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(Repost from June 2008)

When I tell people I do volunteer work with rescue dogs, they often say something like,

"Cool, you mean like St. Bernards that go dig up people popsicles buried in avalanches?"
"No, I mean like dogs which have been rescued."
"From avalanches?"
"No, not usually."
"Why not?"

Eventually, I get across I'm talking about abandoned dogs who are looking for new homes. After this light bulb clicks on, there's one of 3 reactions:

a. a verbal "That's nice," accompanied by a mental "but really, I'm already bored and want to talk about my new kitchen counter tops."

b. disappointment like it's dinner and you're expecting the delivery guy with the fully loaded thirty six ingredient mega pizza but instead it's some kid selling waxy chocolate bars from a dirty white plastic bag while his brother paces on the sidewalk and flicks a cigarette butt into your bushes while listening to his ipod.

c. a mutually agreeable but ultimately unfulfilling discussion about the sins inflicted by man upon beast and what can be done about all that anyway since the world is going to hell in a hand basket (what does that even mean anyway?).

If that's all there was, that would be too bad but occasionally, there's a fourth reaction:

d. I'd like to help.

And that's the one that makes it all worthwhile.

Helping can mean all sorts of different things. It can be dropping a loonie into the donations box at a local shelter. It can be volunteering there. It can be keeping an open mind to adoption. It can be applying for a membership at the Humane Society or SPCA. It can be about opening one's home to fostering an animal until it gets adopted. It's mostly just about caring enough to do something, even the smallest thing, which can help make the life of a discarded pet a little more bearable.

9 Comments to “No thanks, I gave at the office”

  1. Grace R. says:

    My 10-year-old cousin, upon meeting my dog and me telling him he was a rescue dog, replied with "Who does he rescue?" LOL. He was awfully disappointed to learn that he was not, in fact, a "rescue dog", but only a rescued dog. Sigh.

    When I mentioned I foster dogs I usually get, "Oh wow, that's amazing. I couldn't do that because I couldn't let them go". Yes well, that is why dogs sit in shelters and rescues, because you don't want to be sad when they go off to a forever home. Makes sense. Or when people see me interacting with a foster in a loving way they say, "Aww, you're going to keep him/her, aren't you...?". Umm no, just because I love a dog and treat it like it's my pet, even though it's my foster, doesn't mean I am going to keep it. Is there another way I should be treating them other than like a family member? That ties in, I suppose, with people saying "I couldn't foster, I'd keep them all!". Again, not the point.

    Better than switching the conversation to countertops though, one thinks...

  2. You're so right Fred. We are losing my friend's dog Eli to a cancer. He's hanging in but just a matter of time. Like all of us I suppose. Have you ever seen a mdeicine dog? A really old soul who seems to heal everyone around him with him quite cool presence. That's Eli. he Looked after my disabled brother. And countless other people. My friend got him out of a high kill shelter as a puppy. What a loss we would have all sustained.

    I think the reaction that gets me the most fristrated is people who ask, "why are you wasting your time doing that when there are so many PEOPLE who need our help." Of course, mostly people who say these kinds of things arent helping humans either....

  3. Anonymous says:

    An FYI, because a lot of people ask:

    The phrase was originally "going to Hell in a *head* basket". The reference was the basket used to catch heads when someone was guillotined in France. Over time, the reference lost meaning in English, and the term drifted to the better known 'hand basket'. This was accelerated when the French stopped publically executing criminals (1939), then abandoned the death penalty (1977 was the last guillotine execution).

    So there, now you know....

  4. Fred says:

    The imagery behind a head (literal) basket is certainly much more potent than that of a hand (figurative) basket.

  5. @Antoinette- Fred's got a really great blog post about how to deal with those type of people on One Bark at a Time. I refer to it ALL THE TIME when confronted with that form of idiocy

    Fred- is a loonie slang for Canandian money? Just curious :-)

  6. Fred says:

    Hey Anne, loonie is slang for the Canadian one dollar coin because there is an image of a loon on one side of it. Also, the two dollar coin is sometimes called a toonie.

  7. deva says:

    I've just finished reading Pen Farthing's two books on saving the dogs of Afghanistan (BTW, great reads - especially the first). He also records this reaction, "You're helping DOGS?? What about the people?" He gives his reasons for helping in the way he is and then says he asks, "What are you doing to help Afghanistan, then?" And says he usually gets a resounding silence. For anyone who's interested, Pen's page is at

  8. Fred says:

    I find that people who are compassionate at heart and in practice don't generally denigrate other's charities of choice. Compassion recognizes compassion and applauds it in everyone and everything. Compassion is only ever attacked as a result of someone else' fear and loathing.

  9. word!

    Also- thanks for the clarification- i THOUGHT that's what it referred to, but wanted to make sure

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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.