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"... there were times where he had to use multiple shots ... blew off the side of a head of one dog and the dog was running off with her eye hanging out and he had to try and use a scope to kill her."

The abuse of sled dogs by tour operators in Canada happens all too often and the recent news of the cull in the B.C. of 100 sled dogs by an employee of Outdoor Adventures Whistler is just another example of this. I wasn't going to post anything on this act of barbarism ... and then I heard the interview on CBC's "As It Happens".

The guy who did all the killing successfully applied for disability claiming post traumatic stress disorder as a result of slaughtering all the dogs. So is this now going to be a new revenue stream for all the animal abusers out there?

100 dogs who were worked, malnourished, chained, and then blown to bits by shotgun or the guy pumping the shotgun. Who are the real victims here?

A couple of weeks ago, 4 Labradoodle puppies were brought into TAS from a puppy mill. Here's a short e-mail describing their condition along with some photos taken just after they were rescued from the mill.

The Labra-Doodle pups are terrified. They were starving and devoured the food I gave them. The pups were not getting fed enough in the mill James, so they really growl at each other and fight over food. They are like wolf pups when it comes to food. You will need to feed them in several dishes.

The puppies were soaking in their own piss and feces - the condition in which they were kept at the mill. They had no concept of what it was to not live, eat and sleep in their own filth. Their lack of exposure to people, or at least caring people, made them cower whenever someone approached.

The staff and volunteers at Toronto Animal Services South have all been helping in rehabilitating the Labradoodle pups and all four have improved tremendously. I'll post photos of them over the next few days as I get them processed.

Coby, an outgoing, happy dog, came in with Toonie (yesterday's post) and along with Toonie was left abandoned in an apartment for five days before being discovered.

For adoption information on this and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Quite timid initially but warms up quickly. Toonie, who came in with another dog (Coby), was left abandoned by his owner in an apartment for five days before being discovered.

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Amazingly laid back and friendly personality. I wouldn't be surprised if the first person who goes to see this guy, takes him home.

Update on Max here.

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

It was getting dark and the snow was falling so I only had enough time to take photos of the blue Great Dane but I'm happy to say that all three dogs have improved much since the last time I saw them about a week ago.

Cone, renamed Connor, is doing wonderfully. His personality is really shining through and it turns out he's like a happy pup. He bounds through the snow like a gazelle, or I imagine he would if he weren't on leash, and loves to play with whoever will indulge him. He's a bit nippy, like a puppy, but immediately stops when given a vocal warning. Inside, when I sat down, he placed his chin on the seat beside me and when I patted the empty spot, he jumped up and curled up beside me.

The fawn Dane has become very friendly with people. She's settled into her environment at TAS and is no longer nervous about the outside world. She likes to jump up and place her front paws on your shoulders and look you in the eyes - care to dance? - which should probably be a habit to be discouraged considering she's taller than a lot of people when she's standing on her hind legs.

There was some worry with the blue Dane a few days ago when she started throwing up and refused to eat anything for four days. She was already skinny enough and the four day diet certainly didn't help. I thought she was maybe 20 - 30 pounds underweight but yesterday when I weighed her, she was only 80 pounds which makes her more like 50 pounds underweight judging by her height.

Some nice people from the local Great Dane Meetup group brought in a few Great Dane jackets (basically, mini horse coats) last week which was very timely considering the cold snap this weekend. Still, I didn't want to keep the blue Dane outside too long - just long enough to snap a few pics.

I really like the personality of this one. She's a considerate, gentle girl and when she gets some weight on, she'll be a real beauty.

Update on the fawn Dane, Dane Judy, here.

Update on the blue Dane, Jorja, here.

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Over a year ago, four Doberman pups turned up at Toronto Animal Services. Two of them were kinda typical behaviourally but the other two were rather timid (check them out here).

Both of the timid ones, Buddy and Jeffrey, were adopted out (as well as the other two) and TAS has been getting updates on them.

The owner of Buddy, now called Goober, sent in some photos:

The owner of Jeffrey, now Ryker, wrote:

Well a year later and I wanted to give you an update on Ryker(formerly Jeffrey). What a smart pup and he's turned out to be a handsome adult, he's finally grown into his body lol and he's still gaining weight.....He is a great companion and he's settled in with us very well, we've taken him through two levels of obedience plus basic agility, he's happiest when learning!!!

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Freckles, a Beagle of sorts, came into Toronto Animal Services back in October of 2010. This is what he looked like back then:

Recently, his owner sent in some photos of Freckles, now Indie, in his new home:

I just wanted to send you an update on Indie, otherwise known as "Freckles", that I adopted from your shelter in October.

He's doing awesome and he's a joy to have in my life. We are already very attached and I love him so much!

A couple of weeks ago, there was an e-mail from the Companion Animal Adoption Centres of Quebec saying four Great Danes in that province were needing new homes. Toronto Animal Services South offered to take in two of them and they were transported to the shelter last week.

I spent some time with the two of them on Saturday.

The blue female Dane is purebred. She is approximately two years old, which for a Dane is barely out of adolescence. Her coat is a beautiful blue, almost purple and she has very long legs. She's unfortunately very malnourished. I'd say she's at least twenty pounds underweight. I couldn't keep her outside for more than five minutes before she started trembling from the cold.

Despite the neglect at the hands of her previous owner, she is still a real sweetheart. She is a little shy at first but once she knows you are friendly, she becomes very affectionate. She is not leash trained but doesn't pull too badly. She seems to know her sit and down commands in French.

The day I saw her, she was sneezing and snorting like she had a bit of a head cold. Now I've been updated that she started throwing up and TAS had to send her to a vet clinic to have her tested and monitored. I hope she makes it back okay.

The second Great Dane is a fawn. She is not purebred but she's definitely got a whole lot of Dane in her. She's certainly as tall as a typical Dane. Something about her face makes me think maybe she's got some Lab in her. Also the colouring of her coat reminds me of a Lab's.

She is also approximately two years old but this girl has been used for breeding.

I got the feeling when I was walking her that she may not have been allowed outside much, if at all. She may have been kept in cage for most of her life, as many puppy mill dogs are, as she is reverse house trained in that she pees as soon as she is brought back into her kennel. She's also got some skin irritations which suggests she may have come from a dirty living environment.

When I took her outside, she was extremely curious but somewhat cautious about nearly everything: the snow, vehicles, buildings. She is also somewhat malnourished though that may have something to do with her recent pregnancy.

Regardless of this girl's breeding and history, she's got a Great Dane's gentle disposition. While it seems she hasn't had a lot of contact with people, she wants to meet them, find out what they're about. I hope she's not disappointed.

More on these two here.

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Oliver attacks Maggie full on. Maggie, a French Briard, is a good sport about it. She's about four times bigger than Oliver, who's a Lhasa Apso/Terrier cross, so she bows down to give him a fighting chance. Pretty soon they are two jumbles of fur rolling on the ground. It's like watching two shag carpets wrestling. You can tell they're having fun because hair's flying all over the place.

Tonia, Director of Communications at Second Harvest, got Oliver from Toronto Animal Services South two and a half years ago when he was just over a year old. Someone had sent her a photo of Oliver in his kennel and she went down to TAS and immediately decided to take him home.

"We adopted Oliver because I met him and felt an instant connection to him," Tonia says. "Todd [Tonia's husband, a trader in capital markets for RBC] and I had talked about getting another dog before that, but it wasn’t a serious conversation. I did just bring Oliver home and when we saw that he was good with cats and Maggie approved, we knew he would be staying. He just fit with our family really well, pretty much instantly. I didn’t have to do much convincing of Todd – he loves animals almost as much as I do. And it really wasn’t much of a difference going from one dog to two dogs, in terms of workload. Oliver adjusted to our schedule really quickly. He responds well to structure."

I ask Tonia if there's a hierarchy amongst all the animals.

"[Oliver and Maggie] are both pretty easy going. Maggie is definitely the leader though, as the older first ‘kid’ she definitely showed Oliver the ropes. He really just follows her around. He loves his big sis! Oliver is definitely more protective of our home, but overall Maggie calls the shots.

"Oliver really gets along with the cats, playing, bathing and interacting with them. Maggie really isn’t interested in cats, never has been. She doesn’t mind them but she would never play with them."

I sit down on the floor with Oliver and Maggie and immediately Maggie comes over and gives me a face wash with her tongue. Coming from my own house with two dogs who don't kiss unless there's peanut butter smeared on you, this comes a bit of a surprise. I lean over to say hello to Oliver and I get the same treatment from him.

When I take photos of a dog, I make high pitched noises or snap my fingers or bribe with treats to try to get the dog to look in the camera. Often there are other distractions competing for the dog's attention. In Oliver's case, it's Tonia. He can't seem to take his eyes off her. I ask her about that and she tells me she's been taking him to agility classes. That's where dogs are trained to run an obstacle course with tunnels, A-frames, seesaws and an assortment of other props which keep the dog's mind sharp and body healthy. She says that one of the other benefits of the agility training is that Oliver has become very focused on her.

I make a clicky noise with my tongue and Oliver gives me a half second glance and then focuses right back on Tonia.

Tonia laughs. "He's kind of obsessed with me," she says.

Maggie, Tonia and Todd's first dog, was purchased from a breeder. But, Tonia tells me "even though we absolutely love Maggie (and know that our breeder is responsible) we would never go to a breeder again just because the shelter is a goldmine of wonderful companions. It just doesn’t make sense to me to encourage increased population when there are so many incredible dogs waiting in shelters for a good home."

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

This little German Shepherd mix pup is being kenneled together with the Australian Shepherd puppy because he calms the other pup right down. Seeing the two of them play together is an instant happy pill even though it's pretty obvious that this one is an evil little monkey.

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

25% of door admissions will be going to Helping Homeless Pets.

The floods and resulting landslides in Brazil over the last few days have killed over 500 people already. This video of a woman and her dog trapped in the midst of raging waters and the rescue attempt is both poignant and heart wrenching.

Sometimes I wonder why I dedicate the time I do into shelter dogs. Perhaps I should be spending more time decorating the house or playing video games or shopping. There are so many other commonly accepted pastimes but instead I go to the shelter. Is there something wrong with me? I sometimes seriously wonder if I'm exhibiting aberrant behaviour. I mean, what's the big draw with these dogs anyway?

I was thinking a lot about this while I was laid up in bed with the flu over Christmas watching Food Network. For some reason, the simple plotting of the shows on that channel was just about right for my groggy but bored, fever fueled frame of mind. As I watched, I became fascinated with the amount of effort put into food, finding food, preparing food, eating food, talking about food, yelling and crying and cheering over food and I thought to myself, Hey how come I'm not spending more time on food? Seriously, that's what I was thinking.

After I was well enough to crawl out of bed, I did indeed go to the grocery store and I bought a few items and made a few recipes I'd gleaned from Jamie Oliver and some other lesser known chefs (at least lesser known to me) but I knew the food thing wasn't going to last. I really appreciate food, especially good food, but I prefer eating over preparing. I'm a decent enough cook but that's only because I want to eat decent food especially if I have to go to the trouble of making it. If someone else made it for me, I'd be just as happy if not happier. And while I might occasionally have cravings for certain dishes, food doesn't make the type of impression on me where I feel I need to write or have long conversations about it.

Nevertheless, that little sidetrack into foodie land and other people's interests and obsessions did make me wonder about my own. I couldn't get rid of nagging little doubts about the worthiness of my preoccupations. There are so many problems in the world: birds falling from the sky, earthquakes and floods, Snooki. Or never mind all the external troubles that need looking after, what about the internal ones, like self-actualization and spiritual enlightenment? How can helping a bunch of dogs be more important than spiritual enlightenment? Perhaps I really need to start meditating or doing yoga. Or dancing. I hear you can get enlightened through dance.

A couple of days ago, I happened to come across the Animal Planet show "Pitbulls and Parolees". It's a reality TV show and the title tells it like it is. A woman in California, Tia Maria Torres, runs a sanctuary for Pit Bulls, the Villalobos Rescue Center, and hires parolees to help her look after the place. There are moments in the show when the dramatics are somewhat overdone in editing but for the most part, I find it's balanced and rather nuanced which for a show called "Pitbulls and Parolees" is surprising.

Here's Tia Torres, herself, talking about the sanctuary (click on image to play):

The ex-cons of "Pitbulls and Parolees" are hard asses no doubt and as I watched episodes of the show back to back, I saw how working with the dogs and forming bonds with the dogs slowly transformed them. They expressed their happiness when a dog was successfully adopted; they shed tears when a dog was euthanized. It's not like Villalobos was turning ex-cons into refined hipsters who could talk about their feelings with their girlfriends and make interesting art with their iPads but there was some manner of redemption going on there and it wouldn't have happened without the dogs.

Suddenly I felt better, snapped out of my self-doubting funk. The modern dog is a creature born to nurture and heal our emotions. For some people, a dog is better at uplifting their spirits than the highest paid doctors and psychiatrists; for some people, a dog gets through to their humanity deeper than the most earnest teachers and preachers. I guess I'm one of those people.

I figure for this life long service dogs provide us, it's not too big a deal for me to give them a helping hand when they need it. The next time I'm at the shelter on a Sunday morning, instead of sitting down to brunch at one of the trendy neighbourhood restos or chillin in front of my TV with a bowl of Cap'n Crunch and watching UFC and NASCAR outtakes, I can tell myself that spending some time with these dirty, used, abused and discarded dogs isn't such a crazy notion after all.

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.


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.