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Moxy has a jaunty little prance walking beside me. 


The best way to check on the adoption status of this dog (and other dogs and cats and other small domestic animals) is to visit the Toronto Animal Services adoption website or call 416 338 6668 for the Toronto Animal Services South shelter. If the dog is no longer on the TAS adoption website, it's probably because it's been adopted already.

Riley, the Beagle, steps forward straight away for pets and muzzle rubs. Sidney, the Shetland Sheepdog, hangs back, sees if things are okay then comes close, leaning against Riley first before pushing her nose into my hand. These two have been close companions for most of their eight years and need a home where they can spend the rest of their days together. They walk on leash well, like other dogs and make an excellent duo.

The best way to check on the adoption status of Sidney and Riley (and other dogs and cats and other small domestic animals) is to visit the Toronto Animal Services adoption website or call 416 338 6668 for the Toronto Animal Services South shelter. If they are no longer on the TAS adoption website, it's probably because they've been adopted already.

All the German Shepherds go, "What's with the short legs, stumpy?" and all the Corgis go, "What's with the big noggin', bobblehead?" and all the humans go, "Sooooo cute," and make squishy motions with their fingers. And Dyson's got a personality to match.

The best way to check on the adoption status of this dog (and other dogs and cats and other small domestic animals) is to visit the Toronto Animal Services adoption website or call 416 338 6668 for the Toronto Animal Services South shelter. If the dog is no longer on the TAS adoption website, it's probably because it's been adopted already.

These three have come a long way from rough streets and dire pounds in Romania. They now find themselves in what must be one of the world's poshest sanctuaries, Dog Tales, and after being checked out by the staff vet and behaviourists, they are ready for adoption.

Frankie and Champ both have that sweet shyness thing down to an art, where they're not so shy they're hiding but just shy enough to look endearing. Champ is the more tentative of the two but even he wanders up for snacks and quiet pats.

Frankie just has to tilt his head and everyone goes, Awww. I think he knows how to work the crowd.

Here's little Frankie giving a nose hello to Robin, a Romanian dog sponsor.

There is a chance Frankie and Champ may be getting adopted out together as a bonded pair. Please confirm with Dog Tales first as to their relationship status if you're interested in adopting.

And here's Henry, a little foggy eyed but that doesn't put the slightest damper on his joy of being able to run in big circles outside on the grass.

Check out the Romanian dogs in their Christmas best (care of Dog Tails):

Now these guys are safe and almost at the end of their journey to homes of their own.

Several people were involved in bringing them to Toronto and all deserve much thanks:

Lisa (Connect-a-Pet), who was at the center of organizing this transport, Cindy (K9 Aid International) in Australia, Lynda, Jana, Janis and Jeff in the U.S. who donated their the frequent flyer points to my flight, Raluca and Madalina in Romania, and Randy (Firefighter Dog Rescue).

Jake's had his undercarriage shaved as he had come in full of mattes so now he looks kinda like a walking feather duster. It'll grow back soon enough and you can tell he's going to be sporting some regal locks then. I'm told he barks though he didn't make a sound when he was with me so maybe it's a separation thing.

The best way to check on the adoption status of this dog (and other dogs and cats and other small domestic animals) is to visit the Toronto Animal Services adoption website or call 416 338 6668 for the Toronto Animal Services South shelter. If the dog is no longer on the TAS adoption website, it's probably because it's been adopted already.

There are a few small to medium sized friendly, family ready dogs at Toronto Animal Services South right now. It would be a lousy Christmas gift for these guys to be stuck at the shelter until the New Year so hopefully they'll get a very special holiday season by finding themselves in new homes.

Here's Beans, a happy go-lucky poodle who was fully attentive to me until he heard the birds disturbing the peace from within the branches of the bush we were walking past. Beans dashed in. The birds flew off in an angry fluster. Beans came back out, quite satisfied with himself.

The best way to check on the adoption status of this dog (and other dogs and cats and other small domestic animals) is to visit the Toronto Animal Services adoption website or call 416 338 6668 for the Toronto Animal Services South shelter. If the dog is no longer on the TAS adoption website, it's probably because it's been adopted already.

... are these and many more. Some are hopeful they will be taken out. Some are fearful they will be ignored. All are sad as we leave them behind. You can visit Raluca's Shelter's Facebook page for info on more dogs and please consider supporting homeless Romanian dogs via the K9 Aid International website.


The dogs love Raluca. She walks into the kennel, crouches down and they jostle each other to clamber onto her, dirty paw prints all over her clothes and she doesn't flinch. She picks them up. She cradles them, comforts them with soft words and a constant smile. Of course they love her. She's saved their lives. Their comprehension of the situation may not be so exactly expressed but it's obvious enough they understand they're safe here and somehow this woman is responsible for that.

They are safer here than they've ever been even though the structures here are roughly built. The kennels are made from wooden slats, pieces of metal and sheets of plastic. The ground is dirt. In each kennel, there is a cubby hole of some construction from which the shy ones barely poke their heads out. The eager ones dash forward and push their noses through the metal gates seeking some human connection.

The dogs may love Raluca but the neighbours not so much. She tells me they used to complain about her shelter. However, her paperwork was all in order so there was nothing they could do. Now they've stopped complaining.

There are forty dogs here. At Raluca's other shelter, there are three hundred more. A few days before my visit, she had just taken in thirty from a public pound in Breasta. The cutters there had hacked up many of the dogs with botched spay neuters and several had developed ugly infections. Hopefully, the dogs are resilient enough and the antibiotics Raluca is feeding them will be strong enough to overcome the infections.

A few people help Raluca run the day-to-day. Ovidiu works at the one we are visiting. He is quiet, attentive. He seems as comfortable around the dogs as Raluca. Every so often when we hear a potential dog fight start to sound, he runs off to quell the situation.


No one pretends this is a good life for the dogs. The cold has arrived and will only get colder. The kennels are cleaned but there are too many dogs and not enough people to keep them clean all the time. The dogs do not have much freedom to run or roam. And of course they are deprived of that which they most want: their own person and home. This is existing, not living but this will do for now. This will have to do until adopters come and take them out because the alternative is so much worse.

Raluca adopts out about two hundred fifty dogs a year. Many of the dogs we meet today are already spoken for and will soon be on their way to the U.K., Germany, Austria. And then there are the seven Randy and I will be taking to Canada. The original plan was to take six, three to accompany each of us but at the last minute Randy decided he could take another into the cabin with him so Raluca shows him two dogs small enough to fit under a seat on a plane. They are both shy but the brown one seems terrified and perhaps the flight would be too traumatic for him so the white Bichon Frise mix is chosen.

Randy also has his own rescue, Firefighter Dog Rescue

The organizers of this transport have asked Randy and me to make a list of potential dogs for the next transport. There is not one dog here I would leave behind. Every dog I've met here would make a wonderful companion. One or two might require a bit of work to bring them out of their shells - nothing a couple weeks of warm beds, full bellies and decent kindness wouldn't address. So to choose one means to abandon another. Still, you make a choice when you have to make a choice and you don't think too much on it because to do so would risk breaking something inside. It's no surprise many well-intentioned dog rescuers become dog hoarders. They've all stared too deep into the eyes of the ones they've left behind.

I like the quiet one with the stumpy legs because his personality reminds me of my own dog's personality. I like the big orange one because the big ones always have a harder time finding homes. I like the one alone in his own kennel because when he was young he had distemper and now his back leg twitches and his tongue hangs out the side of his mouth and he will be on meds forever because his kidneys are weak but this wonky little dog is still so full of joy it is infectious.

Maybe they will be chosen next time.  This time, the seven already chosen will be transported on two separate trips, the first four by Randy and the remaining three by me.  The half shells of the crates will be assembled at the airport because they are too large to fit pre-assembled into Madalina's car.   Madalina has her own rescue and frequently partners with Raluca.   She and her husband, Sorin, have been driving Randy and me all around Bucharest and will be transporting the dogs from Raluca's shelter to the airport for their flights to Canada. Everyone here is busy.


After a couple of hours spent with the dogs, the sun makes it's early retreat and Raluca invites us all inside for some coffee and dessert. We sit around a kitchen table. Raluca's mother-in-law has made apple turnovers and a pot of strong, sweet coffee. We talk about our other lives. Raluca is a full time veterinary student. Randy is a fireman. Madalina is a psychologist working in a hospital. Randy pulls out some photos on his smartphone showing himself as a fireman with his shirt off posing for a calendar. Madalina also shows us some of her photos as well. It's nice to get a glimpse of them in their other lives even though we only know each other in this one.

There are photos of Raluca on the wall, Madalina says. She points to a cluster of pictures of Raluca in a wedding gown. She was married just recently.

I ask Raluca where she went on her honeymoon.

"We have not been somewhere in the honeymoon," she says. "We don't have time for us."

Here are a few of the dogs we're bringing back with us. Adoption information will be posted once they get settled into their new digs.

Champ and Frankie who is the shy one not coming out of his tub

Henry with the glaucoma


Champ (brown and white) and Donalia (black)

Mia a last minute add-on because she's small enough to be allowed in the cabin of the plane

This is an excellent documentary about stray dogs in Romania:

Man's Best Friend - Film (English) from Eastern Europe Stories on Vimeo.

(I wrote the following before having discovered the above doc, produced in 2012, so there may be some repetition of information but this will bring you somewhat up-to-date.)

Stray dogs have been having a hard time in Romania (link has graphic content) for a while now. Many consider the dogs to be pests and sometimes dangerous pests. There are thousands of reported dog bites every year and also a few deaths and of course the dogs, being voiceless, are always at fault.

The most recent cull in 2013/2014 was started when a four year old boy was killed by allegedly stray dogs. In response, hundreds of thousands of dogs were shot, poisoned or beaten to death. Some were simply tortured in retaliation (graphic) because somehow that makes sense to some people. In the end, it turned out the dogs who had killed the child weren't stray dogs at all but were privately owned "guard" dogs. The owners were charged with manslaughter.

Regardless of the outcome of that investigation, the cull continues and the majority of stray dogs still live, and die, like vermin.

The stray dog population is an issue regardless of which side of the love/hate divide a person sits. And being human, the preferred solution is slaughter so slaughter it is but there is pressure from EU countries for dog culls to at least be done humanely through euthanasia.

The plane leaves Wednesday, arrives Thursday. KLM to Amsterdam then KLM to Bucharest. I will bring three empty crates with me. The other flight volunteer, Randy, who travels a day later, will also bring three. Bucharest has been called a city "with One of the World's Worst Stray Dog Problems". We will see how some people there try to stem the flow of suffering. Six dogs, pre-selected, health checked and vaccinated, will come back with us to Toronto the following week where three will be placed at Dog Tales and three at Etobicoke Humane Society for adoption.

The question is often asked, Why adopt from over there when there are dogs here who need homes? Or more generally, Why help far away dogs when there are nearby dogs who need help? Or perhaps you've heard this one, Why help dogs at all when there are people who need help?

These questions reduce to the same question, Why help A (your cause) when there is B (someone else's cause) and it implies one is superior to the other and thus deserves all the attention. Asking "Why help far away dogs when there are nearby dogs who need help?" or "Why help dogs when there are people who need help?" as some sort of provocative statement is not useful because helping one has got nothing to do with helping the other. Helping people has got nothing to do with helping dogs. One may as well ask Why renovate your kitchen when there are people who need help? Why go on vacation when there are people who need help? Why go out to a nice dinner when there are people who need help? To rank one charitable action over another establishes a false dichotomy and only serves to create conflict within the aid community. The real choice is to help or not to help. To argue the details is to fall prey to the narcissism of minor differences. There is little enough charity in the world and those who are truly charitable do not need to belittle another's good deeds.

That's the reasonable response.

Perhaps the better response is that the heart wants what the heart wants. You see a photo online of a dog with a leg cut off from some intentional cruelty and you donate to its surgery or you read about two puppies who survived being set on fire and you decide to sponsor the two in their shelter or you are traveling and a skeletal thing which has been hissed at and kicked by everyone else comes shuffling up to you but you have nothing to give except your hand, from which it backs away, and the heart wants what the heart wants so you go back into the cafe and buy a sandwich with a sliver of meat in it and you find the dog and toss the food over to it and you think, Well, that's stupid because now it's going to follow me around, and of course it does and somehow, as unlikely as it may have seemed just a short while ago, it follows you to a place you cannot let go and soon enough it is asleep at your feet in your home thousands of miles away.

From New York Times, November 2, 2014, Dog Meat Trade in Thailand Is Under Pressure and May Be Banned:

“Dogs are man’s best friend,” said Kawai Thanthongdee, 66, who has been eating dogs since he was young and is Mr. Praprut’s father-in-law. “But some dogs deserve to be killed.” And eaten, apparently.

This is the reality into which Khao was born and in which she lived for the first few years of her life. She was saved from the hammer and knife when she was rescued by Soi Dog Foundation in Thailand and brought over by her sponsor. She's been in Toronto for three weeks now and despite her mid-length coat, shivers in the damp November chill as she's still adjusting to the weather and the first winter of her life.

I walk with her a bit but in the short time I have, I can hardly get her to even look at me, especially with the camera lens staring at her face. She's a very shy girl. It's no surprise, given her past, that she's a little wary of strangers.

Especially men, her foster, tells me. I look at her peaking out from between her foster's feet. Khao's obviously bonded with Farah.

How long did that take? I ask.

Overnight, Farah replies.

Such is the trust inherent in Khao towards humans, waiting to express itself, despite all experience telling her to do otherwise.

If you're interested in meeting or adopting Khao, she will be at Kennel Cafe (295 Roncesvalles Av, Toronto, ON M6R 2M3 (416) 531-3177) today, Sunday November 22, in the afternoon between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. You can also call her adoption coordinator, Lynda, at 416 538 8559, email:


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.