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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.

8 Comments to “To Romania”

  1. deva says:

    A wonderful post. Thank you. Looking forward to seeing pictures of Romanian pups. Have a safe journey.

  2. Anonymous says:

    People who can't figure out how to care about multiple issues at the same time aren't worth debating with. If they care enough to debate with you they're stealing precious thoughts away from their charitable notion. I am so looking forward to seeing photos from this trip!!! This is such a fantastic thing you are doing. -Melanie L.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Fr ed please go and help out those poor dogs who need help both medically and physically. If we have the resources and accommodation to help then why not help. We can offer proper medical attention and the proper and necessary resources to help these poor animals who cannot tell us what they've gone through. Thanks Fr ed for your participation in going to another country to help save and care for poor animals. May you have a safe trip there and back. May God bless you.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Compelling arguments for rescuing animals abroad, and such fine writing! Do I detect the literary artistry of Fred Ni in this blog??

  5. Kate says:

    As you probably already know (or will soon learn), Romania also has a barbaric and corrupt institutional shelter conglomerate that rounds up, brutalizes and starves to death many thousands of dogs per year. These are canine concentration camps, and there's one or more in every city. If strays escape the paid dogcatchers and remain on the streets (often sick, injured or scrounging for scraps), they are the lucky ones. The camps routinely kill hundreds of dogs when they fill up, and not humanely. They usually inject them with gasoline or something cheap, and the dogs die in agony. Often the dogs are not fed, and when they are, they're often housed large dogs with the small, the weak with the strong, which of course leads to more injuries and killings, dog on dog, with no medical help provided. Everyone should learn the names Breasta, Pallady, Bacau, Oltenita... those are just a few of the larger 'shelters'. What you're doing is commendable. Six dogs out of Romania, six lives saved from the camps. And people need to see the larger picture too.

  6. Kate says:

    Just a follow-up to what I posted earlier. If you follow any Romanian rescuers on facebook, these posts are an everyday reality: (from Iulia Stancu) "Two weeks ago in Bragadiru ps ['Public Shelter' or ps as the concentration camps are referred to] they didn't allow people to enter to view dogs. And dogs were crying. After this we heard that 200 dogs were killed. It was a massacre there. Can you imagine the pain of the dogs before to be killed with cold blood? They are preparing to kill again the most old in ps dogs. Pls go there and save a life! Every soul it counts!I know you are full and tired.We all are. But if we stop to save, they will win. Also adopt and share helping dogs to be saved."

  7. re also fighting for refugees and the homeless and donating toys at Christmas and dropping their change in appeal bins and...

    You are right: the heart wants what the heart wants. Those who love need not worry about those who cannot. They may be poor in pocket but they are richer by far than their critics.

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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.