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This road trip was never meant to involve a large transport and of course we regret that now. We wish we'd brought a transport trailer with us.

Six dogs come home with us. Chip and Charlie, the white Bull Terrier, a ten year old Lab mix, a Malamute, a Beagle pup.

We were supposed to take the older Beagle female who'd been left in a pit in the woods but the owner of the dog turned up and asked for her back. In exchange, he gave the shelter owner one of the female's pups and the shelter owner gave us the pup at the last minute, too late for us to pick out another dog. We didn't want to bring back any pups. We wanted to give the older dogs a chance. But, here we are bringing back a pup.

Of course, it's adorable.

All six dogs are now safely at the Toronto Humane Society, warm, well fed, being looked after and cooed over. They are all great dogs, the kind of dogs you want to hold on to, and barring any ailments, will no doubt be in good homes soon enough.

On our trip, we have been to Berger Blanc, SPCA Valleyfield, SPCA Montreal, SPCA Lanaudiere, HSI's Paws R Us rescue facility and Animatch Rescue. I would be more than willing to let my dogs stay at the most excellent Animatch Rescue but on the other hand I would euthanize them before turning them over to Berger Blanc.

The trip didn't reveal anything unexpected. I'd seen or heard about the conditions in Quebec long before. I understood what I'd be walking into. We saw the tail end of the HSI rescue mission but I can't write about it because of on-going legal concerns over the Paws R Us court case. The SPCAs we toured are struggling and one in particular is not doing well at all. Each SPCA shelter, independent from one another, is run by people with varying degrees of animal welfare and business expertise, varying degrees of empathy, and it shows in the living conditions of the dogs.

There were no surprises (well, expect for being shit and puked on - I wasn't expecting that). Still, there is something in me which is exhausted, darkened, dull. It's like the only way to climb out of my own pit is to hit something, or do drugs or sleep for a week until the feeling fades.

I think about my own dog, Smitten, who is a Quebec dog, and the thought that she spent any time at all in any of the more wretched places we visited makes me sick. She was once one of those dogs, shit and piss covered, matted, diseased, discarded, pleading with her eyes, whining or barking for a moment of compassion from anyone who walked by her cage door and bothered to look in her direction. And where would she be now if someone hadn't picked her out over the doomed dog in the next pen or the next, like we picked out our six dogs to bring back with us.

All these perfectly good dogs which people created only to let suffer their lives away. All these perfectly good dogs who are overlooked by the majority of dog owners who chose instead to buy "well bred" dogs from backyard breeders and puppy millers. All these perfectly good dogs who were once owned by the fickle and selfish and thrown away.

I should end this final road trip post on an upbeat but I can't. Maybe after I sleep for a week.

Much thanks to Marcie (second from left) for being a great travel partner and to Johanne (second from right) for arranging everything.

11 Comments to “Road trip 9”

  1. Lenni J. says:

    I have been following your Road Trip posts daily. Although you must be absolutely exhausted on every level, I am sure this experience will only enrich your work in the end. I hope you are able to take some time to rest and reflect - and I cannot adequately express my admiration for what you have done. I have been a volunteer foster for over twenty years and even the most gentle cases are heartbreaking. Your passion and commitment is inspiring. Thank you.

  2. Erin says:

    I know my words won't take away the past few days, but I wanted to let you know that what you've done and continue to do makes a difference and there are many of us out here who appreciate all that you do.

    This weekend I was at the dog park with Mabel, watching her run full tilt when another husky came into the park. Lo and behold, her name was Sierra and she is a recent TAS adoption. I even recall seeing her online. It was pretty amazing to stand there and watch these two TAS dogs run like the wind together and know that they got their much deserved happy endings. I wish all animals got their happy endings, so thank from the bottom of my heart for helping as many as you do.

  3. Fred, I say to you what I say to a colleague who works for the human rights of people with disabilities and I know has witnessed people being treated no better than the dogs you met-- thank you for allowing your eyes and heart to travel and bear witness to such dark places. You had the courage to do that for the sake of saving a few dogs' lives. They are certainly worth it but most of us would not have that courage. I don't think many people understand how bad the situation is out there for so many animals. People like you make it possible for others (as we say in Italian) "to pass a hand over their conscience.

    And poop --BTW-- is a considered a blessing; puke a sign of purification, so see, the dogs were blessing you all along!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I can feel your exhaustion. Not that it's any consolation because the ones you left behind will always haunt you....but for the one you save, it is the world.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Fred, I read your blog every day now. You are an inspiration to anyone who loves animals and shares their life with them. Give Smitten a hug and get some rest. You saved 6 lives this week.

  6. mel says:

    Ahh, I want to bawl my eyes out after reading this. Especially:

    "I would be more than willing to let my dogs stay at the most excellent Animatch Rescue but on the other hand I would euthanize them before turning them over to Berger Blanc"

    .. Because it should never be a choice anyone should ever have to make.

    Thanks for sharing your journey, Fred. Now go get some rest.

  7. Luan says:

    Thank you Fred for making the journey and sharing it with us.

  8. Anonymous says:

    A big thank you to you and everyone involved. My boy was a Quebec dog too so this post really got to me.

  9. Wengue says:

    Hi Fred,

    Thanks for sharing and caring. I would not be able to do what you did (not the trip and the energy involved but the places that you visited). We have our own little road trip coming up soon, sending 3 puppies and one giant old sheepdog who had been caring for them when they were strays (and he's not even dad!) They will leave Greece for Germany where they have great homes waiting for them. Wish I could take in dogs to adopt out like you do, alas our situation here is the opposite, all our rescues have to travel long distances to their forever homes. I admire your dedication, your heart and your ability to tell stories through words and photos. Rest now, you've done a great thing.

  10. rika says:

    Hi Fred. Like Luan said, thanks for making the journey and sharing it with us. Take care.

  11. deva says:

    Nice story about Johanne Tasse in today's Globe:

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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.