Sunday, June 27, 2010

On Friday morning, at the end of her walk, Stella stopped just outside the entrance to our front yard, not wanting to go in yet, and looked up the street. She just stood there and looked and I thought she smelled something and so I motioned for her to go follow her nose but she did not. She just stood and looked, seeing something I could not.

On Friday night, Elizabeth told me that Stella dreamed of running.

On Saturday morning, I told my mother who was finally fully awake from her surgery the day before that the doctors had found that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes so she would very likely have to go through chemo.

On Saturday afternoon, I watched on TV as they smashed windows and burned up our Toronto streets.

On Saturday night, Stella's heart beat like a butterfly and could not be restrained any longer but Stella did not understand. I held her when the vet injected her with the first needle and she looked at me and asked me what was happening to her. I could not give her an answer so I kissed her on her furrowed brow. Then she leaned into my arms and I lay her down.

All dogs dream of running even when they can no longer run.

My Stella is gone.

For now I am done here.

Thank you all for reading and being with us these few years. I can't express my gratitude to you enough.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


(from Cathrine in Bangladesh)

This is a story without pictures. It is a story about why it is a story without pictures. Who says dogs can't be as postmodern as humans?

Bahadur means "The Strongest". It is the name of the 50 kilo street dog who dominates the canine population at Tongi Market. Imagine a a cross between a doberman, a pit bull and a grizzly, and you've got Bahadur. The colours are all doberman, except for four white socks.

Despite his appearance, Bahadur is gentle, friendly, quiet, and very popular with the villagers. So there was outrage when he turned up with a serious wound at the base of his spine clearly inflicted by a human tool, probably an axe. The outrage reached Ali, and he went to have a look. In tears, he called for backup. the wound was infected and full of maggots. This dog would die without expensive treatment. Could someone fund the treatment?

So Bahadur got cleaned, disinfected, sterilised (by popular request -- the villagers agreed he had enough puppies, thank you!), stitched and vaccinated. Then he came to the Residence for recuperation. Since he was really groggy, I thought I'd leave the portrait until he was more alert.

Bahadur alert is not a dog one can photograph. Bahadur alert is a huge street dog who has a low boredom threshold and wants to go home!

Like all Bangali street dogs, he eats bamboo. He also eats chicken wire, sofas, end tables, and doors. I am not making this up! He can demolish an Elizabeth collar in five minutes, and an adapted metal waste basket replacement in under half an hour. He shows a remarkable grasp of practical physics, including the principles of leverage, friction and inertia.

Bahadur demolished the kennel, the staff room furniture, most of the staff room, and ate three of the locks on our very expensive IATA approved travel crate, which just happened to be stored in the area. He also sprained my wrist and pulled a couple of muscles in local staff who were trying to help me move him when he did not want to be moved.

Clearly, a High Commission designed to resist rampaging mobs and the wiles of potential terrorists is no match for one determined street dog. Today, Bahadur and his medical kit and food supply went to spend the rest of his recuperation at Ali's house, which happens to have 3 meter high solid brick and mortar walls that are a meter thick, and a metal gate that reaches right down to the cement courtyard.

It is enough to contain Rani, two cats, a chicken and two goats: insh'allah, it should be enough to contain Bahadur, because he needs treatment for the next month. If it isn't, we are going to have to distribute Povisep disinfectant and clean rags to everyone in Tongi, and tell them to clean the wound whenever Bahadur turns up for his handouts.

That, at least, will work: nothing but nothing distracts a Bangali street dog from his food!

Toronto Animal Services South closed for G20

Closed June 25 - June 27

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Toronto Animal Services dog photos Jun 19

Cocoa - Brown Labrador Retriever

Unnamed Beagle

Unnamed Beagle

Unnamed Labrador Shepherd cross

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Friday, June 18, 2010


It used to be when I woke up in the middle of night, I'd toss and turn a while but then fall back to sleep. Now, in darkness, I lay still in bed and I listen for the sound of Stella breathing.

A soft, rhythmic hush of air, one breath every 3 seconds, no faster, eases my anxieties and as anxieties fade, sleep returns. For a while at least, I know Stella is comfortable, her lungs not filled with fluid. Anything faster, sharper, raspier immediately sets me on edge and I wait and pray for the breathing to slow down, hoping perhaps a dream is the cause of her rapid breath. But if it does not slow down, if it starts to sound like panting, then I get up and go downstairs and I prepare the pills, the furosemide, a diuretic which will dry out her lungs but eventually ruin her kidneys. Dilated cardiomyopathy is an illness of her heart but it is the fluid build up in her lungs which give her the most grief.

I take out a cube of raw beef, about an inch square and I cut a slit through the center. I jam the pills inside the meat. I feed the meat to Stella and she gobbles it down and I feel like I am feeding her poison but within an hour, her breathing is good again and my anxieties are pushed back.

Sometimes listening in the dark, I can't tell if the breathing I hear is coming from Rocky or Stella. Then I have to sit up to better discern from which direction the sound is coming. If Rocky yelps, whines or groans that is fine. He is an active dreamer more conversant in sleep than awake.

Such noises coming from Stella, though, tells me she is in discomfort. She has, until recently, been a mostly silent sleeper. If she groans and rolls about, it's because she's having a hard time finding a position which allows her to breathe properly. She likes to sleep on her side but it's often bad on her side and so she has to force herself into a sphinx position. She has a hard time balancing in that pose, tilting over to one side or the other. I imagine it's the equivalent of a person trying to sleep sitting up in a chair without arms.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw her in her sphinx pose, drifting off. Her head came down, eyes closed and she slowly rolled over onto her side. Her breathing started to increase rapidly and then suddenly she was panicking when she realized she was getting no air. I could see a moment of terror in her eyes as she startled up and coughed and inhaled big lungfuls of air.

Stella grumbles and I go over to her, checking her pulse, counting her breaths. She knows this is how things work now so sometimes she plays it up, grumbling when she wants attention. She'll look straight at me, breathing fine, and she'll grumble. If I don't move, she grumbles louder and longer and with more urgency. Almost always by the third grumble, my will power is gone and I am consoling her just in case there actually is discomfort. I guess she figures she may as well milk it.

Every week it progresses. The noises she makes could fill a melodramatic thespian's reportoire. There are high and low grunts. Extended groans of increasing then diminishing loudness. Sometimes there are sighs, long and so melancholic she is like an old woman remembering the better days of her youth.

There have been some bad days, especially at first when I over exerted her on a walk or when she spit out a couple of the pills without me noticing. Those two times resulted in panting, almost gasping and anxious visits to the cardiologist. Now she is on a more even keel. The dosing is appropriate. She only gets short walks. I try to make sure she doesn't get over excited.

This has unfortunately meant that we aren't able to continue with her tour of Toronto sites but it does mean much more time lounging in the backyard and that is perhaps just as well appreciated by her.

Day to day, the hardest thing to deal with is the amount of peeing Stella does because of the diuretics. She was spayed too young so she is incontinent as well and the incontinence seems to be getting worse. I don't want her lying in her own piss and I'm wary about using diapers because of possible infections so it comes down to getting her to go out every 3 or 4 hours or more. That means coming home from work twice during the day and waking up twice during the night.

She doesn't appreciate me rousing her up at 3 in the morning to go into the backyard. Who would? Then we stand around and I say, "Go pee," and she looks at me like I'm an asshole for making her do this at that ridiculous hour and then finally she goes and pees. She is a good sport.

Coming home from work twice a day has been fine up until now as work was only 5 minutes away but as of next week, work has moved much further away so I'm in the process of finding a dog walker to come by to give her the meds in the afternoon. It's a big stress trying to find the right one. I will be leaving her life literally in some stranger's hands.

So, life around here has changed. I've never had to deal with something like this before and while I would never begrudge Stella anything, it is, admittedly, draining and perhaps more so because I know the outcome will not be a positive one. Well, no, I'm thinking about it wrong. The outcome is her everyday well-being and that is what I am working at but the final outcome ... well, that is intransigent.

I wonder to myself, when the time comes, how it can happen. How can something - this life - be there one moment and then not be there the next especially when the vessel holding it will have hardly changed from that one moment to the next. Life doesn't make sense and death makes even less sense. Why doesn't life just continue?

There are moments when I lie awake listening to Stella breathing, I wish, like most pet owners I know, that when the time comes, she goes to sleep and just never wakes up. Then I'll know she was meant to go, that her life chose to move on of its on volition. Then I won't have to make the phone call for the vet to come over and wait with her while she is in some sort of agony. Then answering the door to let the vet in will be like inviting in the grim reaper and bringing the vet over to Stella and preparing Stella for the injections and saying goodbye and not knowing when to stop saying goodbye and when to finally let go. How will I know the right moment to say to the vet that it is time? I can only imagine that at the end, every second will be gold and how will I know when exactly to let go? How can I choose the last moment which will define her life and every moment after which will define life without her?

This is hard.

Right now, looking at her asleep, she is breathing well with maybe a slight tremor of her back leg from a dream she is having. She is breathing well and that is what I hold onto.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Media slant against Pit Bulls

From ASPCA, Pit Bull Bias in the Media;

Animal control officers across the country have told the ASPCA that when they alert the media to a dog attack, news outlets respond that they have no interest in reporting on the incident unless it involved a pit bull. A quantitative study by the National Canine Resource Council of dog-bite reportage in a four-day period proves that anti-pit bull bias in the media is more than just a theory—it’s a fact.

1. August 18, 2007—A Labrador mix attacked a 70-year-old man, sending him to the hospital in critical condition. Police officers arrived at the scene and the dog was shot after charging the officers. This incident was reported in one article in the local paper.

2. August 19, 2007—A 16-month-old child received fatal head and neck injuries after being attacked by a mixed-breed dog. This attack was reported on twice by the local paper.

3. August 20, 2007—A six-year-old boy was hospitalized after having his ear torn off and receiving a severe bite to the head by a medium-sized, mixed-breed dog. This incident was reported in one article in the local paper.

4. August 21, 2007—A 59-year-old woman was attacked in her home by two pit bulls and was hospitalized with severe, but not fatal, injuries. This attack was reported in over 230 articles in national and international newspapers, as well as major television news networks including CNN, MSNBC and FOX.

Along with over-reporting, false reporting is a major contributor to the public relations nightmare currently facing pit bulls. There is an emerging tendency for all short-haired, stocky dogs to be called pit bulls—and when a dangerous dog’s breed is unknown, the media is not above assuming that the dog involved must have been a pit bull. The National Canine Resource Council terms this phenomenon “Everything is a pit bull, whether it is or not.” In the rush to publish, the pit bull label is often inaccurately applied—and even if a correction is later made, the damage is done. Not all media bias is necessarily intentional, but it forms an impression on the public and on legislators nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lost man, found dog

They found the man's body at the dog park where I use to let Stella run and play with her friends. The man was hanging from a branch off one of the chestnut trees by the outdoor horse stalls. The man had used a leash. Beside him, waiting patiently until Toronto Animal Services picked him up, was his four month old puppy.

I hadn't gone into the park with Stella in months, ever since CNE security started cracking down on off leash dogs. I guess CNE management thought that by making the park inhospitable to dog owners, they would be making it a safer place. That would make CNE management stupid, shortsighted and lazy. All they ended up doing was turn a perfectly good, well-used, off-leash dog park into a deserted field.

I hadn't gone into the park in months so I didn't know the man who hung himself. I asked a few others who used to go to the park but they didn't know him either. He is a mystery to us.

I didn't know the man. I didn't see the body. The park was Stella's playground. The idea of a man hanging dead off the end of his dog's leash tied to a tree seems too abstract, incongruous, an almost ridiculous idea fit only for the opening of some murder mystery movie. Nevertheless, death has visited this most unexpected of places and in the most unexpected fashion.

Was the puppy foisted on the man in the last weeks of his life? Was it an attempt by the man himself to reconnect with the emotions that make a life worth living? Why did he bring the puppy with him? To bear witness? To let the pup know what happened to its owner? Or was the suicide an unexpected, spur of the moment decision, a culmination of months or years of inner turmoil? What was he thinking: I'm going to go walk my dog but I may or may not be back as I may decide to kill myself?

The pup has been claimed by the man's family. Apparently, this wasn't the man's first attempt at taking his own life. In the end there was not enough in this world to hold back the flood of pain that swept him away.

Monday, June 14, 2010

American refugees

There is a good article in The Globe and Mail which mentions Open Arms Pound Rescue, one of the rescues Toronto Animal Services South often takes dogs from to adopt out here, Changing the world – one dog (or cat) at a time :

A new kind of underground railroad is shepherding dogs and cats rescued from U.S. shelters to safety – and new families – in Canada.

Every weekend, volunteer drivers load up their cars with furry refugees and cross the border, sometimes following the very same routes that once guided runaway slaves to freedom. Each driver handles a roughly hour-long leg, rendezvousing and transferring animals in parking lots and rest stops until they reach their destination.

One such network, Open Arms Pound Rescue, has moved an estimated 2,000 dogs (and a few cats) from shelters in the South and Midwest since it started in 2007. Co-founder Lucy Moye, based in Michigan, was working with a high-kill shelter in Ohio when she realized she could save a lot more dogs if she could match them with adoptive families and rescue groups in other areas.

Toronto Humane Society reopens June 28

From Toronto Humane Society website:

The Board of Directors of the Toronto Humane Society is pleased to announce that the THS will reopen to the public on June 28th.

“We are all very excited to be reopening the shelter and to begin helping animals in need.” said THS President Michael Downey. “The Board is confident in the revitalization efforts that took place and are eager to resume full operations on June 28th.”

The Toronto Humane Society has been closed to the public to undergo a court approved revitalization effort. During this closure we have renovated parts of our shelter to streamline operations and make it more accessible to the public. THS staff have undergone a comprehensive retraining course to ensure that every animal will receive the best care possible.

“We have worked extremely hard during this revitalization period to strive to meet our goal of being a leader in animal care, adoption and advocacy.” said Garth Jerome, Executive Director. “I am pleased to be able to open the shelter and welcome animals in need back into the THS, and the community to give them loving forever homes.”

The THS is currently booking appointments for owners that need to surrender their animals to the THS. The public can visit the website ( prior to June 28th to see the animals that we have available for adoption.
The Toronto Humane Society is a not‐for‐profit organization solely funded through charitable donations that has been delivering care to animals since 1887. Its mission is to promote the humane care and protection of all animals and to prevent cruelty and suffering.


It gives me great pleasure, on behalf of the new board of directors including Vice–President, Marcie Laking and executive director, Garth Jerome, who are with me this morning ‐to announce that the Toronto Humane Society will officially reopen to the public on Monday, June 28th.

This means that we are “back in business” – helping animals in need.

The decision to re‐open the Toronto Humane Society was made at a board meeting last week after an assessment of the Society’s financial situation and the ongoing revitalization plan. As President, I was the lucky board member who was asked to pose the motion that recommended the re‐opening on June 28th – and if I may say so, it felt pretty darn good.

This institution has gone through some very difficult times. But that is now behind us as we look forward to a compassionate and professional Toronto Humane Society ‐ that provides a vital service to the animals and public of the Greater Toronto Area.
I am very proud to be a member, donor and now President of this great institution. I hope that Torontonians who care as much about animals and animal welfare as we do will also join this organization by volunteering, by becoming a member and/or helping the animals through providing much needed financial support through donation.

It should not come as a surprise that we will need to quickly ramp up fund raising in order for the Toronto Humane Society to provide the level of care that the animals need. And we are confident that the donors will step up ‐ because the animals deserve the best care possible.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the staff and the numerous volunteers at the Toronto Humane Society for their patience in waiting for this re‐opening to be announced. This committed group of professionals has been preparing diligently for this day over the last few weeks and months. They too want to get past the turbulent times, and get on with providing compassionate care for the animals under a fully transparent THS.

And now that we are officially back‐in business, we are booking appointments for owners who unfortunately need to surrender their animals. The public can visit our website to check‐out the beautiful animals that we will have available for adoption. On a personal note, my family is patiently waiting to adopt 2 kittens that will be cared for in the new and improved kitten nursery of the THS!

I invite you all to join us on June 28th as we re‐open this great Toronto institution. With your help we can make the Toronto Humane Society a leader in animal welfare once again. Thank you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Toronto Animal Services dog photos June 13

unnamed Labradoodle

Princess - Basset Hound

unnamed Dalmatian

Dalmatian and Princess

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Toronto Animal Services South dog photos June 12

Willy - Poodle

unnamed Schnauzer

Lucy - Jack Russell Terrier Chihuahua cross

Daisy - Border Collie

Brett - Cocker Spaniel

For adoption information on these and other dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Stella and the bee

Stella's had a life long fascination with bees. If they buzz around, she tries to catch them in mid flight. She's been stung a couple of times inside her mouth but that only makes the game more challenging. If they're not airborne, she just watches them.

This afternoon, she found an injured one crawling around in the backyard.

She stared at it and wouldn't leave it alone for a good hour. I was thinking she might want it for a pet until finally she lapped it up with her tongue out of the crevice it had crawled into and gingerly took a couple of chomps and ate it.

Here's the non-action packed video:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Update on Ursula

From Gudrun, Ursula's owner:

We got some great news this week. Ursula was tested to see if she still has the blastomycosis and the tests came back negative! It only took 5 months of giving her medication twice a day hidden in yummy treats since the pills had a bitter flavour, but it was worth it.

I've attached some pictures of our adorable girl.

That's wonderful news and congrats, Gudrun. Looks like Ursula is a keeper.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Runaway Baby

The leash gets tangled up in the volunteer's feet. She trips, drops the leash, lands hard on the sidewalk on all fours, goes kathunk (we feel it through our shoes), goes "Uhn", and the dog, frightened, takes off. The dogwalker yells "Baby!" and I think, That's affectionate, but later realize that it's the dog's name.

Baby is a small white American Eskimo dog and she's running away from the crash-noise-yell towards the parking lot. A woman coming out of her car sees Baby and beckons the dog over, pretending she has a treat. Baby stops running and takes a step towards her.

"Grab the leash!" someone yells but the woman doesn't hear or doesn't react. Baby takes another step towards the woman, nose up in the air trying to get a scent of the treat, realizing there is no treat after all and backs away. For a moment the woman and the dog stare at one another and then Baby turns tail and takes off, leash trailing behind her. The woman looks at Baby as she runs and then looks at us and shrugs.

We check to see if the dogwalker volunteer is okay. She is. Maybe a couple of scrapes, maybe some minor bruising later. My friend is already in her van, taking off after Baby. I get into my car, wishing I had my bicycle with me instead, and drive after Baby as well. The volunteer gives chase on foot.

I see Baby ahead, still running now along the side of the road heading towards the main intersection at Dufferin where there will be two lanes of traffic. Just before she gets there, she veers right then turns around and veers left and I think she might turn back around but instead she blindly runs across the intersection. I hold my breath. She doesn't get hit. I exhale. She's now in the parking lot of Medieval Times heading towards the park where I used to walk Stella every morning. The parking lot is half full with people walking from their cars to the show. My friend in the van is already over there and out of her vehicle, asking people to try to call the dog over to them.

I drive across the intersection and into the parking lot as well. I see Baby playing the part of a mad footballer, deking and dodging people with outspread arms and legs akimbo and beckoning voices and little kids squealing in delight at all the fun.

Baby avoids them all but it's all too much commotion for her here so she turns around and runs towards Dufferin again and again I hold my breath and I imagine everyone in the parking lot collectively holding their breaths as she dashes across Dufferin again back onto the CNE grounds, and we all exhale.

By the time I drive back over, Baby is nowhere to be seen. I see the volunteer. She had glimpsed Baby along the bushes by the border of the CNE grounds but she has lost sight of the dog now as well. She is near tears. The other driver in the van pulls up and we all talk and decide to go back to the office and see if anyone's heard anything. As we arrive, cars and TAS vans are pulling out and we tell them where we last saw Baby.

Five minutes later, I drive away with a sinking feeling. I have all these visions in my head of screeching tires and Baby bounced off the fender of some car only to be found months from now by some city worker picking up leaves and garbage.

Then, just before I get to the Dufferin intersection, I see a TAS van coming towards me. Baby's sitting in the passenger seat, paws on the dash, head looking out the windshield.

I follow the van back to the office. Baby had apparently cooled her heels and finally approached someone who grabbed her leash and held onto her until the animal control officer in the van retrieved her.

I'm expecting Baby to be a nervous, anxious dog but when I take the leash to go photograph her, she isn't that at all. In fact, she's gentle and friendly. She seems happy to be around us and as she wags her tail, I'm sure she's thinking, "Can we do that again?"

Maybe, but not with us. She was adopted a few days later.

From the new owners of Baby (now Sadie):

Here are some photos of our little girl. We all love her very much.

For adoption information on dogs (and cats and other animals), please visit Toronto Animal Services.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

2 videos

You've probably already seen this one but here it is for posterity:

This next one is inspirational ... something to keep in mind when the THS sets up its educational program:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The new Toronto Humane Society A-team

I kept hearing that old line that the good guys never win over and over the last few days but the good guys actually did win this time. For a board of directors of an animal welfare charity, you can't really get much better than this.

Michael Downey with his massive corporate resume including CEO of Tennis Canada and former senior executive at Molson's and Maple Leaf Sports is now the president of the Toronto Humane Society. In the last several months, he has gone from being a concerned member to someone who is now intimately aware of the problems and challenges the THS faces and I'm sure will be integral in coming up with the plans on how to move the THS forward as a successful corporate entity.

Marcie Laking, with her extensive animal rescue background and experience within the THS is a perfect vice president. She is outspoken, well spoken and her animal welfare sensibilities along with Michael's business acumen make for a well balanced head for the THS.

Linda MacKinnon, whose dogged determination over the past several years to unseat Tim Trow and his iron grip over the THS is an inspiration to tyrant topplers everywhere and is the new chairperson.

Ian Wintrip, a forensic accountant, is the treasurer. Hopefully, he'll be able to shed some light on a question at the top of everyone's minds which is where all the money was going to these last ten years at the THS.

Lisa Gibbens, communicator and strategist, who stepped down from a seat on the Faces of Change slate, worked tirelessly behind the scenes campaigning to get the slate elected. She is now the secretary.

The new board's next order of business will be to meet with the management team of the THS and figure out how the finances are shaping up and what state the staff and facility are in after their six week hiatus. Fingers crossed that those six weeks under the old regime were well used by staff and management alike and not wasted away on extraneous activities like bringing one's car into the facility so that it can be worked on, hypothetically speaking.

More on the new board here and here.