Canine Causes


I’ve been thinking about how, when it comes to our spare time, we all find different things to become involved with – different causes grab us for different reasons. Some people get into local, state, or national politics, due to strong feelings about abortion, or gay marriage, or the treatment of our soldiers. Some people volunteer with charitable groups after being affected by cancer, heart disease, diabetes, drug addiction.  Even us dog people find widely disparate causes to occupy our spare time and dollars. I have one good friend who volunteers annually for animal rescue organizations in Asia; another who devoted years to a breed rescue; and still another whose mission in life is to shut down or improve conditions in puppy mills.

I’ve found myself being strongly affected by the plight of unwanted animals in my community, and wracking my brain to find ways to improve the dog adoption rate at my local shelter; that’s my cause. Of course, there are also plenty of “cat people” volunteering at the shelter. But even among the people who volunteer at my shelter and who share an interest in dogs in particular — we all get “grabbed” by different individual animals and their stories. One person is trying to improve the reputation of pit bulls in society and concentrates on training the pits and pit-mixes.  Another person is drawn to the many Chihuahuas and Chihuahua-mixes, and has a knack for finding the unique traits that distinguish one tiny dog from the next.

This past week, I’ve been working closely with a friend, who, like me, has a soft spot in her heart for those “soft,” shy, or under-socialized Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, and cattle dog-mixes.  The county animal control officers recently brought in a little family of three cattle dogs: a friendly and pettable (and pregnant) mom, a 4-month-old blue pup who wagged his tail at people but was otherwise untouchable, and a 9-month-old pup who is a ringer for the mama dog, but terrified of being near humans. And different dogs in this group of three grabbed the hearts of my friend and me. She was strongly attracted to the blue puppy from the start, and after spending hours at the shelter getting him to accept a collar and handling and veterinary attention (vaccination, deworming, flea treatment), she took him home for a week or two to teach him the ways of life in a human habitation. I brought the mom dog to my house for the long weekend, so she could recover from her spay surgery in comfort. But I’m totally itching to literally get my hands on the worst-case pup, who, without a major behavioral intervention, would surely be slated for euthanasia. Why? Why bother with that hard luck case and not this other one? I don’t know – but it’s fascinating to me.

What’s your canine cause? How do you explain it?