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Val d'Or is a city about 400 km north of Montreal. Someone found gold there in 1923 and it's been a mining town ever since, but more recently it's been beleaguered with high unemployment and low incomes. Add to that the rather lousy weather (191 days of annual precipitation, -23C average temperature in January) and perhaps that's why Val d'Or has won the dubious award of being one of the worst places to live in Canada, though I'm not sure a magazine about personal finance is necessarily the best source I'd go to for advice on where to live, but regardless, ranking that low is probably not a good sign.

It's not a surprise then that the local SPCA in Val d'Or is underfunded. Sure, saying that any animal charity is underfunded is like saying black is dark but when underfunding means that abandoned animals are still being gassed to death because killing with gas is cheaper, then there's a real problem.

Last week I was cc'd on some emails sent out by CAACQ on behalf of SPCA de Val D'Or. They were looking for assistance in adopting out 16 of their dogs. Often when I get emails from high kill shelters looking for help in rehoming their dogs, I don't look at the accompanying photos because I hate looking at pictures of dogs who are probably going to be dead in a week - all those hopeful stares. If I look at the photos and do nothing, it feels like I'm the one sticking the needle in and pushing the plunger, or in Val d'Or's case, slamming the door and hitting the gas release switch.

I was tempted to just trash all sixteen emails and I did at one point but I never deleted them from the trash. I ended up perusing the written descriptions of each dog. There were sixteen emails and each email had the profile of one dog attached and each dog was numbered from 1 to 16.

One especially piqued my interest. It said the dog was a Berger Anglais which I knew meant an Old English Sheepdog. When our dog Smitten first arrived from Quebec, she too was described as an Old English Sheepdog (though she turned out to be a Bearded Collie) so then, of course, I had to look at the photo.

In the photo, it was obvious the dog was large, all white and could maybe be an Old English with its coat shaved down or a poodle mix of some kind. It was wearing a red scarf, lying on the wooden floor of what looked like someone's house. It didn't appear as if the photo was taken in a shelter. Maybe a photo taken by the original owner in happier times, then - not that it mattered now. I stared at the picture for a few minutes, enlarged it in Photoshop, compared it with images on Google and still couldn't really distinguish the breed with certainty.

Regardless of breed, I got the usual sick feeling thinking about how it might be gassed if someone didn't volunteer to take it in. Then it got personalized to "What if this were Smitten?" because even though it didn't look exactly like her, it did look sort of like her with her hair trimmed. And then, having looked at the one photo, I had to look at all the rest and that was an even bigger mistake. There were Poodles, German Shepherds, Labs, Pekingese, Spaniels, some young puppies and a bunch of mutts or maybe they were all mutts to varying degrees. I couldn't tell and again, it didn't matter.

What mattered was that these dogs might not be long for this world and I regretted having looked at any their faces.

I left the computer, did some work around the house. Later, I was back in front of the monitor working on some photos.

Email went "ping".

I opened it up. It was from James at Toronto Animal Services. The subject line said:


and the body of the message was:

i will take this dog

I looked up the dog #3 email and saw it was a female Bichon puppy, named Cherly (Cheryl? Shirley?), 3 months old.

Well, that's one at least, I thought and then went back to working on photos.

Email went ping again.

This time it was in regards to dog #2 and it was the same message:

i will take this dog

Dog #2 was also a puppy, Bosco, related to Cherly, white fur instead of black.

So maybe he'll take all the puppies I thought. And why not? After all, puppies, especially small breed puppies, would be easy to adopt out.

Then email pinged again and this time there were three more emails and I saw the rest of the pups were indeed going to be taken but now also Tao, a one year old male Lab mix, 80 pounds.

I got a total of seven emails. Seven dogs saved. But then the emails stopped. The Berger Anglais wasn't one of the chosen ones.

At the end of the evening, I turned off my computer and I tried not to think about the dog with the red scarf who didn't look exactly like Smitten but sort of did.

(I'll continue this post tomorrow.)

7 Comments to “The dogs from Val d'Or, Part 1”

  1. Unknown says:

    Take her Fred...I was so haunted by one of the puppy mill dogs from the ARC raid in Tennessee that she is on her way up here on April 27th. Probably insane and irrational, not to mention expensive, but fate acted in such a way as to put her in my heart and my mind and I could not leave her. Follow your heart, screw your led by your is good for the soul.

  2. Biscuit says:

    She does look like Smitten.

    James is awesome.

  3. mel says:

    @Joanne, you're awesome.

    Agreed with Biscuit - James is also awesome.

    I have a feeling there is more awesomeness to come tomorrow (please please please)

  4. C'mon, Fred, see if big ole' Whitey is still available...see if s/he is okay with other dogs and go for it :-).

    Might be the angle of the photo, but his/her face looks slightly Wheaten Terrier to me, there might be a few strands in the DNA mix.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Fred, if you ever, ever do this again, I swear I will catch an overnight flight and be at your door by dawn, to deliver a serious lecture about the effects of cliffhangers on little old ladies' hearts! Arrrggghhh! *PULL-EEZE* tell me that all the rest were saved.....

  6. Biscuit says:

    Joanne, which dog was she?

  7. Unknown says:

    Here she is her name is Freedom.!/photo.php?fbid=200902449943085&set=pu.164981283535202&type=1&theater
    I contacted Michael Cunningham of ARC by clicking on his link on the slideshow which took me to his Facebook page. I tracked this dog for a week – I could not get her face out of my mind, she haunted me. Michael pulled her from a dark hellhole of a rabbit hutch…no food, no water, no vet care, no sunshine, no human contact. Michael got me her ID number. I contacted the rescue co-ordinator for ARC and every rescue mentioned in the ARC press release that were taking dogs. I finally found her in Lebanon, Tennessee. The lady who runs the rescue is very, very concerned and has been lovely helping me. In any event, they asked how I would get her to Canada and I said, despite my reservations about the care and concern of airline employees, that I would fly her. The lady came back and said that one of their employees had a fiancee in Ontario and that he had offered to drive her here. So, voila Freedom is on her way April 27th. While I am here I would like to put out a few feelers. New Leash on Life Rescue has a little pap, Little Man (he is enough to break your heart) , who desperately needs a home and Michael Cunningham of ARC (who flew from California to Tennessee for this rescue, is particularly concerned with a little blind-in-one-eye chihuahua he named Possum. If you can help, jump in…heart first. If you can help the Val D’Or dogs…jump in. If you can help and need contact information, please email me at BTW, Maggie Shuter, who runs Animal Adoption Montreal rehoming the purebred cats, is the Quebec liason for ARC.

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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.