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(repost from May 2009)

She's very frightened when I open her kennel door and walk in and when I crouch down and put my hand out and I think she might bite and I'd deserve it too, moving too quickly, in a rush, trying to get all the new dogs' photos done. So, I back off, let her take a moment to get use to me, let her come to me and once again she recoils when I try to leash her but she does not bite and I wonder what it is in some dogs that make them hold back, even when under perceived threat, to not use their best defence and strike with their teeth. Whatever instinct it is, I am grateful and my hand comes away uninjured.

I think this one's a shaggy, powderpuff Chinese Crested but I'm terrible at breed identification, mostly because I don't really care much about ancestry. I mostly just register a dog in front of me. Big dog, little dog, friendly, shy, energetic, lazy - these adjectives seem more important to me than knowing the exact breed.

This recent arrival is a puppy mill dog and that is important to know. It explains a lot: her dirty, ragged looking fur, her smell, her anxiety. It's not hard to see her as a puppy, eager for life, full of abundant joy and giving of love - because that is how dogs come into this world, that is how over the last ten thousand years we've engineered them to be - and yet she was born and then packed into some dirty metal box where she knew no tenderness, no soft surfaces, no comforting human hand. How confused she must have been to enter into this world where all her experiences were barren, dull, a wholly empty existence. She must've cried and barked endlessly, like all the other puppy mill dogs I've seen in millers' cages, for something lacking, not even knowing what it is they cry for.

Or maybe they do know, sort of, in that wordless way all animals know when they are imprisoned, kept alive but held back from life. You can see it in the lunatic pacing of lions in concrete zoos, in the angry eyes of chimps as they throw shit at the gawking crowds, in the trancelike rocking of elephants swaying back and forth, in polar bears swimming in endless circuits until exhaustion and beyond - and hoping for what? Escape? Death?

And puppy mill dogs bark, crying for an unknown life that many will never experience.

I can't tell what this one's been through. She doesn't seem old enough yet to be a breeder and she seems too frail to be a good producer but what do I know about what goes through the brain of a puppy miller? They breed brother to sister, mother to son, Poodle to Great Dane if it gets them the market driven results they want. Dogs as commodities. Sell off the desirable ones at a good profit margin to pet stores or directly to consumers over the internet. Bury or burn the rest. Continue the cycle.

These are awful thoughts. I need to clear my head or else I risk scaring the dog even more. I'm pretty sure she'd be able to sense it, smell it, the scent of anger.

She struggles just a bit as I hold onto her collar and put the leash on but then it's on and I release the collar and she pulls back to the full extent of the leash but then after a moment she comes forward and I reach out to touch her but it's still too soon so I stand up and I lead her out of the kennel room.

"You'll be lucky if you get her very far," someone tells me as I walk outside. "She's good for about ten steps and then she wants to come back inside."

That's such a common thing with puppy mill dogs. They are institutionalized. They only know cages, bars and concrete. Introduce them into a new environment too soon and it might be too much of an emotional overload.

We make it about thirty steps and then she puts on the brakes. I could just pull her but I don't think that would make things any better so I sit down on the sidewalk and wait for her to relax.

Soon enough, she starts to explore, just a bit. She walks around, unsure of the strange feeling surfaces beneath her feet. Asphalt, soft dirt, wood chips, pebbles. Then she discovers the grass. She's happy about that. She inhales the scent of it and of the earth and of all the other dogs that have passed over that spot. Then she lies down in the grass and at first I think it's strange that she's already tired and then I realize she's not tired. She's just enjoying herself. She's feeling the wind blow by her, maybe for the first time, carrying the hope of a good, full life ahead of her.

6 Comments to “Wind”

  1. Oh, I hope there was a happy ending for this beauty.

  2. Fred says:

    Yes, she was adopted shortly after being put up for adoption.

  3. Vida says:

    How beautifully written, Fred. I love your photos but also your writing. I miss your stories, hope those will come too. I hope that this little dog has a patient and loving family now to show her the joys of life, after having only known sadness.

  4. Sean Dohherty says:

    Great writing Fred. I read about you in the Toronto Star today and was impressed both with the story and the photos. Great work, I will keep checking here and also pass around the site to those interested in dogs and rescue.

  5. I had to go find the article that Sean referenced. What a lovely article (i CRACKED UP when they used my pug comment!).
    They referenced some of my favorite lines of yours, such as 'All dogs dream of running, even when they can no longer run'- which i actually added to my quote book as soon as i read it the first time and it broke my heart
    And she's 100% correct in calling Stella's post difficult to read- even reading the article talking about her post made me want to cry all over again.
    It was nice to see a photo of you (which of course is not all all how i pictured you :-)
    as always, i really appreciate your blog

  6. Fred says:

    Thanks, everyone.

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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.