Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Paige came into the shelter as a stray, and it's bewildering that her previous owner never came looking for her. She's only about two years old, so she's hitting that golden time when a dog still has a puppy's playfulness and energy, but a bit of the wisdom and restraint that carries into their adult years. Although she is a little bit overenthusiastic in wanting to give hugs sometimes, Paige is well-behaved and personable. On top of all that, she plays fetch, too!

When we went outside today, Sophie and I took turns brushing the unshot winter-coat she was still carrying around (in the 103-degree Texas summertime). As is often the case, getting anything but a close-up was tricky, since she always seemed to want to be wherever the person with the camera was. Paige really seems to be everything you could want in a friendly, knocking-about-with kind of dog.

"And if you adopt one Paige today, we'll even throw in a second set of back dewclaws FREE as an added bonus!"

UPDATE 7/11: Took Paige outside again today, and she was really happy to get a chance to stretch her legs. We also found out that she's much more of a people-dog than a dog's dog: she grumbled at a couple of other female dogs that walked by her kennel, and (although there was no snapping or lunging) an overenthusiastic young puppy wound up getting literally punched in the face. Not sure if it's because she isn't spayed or if her "only dog" instincts extend to the menfolk, but Paige could use a little extra socialization and supervision when it comes to strange dogs.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Although ShoeShine was dumped at the shelter by his owner about a month ago, I only had the opportunity to meet him this past weekend. At first, I didn't think he liked me at all - he would dart to the front of his kennel, bark repeatedly, then dash off... only to repeat this ritual again and again. It was only after I got home and was getting ready to walk our dog Rufus that it hit me: Rufus usually uses the same bark when he's playing or when he wants something. And that got me thinking even more.

The next day, I managed to get up to the shelter again. When I got to his kennel, I called out, "Hey, ShoeShine! Wanna' go ouside?" and he cocked his head at me; not a confused expression at all, but a cheerful gesture that I recognized well. It's the same bright little "Heck yeah!" nod that Rufus gives me when asked if he wants to do something fun. So outside we went.

ShoeShine is brimming over with energy and enthusiasm. He's a smart dog, and a complex one as well. One moment, he can be mischievous and swaggering; the next moment, he'll be sweet, vulnerable, and eager to please. He's a combination of German Shepherd and Golden Retriever, and seems to have gotten some of the best of both breeds in him.

Beautiful, energetic, and amazingly friendly, ShoeShine is a real find - and sadly, one that may be gone forever in just a few short days. Since the opening of the new shelter, adoptions have been painfully few; rescue groups are over-full and desperately trying to make just a tiny bit more space to save more lives. Times are tough all around, but it's literally a life-and-death struggle for the shelter, its staff, and the animals. ShoeShine has been there a month - long enough to grow from a puppy to an adolescent, long enough to watch a number of other animals come and go. In the past two days, at least eighteen new dogs have come in, and there is nowhere to put them.

Tuesday may well be his last day. If it is, and he has to be put to sleep to make room for new dogs, it will be heartbreaking. And for me... well, he's so much like Rufus in so many ways, I think my heart will break a little bit every time I look at my own lovable rascal and see what ShoeShine could have been, too.
UPDATE 6/30: ShoeShine was one of ELEVEN dogs pulled yesterday by rescue groups at the last minute. Thanks to their hard work, there's a little bit of breathing room at the shelter - at least for a few days. ShoeShine headed to Shreveport, LA along with a Chihuahua named Josh, where they will be fostered - and hopefully adopted out - by Animal Welfare, Inc., a Shreveport-based rescue group.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Request

Looking back at all of the dogs we've met over the past year - and looking forward to the opening of Irving's new "Animal Care Campus" to replace the 36-year-old shelter building - has made me a bit nostalgic. I've been wanting to do another slideshow of the animals we've featured, but this time I'll need some assistance to make it work.

If you have (or know someone who has) an animal that was adopted from the Irving Animal Shelter - especially one featured here on Shelter Diaries - I'd like to get photos to show the animals "then and now" when possible. People should get to see that for a lot of these dogs and cats, leaving the shelter is not just a "happily ever after," but a "to be continued" as well.

If you do have photos you'd like to contribute, please e-mail them to us at onimusic@verizon.net. Thanks!


Sunday, March 7, 2010


Sandy is, to put it plainly, the ugliest dog at the shelter. Her eyes are red and baggy half-covered by the membranes surrounding them, her tongue protrudes from her mouth constantly, her teats are like wads of chewed bubblegum hanging from her underside and she has a permanantly protruding vulva from her years as a puppy-mill bitch. She was smeared with feces and her legs calloused and scabrous. And I absolutely love every inch of her! One might think that a dog so used and mistreated would want nothing to do with people, but Sandy is so full of affection and trust, she has surprised everyone at the shelter with her good nature and manners.

Tim and I took her outside for a much-needed bath, and she was so good on the leash and really enjoyed stretching her legs and soaking up some sunshine. She didn't like the cold water but she was really brave as we scrubbed away the dried poop from her shoulders, legs and backside.

I let her stay outside in the sun for almost an hour while she dried. She liked the grass but was quite happy when I laid out one of the towels for her to sunbathe on. If I walked away, though, she was right there following me. She is not stingy with the kisses either and her tongue is surprisingly long! She doesn't know what to do with a ball but she does enjoy just hanging out and watching the world go by.

Like I said, Sandy is not going to win any beauty pagents, and is going to have to get by on her personality alone, but given a chance to love somebody, there is no one who shines brighter.

UPDATE 3/09: Sandy met two outgoing female dogs in the lobby of the shelter and did NOT like either one. I would suggest she not be homed with other females, and possibly not any other dogs at all. We'll see how she is around males and try again with calmer, older females.

Friday, February 19, 2010


We haven't been able to take Harley outside his kennel yet, but check out these photos.  He is too cute!

We'll do a proper write-up when we have more to tell you.  He really does seem terribly sweet, though.

(UPDATE 2/24):  Never got around to doing a proper update, but it doesn't matter now.  Harley was euthanized today, due to acute illness.  I'm sorry we didn't get to spend more time with you, Harley Dog.


I have only met Sadie briefly, so I will let Tim do the write up.  But I wanted to at least introduce her to you and show you her pretty pictures.  Sadie was dumped at the shelter by an owner who actually said "We're selling her pups but we just want to get rid of her."  Her teats are still swollen and lactating, so we're not sure just how long ago she gave birth.  Our own foster dog, Mia, was dumped with two of her puppies.  A new mother should have peace, quiet and security and her babies need to learn those things from her.  These horrible owners who treat dogs like puppy dispensers should be forced to work the "back room" of a shelter when these unwanted dogs are put to sleep.  Just let them see the final result of their thoughtless, careless actions (or inactions in the case of unspayed females.)

She is so scared and so timid.  No one is going to give her a second look.  She doesn't look like a cute little puppy or a heroic guard dog or a fancy lap ornament.  She looks small and dark and so very intimidated, but she's brave enough to trust you if you give her a chance.

Honestly, she probably won't make it out alive.  No one seems to really notice her.  But we just want those folks who will probably answer the "Puppies for Sale" ad or sign to know that the story doesn't end with the purchase of a puppy.  A lot of stories end on the cold steel table in the back of a shelter.

UPDATE (2/22):  Sadie never got her happy ending.  I sat with her and walked with her and played with her, but trust moves slowly.  And the current of human thoughtlessness moves swift and strong.  She was put to sleep today, to make room for incoming animals - most of them brought in by their owners.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jasper, the One-Eared Dog


When Jasper first arrived at the shelter, we really didn't know what to make of him.  He huddled in the back of his kennel, pretty much sitting and glowering.  He wouldn't come forward to take a treat from me - even when I tossed it halfway across the kennel floor.  But he didn't growl, or give any signs of aggression, and the poor guy needed some water.  So in I ducked to get to know him better.

At first, he looked shy and confused:  one ear flat and laid back, the other standing semi-erect and forward.  Once inside his kennel, I could understand why a lot better:

My initial thought was that a previous owner tried to "ghetto-bob" his ears, and gave up after the first wouldn't stay erect.  After discussing it with some of the other folks at the shelter, though, it seems much more likely that something - something very large -  had gotten ahold of him at some point.  Jasper isn't a small fry by anyone's estimation, but whatever happened to him was very big and very scary, and it's left some pretty deep scars.  Not all of those are flesh wounds, either.

He's extremely frightened - almost never standing fully upright when he walks, ducking and shaking uncontrollably when he's touched too quickly or startled.  Yesterday, we had to cut short our walk because he was terrified of even the pigeons and grackles in the parking lot.  A little later, we ventured back out with Laney, a happy-go-lucky young boxer/chow/shepherd fellow, and Jasper found a bit more pluck and courage.


 I only had a chance to stop by for a few minutes this evening, but made sure to stop and say hello to Jasper.  He was a lot more relaxed, and nuzzled up under my arm contentedly.  I have yet to see him smile outright, but I have a feeling that he's not too far from it.

NOTE:  Time and weather allowing, we'll try to introduce him to our dog Amelia tomorrow -  she's no stranger to working with frightened dogs herself, and maybe she'll help Jasper locate his misplaced confidence.

UPDATE (2/11):  It snowed like crazy today.  Undaunted, Jasper and I went outside to hang out with Frosty, another dog on the "urgent list."  Someone was interested in both of them, so I figured it would be a good thing to see if they could stand each other first.  How did it go?  You be the judge.


And, at long last - Jasper smiled today.

UPDATE (2/13):  Jasper finally got to meet Amelia today - along with Rufus and Mia, when he came to stay with us for the next week!  Minnesota Animal Rescue pulled him (along with Frosty, and three other dogs) today, and he'll be heading north next weekend, health permitting.   So it looks like Frosty and Jasper could get used to this "snow" thing after all...

UPDATE (2/19):  Tomorrow is the day Jasper is supposed to go to a new foster in Minnesota.  We will let you know how that goes.  He's been a wonderful guest and I will miss his sweet little face.


UPDATE (2/20):  Jasper's prospective foster did not reply to Tim's email, so Jasper is still here.  Our house is a bit too small and crowded now and so we are looking for another temporary foster for him until things are set for him in Minnesota.  He's super sweet and snuggly, and although he is being treated for URI, he's happy and energetic.  He does like to chase the cats and has a strong prey drive and should not be in a household with cats or other small animals unless supervised. He does not like strangers coming up to "his" house or gate and will let you know if someone's approaching.  Other than that, he's very observant of both his human and canine packmates and is eager to be a good boy, whatever that entails.  If you are interested in fostering or adopting Jasper, we can certainly arrange a home visit with your family/pack.  Email to onimusic@verizon.net.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Help Needed

Three lovely young dogs - Rexa, Layla, and Gilda were rescued from the shelter last week, which provided safety for them as well as direly-needed space for other dogs. Unfortunately, the rescue they were slated to go to has suddenly found all of their foster homes flooded with litters of "holiday puppies."

That leaves our girls in a bit of a bind until space at the foster homes can be made once again.

All three are currently in the care of our good friend Christy Wilson, who herself has a full house. She's valiantly taken it upon herself to see that they are boarded, vetted, and spayed - at a tremendous cost to herself.

If you would be interested in fostering (or adopting, once they are spayed) one of these sweethearts, please let us know and we'll try to put you in contact with Christy. If you'd like to help, but don't have room at home (something we can very much relate to), there is a "chip-in" page to help offset the cost of boarding and vetting them. Please donate if you can - no matter how small, every bit will help.

All three of these girls are outstanding ambassadors for their breeds, and we think they deserve the best future they can get.

Remo (the Second)

February has been shaping up to be a busy month. Not only are our "day jobs" and fostering young Mia keeping us busier than usual, the shelter staff are preparing to move to a new facility (a lot bigger, and about 35 years newer). It seems like there's never any time where we, the dogs, and the sun can all be in the same place at the same time.

It's a real shame, too. There is a legion of wonderful animals stuck here, and far too many will never be seen in time. Remo is one of the ones I worry most about, because he's (like Rexa before him) just too quiet and polite in his kennel to catch people's attention.

At first, he looks all stoic and grown-up. And big. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if he had a little bit of American Mastiff in him, especially considering the loose skin on his face... not to mention his warm and affectionate personality. Apparently his previous owner wanted to give this impression, since he had Remo's tail docked. That, of course, means you have to look a little more closely to see his tiny nub of a tail wagging a mile a minute.

Remo is pretty reserved in his kennel. Going out the front door, he slinks along the ground like a soldier under fire. Keep on going though, and keep on encouraging him, and once you get him out in the sun, he absolutely shines. And wallows. And occasionally fetches. And rolls in the grass again. There's just something ineffable about his personality, though: a joyful warmth that's really hard not to fall in love with.

UPDATE: While writing this, I learned from Russell Posch (the awesome resident Shelter Walker) that Remo has been moved - along with several other outstanding dogs - to the "urgent list". That means that if the shelter fills up again, he might have to be euthanized to make room for new, incoming animals.

UPDATE (2/6): ADOPTED! After an amazing outpouring of support and offers to help young Remo out, he was pulled today... And the people who picked him up are thinking he's not going to be needing to find another home. I couldn't be happier - and that's not literary license; I really mean it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


When little Doak arrived at the shelter, I honestly didn't give him much thought. I figured, He's young, friendly, smart, extremely cute... He'll be adopted right away.

That was about a week ago, and I can't understand why he's still here. Maybe he comes across as too stand-offish; perhaps it's because his multi-colored eyes give him an unusual gaze. Or maybe his intense culinary fascination with all things green and grassy seems a little obsessive-compulsive in a puppy so young.

Doak knows a good vintage clover when he sees one...

I get the impression that Doak isn't unaffectionate or aloof; he's just a bit bored. For a four or five month-old puppy, he's got a lot of cleverness in that cute, fluffy head of his. Even if he'd received all of the social interaction that a growing pup needs, the odds are good that "fetch" or "chew on the squeaky toy" won't hold his attention forever. Although I might be wrong, Doak certainly gives the impression that his "working dog" bloodlines run deep and strong, and he'd be happiest with some invigorating challenges to keep his mind and body sharp.

That said, little Doak has plenty of aptitude in the fine arts of snuggles and affection as well.

UPDATE 1/22: Doak was rescued! We're so glad he's safe and on the way to being a great pet.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Right next door to Winston is Rexa. She's quiet and gentle but very, very happy to meet anyone who cares to come visit her. She's not much for jumping up on you either, unless you let her know it's okay. Even then she's not too rough or rowdy. But she is a pit bull and far too many people who come into the shelter look past her on that point alone. She appears to know what "sit" means and also jumped up on the doghouse when I indicated for her to do so. She doesn't know how to fetch a ball, but she does love to play chase.

Rexa aims to please

Rexa is a stray that was picked up, but she does seem to have been taught good manners. I enjoyed walking with her because for once I had a dog that didn't try to drag me along behind. (Rufus, I'm talking to you...) and even though she didn't know me a single sniff, she had no problem with me entering her kennel, taking over her "bed" and glomping all over her our first meeting. She is an enthusiastic snuggler and the only danger you'll be in is that she just may steal your heart. She'll give it her best try, anyway.

She's not actually barking here, she's just making a funny face
after some goofing around with me in the yard.

UPDATE (1/21): Sophie and I decided that it was a shame for such a lovely dog as Rexa to be as dirty as she was - so we took advantage of the unseasonably warm day today, and gave her a bath. Although not too keen on hopping up onto the rickety bathtub, she didn't complain when we hoisted her up and strapped her in. She did complain once, very quietly, about the cold water; but so did we, so that's pretty fair. Like a trooper, Rexa let us suds her up, hose her off, ruffle her with some fresh-from-the-dryer towels, and walk around until the bright winter sun warmed her up and dried her out.

I will try to get some better pictures of her tomorrow if I can. It's difficult to see in our hurried, overcast-day snapshots, but Rexa is really quite beautiful: her "mask" and dark spots aren't black, but a warm, dark brindle. And although perhaps not as visually striking as Gilda, a sweet blue American Pit Bull gal at the shelter, Rexa has a classic charm to her that is hard to put into words and still pictures. Perhaps most endearing to me is what she often does when confronted by something odd, loud, or unexpected. Instead of breaking into gales of barking, she turns, looks me in the eye, and cocks her head to one side in an expression of "Well now, that's a curious thing."

I can't help thinking that Rexa's an extraordinary dog; one that deserves an extraordinary owner, and an extraordinarily happy life.

UPDATE 1/22: Rexa is still at the shelter and on the "blue" list. She's still just the best dog in the world and hasn't let the situation get her down. Today she lavished kisses and cuddles on a pair of little girls. She's fantastic with kids, shows no fear or aggression even toward barky dogs, yet no one seems willing to see past her breed. Rexa is too good a dog to let go. She would be the perfect family dog or a companion for a childless person or couple. She loves and trusts everyone. I can't stand to see such a wonderful dog languish unrecognized. If you know of someone who could use a calm, affectionate, considerate dog and who isn't prejudiced against pit bulls, please tell them about Rexa. She'll be the best friend you ever had.

UPDATE 1/28: Rexa has been pulled for rescue by K.A.R.E. (Kathy's Animal Rescue Express) from Minnesota. Our dear and tireless friend Christy has coordinated not only Rexa's rescue, but five other dogs (including Corina!) with K.A.R.E. and all boarding/vet fees are being paid by K.A.R.E. and Christy. If you can donate anything at all to this rescue mission, please click here.



I (Sophie) was told by another volunteer that there was a new dog that needed to be worked with. This unnamed little boxer/ridgeback mix was snapping at anyone trying to touch him. He was small, thin and looked more mournful than menacing. I figured I would just take it slow and easy, so I got in the kennel with him and knelt down. He backed up a few steps and I reached over and took his food bowl. He didn't seem to mind. I put a few kibbles in my hand and held it out to him. He sniffed it, then sort of half-heartedly mouthed the kibble, not really eating but at least touching his face to my hand. I didn't watch him or stare at him, just acted disinterested and kept offering kibble in my outstretched hand. Before long, I was briefly stroking his face and head while he investigated my hand. He got closer and seemed to be pressing against my hand a little more like a dog that wanted to be petted. Within a few minutes, he was on my lap, getting petted from nose to tail. Terri, (the volunteer coordinator and someone we both admire immensely) had previously been able to pet him as well, which made us wonder if he wasn't just afraid of men. So naturally I went to Tim to test that theory.

Check out that cute ridge down his neck

With me in the kennel, sitting against the far wall, Tim came in and sat down by the door. Winston--as Terri and I had named him moments prior--kept close to me but didn't seem aggressive toward Tim, just wary. Gently and reassuringly, Tim offered Winston small bits of dog biscuit from his hand. And just as with me, Winston learned to trust him to the point that I left them for a bit and came back to find Winston curled up and sleeping on Tim's lap, content as you please. But he still growled at one of the Animal Shelter staff members just a little while later, even while Tim was holding him. Without knowing Winston's story, we can't know just what has caused his fear of certain people, only that he isn't a hopeless case and that he does, very much, want to be loved and comforted.

Winston learning that he's got friends.

UPDATE (1/21): Winston has been quickly getting his confidence back, to the point where he'll even occasionally strut around outside, his head and tail held high and proud. It's really encouraging to see. Most of the time, though, he's just thrilled to have some attention, and is quickly turning into a very affectionate young dog. And as he gets less emaciated (though he's still pretty wasp-waisted), Winston is actually shaping up to be a pretty handsome guy.

UPDATE (2/6): We stopped by the local Petsmart (where Lost Paws Rescue of Texas holds adoption events every weekend) to see young Winston, and he was as happy to see us as we were to see him. He was charming people right and left, and seems to have finally met a good play partner who moves at his speed, along with the rest of his new family! We all met back at the shelter to fill out the adoption paperwork, and had a great last get-together with Russell Posch and Terri Walker, the shelter's volunteer coordinator (and Winston's foster mom for the past two weeks). It was a fabulous way for Winston to start his new life.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Pookey is a dog that I wanted to feature a week ago. He's likely a mix of German Shepherd and Australian Shepherd, although he might have some Kelpie in him as well. Regardless of his bloodline, Pookey is bright, friendly, confident and just an all-around fun dog to be with.

The reason for his being at the shelter is the reason I didn't post him earlier. Apparently, he was used as leverage in a "domestic dispute." His previous owner dumped him at the shelter to "teach a lesson" to a family member they were fighting with.

I'm no guidance counselor, but I'm pretty sure it's a stupid idea to try and extort loyalty by getting rid of the only thing someone "truly loves" - doubly so when that happens to be a living being. Triply so when that living being is a dog that still loves you, no matter how callously you treat him. And if there's anything that young Pookey has learned flawlessly, it's how to love.

Of course, he's pretty good at fetch, too. And keep-away. Often at the same time. He's got confidence, intelligence, a sense of humor and energy to spare. Working with him, I get the impression that he is truly a "gifted" dog, and would probably love learning new things and facing new challenges. In fact, the one thing Pookey doesn't have going for him is time: I waited far too long to give his previous owners time to work things out, and now the shelter is full.

It isn't fair that he's stuck in this jam. It isn't fair that he was betrayed by a pack mate for the sake of pride. But it is what it is, and all that's left to do is go from this point into wherever tomorrow takes him. That's one major difference between dogs, and most people.

UPDATE (1/15): Well, Pookey's former family never worked out their differences, it seems. After waiting and waiting in the shelter (with very few people even considering such an energetic and eclectic-looking fellow), he was pulled by a rescue group today. He'll be heading to a foster home quite a distance from here, and hopefully will be finding a permanent - and more stable - pack to live out his whirlwind-happy days with.

Incidentally, had he not been pulled today (with several other dogs), it's likely he would have been euthanized for space at the end of the day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Shelter Diaries Special: Mia

Rather than repost the blog in it's entirety, here's a link to Mia's page. She was a shelter dog, now she's being fostered by us. I know the best way to help find her a forever home is to start spreading the word now.