I wasn't planning on going but I needed a break so I headed over to Toronto Animal Services. I thought I'd take a look and see if there were any new dogs that needed their photos taken but as it turned out, there hadn't been any new arrivals in a few days. That was a bit of a nice surprise and purely for selfish reasons. Sometimes it's nice to be able to just hang out with the dogs without having any tasks that need to get done.
I headed over to the Shih Tzu room expecting to be greeting by 13 pairs of eyes but instead there were only 2. Turns out 11 of them have already been adopted out and the remaining 2 will be going to the Petsmart Adopt-a-thon this weekend. These two, originally anxious around people dogs, have become happy, barking, jump up and greet everyone dogs. Their transformations are amazing and they will surely be snatched up at the Adopt-a-thon.
These two dogs have come a long way in a very short time. It goes to show just how badly they must have been treated by their previous owner to have been so withdrawn when they first came in. How obvious it is now that they were living in some sort of abusive psychological environment, and that they weren't just born anxious and suspicious of people. They were made anxious and suspicious by people and now that they've been given the slightest amount of nurturing, even in a rather impersonal space like Toronto Animal Services, their true personalities have come out.
The Shih Tzus were originally brought in from a Parkdale apartment a few weeks ago. I recognized the apartment building from a news clip on TV and I'm pretty sure none of the units inside the building would have been big enough to house 13 dogs, even 13 small ones. The person who was looking after them said that they belonged to a recently deceased relative and the situation in the apartment was only temporary.
That may be true but regardless of who owned the Shih Tzus and for how long, the horrible condition they arrived in would indicate a case of hoarding. A loose definition of hoarding would be something along the lines of having too many animals to take care of properly, not acknowledging the fact and, in most cases, "collecting" more. In theory, that would mean that someone who owns even one animal could be a hoarder if he isn't able to take of it properly but generally hoarders have multiple animals, sometimes well into the hundreds.
There have been some interesting television programs on animal hoarding recently and they give some insight into the unhinged mind of a hoarder. "Cat Ladies" is a documentary filmed partially in Toronto and it explores the sometimes hazy line between being an animal rescuer and being an animal hoarder.
In the doc, a certain celeb from the Toronto Humane Society says: I think a cat hoarder and a cat rescuer are almost one and the same ... I think it is an addiction. Okay, whatever, Einstein. It can sometimes be a slippery slope from one to the other but I don't think the majority of rescuers can be put in the same category as hoarders.
One of the cat ladies interviewed in the doc has a different view: I find it rather amusing that people would call me the crazy cat lady because I don't look at myself that way ... I think I'm a lot more sane than the people that can handle leaving a cat out in the winter to freeze to death or starve to death - now I think that's crazy.
"Cat Ladies" aired on TVO back in September but hopefully, there will be some repeat showings sometime soon.
From a show on A&E appropriately called "Hoarders", there is an episode dealing with a cat hoarder named Shirley: Feeding animals is something I have to do even if you put me in prison.
"Hoarders" is a reality TV show so you can expect a good dose of fix-it-in-an-hour therapy but besides that annoying aspect, it seems to present Shirley in a sympathetic light even though she does live in terrible conditions and the animals under her "care" are highly neglected. The clip is of an upcoming show so I don't know the outcome of Shirley's "therapy".
There's even a professional group dedicated to hoarding, The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium and while I probably wouldn't want to go to any of their conventions, they do have some eye-popping photos ...
... on their site and lots of information concerning animal welfare, intervention, disease and legislation.
Okay, so this started out as a post about a relaxing time with the dogs at TAS and it turned into a post about hoarding. I'm getting old and my mind is starting to wander. I'll have to write about Rufus, who is unfortunately still waiting to be adopted, some other time.
Update: I was recently sent a link to a couple of sites that deal specifically with hoarding. Check them out. There's lots of information about the disease: