Sunday, December 20, 2009


A woman came into the shelter this weekend to have her dog euthanized.

She spoke quickly and deliberately, and explained that the dog was ill, she had taken it to five different vets, they had each told her something different and nothing had helped, now he was starting to cough up blood and the latest vet said there was something wrong with all the dog's organs and he'd have to do x-rays but she'd spent all her money at the other vets already and... She needed to have him put to sleep, because there was nothing else she could do, and she didn't want him to keep suffering.

She signed the release just as quickly, almost dismissively. The shelter technician and I both looked at the dog and his shaking owner, then at each other, and I'm sure we both had the same expression - if not the same thought.  He gently lifted the dog and carried him away. Since it was a busy day in the rest of the shelter, I was left alone with the woman.

She just stood there at the counter for about half a minute. Without looking at me, she asked, "I'm not going to see him again?" I told her no.

"It won't hurt, will it? What'll happen when they do it?"

I explained how the euthanasia injection worked - the dog would be given an anesthetic, just like if it were going into surgery. He'd fall asleep, and just not wake up again. And he wouldn't be hurting.

She nodded, then started crying. "It's all my fault. I should have done something else. I should have done more..."

Those words were very familiar. They were pretty much what I'd told myself, over and over again, when Buster died. But I knew how untrue those words were. She'd fought tooth and nail for her dog, and literally given that fight everything she had. In the shelter, she'd given him comfort and courage - and believe me, I know how hard it is to stay calm when your heart's breaking. She'd been brave enough to take on the pain of grief so her dog's pain would abate.

What more would her dog have asked of her?

I wish I could have put it more eloquently and completely, as the behavioral psychologist Patricia McConnell did on her blog, here. Sophie recently pointed this article out to me (under the heading of, "you really, really need to read this"). If you've ever lost a pet, and especially if you've ever had to have one euthanized, I highly reccommend it.

Just before she left, I told her the one thing she could have done - the one thing she still could do, in spite of everything: "Just try to always be the person your dog thinks you are."

I really hope she realizes how much she did for her dog. In time, when the sting of grief isn't as sharp, I hope she'll come to the shelter and adopt another companion. Because that will be one well-loved dog.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


If you pick up a book about raising American Pit Bull Terriers, you'll probably run across the phrase, "Ambassador Dogs." It's sort of an ideal to shoot for: the best example of what a breed has to offer, and what they're supposed to be when brought up right.

When I first met Homer, that seemed a bit far from the reality of his situation. He was surly, mopey, easily startled, and didn't want to be touched. He even went so far as to shove my hand away when I went to pet him. Then he'd turn around and curl up in my lap. I wanted so much to connect with him, but he just seemed so out-of-kilter.

He seemed pretty affable toward the other dogs, though, and I thought he might be the one dog in the shelter who could keep up with Joker, a rowdy, fun-loving, athletic, and very bored dog who many of the volunteers are quite fond of. At first, it was a little tense... and then ensued a twenty-minute wrestling match of epic proportions which left both Joker and Homer panting, content, and grinning like idiots the whole way back to the kennels. It was the difference between "doggie jail" and "home."

A kennel isn't Homer's happy place, but it seems everywhere else is. He's vivacious, energetic, cuddly, attentive and gentle - and honestly, none of that is gilding the lily. Watching him roll around on the ground for tummy rubs, bound back-and-forth between Sophie and I because he couldn't decide which of us was more fun at the moment... I found myself thinking, This. This is exactly what a Pit Bull is supposed to be.

Between his sparkling personality and his velvety brindle coat, I kept thinking of Tige, the famous Pit Bull sidekick of Buster Brown. Honestly, if we had the resources and room, Homer would be sitting at home with us right now, likely thwacking an eager paw on my keyboard in an effort to help me with the blog.

It isn't often we run across a dog who'll run pell-mell across the playpen when you call, only to slam on the brakes and nuzzle or hop up and wait for you to catch his paws and snuggle him. Nor does every dog seem equally at ease romping like a maniac, then flopping down next to you for some quality hang-out time. Homer seems to be game for whatever you are, with enthusiasm and affection to spare. And I never would have guessed it, just watching him sulk all alone in his kennel.

UPDATE (12/24): Although tentatively "earmarked" for a rescue group, Homer wasn't picked up yesterday. He'll be spending Christmas in the shelter, along with Hershey and so many other dogs. At least they aren't out in the snow, foraging for whatever they can eat - but I still wish they were all somewhere warm, loving, and smelling like "home" to them.

UPDATE (12/28): Finally! Homer gets one step closer to having a home of his own - he was picked up today by a rescue group, and I couldn't be happier!


When Hershey first came into the shelter, I was on my way out with another dog. His owner spun him around and pressed him against the wall, indicating that I should keep the other dog away (I went out another exit). Apparently, there had been an "incident" with Hershey and another dog, and no one wanted a repeat performance.

I'll be the first to admit, it takes a lot to convince me that a dog is "just bad." I don't always agree with Cesar Millan, but I do think he's spot-on when he says that the overwhelming majority of dog problems are based in their environment (and particularly the humans that interact with them). Thus far, Hershey hasn't betrayed my optimism for him.

He's no perfect little puppy, of course - at a modest 93 pounds, he's used to doing what he wants, when he wants to do it. Hershey's pretty sharp, though, and he seems to be getting the hang of this "dog/human teamwork" thing quite well. When it came time to weigh him, he climbed right up onto the scale and waited patiently... and then stepped back down, paused, and on again when we realized that we'd forgotten to turn the scale on. All the while, he was just happy for the attention.

In fact, attention is one thing I think Hershey is needing desperately. It took quite a while - and quite a lot of brushing - to make an appreciable difference in the gritty, oily, dander-crusted mess that was his coat. He didn't seem to mind a bit, which made a nice change from trying to brush our rowdy and grooming-shy dog, Rufus. Hershey's elbows and hocks were scuffed and skinned up, and his collar was pretty filthy - despite still having the plastic price-tag hanger attached to it. I got the impression that someone was in a bit of a rush when they put it on him, long ago.

We gingerly tested his bad reputation with other dogs, starting with an adorable (and pregnant) beagle named Savannah. (She's available too! Hint, hint...) Their conversation seemed to consist mostly of:

"Wow, you're big."
"Yep. You're kinda' small, aren't you?"
"Hey, I got buns in the oven. See? Wow. You're big."
"Er, thanks."

No tension, no drama. A good start. Next we brought out Homer, a male Pit Bull Terrier. No problems at all when they met, although Homer really wanted to romp around and Hershey wasn't overly keen on puppy antics. He did, however, want to go out and walk around. When Homer marked a pillar, Hershey casually sniffed it and moved on - apparently, he's secure enough in his doghood to not feel compelled to "over-mark" other males. There was one moment of tension when another puppy was brought outside, and Homer took the opportunity to get up in Hershey's face. A low growl ensued, and we decided that a break from the happy-go-luckyness was in order.

Later, when the vet was taking Hershey out of his kennel, there was a brief moment of alarm when he and Miller lunged at each other through the kennel door. He backed down as soon as he was reprimanded for it, and I got a visible cringe from him when I put a rebuking finger on his nose (which seemed a bit of an over-reaction to a "hush" command). After getting his weigh-in and check-out, I took him back to his kennel. No problem passing Savannah's kennel, or Joker (another adolescent male), or Homer. As soon as we reached Miller, though, the retriever was at his door, barking and bristling. Hershey tensed up, but relaxed again when I told him to leave it alone. He acted up once more, growling when I had moved between the two dogs - and again dropped the drama when told to.

I'm not sure if Hershey's issues with other dogs are simply testosterone-based (he's 6 years old, and not neutered), or if it's a wayward side-effect of his guarding instincts (all three times he got agitated, there was a person between him and another confident, male dog). For now, he'll need supervision when around other dogs, and a lot of good, old-fashioned training. Personally, I'd love to see him rescued by a group that specializes in German Shepherds, who can re-direct his lonliness, frustration, and tenseness to more satisfying, challenging outlets.

As I said before, I tend to give dogs the benefit of the doubt. I don't doubt for a minute that Hershey would unhesitatingly end any fight brought to him. There aren't many dogs that I've seen with quite so much desperate affection in their eyes, either. He's a bit of a fixer-upper, perhaps, but my gut tells me that he might be well worth the effort, and then some.

UPDATE (12/29): As Tajana and Almir pointed out, Hershey was rescued today! He's made so much progress since he came into the shelter, I have little doubt that he'll earn himself a permanent place in someone's heart - and family - soon.


We didn't get much of a chance to get to know Miller - while we were out in the play yard with him, a rescue volunteer was on her way to pick him up. What we did get to see of him was both impressive and a little bit frustrating.

As dogs go, Flat-Coated Retrievers are some of the most elegant-looking out there. Miller's certainly no exception, and he's gifted with show-dog poise and grace on top of that. He doesn't so much run as float, and he carries his flag-like tail high and proudly. And... that's part of the worrisome bit.

There's usually no way for us to know what kind of life the dogs at the shelter led before they wound up here. But it would be a pretty plausible guess that he was bought as a cute puppy, turned into a cute (and far less tractable) adolescent a couple of months later, and was simply not given any attention from that point on. He's affable, but unconcerned with people, and his dog-to-dog conversational skills seem... er, lacking. I don't speak canine, but whatever he's been saying to the dogs in the surrounding kennels hasn't endeared him to the other guys on the kennel block.

Fortunately, he's going to a first-rate rescue group, who will get him up to speed on the socialization he missed out on earlier in life. Which is a great thing; it shouldn't take much to turn Miller from the gorgeous but aloof adolescent he is into the gorgeous and much-loved dog he should have been all along.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Kind Winter, Thus Far

Well, here it is December already - and much has happened since the last time I posted anything.

Gheera, one of my two fourteen-year-old cats passed away in his sleep, content and comfortable. I couldn't have asked for a better way to go, although his brother Tez is a bit lonely now; as friendly as they are, the dogs are no replacement for his litter-mate and long-time sidekick.

Amelia's stuffy head has finally cleared up (a bit... she still snores like a lumber mill sometimes), she survived her spay surgery with only a little bit of worry on my end, and is now bouncy, playful, and as clumsy as I've ever seen a dog. She's come such a long way both physically and mentally in the past two months, and I couldn't be happier about it.

Rufus, on the other hand, continues to be an angsty teenager. Our list of "Things that Rufus has eaten or destroyed" continues to grow, but he's starting to relax a bit. And I'm beginning to learn to take things in stride, and put them in perspective - which I can't say is a bad thing for me. Even when they're not so good, dogs can bring good things to our lives. Mind you, Rufus doesn't spend all of his time moping or searching for the next sock/CD/book to inspire the next game of "chase me": he's one of the most empathetic and loving dogs I've run across, and there's a lot of potential for things both great and terrible from him. I wouldn't trade any of that for the world.

Today (in about 15 minutes, in fact), I'm off to help with an adoption event at the Irving Mall. If you're in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area today, feel free to drop by any time from noon to 3, and meet a few of the folks (and animals) that make the shelter work day in and day out. Maybe even take one home (er... one of the animals, that is).

I'll try to post something more substantial later today, but for now I must run and put on my dog-wrangling attire...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fold The Page

Over the past couple of months, we haven't updated Shelter Diaries nearly as often as we should, or as often as we'd like to. There are many reasons for our abscence, and I felt that it would be a good idea to explain why our blog - unlike our enthusiasm - has waned recently.

Many of the reasons are ones that Sophie and I deal with every day; specifically, our own cast of animals at home. In the past year, we've lost my parrot Sam to old age and our dog Buster to distemper. Currently, we're keeping an eye on Gheera, one of my two fourteen-year old cats, who continues to baffle us. His poor, withered body seems to be shutting down more with every passing day, and yet he seems more content and happier than I've seen him since he was a kitten.

Then there's Amelia. She and Rufus are practically inseparable, even when they're driving each other up the wall. But poor Amelia's been sick since we brought her home from the shelter nearly a month ago. Her fourth trip to the vet will be next week, and we'll probably find out by then if she'll recover or not. Thankfully, young Rufus has turned out to be nigh-invulnerable to most any malady, other than a chronic lack of attention span.

Amelia's mystery illness is more than just a worry for us - it also means we can't put the shelter's animals at risk to possible infection. Which, in short, means no interaction with the shelter dogs for us.

When things are finally resolved for Amelia, we'll be faced with yet another major consideration before continuing. This summer's outbreak of distemper, coupled with the steady and swiftly rising tide of stray and abandoned animals (both healthy and ill) have necessitated new health procedures and regulations at the shelter. In sticking to "the rules" - as all volunteers at the shelter vehemently try to do - we find that we can no longer interact with most of the dogs until they are adoptable. Basically, by the time we can meet an animal, it is most likely adopted, rescued, or euthanized before we can post anything about them.

What would be available to us would be a hurried, first-impression "hey, look at this dog before it's gone forever" kind of thing, which Shelter Diaries was never intended to be. Russell Posch already does a phenomenal job of giving everyone a thorough "first-look" overview of the dogs on a daily basis (see our sidebar - no, really; we'll wait while you check it out), and there's no need for us to do a slapdash rehashing of his excellent work. At the shelter itself, our particular skills have no real place in the new dynamic. So although things are much better and safer for the dogs now, we ourselves have become a bad fit. We're happy square pegs, but square pegs nonetheless.

Perhaps when the shelter gets its new facility, we might find that there is once again a niche for us to fill, and something good that we can bring to the dogs and to the shelter personnel. But for now, it seems the most helpful thing we can do is keep from being underfoot.

Like the health of my cat Gheera, it isn't something that we want. But we can follow his lead and be content, knowing that as backward as it may seem sometimes, it's the best thing we can do for now.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to help out a dog whenever the opportunity is there: we owe them for about 14,000 years of unfaltering friendship, and all good friendships are worth taking care of.


Monday, September 21, 2009


Moon is a stunningly beautiful Border Collie with a great personality, so we're not really worried about whether or not she gets adopted. She will. She's not too big, very pretty, friendly to everyone and a volunteer favorite. Our concern is that she end up with the right household; one that can give her enough exercise, mental challenges and something to DO so that she does not become bored and therefore destructive.

Her previous owners relinquished her for the reason "Not enough time." It's a frequent refrain and with a Border Collie, it is not surprising. These dogs are bred to herd flocks, and in the city, flocks can be cats, wildlife or the neighborhood kids. They are also considered by many experts to be THE smartest breed of dog. Therefore they need owners who can keep them challenged and give them a job to do every single day. This is not a lawn ornament nor a dog for a couch potato or lazy owner. Imagine you are a teacher and someone has placed a hyperactive Einstein in your care and you have some idea of the challenges of this breed.

Moon is such a lovebug and eager to learn. She's not shown any aggression toward cats, people or other dogs but she does need some basic training. Her desire to chase the birds outside the shelter or to round up people and dogs as they walked across the parking lot made for some fast and desperate leash-grabs. She would likely do best in a household with another dog to keep her company when her people are away, and a firm but loving owner will win her respect. Border Collies should not be bullied or intimidated. They are too smart for that. Give Moon a reason to adore you and plenty to do, and she'll be your best friend forever.

UPDATE (Sept 25): Ms. Moon was picked up yesterday (as were, thankfully, several dogs) by a rescue group. That is happy news, indeed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Invisible Dogs

This past week has been pretty unrelenting; a steady downpour of rain and a steady influx of animals seems to have left everyone's spirits a bit dampened. And between work, weather, and looking after a sickly Amelia, we haven't had an opportunity to take photos and feature anyone.

If you have clicked on the links at the side of our blog, you've probably seen the end result of one of the shelter's true heroes; our friend Russell Posch. Day in and day out, he tirelessly catalogs the comings and goings of the shelter's canine contingent, photographing them and trying to get them in front of the eyes of people who might otherwise not even know they are there. All of this post's photos are from his daily updates.

Many times, we meet a really great dog at the shelter, and can't help but feel a small, sharp jab of sadness. It seems ridiculous, but there are certain "dog stereotypes" that for no rational reason are much less likely to be adopted, rescued, or reclaimed. In many cases, people overlook these dogs entirely (as I saw happen again and again to Buster). Here are a few terrific dogs you might walk right past and never even notice:

Shelby is a fantastic kid with three unconscious strikes against him. First, he's a Labrador Retriever. As highly vaunted as Labs are with dog owners, people tend to balk at them due to their size and athleticism. Second, he's an adolescent - in fact, most dogs you find in a shelter are between the ages of 6 and 18 months old. Too old to be a cute and tractable puppy, too young to be a placid adult, these "rebellious teenager" dogs are often tossed to the wayside by owners either too frustrated, unprepared, or just thoughtless to deal with them. Third, and likely simultaneously both the most trivial and damaging strike, he's black. People tend to think of black dogs as common, unexciting, or intimidating.

All together, Shelby isn't too impressive or sparkly on a knee-jerk perusal. But if you were to pass him by without spending time with him, you'll have missed out on one heck of a dog. He's still young and playful; after feeding time, he flips his bowl over and chases it around his kennel like a hockey puck. When he's outside, he loves to explore and investigate things. The whole world seems to fascinate him, and he bounds along like a fearless canine Indiana Jones. And when his pluck and courage seem to falter or things just get quiet for a bit, he'll gently snuggle up with you. For such a small guy, Shelby seems to be brimming over with a mighty love.

Beth has so much going for her. She's small and calm (for a Labrador Retriever). Outdoors, she carries herself like a show dog, and manages to combine the grace and energy of a hunting dog with a gentle, even temperament that's delightful to be around. She's even house-trained. What on Earth could make people pass her over without even a second thought?

There are eight reasons, hanging pendulously from her belly. They are a temporary leftover of the reason she was dumped in the shelter to begin with - her owners kept her long enough to breed her, weaned and sold the puppies, then discarded her. And you would not believe how many people recoil at the sight of a recently-pregnant dog. On top of that, she's incredibly afraid and disoriented in the kennel area; the combination of strange surroundings, noisy dogs, and post-partum wooziness would put anyone ill at ease.

It took several minutes to coax Beth past the myriad barking dogs, through the lobby, and out the front door. But once outside and relaxed, the anxiety and shyness seemed to slough off her, leaving behind what seemed like a completely different dog. Looking at her, and seeing the grace and affection shining underneath the fear and sadness, I realized that her former owners will never understand what a treasure they threw away.

Maybel is a beautiful dog - the proportions of a working dog, but at about one-fifth the size of even an average German Shepherd. She has intelligent, expressive eyes, and a silky coat that would make a mink blush. All of that is a little difficult to take in at first, however, because she's quite likely to be huddled up in her kennel, shaking as if she were made of jelly.

Poor little Maybel is terrified, and I honestly can't say I fault her for it. Suddenly finding herself in a strange place, behind a kennel door, surrounded by unfamiliar, barking dogs... it's easy to imagine that being completely overwhelming. And just in case that wasn't enough to make a little dog catatonic, Maybel's first day at the shelter also happened to be very likely the first day of what was quite likely her first time in heat. She probably thought she was dying.

The first day I was able to sit with her in her kennel, she was still so terrified I was a little worried she may lash out in a fit of angst. She didn't, however, and after a couple of minutes bravely walked over to let me pet her. A couple of days later, she was walking around outside with me, a much more calm and confident dog. I noticed for the first time that her fluffy tail loops around itself and slightly to the side, like that of a Shiba Inu or Basenji. And I also noticed that she's got a great - if elusive - smile.

UPDATE 9/21: All three dogs have been adopted or rescued! Hooray!


Sunday, September 13, 2009


At first glance, Kuno can look like a pretty tough customer. There's little doubt that he is tough: there doesn't seem to be an ounce of his hefty frame that isn't muscle, and he seems to have no idea what the word "uncomfortable" means. And like most real "tough guys," he's got the heart of a playful puppy.

In fact, if Kuno had one flaw that we could point to, it's that no one ever taught him the difference between a 6-pound puppy and a 60-pound grown up. He's starting to grasp the concepts of walking vs. dragging, snuggling vs. head-butting, and his kisses occasionally have a bit of teeth to them (note: that's "teeth" as in a puppy-like nip - which all dogs have to be taught not to do with people - and most definitely not a malicious or forceful bite), but he is still a bit of a newcomer to the whole thing, and could use a friend (or family) with a bit of patience and understanding while he's learning. He may be an older dog, but wants very much to learn some new tricks.

Learning that "jumping up" is only
all right when asked to do so.

Kuno isn't a celebrity award-winning fetcher, mostly because puppy games seem less fun to him than running around and just hanging out with the people he's fond of. I get the impression, though, that he'd love to learn new things, as long as he thought it made the folks around him happy. In fact, being around happy people seems to be at the top of his short list of "must-haves": food, some fun exercise, a tree to pee on from time to time, and the love and approval of his packmates.

He takes to new friends quickly and will be a loving and faithful member of someone's household. If you want a tough-looking dog with a great disposition, you really should come meet Kuno. He'll be thrilled to meet you.

UPDATE 9/16: Along with Royce and several other top-notch dogs (please check the "Urgent Dogs" sidebar), Kuno is on the "short list." If the shelter has another day as unbalanced as the past two (we're talking a 5- or 6-to-1 ratio of "in" vs. "out" here, people), both he and Royce will very likely have to be put to sleep to make room for incoming animals.

UPDATE 9/22: Kuno was finally rescued today! We're so glad he's safe now. Be good, fella!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Royce and Becky

Royce and Becky have a few things in common: they are both pit mixes, (he's pit/mastiff, she's pit/retriever) both about a year old and both rather timid about coming out of their kennels. Becky is so afraid she has to be carried outside and being on a leash makes her very nervous. Royce gets so anxious about going outside he'll just lay down on the ground or try to bolt back inside. But today when we brought them together, they gave each other courage and a sense of belonging that was heartwarming to witness. They are also both incredibly sweet and gentle dogs, eager for a loving pet or to be allowed to give kisses, which they do with wild abandon.

Becky came in with a leg injury, possibly a pulled muscle or tendon. She seems to be fine now although she does walk high up on her toes. When I have her on a leash, she sits down or pulls away. Off of a leash (but still inside the shelter) she keeps close and follows much more confidently. She seems to be comfortable around other dogs and shows absolutely no aggression toward anyone or anything so far.

Royce has that same even temperament. We thought that bringing these two kids together could be an interesting experiment. Both seem so very submissive and shy. We took Becky out of her kennel first-- off-leash since she wouldn't follow along otherwise-- and went to Royce's kennel and got him. They greeted each other politely, then (and she had to wear the leash at this point) we headed as a group toward the back door. Royce hesitated at the threshold but his desire to follow another dog was too strong and he eventually came outside on his own. Then Becky got intimidated but seeing Royce with us made her want to keep up with this strange new pack and she went along with us to the play yard.

Once inside, they sniffed each other, did a brief bit of "climbing" one over the other and there was only one brief moment of tension-- a single growl-- and then everything was fine. From two little dogs too timid to walk outside to a pair of romping, jumping, chasing puppies, Becky and Royce transformed in just a matter of minutes. It was amazing.

I think that either dog would do well in a home with another dog who is not overly aggressive or bossy. They've made a huge stride toward overcoming their shyness and insecurity. (Both are owner surrenders.) Given a stable, loving home, these will be some of the best dogs anyone could ask for. They just want to know they belong. These are very special dogs and they deserve a chance to prove it.

UPDATE 9/15: Royce is still there and now on the "urgent" list. He also seems a little bit sneezy, and it looks pretty bleak for him. We're still holding on to hope that he gets adopted or rescued tonight.

Becky, on the other hand, has been adopted. BY US! :) Yup, she's our girl now and we've renamed her "Amelia," (Emmy for short).

Although she's also feeling a bit under the weather and is a bit stiff in her back legs - both she and Royce may have been handled a little too roughly by their previous owner - she'll have a futon to sleep on, a thorough check-up, and Rufus to keep her entertained (and largely sleepless, at present).

UPDATE 9/17: Royce was one of a handful of dogs put to sleep today. He had become quite ill (as has Becky/Amelia) and the shelter is crowded again. I guess the rain makes people resent their dogs or something. :( Before Tim took Amelia home, he brought her by Royce's kennel so he could see she was okay. It seemed to cheer him up. He was a great dog.


Saturday, September 5, 2009


With all of the bustle and noise associated with an animal shelter, some dogs are easy to overlook. Colter isn't one of those dogs.

The first time I saw him, I was headed to the kitchen to fetch a bucket of water. Saying a brief "hello" to all of the dogs on the front row of kennels, I saw a lanky, black head pop up over the edge of one of the back kennels... and it kept rising... and rising. Colter stretched up to greet me, and looked like nothing so much as a large, black deer with floppy ears. We met more formally at feeding time, where I got to duck briefly into his kennel. He hopped around like an excited puppy, but settled down and sat for his dinner like a trooper. It wasn't hard to tell that he was quite a people-oriented dog, and I looked forward to being able to take him out and play once his waiting period was over (the shelter holds dogs for 3-6 days usually before they become adoptable, to give owners a chance to come in and claim a lost animal).

He's tall and lanky - no exaggeration, his nose pokes me in the chest when he stands up straight - but underfed, and quite thin for a Great Dane. We think he might have something else in him as well, perhaps Labrador Retriever (or moose). Colter isn't too crazy about playing fetch, but loves a good run, and a leisurely walk with a friend. That's a good thing, because it seems everyone at the shelter wants to take him out for a gambol.

I wouldn't recommend Colter for a family with small children, but not because he's bad-tempered. There isn't a mean bone in his body, and that's a lotta' body to be talking about. He is young, though, and doesn't always remember that some people aren't as well-equipped for an exuberant, frisky puppy jumping on them as other folks. Especially when that puppy is four feet tall. That noted, he's attentive and eager to please, and delightful to romp around with. It's a little weird watching him run and jump (there's so much of him, it looks like he's running in slow-motion), but if you've got a little patience and a high slobber-threshold, it would be hard to find a better pal than Colter. He works hard to put the "Great" in Great Dane.

UPDATE 9/5: Colter was adopted! :)


Bradley (code name: The Gryffon)

I'll let you in on a little secret: sometimes Tim and I "rename" the dogs. We call this guy "Gryffon" (although Tim might argue me on the spelling of it). I'm writing this entry, I get to spell it like I want. :D

Gryffon, er, Bradley is an Irish Wolfhound mix. What the other part of the mix is, well, that's up for debate. Maybe Labrador? He's a really down-to-earth, relaxed sort of dog. He gets along well with both hyper puppies (one a terrier, one a German Shepherd) that we introduced him to. As you can see from the following photos, he really is a gentleman even under duress:

The smaller dog is Pepper, who we had planned to feature as well, but she, like the German Shepherd puppy, was adopted today. As sweet and adorable as the younger dogs are, Tim and I are both really drawn to Gryf. He has a lot of character in his somewhat scruffy face and his kind eyes. At first he was very timid, scooting back to the far end of his kennel when we'd come visit. But his caution gives way to trust eventually and he enjoys a walk outside and a scratch behind his ear. He's not glompy or overly-salacious with affection. Perhaps with time and the comfort and security of a forever home, he'll come out of his shell and express his affection more readily. He's a great dog and will just get better with time and love.

UPDATE 9/10: Our sweet boy was put to sleep this morning. Someone wanted to adopt him, but apparently he was too ill to be adopted out. I'm so sorry we couldn't save you soon enough, Gryffon. We loved you, though. I hope that made your last days a little bit better. Good bye, buddy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


You probably don't notice anything odd about Candy from this photo. Instead, you see her sweet, happy face, her pretty coloring and her pink collar-- meaning at one time, she was somebody's baby. I was surprised to see such a lovely spaniel at the shelter and figured she would be adopted right away. But Candy has a little problem. Maybe a big one:

See that strange pink thing? It's a tumor that practially drags the ground. It's got to be uncomfortable and needs to be removed. Sadly, the sort of labwork that needs to be done for her might not be available in the shelter setting. It could be a matter of taking it off so she can live a long happy life, or it might indicate cancer that's already spread throughout her body and removing it would only make her more comfortable, not save her life. But frankly, I don't think it matters which. Even a week or a month of freedom from it would mean so much to her. Quality, not quantity of days is what matters.

Candy loves to be outside, even on the hottest days, and cries when you put her back in her kennel. I had to pick her up and carry her into the shelter yesterday and at first I thought touching the tumor would be sort of gross but really, it's just part of her body, and the relief of me carrying her made her relax a bit. I feel so sad for her. I wonder if she was abandoned because of her condition. It's hard enough to face an undiagnosed illness. Harder still to do it alone in the world.

Candy hasn't given up yet.

UPDATE 9/3: Candy's growth began bleeding internally and she was euthanized this morning. She's free of it at last.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


There is nothing quite as comforting and reassuring after a rough day/week/month as cuddling a sweet, snuggly, furry puppy or kitten. Having lost so many dogs during the distemper outbreak, seeing this little face again was a joy and a sign of hope. She is a mix of... well, I'm not sure and I don't recall what the kennel card says, but she is likely going to be a big girl when she grows up, which is why she's still at the shelter. But just look into those big chocolate-drop eyes and tell me she wouldn't fit right into your heart.

Arlene survived the distemper outbreak in spite of her tender age and precarious location. After all that, it would be such a tragedy for her not to make it out. Hopefully, someone with room to spare will come for her. She will give that person a lifetime of cuddles and comfort.

UPDATE 9/1: Arlene was adopted! What a lucky dog and what a lucky owner! I'll miss her but I'm so glad she's safe!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Shelter Diaries on hold

Due to an outbreak of illnesses at the shelter, as well as personal reasons, Tim and I will be taking a break from the blog for a few weeks at least. We're still very much devoted to helping our furry friends, but we need some time to recover from a rather traumatic week. We wish all the best to our friends, both human and animal, at the Irving Animal Shelter and are deeply saddened by what's happening there.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009


We don't feature puppies much here on Shelter Diaries. Puppies are cute and popular and pretty much sell themselves. Everyone seems to want a puppy but so many times we get these same little guys back six months to a year later because they outgrew the "cute" phase and were never properly taught how to be civilized dogs.

I'm not sure why Squeeky was brought in. He was friendly, happy, affectionate and so darn cute. In fact, one of the things Tim told me a week or so ago-- the day that Squeeky came in-- was that he looked like our Rufus did at that age. When I met him at the shelter the next day, I had to agree. I got into his kennel and cuddled him and kissed him and laughed as he kissed me back, even though he nipped my chin and nose as he did so. Here was an awesome puppy who just needed a bit of training.
A few days later, the area he was being kept in was quarantined off after a couple of dogs came down with a serious illness. We weren't allowed into the area for a few days. I worried about my little buddy and was so happy to see him alive and happy a couple of days ago. He was curled up in his "nest": a plastic bin with a blanket inside. We snuggled and played a bit and then I went to make the rest of the rounds.

Yesterday, Tim and I took him outside to get some photos. His favorite game seemed to be "chase," and he happily ran after us, then turned and let us chase him.

In fact, the only way to get him to hold still was to either roll him over on the ground or else pick him up. We had so much fun but it was hot out and our little buddy had dinner waiting for him inside. I put him back into his kennel and said goodbye.

It wasn't supposed to be forever.

He was a tough little stinker, but puppies are fragile and when sickness hits, it tends to harm most the very young and the very old. Squeeky became ill quite suddenly and was euthanized today. I'll never know the kind of dog he'd have grown up to be, but I like to think that he'd be like my Rufus.

I miss you, Squeeker. I love you.