Monday, November 15, 2010

New blog

I'm a little hesitant to do this but I've been sitting on my ass long enough. The new blog is here and it's called "Pound Dogs".

It's questionable why I felt the need to start a new blog instead of just continuing with this one but you'll see, the new one is different. First of all, it's more pictures, less words - almost no words actually. At least that's the way it's starting out. Who knows what direction it might eventually take.

And also, Stella was a big part of "One Bark at a Time", and now that she is no longer with us, I feel that continuing on here would be, well, wrong. It just wouldn't feel the same. "One Bark at a Time" only started because of Stella and so it ends with her.

A quick update on Rocky, for anyone interested. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in August and has been receiving chemo on an almost weekly basis. He's doing well on it, as most dogs do, but still, the outcomes even with chemo average only about a year. Testing has also indicated early signs of heart problems (dilated cardiomyopathy - same as Stella), so if the cancer doesn't get him, his heart probably will. Arthritis is now affecting one of his front knees (along with both his back knees) and he's also going a little bonkers in the head - old age dementia and all. Yes, the gods are gunning for him but for now he's still with us and scrappy as ever so fuck the gods. They don't got him yet.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

So that is pretty much the end of this blog. I've some other projects on the horizon, probably still a few months away, which I'll link to from here when they're up and ready.

Once again, thank you all for reading and especially thank you all for caring and helping find homes for abandoned animals. You are all they have.

Nothing gold can stay

For the first few days after Stella's death, Rocky was confused with her absence. It wasn't until five or six days later that he perhaps realized she wasn't coming back and this manifested itself in some behavioural changes. The most obvious one was that he didn't want to leave my side. He was like a lost child, like when I first brought him home, following me where ever I went, from living room to kitchen to den to backyard, even to the washroom. It was much harder for him this time round, though, with his bad hips and having to heave himself up whenever I got up. I tried to make him stay put. "Don't get up. I'll be right back," I'd say but he did not believe me.

I wouldn't go so far as to say Rocky mourned Stella but he did miss having her around. She was his big sister in a lot of the more thrilling things they did around the house. Rocky's hearing and eyesight were not the greatest anymore so Stella was his ears and eyes. She would initiate and be his signal for barking and chasing all trespassing critters in the backyard or for greeting someone knocking at the door or for anticipating the approach of another dog. Things are more quiet around here now that Rocky has lost his partner in crime.

I'd been feeling a little guilty that I hadn't been spending as much time with Rocky the last few weeks. Rocky's world was becoming smaller. He was going from his inside bed to his outside bed to the patch of artificial grass and there were a few short walks around the neighbourhood thrown in.

At eleven or twelve, he's getting old for a Doberman. He's got multiple lumps and bumps and a few small ulcers and cysts. He's got chronic hepatitis and his hips and hind legs are getting weaker. A couple of times, he exerted himself so hard trying to get up out of bed, he pushed out a hard, round turd. He's stoic, though. He puts his head down and soldiers on.

Here's something strange. Rocky picked up some habits Stella used to have. For example, whenever I came inside from the backyard before Stella felt ready to come in, she'd sit on the patch of artificial grass half way down the yard and bark once or twice at me to go back out and join her. She'd bark and then stare at the sliding patio door, hoping I'd do as she wished. This was her thing, not Rocky's. He never barked at me but now I find him lying on the grassy patch, staring at the sliding patio door, and uttering a bark and waiting - for me or for Stella, I'm not sure.

Rocky's also started staring at flies, like Stella used to stare at bees. Last night, he stared at a fly crawling on the floor in front of his feet and then he got up when the fly took off and he snapped at it. First time he's ever done that, at least that I've seen.

With Stella gone, I've tried to do some rearranging in the house. I moved Rocky's eating station to where Stella's used to be. He didn't like that. The first few meals, he didn't want to eat the food. He had no problems stealing Stella's food when she was around but now that she's gone ... I don't know what it is. I don't know why he won't eat where she used to eat. It's like he's keeping her seat at the table, doesn't want to displace it in case she comes back. Is this respect, guilt, honour? Are these reasons even possible or is it just over anthropomorphizing on my part?

Regardless, I know that in his own way he feels her loss, as do I.

Stella was a big presence around the house. Big personality but big physically as well. At 130 pounds, losing her was like losing a person. The night after her death, Elizabeth caught a glimpse of the large tan coloured doggy bed out of the corner of her eye and it made her jump because she thought it was Stella come back.

I started washing Stella's laundry a few days later and with each piece of bedding or clothing I threw in the washer, it felt like I was losing a bit more of her. When I washed out her dog food bowl, it felt like I was losing her. When I put away her toys, it felt like I was losing her. Her leash and collar, I haven't put away yet, nor her favorite hole covered (care of Rocky) blanket which she used to suckle on to soothe herself. And there is a small clear plastic sandwich bag with a tuft of her fur in it. I asked the vet to snip some off that last night.

I'll always regret having her euthanized at the emergency clinic. I wanted to have it done at home but her heart went into a relentless arrhythmic tachychardia on Saturday night and she could not catch her breath with the fluid building up in her lungs. The drugs no longer helped her and I couldn't force her to suffer through the weekend on the slim chance of a traveling vet doing a home euth on Monday.

Stella was so scared at the clinic. They had taken her away to examine her and when they brought her back into the room, after the vet had explained the situation and after we decided to end her suffering, after we knew what we were about to do, they brought her back into the room and as soon as she saw me she wagged her tail and relief and joy lit up her face.

I told myself then as I tell myself now, that what we were about to do was for the best. I didn't want to wait until Stella was choking and gasping and turning blue. Still, I wish I could have given her a better death, one not so full of trauma, being poked and prodded by strangers in a sterile metal room on a cold hard floor. I felt like I was betraying her, as she would never have betrayed me, and I felt I was giving up on her, as she would never have given up on me. She was so happy to see me, hoping that maybe we could go home now, even as the vet pushed in the syringe. And then in her eyes, I could see it, a sudden change, an absolute realization that something was wrong that something terrible was engulfing her, and I know she would have raged against it if she could but she could not and I held her as she died and I knelt over her and wept because I could not save her, because she trusted me and I could not save her.



In the last few weeks of Stella's life, for a few minutes every night just before sleep, we used to stand on the patio looking into the dark of the backyard, Stella beside me on one side and Rocky on the other. Rocky with his old hips would usually leave first to go back inside to fall into the comfort of his bed leaving Stella and I alone to contemplate our respective thoughts.

I recently read a quote by some famous author who wrote that pets bring death into one's home. As I stood beside Stella, I remembered her as she once was, young and vital, and now, so suddenly it seemed, gray muzzled and fragile, her heart tired, and I understood that the author of the quote was right. My pets would bring death into my home. Staring into the darkness of the backyard, I saw the wide open maw of insatiable nothingness and I knew I wasn't going to be able to avoid it this time. Stella, beside me, her breath heavy even though it was a cool night - she would bring death into my home, and as she peered into the same darkness, I wondered if there was there an awareness of that on her own part, of her own life dwindling.

Our pets bring death into our homes and that is their final gift to us. As we spend more and more time in an infinite and ever expanding, disassociated virtual world, our pets bring back an understanding of our corporeal selves. I see my mortality because of the mortality of my pets. They will end. I will end. All life ends. If we are smart about it, at least as smart as our canine companions, death will be an exclamation mark at the end of our lives to say, Look, our lives were precious and amazing and worth every moment. Certainly, Stella's life was precious to me and amazing to me and having her in my life was worth every moment.

Every night, standing on the patio, peering into the darkness, Stella leaned into me and I put my hand on her head and tried to seal the memory of that touch into my palm. We stared into the darkness, then turning away from the darkness, we walked back into the light of our home.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Stella
July 2002 - June 26, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

On Friday morning, at the end of her walk, Stella stopped just outside the entrance to our front yard, not wanting to go in yet, and looked up the street. She just stood there and looked and I thought she smelled something and so I motioned for her to go follow her nose but she did not. She just stood and looked, seeing something I could not.

On Friday night, Elizabeth told me that Stella dreamed of running.

On Saturday morning, I told my mother who was finally fully awake from her surgery the day before that the doctors had found that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes so she would very likely have to go through chemo.

On Saturday afternoon, I watched on TV as they smashed windows and burned up our Toronto streets.

On Saturday night, Stella's heart beat like a butterfly and could not be restrained any longer but Stella did not understand. I held her when the vet injected her with the first needle and she looked at me and asked me what was happening to her. I could not give her an answer so I kissed her on her furrowed brow. Then she leaned into my arms and I lay her down.

All dogs dream of running even when they can no longer run.

My Stella is gone.

For now I am done here.

Thank you all for reading and being with us these few years. I can't express my gratitude to you enough.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bahadur

(from Cathrine in Bangladesh)

This is a story without pictures. It is a story about why it is a story without pictures. Who says dogs can't be as postmodern as humans?

Bahadur means "The Strongest". It is the name of the 50 kilo street dog who dominates the canine population at Tongi Market. Imagine a a cross between a doberman, a pit bull and a grizzly, and you've got Bahadur. The colours are all doberman, except for four white socks.

Despite his appearance, Bahadur is gentle, friendly, quiet, and very popular with the villagers. So there was outrage when he turned up with a serious wound at the base of his spine clearly inflicted by a human tool, probably an axe. The outrage reached Ali, and he went to have a look. In tears, he called for backup. the wound was infected and full of maggots. This dog would die without expensive treatment. Could someone fund the treatment?

So Bahadur got cleaned, disinfected, sterilised (by popular request -- the villagers agreed he had enough puppies, thank you!), stitched and vaccinated. Then he came to the Residence for recuperation. Since he was really groggy, I thought I'd leave the portrait until he was more alert.

Bahadur alert is not a dog one can photograph. Bahadur alert is a huge street dog who has a low boredom threshold and wants to go home!

Like all Bangali street dogs, he eats bamboo. He also eats chicken wire, sofas, end tables, and doors. I am not making this up! He can demolish an Elizabeth collar in five minutes, and an adapted metal waste basket replacement in under half an hour. He shows a remarkable grasp of practical physics, including the principles of leverage, friction and inertia.

Bahadur demolished the kennel, the staff room furniture, most of the staff room, and ate three of the locks on our very expensive IATA approved travel crate, which just happened to be stored in the area. He also sprained my wrist and pulled a couple of muscles in local staff who were trying to help me move him when he did not want to be moved.

Clearly, a High Commission designed to resist rampaging mobs and the wiles of potential terrorists is no match for one determined street dog. Today, Bahadur and his medical kit and food supply went to spend the rest of his recuperation at Ali's house, which happens to have 3 meter high solid brick and mortar walls that are a meter thick, and a metal gate that reaches right down to the cement courtyard.

It is enough to contain Rani, two cats, a chicken and two goats: insh'allah, it should be enough to contain Bahadur, because he needs treatment for the next month. If it isn't, we are going to have to distribute Povisep disinfectant and clean rags to everyone in Tongi, and tell them to clean the wound whenever Bahadur turns up for his handouts.

That, at least, will work: nothing but nothing distracts a Bangali street dog from his food!

Toronto Animal Services South closed for G20

Closed June 25 - June 27

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Toronto Animal Services dog photos Jun 19

Cocoa - Brown Labrador Retriever


Unnamed Beagle


Unnamed Beagle


Unnamed Labrador Shepherd cross

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Breathless

It used to be when I woke up in the middle of night, I'd toss and turn a while but then fall back to sleep. Now, in darkness, I lay still in bed and I listen for the sound of Stella breathing.

A soft, rhythmic hush of air, one breath every 3 seconds, no faster, eases my anxieties and as anxieties fade, sleep returns. For a while at least, I know Stella is comfortable, her lungs not filled with fluid. Anything faster, sharper, raspier immediately sets me on edge and I wait and pray for the breathing to slow down, hoping perhaps a dream is the cause of her rapid breath. But if it does not slow down, if it starts to sound like panting, then I get up and go downstairs and I prepare the pills, the furosemide, a diuretic which will dry out her lungs but eventually ruin her kidneys. Dilated cardiomyopathy is an illness of her heart but it is the fluid build up in her lungs which give her the most grief.

I take out a cube of raw beef, about an inch square and I cut a slit through the center. I jam the pills inside the meat. I feed the meat to Stella and she gobbles it down and I feel like I am feeding her poison but within an hour, her breathing is good again and my anxieties are pushed back.

Sometimes listening in the dark, I can't tell if the breathing I hear is coming from Rocky or Stella. Then I have to sit up to better discern from which direction the sound is coming. If Rocky yelps, whines or groans that is fine. He is an active dreamer more conversant in sleep than awake.

Such noises coming from Stella, though, tells me she is in discomfort. She has, until recently, been a mostly silent sleeper. If she groans and rolls about, it's because she's having a hard time finding a position which allows her to breathe properly. She likes to sleep on her side but it's often bad on her side and so she has to force herself into a sphinx position. She has a hard time balancing in that pose, tilting over to one side or the other. I imagine it's the equivalent of a person trying to sleep sitting up in a chair without arms.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw her in her sphinx pose, drifting off. Her head came down, eyes closed and she slowly rolled over onto her side. Her breathing started to increase rapidly and then suddenly she was panicking when she realized she was getting no air. I could see a moment of terror in her eyes as she startled up and coughed and inhaled big lungfuls of air.

Stella grumbles and I go over to her, checking her pulse, counting her breaths. She knows this is how things work now so sometimes she plays it up, grumbling when she wants attention. She'll look straight at me, breathing fine, and she'll grumble. If I don't move, she grumbles louder and longer and with more urgency. Almost always by the third grumble, my will power is gone and I am consoling her just in case there actually is discomfort. I guess she figures she may as well milk it.

Every week it progresses. The noises she makes could fill a melodramatic thespian's reportoire. There are high and low grunts. Extended groans of increasing then diminishing loudness. Sometimes there are sighs, long and so melancholic she is like an old woman remembering the better days of her youth.

There have been some bad days, especially at first when I over exerted her on a walk or when she spit out a couple of the pills without me noticing. Those two times resulted in panting, almost gasping and anxious visits to the cardiologist. Now she is on a more even keel. The dosing is appropriate. She only gets short walks. I try to make sure she doesn't get over excited.

This has unfortunately meant that we aren't able to continue with her tour of Toronto sites but it does mean much more time lounging in the backyard and that is perhaps just as well appreciated by her.

Day to day, the hardest thing to deal with is the amount of peeing Stella does because of the diuretics. She was spayed too young so she is incontinent as well and the incontinence seems to be getting worse. I don't want her lying in her own piss and I'm wary about using diapers because of possible infections so it comes down to getting her to go out every 3 or 4 hours or more. That means coming home from work twice during the day and waking up twice during the night.

She doesn't appreciate me rousing her up at 3 in the morning to go into the backyard. Who would? Then we stand around and I say, "Go pee," and she looks at me like I'm an asshole for making her do this at that ridiculous hour and then finally she goes and pees. She is a good sport.

Coming home from work twice a day has been fine up until now as work was only 5 minutes away but as of next week, work has moved much further away so I'm in the process of finding a dog walker to come by to give her the meds in the afternoon. It's a big stress trying to find the right one. I will be leaving her life literally in some stranger's hands.

So, life around here has changed. I've never had to deal with something like this before and while I would never begrudge Stella anything, it is, admittedly, draining and perhaps more so because I know the outcome will not be a positive one. Well, no, I'm thinking about it wrong. The outcome is her everyday well-being and that is what I am working at but the final outcome ... well, that is intransigent.

I wonder to myself, when the time comes, how it can happen. How can something - this life - be there one moment and then not be there the next especially when the vessel holding it will have hardly changed from that one moment to the next. Life doesn't make sense and death makes even less sense. Why doesn't life just continue?

There are moments when I lie awake listening to Stella breathing, I wish, like most pet owners I know, that when the time comes, she goes to sleep and just never wakes up. Then I'll know she was meant to go, that her life chose to move on of its on volition. Then I won't have to make the phone call for the vet to come over and wait with her while she is in some sort of agony. Then answering the door to let the vet in will be like inviting in the grim reaper and bringing the vet over to Stella and preparing Stella for the injections and saying goodbye and not knowing when to stop saying goodbye and when to finally let go. How will I know the right moment to say to the vet that it is time? I can only imagine that at the end, every second will be gold and how will I know when exactly to let go? How can I choose the last moment which will define her life and every moment after which will define life without her?

This is hard.

Right now, looking at her asleep, she is breathing well with maybe a slight tremor of her back leg from a dream she is having. She is breathing well and that is what I hold onto.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Media slant against Pit Bulls

From ASPCA, Pit Bull Bias in the Media;

Animal control officers across the country have told the ASPCA that when they alert the media to a dog attack, news outlets respond that they have no interest in reporting on the incident unless it involved a pit bull. A quantitative study by the National Canine Resource Council of dog-bite reportage in a four-day period proves that anti-pit bull bias in the media is more than just a theory—it’s a fact.

1. August 18, 2007—A Labrador mix attacked a 70-year-old man, sending him to the hospital in critical condition. Police officers arrived at the scene and the dog was shot after charging the officers. This incident was reported in one article in the local paper.

2. August 19, 2007—A 16-month-old child received fatal head and neck injuries after being attacked by a mixed-breed dog. This attack was reported on twice by the local paper.

3. August 20, 2007—A six-year-old boy was hospitalized after having his ear torn off and receiving a severe bite to the head by a medium-sized, mixed-breed dog. This incident was reported in one article in the local paper.

4. August 21, 2007—A 59-year-old woman was attacked in her home by two pit bulls and was hospitalized with severe, but not fatal, injuries. This attack was reported in over 230 articles in national and international newspapers, as well as major television news networks including CNN, MSNBC and FOX.

Along with over-reporting, false reporting is a major contributor to the public relations nightmare currently facing pit bulls. There is an emerging tendency for all short-haired, stocky dogs to be called pit bulls—and when a dangerous dog’s breed is unknown, the media is not above assuming that the dog involved must have been a pit bull. The National Canine Resource Council terms this phenomenon “Everything is a pit bull, whether it is or not.” In the rush to publish, the pit bull label is often inaccurately applied—and even if a correction is later made, the damage is done. Not all media bias is necessarily intentional, but it forms an impression on the public and on legislators nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lost man, found dog


They found the man's body at the dog park where I use to let Stella run and play with her friends. The man was hanging from a branch off one of the chestnut trees by the outdoor horse stalls. The man had used a leash. Beside him, waiting patiently until Toronto Animal Services picked him up, was his four month old puppy.

I hadn't gone into the park with Stella in months, ever since CNE security started cracking down on off leash dogs. I guess CNE management thought that by making the park inhospitable to dog owners, they would be making it a safer place. That would make CNE management stupid, shortsighted and lazy. All they ended up doing was turn a perfectly good, well-used, off-leash dog park into a deserted field.

I hadn't gone into the park in months so I didn't know the man who hung himself. I asked a few others who used to go to the park but they didn't know him either. He is a mystery to us.

I didn't know the man. I didn't see the body. The park was Stella's playground. The idea of a man hanging dead off the end of his dog's leash tied to a tree seems too abstract, incongruous, an almost ridiculous idea fit only for the opening of some murder mystery movie. Nevertheless, death has visited this most unexpected of places and in the most unexpected fashion.

Was the puppy foisted on the man in the last weeks of his life? Was it an attempt by the man himself to reconnect with the emotions that make a life worth living? Why did he bring the puppy with him? To bear witness? To let the pup know what happened to its owner? Or was the suicide an unexpected, spur of the moment decision, a culmination of months or years of inner turmoil? What was he thinking: I'm going to go walk my dog but I may or may not be back as I may decide to kill myself?

The pup has been claimed by the man's family. Apparently, this wasn't the man's first attempt at taking his own life. In the end there was not enough in this world to hold back the flood of pain that swept him away.

Monday, June 14, 2010

American refugees

There is a good article in The Globe and Mail which mentions Open Arms Pound Rescue, one of the rescues Toronto Animal Services South often takes dogs from to adopt out here, Changing the world – one dog (or cat) at a time :

A new kind of underground railroad is shepherding dogs and cats rescued from U.S. shelters to safety – and new families – in Canada.

Every weekend, volunteer drivers load up their cars with furry refugees and cross the border, sometimes following the very same routes that once guided runaway slaves to freedom. Each driver handles a roughly hour-long leg, rendezvousing and transferring animals in parking lots and rest stops until they reach their destination.

One such network, Open Arms Pound Rescue, has moved an estimated 2,000 dogs (and a few cats) from shelters in the South and Midwest since it started in 2007. Co-founder Lucy Moye, based in Michigan, was working with a high-kill shelter in Ohio when she realized she could save a lot more dogs if she could match them with adoptive families and rescue groups in other areas.

Toronto Humane Society reopens June 28

From Toronto Humane Society website:

The Board of Directors of the Toronto Humane Society is pleased to announce that the THS will reopen to the public on June 28th.

“We are all very excited to be reopening the shelter and to begin helping animals in need.” said THS President Michael Downey. “The Board is confident in the revitalization efforts that took place and are eager to resume full operations on June 28th.”

The Toronto Humane Society has been closed to the public to undergo a court approved revitalization effort. During this closure we have renovated parts of our shelter to streamline operations and make it more accessible to the public. THS staff have undergone a comprehensive retraining course to ensure that every animal will receive the best care possible.

“We have worked extremely hard during this revitalization period to strive to meet our goal of being a leader in animal care, adoption and advocacy.” said Garth Jerome, Executive Director. “I am pleased to be able to open the shelter and welcome animals in need back into the THS, and the community to give them loving forever homes.”

The THS is currently booking appointments for owners that need to surrender their animals to the THS. The public can visit the website (www.torontohumanesociety.com) prior to June 28th to see the animals that we have available for adoption.
The Toronto Humane Society is a not‐for‐profit organization solely funded through charitable donations that has been delivering care to animals since 1887. Its mission is to promote the humane care and protection of all animals and to prevent cruelty and suffering.


REMARKS OF TORONTO HUMANE SOCIETY PRESIDENT MICHAEL DOWNEY

It gives me great pleasure, on behalf of the new board of directors including Vice–President, Marcie Laking and executive director, Garth Jerome, who are with me this morning ‐to announce that the Toronto Humane Society will officially reopen to the public on Monday, June 28th.

This means that we are “back in business” – helping animals in need.

The decision to re‐open the Toronto Humane Society was made at a board meeting last week after an assessment of the Society’s financial situation and the ongoing revitalization plan. As President, I was the lucky board member who was asked to pose the motion that recommended the re‐opening on June 28th – and if I may say so, it felt pretty darn good.

This institution has gone through some very difficult times. But that is now behind us as we look forward to a compassionate and professional Toronto Humane Society ‐ that provides a vital service to the animals and public of the Greater Toronto Area.
I am very proud to be a member, donor and now President of this great institution. I hope that Torontonians who care as much about animals and animal welfare as we do will also join this organization by volunteering, by becoming a member and/or helping the animals through providing much needed financial support through donation.

It should not come as a surprise that we will need to quickly ramp up fund raising in order for the Toronto Humane Society to provide the level of care that the animals need. And we are confident that the donors will step up ‐ because the animals deserve the best care possible.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the staff and the numerous volunteers at the Toronto Humane Society for their patience in waiting for this re‐opening to be announced. This committed group of professionals has been preparing diligently for this day over the last few weeks and months. They too want to get past the turbulent times, and get on with providing compassionate care for the animals under a fully transparent THS.

And now that we are officially back‐in business, we are booking appointments for owners who unfortunately need to surrender their animals. The public can visit our website to check‐out the beautiful animals that we will have available for adoption. On a personal note, my family is patiently waiting to adopt 2 kittens that will be cared for in the new and improved kitten nursery of the THS!

I invite you all to join us on June 28th as we re‐open this great Toronto institution. With your help we can make the Toronto Humane Society a leader in animal welfare once again. Thank you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Toronto Animal Services dog photos June 13

unnamed Labradoodle


Princess - Basset Hound


unnamed Dalmatian


Dalmatian and Princess

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Toronto Animal Services South dog photos June 12

Willy - Poodle


unnamed Schnauzer


Lucy - Jack Russell Terrier Chihuahua cross


Daisy - Border Collie


Brett - Cocker Spaniel


For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Stella and the bee

Stella's had a life long fascination with bees. If they buzz around, she tries to catch them in mid flight. She's been stung a couple of times inside her mouth but that only makes the game more challenging. If they're not airborne, she just watches them.

This afternoon, she found an injured one crawling around in the backyard.


She stared at it and wouldn't leave it alone for a good hour. I was thinking she might want it for a pet until finally she lapped it up with her tongue out of the crevice it had crawled into and gingerly took a couple of chomps and ate it.

Here's the non-action packed video:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Update on Ursula


From Gudrun, Ursula's owner:

We got some great news this week. Ursula was tested to see if she still has the blastomycosis and the tests came back negative! It only took 5 months of giving her medication twice a day hidden in yummy treats since the pills had a bitter flavour, but it was worth it.

I've attached some pictures of our adorable girl.




That's wonderful news and congrats, Gudrun. Looks like Ursula is a keeper.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Runaway Baby


The leash gets tangled up in the volunteer's feet. She trips, drops the leash, lands hard on the sidewalk on all fours, goes kathunk (we feel it through our shoes), goes "Uhn", and the dog, frightened, takes off. The dogwalker yells "Baby!" and I think, That's affectionate, but later realize that it's the dog's name.

Baby is a small white American Eskimo dog and she's running away from the crash-noise-yell towards the parking lot. A woman coming out of her car sees Baby and beckons the dog over, pretending she has a treat. Baby stops running and takes a step towards her.

"Grab the leash!" someone yells but the woman doesn't hear or doesn't react. Baby takes another step towards the woman, nose up in the air trying to get a scent of the treat, realizing there is no treat after all and backs away. For a moment the woman and the dog stare at one another and then Baby turns tail and takes off, leash trailing behind her. The woman looks at Baby as she runs and then looks at us and shrugs.

We check to see if the dogwalker volunteer is okay. She is. Maybe a couple of scrapes, maybe some minor bruising later. My friend is already in her van, taking off after Baby. I get into my car, wishing I had my bicycle with me instead, and drive after Baby as well. The volunteer gives chase on foot.

I see Baby ahead, still running now along the side of the road heading towards the main intersection at Dufferin where there will be two lanes of traffic. Just before she gets there, she veers right then turns around and veers left and I think she might turn back around but instead she blindly runs across the intersection. I hold my breath. She doesn't get hit. I exhale. She's now in the parking lot of Medieval Times heading towards the park where I used to walk Stella every morning. The parking lot is half full with people walking from their cars to the show. My friend in the van is already over there and out of her vehicle, asking people to try to call the dog over to them.

I drive across the intersection and into the parking lot as well. I see Baby playing the part of a mad footballer, deking and dodging people with outspread arms and legs akimbo and beckoning voices and little kids squealing in delight at all the fun.

Baby avoids them all but it's all too much commotion for her here so she turns around and runs towards Dufferin again and again I hold my breath and I imagine everyone in the parking lot collectively holding their breaths as she dashes across Dufferin again back onto the CNE grounds, and we all exhale.

By the time I drive back over, Baby is nowhere to be seen. I see the volunteer. She had glimpsed Baby along the bushes by the border of the CNE grounds but she has lost sight of the dog now as well. She is near tears. The other driver in the van pulls up and we all talk and decide to go back to the office and see if anyone's heard anything. As we arrive, cars and TAS vans are pulling out and we tell them where we last saw Baby.

Five minutes later, I drive away with a sinking feeling. I have all these visions in my head of screeching tires and Baby bounced off the fender of some car only to be found months from now by some city worker picking up leaves and garbage.

Then, just before I get to the Dufferin intersection, I see a TAS van coming towards me. Baby's sitting in the passenger seat, paws on the dash, head looking out the windshield.

I follow the van back to the office. Baby had apparently cooled her heels and finally approached someone who grabbed her leash and held onto her until the animal control officer in the van retrieved her.

I'm expecting Baby to be a nervous, anxious dog but when I take the leash to go photograph her, she isn't that at all. In fact, she's gentle and friendly. She seems happy to be around us and as she wags her tail, I'm sure she's thinking, "Can we do that again?"

Maybe, but not with us. She was adopted a few days later.

From the new owners of Baby (now Sadie):

Here are some photos of our little girl. We all love her very much.



For adoption information on dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

2 videos

You've probably already seen this one but here it is for posterity:



This next one is inspirational ... something to keep in mind when the THS sets up its educational program:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The new Toronto Humane Society A-team

I kept hearing that old line that the good guys never win over and over the last few days but the good guys actually did win this time. For a board of directors of an animal welfare charity, you can't really get much better than this.

Michael Downey with his massive corporate resume including CEO of Tennis Canada and former senior executive at Molson's and Maple Leaf Sports is now the president of the Toronto Humane Society. In the last several months, he has gone from being a concerned member to someone who is now intimately aware of the problems and challenges the THS faces and I'm sure will be integral in coming up with the plans on how to move the THS forward as a successful corporate entity.

Marcie Laking, with her extensive animal rescue background and experience within the THS is a perfect vice president. She is outspoken, well spoken and her animal welfare sensibilities along with Michael's business acumen make for a well balanced head for the THS.

Linda MacKinnon, whose dogged determination over the past several years to unseat Tim Trow and his iron grip over the THS is an inspiration to tyrant topplers everywhere and is the new chairperson.

Ian Wintrip, a forensic accountant, is the treasurer. Hopefully, he'll be able to shed some light on a question at the top of everyone's minds which is where all the money was going to these last ten years at the THS.

Lisa Gibbens, communicator and strategist, who stepped down from a seat on the Faces of Change slate, worked tirelessly behind the scenes campaigning to get the slate elected. She is now the secretary.

The new board's next order of business will be to meet with the management team of the THS and figure out how the finances are shaping up and what state the staff and facility are in after their six week hiatus. Fingers crossed that those six weeks under the old regime were well used by staff and management alike and not wasted away on extraneous activities like bringing one's car into the facility so that it can be worked on, hypothetically speaking.

More on the new board here and here.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The final numbers in THS elections

Voting results here.

Total Toronto Humane Society members: 2686

Only 29.37% of members voted.

52 ballots disqualified.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The highlight reel

Marcie Laking was the third to speak from the Faces of Change slate. First was Ferne Sinkins who spoke about plans for animal welfare at the Toronto Humane Society, then came Michael Downey who spoke about governance and then came Marcie. Marcie's speech was the rah rah speech. It was the speech that was supposed to bring it all together for Faces of Change.

When she finished, she looked up around her and the clapping started. And it didn't stop. It was like the crowd of around 200 was asking for an encore.

The clapping took so long to die down that it drowned out part of the introductions for the Save the THS slate.

The STHS speeches began with what amounted to a resume reading of all their candidates and went downhill from there.

Afterwards Marcie went around to several of the individuals from the other slate who had been denigrating her and the Faces of Change for the last few weeks with outlandish suppositions and not quite lies. She introduced herself, shook their hands and told them in plain English what she thought of them and their tactics. It was just politics, explained one of them

Which is why FOC won and STHS lost.

The THS membership saw who was passionate about animal welfare at the THS and who was passionate about winning the election.

The volunteers won over the telemarketers.

A few hours later, outside a restaurant a few blocks away from the THS, there were a lot of joyful tears on the sidewalk when the results came back with the news that Faces of Change had won the day. In fact they had won the year, as it was almost exactly one year ago today that Kate Hammer in The Globe and Mail first broke the news about the neglect that was occuring at the THS.

Since then, there have been protests, raids, arrests, animal cruelty charges, trials, animal martyrs, more protests, shelter closure, more cruelty charges, campaigning and finally these elections.

This has been one long journey and the journey's just begun.

The members of the Toronto Humane Society have put their faith in you, Faces of Change.

Do right by the animals.

P.S. I'd like to give a huge shout out to Mel Laking and Lisa Gibbens and the other members of StART (you know who you are and what you're about). Without them, I doubt this victory would have been possible. I look forward to seeing both Mel and Lisa on the board at some point.

In case you haven't heard, there's going to be a brand new day at the Toronto Humane Society!!!!!!!!!!

Faces of Change is in. All 15 board seats. Updates to follow.

Dear Candidates,

The scrutineers have advised that the following candidates have been elected to the board of directors of the Toronto Humane Society:

Elected for a 3-Year Term:

- Johanna Booth
- Jennifer Downe
- Judi King
- Peter Newell
- Ferne Sinkins

Elected for a 2-Year Term:

- Karen Nasir
- Linda Mackinnon
- Marcie Laking
- Wendy Strickland
- Michael Downey

Elected for a 1-Year Term:

- Crystal Tomusiak
- Garnet Pratt Siddall
- Ian Wintrip
- Kimberly Cohen
- Tom Ungar

The Honourable Sydney L. Robins


The Toronto Star article is here.

Toronto Humane Society election day

In few hours we'll know who will be on the board of the Toronto Humane Society. As one final post before the main event this afternoon I thought I'd share with you a letter Marcie Laking, one of the candidates running on the Faces of Change slate, wrote to Scott Brownrigg at Sussex Strategy Group who was listed as the contact person at the bottom of a particularly disingenuous piece of electioneering propaganda put out by the Save the THS slate.

Here is the original Save the THS communication (I have removed Mr. Brownrigg's contact info) followed by Marcie's letter:

Toronto, May 28, 2010 – The following is a statement on behalf of the 13 people running for election to the Toronto Humane Society’s Board of Directors as part of the Save the THS team:

“The actions undertaken by the OSPCA today are a calculated interference in the current campaign to elect a new Board of Directors for the Toronto Humane Society.

The OSPCA has had six months to complete its investigation and take any additional action it deemed necessary. With only a day left in that mandate, and just four days before the board election meeting, the OSPCA has chosen to blatantly interfere in the democratic process.

The OSPCA’s actions are a desperate attempt to prop up their favoured slate which has run a month-long smear campaign against its opponents. In addition we feel it’s a cynical political move to deflect attention away from the OSPCA’s recent management of the ring worm crisis at the York Region branch.

The OSPCA has long cooperated with the leadership of the other major slate running in the election process. Just today in the Globe and Mail, reporter Kate Hammer reported that Faces of Change “partnered with the OSPCA to have the old leadership thrown out.”

The question needs to be raised again. Who is policing the OSPCA? As the Save the THS slate said last week ‘the OSPCA should be one of charity or police force, but not both.’ Save the THS is again calling on the provincial government to enact amendments to existing legislation to ensure there is proper oversight, governance and accountability concerning the enforcement of animal welfare.

Clearly today’s actions by the OSPCA on behalf of their confidants should not be allowed to happen. It is simply an abuse of power.”

For more information:
Scott Brownrigg


Here is Marcie's letter:

Hi Scott,

We spoke briefly the other day when I called you to obtain more information about the inaccurate statements you published on the STTHS website about the Faces of Change & the OSPCA.

I’m going to go ahead and assume that you were too busy to call me back like you said you would the other day. I feel it’s important for me to point a few things out to you.

Animals at the Toronto Humane Society were suffering. I don’t know if you are an animal lover but I do know that people in general are good and would not defend animal abusers. Also, I’d like to assume that you are unaware of the neglect that was rampant inside the THS otherwise you would not of attacked the Faces of Change slate for trying to help the animals inside the shelter.

Filing a complaint with the OSPCA (along with the CRA, CVO, MNR & OPGT) hardly makes me an OSPCA “confidant” and I certainly hadn’t “partnered with the OSPCA to have the old leadership thrown out.” My involvement in reforming the THS has always been about the animals and doing whatever I could to help them.

Out of the 15 members on our slate only 5 of us had anything at all to do with the investigation. That is not our entire slate nor is it even a majority. It’s also not something we’re ashamed of. What would you have done if you knew that defenceless animals were being mistreated? Would you have turned a blind eye or would of stepped up and done everything you could to stop it?

I am not an affiliate, a volunteer, a member, or a donor of the OSPCA. What you seem to be missing is the fact that the OSPCA came into the THS and charged the people who were responsible for countless cases of neglect and countless cage deaths with animal abuse. If people like myself had not taken a stand against something that was wrong on many levels and if the staff and volunteers had not asked the OSPCA to step in then this abuse would still be happening today. This is not about the OSPCA and our personal views on the organization. This is about the animals that were under the roof of the THS that needed help.

While your company was being paid by the THS to implement a public relations crisis management strategy about the neglect inside the shelter, people like myself were inside the shelter doing whatever we could to help ease the stress and bring about proper standards of care for the animals.

I hope that wrongful attacks like the one you posted on the STTHS website do not cause people who witness animal neglect in the future to hesitate reporting it to the proper authorities for fear of repercussions. I did what was right and for you or anyone else to throw it in my face is shameful.

I hope that in the future you use due diligence before you sign your name to a press release on a topic that you clearly know nothing about.

Regards,

Marcie Laking


These letters speak volumes as to what this election has come down to: professional political strategists who can't be bothered to discuss the real issues vs. concerned and outraged animal welfare volunteers who can.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Toronto Humane Society elections - 2 days to go

I'm guessing that the majority of Toronto Humane Society members who are going to vote have already voted while the remaining keeners will be going to the Special General Meeting to listen to the candidates for the board of directors speak before casting their ballots. By Sunday evening the election will all be over.

Thank God.

These past weeks of politicking have brought out some particularly low blows and only goes to show that the most disreputable animal is a political animal - and we can all become political animals given the right circumstances. The most outrageous deceits were carried out on Facebook - no surprise there - one with independent candidate Margaret Ann Johnson concocting all sorts of ludicrous fantasies tying the OSPCA to Faces of Change, and another with someone impersonating Michelle Wasylyshen of the Save the THS slate and implicating herself with ties to Tim Trow and friends. Even though the judge stated in the court settlement in no uncertain terms that denigrating other candidates would not be allowed, his words didn't carry much weight with the election supervisor who saw the flying accusations as all part of the process.

Even when an obvious abuse of privacy came up when the STHS slate used members' e-mails addresses inappropriately, the election supervisor only sent out some minor verbage. In other words, there were no rules and it was getting to be like the Wild West of campaigning out there. Another week and I wouldn't be surprised if gunfights at noon started occuring.

Save the THS has a strong governance platform, not surprising given the expertise and interests of the candidates on its slate. It even mentions a whistleblower policy which is quite good if not somewhat ironic given how STHS is constantly harping on about how too many members of the Faces of Change slate complained too loudly about the past conditions at the THS under the old board.

While governance was sorely lacking at the old THS and establishing proper governance will be of great importance at the new THS, an animal welfare agency isn't just about governance. While STHS arguably may have a better handle on governance issues (I say "may" because I'm not an expert), the heart and soul of the THS belongs to the Faces of Change slate. They are the ones who will put the animals in highest regard. The currency in animal welfare is not dollars or property or position. The currency in animal welfare is compassion and Faces of Change has got compassion to spare.

Some would accuse them of being too compassionate about animals but I say you can't be compassionate enough and being compassionate doesn't mean you can't think logically at the same time. Those two attributes are not mutually exclusive.

I'm not going to go into all the reasons why I support Faces of Change, as I've already done that in a previous post, and I hope they do well on Sunday. Having said that, I believe that regardless of which slate or combination of individuals wins the elections, the Toronto Humane Society will be a much better place than it was. The question is how much better. A new board of directors can build a decent shelter, decent enough to dress up someone's resume certainly, or they can create an amazing shelter that will be a great and lasting refuge for innumerable animals and a model for shelters all over North America.

This will depend on the dedication and ability to work together of each individual on the new board. I don't envy them their work. It will be a long, hard slog and, courtesy of the old board, we've seen what can happen to them on a personal level if they fail. Ideally, these fifteen individuals will be able to forget about the politics and roll up their sleeves and get to work bettering the situation for animals in Toronto.

Forget about the politics?

Yeah, right.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thirty-eight new charges laid against Toronto Humane Society directors

OSPCA press release, Thirty-eight new charges laid against Toronto Humane Society directors:

Animal cruelty charges under the Provincial Offences Act relate to 2009 investigation of the THS

Markham, ON (May 27, 2010) - The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Ontario SPCA) have laid 38 additional charges of animal cruelty against 14 former directors of the Toronto Humane Society under the Provincial Offences Act.

Those charged are: Former THS president Tim Trow, current president Bob Hambley, as well as Stephen Dooley, Brenda Hind, Sandi Hudson, Pamela Inglis, Alan Johnson, Valarie Jones, Carol Lupovich, Patricia McIlhone, Joan Milne, Laure Overton, Delores Quasim, and Wilfred (Bud) Walters.

These charges stem from the Ontario SPCA investigation into animal cruelty and mismanagement at the THS, and are in addition to Criminal Code charges against six former THS staff members, including Mr. Trow.

These latest charges are based on allegations that 38 animals were found to be in distress by veterinarians when the Ontario SPCA executed its search warrant on the THS on Nov. 26, 2009. As directors of the corporation running the THS, the accused are responsible for the alleged actions that led to the distress of the animals under their care.


Bob Hambley is still running for the board of directors of the Toronto Humane Society. He supports the Save the THS slate and is hoping to fill one of the two vacancies STHS is leaving open if they get voted in.

The THS animal welfare oriented slate, Faces of Change, strongly opposes the re-election of Bob Hambley because of the seriousness of the charges against him. Faces of Change wants to sever all ties with the old board and their animal cruelty related charges.

This post reads like electioneering for the FOC slate because that's basically what it is although I realize anyone who's still going to vote for Hambley at this point isn't going to be swayed by any amount of argument.

TAS South dogs in review May 27

Scrappy's kind of a dumb name for a dog hoping to get adopted so I hope someone changes it because Scrappy isn't scrappy at all. This Cocker Spaniel is super friendly, at least with people, and didn't seem to have any problems with the couple of dogs we passed on our walk.

Scrappy - Cocker Spaniel

Six months old and all the way from Portugal, Poncha is an amiable Chow Chow who, I'm told, has a bit of a bark which is why her owner gave her up after moving into a condo.

Poncha - Chow Chow


Hugo will make an ideal family dog. I have no doubt he'll be quickly adopted if he isn't already.

Hugo - German Shepherd cross


For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Something to read

Excellent article from New York Magazine, The Rise of Dog Identity Politics

And the dog can even tell you whether or not you’re a good person. A 1999 study found that people who strongly dislike dogs score significantly higher on the measure of anal character and lower on the empathy scale of the California Psychological Inventory, indicating “that people who liked dogs have less difficulty relating to people.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Toronto Humane Society accepting animals June 1

Is the transformation done?

Yes or no, the Toronto Humane Society has announced that they will once again start taking in owner surrendered animals on June 1. Looks like the new board is going to have to hit the ground running.

From the Toronto Humane Society website.

Admissions Policy

The Toronto Humane Society will re-open to the public on June 1st. We will be accepting owner surrendered animals on that date.

We are currently booking appointments for June 1st and beyond for those individuals or families that need to surrender their pets. Please note that surrenders are only accepted with an appointment.

The Toronto Humane Society is a charity and relies on private donations to continue helping the thousands of animals we take in. A donation is requested upon the surrendering of your animal.

To inquire about surrendering your animal please contact 416 392 2273 ext. 2248 or admissions@torontohumanesociety.com

You will be required to:

* Bring photo identification
* Provide proof that the animal is yours and you have the right to surrender it
* Bring all veterinary records you have for the animal
* Fill out an in depth behvioural assessment of the animal
* Read and understand the irrevocable surrender form

The THS should be your last resort for placing your animal. Before contacting us you should attempt to place the animal in another home on your own. Ask friends and family if they are interested in the pet, ask neighbours, put up flyers in your neighbourhood and at your local pet store, pet park and veterinary clinics. Placing your animal in a shelter will be stressful and difficult for your animal and we are eager to avoid this if possible.

The THS has the right to refuse to accept your animals at our discretion.

At this time the THS will not be admitting stray animals.

The surrender appointment will take a total of approximately two hours for dogs and one hour for cats. You must remain at the shelter throughout that time until the process is completed.


This is a huge improvement on the old admissions policy which wasn't really a policy at all. I like how they're up front about asking for a donation and about how difficult the shelter experience will likely be for the animal. I also like that the process will take one to two hours during which time I hope the owners gets to sit with the animals they're dumping. Yes, I realize some people have legit reasons for giving up their animals but that happens about as often as winning a free coffee at Tim Horton's.

I wish they'd go into a bit more detail with this line: "The THS has the right to refuse to accept your animals at our discretion." The guidelines for accepting animals will obviously have a huge impact on the shelter and I'd like to know what those guidelines are. Transparency please.

Unnamed Great Dane

unnamed Great Dane

It's not often I see a Great Dane up for adoption at Toronto Animal Services South. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a Great Dane up for adoption at TAS South. This girl came in with someone who claimed her mother found the dog. When asked for the mom's phone number, the woman said she didn't know it. When asked for her mom's address, the woman said she didn't know it. When asked for the woman's own phone number, the woman said she didn't know it, that it was on her cell phone which was back at her car.

I'm not sure if this is a purebred Dane or not. She's big enough - about the same height as Stella but skinnier.

She's also very timid. And she unfortunately growls when stangers approach her. That can be pretty disconcerting coming from a dog her size but Stella can sometimes be the same way so I know what that's about. She just wants the introductions to slow down.

It took a few minutes of leash walking and slow and gentle attention to gain her trust and then she was lovely.

She was probably a backyard dog. No leash manners (but not bad on a leash nevertheless), filthy, insecure around people and other dogs (she hid behind my legs when a Cocker Spaniel walked by). She's going to require some work and by someone who's hopefully familiar with the breed. This all means she might be difficult to adopt out but with time and dedication, I'm sure her inner shine will come bursting through.

Michael Bryant in the clear

So do you think Michael Bryant woke up yesterday morning and thought to himself, "Hmm, maybe this whole innocent until proven guilty spiel isn't just a bunch of bullshit I've been spouting for my whole life and it actually has some merit. Maybe I should revisit that law of mine which has killed all those thousands of innocent dogs in Ontario and disrupted the lives of thousands of equally innocent families. Maybe the fact that the public judged me before I had my day in court will impress upon me the importance of fairness and justice in our legal system. Maybe I will be a better man after all this and fight for the unjustly accused and killed. Maybe ... I'd better call my publicist first and see what they think."

All charges against Michael Bryant dropped.

From The Globe and Mail, Bryant cleared of both charges in cyclist’s death.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Update on Luscious the matte cat

In the few months I've known Marcie Laking, I've seen her involved in the rescue of several dogs. It was a bit of a surprise then when she called me last week and told me she was going to foster Luscious, the matte cat. She picked Luscious up on Saturday from Toronto Animal Services South and here is her first update:

I thought I write you a note about my new foster who’s name is now Fred. I picked him up the day after you posted about him & he didn’t make a sound the whole ride home. As you posted, his owner died and he wasn't found for a long time. I can’t imagine how terrible that must have been. While he is a little depressed because of his new surroundings & recent huge life changes, he does purr & rolls over for belly rubs every time I walk by. His mattes are gone & he’s left with a funky haircut but he also has fatty liver, URI & is anorexic.

He comes with some baggage:


A task like this might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I’m hoping that with sub Q fluids, force-feeding multiple times a day, eye meds & anti-biotics he’ll start eating on his own & then we can work on getting him on a diet.


For now his eating habits are a matter of life & death. It was clearly explained to me that he might have to be put down because his refusal to eat will lead to more liver issues & jaundice. All I can do is try & make him happy & hope I can stimulate his appetite. In an ideal world he’d just eat. Then he’d be adopted by a family who is looking for a handsome sweetheart just like him & he’d live a long healthy life.

I sat outside with him for an hour yesterday & brushed him out, he was loving every second of sunshine. I’ve got a good feeling about him. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body & he’s really just grateful for every second of attention he gets. Paws crossed the next few days go well for him.


Marcie is one of the candidates running for a seat on the board of directors for the Toronto Humane Society. She is on the Faces of Change slate.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bentley - Beagle

Bentley - Beagle

I was walking some dogs at Toronto Animal Services South this afternoon when I saw another dog walker standing by some bushes. She was holding one end of a leash and the other end disappeared into the scrub. I walked over and moved aside some branches and peaked in and saw a Beagle in there, hiding. He didn't want to come out. He was fine where he was.

Bentley is originally from Ohio. He was wandering around in Wayne National Forest when he was captured in a live trap by a hoarder. From the hoarder, he was brought into a rescue the summer of 2009. There, people passed him by for months until it was arranged to send him to TAS South last week to see if he'll have better luck up here in Toronto.

Bentley is a very shy dog around people but he loves dogs. He's learning from other dogs that being around people isn't such a scary thing but there's still work to be done. You can tell, though, that he's going to be a superb dog one day with the right owner. He's not one of those growly shy dogs. He's just shy. Go slow with him and soon enough he'll be nuzzling you for more ear rubs.

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Update on Mary Lou

Photos sent from Mary Lou's (now Imli) new owners:



Whoopeeee!

Looks to me like she's doing just fine.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pet politics on TVO

In case you missed it:

Matte cat needs home

From Laura, a volunteer at Toronto Animal Services South, who writes the blog Feathers, Fur & The Occasional Fang, :


The cat's owner died and wasn't found for a long time. We don't know how the cat survived, but when he was finally found, he was so badly covered in mattes it looked like kittens clinging to him (first photo). The cat is around 8 years old, neutered and declawed, but he's also dangerously obese. They can't do any dentistry cleaning because he might not survive anaesthesia. The shelter did a geriatric blood profile on him, and there are some concerns that they'd have to discuss with potential adopters. Mostly the problem's with his liver. If he is adopted, the new owner will need to try to help the cat lose weight, and he'll need another blood test in about 6 weeks.


Right now, he's got an Upper Respiratory Infection. He's on antibiotics, but he's stopped eating and this has posed another huge risk to his health. The vet will discuss all risks and concerns with potential adopters.

This seems like a lot of trouble, but this cat is the sweetest old boy. When the mattes were shaved, he just sat there and purred. He rolls over, loves to be brushed, and comes when you call him. He's super sweet and he's had such a hard, sad time. When I went in to take his photo, he started purring as soon as he saw me, and didn't stop until I left. We just want this cat to live out the rest of his life well-loved and happy.


The shelter will waive the adoption fee for him, and just sell a $15 licence. The new owners shouldn't feel obligated to put in thousands of dollars to help the cat live longer, just to do their best, keep him comfortable, and give him love. If he needs to be euthanized in the future, he can be brought back to the shelter. It's a lot to ask, but he's a sweetheart and deserves it.

I attached some photos, before and after he was shaved. If you could post him asap, that would be fantastic, because if they can't find an adopter/foster soon, the vet is recommending he be put down instead of kept at the shelter.



The cat has just been named Luscious and his id number is 547168. The update on his status is that he will not be euthanized unless his health deteriorates to the point where a good outcome is unlikely but I'm guessing that spending anymore time in a cage in a shelter won't help with any possible recovery.

For more information on Luscious please contact Toronto Animal Services South at 416 338 6668 and ask to speak to Jen, Natalie or one of the vets.

Update on Luscious here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Watch this tonight at 8

Sorry for the late notice.

The Agenda with Steve Paikin on TVO at 8 p.m.

Pet Politics

Recent events at both the Toronto Humane Society and the Newmarket OSPCA raise the question 'what is the right time to euthanize an animal?' Is there a fine line between the humane treatment of animals and cruelty?

Faces of Change candidate Hanna Booth will be on the show along with Kate Hammer (Globe and Mail), Brian Shiller (OSPCA) and Liz White (Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada).

You can leave comments for the show here.

THS kitten nursery to stay open

Today, volunteers got a letter from Bob Hambley, president of the Toronto Humane Society, concerning yesterday's notice about closing the kitten nursery.

Dear Volunteer,

Helping abandoned kittens is an important part of operations at the shelter. We have helped thousands of kittens survive and adopted them into new loving forever homes.

Many new policies and procedures have been recommended by the experts at UC Davis. We are excited to have the opportunity to work with them and apply their expertise to the running of our shelter.

No final decisions have been made regarding the in-house kitten nursery, staff have made no such recommendation to the Board.

All recommendations from UC Davis, including the in-house kitten nursery, in the THS revitalization plan are able to be reviewed at the discretion of the new Board of Directors which is set to be elected on May 30th.

Personally, I strongly support the continuation of the kitten nursery program including the return to 24 hour operations at the shelter.

There will be many changes at the THS that will positively benefit the animals and we are pleased you are part of this process as we move forward together.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Bob Hambley
President
Toronto Humane Society


Thank you very much Mr. Hambley for reconsidering this issue.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

CP24 live discussion with both THS slates' reps

That would be Michelle Wasylyshen for the Save the THS slate and Dr. Johanna Booth for the Faces of Change slate.

Well, I was going to do a write-up about it but it looks like it's already been done at Red Star Cafe, Mudwrestling.

My impression from watching the segment was that Michelle really wants to win the election and Hanna really wants to help animals.

Toronto Humane Society decision could leave hundreds of kittens homeless

And dead.

I'll let Jennifer Downe, a long time volunteer at the Toronto Humane Society explain via her e-mail:

I just received this devastating news from the THS. They have decided to permanently close the kitten nursery at THS.

The THS kitten nursery offered a home to immature kittens who required around the clock care (as we witnessed last night with Karen), along with vets and technicians to care for these vulnerable little creatures. Newborn kittens need to be bottle fed every 2 hours for the first weeks of their lives, slowly moving up to every 4 hours. Without this around the clock care to abandoned kittens, they will die.

A properly run kitten nursery will help a far more immature kittens survive, rather than solely relying on a fostering program. Yes, fostering is far preferable to staying in the shelter, but the nature of kitten feeding makes it better suited to a team approach with dedicated reliable volunteers to accommodate an every 2 hour feeding schedule. Fostering immature kittens is a huge commitment - you need to commit to be home to feed them every 2 hours - how many people can do this?? By shutting down the nursery, they have astronomically diminished the number of animals we can help (each kitten season (May - Sept) there are literally hundreds of kittens in the shelter at any given time) as I sincerely doubt we can find this many foster parents (it's a very select group of individuals who can help in kitten fostering- people who work from home, retirees and people who are not currently employed who can be available 24 hours a day). The nursery can be properly run - when James was the volunteer coordinator, he managed the nursery by ensuring he had committed volunteers and held them accountable to their designated shifts. We should be preserving this amazing place and committing more resources to it - not shutting it down.

I don't know of another kitten nursery in Toronto, so without it I feel there is little hope for abandoned kittens. Clearly I am extremely disappointed by this decision on a personal level, however I am more upset because I am confident that it means that abandoned kittens will die.

I am desperately hopeful that there is something our group can do about this terrible decision.


By "our group", Jennifer is referring to the Faces of Change slate for which she is a candidate in the upcoming THS elections.

Meanwhile in other THS election news:

From The Toronto Sun, Who polices the animal cops?:

David Turnbull, a former Conservative solicitor general and a member of Save the THS (Toronto Humane Society), said the tragedy in York Region [OSPCA] pointed out a fundamental flaw in the system.

“Clearly, we have a responsibility to look after animals,” he said. “We want the government to join with all of the opposition parties in developing these laws so that we don’t have a recurrence of (the Newmarket shelter situation).”


And also from The Sun, THS supports changes to OSPCA:

When contacted Tuesday, THS president Bob Hambley said the society called for the OSPCA’s powers to be kept in check two years ago.

“Mr. Klees’ proposal for oversight and controls into the unchecked policing powers of the Ontario SPCA is something that the THS, as well as many other individuals and organizations, requested of the government ...in 2008,” Hambley said.

“Furthermore, we strongly support Mr. Klees in his call for an independent investigation to get answers and determine what went wrong and who is responsible at the OSPCA and led to the plan to euthanize 350 animals for a treatable condition.”


Boys, as much as I'd like to see the OSPCA being held more accountable, you might want to consider fixing what's wrong in your own backyard before buggering around in someone else's.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Toronto Humane Society elections - updated

The melodrama over the Toronto Humane Society elections went into overdrive these last few days with a couple of communiques just sent out. One was an email written by Bob Hambley and the other was from someone or some people who obviously don't like Bob Hambley very much - at least they don't like the idea of him being on the THS board.

Bob really should change his name to Bobo the Clown-O because he makes people laugh so. If you don't know, Hambley is a cohort of Tim Trow who's already been on the Toronto Humane Society board for eons and he's running for re-election again because I guess he figures he hasn't done enough for the place. You'd think that someone who has been charged with animal cruelty (not proven in court yet) would take a step back, if not for his own good then at least for the good of the THS with respect to regaining the public trust.

I had this whole super snarky thing written up about the ludicrousness of Hambley's e-mail blast to the THS membership (though not quite as ludicrous as the innuendos spouted by another ex-board member hoping to get re-elected - won't get into that here) but I've nixed it because I was getting a stomache ache writing about it. Suffice it to say, Hambley basically takes personal credit for most everything positive that's happened at the THS recently - and it ain't much from what I hear - and disparages the hell out of the Faces of Change slate.

Anyway, whatever I write can't possibly outdo the other mail out I got. Much of this other mail out is a compiled list of allegations against the THS under the old regime's watch. Social Mange has got it up and you can read it here.

It reads like a horror show. Here are some excerpts:

THS Veterinary Technician Jessica Newall

"One person to do the feeding of approximately 200 baby squirrels and raccoons ... she states that animals were not getting fed ... and were constantly crying because of hunger and they were dying due to starvation"

"Animals are brought in that should be euthanized but are left to die in cages."

Dr. Vivian Ungar

"As a veterinarian at the THS, I have witnessed numerous animals ... that were in distress and suffered needlessly because they were cared for by veterinary assistants who lacked the proper professional qualifications and are improperly trained."

"In my expeience as a veterinarian at the THS, it is very common to find animsls suffering in cages and dying slow, agonizing deaths ..."

"... countless cases in which animals being housed at THS were found in extreme distress, and suffering from medical conditions that could have been prevented ..."

Former THS Veterinary Technician Lindsay Neilson

"When you're a 16 year old cat dying of renal failure, and you've lost patches of fur, and you can't get up, and you go to the bathroom all over yourself, and you're just lying in your cage, no one comes to see you for days ... you can't even lift your head into your bowl to eat, these are the times that you do need to euthanize. Unfortunately, a lot of these animals are not euthanized and they die slowly in their crates, and five days later they're found."

THS Senior Administrator Laura Hendy

"When referring to adoptions versus deaths in cages and the misrepresentation and concealment of facts the witness makes the following statements "He (Tim Trow) has told me himself to play with the numbers until it comes out the way it should""


And on and on. Not a worthy legacy for Hambley and his board if these allegations are proven true in court.

Hambley openly supports the Save the THS slate. If I were on the STHS slate, I'm not sure I'd want his support with allegations like that floating around. He's got this plan in his head where he's going to partner up with the Save the THS slate and ride their wave back onto his throne. I don't know what the STHS people think about that but last I heard and read, the STHS claims no affiliation with Hambley so someone's not getting their messaging correct. Either STHS isn't telling the truth about their non-affiliation with Hambley or Hambley is trying to cuddle up to a team that is publicly denying anything to do with him.

*******************

I haven't been writing about the upcoming THS elections because the drama for the last couple of weeks hasn't been over which side has got the best animal welfare platform but over who's got the best political machinery to win the election.

That's the problem with having slates which are basically political parties. Everything gets hyper politicized and instead of issues coming to the forefront, it's strategy that wins the day. I really wish that the politicos over at Save the THS had never come up with the slate idea in the first place but I guess being politicians and politcal strategists, that's what they're comfortable with. Because they decided to run a slate, it forced the other major candidates to form slates as well. Power in a group and all that.

Here are my problems with slates:

1. Monothink - on the one hand this might be good for moving actionable items along but too often it also becomes a repressive force where dissenting voices are told to keep quiet and toe the party line.

2. It makes the process become more like a competitive sporting event. Individual egos are enough of a problem but group egos are titanic. People who have no reason being opponents (especially in this case where, for the most part, everyone is fighting for the same cause) find themselves on opposing sides of an artificially created fence. Too much energy goes into winning this team competition and not enough goes into deciding who are the best individual candidate suited for solving the problems of animal homelessness.

3. Weaker links on each slate get a free ride. There are strong candidates on both the Faces of Change slate and the Save the THS slate but there are also not so strong candidates. If members vote by slate, and many probably will, they will be ushering in the not-so-brilliant candidates along with the exceptional ones.

4. Individual candidates get shafted. Individuals who are not aligned with a slate generally won't have the same shared resources as the slates where candidates can pool their resources for campaigning. This is obviously the case in these elections with both FOC and STHS sending out mailings to members which would have cost thousands of dollars and days of work. I doubt most, if any, of the independents will be able to do this.

Be that as it may, we're stuck with slates so I'm just complaining to the wind here.

***********************

From what I understand, THS members don't necessarily have to pick a complete slate. They have the option to cast support behind individual candidates. That's what I would do. There are some amazing people on both slates who I think would be of huge benefit to the THS. Will the members have time enough to individually research each of the over thirty candidates? I doubt it. I suspect the majority will vote by slate.

If I had to pick a slate, hands down I would pick Faces of Change. Here are my reasons:

1. Most importantly Faces of Change has a well researched animal welfare policy (Faces of Change - Animal Welfare Plan). Save the THS has got a few points they've put up on their website but it's not nearly as comprehensive. I want to know that people on the slate care enough about animals at the THS to have put in the hours educating themselves and coming up with solutions to end animal homelessness.

2. There is a better balance between animal welfare oriented candidates and business oriented candidates on the Faces of Change slate, almost fifty/fifty. I believe you need both on a board. The business people bring in much needed funds and organizational skills. The animal welfare people ensure best practices are followed for helping homeless animals.

3. The combined THS experience the candidates on the Faces of Change slate bring to the table is very impressive. They've got on the ground experience and know what the problems and strengths are at the THS. I would never vote for anyone who bragged about their lack of THS experience and their lack of a plan and I think it's a mistake for STHS to be promoting this as a positive with regards to their slate. Would you vote, hire or entrust something important to a group who has less direct experience and barely a plan?

4. There are several members of the Faces of Change of slate who have spent much time and energy in helping the THS become a better place for animals and I know those people will continue to do so whether or not they get elected to the board. That shows real dedication to the cause. Most of the STHS slate aren't even members of the THS and I'm not so sure would contribute anything to the shelter if they are not elected to the board. I hope they prove me wrong.

5. It's possible that the STHS slate will say that since a board should be hands off the actual day to day running of a shelter, the directors don't actually need hands on experience. This is basically implying that any group of managers can manage anything equally well from a soap factory to an animal shelter. Sorry but I disagree. An animal shelter is not a soap factory. Experience and specific knowledge about the task at hand is always preferable. Faces of Change has got that experience and that knowledge. I can't say the same for STHS.

Also, it must be taken into consideration that the THS is not a well functioning agency. In fact, it needs a lot rebuilding. Sure any board can go out and hire someone to do the rebuilding but how are they going to know who to hire if they don't themselves understand the problems that need to be resolved and the way in which those problems need to be resolved.

It's like hiring a general contractor for the reno of your house. You may not be doing the work yourself but it's always advantageous to know how the work should be done properly before signing someone up to do the job.

6. Faces of Change doesn't have old guard Bob Hambley rooting for them.

The one big criticism lobbed against the Faces of Change slate is their connection with the OSPCA. It's well known that several of the members supported the OSPCA's actions when that organization raided the THS late last year precipitating all that has happened there since, including these elections. Supporting the raid, though, does not equate with supporting the OSCPA's animal welfare policies in general. I supported the raid. I do not support their animal welfare policies. Several members of the Faces of Change slate have been and still are very vocal opponents of the animal welfare policies of the OSPCA.

It's also rather disingenuous for any candidate (well except for those old board members seeking re-election) or slate to wholly disparage the role the OSPCA played at the THS. Without them, there wouldn't even be any elections so all the candidates have benefited equally from the OSCPA forcing the old board out.

Whatever happens, whoever gets voted onto the new board can't but do a much better job than the old board. The quality of all the candidates is in general very high. These are pretty much all individuals who are successful, ambitious and have got reputations to maintain. I can't see them bowing to any of the old shenanigans the THS was known for regardless of whether or not any of the old board members get re-elected.

Whoever wins, the animals at the THS will be better off.

*****************

Updates:

1. The Save the THS has added as one of their priorities a demand that the OSPCA be separated into two agencies, an animal welfare agency and a separate policing agency, as there is a conflict of interest when it essentially polices itself. This is a great idea if the practicalities of setting up two agencies can be worked out. However, I'm not quite sure why this is a THS election issue. Shouldn't a new board be more concerned with getting their own house in order first considering what a mess it's in? Check out STHS' news headlines on their website:

Sun: Who Polices The Animal Cops?

Save the THS Calls on Province to Clean Up Problems with Animal Welfare Enforcement

Save the THS Slate To Province: Separate Regulator and Operator

‘Save The THS’ Saddened By Events At The York Region OSPCA

Save the THS – a new team for a new Toronto Humane Society


Four out of five attack the OSPCA with the one lone heading that actually talks about the STHS. This is obviously an attention grabber to get some political points and I certainly hope that starting a war right off the bat with another animal welfare agency isn't indicative of the STHS' priorities because that does smell too much like the old board's tactics.

And yes, there are other major headlines out there to grab if the STHS were actually in tune with animal welfare issues in Ontario and truly concerned about disseminating news regarding those issues, like the movement to improve animal cruelty laws, for example, after the recent discovery and later euthanasia of a dog tortured and dumped in Windsor.

2. Wednesday night, I'm told, there is going to be a live debate broadcast on CP24 at 9 (but check your listings to make sure about this) between an FOC candidate and an STHS candidate. While I enjoy a lively debate, I suspect that STHS is going to stick David Turnbull, their spokesperson, in front of the camera to rep their side because he's a seasoned pro, being a politician and all, and if he's a good politician, he'll be able to talk his way around anything and come out sounding good but saying nothing. Let's hope substance wins over style tomorrow night.