Pound Pooch

diary of a shelter worker.


two puffed poodles and four control poled chihuahuas

we have had 2 poodles sitting in our stray kennels for ten days now. they are a breeding pair, from the looks of the female's teats. they were also a disgusting shade of dirty-pee-stained-yellow. these guys came in about six months ago, and were reclaimed, intact (i.e.: not spayed/neutered). they were super matted and disgusting- covered in grime and pee. they went home with an agreement that their owner MUST get them in better shape. clearly, he didn't. when they came back this time, they were even worse off.

we worked on cleaning up the girl a little, taking off clumps of hair that revealed that this dog that appeared to be a miniature poodle hidden under matts was probably closer to being a 5lb bichon. the thing was tiny! she was such a good sport, too. but the dogs were in too bad of shape for anything but a professional to handle. fortunately, there is a groomer nearby who donates her services to these cases- giving "makeovers," as she calls them, to dogs in need. when they came back, they were practically naked, shaved, sweatered, half their original size, but much healthier.

we had a lottery for them and they will be going home today.

i also helped an officer bring in four chihuahuas that had been confiscated from the van they had been living in. the van was full of feces- i saw pictures that i would not have believed. i had spoken to the owner of the dogs on numerous occasions, explaining to him that he needed to clean up the van and get the dogs fixed. he insisted he would. but when the officer went out for his final check, the dogs were living in a foot of poop.

the officer stuck his gloved hand into the van and immediately all four dogs latched on. i have never seen such violent dogs, and i have seen all kinds of aggression. we control poled them to get them out of the animal control vehicle, and each one frightened me. it is a strange sensation to be afraid of an 8 pound dog on the end of a control pole.

the owner is trying to reclaim these dogs. i do not know if he will be able to do that, if he really understands what he has done to them.



A few times a week, someone comes in and says to me something to the effect of: "I don't know how you could do this job. Don't you want to take all of the animals home with you?" Or, "Doesn't this place break your heart?" It doesn't break my heart to work in a shelter. It's trite, but I feel like part of the solution. I can't imagine knowing what I know- about pet overpopulation, about dog and cat behavior, etc- and sitting idly while animals died.

It's much harder for me to deal with some of the angry, sad, depressed, belligerent, resistent, people that we get into the shelter.

We handle animals that have been brought into the shelter when their owners are taken to jail. Sometimes these men and women are very frustrated with the nominal fees that they have to pay to reclaim their animals. Sometimes they are still hung over, or they unable to reclaim their animals and forced to surrender them. Sometimes they are unable to pay the fees at all, and furious with us, the middle men. Sometimes these people are just not very nice people, and it is all I can do to handle them with composure. I am much better at handling aggressive dogs. We handle animals that have been brought into the shelter when their owners are in the hospital. These people are sometimes hard to reach, or hard to understand, as they can be incoherent, or not fully functioning. Sometimes we have to deal with very sad family members. This can be extremely depressing.

On the other hand, some people reclaim their animals with no fuss at all- they are so glad to be out of jail or out of the hospital and reuinited with their animal-family that they are super compliant and eager to do right by the system.

Today an officer brought in an owner surrender that I recognized from talking to the woman who had reclaimed the dog a couple of months ago. The officer had gone out with the police to the woman's house. She was fleeing the county, wiht a restraining order on her now-ex-husband, due to domestic violence. She is disabled and in no shape to bring the dog with her.

I can handle the stress of an animal shelter. I'm not sure I can handle all these people.



A couple of weeks ago, a little dog we called a "mini chow" came into the shelter. He was an adorable young adult, probably a little under a year. He was an indiscriminate breed, tan, shaggy, spitz-y dog, unneutered. He had been with us three days when he started to look really sick. He didn't have the classic symptoms of parvo, and he wasn't a pup, so we weren't immediately alarmed. But he faded quickly- lethargic, dehydrated, lips curled up.

An officer came to pick him up and rushed him to the E-Vet. He tested positive for parvo and was euthanized. And we kicked into overdrive. We put the kennels into quarantine mode for 10 days and started bleaching. We bleached every surface of the kennels, three times. We bleached every door handle, every keyboard, every mouse, every chair, every desk. We threw away anything that we could. We almost fainted from bleach inhalation. We opened the shelter up the next day, but kept the dog area closed. We tested every dog under a year for parvo twice in the next ten days. Volunteers were not allowed in the dog area. We called all adopters of puppies that had been in the shelter with our poor parvo pup. We called all adopters of pups that had been adopted from our sister shelter that had been to the s/n clinic while the pups from our facility had been in the shelter with our parvo pup. And we kept bleaching.

We opened again yesterday, because so far we seem to be in the clear.


Two Months

A little guy came in today, in a misfitting blue harness. He was some kind of terrier mix, the short kind we see a lot- no distinct breed, kind of small, medium length hair. What was unusual about him was that he was neutered. Even more unusual, this dog was chipped. I looked the microchip up in our system, and saw that he was adopted from us over a year ago. I called his owner, and they started crying. The little guy had been missing for TWO MONTHS. I was a little suprised- this dog did not look like he had been missing for two months. He was clean, in good shape, not skinny. The woman who brought him into the shelter had just found him. The owners came and picked him up today. Welcome home, Max!


Dog in the Trap

I helped carry a dog into the shelter a couple of days ago. This poor girl was freaked out of her mind. She was in a metal cage, big enough for a great dane. She had been running around at somebody's farm, ownerless, for about a month. Every time an Officer tried to catch her, she got away. They had to trap her. There is nothing more pathetic than a dog in a trap.

This dog was wearing three collars- she was once someone's dog. When we finally got her out of the trap, she was totally shut down. She wouldn't walk on a leash. The officer wrapped a leash around her nose so she couldn't bite him and carried her inside. She didn't even murmur a complaint. She hid next to him while we completed the intake process into the shelter.

I've been hanging out with this dog, to see if she's going to make it at the end of her stray period. She is a really friendly dog, clearly traumatized by whatever happened during the month in the fields. She is re-learning to walk on a leash. She likes to give kisses, and rest her head on my leg. And, she's pregnant. We'll see if this girl can overcome her rough first year in life and her even rougher welcome to the shelter. Right now I'm optimistic.


the chain

a month ago a pit bull was confiscated from his owner because he was wearing a 7.5 pound chain around his neck. the chain was connecting the dog to a fence. the officer saw that this chain wasn't safe, or humane, and brought the dog into the shelter. he left a note on the door, explaining to the dog's owner how he could reclaim his dog.

the owner called back and said something to the effect that the dog wasn't wearing a chain. the officer had taken pictures. animal control explained how to properly confine a dog, and gave the owner a time frame to build proper confinement and get back to us. the guy called back, saying he had erected proper confinement. officers went out, and nothing had changed. the pit bull stayed with us. the guy never called back.

after 10 days, the dog became ours. of course, being the sucker that i am, i had taken this chained up dog out, to see just what we were dealing with. the dog was another one of the perfect temperamented, poorly bred pits that shelters everywhere are overrun with. his ears flopped every which way. he had no manners. he was perfect. i brought him out a few days in a row. he was a humping fool- i gave him a blanket to lie on in the front office. he acted as though he had never seen a blanket. he grabbed one side of the bed with his mouth and the other side, he started to hump like it was the only thing that would save him. i worked with him on some manners- spraying him with a water bottle when he was naughty and treating hiim and praising him when he was good. he let me know that he knew "shake" and "sit". soon he was passed out next too me, snoring his fool head off.

"C"'s owner never called back. i'm guessing once he realized that the officer was serious, that he really was going to check and see if he had built some proper containment, he realized it wasn't worth it to get his dog back. C failed his evaluation. he had prey drive.

RIP, C. you're another product of irresponsible breeding and irresponsible ownership.


The Goose

Or is it a swan?

This guy came into the shelter today. A Good Samaritan dropped him off. He was wandering down a very busy street, very close to the highway. He is as big as a person. He is so big, we have to keep him in a dog kennel! Poor goose. Or is it Poor swan?

One of my coworkers thinks she might know where this guy came from. She called down to a local mobile home park, but all of their geese (or is it swans?) are present and accounted for. They referred her to another park that has birds. Hopefully this goose (or is it a swan?) will be in tomorrow to reclaim him.