Saturday, February 28, 2009

Neko Case visits Best Friends Animal Society

Neko Case, a favorite songwriter of mine, visited Best Friends in Utah a while back and was so impressed that she decided to donate $5 to BFAS for every blog that posted the first single off her upcoming album, Middle Cyclone. Unfortunately, the offer, put out several weeks ago, expired earlier this month and the record company had reached their $4000 donation limit anyway (you didn't think there wouldn't be a limit did you?) so I'm basically jumping on this wagon way after it's stopped and everyone else has already gone home. Typical.

And sure it's a publicity stunt but what the hell, I like both of them a lot so here's the single anyway, if you care to listen. If not, you can always watch the video following of Neko's visit to the sanctuary. Yes, it's got dogs in it.

Neko Case: The fact that people could be so committed, and be willing to take and stick up for end-of-the-line and aggressive dogs – the death row animals – is what impressed me. And when I heard that the sanctuary had 3,000 acres, I thought, ‘These people are serious!’ In a climate of bad news these days, it was such an inspiring thing to see.

Good one

Friday, February 27, 2009


Look who got himself a girlfriend! Miller, a handsome, young Boxer, came in a few days ago not too sure about what he had gotten himself into but now it looks like everything's turning up roses for this guy.

Yesterday afternoon, he was introduced to a new family who have a female boxer and I heard that at first he wasn't exactly thrilled with the new dog until he clued in she was a girl and then suddenly it was like all Barry White and whispers of sweet nothing.

Don't talk to me

You sexy thang

Miller may be a playa but he ain't got no equipment left so playing's all he's going to be able to do - which I'm sure will be just fine with his new mom and dad.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Update on Border Collie pup Angus

Remember the five feral Border Collie puppies that came in last year? Anne and Pete, who run a dog rescue just north of Toronto, took in one of the five, Angus, for rehabilitation. For the longest time, there was no news about him but, just yesterday, Anne and Pete came by to visit TAS and mentioned that Angus had been adopted and then later sent us photos of Angus in his new forever home. He looks resplendent and deservedly so. If you've watched the video of him when he was at TAS you'll see he's traveled a long road to get to where he is now.

Below are the photos of Angus with the last one being a photo of Dooley, a dog Angus befriended at Anne and Pete's Rescue and who helped Angus overcome his fears to a great extent. The new family was kind enough to adopt both Angus and Dooley together.

Here's the letter from the Angus' owner:

Hi Ann and Pete,

First of all though I just want to again thank you both again for these beautiful babies. They have just brought so much joy to our lives. Dooley is absolutely wonderful, so calm and easy going, nothing ruffles his feathers. He is extremely affectionate and loves to be cuddled. He still chases the kitties around the house but in a playful manner and just loves to help me out in the kitchen. His diarrhea has cleared pretty good, they tested for numerous things but feel it is just a sensitive digestive system so we have him on MediCal Gastro both wet and dry as well as 1 tablespoon of pure pumpkin puree on top. This seems to have done the trick. Our wee Angus is coming along beautifully, he loves to play in the backyard with Dooley and then they both drop (fast asleep). He walks so well on a lead, it is amazing, never pulls. Of course he is still shy with strangers but if he is in the house and on his bed in the bedroom he will let anyone pat him. He is also a little hesitant about running around in the house, still prefers to be in his safe spot on his bed. He too is a bit of a snuggle bug and loves to have his belly rubbed. We go for an hour walkies in the morning and an hour walkies at night. In between they snooze and play in the backyard.

We just love them so much.

Thanks again.

Knowing the wonderful transformation Angus has gone through from the first day he entered TAS to how he is now just makes me want to cry - but I won't because I'm too manly for all that nonsense.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The big shit (updated with links at bottom)

Excerpt from The Toronto Star "City okays controversial ban on dogs at Kew-Balmy beach":

Toronto City Council has approved a controversial plan that will ban dogs from Kew-Balmy beach so it can meet the international Blue Flag standard.

The Blue Flag designation means the water is safe to swim in, and such beaches are out of bounds for dogs year-round. The city has already applied for the designation, an "eco-label'' given to beaches around the world. It's expected the designation will come in April.

Dog owners have argued that Kew-Balmy is a popular off-leash area in the winter, but city staff are concerned about dog waste left in the sand when the snow melts.

Miller said that those goals have been "sidetracked'' by the dog issue, and whether unleashed dogs should be able to "use beaches that children swim in and play on as a bathroom."

Yes, that's right. The best way to counter the dog owners is to not have any meaningful discussions with them but to simply throw them up against the baby owners. Woof woof versus ga ga.

By the way, how many tons of shit does the average baby produce? And how many tons of disposable diapers? And how many tons of shit do those babies' parents produce? And those parents' neighbours and friends? And all the rest of us? And how many millions if not billions of dollars do we have to spend to process that shit? To make it "go away".

And how about the shit that comes out the back ends of our cars and buses and trucks? Or the plastic and styrofoam shit that goes into our landfills? Or the oily toxic shit that gets washed off our roads and dumped out into the lake every time there's a rainstorm?

Then there's also the shit otherwise known as uncontrolled development that blocks access to the lake and its beaches for millions of Torontonians. There's the shit known as the Island Airport which sits on what should be a public park with what could have been amazing water frontage. There's the shit known as every building, road surface, parking lot which we have built up to make our lives easier but which denies life to so many other living creatures.

I mean yeah, sure, I love the convenience of being able to drive to my next door neighbour's house as much as the next person but really, we humans are the shittiest shitters of them all and yet here we are spending so much valuable time and energy worrying about those little clumps of dog shit.

Well, alright, you know what? Truth be told, I also hate it when I walk down the sidewalk and see doggie turd bombs every few feet, so, just to make the dog haters on council and in the general public happy, if I were Jesus tomorrow - there's a lottery for that, right? - my first miracle of the day would be to make the owners of those dogs eat every last morsel of the shit their pets left behind. That's right. Eat it. No ketchup, no soy sauce, no MSG. Plain. Hell, I wouldn't even give them plates or utensils. They'd have to use their fingers and then lick the remnants off the sidewalks and parks and beaches.

But here's the thing. There wouldn't be that many of them brown nosing those aromatic meals of divine coprophagous retribution because most dog owners in Toronto are responsible when it comes to bagging up the poop.

Here's where I put on my Steven Hawking hat and do some arithmetic. Please do join me: Let's say there are 10 dogs living on the block (in my experience, 10 is a low number, more like 20 or 30). So, conservatively, 10 dogs x 2 dumps/day x 365 days/year = 7300 dumps. That's a lot of shoe wipes along the sidewalks of a single block.

Luckily, that's not what happens. If the vast majority of those dog owners didn't pick up after their dogs, the sidewalks wouldn't just be littered with shit, they would be shit.

No, what it is, is that a very small minority of lazy asses do all the damage. Just one dog owner not picking up results in over 700 yummy fecal deposits on our sidewalks, parks and beaches every year. Those very few shitmeisters ruin it for the rest of us.

So my dear Toronto City Council, target those people, and make them eat shit. Don't penalize the rest of us.


Joan Sinden at Me and my dogs in Halifax, Nova Scotia has written a few posts on this topic. In this one, What's the difference between litter and poop?, she likens "dog poop to Tim Horton's cups - just because dog poop can be targeted to dog owners - why should every dog owner suffer because of it? You wouldn't shut down every Tim Horton's coffee shop because you want to end the blight of Tim Horton's cups on the sidewalks everywhere would you?"

And in What to do about the poop problem Joan talks "about the fact that the reason - at least in Halifax - that a lot of people don't comply with picking up their poop - is because there are no consequences when you don't."

Holy shit, Joan. It sounds like Halifax has the same problems as Toronto. Maybe Haligonians and Torontonians come from the same breeding stock after all.

HSUS and Best Friends to discuss dogfighting policies

Hurray! Here's to something good coming out of this. Sure would love to be a fly on the wall at that meeting.

From A Meeting of the Minds:

The Humane Society of the United States on February 23 issued an interim policy recommending all dogs be evaluated as individuals, and is calling a meeting of leading animal welfare organizations concerning dogs victimized by dog fighting.
Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer and president of the Humane Society of the United States, suggested the meeting of major stakeholders in Las Vegas to work through the associated issues. This meeting is in response to concerns expressed by Best Friends Animal Society in December 2008 regarding HSUS policies related to animals confiscated in dog-fighting busts.

Pacelle said the meeting, scheduled for April, will include the participation of national stakeholder organizations that deal with pit bulls. The meeting was in the planning stages before Superior Court Judge Ed Wilson Jr. ruled that 145 pit bulls, including approximately 70 puppies, confiscated from Wildside Kennels in Wilkes County, North Carolina, would be euthanized without evaluation to determine suitability for placement.

Read the rest here.

Also, buried in the comments section is this post by Ed Fritz, Campaign Manager of the Pit Bulls: Saving America’s Dog campaign at Best Friends. I've copied his whole post below because I don't know how else to link to it directly and it's sure to get lost once all the comments start piling in over there on the BFAS site.

Hey everyone,

My name is Ed Fritz and I am the Campaign Manager of the Pit Bulls: Saving America’s Dog campaign here at Best Friends. I wanted to inject a little personal perspective here. I have been directly involved in this issue and have been following along some of the email and internet conversations. I completely understand many of the frustrations expressed both positive and negative. It was pretty clear from early on in our involvement that there were two obstacles that were going to be difficult to overcome. One, of course, was this old policy position of HSUS. The other, which we are still working on, is the State law in North Carolina.

HSUS has been held accountable. They could have made different choices. I was angry at some of those statements, news reports and pretty distressed at this policy. That said, they have also done, and will continue to do a lot to stop dog fighting, including leading the investigation and bust on Mr. Faron in the first place. This policy is the last piece of the puzzle to really get to where we need to be as a nation and a movement on this issue. This change is HUGE! Those of you that have been advocates of pit bulls are well aware that some of these policies are 20+ years old, and think how far we’ve come for the dogs! I know it may be difficult, but I think it is important that if we have any faith in the philosophy that the dogs have much to teach that I say that we only really learn if we apply those lessons. HSUS opened itself up to changing a policy that has been a part of its organization culture for decades. It is upon us to encourage and celebrate success here. I have seen dozens of dogs come from abusive and neglectful situations created by people. They are the most forgiving and kind critter I know.

This situation was hard for me and the folks here as we did everything we could to save the dogs in North Carolina. It is always hard for all of us that have dedicated so much of ourselves to be the voice for the animals. We need to appreciate the positive moments like this one. This is sustainable change. The conversation is open and more lives will be saved as a result of it.

There is much work ahead of us. North Carolina is not the only state that needs to revisit their animal laws. We still have breed discriminatory ordinances and laws popping up on nearly a daily basis. There are still countless numbers of dogs on the ends of chains. As HSUS moves to recommending to shelters to treat the dogs as individuals, those shelters are going to need support and resources and help from each and everyone one of us.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CBC TV, coyotes and, uh, me

You ever watch the news and see some reporter interviewing some schmuck about something he really knows nothing about and you say to yourself, "What a schmuck. They should interview me. I'll tell 'em what's what."

Tadaa, me the schmuck. I'm always talking back to the TV and radio news and today they talked to me and the results were thoroughly unspectacular. They're either going to slot my interview with the "Barely functioning adult of the year award" story or the story about the coyote that killed a dog in the Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto on the weekend.

CBC-TV so totally caught me unawares, though, it's not funny. I was just returning from a carefree la-di-da walk with l'il pibble look-a-like Nina (formerly Nips) thinking about not much more than sunshine and cake when the reporter casually walked up to me and started quizzing me - man on the street with my unmuzzled Pit Bull, yay - on how I felt about coyotes eating pets and what should be done about that. Nina started jumping up to say hello to the cameraman and he was like, "Awww," and then Nina jumped up on the reporter and she was like, "Ewww", though I can't really blaim her since she was going to be in front of the camera and as cute as it might be seeing a little dog trying to sniff someone's crotch, it's pretty damn unprofessional.

Zoiks, they were tough questions. Well, not really.

Reporter: "What should we do about coyotes in the city threatening the safety of our pets and children?"

Me: "Oh ... I ... uh ... coyotes have attacked children?"

Reporter: "Oh yeah, fer shure. Not a lot but yeah, it's happened. Down in the States. Somewhere. Oh yeah."

Depending on how they edit the sound bite, I'll be responding with something like:

a. I hope they don't just trap and kill all the, uh, coyotes.
b. ... just trap and kill all the, uh, coyotes.
c. ... kill all the, uh, coyotes.
d. ... uh, coyotes.
e. ... uh ...
f. We need to learn to share our environment with other creatures.

I hope they pick f. which would be better than the answer I really wanted to give, but luckily had the minimum required daily dose of shut-myself-the-fuck-up to censor it, which was:

g. Well the coyotes were probably here first so we should probably just move the city off planet somewhere.

Ah well, no worries. They probably won't even air the segment.

CBC Radio animal law interview

CBC Radio's The Current did an episode on animal law in Canada this morning interviewing parties on both sides of the debate about whether or not we need more animal protection laws and/or animal rights laws and what they should be.

If you're familiar with the animal rights debate, there's nothing much new here but if you're unfamiliar with the trend, there's some nuances to both sides that would very quickly affect the welfare of dogs.

From the CBC website:

Animal Law - Advocate

In the United States animal law is the fastest growing field of pro bono work. Here in Canada, more than a dozen Canadian law schools have added animal law courses to their curricula over the last two years. And the British Columbia branch of the Canadian Bar Association has just set up the first animal law subsection in Canada.

Daphne Gilbert is one of the people pushing for changes to animal law in Canada. She's a professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. She teaches a course called "Animals and The Law" and she was in Ottawa.

Animal Law - Critic

But not every animal lover is crazy about expanding the field of animal law in these ways. Victor Schwartz is a liability expert and a dog-owner for the record. He's also a lobbyist who has worked for groups such as the Animal Health Institute. And he thinks the efforts to expand animal law could backfire on pet-owners. Victor Schwartz is a lawyer with Shook, Harley and Bacon and he was in Washington D.C.

You can listen to the interview here under "Part 3: Animal Law"

ARF again

A while back, I did a post on Animal Rescue Flights, or ARF, and since then, they've really done a helluva lot of good work flying animals from one location where they faced imminent destruction to another where homes were waiting for them.

Here are a couple of recent transports as written up by Julia Ryan, the organizer of ARF.

ARF volunteers,

We've had a great couple of weekends of transports at ARF. In case you haven't been on the website lately, here's an overview. Thanks to all the pilots and ground crew that are making the world a better place for animals, one life at a time. Hugs to all of you.

2/15/09: 1 Dog - Murray, KY to Farmingdale, NY

There are probably few things in dog's life scarier than having his muzzle bound by tape by inhuman human beings and being thrown into the middle of a group of dogs to work them into a frenzy before the prize fight. But such is the life of a "bait dog." Without the ability to protect themselves, bait dogs often don't survive but this 55 lb pit bull survived this horror. Once called Ribbon because of his ears being torn to shreds...but now called Rebel...this dog is a bundle of wags and wiggles despite the nightmare he experienced. He captured the hearts of the men of Rescue Ink in New York who will care for him the rest of his life and will make him the mascot of their campaign to put an end to dogfighting. ARF helped get Ribbon (aka Rebel) from Kentucky to his new home on Long Island, with a cameraman along to video the trip for a new TV series coming out soon...I will let you know when the episode will air. In the mean time, check out the photos here.

02/21/09: THE GREAT ESCAPE - 16 "Death Row" dogs - SC to NY (and one cat from NY to SC)

In Anderson, SC, is an animal shelter with easily 500 dogs in it on a day-to-day basis. In this economy, not many of these dogs will find local adopters. Fortunately, the women that run the shelter for the city are dedicated to working with rescues and transporters to get as many dogs out of their shelter as possible and on their way to parts of the country where there is not an animal overpopulation problem and where the dogs will more likely find new homes of their own. But there is a huge amount of dogs and many end up on death row...perfectly adoptable...but not able to get out in time. Pets Alive in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in NY agreed to take 26 "death row dogs" from the Anderson shelter, rehabilitate them and find them new homes. Last weekend, 16 lucky dogs flew with ARF and the other 10 rode the Freedom Train...thanks to both the air team and the ground team for getting these 26 dogs to safety. Check out the photos here. Channel 14 Charlotte showed up at KRUQ to do a little story on The Great Escape. They didn't get all their facts right (including the name of the airport) and cut out most of the interview with Rhonda including any mention of ARF, but it did make the news on TV that night and showed people compelling images of beautiful dogs available for adoption that would've been euthanized due to space issues ... we hoped it helped educate the public just a little bit.

Thanks again to the good people at to the folks in Murray, KY, who gave Ribbon the medical attention he needed and found him a good home at Rescue Ink, to the good people at Rescue Ink for rescuing Rebel, to the good people at Pets Alive that agreed to take 26 dogs from the Anderson shelter and find them new homes, to the good people at Anderson Shelter for working to save as many animals as possible, and most of all a giant thanks to Rhonda Sims and the Freedom Train who partnered with ARF to transport by ground and air 26 dogs to a new life.

Rhonda of Freedom Train posted a special word of thanks to everyone who volunteered for The Great Escape...she wanted me to make sure I passed it along to you. Click here.

Of course, we don't have long to reminisce on a job well done. There are more animals to save. If you can fly this weekend, please take a look at the ARF Mission Board and volunteer if you can.

Blue skies,


Farley collage

Farley came into Toronto Animal Services at the start of the new year and was immediately adopted out. I just barely remember taking his photo but don't think I ever had the chance to walk him. Anyway, his owners sent in a nice collage of all things Farley in his new home. Being spoiled rotten is looking pretty good.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sweet Tara

Tara's come to Toronto Animal Services from a bad situation. Her hard past shows up on her face and her body in the form of a dozen or more bite scars. I don't know the exact details. I'm not sure anyone at TAS does.

Tara's is the face of a dog who has been unlucky in many respects expect one. She's officially a restricted Pit Bull in Ontario which means she's been given a pass to live here. Born a few months later, and she'd be facing a much different fate under the Pit Bull provision of Ontario's Dog Owner's Liability Act. She'll have a hard enough time of it as it is. The adopting public will pass her by more than the other dogs in the facility because of media generated prejudices against her. The people who do ask for her will have to be carefully screened so that she doesn't end up in her previous situation. She'll have to wear a muzzle at all times in public. Her owners will be looked at with suspicion. And, given what she's been through, her owners will have to keep an eye out for behavioral problems.

If she does have any problems, though, she's not showing them. Like the majority of the other Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes that I've seen come through TAS, Tara is amazingly people friendly and affectionate and grounded. She hasn't displayed any dog aggression and doesn't seem to be too negatively reactive to cats, though she does acknowledge them. She's untrained on leash but nevertheless, is sensitive to the person on the other end and doesn't pull excessively. She seems housebroken and is very clean.

In other words, she is certainly a well above average candidate for adoption and if she could be judged solely as a dog as opposed to being judged as a Pit Bull, she'd be adopted in no time. As it is, she may be at TAS for the long haul.

Or at least that's the post I was going to write but what happened was this:

I walked into TAS on Sunday to find a young couple with their own mid-sized brown dog just about to take Tara out on a walk. They were there for a meet and greet and everything seemed to be going well.

I saw them again about an hour later just before they were going to leave and they were absolutely thrilled with Tara and seemed to adore her to bits already. Tara will be staying at TAS for another day or two to clear up a few things and then she should be on her way to her new home.

Amazing. I wish I could give the adopters a reward for being superb human beings and again I am reminded that the way to salvation for all these maligned dogs is through the goodness of people who aren't swayed by the unfair prejudices and ignorance of others.

I go on all the time about discrimination against Pit Bulls, and Tara and all the dogs like Tara are the reason why. Tara's the reason why it doesn't make sense to me when our provincial government tries to eradicate Pit Bulls and when big time organizations like HSUS and PETA, who say they are looking after the welfare of all animals, so easily give up on helping these dogs. Pit Bulls are dogs and just like any other dog, they deserve a chance.

Tara deserves a chance and it looks like she's going to get hers soon.

Update on Tara here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Update on Miguel (now McGill)

Remember this bobblehead on the left who came into Toronto Animal Services about a month ago? Look at the great family he landed himself into.

Letter from John Goodwin


This letter was posted on a Yahoo forum. It was a response to one of the member's questions to John Goodwin, HSUS' dog fighting expert, about why HSUS supported the destruction of all of Faron's dogs in Wilkes County on Feb. 17.

Thank you for contacting us regarding a county judge's decision in North Carolina to euthanize fighting dogs seized from the property of notorious dogfighting kingpin Ed Faron. We understand your concern about the judge's order to euthanize the dogs, and it is always a tragic outcome when healthy animals meet such a fate. But the blame lies with Mr. Faron, and not with county officials or The Humane Society of the United States. While we may not endorse every action of the county, we are grateful to them for working with The HSUS to bust a man who is responsible for an enormous amount of cruelty to dogs, and to bring him to justice.

No organization has done more to attack and harm the dogfighting industry than The HSUS. We've probably invested more in combating dogfighting than all other humane groups combined, and to great effect. We are principally responsible for the strong state and federal laws that make the practice a felony and ban possession and sale of fighting animals, and we have trained thousands of law enforcement personnel on investigating and raiding fighting operations. What's more, it is our training, investigations, and rewards programs that are resulting in the arrest of countless dogfighters and the seizure of thousands of fighting dogs (which are, according to the dogfighters, an asset they lose upon seizure).

We are involved in dogfighting busts on almost a weekly basis, and the handling of Mr. Faron's dogs raises the same questions that confound us constantly. With approximately 600,000 pit bulls killed in shelters each year, why should fighting dogs, which obviously require more resources to manage and which pose an obvious threat to other animals, get placed in favor of other equally deserving pit bulls and other breeds slated for euthanasia? In a local jurisdiction that has perhaps hundreds of other pit bulls waiting for loving homes, why not save them in favor of fighting dogs that will cost far more to handle on a per dog basis? How do we solve the larger pit bull problem in the nation, since we have an epidemic of dogfighters and others breeding them for aggression and for uses other than as companions?

We conducted a long-term investigation that led to the arrest of Mr. Faron and the seizure of his fighting dogs. He is considered one of the Godfathers of dogfighting, and it was our goal to put him out of business, just as it is our goal to target other industry leaders, in order to prevent thousands of dogs for use in fighting pits. Had it not been for our investigation, most of his dogs would have suffered immensely in a fighting pit in the weeks and months ahead. And who knows how many other dogs he would have bred to face this same fate.

It is now an HSUS policy to recommend an evaluation of all fighting dogs. In this case, The HSUS offered to pay for an additional professional evaluator to assess the dogs, even though we were skeptical that these dogs could be safely rehabilitated. The county did not take us up on that offer. Without an affirmative professional evaluation to indicate that the dogs could be safely placed in a new setting, we could not recommend adoption of these dogs who had been bred for generations for their instinct to kill.

Put to sleep

While separate evaluations were not done, it is safe to say Faron's dogs have been bred to produce animals with an unstoppable desire to fight, even in the face of extreme pain and fear. Professional dogfighters typically cull the dogs that don't exhibit gameness or aggression, and only keep and breed the ones that exhibit the desired traits. For proof of that, we can refer to Faron himself, from his book about dogfighting:

"His face had only just healed from that fight with the Wreckers' dog and he got his nose chewed half off again, that night.

"The gamest dog I ever saw in my life was King David. At ten minutes, his right leg was broken. At twenty-three minutes, his left leg was broken. At thirty-seven he scratched on stumps, and at forty-eight minutes when he scratched he scratched down one wall and down the other until he got to Beau again.

"I mean, he broke muzzles, crushed skulls - we saw him bite dogs in the chest and their chest would literally collapse. That was Beau."

Game-bred dogs pose a risk to other dogs not just because of training, but more importantly because of breeding for aggressive characteristics. Even no-kill shelters typically recommend euthanasia of obviously dangerous dogs.

These fighting dogs do not compare with the dogs from amateur street fighters, who typically take any, random pit bull and try and force them to fight. If pit bulls have not been bred for generations to have a "fight crazy" instinct, even if they have been exposed to dogfighting, they have a chance of being rehabilitated. This is why a substantial number of Michael Vick's dogs were candidates for rehabilitation, after the court ordered Vick to pay $1 million as a set-aside to provide care and retraining for the dogs.

Once game-bred dogs are confiscated from a fighting situation, there are very few good options. There are no sanctuaries that exist for the thousands of game-bred dogs confiscated each year, and as a nation, there are hundreds of thousands of pit bulls awaiting adoptions in shelters every year. The resources that would be required to confine or rehabilitate fighting dogs could save many more dogs in shelters every year. So, in that sense, it is not a zero-sum game when it comes to euthanasia; it is a negative-sum game, and an inordinate focus on these few pit bulls would result in more euthanasia of other dogs. And if you impose upon rural counties - where most fighting busts occur - the burden of long-term holding of fighting pit bulls, then they may decline to intervene in criminal fighting cases, allowing the dogfighters to continue to operate.


There are tough choices to be made, and the only morally clear act is to attack the dogfighters where they live. We are the only national organization that has an entire unit devoted to this work on a national scale. That's what we'll continue to do.

So I have to wonder, is this letter the start of an HSUS ain't-our-fault spin campaign or does it paint a more truthfully nuanced picture of HSUS' stance on Pit Bulls? I find this line interesting: It is now an HSUS policy to recommend an evaluation of all fighting dogs. In this case, The HSUS offered to pay for an additional professional evaluator to assess the dogs, even though we were skeptical that these dogs could be safely rehabilitated. The county did not take us up on that offer.

This is a slight change from HSUS' recommedation on the Vick dogs given just over a year ago:

"Officials from our organization have examined some of these dogs and, generally speaking, they are some of the most aggressively trained pit bulls in the country," Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "Hundreds of thousands of less-violent pit bulls, who are better candidates to be rehabilitated, are being put down. The fate of these dogs will be up to the government, but we have recommended to them, and believe, they will be eventually put down."

So, is the new updated HSUS policy something that was written in after seeing what Best Friends Animal Society, BAD RAP and others have done to successfully rehabilitate the Vick dogs and is HSUS sincere in this statement or is it a just a slip valve to relieve the mounting public pressure against HSUS' apparent lack of concern for Pit Bulls as in:

"Hey we should do an evaluation on these fuckers."

"Nah, no time. It's lunch."

"Oh yeah, right. You buying? Heh, just kidding."

I guess I'd be more tempted to believe in the sincerity of the letter regarding individual dog evaluations if Goodwin didn't have such a known, misguided hate-on for Pit Bulls.

From The Washington Post article Saving Michael Vick's Dogs:

John Goodwin, a dogfighting expert with the Humane Society and a proponent of euthanizing fight dogs, is skeptical of the emerging reports of the Vick dog recoveries. Fighting is in their blood, he said. Retrievers retrieve. Shepherds herd. And fighting pit bulls fight. "The behavior is bred into them," he said. "These groups are not rehabilitating these dogs. They're training them to behave in a more socialized manner. But these pit bulls should never be left alone with other dogs, because you never know when that instinct to fight another dog is going to surface."

John Goodwin, is of course talking about this dog:

and this dog:

and this dog on TV (Pit Bulls are such publicity sluts aren't they?).

So, I have to wonder, when Goodwin talks about vicious dogs never being able to change, is he talking about himself?

Goodwin brings up all the good things HSUS has done to confront the existence and spread of dog fighting. "We've probably invested more in combating dogfighting than all other humane groups combined, and to great effect." If that's true then good on them. No, great on them and I hope they have the funds and strength of will to continue that good work. However, they need to take that all important final step and realize that the job isn't complete until the victims are saved. That's a given. That's obvious. The Humane Society shouldn't just be an anti-human society overwhelmingly caught up in the prosecution of people. It necessarily has to be a pro-animal organization that unequivocally tries to save dogs, without hesitation, without prejudice. That means equal treatment for each and every dog.

When Goodwin releases statements such as ...

Lastly, Wilkes County euthanizes 3,000 healthy, adoptable animals a year simply because there are not enough good homes opening their doors to these needy animals. I find it disturbing that the groups clamoring for media attention over these 127 dogs raise no fuss, and offer no assistance, for the other 3,000 dogs put down in that county each year.

... he is pitting the general population of dogs against the Pit Bull. The question shouldn't be posed as what happens to the 3000 "other" dogs vs the 127 Pit Bulls, it should be, what happens to all 3127 dogs. And is Goodwin right about "the groups clamoring for media attention"? Sure. By "groups" I'm guessing he's refering to all the pro Pit Bull groups out there. Of course they're focusing their attentions on Pit Bulls. That's their purpose: to push back the media misperceptions and misrepresentations on this group of dogs. Goodwin asking why these groups don't care about the "other 3000 dogs" is akin to the usual disingenuous animal haters out there who ask why people spend so much time saving dogs when there are starving kids in Africa to help. He's trying to do a divide and conquer when he, as a big shot HSUS guy, should be trying to bring rescues together.

From the Animal Law Coalition site:

We must agree that we cannot use breed as a predictor of levels of aggression in a dog. That is simply a myth that has resulted in BSL and unwritten breed bans and death for thousands of family pets.

HSUS did recognize that any dog seized from a situation of such abuse requires time and careful evaluation before its temperament or behavior can be assessed. Wilkes County officials declined a more careful and thorough evaluation, believing the potential liability was simply too much. Dogs trained or used for fighting are deemed dangerous under North Carolina law. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 67-4.1 Many of these dogs would likely be declared dangerous regardless under most dangerous dog laws because of their history.

No one in the animal welfare community appeared at the hearing or any other time prior to that to offer to take ownership of all of the dogs or pay for their care, shelter and training. There were offers of spay/neuter, evaluation and placement assistance and some groups to their credit, did offer to take some dogs, but as helpful as that was, these offers would not address the signficant cost to the county for the care, shelter, training or rehabilitation of most of the dogs pending evaluation and placement.

And where would most be placed? Thousands of pit bull type dogs die every month in shelters because no one will adopt or even foster them. Sanctuaries are full of these dogs. People have been frightened by the myths and won't adopt them as easily as other dogs. Also, most people would not want to take on the burden of owning a dog declared "dangerous" with the liability and additional restrictions.

The county was simply not going to absorb the cost of a long term rescue, rehabilitation and placement of dogs seized from a fighter. And neither was any one or two large organizations.

It is not enough to say "don't kill the dogs".

And it is not a solution to write them off as "game bred". That is an outdated myth, and when it is repeated as in a case like this, it contributes to tragedy not only for these dogs, but also sends a message to animal control, law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and the public that pit bulls are dangerous because of breeding and should be killed.

So does this let HSUS off the hook? Is it all due to the county's lack of resources and unwillingless to risk liability that all the dogs were euthanized? On paper, perhaps, but in spirit, not quite. If HSUS believes in a level playing field for all dogs, they need to come out and say that directly and in plain English. No wishy washy sentiments about how Pits are abused and misused but yes but no but yes but can't be saved because they might one day explode and maybe probably likely can never ever be trusted blah blah blah.

HSUS needs to come out and say that Pit Bulls are dogs and need to be given the same level of care and regard as any other dog. Period.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dr. Stronglove: or, how I learned to stop worrying and love my dogs

submitted by Cathrine

Pets were forbidden where I grew up, so almost the first thing I did when I moved out was get a cat. Cats are small, self-cleaning, and they purr. Besides, I was afraid of dogs: large, noisy, sloppy and demanding. I had a scar on my nose where an old border collie had nipped me when I tried to be friends.

Thus it was, and thus might it ever have been, but my True Love moved us to Srbija. Before I got over my jet lag, someone grilled me about my interests: I mentioned volunteer work with cats at the Humane Society.

Somehow, I found myself walking very large dogs from a filthy, overcrowded azil. It was, I learned to my horror, one of the better shelters trying to save what it could from the diseased and threatened street animal population that exploded during the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

How could one look at those mangy and mangled animals and do nothing? Soon the Official Residence had 30+ dogs outside, 20+ cats inside, an alliance with the most conscientious adoption group, a running tab at the vets, a weekly obedience trainer, and two kennel staff. In three years, we found homes for 600 animals.

But not all animals are adoptable. When it was time to go, we had 12 dogs without homes. The Animal Rescue Center took the adoptables.

That left two. Magic was born behind a gas station. She had seen her mother and siblings die horribly before our vet rescued her. From the start, she was neurotically aggressive toward men. As she grew, it became clear this aggression extended to males of all species: at one year, Magic was permanent Alpha in our ever-shifting pack.

Magic at 4 months

Jimmy was in a batch rescue from the killing pound. He was two months old, so terrified of the world that he hid day and night and would not come out to eat or poop. He had multiple skin infections, and mange.

Jimmy at 6 months

Magic had already decided she was my dog. We had miraculously found her a home with a woman outside Belgrade, but she ran away, and was hit by a car as she tried to cross the Pancevo Bridge to come 'home'. When we got her back (microchipping is IMPORTANT!) she stuck so close to me that everyone got the message. To make it very clear, she began attacking anyone that came near me!

My heart sank: I am a cat person! What will I do with an aggressive dog who thinks cats are breakfast?

Jimmy never fully recovered from his terror, or his mange. He lost his tail to a necrotic infection that moved so fast we had to amputate to save his life. He cringed before strangers and screamed if they touched him. There was no way he could be placed in a home or shelter: he would die of fear or disease within a month.

But Jimmy adored Magic. And Magic, for reasons never fully understood, defended him, even from me if need be. So I had a dog, and my dog had a dog. It was either euthanasia, or....

I left Srbija with two cats in the cabin, two dogs in luggage, and a troubled conscience. I did not like my dogs. I had a moral obligation to them because I had taught them to trust and rely on me. But they hated my beloved cats, distrusted my True Love, needed constant attention and care, and were dangerous to strangers.

Things did not greatly improve in our next home, a rock bottom poor country more famous for elite corruption than for the entrepreneurial spirit of its hardworking masses. In short order we discovered that Jimmy could not eat the food or drink the water, Magic did not like the security guards, who were terrified of her, both found the constant noise unnerving and barked at every strange, new or odd thing, that there were only two vets in the whole country who knew anything about dogs or cats, and neither had a reliable supply of even the most basic medications.

Magic bit a guard. Jimmy had so many intestinal infections I began to worry about antibiotic resistance. The vet threatened to move in with us, a threat I knew was idle only because even he was terrified of Magic.

But my moral responsibilities learned in one day not to use the house for their business. They loved being inside: Magic would bounce from sofa to sofa in joy, and Jimmy would do a happy dance around the room. Okay, they hate the houseman and the cats have to be locked away while they are indoors, but there was something infectious in their delight at being housedogs!

And how many neurotic adult dogs do you know who are smart enough to understand in one lesson that elimination is outside and being inside is a privilege?

We managed to get an anti-bark collar sent from home, and a pair of soft muzzles. Magic got the collar. Magic figured out the collar in three days. On the fourth day, she went out, tilted her head back as far as it would go and barked until the citrine reservoir was empty. Jimmy found that if he rubbed the muzzle hard against the ground, eventually it would either wear out or come off.

But Magic also licked my face every time she came through the door. I knew from reading what that meant. At night, when I told them it was time for mesto -- Srbijan for 'place', the command for crating -- they both immediately obeyed. When the vet told us to try bones for Jimmy's terrible teeth, we found the one thing that he would defend even against Magic. He would, of course, back down in the end, but he growled and grumbled all the way. Magic would do whatever it took to sneak the food from Jimmy's bowl, even though it was exactly the same as the food in her bowl.

My two moral obligations began to emerge as personalities, no, as persons. And they were both pretty smart, rather sweet persons. I found that, despite their intense special needs, I was beginning to like them. We decided to stop crating at night: instead, they would get privilege time on the bed with us and then go to a room of their own (away from the increasingly traumatized cats) for the night. We got some toys sent from Canada.

And we found a couple with an African dog. They had a driver who loved dogs and knew a place where there was a lake and wild land in which they could run free. Three afternoons a week, he would ferry me and my obligations to the lake: we would remove muzzles and leashes and spend 60-90 minutes just trying to keep up with the warp speed dust cloud that told us where the dogs were.

Magic at full tilt

Something in their unalloyed joy at the lake reached me. I began to care how they felt, not just how they behaved. I began to want to see them happy. Even if it was not entirely convenient to me to make it so.

Jimmy in the lake

We got old army blankets for the sofas. I started spending more time with them, inside. I studied the local language, they bounced from sofa to sofa and ran around the main floor until they dropped in a panting heap. One night, while I was studying, they decided to flake on the sofa with me, one on each side. A couple of nights later, Jimmy put his head, ever so carefully, on my lap.

Magic bit his nose. Then she took his place. I just sat, suddenly aware of the meaning of this tiny domestic scene, not to me, but to them.

These are my dogs. They live together, they love the driver, but they worship me. I am the one thing that really, really matters to them. It goes way, way beyond moral responsibility. How could I ever have been so petty as to think that my convenience, my little worries, my opinions meant even a fraction of what their love means? Without thinking, I sat in awe, one hand on each head, scratching behind an ear.

Simultaneously, both dogs heaved deep sighs of contentment and promptly fell asleep, pinning me where I sat.

There we stayed until my husband came home, provoking instant defensive clamour probably heard on two continents. Magic tried to nip his heels, and I had to whack her butt and scream to restore a modicum of order.

But something had changed, and we all know it. Even my husband could tell, the same night. "You aren't a dog person? You sure love those two!"

Yes! Yes, I AM a dog person! And a cat person! I adore my three fruitbats -- yes, there are three, because we accidentally drove past a so-called pet market one day -- but I love my Magic and my Jimmers to distraction. These are my dogs, and woe betide anyone who dares so much as look at them cross-eyed!

Bruno Bettleheim once observed of parenting that "love is not enough" to raise healthy, emotionally stable children. It's not enough for dogs or cats, either. But it is the sine qua non, that without which there is no possibility of physical or emotional well-being.

Either for them, or for me. We have just under three years to get these devoted, damaged creatures ready to live in our much stricter and more regulated capital city. They have to learn to wear muzzles in public and not to bark at everything that approaches or makes a noise going by. They have to learn to live with cats, even if kept strictly apart by doors yet to be installed. They have to learn that other dogs have the same right to be in a dog park as they do, at least, if they ever want to run free in a dog park.

But they will, no matter what it takes, no matter how much time and/or money I have to spend to make sure it happens. Because for me there is no possible life that does not include these dogs.

My dogs.

Friday, February 20, 2009

PETA vs China

Warning. This post is about a highly disturbing dog video which PETA has been using as an awareness/funding tool. I'm going to try to keep the details to a minimum but you may want to skip this posting if you think it may be too much to handle.

I received an e-mail the other day from a good friend of mine asking me to sign and forward an attached PETA petition asking the Chinese government to stop allowing the skinning of live dogs in the Chinese fur trade.

Before I go into that, though, I'd like to share some personal background.

For one year, many years ago, I lived in China. It was in the Northeast where the air always hung heavy with coal smoke. I lived on an university campus there and taught English to a class of engineers. Everyone still wore mostly Communist grays and greens and blues. What colour there was, was generally muted by the soot in the air.

Every morning, I would wake up at 6:00 and go to an outdoor basketball court where I'd be taught kung fu by an English student of mine. He wasn't very good. Imagine a guy who looked like Spock with thick glasses but with no Vulcan super powers. I suspect he didn't know a damn thing about martial arts other than what he'd seen in Chinese censored versions of Enter the Dragon. I wasn't very good either, though, so it didn't matter. At least it gave me something to do.

A dog used to come by the court in the mornings while we practiced our kicks and punches and secret death kill grips. It was a dingy, brownish mutt. At first it was cautious but curious around us, not sure if what we were doing was threatening or a game it might be able to join in. Eventually, over the course of a few weeks, it decided that we were neither dangerous nor terribly interesting, but still, it would come over daily for a quick visit - maybe to check if that day was the day we had finally brought it a snack - and then it would return to the ugly concrete and stone house it came from.

That house was lived in by one of the labourers at the university. Every morning, the coal faced man would put out a bowl of rice gruel for the dog to eat. The dog would gulp down the food and then settle down on the front doorstep of the house and that's usually where the dog was when we finished our practice sessions in the morning.

One morning, after the dog had finished its visit with us, it walked back towards its house. Its owner came out and with a bowl of food in his hand and started calling to the dog. This was a little unusual because I'd never heard the man talk to the dog before. The dog approached the man excitedly, sniffing the scent of the food. When the dog got close enough, the man dropped the food then grabbed the dog by the scruff of the neck and stuffed it into a dirty sac. While the dog struggled and yelped, the man tied up the sac then beat it with a club until the struggling stopped. Then the man tied the sac to his bicycle rack and rode off.

I tell you this because I want you to understand that I know about cruelty to dogs in China. I make no excuses for them. It didn't matter that the man who did this was some shmuck who would have been lucky if he made $5 a day. My disgust was visceral. It was like getting punched in the gut. It wouldn't have mattered if the person throwing the punch was rich and educated or poor and ignorant. Either way it would have still sucked the air right out of me and left me feeling ill.

Now back to the PETA e-mail petition.

In my version of the e-mail, it didn't actually mention that the events described take place in China but I suspected as much and later the suspicion was confirmed.

Here's an excerpt:

There is no need to see the video, but if you must, be aware, it's horrible.
The following video is of excruciating violence. Its painful silences affect
us all deeply. If we don't protect animals from this type of brutality, we
become accomplices.
Please sign and forward to all your contacts - this has to be stopped!!!
I explain the process below:
With a hidden camera, animals were filmed being SKINNED ALIVE!!! They say
it's done to get a more perfect ''cut''; afterwards the carcasses are tossed
into a pile, still alive, and for up to 10 minutes you can see their hearts
still beating, in agony, their eyes still blinking, and the puppies' little
paws still shaking. There was one pup, that still lifted his head and gazed
at the camera with bloodied eyes.
If you don't care to see the video, please sign and forward to your friends:
this monstrosity has to be stopped, we have to act!!
When the list reaches 500 names, please forward to:
Thank you.

The e-mail links to a PETA site (I'm not linking to it due to its graphically violent nature) which has the video. I scanned the site and saw a couple of images that showed more than I needed to see. There was no way I was going to watch the video but there's enough descriptions of it from many varied sources that I'm pretty sure the event it records is horrifically real. The are questions, though: How and why?

All sides of this bother me. Mostly, I am sickened by the suffering imposed on the dog. Again, it's visceral, no logic involved. It makes me want to scream and hit and destroy the destroyer. It makes me want to condemn the butcher, his family, his country all to Hell. I weep for that dog and will always weep for that dog when I think about what it was put through. I sit here seething at my impotence to act against such inhumanity, to help the helpless. What can I do? What can I do?

These reactions are real. They are inescapable. And of course these are the reactions PETA wants.

Animal rights organizations have had a long history with using animal snuff films to generate public debate, awareness and, of course, funds. Unfortunately, some of these films have come at great expense to the animals involved. Instead of a quick death, a more torturous end is staged and the animal is forced to suffer excruciating pain - all for our viewing (dis)pleasure.

Here's an excerpt taken from the Fur Commission USA website which is a lobby group for American mink farmers (so, yes, there may be spin on this but I haven't found anything to contradict the information provided):

1964: Film of a seal being skinned alive is used by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to vilify Canadian sealers, and is screened on CBC television. Following a public outcry and investigation, the man in the film, Gus Poirier of Prince Edward Island, signs an affidavit declaring that he was "employed by a group of photographers ... to skin a large seal for the film. I solemnly swear before witnesses that I was asked to torment the said seal and not to use a [club], but just to use a knife to carry out this operation, where in normal practice a [club] is used to first kill the seals before skinning them." A Federal Standing Committee castigated CBC "for not enquiring into its accuracy before screening," but the damage had been done.

Here's another one:

Mid-1990s: In 1996, video footage of a brutal dolphin slaughter is used in a campaign to raise money and generate public support for embargoes against Venezuela's two exports, oil and tunafish. As they market the video, various groups claim the film "proves" that 40,000 dolphins are killed annually in a country where dolphin kills are illegal. No proof exists except the film. When the uncut film footage is finally discovered, it becomes obvious that the film was staged. The filmmaking crew had represented themselves to the fishermen involved as scientists from the local university, saying they needed to kill a dolphin for research and that they would take total responsibility. "Act natural!" yells the cameraman to the fishermen. The filmmakers supply the knife used to inhumanely butcher the animal while they direct the action. "More blood! Get me more blood!" yells the cameraman.

The Venezuelan government charged the filmmakers with fraud and treason (since the film was part of an orchestrated attack on key Venezuelan exports), but the filmmakers fled the country. They have never been caught to face the charges.

And here's one that readers in Toronto might remember:

2001: Jesse Power, a vegan student at the Ontario College of Art and Design, enlists two other young men to film the brutal torture and killing of a house cat. Acts committed on video include hanging the cat by a noose, then cutting its throat while stabbing it, and finally slitting its chest open. At trial, Power's lawyer argues that the project was conceived as an "artistic protest" against meat-eating.

The Fur Commission site lists more than a dozen other staged animal snuff movies created and/or used by animal rights organizations including Greenpeace, IFAW, HSUS and, of course PETA. It also talks about the dog skinning video.

The implication from the video is that live skinning is standard operating procedure for the dog fur trade in China. However, outside of entertaining sadistic psychopaths who fester in every society, skinning any animal live for its fur doesn't make any sense because it's inefficient.

Here's an excerpt from a press release by the Chinese government ( regarding this video:

Pictures showing animals being skinned alive are obviously plotted. All those with common sense would not choose this slaughter method to attain fur. Reasons are as follows: First, the animals are bred for quality fur and those with a thinking mind know this method would seriously affect the quality of the fur. Second, animals being skinned alive would struggle and might hurt the skinner, which would increase the difficulty of skinning process. At last, the method is a very inefficient one to attain fur. To a fur farm with hundreds, even thousands of animals, it's ridiculous and infeasible to adopt the method.

So where does the truth lie? I'm guessing somewhere in between. I agree with the arguments presented (once I've managed to control my nausea) that it would be stupid to perform the act shown on the video on a large scale but I also find it hard to believe that such occurrences would never happen simply because the humans involved in the butchering will inevitably make mistakes. And anyway, the whole dog fur industry is so appallingly grotesque - especially when you realize that it's being used to counterfeit other animals' fur sold to western countries, either directly or through European countries - that the argument over whether or not this particular video was staged or not seems moot.

Well, not for this particular dog.

And so the eternal question, does the end justify the means?

What is the desired end in this case? That China cave in to foreign pressure and put a stop to its dog fur trade? Has China given Tibet more autonomy due to foreign pressure? No. Has it reduced its rate of capital punishment due to foreign pressure? No. Has it improved its human rights record due to foreign pressure? No.

Well, maybe then the video will turn off enough people from wearing fur that the dog fur industry (and counterfeit animal fur industry) will dry up in China. Maybe but I'm not betting on it. Before the credit crunch hit, fur had its biggest year ever propelled by all the new wealth in Russia and China. People who wear fur aren't thinking about animal suffering. They're concerned about how they look.

And so, I believe that the dog in the video was put through a terrible death in vain. I believe that it would have been enough just to film what regularly happens to dogs in China - stuffed in cages like you'd stuff a suitcase, butchered in open markets - without having to resort to creating such extreme additional suffering - even if it's only the suffering of one dog - to get the message across. If the film makers staged the torture scene, they stepped over the line. They would have become the tormentors and tormentors deserve to rot in hell.

But still, did I sign the petition? Of course.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Best Friends responds to Wilkes County dog euths

On the one hand, I'm glad BFAS has put out a press release questioning HSUS's stance on euthanizing all the dogs from the Wilkes County seizures, but on the other, I worry that they may be drawn into a dirty PR campaign against groups like HSUS and PETA from which no one emerges unscathed.

Here's an excerpt:

Ledy VanKavage, an attorney with Best Friends Animal Society, said, “We are disheartened and shocked that HSUS, a leader in the animal welfare community, would testify in court for the automatic destruction of puppies and dogs who had not been given the opportunity to be evaluated as individuals, based on [HSUS’s] policy. The Michael Vick dogs have proven how antiquated this approach is.”

Here's the full press release: Humane(?) Society

From here

One Bark at a Time is now listed on Alltop which is a blog listing service. It works like an online magazine rack for blogs so you can go there and peruse stuff and see if anything catches your eye. Thanks for making room for me on your shelf, Alltop.

More than that, though, getting listed with them does make me wonder about where I'm going to take this blog. A while back, I wrote I was going to slow down with the postings but apparently this is somewhat akin to trying to break a hard wired habit because it hasn't happened. I'd still like to slow down but now that I'm actively trying to do decrease the output, I've got too much to write.

Hmm, maybe if I try to make myself poor, I'll get rich.

Purple haze - part 2

I fall asleep and hear Ingrid say to Wayne, "Wayne this one's all yours, baby," and she hands him the pup but Wayne is busy preaching to the television cameras about love and respect for all of God's beautiful creatures so he passes it along to his darling, John, and John lays the pup down and casually crushes it with his foot all the while picking food out of his white teeth and smiling. "You are a good boy", says Wayne and he brings out a tub of crystal clear water and washes John's feet.

I move away from them and walk amongst the 100 and more remaining dogs who are snarling and cowering and barking and crying and I want to take them out for a just a while, a small thing, a stroll along some city sidewalk but I can't because my arms cannot reach them and suddenly they are so far away I can barely see them.

"I cannot see the way," I say to Wayne and he says, "Do not fret, they are in our good hands now," and he opens a cage door and takes out a dog and the dog is unsure but wags its tail. "See how it loves me," and he smiles for the television cameras and pockets a cheque for one thousand dollars and then he gives the dog to Ingrid and she swallows it whole.

"Yummy in the tummy," she says.

Then Wayne takes another dog, a puppy, and cradles it like a child for the cameras and pockets a cheque for two thousand dollars and then is about to give the pup to John but as it passes by I reach out to touch it but John snatches it away and says, "Mine, you prick!" and he takes it and he swallows it whole.

Wayne reaches in for a third dog and this dog is scarred and blind and when Wayne reaches in, the dog doesn't sense his presence until he touches it and then the dog nuzzles the hand and Wayne pockets a cheque for three thousand dollars as the news cameras record and then he lifts the dog up out of its cage where it has spent almost all of its short terrible life and he carries it out and he lifts it high and then he winks at it just before he swallows it whole.

And in the dream, they continue but I don't remember any of it until the end when all the cages are empty and the trinity unfold their blood red dragon wings and fly away.

On Feb. 17, after seizing dogs from an operation that bred fighting dogs, Wilkes County Animal Control euthanized 146 Pit Bulls, including 19 new born puppies, under the recommendations of Humane Society United States. No proper individual dog behavioural assessments were done to see if any could be saved. Best Friends volunteered to do the assessments but they were denied. KC Dog Blog and Caveat have the details and the links.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Animals in film

Maybe you've seen this already but last year, CBC's The Fifth Estate aired "Cruel Camera", a fascinating behind the scenes look at how animals are treated by the film industry and it's far from being all treats and cuddles. This investigative report doesn't have much to do directly with dogs but it does deal with how animals in general are manipulated and sometimes abused on screen for our viewing pleasure. It also ties in with what I'm going to post tomorrow (if I can get around to finishing the piece) about the questionable practice of staging acts of animal cruelty on video as an effective funding incentive used by certain animal rights organizations.

You can watch the whole Fifth Estate's "Cruel Camera" here. Parts of it are sad but nothing too graphic. This program also ties in with the recent news of the "domesticated" chimp who went on a rampage, mauled a person and was eventually shot by police.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In which Britney escapes and runs around like a frickin lunatic

Friday afternoon, work is done and I'm thinking I'll go on over to Toronto Animal Services and take a couple of the dogs out for walks as I've got an hour to kill before I have to get home to feed my own two garbageophiles who I've kept starving for at least half a day. I'm looking forward to a couple of relaxing walks as no new dogs have come in and so no need for photos - not that taking photos is strenuous but it does introduce a certain goal oriented slant to the affair and sometimes it's nice just to ramble aimlessly - like the way I do my grocery shopping ("Okay, I'll get the brocolli. Oh look, Pop Tarts!") and quite like the way I'm writing this post.

There's a whiteboard up at TAS which lists all the dogs requiring walks along with the last time they were taken out. According to the table, it looks like it's Britney's turn next so I go grab a leash and then head into the adoption room.

Britney seems more hyper than the last time I took her out which was maybe a week ago. Some dogs settle into pound life with a snore, but most experience low level anxiety and exhibit stress behaviours. Britney's stress behaviour is obviously drinking too much coffee and doing her best to imitate a sproingy kangaroo crossed with a flopping fish out of water. One moment she's on her back being submissive, then she's on her stomache wanting ear scratches, then she's pogoing up and down trying to either lick my face or break my nose. She's so excited and wriggling around so much that it takes me a good minute to hook her leash onto her collar.

(Which reminds me, I should see if TAS is following up on my suggestion to install Ritalin dispensers beside all the hand sanitizing stations.)

I'm thinking Britney will calm down a bit once we get outside but she's still acting like a freaky fruitcake ...

(Actually, maybe Rohypnol would be better than Ritalin. Rohypnol's faster acting, right?)

... and it may even be that the outside fresh air supercharges her hyperdrive because as soon as we step out the door, she starts pulling like she's lead dog on an Iditarod sled team.

Britney's a relatively small dog compared to my home-growns, so, though she's certainly putting in the effort, I'm not having too much difficulty controlling her. I'm thinking, "Ah, Britney, you may have the will but I have strength coupled with exceptional dog handling skills on my side and ..."

... that's when her collar breaks.

You know that b-grade superhero, Flash, the one dressed all in red with the yellow lightning bolts coming out of his head which I always thought made it look like his brain was evaporating out his ears? It's like, Hey, you choose. You can either be a superhero with super strength who can fly and be bulletproof or you can be a superhero who runs fast. Well, Britney, being a dog and all and not knowing any better apparently chose the latter.

It's probably because it's getting dark and there's not a lot of lighting in the area but I swear, Britney looks like a blur. She's ripping around like Speedy Gonzales on a six pack of Red Bull. She's running so fast that time actually slows down. I wave to her as she runs across the grass towards the empty thankgod parking lot and say, See you in Australia sometime.

I just basically stand there, defeated, and I'm wondering how I'm going to explain her self propelled trip around the world to the TAS staffers when Britney does the inexplicable and stops and turns around. She gives me a Why aren't you keeping up look? as she does her fly-by and then continues on, racing around me in a circle, wearing a track into the grass and then sending off sparks when she hits the asphalt.

This goes on for 15 minutes. Except for one very short break when Britney decides to offload some weight, she does not stop. I realize now that she's not going to run away from me and part of me wants to let her run, to let her savour this short moment of freedom and wind and purity of speed because I don't know when and if she'll get another chance but another part of me also knows that this has to end. I need to get her back.

It turns out to not be difficult at all. Britney doesn't let me approach her too closely but she has no problems approaching me and when she sees me heading back for the door to the TAS building and that I'm about to leave her outside on her own, she quickly sidles up beside me and ... sits. I loop the leash around her neck and lead her back inside.

When we get upstairs, instead of taking her into her kennel directly, I bring her over to the bench in the main foyer and sit with her. She's still a little kinetic but now that remaining energy seems focused on me, alternating between kisses and submissive behaviour. It's like she knows she did something wrong and is asking for forgiveness.

Of course it's impossible to tell her that she did nothing wrong. Someone allowed her to be created then gave her away to someone else who never trained her and then abandoned her to some pound in another jurisdiction that nearly killed her and now that she's had a minuscule taste of freedom, I'm going to go and put her back in her kennel and lock her up. It's I who should be asking her for forgiveness.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Secrets of Photoshop

People often come up to me and ask what's the most important thing when taking pictures like if it's my camera equipment or if it's the lighting or if I dope up the dogs to get them to sit still and though it's a little of all three, I have to say that it's mostly Photoshop.

Photoshop is about the most amazing photography tool to come along since eyeballs. Unfortunately, using Photoshop correctly doesn't come as naturally as using your eyeballs so I thought today I'd pass along some tips I've come up with over the years and what better way to do that than with a few examples.

In the first example, there's an unseemly cigarette butt in the bottom left corner which I want to remove from this photo of Rocco.

Removing extraneous objects is one of the most often done feats with Photoshop and while it may look easy it's actually something that takes years to perfect.

You can see in the revised version of the photo, below, how I've managed to conceal the butt by carefully painting it over with a colour that so closely matches the background, you can barely tell I've manipulated the photo at all. It may look easy but in real time, that took me a good three hours to do.

The next example involves hair. In the Photoshop Super Master Users community, we have endless Twitter conferences over how to handle hair because without a doubt, hair is one of the hardest things to revise. It's just so finicky, all those little strands, and dogs, of course, have got a lot of hair.

Luckily, I happen to be somewhat of an expert on hair, so I thought it might be beneficial to show an example of how I handle this most difficult of techniques.

In the next example, we see Molly who is cute as a button. Unfortunately, the photo is absolutely ruined by the loose strand of hair just above her right eye (I've got an arrow pointing to it in the picture).

I know what you're thinking. Impossible. This photo cannot be salvaged ... and yet. And yet ...

With the right combination of brushes and filters and hands as steady as any world class brain surgeon, I've managed to not only remove that devastating curlicue, I've actually restyled it so that what was once absolutely appalling is now transformed into a unique and eye catching accent on Molly's brow. This image took me nearly two days to complete but I feel the effort has been worth it.

For Dino's photo shoot, unbeknown to me, my memory card was full so I didn't actually end up with any shots of Dino - but no worries. With a little Photoshop magic and an original picture of a stuffed toy, I was able to reproduce Dino based solely on my memory of that photo session.

This transformation took me almost a full two months to complete and I almost died but I just kept telling myself that it's for the dogs, it's all for the dogs, and knowing that, I was able to persevere.

Before Photoshop:

After Photoshop:

Now the trick to accomplishing the previous transformational task is to start with something that looks like the final desired image. The stuffed toy I used was unfortunately the closest thing my assistant could find which reminded us of Dino, hence the long time to complete the final image, but in the next example, because what I started out with was so similar to the desired result, the work was a lot easier. This Photoshop transformation only took me a couple of minutes.


And even then, if my assistant had actually been listening to me more carefully, instead of finding me a picture of a brick, she would've found me what I really asked for and the photo would have been pretty well self made.

Okay, everyone, hope this was useful for you all and happy Photoshopping!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Better late than never

Stella: Okay, now that the photo shoots over, stop standing so close to me.

Rocky: Why?

Stella: I got three words for you: burping, farting, snorting. That's you and I don't want to gag on your personal fumes.

Rocky: But it's Valentine's.

Stella: So?

Rocky: Maybe you could at least be civil on Valentine's.

Stella: Yeah, okay.

Rocky: Oh good!

Stella: Psych.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Okay, well, it's another day, another dingleberry hanging out the ass end of my dog only it's not just any old dingle, it's a clear plastic bag which I suppose means it's not a true dingleberry but whatever. It's hanging out and it's not going anywhere and Stella's doing the butt shuffle around the park dragging the long stringy shit bag with her. All I'm thinking is it looks like she's just half pooped out her intestines. Now I'm going to have to go over there and finish the job by pulling the rest out of her and how please-I-hope-I-don't-puke gross that's going to be but I'm also thinking Hey that's kind of cool how the poop comes prebagged already but then I'm back to thinking please I hope I don't puke and also I hope no one else comes to the park this minute and sees what I'm about to do.

Which reminds me of the time I was at the park with Stella, and "Kevin" and "Derek" (I've changed their names to protect their future children) were there with their dogs. Derek had with him his pack of rescued dogs which don't really play a big part in this story except as traumatized witnesses.

I had just arrived and already I knew there was something wrong as both Kevin and Derek were leaning over Kevin's dog, "Jax", who was on his back. Jax was usually a very lively dog so him being on his back when he could be chasing squirrels or rolling in crap was very unusual. I walked through the gates and approached the group slowly but when I got a peak at what was going on, I immediately gagged back my Captain Crunch and quickly returned Stella to the car so that she wouldn't have the horrific image singed onto her eyeballs for the rest of her life as she's got enough mental problems already.

Once I made sure Stella was okay, I walked tentatively back to Kevin and Derek. Derek's dogs were all in various stages of shock and awe but Kevin and Derek themselves, and I have to give them props for this, were totally cool, well, pretty near totally cool, well, close enough to cool given what had just happened.

Okay, this next little bit is gross but if you can get over the gross there's some funny afterward so bear with me if you can.

Jax had gotten himself so excited that morning from butt surfing on the soft moist grass that his lipstick had squeezed out but it had come out so much and expanded to such a degree that it had gotten stuck and couldn't get back in. The penile sheath had been pushed all the way back to the base of Jax's stickshift and because everything was so swollen, the stretched sheath was acting like a super tight tourniquet not allowing the blood in his members only club to flow back out. It looked like a bloody big blood sausage just wobbling off of poor Jax's belly. The poor guy couldn't walk. He was totally immobilized.

The thing was so swollen that at the base of it, it had ballooned out so much that it looked like Jax still had his plums even though they'd been removed ages ago.

You know what's funny is that at this point when I tell the story to people, the women are all, "Oh yeah, that sounds uncomfortable," like I'm describing an itchy pair of wool socks or something and the men who are still listening are all standing around with their hands over their gonads like those soccer guys about to get their balls mashed in by a free kick.

Anyway, Kevin and Derek were trying to figure out what to do about the situation and every so often they'd reach down and examine Jax's affected area and Jax would yowl in pain. At least I think it was pain.

Kevin was like, "Let's try pulling the sheath back down," and he'd reach for it and I was like, "No, no, no, no, don't touch it for God's sake. Let's take him to the vet before it explodes!" and Kevin was like, "No, I think ... I ... can ... if ... I ... can ... just ..." and then Jax would yowl and Kevin was like, "No, it's too tight," and I was like, "We got to take him to the vet. We'll take him to emerge. The traffic's not too heavy yet. We can still get there in time."

"How're we going to get him to the car? It's too far," Kevin said and I looked down at Jax and realized that even carrying him might cause things to flop around too much resulting in who knows what kind of wear and tear.

Then suddenly Derek was like "You know, I just read about this on the internet the other day" and I was like, to myself, "Huh?", and Derek was like, "There were some pictures," and now I was like "Wha?" and I was thinking there was a good reason why he was living on his own with just his dogs, and he was like, "... and we just need to wait for Jax to calm down and relax a bit and everything'll be fine. We just need to wait."

10 seconds later I was like, "Holy shit, we gotta do something here," and Kevin examined Jax's dingdong again but it hadn't gotten any smaller and his yowling, whenever they examined him, seemed to be getting worse (or better - who knows?).

Okay, you know how earlier I had said that when Stella had that bag hanging out of her butt and I thought I'd have to go tug it out and was hoping no one would come into the park to witness the event and how that reminded me of this story? Well, here's the part in this story where I started hoping no one would come into the park.

"Okay, I've got an idea. Do you have any water?" Kevin asked me.

"Yeah, sure, in the car. There a bottle of it," I responded, then added, "Why?"

"Well, it's not getting any smaller so I'm thinking if we pour some cold water on it, it might encourage it to go down a bit."

"Yeah, good idea," Derek said, "Plus it would provide some lubrication."

Me: "Lubrication?"

Derek: "Yeah, well, it's been out for a while so it's probably getting dry."

Me: "Okay, whatever."

Kevin: "Yeah, it does seem kind of dry."

Me: "Okay, I'm going to get the water."

I ran to the car and grabbed the water and I was thanking Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny that Stella was a girl and I rushed back to the park.

I handed the water over to Kevin and he unscrewed the lid and he was about to pour it on Jax when he stopped and he said, "You know, this water's a bit cold."

Derek said, "Let me see that," and he grabbed the bottle. "Oh yeah, that's pretty cold."

"I don't want to shock him or anything 'cause I don't know what that would do," Kevin said.

Me: "What are you talking about?"

Derek: "Yeah, we don't know what would happen if his penis gets immersed in too cold water too quickly."

Me: "Well, it's not going to explode or anything. I mean cold things contract, right?"

Kevin: "Yeah but it still might be too much of a shock."

So we stood there for another 20 seconds and finally Kevin looked like he had finally made up his mind about something and he said, "Okay, I'm going to swish the water around in my mouth first to warm it up and then I'll dribble it on," and then he added, "I hope no one comes into the park right now."

I was kinda wishing I wasn't in the park right then either.

Kevin took some water into his mouth and gurgled it while Derek stood watch to make sure the operation went smoothly. Kevin looked at Derek and nodded his head to signal that he felt the water was ready and Derek returned the nod. It was like watching a MASH rerun and Derek was Trapper John and Kevin was a fucked up combo of Hawkeye and Hot Lips Houlahan.

Kevin bent over Jax and let the water run out of his mouth.

"Damn, I missed it," he said and at that moment it felt like someone trying to give someone else an emergency tracheotomy with a Bic pen and saying, "Oops, too much to the left."

Kevin took another swig of water and gurgled it around again and again Kevin and Derek gave each other their nods and Kevin bent over Jax and he lowered himself and then his head disappeared between Jax's legs.

You ever wish you had a video camera?

Seconds which seemed like an eternity later, Kevin straightened up and he said, "Got it."

We three men then gathered around Jax and watched and held our breathes.

Nothing. Stiff like a little gourd.

5 seconds.


10 seconds.


15 seconds.


But then just as Kevin was going to take another swig of water, we saw a movement in Jax's purple pickle, just the slightest flicker and then another and then suddenly it was obvious that blood was starting to drain out. We would've clapped if we didn't think it was going to draw attention to us. Also, clapping would've looked silly and we didn't want that.

A minute later Jax was back on his feet and whiplashing his tail, obviously overjoyed that his mouse was back in the house.

So with the morning's adventure over, I turned to leave when Kevin turned to me and he was like, "Okay, we're never going to tell anyone about this, right?" and I was like, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, no, no I'm ... this is just between the three of us."