Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On air

I'm in one of the CITY TV studios standing around like everyone else, waiting for the live broadcast of CP24's Animal House Calls to begin. I'm there because Johanne Tasse is going to be a guest on the show to talk about the rescue partnership between Toronto Animal Services and caacQ. Along with Johanne is Anne who is a rescue volunteer with Rosie Animal Adoption and Mica, a brown Lab from Quebec who will be put up for adoption by TAS South.

In front of me, I see what looks like a male, brindle Cane Corso and I recognize him immediately as one of the dogs seized by the Toronto Humane Society from the horrid living conditions in a backyard shed a few days ago. Along with the male, a female was also seized as well as some other smaller dogs and animals.

Is this the dog from the seizure? I ask the woman who is handling the dog and she says yes. Friendly?, I ask but just as a formality because it's obvious that it is friendly judging from its demeanor with strangers and also because there's no way the THS would bring an unmuzzled, aggressive large dog into a TV studio.

This dog, along with the seized female, are the likely but unconfirmed parents of the the two pups that landed at Toronto Animal Services a few days back. It likely may have been that incident with the stray pups which lead to the eventual call to TAS to investigate the premises of the owners of the adult dogs. After arrival of TAS officers, THS was called in to perform the animal seizures and to determine if any animal cruelty charges would be laid.

The division of enforcement duties between TAS and THS was explained to me some time ago as being: TAS enforces municipal by-laws whereas THS enforces animal cruelty laws but in practice these distinctions can sometimes get hazy.

I pet the dog and it is very responsive so I crouch down and give it a good scratch on its big noggin. What kind of dog is he? I ask because there had been some uncertainty about the breed of the pups. At this point, Tre Smith, the popular face of the Toronto Humane Society, in his familiar flak jacket uniform, turns around and looks at me and tells me some exotic breed name which I can't recall two seconds later because I was distracted looking at the thick layer of foundation on his face. There is something about make-up applied on an obviously masculine visage that is conspicuously jarring.

Well, he's a wonderful dog, I say and someone beside me wearing a headset agrees.

Tre says, Oh yeah, when I first went to get it, it tried to tear me ... it tried to attack me. It was just doing his job, though. Protecting its property. It was totally unsocialized but we took it in and socialized it and now it's great.

Tre gets the attention of the dog and says, It was probably beaten or hit. He demonstrates this by taking his open palm and whacking the air in front of the dog's face and the dog flinches and pulls away. See, it's a little hand shy, he says.

How's the female doing?, I ask. What's she like?

She's not so friendly, the woman handler says.

I mention that I've seen the pups at Toronto Animal Services that may or may not be the offspring of the dog in front of us and I get back a couple of grunts and the conversation ends.

I walk back into the waiting room with Johanne and Anne and Mica and we sit there and a few moments later, the live broadcast of Animal House Calls begins and we watch on the monitor as Anne Rohmer talks to Tre about the Toronto Humane Society's rescue of the dog and the other animals from a couple of days ago.

Johanne isn't on until the last segment of the show so we sit and talk and watch the jumble of people as they hurry around the studio. I watch Anne Rohmer as she smoothly conducts her interviews with her guests and I'm a little surprised that there is only one cameraperson working on or near the set. No directors, assistant directors, DOP's, etc. Other than the lights, it feels like it's just Rohmer having a chat with someone.

In the rest of the studio, though, there are lots of crew, and most of them are quite dog friendly. Mica gets much attention. The make-up person lets Mica sniff the tub of foundation powder that's been liberally spread around on everyone and for a second I think she's going to powder Mica's nose as well. A newscaster tells Mica she's very pretty and comments on how small she is for a Lab. I'm about to joke that she's actually a Pit Bull in disguise but decide against it in case someone overhears and believes me. Another woman walks by and crouches down to pet Mica and calls her a lovely dog and tells me that there's no way she'd ever actually own a dog because she doesn't want her clothes to smell.

Soon enough, the bunny woman and the vet are finished and it's Johanne's turn in the hot seat. She walks onto the set leading Mica with her leash but someone doesn't want Johanne holding Mica while she's talking to Rohmer and so Johanne suggests I hold onto the dog but then someone else gets the guy with the headphones to hold onto her instead. That's fine because I'd wanted to take a couple photos from the sidelines anyway.

Johanne does a good job plugging caacQ and Toronto Animal Services and everything goes smoothly but then after the segment is done and the cameras are turned off, Rohmer pulls Johanne over to a copy of Toronto Humane Society's monthly magazine and opens it up to a page comparing THS euthanasias to TAS euthanasias, slightly concerned that caacQ might be sending Quebec dogs to their deaths. Johanne explains that isn't the case at all and I blurt out something about how the numbers are misleading but I doubt I allay Rohmer's fears much before she runs off to check something on the monitors.

As we head back to the waiting room to gather up our stuff, one of the producers stops Johanne and tells her something like, Okay, you were supposed to bring someone to handle your dog. If I had known you didn't have anyone to handle your dog, I wouldn't have allowed you on the show. We could have been sued. Our guys can't handle your dog. If one of our guys is holding onto your dog and the dog rips his face off, he could sue me and you and we just can't have that kind of liability. You must have someone handle the dog. Our people cannot do that.

Johanne handles the rebuke without breaking her smile and I bite my tongue.

Then we leave.

More on the two Fila pups here.


Anonymous said...

You are a wonderful writer. What a wonderful account of this media event. Thank you for this great blog!

Lori said...

The dog you are referring to, I believe, is the SAO MIGUELIN FILA.
They are a herding type dog and not for a first time owner.
Here is a link to info about the breed.
They are a Portuguese Cattle Dog. They are smart, strong and easily trained.

Anonymous said...

Fred, I thought those TAS puppies looked a lot like the THS rescues. I'm still holding out hope for them.

Tali said...

They are actually Cao de Fila de Sao Miguel's or Azores Cattle Dogs. They are an obscure breed which has been kept pure by the wonderful breeders in Portugal, however due to the ban on Pit Bull's all the crazies out there are trying to find substitutes...they've managed to ruin a wonderful breed in the Staffordshire Terrier and now they are working on the Mollaser breds. I am the proud owner of a rescued Azores and she is the best thing to happen to me in a long time. She goes to doggy daycare everyday for socialization and I have two gifted, wonderful trainers who have helped me through 3 classes with her. She is brilliant, responsive, loyal to a fault and loving. She is not for a first time owner. She is the most obedient dog I have ever owned and I had a Border Collie before her! I can only pray that knowledgeable dog people work with these dogs and allow them to prove how wonderful this breed truly is.

Fred said...

Thanks, Lori and Tali for confirming the breed of the dog. If the dog on the CITY TV set is any indication, it is indeed a fine breed. Calm, friendly, focused even amongst the bustle of strangers in a new environment.

redstarcafe, there may actually be a (good) surprise in store for the pups. I'll definitely let you know if it happens.

Anonymous said...

Fred, I am on tenterhooks about those puppies! As Team Leader of two great shiba inus, I know what it's like to deal with dogs that aren't "for first time owners". But those dogs are usually a beautiful challenge for someone who is open to it.

Fred said...

redstarcafe, I know how you're feeling. I have to force myself not to think about them actually. I'm going to go in on Saturday to take some photos of them and see how they're coming along so I'll post those up as soon as I get them.

Anonymous said...

Fred, if the reports about their potential origins are correct, they oould have a wonderful future. They are probably shepherds, after all. Poor little guys.

Who wouldn't be scared after all they've been through, especially if they are one of the more sensitive breeds?

I can't say that mine (the shiba inu's) wouldn't react the same way if they'd escaped from a bad situation? Beautiful little personalities: creative, independent, intelligent. I hope TAS will give these little guys an opportunity.

Caveat and I and some of the other posters here would not go willingly into that dark night, you know.

Anonymous said...

I know this comment is a little late, but I came across this blog just now.

I'd like to let you know that Rocky is doing very well. He's now a member of my family.

Here's a link to some current picks. More will be added in the near future.

Fred said...

Anonymous, thanks so much for the link to the photos of Rocky. I'm really glad to see he's doing well in his new home.

Rocky was such a calm, well mannered dog when I met him and I was really hoping he'd end up in a good home especially after what he'd been through.