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!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good job guys - I have no doubt your stories are really helping these guys find homes -- thanks for all the good work!

Carolyn P.