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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."

4 Comments to “Family Dogs - Tonia, Todd, Maggie and Oliver”

  1. Ian says:

    I love these family profiles.
    A smile with my coffee.

    What an adorable crew.
    Maggie reminds me of Chewbacca from Star Wars and that little one just looks like he might be a handful.

  2. Biscuit says:

    Yay! I was jonesing for a happy-ending story today. What a happy crew!

    Also, they have fantastic floors.

  3. Jake says:

    Hi Fred,
    Love this new angle at the more positive side of adoption from "the pound". I've written in before, (Moose, Loki's pups), and I'm glad to see others enjoying their dogs as much as I do mine. Just wanted to give a quick update: We have been in contact with the couple that adopted Loki and last week were able to arrange that the 2 of them met. Its scary the resemblence, and Loki has gained some weight, maybe a little extra on their too but she deserves it! I would like to thank both you and Nicola at Animal Services again for the work you do.

  4. Fred says:

    Hi Jake, thanks for the update on Moose. (Loki and her pups can be seen here,, and Moose here, If you have any photos of the reunion or just any photos of Moose, send them along (fni2 @, remove spaces) and I'll post them up. Luv to see Moose full grown.

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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.