I've seen some pretty sad stuff in my years as a volunteer at Toronto Animal Services, animals who have been abused, animals who have died. This, while not as overtly cruel nor abusive, I find heart wrenching nevertheless.

This is Basquiat now:


This is Basquiat when he was first brought to a northern Quebec pound from which he has never left:

Or rather, never left until a couple of weeks ago when he was transferred to Toronto Animal Services South. So, from the time he was eight weeks old until now when he is fully grown, Basquiat has spent his entire life alone in a cage.

I see the picture of him as a pup - and I know dogs don't have the same potential as humans in terms of what we consider "achievements" but they do have a potential for life and things good in life - and when I see the potential in that pup not fulfilled, when I see the pup's bright eyes like any pup's bright eyes, but knowing, despite the best efforts of that pound which tried to adopt him out for so long, how his curiosity will be squashed, how his joy will turn to anxiety, how his trust will not be rewarded, it makes me very sad.

And it's the contrast perhaps but there is something especially sad as well when I see a big dog so full of fright.

Outside, he tries to duck and cover whenever he hears an unidentifiable noise, sees a sudden movement out of the corner of his eye.

I stop walking and let Basquiat just stand in place for a bit. He is overwhelmed by the new environment, the new people, the new dogs walking by. I sit on the sidewalk. I can see the deeply rooted canine instinct in him wanting to come over to me, to bond with a human, but it's being sublimated by his fear of the unknown. I put the camera away. I sit and wait.

There's a lot of back and forth. He steps toward me but sometimes I reach out too soon, sometimes too fast. At one point, he settles his weight into my hand as I scratch his ears and I think, "Good," but then I raise the camera and he's away again.

It takes about half an hour. He sniffs the wind, lies down on the ground, finally lets me take his photo without any anxiety.

I have no doubt Basquiat will make a great recovery and a wonderful companion. When he bonds, that bond will be strong and for life because the yearning for human companionship is strong in him, strong enough to overcome his fear. And he will heal. He is healing already with every new kind person he meets, with every new trip outside.





The best way to check on the adoption status of this dog (and other dogs and cats and other small domestic animals) is to visit Toronto Animal Services adoption website or call 416 338 6668 for the Toronto Animal Services South shelter. If the dog is no longer on the TAS adoption website, it's probably because it's been adopted already.



31 Comments to “Basquiat - Labrador Retriever Husky mix”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I'd love to meet him and see how he takes to me. Those eyes brought tears to mine... what a sweet face. Are people able to come down to TAS & meet dogs they want to adopt or does an appointment have to be made?

  2. Anonymous says:

    hello, it's very sad people cage animals for so long.
    Does he socialize with other dogs at all?

  3. Kit Lang says:

    Oh god, this post just breaks my heart. I soooooo wish I could take him home. I hope somebody does soon. <3

  4. Monika says:

    Any info on how he is with cats?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Truly heartbreaking. I hope this special guy gets the loving family that he deserves.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Truly hartbreaking. I hope this special guy gets the loving family he deserves. Every dog deserves to experience happiness.

  7. Fr ed says:

    Basquiat seems to be really good with dogs. The staff at TAS will be testing him with cats shortly so you can try phoning them 416 338 6668 for the results (although, given his gentle nature, I suspect he'll be okay with them). As for visiting, no appointment necessary, but I'd suggest phoning ahead just make sure he's still there.

  8. Diane says:

    Basquiat... you broke my heart today... :-(

    We already have 4 adopted dogs though... our limit for our city. :-(

  9. Anonymous says:

    This story is heartbreaking.......Would the TAS consider a foster placement to help him get over his anxieties and fears which would enable him to find a permanent home? Has any of the reputable dog rescue groups been contacted to see if they can help? He needs to get out of the pound/cage environment ASAP before it's to late to rehab him.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I'm in Winnipeg - someone please take him! My heart just breaks

  11. Anonymous says:

    I'm shocked that its taken only now for us to hear about a sweetie like this being in the shelters his whole life. I really hope he spends the remaining part of his life in a big open home with a giant backyard and a loving family. Good luck to you buddy.

  12. GoodDog says:

    Oh I soooo hope this story gets him a home!

  13. Lenni says:

    Great now I'm crying.
    Oh Basquiat find a nice home...you will be loved!

  14. Bev McMullan-Kungl says:

    Hi...I love all your posts on shelter dogs, however, this one truly touched my heart. To spend all one's life in a shelter is heartbreaking and from the looks of the comments, here, it has affected everyone the same way. It's really tough to see a dog who has never known love because, afterall, dogs thrive on it and they love unconditionally. I pray that this handsome dog truly finds the love he has, so far, missed in his life.

  15. Anonymous says:

    What a sweet look he has in his eyes...it also brakes my heart to know he spent so much time in a cage. Without the love of a family, without the freedom to run in a park, interact with humans, other dogs and just do the simple things dogs do and share with their loved ones...

    He looks like he has a heart of gold and I am sure that the person that gets to adopt him not only will have a big heart but the patience, love and dedication that will bring out the best in him. I am sure that person will receive in return all the love he was never able to give back...and when that someone takes him home, they will eventually realize they have found a treasure in you..

    God bless you Basquiat :) I hope you find that loving home that you deserve very soon...

    All my love and good wishes to you and to the person that adopts you.

  16. Jane DuBroy says:

    Thanks to your post, I'm sure Basquiat will have a home before long. We have a 'Rez' dog -- a rescue from a native reserve who was adopted out to someone who kept her tied up or crated for her first 5 months. Thankfully, some kind neighbours persuaded the owner to give the dog up, and we were lucky enough to adopt her. And believed me, for the dog it was a case of, 'Look our World -- here I come!' I hope the same will be true of B some day soon.

    Fred, congratulations on winning the Toronto Star short story contest! Anyone who follows your blog will not be a bit surprised. I look forward to the publication!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Jane D, you are an angel... :) Your dog is the luckiest dog in the world to have you! I am sure that Basquiat and the many others out there waiting to receive the love and care of loving parents will be as lucky and deserving as well... :)

    Adopting is truly an admirable and great act of kindness and love...

    G

  18. treestreet says:

    Baz, you've got that little smile going in the second last pic. Still hope in your heart, Kid. Dogs are the most forgiving creatures on the planet. If people were more like dogs there would be no wars. Baz, you are gorgeous and sexy and lots of us are rooting for you. If I was able I'd take you in a minute.
    Every dog wants to be called "sexy" and acknowledged as such. Try it with a passing dog and see their faces light up. Works every time for me.

  19. TAS, maybe he should go to a rescue where he can run outside with a pack... All Heart Rescue in Powassan or I am Alive in Brockville?

  20. Anonymous says:

    What a beautiful piece of writing Fred! Made me cry and wish I was younger and could rush down and apply to give him a home. My old dog would love that! He is a lovely dog with such a soulful expression. I hope he finds a loving home for the rest of his life to show him that life on the "outside" with kind people and dog friends to meet and new smells to explore will be so good.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Any update? Does he have a home yet?

  22. Fr ed says:

    Yes, Basquiat is home.

  23. Keith says:

    I am very happy to not see him on TAS' adoptable list.

  24. Bev McMullan-Kungl says:

    I just checked in to see what happened to Basquiat and I'm so very happy to see that he is home. Hurrah!!! Thank you so much for letting us know. Perhaps another update (once he has settled in) might be a great idea to show us, all, how happy he is now.

  25. Kit Lang says:

    Yay!!!!!! I just saw that he has a home. I was so worried about him. Thanks for posting about him and helping him find his home. :)

  26. Hi everyone. My wife and I adopted Basquiat - we are calling him Luke - after seeing his picture and reading the brief description a couple of weeks ago on Pet Finder. We went down to the Toronto shelter and spent some time and decided he was the one for us. It's been more than two wonderful weeks with this amazing dog. He is bonding with us beautifully and although he has his shy moments it's amazing how he is with us in just a short time. We have started dog training classes and he seems eager to please. He started off the first couple of days sleeping on the first floor of our house. The next couple of days, the second floor and finally he made it to the top floor. He is very mellow and relaxed and I think very happy to have a real home. We take him on 4 walks a day - parks, off-lead areas, high park. He's great with other dogs and people and is learning so much. We shower him with love and his trust grows each day. We have a big backyard for him to play. He is very loving with our niece who lives right behind our house - a double-backyard really. We are all really happy. I came across this blog when I was looking into the shelter he came from and the conditions he lived in to try to understand him a bit better. It was so wonderful to get a little more insight here and to learn how much he touched everyone's heart. We feel so lucky to have found each other.

  27. Fr ed says:

    Hi Jeffrey, thanks so much for adopting and for the update on Luke. I know a lot of people are eager to hear how he's doing. He's garnered a lot of fans. If you ever feel like sending along (iwantapounddog at gmail dot com) any photos of him in his new digs, I'd be happy to post them up. Cheers.

  28. Bev McMullan-Kungl says:

    Hi Jeffrey
    I knew that some special people would come along and adopt Basquiat and here you are!!! Luke (aka Basquait) is very lucky to have found you and I'm sure that you feel lucky for having found him. There are so many beautiful dogs out there, however, this dog touched all of our hearts.
    I just want to thank you for adopting this fantastic dog. I know that he will love you unconditionally for the rest of his life. He will always be there for you and will be your very best friend.
    I wish you all well. One more thing...pictures would be great!!! LOL

  29. daisyben says:

    Jeffrey,

    I am so glad I slept on my decision whether or not to adopt Basquiat (now Luke) after taking him out for a walk the day before you adopted him. Although I'm close to parks, I don't have a yard. The folks at TAS really thought he needed one. I called that morning and found he was adopted. Isn't he a sweetheart? His demeanour really touched me.

    PS: I'm still searching for a dog. Fred: have you visited the 18-year-old Cheyenne yet? She's an owner-surrender and apparently has the vibe of a dandy nine-year-old. I have stairs, so I'm not sure my home is suitable. What a face!

  30. Anonymous says:

    i'm so happy for this guy to have found such a wonderful family and home. i was considering adopting him, but don't have much of a backyard and already have a timid rescue. not sure that our situation would have been ideal for him. thank you for taking him into your live Jeffrey. this dog has touched quite a few hearts.

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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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