and also as a result of not having to feel like I need, or can, remain hidden anymore, I might start writing more or at least about a wider range of topics. It's still not going to be like One Bark at a Time, though. I don't have that kind of time anymore and that's because of age related temporal distortion - you know, that thing you get as you get older where a week seems like a cupcake and a month seems like brunch. Hopefully, supper is still a ways off.
So, thanks for spending some time with Toronto Animal Services South, their dogs, and me as well.
From the owner of Pogo, now Bentley:
Bentley is going great. He's graduated from Obedience school. He's adjusted well to his new, and spoiled, life!!!!!
Adopting Bentley has enriched my life in so many ways.
Thank you so much for taking such awesome pictures of my boy, I love them. And thanks for being one of the many who showed him some love and attention before I was fortunate enough to find him. For this I am eternally grateful.
Thank you for taking Bentley home. He looks like a million smiles (and so do you)!
We're now one step closer to seeing the end of Toronto Animal Services. The most recent recommendation to Rob Ford's cost cutting team by consultants KPGM is to privatize animal control in Toronto.
From The Globe and Mail, Pet licences, business permits next in City Hall cost-cutting line
It proposes scrapping the city’s cat and dog licensing program, outsourcing animal care and enforcement, reducing response time for emergency animal rescues and abandoning a pickup program for unwanted animals.
Says Mr. Palacio, chair of the Licensing and Standards Committee:
“What is clear in this report is that it’s time to cut this city’s red tape. We have garbage police who are supposed to ensure recycling targets are achieved and pet detectives peeking through people’s windows to see if pets have licences. Both of these things are not working. They should be reviewed and perhaps eliminated.”
What he fails to mention is that animal services is not just about peeking into people's windows. That was a blip, and perhaps an ill-advised one, compared to the day to day job of rescuing, fostering, retrieving, returning, adopting, rehabilitating, investigating, educating. That's thousands of animal lives a year saved. That's thousands of animal lives a year which could be lost if city council decides they don't care enough.
We know what happens when a city turns it back on animal services and gives it over to the lowest bidder. We've seen it in Montreal. Animal services cannot just be about finding the lowest cost provider because that would be a slaughterhouse. There must be an ethical counterbalance to simply finding the guy who'll do the deed for the least money. Perhaps the cost-cutters can watch this video and think to themselves, "So what? As long as it saves us a buck, we're happy," but I'm hoping they have enough compassion and foresight to realize that saving a buck is sometimes not worth all the misery it will cause.
(reposted from February 2009. All dogs in this post were adopted.)
I’ve already spent the morning basking in the digital glow of hi-rez pixels, eating handfuls of chips, drinking yesterday’s cola and squinting at lines of computer code, trying to decipher the purpose of a certain program’s existence - which is still easier by far than reaching for the purpose of mine - and not trying to but succeeding at a gradual ruin of my eyes in conjunction with what you could call a petrifaction of human social interaction skills meaning that after many hours of communing with my hipper-than-all-other neon colored, iridescent, supersonic, multiphonic, ultra ultra-modern, multi-terabyte monster of a 100 pound computer, I looked into the eyes of everyone around me and my skewed vision could only see, could only comprehend matched pairs of little non-flat screen monitors staring back at me, and my voice, my input device to them, was as steady and monotonous as my typing on the ergonomically angled keyboard of my ultra, ultra sleek machine.
So to counter the erosion of all connections with the living, at noon, I go visit the dogs where they give me such smiles that even my mumbling, fumbling language with them is of no concern and I can laugh at all their secret jokes.
(repost from February 2009)
Okay, well, it's another day, another dingleberry hanging out the ass end of my dog only it's not just any old dingle, it's a clear plastic bag which I suppose means it's not a true dingleberry but whatever. It's hanging out and it's not going anywhere and Stella's doing the butt shuffle around the park dragging the long stringy shit bag with her. All I'm thinking is it looks like she's just half pooped out her intestines. Now I'm going to have to go over there and finish the job by pulling the rest of the plastic bag out of her and how please-I-hope-I-don't-puke gross that's going to be but I'm also thinking Hey that's kind of cool how the poop comes prebagged already but then I'm back to thinking please I hope I don't puke and also I hope no one else comes to the park this minute and sees what I'm about to do.
Which reminds me of the time I was at the park with Stella, and "Kevin" and "Derek" (I've changed their names to protect their future prospects of having children) were there with their dogs. Derek had with him his three rescued dogs who don't really play a big part in this story except as traumatized witnesses to the following event.
I had just arrived at the park and already I knew there was something wrong as both Kevin and Derek were leaning over Kevin's dog, "Jax", who was on his back. Jax was usually a very lively dog so him being on his back when he could be chasing squirrels or rolling in crap was very unusual. I walked through the gates and approached the group slowly but when I got a peak at what was going on, I immediately gagged back my Captain Crunch and quickly returned Stella to the car so that she wouldn't have the horrific image singed onto her eyeballs for the rest of her life as she's got enough mental problems already.
Once I made sure Stella was safely ensconced in the car, I walked tentatively back to Kevin and Derek. Derek's dogs were all in various stages of shock and awe but Kevin and Derek themselves, and I have to give them props for this, were totally cool, well, pretty near totally cool, well, close enough to cool given what had just happened.
Okay, this next little bit is gross but if you can get over the gross there's some funny stuff afterward so bear with me if you can.
Jax had gotten himself so excited that morning from butt surfing on the soft moist grass that his lipstick had squeezed out but it had come out so much and expanded to such a degree that it had gotten stuck and couldn't get back in. The penile sheath had been pushed all the way back to the base of Jax's stickshift and because everything was so swollen, the stretched sheath was acting like a super tight tourniquet not allowing the blood in his members only club to flow back out. It looked like a bloody big blood sausage just wobbling off of poor Jax's belly. The poor guy couldn't walk. He was totally immobilized.
The thing was so swollen that at the base of it, it had ballooned out so much that it looked like Jax still had his plums even though they'd been removed ages ago.
You know what's funny is that at this point when I tell the story to people, the women are all, "Oh yeah, that sounds uncomfortable," like I'm describing an itchy pair of wool socks or something and the men who are still listening are all standing around with their hands over their gonads like those soccer guys about to get their balls mashed in by a free kick.
Anyway, Kevin and Derek were trying to figure out what to do about the situation and every so often they'd reach down and examine Jax's affected area and Jax would yowl in pain. At least I think it was pain.
Kevin was like, "Let's try pulling the sheath back down," and he'd reach for it and I was like, "No, no, no, no, don't touch it for God's sake. Let's take him to the vet before it explodes!" and Kevin was like, "No, I think ... I ... can ... if ... I ... can ... just ..." and then Jax would yowl and Kevin was like, "No, it's too tight," and I was like, "We got to take him to the vet. We'll take him to emerge. The traffic's not too heavy yet. We can still get there in time."
"How're we going to get him to the car? It's too far," Kevin said and I looked down at Jax and realized that even carrying him might cause things to flop around too much resulting in who knows what kind of wear and tear.
Then suddenly Derek was like "You know, I just read about this on the internet the other day" and I was like, to myself, "Huh?", and Derek was like, "There were some pictures," and now I was like "Wha?" and I was thinking there was a good reason why he was living on his own with just his dogs, and he was like, "... and we just need to wait for Jax to calm down and relax a bit and everything'll be fine. We just need to wait."
10 seconds later I was like, "Holy shit, we gotta do something here," and Kevin examined Jax's dingdong again but it hadn't gotten any smaller and his yowling, whenever they examined him, seemed to be getting worse (or better - who knows?).
Okay, you know how earlier I had said that when Stella had that bag hanging out of her butt and I thought I'd have to go tug it out and was hoping no one would come into the park to witness the event and how that reminded me of this story? Well, here's the part in this story where I started hoping no one would come into the park.
"Okay, I've got an idea. Do you have any water?" Kevin asked me.
"Yeah, sure, in the car. There's a bottle of it," I responded, then added, "Why?"
"Well, it's not getting any smaller so I'm thinking if we pour some cold water on it, it might encourage it to go down a bit."
"Yeah, good idea," Derek said, "Plus it would provide some lubrication."
Derek: "Yeah, well, it's been out for a while so it's probably getting dry."
Me: "Okay, whatever."
Kevin: "Yeah, it does seem kind of dry."
Me: "Okay, I'm going to get the water."
I ran to the car and grabbed the water and I was thanking Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny that Stella was a girl and I rushed back to the park.
I handed the water over to Kevin and he unscrewed the lid and he was about to pour it on Jax when he stopped and he said, "You know, this water's a bit cold."
Derek said, "Let me see that," and he grabbed the bottle. "Oh yeah, that's pretty cold."
"I don't want to shock him or anything 'cause I don't know what that would do," Kevin said.
Me: "What are you talking about?"
Derek: "Yeah, we don't know what would happen if his penis gets immersed in too cold water too quickly."
Me: "Well, it's not going to explode or anything. I mean cold things contract, right?"
Kevin: "Yeah but it still might be too much of a shock."
So we stood there for another 20 seconds and finally Kevin looked like he had finally made up his mind about something and he said, "Okay, I'm going to swish the water around in my mouth first to warm it up and then I'll dribble it on," and then he added, "I hope no one comes into the park right now."
I was kinda wishing I wasn't in the park right then either.
Kevin glugged some water into his mouth and gurgled it while Derek stood watch to make sure the operation went smoothly. Kevin looked at Derek and nodded his head to signal that he felt the water was ready and Derek returned the nod. They were tense and held one another's gaze for a few moments, two people who understood the importance of the moment. After this, nothing was ever going to be the same.
Kevin bent over Jax and let the water run out of his mouth.
"Damn, I missed it," he said and it felt like someone trying to give someone else an emergency tracheotomy with a Bic pen and saying, "Oops, too much to the left."
Kevin took another swig of water and gurgled it around again and again Kevin and Derek gave each other their nods and Kevin bent over Jax and he lowered himself this time and then his head disappeared between Jax's legs.
You ever wish you had a video camera?
Seconds, which seemed like an eternity later, Kevin straightened up and he said, "Got it."
We three men then gathered around Jax and watched and held our breaths.
Nothing. Stiff like a little gourd.
But then just as Kevin was going to take another swig of water, we saw a movement in Jax's purple pickle, just the slightest flicker and then another and then suddenly it was obvious that blood was starting to drain out. We would've clapped if we didn't think it was going to draw attention to us. Also, clapping would've looked silly and we didn't want that.
A minute later Jax was back on his feet and whiplashing his tail, obviously overjoyed that his mouse was back in the house.
So with the morning's adventure over, I turned to leave when Kevin turned to me and he was like, "Okay, we're never going to tell anyone about this, right?" and I was like, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, no, no I'm ... this is just between the three of us."
(repost from August 2009)
I'm out with Stella and we pass by the usual bored bus stop waiters, junkies casing for unlocked car doors, schizophrenic homeless looking for their lost euphoria on the sidewalk, sin-free religious people all polished clean and neck-tied and God smiley, crack-hos with slippers hanging off their dirty feet, shirtless guy who for some strange reason is wearing a sports jacket today but still shirtless under that, baby stroller jogger plowing everyone off the sidewalk, stony faced cops on horses leaving huge piles of shit for cars to drive through and splash on pedestrians and ringing streetcars and hip hop boombox cars and honking taxis and pneumatic garbage trucks making up for lost time and then we turn off the busy street and everything is quiet.
We walk but it's a slow walk because Stella is sniffing every vertical thing coming out of the ground or she's grazing on the tips of a specific type of tall grass or she's glowering at squirrels, cats and wasps. We pass a big dragonfly on the sidewalk and I stop to look at it, see if it's still alive but it's not moving and I point to it and say, "Look Stella," and she looks and she sniffs it and for a moment I know she's thinking about how this thing might taste - somewhere between flies and bees perhaps? - but she decides against it, not that I would've let her anyway, and she backs up and looks at me, So what about it?
At the parkette, which is a small patch of ratty grass with some sandy bits and some muddy bits and a swing set and some plastic climbing apparatus which I've only ever seen teens draped over with piles of cigarette butts growing around their feet, there are no dogs and Stella is disappointed not so much because she's looking for friends but more because she's looking for new dogs to grumble her royal displeasure at so instead she spends three minutes investigating the well dowsed trunk of an old maple tree. She's like a sommelier, poring over every inch, taking deep breathes, exhaling, taking another deep breathe over the same spot, letting the scent settle in, exhaling, moving over an inch, repeating. Seriously, I don't get it. I'm more understanding of Rocky: sniff and piss, sniff and piss. Maybe it's a male thing.
At the end of the street, there is an old man, must be in his eighties, with his old terrier in a faded harness on the sidewalk ahead of us walking towards us. The old man is walking slow but his dog is walking slower, every step slower, like it's winding down, head lowered, just slightly swaying.
The man sees Stella and me and frowns and he turns around to avoid us and waits for his dog to reorient. I cross the street with Stella. Stella would be fine with his dog, too small and too old to pose any challenge to her authority, but I don't want to give the old man or his dog a heart attack. I remember how Barclay, our Bearded Collie, was when he got that old, when he couldn't hear or see very well and how he'd startle when dogs came up from behind him and how he'd lose his balance and topple over like a cartoon drunk except there was no laughter in it, just a sense of fading.
We're on the other side of the road and I look over and I see the old dog still confused about the turn in direction and then the old man bends over slowly at the hips and a bit at the knees and puts his hand on the back of his dog and just holds it there for maybe five seconds and the dog leans into that touch and looks up at the old man looking back down at him and that look they share and that feeling which binds them and gives them ease, that partnership they have which saves them from the world, buffers them against the unending aches and pains of old bodies, against the knowledge of the inevitable, it seems so, it is so good and beautiful.
(repost from May 2009)
She's very frightened when I open her kennel door and walk in and when I crouch down and put my hand out and I think she might bite and I'd deserve it too, moving too quickly, in a rush, trying to get all the new dogs' photos done. So, I back off, let her take a moment to get use to me, let her come to me and once again she recoils when I try to leash her but she does not bite and I wonder what it is in some dogs that make them hold back, even when under perceived threat, to not use their best defence and strike with their teeth. Whatever instinct it is, I am grateful and my hand comes away uninjured.
I think this one's a shaggy, powderpuff Chinese Crested but I'm terrible at breed identification, mostly because I don't really care much about ancestry. I mostly just register a dog in front of me. Big dog, little dog, friendly, shy, energetic, lazy - these adjectives seem more important to me than knowing the exact breed.
This recent arrival is a puppy mill dog and that is important to know. It explains a lot: her dirty, ragged looking fur, her smell, her anxiety. It's not hard to see her as a puppy, eager for life, full of abundant joy and giving of love - because that is how dogs come into this world, that is how over the last ten thousand years we've engineered them to be - and yet she was born and then packed into some dirty metal box where she knew no tenderness, no soft surfaces, no comforting human hand. How confused she must have been to enter into this world where all her experiences were barren, dull, a wholly empty existence. She must've cried and barked endlessly, like all the other puppy mill dogs I've seen in millers' cages, for something lacking, not even knowing what it is they cry for.
Or maybe they do know, sort of, in that wordless way all animals know when they are imprisoned, kept alive but held back from life. You can see it in the lunatic pacing of lions in concrete zoos, in the angry eyes of chimps as they throw shit at the gawking crowds, in the trancelike rocking of elephants swaying back and forth, in polar bears swimming in endless circuits until exhaustion and beyond - and hoping for what? Escape? Death?
And puppy mill dogs bark, crying for an unknown life that many will never experience.
I can't tell what this one's been through. She doesn't seem old enough yet to be a breeder and she seems too frail to be a good producer but what do I know about what goes through the brain of a puppy miller? They breed brother to sister, mother to son, Poodle to Great Dane if it gets them the market driven results they want. Dogs as commodities. Sell off the desirable ones at a good profit margin to pet stores or directly to consumers over the internet. Bury or burn the rest. Continue the cycle.
These are awful thoughts. I need to clear my head or else I risk scaring the dog even more. I'm pretty sure she'd be able to sense it, smell it, the scent of anger.
She struggles just a bit as I hold onto her collar and put the leash on but then it's on and I release the collar and she pulls back to the full extent of the leash but then after a moment she comes forward and I reach out to touch her but it's still too soon so I stand up and I lead her out of the kennel room.
"You'll be lucky if you get her very far," someone tells me as I walk outside. "She's good for about ten steps and then she wants to come back inside."
That's such a common thing with puppy mill dogs. They are institutionalized. They only know cages, bars and concrete. Introduce them into a new environment too soon and it might be too much of an emotional overload.
We make it about thirty steps and then she puts on the brakes. I could just pull her but I don't think that would make things any better so I sit down on the sidewalk and wait for her to relax.
Soon enough, she starts to explore, just a bit. She walks around, unsure of the strange feeling surfaces beneath her feet. Asphalt, soft dirt, wood chips, pebbles. Then she discovers the grass. She's happy about that. She inhales the scent of it and of the earth and of all the other dogs that have passed over that spot. Then she lies down in the grass and at first I think it's strange that she's already tired and then I realize she's not tired. She's just enjoying herself. She's feeling the wind blow by her, maybe for the first time, carrying the hope of a good, full life ahead of her.
(Repost from June 2008)
When I tell people I do volunteer work with rescue dogs, they often say something like,
"Cool, you mean like St. Bernards that go dig up people popsicles buried in avalanches?"
"No, I mean like dogs which have been rescued."
"No, not usually."
Eventually, I get across I'm talking about abandoned dogs who are looking for new homes. After this light bulb clicks on, there's one of 3 reactions:
a. a verbal "That's nice," accompanied by a mental "but really, I'm already bored and want to talk about my new kitchen counter tops."
b. disappointment like it's dinner and you're expecting the delivery guy with the fully loaded thirty six ingredient mega pizza but instead it's some kid selling waxy chocolate bars from a dirty white plastic bag while his brother paces on the sidewalk and flicks a cigarette butt into your bushes while listening to his ipod.
c. a mutually agreeable but ultimately unfulfilling discussion about the sins inflicted by man upon beast and what can be done about all that anyway since the world is going to hell in a hand basket (what does that even mean anyway?).
If that's all there was, that would be too bad but occasionally, there's a fourth reaction:
d. I'd like to help.
And that's the one that makes it all worthwhile.
Helping can mean all sorts of different things. It can be dropping a loonie into the donations box at a local shelter. It can be volunteering there. It can be keeping an open mind to adoption. It can be applying for a membership at the Humane Society or SPCA. It can be about opening one's home to fostering an animal until it gets adopted. It's mostly just about caring enough to do something, even the smallest thing, which can help make the life of a discarded pet a little more bearable.
The Indy was on this past weekend at the CNE and so TAS South was closed to the public. These summer closures (the next big one will be when the CNE comes to town) are always unfortunate because warm weather weekends often bring in lots of potential adopters. Losing a whole bunch of those weekends to event closures means some dogs end up staying in the shelter much longer before the right person sees them and adopts them out. But every location has its trade-offs so it's just something we have to live with.
Since I didn't get a chance to go in this past weekend it means no new photos this week, but this gives me a chance to do something I've been meaning to do for a while and that's to re-edit and migrate some of the old posts from One Bark at a Time over here to Pound Dogs. Yes, it's cheating but I also like to think of it as recycling. Those posts are basically gathering internet dust over at the old blog whereas bringing them over here will give them another kick at the can. I'll be reposting them here sporadically over the next few weeks.
So, for those who may have read the posts in their first incarnation, please excuse the summer reruns (I'll put a "repost" notification at the top of each one). For those reading them for the first time, I hope you enjoy them.
I should be used to it by now but I'm still amazed that someone would have dumped this amazing female German Shepherd. She's six years old and well behaved so someone must have put some time into her and then to just give her up? She's a family dog looking for a new family.