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(I'm starting to look at on-line Great Dane adoption photos and thinking "Maybe," but then the saner part of me pulls me away and slaps me across the face a couple of times and yells, "What do you think you're doing?" I might be pining for a Great Dane but they can be such hard on the heart dogs with their short life spans and awful ways to death.

Of course, what Stella gave to me was more than worth every moment of worry I experienced but being worth it didn't necessarily make it easy.

And now I miss her terribly still. I look at old photos of her. I reread what I wrote about her. Wasn't it funny when ... Oh, remember that ...

I miss her enough that I want to replace her but we all know that's not possible. Even as we find another dog of the same breed, same colour, same size, we know it's not possible to replace that which is irrevocably lost but a part of us still tries. I think that's why so many people keep going back to the same breed. Trying to reignite what has been extinguished.

We got Smitten partly because of Barclay who was also a Bearded Collie and we loved Barclay to bits. If I ever do get another Great Dane, it will partly be because of Stella and I know it will never replace Stella but there will always be a part of me looking for her, even just a touch of her, in the new dog.

Here's a repost from June 2008, the first post I ever wrote about Stella from the old blog)

This morning, as I was walking Stella, my Great Dane, to the park, someone stopped and pointed and said:

"Hey, you got a saddle for that yet? Har, har, har."

Dane owners get that a lot, probably even more than actual horse owners. Here are some other great lines:

"Is that a dog or a horse? Ha, ha, ha."

"You ever ride that thing? Heh, heh, heh."

"How much for a pony ride? Huyuck, huyuck, huyuck."

And then it kind of repeats itself.

"Where's the saddle? Snort, snort, snort."

"Nice horse you got there. Teehee, teehee, teehee."

"Can my kid get a ride on that? Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck."

So, let's see. I hear that about once a week and Stella's been with me about 5 and half years so that's 5.5 * 52 = 286 times now.

I got Stella when she was 6 months old. Elizabeth told me that there was a great dane pup being housed at a kennel by a woman who was in hiding from her husband. Apparently, this happens a lot: an abused woman finds herself in a situation where she can hardly look after herself let alone any dependent pets (Safe Pet and other organizations can help out). I was dogless at the time and had no intentions of getting a dog but, what the hell, a quick peek at a Great Dane pup wasn't going to hurt.

Later, at the kennel, there she was: six months old and already 85 pounds. All gangly legs, long neck and big ears.

"Hey, she looks just like a horse!" I said. "I'll have to get a saddle for her."

And that, folks, is how you get suckered in.

(fiction repost from December 2009)

Old woman in a parking lot, two puppies sleeping at her feet, opens her arms, faces the darkening sky and feels a shift in the weight of it. Ragman rides by on his black bicycle, says, "Howdy," asks, "What have you heard today? What's the word?"

Her eyes graze the concrete horizon then lower and linger on the pups. "Everything will be all right," she says.

Ragman looks down, smiles. "No worries today, then?" he asks.

"Everything all right," she says.

"Well, whatever you say, so it is, eh?" says Ragman.

"A good, fine evening, yes, yes," she says.

Almost too cold for snow yet snow falls, sparse crystals squeezed out of the dry, miserly air.

Ragman reaches out, touches the old woman's sleeve. "Maybe it's time you come in. Maybe it's time," says Ragman. He lifts his hand up, waves it in front of his face. "The snow," he says and flakes touch down on his fingertips, hold for a moment, melt.

Her eyes are still on the pups.

"Just a while longer. There's a third, maybe a fourth," she says. "Two boys here. I saw four yesterday. This morning I saw them beside their mother near the bridge. She was dead. Car I guess."

"That's sorrowful," says Ragman. "But it happens," he almost added but didn't.

"They can't stay out this night. Not without their mother," she says.

"Mm hmm," says Ragman. "And you can't stay out this night either."

Their talk wakes the pups. One sniffs at Ragman, skips over and finds a lace to chew. The other watches, sniffs and watches, then paws at the old woman's loose pant hem, tries to entice his brother back.

"Don't wait too long. The cold, it's hard and falling," Ragman says then gently lifts away the pup attached to his lace and rides off, black tire tracks arcing, slipping through the snow. The pup chases five steps then returns and finds his brother's ear to chew on.

Snowflakes land upon the old woman. They are like seeds, she thinks, like those dandelion seeds that used to tickle her nose. Someone she knew used to pluck them, blow them in her face, make her giggle and sneeze. That was who? That was when? That was when she was ... and he showed her how to make links from the stems by pushing one end into the other. A necklace he made for her. That was ages ago. That was her story, she's sure, but when?

The pups are settling down again, cuddling her shoes. She picks them up, cradles them inside her coat. Quickly they calm and then quick to sleep. They are warm.

The old woman stands in the parking lot, waits among yellow barricades, oil slicks, exhaust and the smell of old vehicles. She lifts her eyes, looks into the haze of snow. Her mouth moves but no sounds come out. She speaks to Him in unheard words and He responds with silence. Her feet stand cold upon the asphalt surface. Her face is red and raw from the dirty city wind. But the pups are warm.

She closes her eyes, lets their warmth seep in. She is not held by her hardships. She is not held by her grounded, decrepit body. She closes her eyes and she is rising. She is rising above the cars and barricades. She is rising above the soot chimneys and grimy rooftops. She rises above the concrete towers and glass skyscrapers, above the corporate helicopters and beer logo dirigibles, above the cloud layer, above the night and into the sun and she is warm. She is rising and she is warm.

"The other two, you think they're still around?" Ragman is back.

The old woman slowly opens her eyes, momentarily uncertain where she is but then understands.

"They're around. Hiding," she says.

"Round here?"

"These two came when I held out food and called. The other two ... Maybe underside a car."

Ragman swings his leg over his bike, sets the bike on the kickstand. "How's bout I help look?"

"No good chasing them. Waiting's the thing. They're scared. Let them be. Maybe they'll come out. The third one wanted to come over but there was a noise. The fourth ... it just ran."

"I brought some crackers from the bin - okay ones, unopened ... if they're hungry," Ragman says, gesturing to the two in the woman's coat then he pulls out some packets of crackers from his pocket, gives them to her.

She opens a packet and puts a cracker in her mouth, chews it, spits it out into her hand and brings it close to the puppies' noses. She nudges them. They wake, start to eat. They finish and she chews and spits and feeds another and another until she's gone through two packets. It's not enough but it'll have to do. She saves the remaining to tempt the other two pups.

Ragman watches.

Ragman starts to get cold. He'll have to go in soon. He wants to bring the old woman in with him but knows how stubborn she can be. She'll be near frostbitten before she'll budge if she's set her mind to waiting on something.

"Whatcha gonna do with them? 'member what Stan said? Last time was the last time he told you," Ragman says, though he knows it's futile to argue.

"Last time was last time. This time is this time. Next time is next time. Stan talks. Never mind his talk. There are four. I have two. I wait for the other two. Everything will be alright," she says.

"Alright, but, well, if you get tired holding them, I can take them."

She doesn't know if she can trust him. She doesn't remember. "You're too kind," she says but hangs onto the pups.

A memory. Snow's falling but it's a different time, different place, when things were more ... when things were better. She's walking through a snowfield. Her dog, yes, it is her dog she's sure of it, a Husky, is just ahead. And beside her, someone she ... she holds his hand as they take big, high steps through the deep snow. The Husky gets excited and sticks its nose into the snow and when it looks up again, its muzzle is covered with powder and she laughs at it and she points and she says, "Look, look at her," and he says, "Silly dog," and she says, "Very silly dog," and the Husky face dives into the snow again and stays down for a few seconds and comes up again. This time its muzzle is completely covered except around the eyes. "She's got a white mask," the woman says and he asks, "What's she doing over there?" and then they are beside the Husky and it continues to face dive into the snow. "There must be something under the snow," she says and the two of them watch as their dog hunts after something hidden below then suddenly, out of one of the poked holes in the snow, a shrew pops out and starts to run awkwardly along the snow surface. The woman points and says, "Look!" and the Husky lifts its face out of the snow and looks up and sees the shrew and jumps on it and then frantically searches about for it but can't find it. The woman grabs her dog's collar and pulls it back while the man searches carefully through the compressed snow. A moment later, he finds the shrew. It's not moving. "I think it got crushed," he says. They look down at the small, still creature lying on its side in a bed of snow. It doesn't look visibly injured but it's not moving. "Poor thing," the woman says. "I shouldn't have yelled out." The man takes her hand and squeezes it. "C'mon, there's nothing we can do," he says. He points up to the falling snow. "Let's get back," he says.

One of the pups stirs under her jacket. It stretches one front leg out and opens its mouth for a yawn exposing its small pointy white teeth and delicate tongue. It pushes its head up and out of the jacket but it feels the cold air on its nose and settles back into the warmth.

"Sometimes I have these memories," she says. "I used to have a Husky. She was a beautiful dog, she was. She was always smiling. You know what I mean? They have a way of doing that. And she always made me smile."

"That was a long time ago," Ragman says and he already knows what she'll say next because they've had this same conversation dozens of times before.

"We used to walk, you know, very far, through the snow but it was no big thing back then when we were young. My Husky and I and there was someone else but I can't remember ..." she says and then, "Oh, was that ... you?"

"Yes, my love," he says. "That was you and me and Casey a long time ago."

"Oh yes, that's right. Casey! How could I forget? Casey." The old woman is delighted, like having found her way back to a long lost friend. "Were we young?" she asks.

"Yes, we were young," he says.

"I'm sorry," she says. "I don't remember it too well. I'm sorry."

The black puppy walks out from under the car, white tail tucked and head lowered to the ground, cautious. "Look," Ragman says and "Shh," the old woman says, gentle, and she lowers her hand, gentle, slowly.

The pup raises its head, nose first, sniffs then stops and stares at the man and woman and then sniffs again. The old woman crouches down then kneels then sits in the snow. She opens her coat to show the pup its sleeping siblings. The pup looks and sniffs, sniffs and looks. The woman reaches into her pocket and takes out a packet of crackers. She shows it to the pup then she turns slightly away from the pup, hiding the packet from its view, and opens it slowly so that it doesn't make too much of a crinkling noise.

The pup is curious. The pup takes a step forward.

The old woman takes out a cracker and puts it in her mouth, making sure the pup can see her do this then she chews it and spits it out into her hand. She puts the morsel onto the ground beside her then she pushes herself away from it.

The pup takes another step forward, nose up in the air, trying to catch a scent. His hunger and curiosity finally overcome his fear and he takes another step and another until he reaches the warm pile of mush which smells like food and also smells like the big creature looking down at him. He gobbles up the mouthful of crackers and looks up at the creature wondering if there might be more. And there is.


They don't see the fourth pup.

Three of out four isn't bad, Ragman says, says maybe someone else found the fourth, says they must go, before the gates are locked and then they would cause a fuss and there would be no way Stan would let the old woman take her pups inside.

Ragman gently takes the old woman's arm and leads them away from the parking lot.

The old woman keeps looking back just in case.

The fourth pup watches them from beneath a car. He cries for his siblings who are leaving. He curls up against the tire, his body reflexively trying to stay warm though he no longer feels the cold and he closes his eyes and dreams about his mother.

Many here in Toronto, and in the rest of Canada as well, have this past week been mourning the death of Jack Layton. His character and his spirit have touched something in many people regardless of their political stripes. It's good to be honoured by one's own family and friends but it's really something to be honoured by one's opponents. I've been hearing this a lot: "I'm a conservative but I really liked Jack Layton ..."

For me, Layton was always about social justice and I think he was successful at getting his message across because the message he delivered was a positive one. He talked about solutions and didn't just focus on the problems. His personality wasn't about fear-mongering or scapegoating or riding the rising tides of hate and paranoia. Offering a helping hand up was more important than wallowing in stories of suffering. I think that's what made him a successful leader and what helped turn the NDP, under his leadership, into the official opposition in Parliament for the first time in the party's history.

I think that's an example we can follow in animal welfare.

It's easy enough for people volunteering and working in animal welfare to be overwhelmed by seemingly insurmountable mountains and it's easy enough to lose sight of the goal and just start spitting back words of contempt for the "enemy" because it seems that is all one can do sometimes to relieve the stress and anger. I know I do that too often myself.

The solution to ending homelessness for our pets won't be found by only ranting and raving about how cruel people are and what poor pitiful lives abandoned animals lead. We need to change the points of view of our audience and we won't be able to do it just by trying to make them feel guilty or sad or angry. Screaming at people only makes them shut down, turn away or scream back. We need to present our animals in the best possible light. We need to convince people to adopt because adopting is the best choice, not the fallback choice, not just the choice which alleviates guilt.

Sure, guilting someone into action sometimes works with a small minority of people but it doesn't work consistently and certainly isn't as successful or as rewarding as introducing future pet owners to the wonderful friend an adopted animal can be.

To the cynics out there, of which I count myself depending on the day of the week, look at it this way. When the people of the planet go to Walmart and hand over their billions to the associates in blue, do they do it because they feel sorry for all the Chinese/Mexican/third world factory workers who make the merchandise on those shelves or because they think they're getting quality products with good enough service at a decent price?

We owe it to our homeless animals to provide at least that level of service and more. Most shelters and rescues follow that theme already in their listings for available animals - stressing the positive, not over-emphasizing the negative histories. This positive attitude must come across in all aspects of dealing with the public, not just in pet descriptions. Our words and actions regarding homeless animals on social media sites, in private, in public, at work, amongst friends will affect the way those animals are viewed.

I'm not suggesting we brush stories of cruelty under the carpet - that too is a reality which needs to be exposed - but, in the end, we can either present homeless animals as objects of desire and have crowds lining up for them or make them objects of pity and have a handful of concerned activists show up.

Whether we support animal welfare or the environment or social justice, we need to continue spreading hope, not despair if we want to succeed. I think those were some of Jack Layton's last written words, or close enough. He always believed the goodness of people would prevail.

I may not have as much confidence in humanity as Layton did, but still, I sure hope he's right.

I was cleaning out my computer files the other day (yes, a thrilling life I have) and I came across a photo I had snatched off the Toronto Animal Services site last year. There are two dogs in it, Max and Mini, and they had arrived together but were being adopted out individually.

The contrasting expressions on their two faces in this photo makes me laugh every time I see them. One's staring with a goofy smile off into the distance while the other is looking right into the camera, deeply concerned.

They weren't housed at the south shelter and I never found out what happened to them. I hope they each found good homes.


Last week, a reader sent a link to this image of a English Bulldog in the summer heat (info on original, taken by Laura Hickman in Ohio, can be found here). And people say Bulldogs aren't the smartest dogs:


Another reader link of a very loyal dog lying at the foot of his owner's funeral casket.

The owner was, Jon Tumilson, a member of a Navy Seal team, who was killed in Afghanistan, Aug. 6. More info here.


And from facebook: Are seals related to dogs?

Well, they both bark and also ...

(Repost from March 2009. I think this is my favorite Rocky and Stella post from the old blog. Rocky passed away earlier this year from cancer and Stella passed away last year from heart disease.)

Rocky's not so bad these days but he used to be all about the holes. It must have been that whenever I left the house, he'd think to himself, "That prick left me alone again. I can't believe it. This time I'm really going to show him," and then he'd get to work chewing out one perfect little hole in the blanket or sheet he was sleeping on. It was never like he tore anything to shreds. No, that would be too much work for Rocky. It would be just one hole, maybe two, and that would be enough to satisfy whatever urges were driving him.

When I got back home, I'd find a little circular cut-out lying on the floor and then I'd go searching for the newly minted hole.

He'd work through a blanket over the course of a couple of weeks or a month until it was more holes than not and then I'd have to throw it away and bring out a new one.

Luckily, I had splurged on Rocky's blankets at Valu Village and had bought several of them at once so each cost me maybe only five bucks (that Bambi one may have cost seven) but unfortunately, Rocky went through a phase where it wasn't just blankets.

Here's a cushion that I made a few years ago (yes, I was crafty).

Rocky must've thought it needed some updating because he pulled out a little hole in one corner to register his disapproval. Not big enough to throw the cushion out. Just big enough so that when company comes over and sees it, they're like, "Shit, you've got major mouse problems here." Yes, an eighty pound mouse with an obsessive compulsive disorder.

He also did it to this one ...

and this one ...

The most ambitious Rocky's ever gotten with his hole making ventures was on the sofa.

This was quite atypical for Rocky because he would have had to stand to create this hole and he's way happier lying down on the job.

Of course, being the self centered human I am, I think all this hole making is directed at me but it may not necessarily be so. Rocky may actually be exhibiting passive aggressive tendencies towards Stella. Our house is quite cold at night and the dogs moan and groan if they're not warm so I made some pajamas for them. During the day, though, I take the pajamas off and that's when they can sometimes fall victim to Rocky's assaults.

Here's Stella modeling hers with some nice detailing work from Rocky.

Strangely enough,Rocky's pajamas, on the other hand, appear unair-conditioned.

Rocky's hole making has greatly decreased in the last few months. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe he's come to realize that even though the humans sometimes leave the house without him, they always come back at some point. Or, maybe it's because he's ten years old now and he's just decided to retire his hobby so he can spend less time hole making and more time farting - which is not as visible as hole making but possibly just as bad.

(fiction repost from June 2009)

Part 1 here.

Walter may be pooping gold but he's still pissing pee and for the first week, Joey just mopped up after the dog because he didn't want to take Walter outside in case someone saw what came out of his dog's ass. But then when the people downstairs came up and knocked on Joey's door complaining about their dripping ceiling, Joey realized he couldn't keep Walter inside forever.

Joey's three times a day routine now is to take Walter to the little parkette just around the corner from the apartment. On the short walk over, every time Walter tries to stop and sniff a spot, Joey yanks on the leash to keep him moving. He doesn't want to risk letting Walter poop right out on the open sidewalk with so many people walking by.

At the park, there are some dogs, now familiar to Joey, roaming about off leash while their stuck up owners talk. One of the owners, a sorta cute twenty something blondie sees him and smiles and nods but Joey just heads for the far corner where the weeds are taller and a bit more inhospitable, where those weeds can quickly hide the precious golden eggs Walter deposits.

Walter looks over at the dogs playing and wags his tail but Joey jerks the leash and points to the weeds. He shoves Walter with knee and stands in front of him blocking his view of the other dogs. Walter looks up at Joey and then slowly and obediently gets into position. He grunts and he farts and he grunts and then he's done.

Joey looks down into the weeds. Walter's only left behind one egg this time and it's smallish, quail's egg sized. Joey looks around to make sure no one's watching too closely and then he pulls out a plastic bag and scoops up the egg. Again, first glancing around to make sure no one's watching, he puts the plastic bag and egg into his jacket pocket.

He's about to leave with Walter, when one of the other dogs comes running over. Joey's got no idea what he should do. The other dog is wagging its tail but Joey's not taking any chances. He pulls Walter's leash back to keep him well away from the other dog but the other dog keeps advancing.

"Hey, Rufus, come here" says the sorta cute twentysomething as she runs over. Then to Joey, "Don't worry. He's friendly. Eh, Rufus? You just saying hello?"

Joey hates it when people talk to their animals like they were people. He can't think of anything stupider. But then on the other hand the girl is kinda cute.

"Oh yeah. Sure. That's cool," Joey says, not relaxing the leash on Walter at all. Walter, for his part, is standing relaxed, a calm expression across his mouth and eyes. Rufus, not sensing a playmate in Walter, turns around and runs back to his more energetic dog pals.

"What's your dog's name?" the girl asks.

"Walter," Joey answers and he gives Walter an uncertain pat on his head.

"Nice dog," she says. "Is he old?"

"Yeah, I just, uh, got him from the pound," Joey answers.

"Umm, oh," she says. "Is that why he looks so skinny?" The girl reaches out with her hand towards Walter but Joey yanks Walter away from her.

"He bites," Joey says. "You shouldn't get too close."

The girl hesitates.

"He doesn't seem like a biter," she says and withdraws her hand. "You must've really bonded with him to take him from the pound. Most people wouldn't put the effort into working with a biting dog."

"Oh yeah, I know," Joey says. "But I'm not most people," he adds.

"Well good on ya," the girl says and she walks away.


Joey adds a tablespoon of salmon oil to Walter's dog food. He also throws in a couple tablets of vitamin D, a tablet of zinc, three tablespoons of glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM liqid, a tablespoon of ground kelp, and finally, a tablespoon of safflower oil. All this into a bowl of sixty dollar a bag kibble mixed with ground beef and chicken and mashed vegetables. This is Walter's meal, twice a day, every day, and it has been for over a month now.

After those comments by the girl in the park, Joey realized other people as well were whispering behind his back about the poor state of his dog. He didn't want any more attention on Walter than absolutely necessary so the first thing Joey did after that walk was give Walter a bath and then he began to figure out how to get Walter healthier looking. Between talking to the stuck ups at the pet food store, researching on-line and even a trip to the vet, Joey came up with "the Walter concoction" as he liked to call it. The Walter concoction costs a helluva lot more than Joey ever thought he would pay for dog food but he figures it's well worth it if it means no more sideways glances from people.

And it is indeed worth it. Joey's apartment, over the last several weeks since he'd brought Walter home, has become like a Fort Knox. Every jar, box, suitcase, plastic bag, empty kleenex box, cupboard, drawer, filing cabinet is stuffed with golden eggs. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of the beautiful globules just spilling out over each other. It's beyond calculation just how much gold Joey now possesses and how much all that gold is worth.

Joey figures he's well on his way to becoming the richest man in the world.

He still hasn't quite figured out how to convert all that gold into cash but that part doesn't bother him much. It's obvious now that all the gold is his, not some ornaments snatched off some rich hag's dresser drawer by her dog. He figures that when the day comes, he'll just walk into one of those flashy banks downtown and, acting like it's no big deal, open up a bank account and when the stuck up banker asks him how much he'd like to deposit, he'd just casually reach into his back pack, pull out an egg and say, "Oh, I don't know. How about I start with a thousand of these?"

Joey thinks about that day a lot but like a kid just before opening up the first Christmas present, he's enjoying the anticipation. The day will come. The day will come soon.


"Your dog's really looking good these days," the girl says to Joey in the park. "His coat's all shiny and he's put on weight."

"Yeah, but he's not fat," says Joey afraid of where this conversation might lead.

"No, he's not fat at all. He's just right," the girl says.

Walter is looking down at Rufus who is on his back squirming in the grass, trying to itch an itch. Rufus suddenly stops and, while still on his back, raises a paw up towards Walter, and Walter, in turn reaches out with his own paw and touches Rufus.

"Is he still biting?" the girl asks.

"You can't predict that with dogs," Joey says and jerks Walter back away from Rufus.

"Well, it looks like you're doing a great job," the girl says and smiles.

She walks back to her friend who just started bringing his 3 month old puppy to the park.

"Yeah, he's the guy that picks up his dog's poo and then puts it in his pocket," she whispers.

"Gross," her friend says.


Joey's sitting at the coffee table slowly sipping the bitter verging on sour coffee this place specializes in. It's awful and it's always been awful but he's savouring it because he knows this'll be the last time he buys coffee from here. In a few hours, he's going to walk into a bank and start cashing in the golden eggs.

He realizes people are getting suspicious. He knows if he doesn't deposit the gold soon, someone will surely discover his secret and then who knows what would happen. He wouldn't be safe on the street. He wouldn't even be safe inside his own apartment.

And someone would try to steal Walter for sure. Even now, Walter goes everywhere Joey goes. Joey never lets him out of his sight. Can't risk it. And at night, Walter sleeps in bed with Joey, with Joey's arm around him.

Joey hates it but what can he do? He has to keep Walter secure. But Walter's not going to be a pain in the ass for much longer. Once Joey gets things sorted out in his new place with his new people, he'll get someone else to look after Walter. Of course it would have to be someone he could trust but he's sick of having Walter around him all the time. If he never sees him again, he'd be fine with that as long as the eggs kept coming. And why wouldn't they?

The last time Joey took Walter in to see the vet, the vet told him that Walter checked out pretty well but he was concerned about his arthritic hips. He sold Joey some expensive medicine to help with that and Joey bought it and Walter did seem to improve quite a bit but really, other than not having to help Walter up all the time, Joey didn't much care. Joey figured Walter didn't exactly need to walk to shit gold eggs. Joey figured that as long as he could keep Walter alive, even if meant hooking Walter up full time to some big machine, he'd be okay with that. He wasn't going to let Walter die on him. Ever.

Joey sees his wonderful life splayed out before him. He can feel it. First of all, it's going to be the world's biggest reveal ever. He imagines his first interviews, being on TV with dozens of microphones in front of him, reporters and paparazzi pushing each other around just to get close to him, fighting for his attention. The anticipation of his new life is killing him but he's loving it as well. He takes another sip of coffee.

Jenny finally shows up. She sees him and he waves at her. She walks over to his table and sits down opposite him in the cigarette burned plastic chair.

"You Joey?" she asks.

"Yep," he says.

"Okay, so you know how this works?"

"Yep," he says. Then, "Okay, should we go?"

"Oh, hold up there, honey, before we go anywhere can you show me ..."

"Oh, yeah, yeah, sure," and Joey pulls out the ten twenties from his pocket and flashes the cash for her. "And there's a lot more where that came from," he can't help himself from saying but then immediately regrets it.

"Well who's the big hero then," Jenny says with a wide, toothy smile and she gets up and takes Joey's arm in hers as they start to walk towards the door.

"Oh wait," Joey says and he steps back to the table and grabs Walter's leash and gives him a yank. "Come on, let's go," he says.

Joey's walking on air all the way back to his apartment. People are definitely noticing. Joey's definitely feeling noticed. Jenny's on his arm, walking that walk she walks and touching him. People are definitely noticing. Joey straightens out a bit more. He could get used to this attention. Jenny fawning all over him in public. What a perfect picture this would make. It's just too bad about the dog.

The entrance to the apartment building is unlocked as usual and there are some kids in the main foyer. One of them, one of the older ones Joey doesn't like much yells out, "Shit, mama's boy. How much you payin for that?" but Joey just ignores him and walks to the stairs pulling Jenny and Walter along. He'll have people to take care of people like that soon enough.

As they're walking up, Jenny says, "So look, just to be straight, we do the business before we go in, okay? It's just like this this first time, okay? Once we get to know each other better, once we have a relationship, you know, you can pay up afterwards. Okay?"

They reach the third floor and Joey leads Jenny down the hallway to his door. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the wad of bills. He hands over the cash to Jenny. Jenny gives Joey a kiss and takes the cash but then looks down at it. It's covered in streaks of brown.

"What the fuck?" Jenny asks and then Joey opens the door to his apartment.

"Oh ... my ... God," Jenny says as she drops the money on the floor and then gags as the smell hits her.


The girl from the park, the one who owns Rufus, and Walter as well now, watches as Rufus runs circles around Walter. Walter enjoys the attention and happily barks at Rufus. Walter tries to do a play pose but it's a bit much for him.

"Poor Walter," the girl's friend, the guy with the pup, says.

"Ah, he's okay," the girl says. "He's creaky, but he's okay. Better than where he was anyway."

Rufus is now rolling around on the grass on his back in front of Walter and the two of them are slapping paws. The puppy bounces around them, trying to get some attention for himself.

"So that guy's apartment was completely filled with feces?"

"Yeah, that's what they said. It was like he'd been collecting it. He was storing it everywhere. In flower pots. In egg cartons. In the fridge. In the oven. He'd like run out of room and was starting to just pile it up all around his apartment."

"It's amazing the other tenants didn't complain about the smell."

"No, they did. The owners of the place just never did anything about it."

"God that's so fucked up."

"Yeah, it's too bad. I mean the guy was weird but he was taking care of Walter okay. The people at the pound couldn't believe he was the same dog from just a few months ago."

"And how'd you end up with Walter?"

"Well, I heard about how the police had to drag that guy out of his apartment - and you know he was like stuffing all these ossified pieces of turd into his pockets the whole time - and of course first thing I think about is what's happened to the dog so I figured he would've been taken to the pound. Where else, right?"

"Huh. Well, it's good of you to give him a home. Not many people would bring home an old dog like that."

"Yeah, well, Walter's pretty special."

The girl looks over at the dogs and sees that Walter's just finished taking a dump. She's about to get up to go pick it up when the puppy runs over to it and starts to sniff it.

"Oh crap," the guy says. "I think my dog's get a fecal fetish or something." Then, "Hey, Lucas, get away from that. Hey!" but Lucas doesn't listen and he picks up the turd and happily runs around with it trying to get the older dogs interested in a game of chase.

"Hey, drop that," the guy says but Lucas doesn't listen. Instead, the pup runs over to the girl and dances around her feet.

"Hey, look what I got," the girl says as she pulls out a dried liver snack. "Wanna trade?"

"You're too much," the guy says to the girl and laughs.

"Well, how else you going to get that out of his mouth?" the girl says. "Lucas, look what I got ..."

Lucas stops. He sniffs the treat. He lowers his head and drops the turd into the grass and the girl says, "Good boy," and gives Lucas the treat. She looks down into the grass at her feet, at the thing Lucas dropped, and she sees something glittering. It's brightly faceted and egg sized.

It looks like a diamond.

(fiction repost from June 2009)

Walter is farting like a garbage truck on fire and turns around as dogs will do and stares at his own butt, curious and anticipating, like some little animal might just poke its head out of his ass and say boo.

Joey, sitting on the couch in his underwear and faded green Hulk t-shirt watching Big Brother reruns on TV waves his greasy orange stained fingers in front of his face and crinkles his nose and wonders if he's made himself a big mistake getting that dog from the pound. His apartment stinks bad enough already. The last thing he needs is even more stink.

Course really Joey should've gotten a cat. After all, the whole point is to catch mice but cats make his eyes itch and then he starts sneezing and can't stop. Joey had already tried traps and traps caught a few mice but not all of them. He could still hear them scritching in the walls of his no bedroom apartment. He'd always be finding mouse drops scattered round the edges of his kitchen floor and around the chewed out holes of his Cap'n Crunch boxes or Kraft Dinner or loaves of Wonderbread.

One morning, when Joey woke up and first thing he saw was three black mouse shits on his pillow, he'd figured he'd had enough and better do something more about it than just wait for the little shitters to go get themselves trapped. He was going to be pro-activated. That's when he decided to go down to the pound and get a dog.

What he'd really wanted was that littler one, that Jerk Russel or whatever it was called. Someone had told him those littler dogs were good at mice catching and that's what Joey needed. But the stuck up girl at the pound wouldn't give him that dog. She said that dog needed exercising and she'd already tricked Joey into admitting he didn't exercise much.

Instead, she took him to see a ragged, bone thin, creaky old dog and said that Walter might be more suitable for him since he was an older dog and didn't need much activity to keep happy but then when Joey asked about Walter's mouse catching abilities, the stuck up suddenly didn't even want to give him Walter, but then someone there said something to her about Walter's time being up so it was either adopt him out or PTS whatever PTS meant.

Anyway, so Joey got himself a dog, just not the one he wanted. He didn't have much faith in Walter's ability to catch mice but he figured if it didn't work out, he could just boot Walter out the back door. Even if it did work out, he figured he'd boot Walter out the back door anyway once the all the mice were gone.


Another rear expletive and then the nerve endings from Walter's back end fire off a signal which slowly travels along rickety old synaptic pathways to Walter's twelve year old brain telling it that the internal pressure is building up back there. Walter starts to rise. That in itself is quite a job for him these days. He pushes himself up first with his front legs, and that's not too bad but now comes the hard part.

Joey knows what's coming because he's seen this routine a few times already in the two hours Walter's been at the apartment and he could go over and help Walter get up but Joey's eating Cheezies with his fingers and doesn't want to touch the dog because it might be dirty or something. Anyway, helping a dog just isn't something Joey would ever do. Dogs help people, not the other way around. You start helping dogs out and pretty soon you'll be hanging with homos and voting in liberals.

Walter rolls his lower body so that it's centered evenly over his back legs and then by rocking and shifting his weight back and forth a couple of times, he works up enough inertia to help his hind legs lift up his back end. Joey can tell Walter's really straining this time because he's grunting low and loud. To Joey's eye, Walter's looks kind of stuck, halfway between standing and sitting. It's like he's hunched over and can't quite get his back legs to straighten out. Walter grunts some more and shuffles around a bit.

And that's when Joey realizes Walter isn't trying to straighten out his legs, he's trying to take a crap.

Joey yells at Walter, "Nononononononono no no no noooo," but too late.

Walter pushes out a single, hard, egg shaped piece of turd.

Joey's in midstep, on his way over to give old Walter a kick when he notices something unusual. He notices that the turd's not a turd. It's yellow. It's shiny. It's metallic. It looks like gold.

Joey's not quite sure he believes his eyes.

He walks over and shoves Walter out of the way so he can get a closer look at the golden turd. There's nothing turd looking about it, other than maybe it's shape. It's surface dully reflects the fluorescent kitchen lights. Joey looks up at Walter but Walter's now walking around in the kitchen sniffing along the base of the counters and fridge.

Joey crouches down and looks back at the turd. He jabs a finger at it. It makes a tinking sound. Joey picks up the turd and is surprised by its heaviness. Even though it had just come out of a dog's ass, it's already starting to feel cold. And hard. Definitely metal.

Definitely gold.

Joey starts to laugh. He's heard of dogs swallowing golf balls before but never one swallowing a golden egg. This thing must be worth thousands of dollars. He wonders if he should take it to the bank but then what if there's some notice out there about someone missing a golden egg and if he goes to the bank, the bank will just confiscate it from him, never mind that it was his dog that shit it out and he found it fair and square.

Forget the bank then. He'll use the pawn shop.

Joey starts thinking about walking out with all that money in his pocket and how good that's going to feel. First thing is a party with one of the girls. There's the forty dollar girl and the sixty dollar girl but for sure he's going to splurge and get with the eighty dollar girl. Hell, he might even get the eighty dollar girl and the sixty dollar girl both. Now that would be something.

Walter is still sniffing around the kitchen and finds a spot on the floor that's somewhat tantalizing and starts to lick it. Joey sees this and walks over to Walter and yells, "Quit that," and pushes Walter away from the spot with his foot. Walter takes a step back and almost collapses down on his weak hind end but the cupboard he's backed into helps keep him up.

For a second, Joey feels kind of bad seeing how decrepit Walter is so he takes a dirty plastic bowl from the sink and fills it with the remaining take out Chinese from the weekend and sprinkles some Cheezies on top. He puts the food on the floor and watches Walter sniff it then gulp it down. It's gone in less than ten seconds.

Joey picks up the bowl and fills it up with water and puts that on the floor. Walter gives it a sniff but isn't too interested. Walter looks up at Joey.

"If you're looking for dessert," Joey says, "you gotta get some mice," and with that, he grabs his jeans and shuffles into them and then heads out the door to the pawn shop.


An hour later, Joey walks back to his apartment.

The pawn shop was closed so he'd gone to the coffee shop and got himself a ham sandwich and a couple of apple fritters and a coffee which he mostly dumped into the garbage so he could refill the cup up with cream.

The egg was a nice weight in his pocket and every so often he would stick his hand inside and touch it. He had wanted to just take it out and put it on the table and have everyone in the shop come over and marvel at it - at him - but he knew that wouldn't be wise. Not in this joint.

As his hand wrapped around the golden egg in his pocket, he had felt a sense of security and strength and, at the same time, he had watched the three girls who were standing just outside on the sidewalk as they intently peered and beckoned into the windows of passing cars, none of which were stopping.

Now as Joey pushes the key into his apartment door, he curses the pawn shop for not being open. He could be walking in with a girl on each arm right now.

Joey shuts the door behind him and the first thing he sees is Walter sleeping in Joey's own bed which is just an old futon on the floor. He forgets about the egg in his pocket and rushes over and knocks Walter off the bed.

"Get the fuck out of my bed," Joey yells, disgusted at the dog.

Walter lands awkwardly on his side on the wooden floor and lets out a yelp and then a groan as he tries to right himself but has a hard time. Joey turns away.

That's when he sees the two other golden eggs on the floor by the radiator.

Joey rushes over to the eggs and picks them up. They're not exactly the same as the first one. One is slightly bigger and rounder. The other is slightly smaller and more teardrop shaped. Joey can't believe his luck.

He takes the first egg out of his pocket and arranges all three of them on his bed, side by side. He caresses them with the back of his hand like they were newborns.

Three golden eggs. Forget the sixty dollar girl and the eighty dollar girl. Joey decides he can do better than that. Joey decides that he's going to party with Jenny. He can definitely party with Jenny now.

Three golden eggs. Even the pawn shop isn't going to be able to handle that. We're talking riches here, Joey thinks. Tens of thousands maybe even a hundred thousand dollars. Enough to get out of this crummy dump. Enough to buy a huge plasma screen TV, an X-Box, an iPhone and a Blackberry, a new pair of Pumas ...

And then a thought hits him. What if there's more? Just how many eggs did that damn dog swallow? Joey looks over at Walter. Walter is lying on the floor beside the couch but he's not asleep. He's watching Joey back, concerned.

Joey goes into the kitchen and pulls out the biggest pot he has from under the sink where it's been catching water drips. He rinses it out and then goes to his fridge and pulls out all the food still in there. He mixes lettuce with ketchup with hot dogs with eggs with stale bread ends with jam with mayonnaise with half an open can of spaghetti. It's enough to just fill the pot.

Joey puts the food down on the floor and calls Walter. Walter lifts his head and sniffs the air but isn't sure about Joey. Joey tries to be more conciliatory with his voice. Walter starts to rise but again has difficulty. Joey goes over and pulls Walter's haunches up and holds onto him until he's steady. Then he pats Walter's butt and points him to the food. Walter walks over, sniffs the food and gobbles it down. Done in 20 seconds. Walter looks up for more.

Joey goes over to the cupboards and takes out the uncooked pasta and all four cans of chicken noodle soup and the unopened jar of spaghetti sauce and the half eaten package of beef jerky. He dumps everything into the pot and adds a few cups of water and puts it on the stove on high. As soon as the broth starts to boil over, Joey takes everything off the stove and puts the pot into a sink filled with cold water so that it'll cool down faster. Once it's cool enough for his finger, he puts the pot down on the floor and beckons Walter.

This time Walter actually wags his tail and saunters over and sniffs the pot and starts to gulp. Done in just over a one minute.

This time, after finishing, Walter sniffs his way into the washroom and takes a long drink out of the toilet. Joey decides not to check to see if it was flushed. He'd rather not know.

There's no more food left in the kitchen but it doesn't seem like Walter's hungry anymore anyway so Joey sits back down on his couch and waits.

Two and a half episodes of Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire reruns later, Joey looks away from his TV to see Walter grunting and straining and then finally pushing out four more golden eggs. This time they're smaller than any of the previous ones but there are four of them so that makes up for it.

I've got a dog that shits gold, Joey says to himself and he can't remember a moment in his life when he's ever been happier.

Part 2 here.

(reposted from November 2008)

Yesterday was a very fine fall afternoon, a good afternoon to take Kiki for a longer walk than usual. I fetched him out of his kennel and out we went.

Kiki stayed a few paces ahead of me on his leash. Every so often he'd pause and look back at me. Sometimes he'd walk back and nudge my hand as if to suggest that maybe we could walk faster.

I'd heard that Kiki had bitten one of the other dog walking volunteers and so I stayed attentive to any indication that he might try something like that with me and, indeed, at one point he did get impatient with me and got a bit too mouthy. I put a stop to it, though, controlling him with the leash and saying a gruff "NO!" and that put an end to that.

I wondered if the mouthiness/biting could have had anything to do with the seizure he had the other morning. Was the behaviour just bad manners or was it indicative of some frazzled brain function? Kiki's personality seemed changed since his seizure. He was certainly less energetic. And his eyes seemed like they were clouding over but was that a recent change, post seizure, or something that I just hadn't noticed before?

We walked along the grassy patches around the south side of the CNE for about half an hour and then I sat down at a bench on a hill overlooking the Gardiner Expressway. Kiki looked at me and realized we were going to stay put for a bit so he laid down a couple of feet away on the grass. I sat back enjoying the sunshine and watched the traffic. Kiki did exactly the same, turning around a couple of times to make sure I was still there, and then settling back to contemplate the highway. I watched Kiki and thought that he was, at that moment, content. At least I was able to give him that much.

Just before I got up to bring Kiki back, he nudged my hand, gently this time, and yowled and said something to me but I had no idea what he was trying to say.

So that was yesterday and as it turned out, that would be Kiki's last walk. His biting had become a major liability issue (I found out he had bitten others as well, not just that one dog walker) and with the seizures on top of that there was no way he could be put up for adoption. A rescue that had expressed interest in taking him changed their minds when they found out about his illness. The rescue just didn't have room for another dog that wouldn't likely be adopted out anytime soon.

I had brought in a bone for Kiki this afternoon but by the time I got to TAS, he'd already been tranquilized in preparation for his euthanasia. I stuck my head into the room where he was kenneled and saw his front paws sticking out from under the kennel door. I didn't walk in any further. I didn't want him to see me and possibly get excited. Maybe I didn't want to see him either, sedated, less than the dog he was. And maybe I also didn't want to see him because despite everything, I could have taken him out of there and brought him home and looked after his health and dealt with his biting and given him at least a more tolerable final few days or weeks or however long before the underlying illness took him over. I could have saved him but I chose not to. I stood, once again, face to face with the limits of my own compassion and generosity. Not enough.

There's that saying we hear a lot in the dog rescue world - you can't save every dog in the world but for the dog you save, it is the world - or something like that. Well, that's nice but what are you supposed to say when you don't save a dog? What does that mean? Where's the platitude for failure?

This is what I see: We are on a grassy plain and Kiki is on leash walking a few paces ahead of me. Every few steps he slows and looks over his shoulder back at me to see why I am walking so slow. He wants to walk faster but knows he's not supposed to pull so he tries to contain his exuberance. We walk until we reach the edge of a hill and just as we're about to take the first step up, something further up top sets him off - a scent, a sound, I don't know what really - and he starts to strain at the leash. He pulls and I try to pull him back but he keeps pulling and then the leash breaks. For a moment we both stand there, surprised, and I'm about to say something to him, to call him back but we both know he doesn't have to listen to me anymore. He takes a step away, starts his ascent up the hill. He walks up the hill. Then he trots. Then he runs. And even as he's climbing, he keeps looking back at me. One, two, three times and then he is gone.

(repost from March 2010)

I usually don't intentionally let dogs I walk go up to too many people but this Lab's just come up from Ohio and has been locked up in a cage for who knows how long and has had a cruddy life and was this close to being euth'd so I make an exception for him. He's untrained and hyper-enthusiastic. He butt wiggles at and tries to meet everyone who passes by. I let him approach a few of the friendlier people, at least the ones who aren't wearing super nice clothing. Everyone's good with that, even delighted to meet the dog, except for one father and son who I don't see, who walk up from behind and try to pass but the Lab runs two steps at them before the leash goes taut and he doesn't reach them but the dad's aghast and the six year old looks like he might cry and the dad tucks the kid beneath his arm and hurries off, giving me a dirty look.

"You're going to have to learn to stop rushing people," I say to the Lab who looks at me with his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. "And also stop looking ridiculous."

I take the Lab upstairs and along the way he greets every staffer like each one is his closest and dearest friend who he hasn't seen in ages and everyone greets him back like he's the overgrown puppy nutbar he really is.

There's a couple sitting upstairs and as I walk by them the woman asks, "Is he your dog or are you adopting him?"

"I'm just walking him. We just came back from his walk," I say.

"You're a dog walker here?" she asks.

"I'm a volunteer. Sometimes I walk the dogs, sometimes I ..."

"Is he up for adoption?" the man asks.

"Yes, he's a ..."

"He's too big," the woman says.

The Lab knows we're talking about him or maybe he doesn't but regardless he wants to meet the new people. He starts to pull towards them.

"Hold on," I say to him - as if my words could actually make it through the dizzy happy fog that is this Lab's permanent condition.

"Oh it's okay," she says and both she and her husband lean forward in their chairs to get ready for his greeting.

I advance slowly with the Lab who's drooling with anticipation at the thought of making more human friends. The Lab reaches them and they start to pet him. The Lab starts to paw and to generally get over-excited at the stimulation.

"He's dirty. He doesn't know his manners," says the woman.

"He's not well trained," says the man.

"No, he just got here," I say.

"You should train him better," says the woman. "It's easier to adopt out animals if you train them first. You should train him to sit."

"Training dogs to sit is easy," says the man.

"We trained our last dog to sit in 10 minutes," says the woman.

Then, as if to teach by example, the man goes, "Chuh."

And the woman goes, "Chu."

And the man goes, "Chuh, chuh."

And the woman goes, "Chu."

And the man goes, "CHUH! CHUH!"

And the woman goes, "Chuchuchu!"

Regardless of what people might think of Cesar Millan and his methods, he's got a way of dealing with dogs that works for him. Some of his critics will accuse his show of being one big editing scam where hours of work are condensed into a few minutes but I don't think this is the case. I think, in his own way, Millan is a genius. This isn't an ethical judgment. His alpha dominance methods may be an outdated, moral outrage to some but that doesn't mean he's not a master at what he does and what he does, as far as I can tell, is exude his presence over the dogs, his air of being in charge. I'm pretty sure his method isn't just about his trademark vocalizations.

Maybe I've had a long day and I'm slow to react or maybe I'm just an asshole. I should pull the Lab off them but both the man and woman are now chuing almost in unison and I want to see how this is going to turn out. The Lab is getting more excited by all this chuing and he's now up on his hind legs trying to clamber onto the man's lap.

"CHUH! CHUH! CHUH! CHUH!" the man says.

"CHU! CHU! CHU! CHU!" the woman says.

The Lab's high up enough on the man's lap to start licking his face. His wife, seeing this assault on her husband, reaches out and give the Lab a bit of a shove with her fingertips and then leans forward and goes, "Chu. Off. Chu."

I've been perusing (I don't have time to actually read whole books anymore) Temple Grandin's Animals Make Us Human. In the chapter on dogs, she discusses whether the relationship between dogs and their owners should be based on alpha dominance or one more akin to parent and child. She brings up an interesting point about how it's a myth that wolves in the wild live in packs. Wild wolves actually live as families. Usually, a group of wolves consists of the two parents and their kids - the ones who are still hanging around. The parents are "dominant" in the way most parents are dominant over their kids and the kids generally stay in line even after they've grown up - just like with most humans (someone can become CEO of a big company but when he goes home, he still defers to mother and father).

But Grandin isn't sure about the artificial environment created when people take dogs into their homes. Do the dogs view the humans as parents or alpha pack leaders? It may be subtle but the difference would inform the proper balance between guidance vs. dominance. Grandin thinks that in Millan's case, where he has a pack of thirty or more unrelated dogs living peacefully together, it's dominance at work. Millan is the alpha dominant leader of the pack and the dogs realize there's no point for them to fight over the top boss position. In a typical family setting, though, with only one or two dogs, Grandin thinks the dogs will view the humans as parents because it's a more natural and comfortable social hierarchy for them, just as it would be for human children or wolves in the wild.

In either case, Grandin makes no mention of the chuh sound.

The Lab, oblivious to the noise coming from the couple and now happily invading the (very) personal space of his two new best friends, has won the competition of wills.

"Alright," I say to the Lab and I pull him towards me. "Hey, stop that," I say and I turn the squirrely dog around to face me and try to calm him down.

"He's much too big," the woman says.

The man is brushing off his pants and wiping off his face while the Lab's attention gets diverted elsewhere: the cats, the floor, the adoption office, the elevator, the columns, the stairs. After a quiet moment of observing the slight to non-existent attention span of the Lab, the woman says:

"Our dog died a few months ago. He was sixteen."

"We're looking for a poodle. Do you have any poodles?" the man asks.

"I don't know about poodles but there are some other smaller dogs here," I say. "You can go into the adoption room and have a look. One of them is pretty timid, though, so please take it easy on him."

I take the Lab into one of the back rooms. He's not ready for adoption yet - still needs to be health checked and neutered. I walk him into his kennel and just as he realizes I'm going to leave him behind and he's about to freak out, I take out a biscuit and present it to him.

"Sit," I say and after a moment of consideration, the Lab sits. I may not have Millan's amazing power over dogs but I do have access to good snacks.

I love how The New Yorker magazine has in-depth articles about dogs so often. Here's one, in the latest issue, about Rin Tin Tin, an abandoned German Shepherd dog rescued from battle torn France in WW1 turned Hollywood action star of the 1920s.

From The New Yorker, on-line:

Rin Tin Tin was born on a battlefield in the Meuse Valley, in eastern France, in September, 1918. The exact date isn’t certain, but when Leland Duncan found the puppy, he was still blind and nursing. Duncan was assigned to the 135th Aero Squadron and vividly recalled the morning of September 15, 1918, when he was sent to inspect the ruins of a German encampment. “I came upon what might have been headquarters for some working dogs,” he wrote. But hiding nearby was a starving, frantic German shepherd female and a litter of five puppies. From the moment he found the dogs, Duncan considered himself a lucky man. He thought about that luck when it came to naming the two puppies he eventually kept for himself—the prettiest ones, a male and a female. He called them Rin Tin Tin and Nanette ...

The full article is behind a pay wall but here's a short video accompaniment.

This week's crosspost photo is of Vilma and Vivian, a pair of ten month old, Labrador mix sisters at Tails From Greece Rescue (warning: some of the photos on this site of abandoned dogs and cats in Greece are extremely disturbing).

Vilma, with the white stripe on her forehead, and Vivian are a bonded pair. Can you tell?

It looks to me like Vilma and Vivian are beyond bonded. They might actually share the same thoughts.

They were born in October 2010 and have grown up at KAZ, a shelter for stray animals, in Greece. As you can see from the video, both are very sweet and affectionate.

There are loads more videos of Vivianne and Vilma here. I especially like these two videos of Vivianne and Vilma getting baths because their expressions and body postures remind me of Rocky whenever I used to subject him to a bath.

Vivianne unfortunately lost the sight of her right eye from an accident when she was younger - not that it stops her from enjoying life.

It would be really nice if these two could stay together where ever they may end up. It wouldn't really be like having two dogs, though. It would be like having one dog in two bodies. Double the fun and double the luvin'.

Vivian and Vilma are spayed, fully vaccinated and regularly dewormed and will be microchipped prior to joining their new home. Through Tails from Greece Rescue, their air transport fees will be covered.

TAS South will not be accepting any animals for adoption for the next two weeks while the CNE is on because access to the facility is too uncertain, so no new photos until the dogs start coming in again. Hmm, what will I do with myself ...

TAS South has been getting a lot of puppies recently which is very unusual. Normally, there are weeks if not months when I don't see a pup in the facility. I hope this isn't a sign of things to come.

The most recent orphan is this German Shepherd mix pup who is instantly likeable and highly trainable (very food motivated).

Targa is at that stage in life when one of his ears is always saying "Yes" and the other ear is always saying, "No".

For adoption information on this dog and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Sad face.

Sad face.

Ah, finally. Happy face.

A couple we walked by, who had their own dog with them, were very interested in this lovely little Cavalier Spaniel and would have taken her on the spot but she still needs to be health checked and spayed. I don't think she'll have any problems finding a home.

For adoption information on this dog and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

The CNE is back and as always when the CNE is in town, access to Toronto Animal Services is tricky. This year, from what I hear, though you might want to confirm this if you are thinking about going in, the animals aren't being transferred out and there will be limited access to the facility for adoption meet and greets and pick-ups. This might change so call before heading out.

And if you do go and decide to stroll the CNE as well, I hear you should try out the Krispy Kreme donut hamburger: a greasy, smashed burger, factory cheese, some token lettuce and tomato between two KK donuts.

(original photo here)

If you do get one, you might want to run ten k with your dog before you eat again so you don't get a heart attack the next morning.

Bentley, a ten month old Maltese Terrier, came in with his sibling. Yup, another pair of abandoned mini dogs found the same week as these two. Any more lost pairs and I'll begin to suspect it's a conspiracy of a-holes who don't even have the decency to drop their unwanted pets off at the shelter.

"Just shoo them out the door, honey. They'll be fine."

Maybe there's an idiot owners conference in town.

Anyway, Bentley is with TAS South now while his sib, Dash, has been transferred to Happy Tails Rescue and his adoption page is here. They weren't as bonded as the other two lost ones so separating them will give them a better chance at being adopted sooner than later.

Though small and ubercute and great with people, Bentley is like a little lion with other dogs and he does like to roar out his displeasure (okay, it's more yelp than roar) so apartment living is probably not for him.

For adoption information on this dog and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Calgary arguably has one of the best, if not the best, animal control organization in the world and by best I mean they manage to save and protect more dogs and cats than most anywhere else. This amazing feat is in large part due to a man named Bill Bruce. Bruce is the Director of Animal and Bylaw Services for the City of Calgary and he made it his mission years ago when he took the position to change the emphasis from animal control to an emphasis on responsible pet ownership.

And it's worked.

Calgary has got the highest rate of licensing amongst pet owners because people understand that the money goes towards a good cause: keeping pets safe and protected.

In Calgary, ACOs are know as Animal Courtesy Officers and that's not just marketing speak.

While a fine for an unlicensed dog or cat is $250 with a zero tolerance for noncompliance, Calgary’s Animal Control Officers spend most of their days helping animals and their people. They are not on a witch hunt for offenders, but rather help educate folks on where to get subsidized spay/neuter, check in at the local dog parks and reunite owners with their pets that decide to take an unaccompanied stroll! With their state-of-the-art, customized Animal Control mobiles which are outfitted with laptops and Internet service, as soon as they pick up an at large animal they are able to punch his or her information into their computer and find out where the animal belongs. Then they take the animal straight home! This simple system helps keep the numbers of animals at the facility down while minimizing the possibility of spreading diseases or parasites. As Bill put it plainly: “Licensing is your ticket home” and the ACO’s seem to be the chauffeurs!

You can read more about Bill Bruce here.

You can also go listen to him speak when he comes to Toronto next month. The ORA (Organization for the Rescue of Animals) has invited him to town and he will be speaking on Friday, September 30, 2011 at the Intercontinental Toronto Yorkville Hotel in the Portman Room (220 Bloor Street West) at 7:00 PM. Tickets are $11.30.

Throwing one dog out of the house is bad enough but two at the same time? Maybe the owner thought that since there were two of them, they'd be able to survive on the streets of Toronto by themselves. Or maybe they met on the streets and became an inseparable duo.

Either way, Lucy and Ricky have a well honed survival instinct. These two pint sized pooches can be ferocious in their kennels with people who peer in on them but once out the door, they melt into cushy lapdogs. The two of them are a bonded pair which means they like each other too much to be separated. This is sweet but makes it harder to adopt them out because we'll need to find someone who is willing to take two dogs at the same time. I'm crossing my fingers on this one.

For adoption information on this dog and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

(Above photo from Beauty's fosters who foster for Dog Rescuers Inc., a most excellent local rescue.)

She's doing well. After hexidine baths and immunity shots and vitamin C, a quick round of prednisone and a mostly exclusive diet of Taste of the Wild dog food (venison and bison and no grains), Beauty's skin seems to be recovering, her hair's growing back and she's gaining weight.

Beauty is living in what sounds like a wonderful home with loads of kids to pay her constant attention which she of course loves. And she's an only dog so she doesn't have to share any of that attention.

Last I heard, her outdoor walks are still rather self limiting but she has been brought to a couple of little league baseball games and apparently is a big fan especially since there are loads of kids involved.

I couldn't be happier for Beauty and much much thanks to her foster family who have not only helped save her life but have given her a life worth saving.


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.