For the Love of Shelter Dogs*


Princess, Titus & Priss, Hayden, Shih-Tzu
January 30, 2009, 1:50 am
Filed under: Photo Day

I brought my Canon Rebel to the shelter today to take high-quality pictures. I (try to) sell pictures on www.istockphoto.com. I’ve only gotten three accepted into the database, but I’m working on improving my lighting (their main complaint about my photos).  I like to take dog pictures because most dogs are so photogenic.

I started with Princess. She’s a German Shepherd mix, a little over a year old. She’s really affectionate and kept trying to kiss me when I got near her with the camera! It was really sweet, even though I try to keep shelter-dog-kisses to a minimum. She was difficult to get a good picture of; she didn’t want to sit still and staying in the sunlight was out of the question! Still, I got a couple decent shots of her. And her nose.

She wanted to give kisses.

She wanted to give kisses.

More of Princess than her nose.

More of Princess than her nose.

I wanted to take Titus and Priss out next, but just as I was walking them down the hall I got stopped by a woman who wanted help. I put them back in their cage and helped the woman. She was nice, but she wanted me to introduce two dogs from different cages to each other. I told her I could only let them meet through the fence, which was just as well, since the female (Saundra) wasn’t too keen on the male (Eric). Eric wanted to play; Saundra didn’t want anything to do with him! The woman decided to come back Saturday and adopt only Eric. Hopefully she will! I love helping people with the dogs, but I find it somewhat annoying when I spend a good chunk of time with them, only to have them say something like “Well, thank you. I’m leaving now.” It’s like, “Wait, what? Didn’t you want to adopt?” Thankfully, that doesn’t happen too often. Most people explain why they took up my time. I appreciate when they do!

After that I got Titus and Priss. I’ve been trying to teach them to walk politely while on the leash, and they’re kind of catching on. They’ll stay at my side (if I keep the leash short, that is) until we’re in sight of the front door. Then they bolt. But they’re getting there!

Titus is a  German Shepherd mix. He’s about 2 or 3 years old. He just recently came back to the shelter; he was there a couple years ago and got adopted, but he’s back as a stray. He’s surprisingly photogenic. He does that adorable head-cocking thing that’s so hard to make dogs do, unless you’re making funny noises. But I was by myself and it was pretty crowded, so that rules out the funny noises. He sits so perfectly and he stays sitting longer than most. I love Titus. Priss is a little over a year old. She’s a hound mix – probably a Coonhound mix. She’s a sweetie, but she doesn’t really like to stay still. She prefers to run and play. That’s why the picture of her is a picture of her running. Well, leaping, actually. She spends most of her time playing with Titus. And poor Titus doesn’t always want to play. I end up separating them quite often – Priss just wants to keep playing and playing, but Titus tries to hide. Poor Priss has pent up energy!

Titus (he wanted the kibble), and Priss's head.

Titus (he wanted the kibble), and Priss's head.

Priss, intent on Titus. Play time, anyone?

Priss, intent on Titus. Play time, anyone?

I got Hayden out next. I’d never met Hayden before, but he looked so sad. He was just standing in his cage, slightly wagging, eyes lowered like he was saying “I don’t know why I’m here, and I don’t want to be here.” I just couldn’t resist. He looked like he was older, but his card said 11 months! He’s such a sweetie, though. He wanted love. That’s it. Just love. So I spent most of the time I wasn’t taking pictures scratching behind his ears and rubbing all down his back. He was quite content, especially after I put the camera away. He didn’t like the clicky-beeping noise.

Sweet Hayden. He wasn't too fond of the camera, though.

Sweet Hayden. He wasn't too fond of the camera, though.

I put Hayden back and was just on my last “inventory” (I like to walk each aisle of the adoption rooms at least twice a day to see who’s there, who’s adopted, who’s missing, and who’s new) when I walked by a pitiful looking little thing. My initial reaction was “Ick” followed by a shudder (I’m not fond of little-dogs). I knelt down and talked to him a bit, then moved on to the next couple cages. I was looking at a Dachshund when I heard a pathetic (and somewhat frantic) barking and whining. I looked back at the Shih-Tzu’s cage and he was staring at me through the little space next to the door. With a sigh I reached for my leash and opened his door. We got outside to the front pen and the little Shih-Tzu took off. Turns out he tries to hold it. He was busy for a few minutes, sniffing, relieveing himself, and sniffing some more. I grabbed my camera when I was sure he was all done. I took a few pictures of him before I got a close look at his face. I could only see one of his eyes (he has long fur) and the eye I could see was bug-eyed, like a pug. He had an underbite and really crooked teeth. And he was pretty dirty. He wasn’t matted, but he’s definitely in need of a good bath..or two. All in all, he’s one of the ugliest dogs little dogs I’ve ever seen. But he’s pretty sweet. I called him and he  came over and wanted attention. I was a bit surprised by this; most little dogs don’t like me, especially if they’re Shih-Tzus or Pekingeses. Ick. Haha..

Shih-Tzu (I forgot his name).

Shih-Tzu (I forgot his name).

After I put him back I signed out and was ready to go when another volunteer grabbed me and told me she couldn’t catch Craig. Craig is a little terrier mix – he’s small and full of energy, and somewhat slippery when you reach for him. She said she’d been trying to get him for a few minutes and decided to give up and come in for help. I went out into the cage and made the neck loop in the leash as big as possible and called him over. He came running and started to run circles around me. I put the neck loop in front of where his head would end up and tightened when it was around his neck. This took me all of 30 seconds. I was pretty excited. I’ve been perfecting my “lassoing” ability over the years, and it seems I’m getting the hang of it!

In other miscellaneous news:
-One of our favorites, Chrissy, was adopted on Monday. She was an extremely energetic girl. She got adopted a while ago but was returned because she was the “wrong sex.” That’s one of the stupidest reasons I’ve ever heard. How could the people not notice she was a she before they brought her home? Really? Ugh.
-Another of our favorites, McLovin, was adopted last week, but was returned and is back up in the adoption rooms now. I asked about it and was told that the person who adopted him took him home, was diagnosed with something, and couldn’t take care of herself/himself and McLovin, so she returned McLovin. At least she had an acceptable reason. I hate it when dogs get returned because it’s the “wrong sex” or something stupid. There was a Mastiff mix that was surrendered once because it was “too big.” Really? “Mastiff” even sounds like “massive” – how could they not know it would get big?

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Dogs Are Not Our Whole Lives, But They Make Our Lives Whole.
January 27, 2009, 3:09 pm
Filed under: General

Hello!

I’m a volunteer at my local county animal shelter. I’ve been volunteering with the dogs for about 3 years (give or take) and I decided it was time to share some of my experiences.

I didn’t really like dogs when I started volunteering. I’d never had good experiences with dogs. I was afraid of puppies at the pet stores. We’d take them out to play and I’d climb up on the benches to avoid them. My cousin’s pekingese bit me. The pekingese pup we bought from them bit me. The Maltese we adopted from a shelter bit me. The first dog we had that didn’t bite me was our retired racing Greyhound, Regis. We rescued him in 1997. He taught me that not all dogs are evil. He developed bone cancer in 2004 (I was a sophomore in high school) and had to be put to sleep.

Shortly after losing him, I started begging my parents for another dog. Any dog. Greyhound, mutt, lab. I would’ve settled for anything. But neither of my parents were ready for another dog. My friend and her neighbor told me about volunteering at the animal shelter (they’d been volunteering for about 6 months). They wanted me to go to an orientation and volunteer.

I did the orientation (Mom came too, because I was 15 and had to have an adult with me), but I didn’t expect to ever go back. It was too sad, too heartbreaking. So many homeless dogs, all barking and staring at me with those sad eyes. Of course, I was also a little afraid of them.

We went back about a week later and spent an hour walking dogs. We walked the old dogs or the calm one-cagers who looked like they needed to get out. I met one dog I fell in love with – a Golden mix named Barbie. She was about 3 years old, short, and chubby. And she was very sweet.

I went back a week later, but she was gone. I found out two years later that my friends’ Grandma adopted her, and that she was doing really well.

I wanted to volunteer more often, but Mom couldn’t take the smell. I told my friend, and she told me to come to her house and ride over with her, her neighbor, and her neighbor’s mom. I did, and that’s when the tradition started.

Ever since that first Saturday we all went together, we’ve been going almost every weekend for however long we can. We fall in love with dogs and try our best to train them and help them find homes. Most often we succeed. Sometimes, though, no home can be found in time and the dog either gets sick or develops behavioral problems (kennel-stress usually) and has to be humanely euthanized. Our shelter euthanizes humanely. There are no horrible gas chambers or other mass-euthaniasia machines. Each animal is held lovingly by a vet-tech or employee and is given an injection. They experience love in their final moments.

I make it a point to mention this when I’m asked by a customer about euthaniasia. It’s a necessary part of a county animal shelter, even though it’s sad and terrible. They can’t turn away any dogs that are brought in, and they do their best to get every dog adopted.

By blogging about my time volunteering at the shelter, the dogs I meet, and the people I help, I’m hoping to raise awareness about animal shelters, the necessity of volunteers (and foster parents!), and the incredible, unconditional love of rescue dogs (and cats!).

*In memory of Somalia.

Somalia, who ran out of time before she could find a forever-home.

Somalia, who ran out of time before she could find a forever-home.