(Warning: this post contain a somewhat graphic image. It's the first image in the post, so scroll by that one and look away if you don't want to see it. The rest aren't so bad. All photos in this post were taken by E.J. Lazaga unless stated otherwise.)
I've been having a hard time with this for a few months now and usually when I have a hard time writing something, it's because I'm uncertain about it.
In February this year, I became a director of the Toronto Humane Society. This is a temporary, appointed position to fill in a vacancy left by a departing director and this position will last about another three weeks when the Annual General Meeting will be held and where, if I am to stay on the board, I will need to be voted in by the membership.
The last time I was elected for anything was when I was ten and chosen by my cohorts to throw a snowball at the high school bully down the block who had caved in our snowfort. The following action resulted in a fat lip. Hopefully, these elections will be less exciting.
But the elections aren't what I'm uncertain about. I'm offering my services and if the membership chooses to accept the offer then I've got more work on my plate. If they choose a better prepared candidate over me then I can finally catch up on "Game of Thrones" - people at work are talking about the show and I've got nothing to add to that conversation.
The thing I was uncertain about, with regards to the THS, was the same thing a lot of people in Toronto are uncertain about when it comes to the THS and that is whether or not the THS is a worthwhile enough agency to contribute one's time, energy and money. The THS does good work - there's no doubt about that - but a lot of individuals, rescue groups, other agencies - like Toronto Animal Services - do good work. With the THS comes significant overhead costs, funding issues, constant rumblings of internal discord and then there's that matter of trust. The bad taste left behind by the scandals of the previous administration (who are all gone now) still keeps the public doubting the sincerity and efficacy of the organization.
So, given my own doubts, I kept asking myself, Do I really want to get mired in the politics of the Toronto Humane Society?
Then, I heard about Angel.
Angel arrived at the THS in early February of this year.
She was an owner surrender. The owners could no longer take care of her or her medical bills. The demodex mange which had taken over her entire body seemed relentless, allegedly made worse by an improper prescription of steroids by a vet. Angel was bleeding. She was in pain. Almost all her fur had fallen out or had been scratched off. Her feet were so swollen, they looked like they'd been skinned. Parts of her face looked like hamburger.
Eric Jensen, a THS staffer at the front desk saw Angel when she was brought in. He said he'd never seen an animal look worse.
Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly given what we know about dogs, Angel still managed to walk up to him and wag her tail.
The THS took Angel in and Eric volunteered to foster her. Angel turned out to be a six month old pup, a probable mix of Bull Terrier, Boxer, Collie and others. Her initial regimen was two medicated baths a week to treat and relieve her mange ridden skin, daily doses of medicine and supplements, bi-weekly skin scrapes to check on the progress of the mange, along with shots of antibiotics.
Three hundred mites were found on Angel's first skin scrape. I've seen skin scrapes. It's only a very small patch of skin from which the vet samples.
The following photos, taken on each of Angel's visits to the THS vets over the next three months, tell the story better than I possibly could. Start from the first image above then scroll through all the following images. If these don't renew your hope for whatever goodness in this world you seek, then I don't know what will.
February 22, 2013
March 2, 2013 (notice her duck boots to keep her from scratching herself)
March 15, 2013
March 30, 2013
April 13, 2013
April 27, 2013
Not surprisingly, Eric has decided to adopt Angel. The way he describes her now, Angel sounds like so many other nine month old puppies: tons of energy, happy and friendly with everyone, tail wags so hard it's like a weapon, loves fetch, has started carrying a ball around. And, her last skin scrape yielded no mites.
Eric also has another foster dog and a sixteen year old palliative care foster cat. I ask him about the other staff, if they all have fosters in their care as well and generally they do. The care of animals started out as a responsibility for most of them long before it became a job.
This is what amazes me most about the Toronto Humane Society: all these people who have gathered together to help animals. People don't go into animal welfare as a career expecting to get famous or rich or powerful. Salaries are not great and job security is uncertain. There aren't even the lavish, more publicly celebrated accolades associated with other charities of a more anthropocentric nature to look forward to. Animal welfare work is a compulsion to do good for those creatures who will probably never be able to say thank you but who thank you nevertheless with their good health and better lives.
We need the Toronto Humane Society because it's not just a shelter for homeless animals but it also provides inspiration for those who believe people are capable of looking beyond themselves and that compassion for others extends to compassion for the most vulnerable.
The Toronto Humane Society is and needs to be a good and better role model.
Going forward with Pound Dogs, I'm going to start occasionally posting more in-depth profiles of some of the dogs who arrive at the THS looking for shelter. I'd like to share their journeys with you from their intake to, hopefully, their adoption.
If you don't already, I hope you'll consider supporting the THS, maybe by becoming a member or making a donation. It's a good thing they do and you know they're going to need your help to keep doing it.
Here are some stats on the THS for 2012:
Almost 3000 animals were adopted out.
Over 2000 animals have been fixed since the THS Low Cost Spay Neuter Clinic was open last summer.
Over 36,000 volunteer hours were logged.
Over 1000 palliative, special needs and juvenile animals were placed into foster care.