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(repost from August 2009)

I'm out with Stella and we pass by the usual bored bus stop waiters, junkies casing for unlocked car doors, schizophrenic homeless looking for their lost euphoria on the sidewalk, sin-free religious people all polished clean and neck-tied and God smiley, crack-hos with slippers hanging off their dirty feet, shirtless guy who for some strange reason is wearing a sports jacket today but still shirtless under that, baby stroller jogger plowing everyone off the sidewalk, stony faced cops on horses leaving huge piles of shit for cars to drive through and splash on pedestrians and ringing streetcars and hip hop boombox cars and honking taxis and pneumatic garbage trucks making up for lost time and then we turn off the busy street and everything is quiet.

We walk but it's a slow walk because Stella is sniffing every vertical thing coming out of the ground or she's grazing on the tips of a specific type of tall grass or she's glowering at squirrels, cats and wasps. We pass a big dragonfly on the sidewalk and I stop to look at it, see if it's still alive but it's not moving and I point to it and say, "Look Stella," and she looks and she sniffs it and for a moment I know she's thinking about how this thing might taste - somewhere between flies and bees perhaps? - but she decides against it, not that I would've let her anyway, and she backs up and looks at me, So what about it?

At the parkette, which is a small patch of ratty grass with some sandy bits and some muddy bits and a swing set and some plastic climbing apparatus which I've only ever seen teens draped over with piles of cigarette butts growing around their feet, there are no dogs and Stella is disappointed not so much because she's looking for friends but more because she's looking for new dogs to grumble her royal displeasure at so instead she spends three minutes investigating the well dowsed trunk of an old maple tree. She's like a sommelier, poring over every inch, taking deep breathes, exhaling, taking another deep breathe over the same spot, letting the scent settle in, exhaling, moving over an inch, repeating. Seriously, I don't get it. I'm more understanding of Rocky: sniff and piss, sniff and piss. Maybe it's a male thing.

At the end of the street, there is an old man, must be in his eighties, with his old terrier in a faded harness on the sidewalk ahead of us walking towards us. The old man is walking slow but his dog is walking slower, every step slower, like it's winding down, head lowered, just slightly swaying.

The man sees Stella and me and frowns and he turns around to avoid us and waits for his dog to reorient. I cross the street with Stella. Stella would be fine with his dog, too small and too old to pose any challenge to her authority, but I don't want to give the old man or his dog a heart attack. I remember how Barclay, our Bearded Collie, was when he got that old, when he couldn't hear or see very well and how he'd startle when dogs came up from behind him and how he'd lose his balance and topple over like a cartoon drunk except there was no laughter in it, just a sense of fading.

We're on the other side of the road and I look over and I see the old dog still confused about the turn in direction and then the old man bends over slowly at the hips and a bit at the knees and puts his hand on the back of his dog and just holds it there for maybe five seconds and the dog leans into that touch and looks up at the old man looking back down at him and that look they share and that feeling which binds them and gives them ease, that partnership they have which saves them from the world, buffers them against the unending aches and pains of old bodies, against the knowledge of the inevitable, it seems so, it is so good and beautiful.

2 Comments to “Setting sun”

  1. Kit Lang says:

    God. That made me cry.

    (Thank you.)

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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.