Tag Archives: city pounds

The Miracle of Birth

A while ago, I met a man, his son and their two dogs.  I was making a fuss over the dogs, and the boy said “she’s going to have babies”.  The Kylie & Pups St. Louisdad confirmed it.  She was purebred, he said, as was the father of the pups.  So I figured daddy dog wasn’t their other dog, an unneutered male, but not the same breed.  Both dogs were about 2 years old, and after the puppies were born, the man said, they’d have both dogs neutered.  But they wanted her to have one litter of puppies – for her sake, for the kids to see.

“A Good Dog”

I didn’t say much about it, other than asking if they were breeders.  “Oh no, just she’s a good dog and we know people who’d like one of her pups.”  I agreed that neutering them was certainly a good idea.  They seemed like nice people.  They had got the female from a breeder they know who enters his dogs in field trials (she was a hound).  This guy wants to hunt with her.  She clearly was a beloved pet, both dogs were, and they knew and appreciated her lineage even though they weren’t into dog showing or competitions.  Probably those pups will get good homes.

But what I wanted to say – scream even – was why?  why?  why? You’re not breeding her at the request of her breeder, so that her pups can add to the prestige of his kennel.  You’re not, fortunately, breeding her so you can make some extra money off selling them on Kijiji.  You are doing it so she has the experience of having puppies and so your children can watch the miracle of birth.  Both are nice, family-oriented ideals – but why?

Why, at age 2 with no breeding plans in his future, was the male not Penny & foster pupsalready neutered?  Why do people think it’s necessary for a dog’s fulfillment to have puppies?  And why is deliberately letting a dog (or cat) get pregnant the only way to let your children witness the giving of birth?

A dog adjusts very quickly to being neutered.  At least, it’s quick if he’s young.  When older, when used to being “Mr. Testosterone”, the adjustment can be harder.  Still, the adjustment he has to undergo is preferable to the fights he’ll get in, the roaming he’ll feel compelled to do, and the unwanted puppies he’ll create given half a chance if he is not neutered.  A female dog does not feel she’s missing out on something if she never has puppies.  There is no health benefit for her in having puppies.

Foster Pups

If it’s important to you that your children witness birth and the first weeks of animals’ lives, there are other ways of doing it.  There are always irresponsible people who let their dogs or cats get pregnant, then don’t want to be bothered with them.  Those pregnant animals end up in shelters or wandering the streets until they get picked up by the dog catcher.  In every city and town, there are animal pounds and rescue groups looking for foster homes for pregnant dogs and cats.

You can take the mother in and look after her, experience the miracle of birth and help her look after the newborns.  When they are old enough to leave their mother, the babies and mother will go into the foster/adoption system.  You can have the joy of nurturing a mother and her babies and you have a support system finding homes St. Thomas, Ontario, Aug 2010 pound sign no cats acceptedfor them.  You’ve got what you wanted for yourself or your kids. You’ve helped animals in need, and you haven’t contributed to the problem of too many pets and not enough homes.

The miracle of birth can be shared by anyone willing to foster a pregnant animal for a couple of months.  Unfortunately, the supply of unwanted and/or unneutered pets so far seems inexhaustible, so finding a needy animal to foster isn’t likely to be a problem.

Contact a local shelter

If you can foster a pregnant dog or cat, contact All Breed Canine Rescue, St. Thomas Animal Control, Animal Aide or Pets/Friends 4 Life.  The miracle of birth will be just as miraculous and moving.

The dog and her 12 puppies in the top photo is Kylie.  An elderly feral dog, she was rescued by Stray Rescue of St. Louis in Missouri while pregnant for the umpteenth time.  The middle photo is of Penny who, after weaning her own puppies, nursed a litter of abandoned pups.  She, and they, were at Save a Mom Pregnant Dog Rescue in East Sparta, Ohio.  The third photo speaks for itself.  What happens to the cats and dogs when there’s no room at the pound?

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Sept. 14, 2010

Movin’ dogs: An underground railway

dog underground railway Sept 2008 photo D StewartWho can resist this little face! Small, friendly terrier mix desperately needs a home. House-trained, healthy 1 year old male.

That might have been the ad for Charlie placed by the pound near Lexington, Kentucky where he was in September 2008. Maybe he never was advertised. That pound, like many in the US, was overcrowded that summer. It was the height of the subprime mortgage collapse, house foreclosures, abandoned homes, abandoned pets. Charlie might have been one of those pets, or he may have come to the shelter by a different route and got lost in the crowd of dogs. Either way, no adopter and no shelter space meant he was scheduled for euthanasia. It didn’t happen. Charlie is “top dog” in my house, thanks to a reinvented underground railway.

Dog Underground Railway

Open Arms Pound Rescue is a rescue and transport group based in Ohio. They work with US pounds and US and Canadian animal rescue groups, Charlie at the dogpark 2010 photo John Blake moving dogs from pounds to shelters to foster and adoptive homes. Photos and descriptions of dogs on ‘death row’ are posted online by the pounds or Open Arms. Rescue groups and individuals arrange to have dogs brought to them and Open Arms organizes the transport.

Volunteers drive dogs from one town to another, where they meet new drivers and transfer the dogs to their vehicles for the next leg of the journey. Dogs are left in receiving shelters and homes along the way, and dogs are picked up. The relay continues north. When the dogs are safely across the border with their final American drivers, they are met by Canadian volunteers and are driven on to their receiving shelters or foster homes.

Lois, of All Breed Canine Rescue in St. Thomas ON, saw Charlie’s picture while checking for ‘last chance’ dogs scheduled to be put down. She earmarked him and other small dogs for the next transport. She didn’t have adoptive, or even foster, homes but she figured she’d be able to place these little dogs. For big dogs, it’s not so easy to find homes. They aren’t ‘pulled’ from pounds unless someone specifically asks for them.

We wanted a dog, but were still recovering from the deaths of two dogs and a cat. Fostering seemed like a good ‘grieving time’ option – have the company of a dog, but don’t get attached. Charlie was supposed to only stay overnight until his foster home could take him.

Little and Big

“Aaahh,” I thought when I saw him peeking out of the pickup he arrived in, “isn’t he just the cutest ever!” I’m not a small dog person, so I was somewhat immune to his charms. But within five minutes of seeing him, my husband said this dog’s not going anywhere. I made some calls and Charlie stayed with us as a foster.  His picture was posted on ABCR’s website and enquires started.

Charlie 2008 photo Dorothy StewartWe had to decide quickly. Jim was all for keeping him. And Charlie had quickly claimed a spot in my heart. But I still wanted “a real dog” you could take long walks with. Also, if Charlie got a good home, we could foster another, less adoptable, dog. Charlie was happy with us but, that early on in our relationship, he’d be happy with anybody who loved him and kept his belly full. I did a lot of soul-searching and, in the end, decided to be selfish. We adopted him.

A month later, in another Open Arms transport, I got my ‘big dog’. A Standard Poodle, Leo came out of five years as a stud dog in a puppy mill. He started with us as a foster, and there was a lot of interest as soon as his picture was posted.  Again a decision was needed and Leo made it:  frightened, needy and weird, he adopted us.

Adoption Geography

Two highly adoptable dogs – unadoptable in their home Leo-Oct-2008-photo-D-Stewartcommunities. How many cute dogs must there be in pounds for a dog like Charlie to be overlooked long enough that he’s going to be put down? How many purebred and ‘designer’ dogs must there be that rescue groups send Poodles and Labradoodles across the border? Supply and demand of dogs are often out of whack: too many dogs in one area, not enough in others. Too many dogs leads to abandonment and needless euthanasia, too few dogs leads to ‘backyard breeders’ and puppy mills finding ready buyers willing to pay exorbitant prices  for pups. Groups like Open Arms Pound Rescue try to even out the supply and demand problems by sending dogs unwanted in one area to places where there are homes for them.

The internet has made dog rehoming much easier. If you want a particular type of dog, you can just search through petfinder.com or breed rescue groups and find ways of getting together with a dog no matter where he or she is. Breeders of purebred dogs have been doing it for years, sending pups across the country or further to new homes. Now rescue groups are doing it for stray and abandoned animals too. And we’ve got two of them, my Dixie Dogs I call them.

Charlie 2009 photo Dorothy StewartBy the way, I found out little dogs can walk just as far and just as fast as big dogs. Charlie goes like a little steam engine and, the few times he gets too tired to walk, I can carry him home.

It’s seven years since the dogs came to live with us, and five years since I posted this on my St. Thomas Dog Blog (Jul. 15/10)

 

Barn Cats

Frank Moore, a farmer north of Belmont who my parents knew, always had lots of barn cats.  He said one year, years before, there had been an explosion of cats – so many that 3 barn cats on stepsall the farms were overrun.  So that year he, like the other farmers, got rid of many of them. “Then the next couple years, it just seemed like there weren’t any cats.  Some died, some just disappeared, kittens didn’t live.  The mice and rats were everywhere, and you couldn’t find a good mouser in the whole county.  I never got rid of another cat after that.  They come here, they’re all welcome.”

His barn and house cats were well-treated.  They drank milk straight from the cow, all lined up in a semi-circle, waiting, at milking time.  He’d shoot milk out toward them, and they’d lap it up then lick off their faces.

Being a barn cat, in a good barn, is a pretty good life.  You can chase all the mice you want.  You’ve got cozy places to sleep.  There’s always something to do.  Barn cats have to learn to navigate around animals much larger than themselves.  Some don’t, so there are always some losses.  Most horses like cats and take care stepping around them.  Cats sometimes will sleep right in a stall beside a horse or cow.

It used to be that few barn cats were neutered.  With a high attrition rate, due to large hooves and farm machinery, the farmer wanted to be sure he always had enough mousers.  barn cats looking at henBut many farmers now get their barn cats fixed.  There are generally cats available if you need more.  Usually more than enough. So each farm does not have to be a “cat factory,” producing its own supply of cats.

The bane of most farmers are people who dump off their unwanted pets at their gates, assuming they’ll be taken in by the nice farmer.  Then the “nice farmer” has to pay for the spaying and neutering of these additions or look for other homes for them.

St. Thomas Barn Cats project

The City of St. Thomas has started seeking farm homes for some cats at the Animal Control Centre.  The idea is to neuter suitable cats and adopt them out as barn cats.  It’s an innovative way to decrease the number in the pound without euthanasia and, especially for semi-feral cats, provide a well-matched home.

Some cats prefer a life more or less on their own; they don’t want to be housecats kept indoors.  They want to mouse and explore.  It’s always saddened me, seeing those ones in shelters.  Looking out a window if they can get to one, or sitting sullen in the back of a cage.  You know they would rather be outside living life according to their own rules.  And that’s what barn cats do.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Jan. 27/11

 

Dog On It: Review

Dog on It is the first in a mystery series by Spencer Quinn, aka Peter Abrahams.  The protagonists are Chet (dog) and Bernie (human).  Set in the US Southwest, the story is told by Chet.  He is a K-9 police school flunk-out and Bernie barely scrapes by as a private detective. They work as an investigation team, but neither of them has a superior or supernatural method of communication with the other.

Amazon for Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
Click to buy on Amazon

Chet understands human language, verbal and body, better than Bernie realizes.  But Chet can’t always convey what he knows to him.  Unlike Randolph, say, in the Bull Moose Dog Run series, he can’t read and doesn’t know how to use human language to communicate.  He does dog type communication – barking, wagging tail, bristling neck hair, growling.  Bernie can misinterpret these signals as Chet wanting a toy or Chet just barking for no good reason.  And Chet sometimes misses the significance of something in the human realm so doesn’t indicate its importance to Bernie.  I found myself thinking, “come on Chet, that’s important – bark!  Tell Bernie!”  And Chet would just think, “hmm, that kinda reminds me of something” and go back to licking himself.

The plot centres on a missing girl, so there are not a lot of doggy elements in the story itself.  You meet a neighbour dog and his situation makes you think.  And there’s a trip to an animal pound – also a lot to think about.

The jacket blurb says you don’t have to be a dog lover to enjoy the story. Being a dog lover, I really liked the insights into dog behaviour from a dog point of view. You get to know the people and dogs through Chet’s eyes. If you aren’t interested in dogs, I don’t know what it would be like reading a story from a dog’s perspective.

Chet and Bernie both can figure things out and are clever, but not overly so.  I don’t know what goes through a dog’s mind, but Chet’s thoughts seem pretty believable.  He comes across as a regular smart and galumphing type dog. So does Bernie. The book is a good who-dun-it, aside from the pleasure of reading something from a likeable dog’s point of view.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, June 28/11

Giving shelter

Years ago, I went to the London Humane Society with a friend.  While she looked for a cat, I stayed at the front desk.  I was horrified – kitten-photo-D-Stewartjustifiably or not, I don’t know.  It was my first time in an animal shelter.  A man came in with a box of kittens he wanted to leave.  The attendant started processing them, and I said “I’ll take them.”  The attendant said “ok”, and the box of kittens never even crossed the reception counter.  I found homes for them all.  When I had learned more about animal rescue and the operation of shelters, I was amazed that I was allowed to take those kittens with no questions asked.

Later in St. John’s, my boyfriend and I found two beagles on a woods trail.  The male’s footpads were torn and bleeding.  He led us to the female, lying in a little nest by a tree.  She’d recently had pups.  We searched everywhere but found no pups.  The dogs willingly came with us, although we soon had to carry them.  Both were too weak and sore to walk.  My partner said “I hope the SPCA is still open”.  “No,” I cried, “not The Pound!”  I cried until my eyes were puffy, all the way to the SPCA.  But he was adamant: we were not taking them home. I did extract a promise that we would take them if they were going to be euthanized.

Only the SPCA Director was there, with her kids, doing after-hours paperwork.  After a quick look, she said to her son “get soft food and water and put blankets in that big cage.”  To her daughter, “take this little girl and get her settled in.”  Debbie cleaned the male’s bloody paws.  “Poor dog, must have run miles.”  She figured he’d been looking for food and help.  By now, I was blubbering with gratitude over how nice she was, how nice the place was.  She said, “Don’t worry, dear, we’ll take good care of them.” Their owner did find them.  They were hunting dogs and had got lost while after rabbits.  There were indeed pups, but they were weaned.  The dogs returned home.

I began volunteering at the SPCA. A new shelter was built during my time there.  The old one really was in bad condition.  The animals never lacked for anything, but the building was small and drafty.  The new one had several cat rooms so cats didn’t have to be caged.  Dog rooms had easy access to outdoor runs.  It was a ‘kill’ shelter, so there was trepidation when, on entering rooms, you saw a dog or cat wasn’t there.  Check the log book and cross your fingers you see ‘adopted’ beside their name.  But it didn’t always say that.

I went to the St. John’s City pound once on SPCA business.  I’d been there once before and it was horrible. Rows of cages along the walls of one room, dogs on one side, cats on the other.  Barking, yelping, meowing, hissing.  I dreaded this revisit and hoped I wouldn’t have to see beyond the front desk.  I was surprised to hear only music coming from the back, no overpowering smells.  The manager came out and we recognized each other.  She had been an SPCA volunteer.  “Let me show you what we’ve done,” she said.  Heart in my throat, I followed her to the back.  The dogs had large pens in the big main room with easy access to outdoor runs.  A separate large room with lots of windows housed the cats.  There were cages, but most of the cats were loose.  There were toys and beds, climbing trees and nooks with blankets.  There were separate rooms where animals could be quarantined.  The manager was proud of what she had done in a short period of time with little money and no major construction work.  “I just used what I’d learned at the SPCA and reorganized the space.”  Animals were kept at the pound only for a limited number of days and there was no provision for going to the SPCA or other shelter.  But she ensured that their time at the pound, whether a brief stay before they were claimed or adopted or their last days on earth, was as pleasant as she could make it.

In St. Thomas, the practice has long been that animals at the pound go to one of the rescue groups when their time is up.  I’ve never been to the City’s Animal Control shelter shelter dog at home-photo-D-Stewartbut I have volunteered with local rescue groups.  All our groups are “no kill”, a laudable idea. But the rescue groups and pound are limited in the numbers they can handle, and unwanted animals just keep coming. Then what happens?

There have been changes in theory and practice in shelters and pounds over the past few decades. ‘Cage’ versus ‘no cage’, ‘kill’ or ‘no-kill’ and, with feral cats, ‘trap-neuter-tame’ or ‘trap-neuter-release’ are important issues to think about.

An important, and easy, thing for shelter staff to think about and do is treat the animals as if they were your own. These are living creatures whose whole world has been turned upside down.  They may be well-loved pets who got lost and are frightened.  They may be victims of “changed circumstances” in their household, now facing life without their familiar places and people.  They may be abused animals who have learned not to trust people.  They may be paupers used to foraging for scraps or pampered princesses.  Either way, a room full of cages and other animals is going to be very frightening.  The St. John’s City pound manager knew that and acted accordingly.  She knew she was responsible for lives.  That’s the most important thing animal control officers should remember.  The city animal shelter is not the same as the car impound lot.

No animals were harmed in the making of this post.  Photos are our dog and kitten when they first came to us. The kitten was feral, the dog was on death row at a pound. (From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Apr. 6/10)

Dear Cat Dumper

To the person who dumped a grey tiger and white male neutered cat at Waterworks Parks on or before July 4, 2011:

cat dumper - Poster for found catHe’s doing well, considering.  He misses you and his own bed and routine.  He spends a lot of time in the garage.  It’s where he feels safest, I guess.  It was where he stayed that first night with us, a place to let him adjust.

At the time, I thought it would be only a day or two of strangeness for him.  I thought you’d contact us as soon as you saw the ads and posters.  A well-looked-after cat like him must have people missing him, I thought.  A couple people did call, hoping he was their lost cat.  But he wasn’t.

He’s been dewormed and vaccinated.  He probably already was, but we couldn’t risk it.  His vet bill is $191 and he needs booster shots.  Thank heavens you had him neutered.

Wally on chair in kitchenHe’s a funny cat, loves to bat cat toys around.  Loves catnip. He has no fear of dogs or of people he doesn’t know. He’s very well adjusted, pretty much the perfect cat.

He prefers canned food.  When we found him at the park, he happily chowed down the cat kibble we had with us.  Then, belly full, he went “mmpff” to kibble and demanded canned food.  So that’s what he gets.

The vet thinks he lost a lot of weight fast.  His skin is loose, as if it used to cover a larger body.  And he’s terrified of the sound of rain.  Those things make me think he was wandering on his own for longer than I’d thought.

Wally lying on stairsHis name is Wally now and he answers to it.  Maybe you or your kids called him Tigger or Sox for his white feet.  He loves to sprawl across laps and hug up close in your arms – but I guess you already know that.

So he’s ours now.  Just one request:  please don’t replace him with another kitten or puppy until you’re prepared to make a commitment that lasts as long as that animal’s life.  I can’t take another of your pets when you don’t want them anymore.

The next one I find will make a quick trip to the vet to be euthanized if I can’t find another home quickly.  I won’t take him or her to the pound or shelters.  Why?  There aren’t enough homes for all the cats Wally on couch in front of laptopand kittens, dogs and puppies dumped and produced by irresponsible people.

Caring for your pet in the pound costs a lot of money.  City employees get good wages and benefits to scoop litter boxes and put out kibble.  Rescue volunteers do it for free.  But how much labour and money are they expected to give to look after pets that people like you can’t be bothered with anymore?

I too do it for free.  But I’ve reached my limit so, remember, the next dumped animal I find gets a one-way trip to the vet.  It’s a kinder death than the starvation you consigned Wally to.

If you think he is your missing cat, please accept my apologies and contact me!

(From my St. Thomas Dog Blog. See Waterworks Cat for his backstory.)