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Sometimes a dog comes into Toronto Animal Services and it's hard to see how it will ever make it back out. Shera was such a dog, so fearful of every new stranger who walked by her and at the same time in such mourning over the absence of her owner who had just passed away that she would try to tear apart everything in her kennel every night - the bedding, the water bowl, the metal door - and in the process injure herself and in the morning, drops of blood everywhere.

There was no previous abuse here. If Shera suffered, it was because she loved too much, as some dogs do, and couldn't bare to be without her owner but this combination of stress around strangers and separation anxiety made it seem unlikely that a suitable person would step forward in time to take her out of the shelter before her anxiety levels reached a point where nothing further could be done.

You always wanted to say, if only someone could see past this to the other side of her because the other side of her was beautiful. Once trust was established - and it didn't take long but it took longer than the cute doggie in the next kennel who wagged its tail and batted its eyes at every passer by - Shera was gently affectionate, attentive, calm. She was a very appreciative companion.

Shera spent several weeks at Toronto Animal Services and over those weeks her stranger stress diminished somewhat. She no longer hid in the back corner of her kennel every time someone walked by but her separation anxiety still manifested itself every night with the destruction of her bedding.

Some of the staff took her home for overnights to see if some of her anxiety was shelter based and they reported back that she was fine with them. No messes, no damage done to the house, no wild behaviour. But they never left her alone by herself in their homes. The test didn't go that far.

For those first several weeks, Shera was held back from general adoption because of her behaviour but now that she was somewhat better, at least around people, she was given a chance. Whoever was interested in her would have everything explained to them, all her issues. Given that there were several other dogs with no such baggage also looking for homes, we all figured she'd be bypassed by most everyone and that she'd be in adoption for weeks if not longer. Separation anxiety and anxiety around strangers have no quick, easy, magic cures (it can be done but requires work and diligence) and life in a shelter is no fairy tale with a guaranteed happily ever after.

It was a surprise then that it was less than a week when a couple came into the shelter and asked to spend time with her. And even more of a surprise when they asked if they could adopt her. All her problems were explained to them but they said their last dog also had similar issues and they were willing to give it a try. One of them was home most of the day anyway so that would be a big help. From what I heard about the interview, it didn't sound like anyone was going to talk them out of taking Shera home. They had spent months looking for their next dog after their old one passed away and they were sure Shera was the one. It sounded like they had seen the other side of her and had already fallen in love.

From friends, newspapers, blogs, facebook, every day I hear about terrible things terrible people have done to their pets. Every day the message is reinforced that people are no good, people are rotten, people are habitually selfish and casually evil. It's too easy to forget that no rescue would ever succeed if this were the only truth about people. People are also decent and kind and generous. People give these abandoned animals second chances. People take these poor souls home and give them warmth and food and show them love and compassion. Rescues only succeed because even though someone may have done a bad deed, someone else steps forward to do a good one.

I have hope that Shera's adoption will succeed. I was in at TAS on Saturday and saw one of the adopters back visiting Shera. Shera won't be ready to go home until Tuesday and her new owner wanted to hang out with her. I saw them together as they passed me, walking side by side, friendship growing, this time goodness prevailing.

12 Comments to “Shera's hope”

  1. siouxee says:

    Good luck, Shera. All you needed was a chance, and some understanding. I understand you, from afar, but I do. Taz used to be that way, but he isn't any longer. You'll be fine, and if things fail, Fred will help you (smile).

  2. deva says:

    Keeping my fingers crossed for Shera. I have been through this with a dog and it isn't easy. The first year was tough. I hope her family can look toward the future and stand by her. I wish her luck and much love in her life.

  3. Erin says:

    I am so glad! It just takes one (or in this case two) good heart(s) and patience and the rewards are immeasurable for everyone.

    I must admit that I was struck by how much she looks like our Mabel and with her age, I wondered if there was chance they were related somehow. I suppose stranger things have happened!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the hope, and also for the reminder: we aren't the be all and end all, we are just the custodians. It is the adoptors who really matter, who make our jobs worthwhile by caring enough to reach out for the sick, the abandoned and the terrified.

    Love might not be enough, but without it, there is no hope at all. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy, and so much more.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Lovely post, Fred. Best wishes to Shera and her new parents this week as they begin their difficult but highly rewarding journey.

    "Rescues only succeed because even though someone may have done a bad deed, someone else steps forward to do a good one."

    I continue to hope that there will always be more good deeds than bad.

  6. Vida says:

    Uplifting story and I wish Shera and her new parents, truly, all the best.

  7. Lynn says:

    Oh, I hope it works out for Shera. Nothing breaks my heart more than the story of a dog who's had a lifetime of love and then lost their person suddenly. What must it be like to be in a shelter after that? I look at my own troup and can't imagine how they'd survive such a journey. Shera, you beautiful girl, hang in there baby.

    I hope you'll be able to follow-up on this story and let us know how things work out.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What a happy story, I hope she does very well with her new parents. I also hope there's a follow-up story in the future on this beautiful creature!


  9. Rika says:

    Thank you for this beautiful post, it really made my day. I wish Shera and her new family all the best!

  10. mel says:

    It just takes one person to see past that, huh? :] If you do hear from the new owners after adoption, please let us know how things are going.

  11. Laura HP says:

    I am so, so glad she got adopted, she seriously needed to get out of there. Fingers crossed that it all works out and she never has to worry about a shelter again!

  12. Anonymous says:

    What a beautifully written story Fred. It made me weep, and smile at the same time. I think the same can be said about how we humans treat (and don't treat) one another: to never leave anyone behind, no matter their state of mind or behaviour... Thank you for this, I wish the adopters all the best in the world.

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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.