Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A day with dogs

(from Saturday)

I woke up this morning and took Stella and Rocky out for their morning walk then came back and fed them their breakfast. This usually takes about an hour and a half but since it was Saturday, I spent some extra time with them outside and so in all, Stella and Rocky time this morning was about two hours.

They were getting low on dog food so the next thing I was going to do was pick up some ground chicken back and beef for them and head right back home but figured that while I was out at the butcher's I might as well get a box of big soup bones for the dogs at Toronto Animal Services as they were almost out. Instead of going straight home, then, I drove over to TAS and brought the bones in. A woman who was there picking up a cat saw me and looked at me carrying in the box and gave me a weird look like maybe she was thinking I was bringing in a carcass or something - which in a sense I was - so I said to her that it was just bones but I don't think that helped put her at ease much.

I was just going to drop the box off and leave but then I started talking to one of the other dog walkers and we started going on about the two Rottweiler puppies who had just come to TAS South recently and how they'd grown up in a shelter and how they really should be getting lots of socialization at this stage in their lives. I figured I had some time so I decided to take them to the park to let them get their ya-yas out and maybe meet some other dogs and people. Ten minutes later, they were in the car with me and they were climbing all over - front seat, back seat, dash, floor, steering wheel. They were like cats. The brown one eventually settled into my lap and then the other one decided it wanted to do the same and kept trying to shove in as well but there was no room left between me and the steering wheel so I kept having to pull it off. It was thinking this was a game and kept scrambling back over. Luckily, the park was only a couple of minutes away and death by car accident was avoided.

The park was totally enclosed with fencing so I let the two off leash and they didn't quite know what that was all about so they just hung around me for a couple of minutes eating sticks and leaves and chestnuts and mud. They were like a couple of kids pretending to be brave and nonchalant when that was the last thing they were feeling.

Soon, another dog showed up with owner and kid and the two pups stood there stunned for a moment, not yet having grasped the idea of a dog park and then suddenly the light bulbs flashed and they took off after the three new creatures. The other dog was a sproingy Lab/kangaroo mix so the pups had no chance keeping up with him but the kid was a much easier target - not that the kid minded. The kid started picking the pups up and chasing them and they chased him back and jumped on him and he ran around and they ran around. The father was pretty good about telling his son how to behave around the pups and pretty soon, everyone was as well mannered as a kid and two puppies could be.

The park was muddy filthy with the strange mid January thaw, so half an hour later the pups were wet, dirty and shivering and I realized I needed to bring them back to TAS to warm up. Before getting into the car, I toweled them off best I could and then loaded them in and got in myself. The brown pup immediately scrambled into my lap seeking warmth and wouldn't relinquish its spot to his brother who was out of luck again. A smell of mud, piss and wet dog wafted up in my face from the pup in my lap but what could I do? It had found its place and who was I to move it?

I was thinking I would just drop the pups off and get going home but on the way back to their kennel, I passed Kipper in his kennel. Kipper had been at TAS for too long, over two months, and I figured I would just spend a few minutes with him before going. During his time at the shelter, in some ways his personality had gotten worse but in other ways, especially with people he recognized, it had gotten better and he'd become a favorite there with several of the dog walkers so even though he had no home, at least he had friends. I took Kipper out for a bit where he got a couple of scared glances and a couple of admiring glances from people who had come out to watch the hockey game at the arena. Kipper was oblivious to them all, lost to the scents in the wind. Half an hour later I brought him back to his kennel which he really didn't want to go into so it was a little heartbreaking forcing him inside.

(Just a note: Kipper was adopted out yesterday!)

I walked out of TAS all set to go home but saw that a new load of dogs had just come in from Montreal. There were probably around twenty dogs and many of them were going to local rescues and many of the rescue people were already there and crowded around the van eagerly awaiting their new charges. Five of the dogs were staying with TAS so I helped bring those dogs upstairs to their kennels. As with all the transports from Montreal, there was a real mix of dogs, all breeds and sizes, all on their way to being saved though not quite there yet.

One of the new ones

I just kept thinking about how the core of rescue came down to this: transporting dogs, housing dogs and keeping them healthy, adopting dogs out. In comparison, everything else built up around animal welfare, just seemed like bureaucracy and politics.

By the time I got home, it was 6 o'clock.

What would the day have been like without dogs? Well, it was a Saturday so I'm sure it would have been fun and entertaining but fun and entertainment, it seems, are mostly just commodities these days: easily accessible, highly disposable and quickly forgettable. Many of my weekends can be mindless like that and after a string of mindless weekends, it starts to feel like nothing. So, while some might think I do what I do for the dogs, really I do it for myself so that this life starts to feel like something again.


Vida said...

It really warms my heart to think of how there are people out there who, between one thing and another, end up dedicating their free time to rescue dogs. I love reading your blog, in part just to read the notes on one successful adoption or another. It amazes me how "easily" your rescues get adopted. Where I am, animal rescue is so much sadder: dealing with feeding stick thin and often sick animals on the street with no means to take them all in. Saving poisoned animals from excruciating deaths. I do so wish it were possible to have such a system as yours here. But we do what we can and in the meantime I check in on your blog for your wonderful photos and incredible stories. Entertaining and hopeful. Thanks....

GoodDog said...

You have earned your place in heaven, Fred...

Fred said...

GoodDog, for this? Nah. But I would like my dogs to make me my dinner for once.

Cathrine said...

Funny, that. We could be sitting in front of the TV or monitor, slurping sodas and snacking on pizza, or reading celebrity magazines at a spa, or tweeting, or.... Instead, we are shivering/broiling in the latest cold/hot wave, wearing out sneakers, picking up poop, scooping litter, racing to the store for supplies, trying to teach wiggling pups the meaning of 'stay/stani' and what the paper is really for.

Mmmmm. No contest. I'll take worn out sneakers and happy dogs and cats over celebrity gossip any day. As you say: a life with some meaning.

Which we owe to them, nu?

Gina said...

This summer I had the pleasure of being with my aunt,uncle and young cousin when they adopted their first dog -from the shelter we had gotten our cats from several years ago. I watched as my cousin looked around at this dog and that and sat with my uncle as he confided that he did not feel a bond with any of these pups. I smiled as we sat looking out at the rain and said to him:"If you are anything like your sister (my mom) you know you will love whatever comes into your house today..." - knowing we have all always loved our cats like they were family regardless of where they came from or what kind of shape they were in.
That said, when my parents (in their 70's) recently found their cat with a badly shattered hind leg they both thought euthanasia when their vet told them amputation was necessary . I knew this was not them but fear talking. Fear that the cat might not survive the operation, fear that life on 3 legs might be awful-fear that at 70+ they were not up for this challenge. The vet and I convinced them to do the surgery-I hoped it would be the right choice for all involved. During this time,my mom was diagnosed with gall stones and had surgery to remove her gall bladder this past Thursday. These past few weeks the cat has been everyone's focus. He showed us all what was possible. He sat on our laps and drank in hours of affection as his wound healed and he learned to do things anew. But best of all, he gave my mom something that took her outside of her own pain, something that comforted her ( and me and my dad) in a very deep and moving way.
The vet bills were not inconsiderable. I had a sleepless night or 2 as I worried I had gotten my parents into something they could not handle or worse yet, something that would not turn out well (there was an infection and it broke our already fragile hearts but the cat survived that too). But as this cat sat curled on my lap last night, I looked at my mom, recovering from her own surgery pretty well and said-"it was worth it wasn't it?" And she said "Yes, definitely."
None of what I have just written probably makes any sense but having had these 2 experiences in just the past year I, who have always known animals added to our lives-have learned anew what they give us-daily. I kind of walk away feeling in their debt. They give such an overwhelming return of love on our investment of love in them & they teach us the most important of life's lessons...so I guess your description of a weekend day sounds pretty gosh darn good to me.

Fred said...

Beautiful story, Gina, thanks.

Heather B said...

I think of my past life, working every day , doing those mindless things when not working.
As I compare then and now, there is no comparison. Every day is a weekend and it is filled with wiggle bum pups. adolescent dogs and oldies that have been dumped because of their age. My life is full and I am blessed to have these animals pass through , on their way to real homes. I am surrounded by love and dog hair.
I know how you feel Fred.
Somehow, it doesn`t feel like work and the time is gone before you know it.

Anonymous said...

Fred, you made all these animals you interacted with today very happy indeed. Bless you for that.

Anonymous said...

Although I am a dog person at heart, I do the rescue stuff on a cat front. My every day is full of cleaning and caring for six cats, two with chronic medical problems, and two with chronic emotional problems.

Saturdays for the past five years I have braved the horrid conditions at the THS to go and bottle feed kittens in the nursery. At the end of the day I'm emotionally drained, and I go home to six cats in my room all needing something - food, a bath, a snout cleaning, etc. Sometimes I think. "Why did I get myself into all this?".

But without all that, life seems to hold less meaning, less direction. I could play xbox all day, but what good does that do the world?