Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rescuing and hoarding

I wasn't planning on going but I needed a break so I headed over to Toronto Animal Services. I thought I'd take a look and see if there were any new dogs that needed their photos taken but as it turned out, there hadn't been any new arrivals in a few days. That was a bit of a nice surprise and purely for selfish reasons. Sometimes it's nice to be able to just hang out with the dogs without having any tasks that need to get done.

I headed over to the Shih Tzu room expecting to be greeting by 13 pairs of eyes but instead there were only 2. Turns out 11 of them have already been adopted out and the remaining 2 will be going to the Petsmart Adopt-a-thon this weekend. These two, originally anxious around people dogs, have become happy, barking, jump up and greet everyone dogs. Their transformations are amazing and they will surely be snatched up at the Adopt-a-thon.

These two dogs have come a long way in a very short time. It goes to show just how badly they must have been treated by their previous owner to have been so withdrawn when they first came in. How obvious it is now that they were living in some sort of abusive psychological environment, and that they weren't just born anxious and suspicious of people. They were made anxious and suspicious by people and now that they've been given the slightest amount of nurturing, even in a rather impersonal space like Toronto Animal Services, their true personalities have come out.

The Shih Tzus were originally brought in from a Parkdale apartment a few weeks ago. I recognized the apartment building from a news clip on TV and I'm pretty sure none of the units inside the building would have been big enough to house 13 dogs, even 13 small ones. The person who was looking after them said that they belonged to a recently deceased relative and the situation in the apartment was only temporary.

That may be true but regardless of who owned the Shih Tzus and for how long, the horrible condition they arrived in would indicate a case of hoarding. A loose definition of hoarding would be something along the lines of having too many animals to take care of properly, not acknowledging the fact and, in most cases, "collecting" more. In theory, that would mean that someone who owns even one animal could be a hoarder if he isn't able to take of it properly but generally hoarders have multiple animals, sometimes well into the hundreds.

There have been some interesting television programs on animal hoarding recently and they give some insight into the unhinged mind of a hoarder. "Cat Ladies" is a documentary filmed partially in Toronto and it explores the sometimes hazy line between being an animal rescuer and being an animal hoarder.

In the doc, a certain celeb from the Toronto Humane Society says: I think a cat hoarder and a cat rescuer are almost one and the same ... I think it is an addiction. Okay, whatever, Einstein. It can sometimes be a slippery slope from one to the other but I don't think the majority of rescuers can be put in the same category as hoarders.

One of the cat ladies interviewed in the doc has a different view: I find it rather amusing that people would call me the crazy cat lady because I don't look at myself that way ... I think I'm a lot more sane than the people that can handle leaving a cat out in the winter to freeze to death or starve to death - now I think that's crazy.

"Cat Ladies" aired on TVO back in September but hopefully, there will be some repeat showings sometime soon.

From a show on A&E appropriately called "Hoarders", there is an episode dealing with a cat hoarder named Shirley: Feeding animals is something I have to do even if you put me in prison.

"Hoarders" is a reality TV show so you can expect a good dose of fix-it-in-an-hour therapy but besides that annoying aspect, it seems to present Shirley in a sympathetic light even though she does live in terrible conditions and the animals under her "care" are highly neglected. The clip is of an upcoming show so I don't know the outcome of Shirley's "therapy".

There's even a professional group dedicated to hoarding, The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium and while I probably wouldn't want to go to any of their conventions, they do have some eye-popping photos ...


... on their site and lots of information concerning animal welfare, intervention, disease and legislation.

Okay, so this started out as a post about a relaxing time with the dogs at TAS and it turned into a post about hoarding. I'm getting old and my mind is starting to wander. I'll have to write about Rufus, who is unfortunately still waiting to be adopted, some other time.

Update: I was recently sent a link to a couple of sites that deal specifically with hoarding. Check them out. There's lots of information about the disease:




Jenn said...

We visited TAS to drop off some donations before the Royal on Sunday and met both Butch and Rufus. Both fantastic dogs! Fingers crossed they both find homes soon.

We were all impressed by the TAS facility and appreciated the kind welcome we received, which was in stark contrast to the one we recently received at another well known Toronto shelter.

Tigerspirit said...

Mr. T. is right. Hoarding is a kind of addiction, and so is rescue.

Hoarders are addicted to controlling and possession, and some will even steal animals that already have good homes. Rescuers are addicted to the joy that comes of seeing an animal recover from being lost, hurt or abused, and go on to find his/her happy second chance.

The more of us who become addicted to that poignant joy, the better it is for the many animals who need us.

Yep, I'm an addict. A proud addict to the painful happiness that comes of giving up another of my rescues to a loving home, so that I can take in one more, and go through that moment again, and again, and again....

Lynda said...

I saw that episode of Hoarders. Shirley had most of her cats taken away, but if I remember correctly, she was allowed to keep a few or apply again to have some in the future? The grossest part was when they found skeletons of dead cats. This was a powerful episode, and I'm not surprised it was one of the first episodes shown at the beginning of the season a couple of months ago.

Anonymous said...

Can you tell us more about the adopt a thon? The link just goes to the eg & laird location map, and I googled and can't find anything for that location.(Usually only have cats..?)


Fred said...

Hi Anon, yes there are usually only cats available for adoption at Petsmart (Eglinton and Laird location) but this weekend there will be several dogs as well from TAS, like more than a dozen if all the vaccinations and speuters get done in time. The adopt-a-thon runs from Friday to Sunday but I think the dogs are only going to be there on Saturday and Sunday. To confirm, though, please call the Petsmart location and they can give you all the details.

Hi Lynda, I didn't realize it already aired. Dang I missed it. On the A&E website, they've got full episodes of some of their shows but not this particular episode.

Lynda said...

Fred, I'm sure it will be re-run lots of times. It was the best one I have seen so far. I think it originally aired in September at the beginning of the new season/series. I'll drop you a line if I happen to run across it online somewhere.

UMAGUMA said...

Hello, my name is Mike and I believe that I adopted one of the shih Tzu's featured in this article. I got Charlie from a lady named Serena. She adopted 2 of the dogs, Snuggles and Charlie. I am looking for articles and links to their rescue as I am putting together a story of Charlie's life. I believe that the rescue was filmed and it was on youtube but I can't seem to find it. There is one picture you have of him. http://onebarkatatime.blogspot.ca/2009/10/shih-tzu-im-missing-one.html he is number 7. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Fred said...

Hi UMAGUMA, sorry this post was from years ago and I don't have any info on the dog in question. You could always try calling the shelter at 416 338 6668.