What A Crappy Week.

Working in an animal shelter is HARD.  It’s back-breaking and it’s heart-breaking.  And if you’re not careful, it’s soul-breaking too.

This week’s saddest case:

If you live in the Lower Mainland area, you’ve probably seen this photo of mine, or one like it, plastered all over the news and the internetz.  It’s 6 week old Phoenix, a blue nose pit bull puppy, who was found hiding in some bushes on the side of the road in Surrey.

Now she’s curled up in my lap as I type this.  Just a baby, Phoenix has a terribly infected wound all over and around her muzzle and under her chin.  The vets believe that it may be the result of something tied around her face, like rope or twine.

The Food Lady is saddened by humanity … or the lack thereof.

Phoenix is sad because her face freakin’ hurts :(

The poor wee dear.  She was also absolutely covered in hot-pan-hoppin’ fleas, and is suffering from what seems to be a bad case of malnutrition, as her bones are crooked and malformed.  This baby had a long uphill battle in front of her.

She sleeps nearly all the time, except when she gets the 2AM zoomies, like she did this morning.  Mostly, all she wants to do is snuzzle in my lap, periodically chew on my fingers, and leave crusty, pus-y chunks of shedding flesh on my shirt.  The infection has spread to one of her eyes, and she is most definitely having the crappiest week of just about anyone’s life.

Sometimes she wakes up screeching, and I’m forced to wonder if she’s dreaming of all the wrongs done to her in her oh so short little life, and if the small comfort of my arms helps chase away those demons at all.

Every day as I’m driving to work, I wonder what shitty offense some human is going to perpetrate that day.  Is some angry little man in a wifebeater going to throw money in my face when I tell him what the impound fee for his aggressive, roaming dog totals?  Is somebody going to leave yet another animal tied to or boxed up in front of the gate before opening hours?  Am I going to get verbally abused over the phone by someone who didn’t get the dog they applied for because they wanted to leave it in the backyard with nothing but a shed for a “home?”  Am I going to witness matted senior dog after emaciated cat after litter of orphaned semi-feral kittens get carried through the intake door with no end in sight?

It’s tough sometimes, to remember that we do this thankless job because we’re trying to make a difference, when nothing we do seems to actually make a difference.  Every day is another new set of frightened, hairy little faces hiding in the corner of their kennel, with a pretty small chance of their owner coming to collect them.  Less than 1% of our cats are claimed every month.  How sad is that?  They become your responsibility – an immense, encompassing, crushing responsibility.

So you’re getting beaten up emotionally by the sad animals all around you, and you can’t turn away, because even when you try, you walk straight into the humans who want to tear a strip off you for doing your job.  They don’t see what we see every day – and I get that.  But it doesn’t mean it’s easy to take.

The next time you think of your local animal control, don’t think of the fees you have to pay, or the dog you didn’t get to adopt, or the animal control officer who made you put your dog on a leash.  Think of the animals that find their way there, and the love and effort and care the staff put into making their stay as pleasant as it can be.  Because for many of us, this isn’t just a job.  Some of us take our work home with us.

Please don’t contact the shelter about Phoenix – she is nowhere near ready to start looking for a home.  However, Phoenix has lots of friends at the shelter who are looking for a home.  If you have room for a dog or a cat in your home, in your heart and in your life, adopt a spayed or neutered friend from your local shelter and make Phoenix’s struggles worthwhile.

To see more of Phoenix’s story, watch her explore her new life on the CBC evening news (your new claim to fame: “I see the Food Lady’s arm in that clip!”) or on the BCTV website or see more photos of her (I took those too!) on the Global Noon News.

It’s too hot to play ball.  My life is HARD.

(Tweed has first-world-dog problems)


  1. Just wanted to tell you that I was ready to put my name on a waiting list for my dream performance puppy when I decided to peruse the dogs at the local shelter where I sometimes volunteer. The scared, bug-eyed little pup in the photo wouldn’t leave my mind, and though I *was* looking for a second dog, I wasn’t looking right now. Until Chevy found us. And let me tell you, though the shelter I got her from doesn’t sound nearly as considerate and as nice as yours (we can’t tell someone they can’t adopt a dog unless they have existing animal cruelty charges, even if they tell us the dog will live in the yard) — I wouldn’t trade this puppy for the world! I hope that in the future, I can always keep at least one rescued or adopted dog, because without them, I don’t know what my life would be like except maybe a bit more sad and a bit more lonely.

    This is the little girl 5 days after leaving the shelter, in her new Daddy’s arms: http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/s720x720/539094_549834506548_222718403_n.jpg

  2. kt, Mitzi, Pickles, and Sage says:

    Food Lady, please give little Phoenix (perfect name, by the way) extra snuggles and tasty foods. This case (and all abuse cases, for that matter) makes me cry. You are an amazingly strong person for doing such wonderful work. The four-legged monsters here (just rescued another one!) send their love, and we’re all rooting for Phoenix to have the life she deserves.

  3. All I can say is thank you.
    Thank you for telling Phoenix’s story.
    Thank you for putting up with all the bullshit from people who just don’t get it or who are too ignorant or self involved to even want to.
    Thank you for doing what so many people are too busy or lazy or unfeeling or complacent to do.
    Thank you for using your gifts – your photography and your words – to ensure that the story of these shelter animals will be known and shared.
    Thank you for spreading the word about why rescue is so important.
    Thank you.

  4. Well I’ll be rooting for her. Such a little trooper, all investigating and tail wagging.
    So amazing that dogs can still love us after all that is done to them.

    Thank you so much for sticking it out each day. Not just anybody can do that, and I think I can speak for most of your readers, if not all, that we appreciate the work you do.

  5. I am so sorry for Pheonix, and for what it’s worth, there is someone half a world away who is wishing her all the best with her new start to life.

    As to your shelter work not making a difference. It makes a BIG difference. Spring and Dex and the WooTwoo have a life of every dog’s dreams, and that is because of YOU. And after being an avid follower of your blog for a few years now, I am happy to say that I actively discouraged someone from lending her male dog out to as a stud because someone wanted “a little dog” from her unfixed female, and I instead reminded them that there are many little dogs in shelters just waiting for the opportunity to be loved.

    My youngest cat is a resuce, and every day I am amazed at the delight she gets out of her life, thanks to the efforts of the people at her shelter.

    I hope things brighten up for Pheonix quickly, and I can’t think of a better place for that to happen than in the arms of The Food Lady

  6. Thank you for articulating this so well. I hate people sometimes for what they do to animals. I had been suffering from some massive burnout and had to take a vacation. But you remind me that other people care too and that all humans don’t suck.

  7. Just wanted to say thank you for all you do for those poor lost animals. I live in California and volunteer with a Border Collie rescue. I know a little bit about your world as I have spent a little time at various shelters bailing dogs to bring into our rescue program. I have been known to bail dogs that aren’t remotely Border Collie just because I happened to be picking up a BC or 2 and I would find out that a non-BC was goining to be euthanized that day so I would bail them too. I don’t know how you do what you do EVERY day, I have trouble dealing with it occasionally. So again, THANK YOU!

  8. Way to make me cry, then laugh at the end. My dogs only have first-world-dog problems too!

    Remember for every one of those people who suck, there are probably 10 or 20 who would walk through hot coals to help an animal. Unfortunately not everyone has the balls to do what you are doing and take on the worst of it, everyday, first hand. Hang in there.

  9. It’s a hard task to find balance between keeping enough objectivity (so you can shrug off the asswarped losers and regular people who just don’t know better) and maintaining the compassion necessary to live with your own damned over-developed conscience, isn’t it? I’ve been at a shelter for almost 5 years and I watch as we all hover near burnout like moths around a flame. All I can say is to love in the money with little Phoenix as you have with all your dogs. Build up the memory bank of the good times until they outnumber the bad. Love. Be loved.

  10. Sigh… Moment. Live in the moment.

  11. Janice in GA says:

    Thank you for the work you do. Thank you for keeping on in the face of things like this.

    Much love to you, to your dogs, and all my best wishes that little Phoenix will heal up and have a chance at a decent life.

    Hang in there.

  12. THank Dog little Phoenix has you to take care of him. I just dont understand what is wrong with humanity and people who exist with such low regard for life. Has society always been this sick and uncaring and we just didnt know about it (for lack of internet) or have we just become so insensitive to pain and suffering and abuse? The stories of animal abusers just seem to be growing in number it seems. Bless you for all that you do and all that you share and show to us through your pictures and blog. Fingers crossed this doggie makes a full recovery to a happier life (but also that all the dogs and cats in shelter care could find loving homes)

  13. FL, thanks for taking care of Phoenix, and for the eloquent description of the animal control shelter worker. I get it. I worked as an ACT at the county shelter for two years before going back to school to become an RN. It is awful what people do to themselves by neglecting their own health, but nothing like dealing with what they do to animals.

    However, getting cussed at by people you are helping is the same…
    Take care of yourself.

  14. Thankfully there is another side to the human race. I don’t know if it balances out, but I hope for every depraved wretch, there are two good people. As bad as some people are, there exists the sublime. Your work is so difficult and so necessary. I place you on the hero side of the balance sheet. Thank you for taking Phoenix into your home.

  15. What you do sure as heck makes a difference to little Phoenix! (Trying to avoid repeating the “starfish story”…)

  16. You know what it actually looks like to me is when people put halters on growing foals and just leave them on, even when they grow out of them. The skin grows up around the halter and it becomes embedded and infected. From what I see in these pictures, it looks like she was tied that way for a LONG time, and it’s not rope burns but that the rope or twine was becoming embedded.

    Poor puppy. At least she found a community of wonderful people like you to care for her!

  17. Connie Sartain says:

    You do what you do because to not do it is unspeakable. You do it not because you can save all the pets in the world but because to those pets you touch, it means the world. Bless you.

  18. Thank you for doing what you do! I’m sorry so many people are selfish and can’t see further than their nose. Your work is selfless, brave and makes a huge difference. Keep on!
    And all the best to Phoenix <3

  19. I cannot fathom how people can inflict such cruelty to helpless innocent living beings. It’s so heartbreaking. I don’t know how you do it, FL, but I admire you for doing what you do. THANK YOU.

  20. The pictures of Phoenix broke my heart. May she heal quickly under your tender care. I volunteered at a shelter for 7 years and know how true everything you said is. I’m crying as I write this for Phoenix and all the abused and neglected animals but I am also grateful there are people like you who do what you do. Please keep us posted about Phoenix – I can’t wait to see a healthy smiling face.

  21. It takes a very, very special person to do the work that you do, and I can only imagine the horror stories that you have seen. Though it may seem like you are bailing out a leaky boat with a thimble, you are definitely making a difference. By just being there for all those furry souls who you encounter, you are making a difference. They will remember your kindness and compassion. Thank you so much for your service, I will send out a prayer to the universe for you and them. Stay strong!

  22. Food Lady,

    You DO wonderful things. I just had AC out here today because the “grower” across the street doesn’t care enough to keep his pits contained/fixed/vaccinated/etc. I’m sure I’ll hear a load of it too…but I don’t care…loose dogs are a threat to themselves more than anything…and they deserve a shot at a good life.

    Because of people like yourself and the ladies who came out to my block today…animals DO have that chance. I don’t ever envy you guys the job…it’s probably one of the hardest jobs in the world in my opinion…seeing the innocence lost through the cruel hand of ignorant humans…but you give these babies a chance at actual life (or a way out of a hopeless situation, which…sad though it is, is far more humane).

    To you and ALL animal control/rescue folks…a hearty thank you from someone not strong enough to do it myself. We need you all!!!

  23. I just wanted to drop a note of support and to give you some evidence of the good work you are doing…just the other week at the Templeton field, I ran into a guy with his incredibly cute year old rottie who had adopted his dog from your shelter/pound (and indeed from you!). She was having so much fun running around with the other two puppies (a papillon and another bigger dog) and they were all getting along just great. (Rosie, of course, just ignored all the crazy puppies.) A really successful adoption!

    Much harder work with little Phoenix, but you do good work!

  24. It is so sad that anyone can let an animal get in this condition let alone cause it. I am so thankful that the majority of people would never do this and help an animal like this when needed. Shelters are the one place where you see a much larger perportion of the inhumane side of humanity than anywhere else. You do see the good side in the adopters and that helps some.

  25. I couldn’t work at a shelter, no matter how well run. I’d try to take them all home…..and my groups not as tolerant as yours. Well wishes for Phoenix!

  26. Thank you Food Lady for bringing Phoenix into your pack. She has landed in the perfect foster home for her recovery. So many of us in BC and beyond have veiwed the news reports and truly are not able to understand how any human could treat one of God’s creatures this way.
    Thank you

  27. The day after I read this, I was reminded of a story that gives me a lot of hope for Phoenix.

    7 years ago a dog was brought to the rescue I volunteer with. His name was Bear, and he had been crated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a long time. He was let out for bathroom breaks only. Bear started to bark because he was unhappy in the crate, so the people who had him duct taped his mouth shut. They would rip off the duct tape when he needed to eat, and when he needed to go outside, then just tape it shut again when he was done. He had no fur left on his muzzle when he came to us. You would think a dog like that would be traumatized, but Bear remained an incredibly sweet dog who loved everyone and everything.

    Bear found a wonderful home, and was loved and spoiled for 7 years – I only knew him as a sweet, older gentleman, with a muzzle full of white hair. You never would have guessed his past when you met him, he did not let it stop him from enjoying life. He passed two days ago.

    Phoenix is safe now, and she is never going to experience something like that again. She is a lucky dog.

  28. Two years ago we got a dog whose poor little muzzle had been kept shut with one of those elastic pony tail holders. The skin grew up around it and it had to be surgically removed.

    I could tell you some other ugly stories too. But I think I have met more GOOD people than bad. You all hang in there. We rescue/shelter people have to buck each other up from time to time.

  29. I want to help Phoenix. Is there a way I can make a donation of some kind? Please let me know..

  30. Every day from now on for the little girl will be better than the last. This is a wonderful gift you’re giving her.

  31. Hi Food lady, I can’t begin to tell you what an amazing job you’re doing…I know it can be really tough but you’re the one doing it because you’re the one that can :) Poor little Phoenix must take great comfort from you. She looks to be in rough shape but I’m sure with TLC she’ll have a new lease on life. I’m loath to give medical advice without ever meeting the poor little creature and I’m not a know it all AT ALL! I swear! I’ve seen a few little gaffers come through the doors of my clinic looking very much like Phoenix but in varying degrees. Has Juvenile cellulitis been ruled out? I only mention because they need some steriods to feel better and vets including myself are kinda scared to put puppies on that straight away without seeing if antibiotics will do the job. I hope I havent overstepped! I mean no harm! I know she has the best care and hopefully a long very happy life yet to live!

  32. Poor Phoenix :(

    I just recommended TDBCR, and yourself, to Petcurean. They have some product to donate, and I thought that you could likely use it. Hopefully they’ll contact you shortly! Thank you for everything you do, through TDBCR and the shelter.

  33. i too worked at an animal control shelter fo 5.5 years and just when you thhink u have seen it all a poor creature comes in to top the list. There are many cruel people out there but i like to think there are more better than cruel, I have two rescue Border Collies, both starved to the point of almost death, one because he didn’t want to herd sheep, useless to the farm, so they didn’t feed him, he is the sweetest Border Collie i have ever owned, the other starved and beaten, and left outside in -40 weather despite the fact that he was going bald from a genetic anomally. Both dogs are happy and content and both still have love for all humans, we could learn a lot from these wonderfull creatures. Don’t ever think you don’t make a difference, you do!!!!! Especially to the one dog or creature in a horrible situation, without you they would never have a chance. Keep up the incredible good work you do both where you work and your BC rescue!!!!

  34. LIttle Phoenix is now going to have a real life with loving people and a fun home. Thanks to you and other rescuers and foster people like you.

    I have only had brief moments while in the local shelter, re-claiming a stray dog I had brought in so it could be saved by its owner (its owner never came so we re-directed it to be fostered and the foster person kept him), and saw how the staff had to deal, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, with stupid, cruel and ignorant people relinquishing their animals for *no good reason* and worse. Then, I visited a wildlife rehab centre this past weekend and re-claimed the injured squirrel we had scooped up in our backyard, away from certain death, to be released healthy and fit, back into the old oak tree next door weeks later. And 12 baby snapping turtles went two separate ways back to their home turf with like-minded animal rescuers. So, there are heroes out there battling on innocent animals’ behalf — you are in a heroic and wonderful club! Your efforts *do* make a difference!

  35. Sheena,
    You know me well… I am truly sorry you deal with this side of humanity. You know my story and I too have been there :(
    As Patricia said above: “Don’t ever think you don’t make a difference, you do!!!!! Especially to the one dog or creature in a horrible situation”
    You do make a difference!

  36. At 6 weeks old Phoenix is in her peak learning time…and what has she learned? That people hurt you . Yes , this baby has a long journey ahead of her. Thank heaven for the shelter and the food lady. Please give this baby a caress from me.thank you!

  37. Food Lady, Four of my five animals are rescues. From the shelter and my oldest, Sascha-kitty, from the streets where she was dumped as a tiny kitten.

    I looked into working at the local shelter at one point, and after seeing seeing the work requirements of euthanizing animals, decided I couldn’t do it. Yet the work has to be done. And a staff who actually cares means the animals coming thru are treated with humanity. I can’t imagine how horrile it would e for them otherwise.

    So hugs to you and best wishes to Phoenix and all the critters in your shelter!

  38. Martha Sundquist says:

    But you are making a difference for little Phoenix and the others you have made an impact on.
    You made a difference for Dexter, for the little terrier mix girl you kept, and I don’t know who if anyone else is a rescue dog at your place….. but you have made a big, huge difference in their lives.,
    1 dog at a time, 1 cat at a time…. you can’t save them all, you can’t save the world, but you can make the difference in 1 heart at a time. It made all the difference for Phoenix.

  39. Northern Chique says:

    I worked as an intestive care paramedic for 15 years, only stopping as I sustained massive injuries in a non-work related accident. I thought I saw just about every cruelty man could inflict on another life through fear, ignorance, idiocy and pschyosis. To survive mentally, I had to keep in mind, that thankless occupations are many; the cruelties, infinite; yet as one one person gives you a hug, or a look that says, “I know you understand, thankyou”, all those bad hours, days and weeks, melt away. We occasionally smuggled a cruelty case in our truck along with the battered partner and kids… When they all look at you and nothing is said, there is an overwhelming sense of relief that they hadnt felt in a very long time. I occasionally hear back from a couple of extreme battery cases, and theyre doing ok…That is only because brave people care enough to be heros… step in when all instincts say, this is madness… Hang in there people, pooches, ponies, pusses, birds, and others… youve friends and heros all around the world, life time families waiting to love you and the people with the huge-est hearts are the rescuers and foster homes that you pass through… Even for those whose journey ends with euthanasia, it is because someone cares enough to make the pain stop.

  40. So sorry you’re having to deal with the underbelly of the beast that exists parallel to humanity. The fuzzies here are all rescues – found, fixed up, and cared for until I could wander into their spheres and bring them home. Thank you for what you do for all the animals who need someone to step up and give a shit and do something about it.

  41. Thank you for the work that you do. Our organization was started back in 2011 and was inspired by the adoption of a totally deaf 3yo Aussie from a rural NC shelter back in March 2010. I have a long history in Aussie rescue here in the Carolinas and so have been in and out of my fair share of rural animal shelters. I don’t think I have yet to be in one where I didn’t see kind-hearted people doing their best to give animals as much time as possible, even if it meant that they had to purchase food and other “extras” because the budget didn’t allow for extra time. When I finished the 3hr one-way journey up to the AC, I learned for the first time that they thought McGrady (my Aussie) was deaf (he is and it hadn’t been listed by the volunteer who did their PF listings). I was blown away that, despite suspecting his deafness, they had given him 35 days of life vs euthing him after the mandatory 7-day stray hold. I thought that the shelter must have some awesome donors, volunteers and rescue connections. Fast forward a year later when I found out that the company that had been donating food for years suddenly stopped, leaving a huge hole in the budget, and so the ACOs were buying food as best they could to fill the gap in the budget. It was then that I knew the “bigger reason” for McGrady surviving. Myself and several local people have teamed up to form Fabulous McGrady and Friends Foundation to help rural animal shelters in the Carolinas. We have managed to save 81 animals from McG’s shelter too date…not bad considering that I later learned that only 256 animals made it out alive from there in 2010 because nobody came to adopt. With the Lead ACO’s blessing, we handle all the social media, pet listings, rescue networking, planning/coordinating transports, etc. They were kind enough to open their doors to let us bring rescue connections there but we do not want to create any extra work for them as they are already hugely busy. I can never say enough good things about the rural animal shelters with whom I’ve been involved as they do care…there just aren’t enough adopters and rescues nor enough affordable spay/neuter programs out there.

    Thank you for the work that you do!

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