by Jo Slade - Story: 93567
Jun 17, 2013 / 5:00 am
Jun 17, 2013 / 5:00 am
One day I get a call from an elderly lady about a little dog on the loose. We went - there was this tiny little Shihtzu, scared to death. We couldn't get near her. Don went one way, I went another way until we got her cornered. This little girl had teeth flashing in every direction, snarling, screaming. I managed to snag her with my leash (we rarely, rarely use the pole). She fought like a trouper. After a half a minute, I carefully led her over to a step, sat down and had a little conversation with her. About three minutes later, she crawled into my lap and pressed her little body up against me as tight as she could. “Oh my gosh!” the lady exclaimed, “you're the dog whisperer!”
The above is one of many heartbreaking, fascinating stories I learned from Rose Gingras, Penticton Poundkeeper. A slim attractive redhead, Rose has a ready smile and a cheerful willingness to talk about what it’s like to do her job. There’s an underlying toughness behind her smile, though. It’s a toughness much needed in this work she has been doing since 1990. You see the kindness there, and you can feel it, too, but you also sense her fierce determination. It’s a good mix, because that determination is directed at helping the animals in her care. And as you listen to her words, you realize that your perceptions about pounds and poundkeepers are all wrong, and that you’re meeting one of the truly good guys.
In a recent facebook press release, a local rescue, Critteraid Okanagan, stated: “Rose is the finest Animal Control Officer that we have had the pleasure to know.” Believe it, because Rose Gingras works tirelessly on the behalf of animals in her care. And now, let’s meet her, Penticton’s Dog Whisperer.
Rose, how did you get into this kind of work?
I have to say it was meant to be. The big guy upstairs decided he was going to spin my life upside down - or maybe that should be upside ‘up’.
Don and I were tired of living in -40 in northern Alberta. We moved to BC with a couple other families - one of which were friends with the then contractor of the Pound. We became friends, and eventually she contacted me when she wanted to subcontract the position. That was in 1990.
A lucky break for you, I’d say. So, what’s life like, being the poundkeeper?
For me, this job has been wonderful. It has taken a scared, shy little girl and turned me into a fairly outspoken, friendly, albeit opinionated woman. The downfall? I also, now, have a hell of a temper, that I have to work to keep in control daily.
I've learned to see a different side of people - and really - not the side everyone thinks. I see people who love their dogs more than their own lives. People that can't afford to put food on the table, who will collect cans to pay for something for their pet.
I see people who can afford anything they want, who won't pay for decent kibble for their dogs.
I see how life can get in the way of a happy existence. I've experienced people who have lost everything - literally everything - almost losing their pet, too.
I've seen people who will do and pay anything to keep a pet that they really, obviously do not want, or love, and I have puzzled over it.
I've become judgemental, and am learning that it is not an asset to my being. I am learning to be . . . well, different. It is a work in progress.
Well, after doing this for so many years, I think anybody would become a bit judgemental. Do you ever get burned out?
I'm not sure "burned out" is the right term but will say "yes". There has been a few times that it has really gotten to me. Typically when I've had to deal with a particularly stressful situation.
Are there situations where you end up hating people?
I hear it a lot from rescue people I work with, " I hate people". But I try not to let those words form in my mind, because once they do, they bounce around in there. I am pretty unhappy about a few things. Mostly involving certain owners and their pets. But I really try to be careful about the ‘hate’ word.
You see, it's like sitting on a cactus. The more you wiggle around, the deeper it gets you.
People generally know that you can adopt from the SPCA and rescues, but most are unaware that the pound is a good source for adopting a dog. Has this been a problem for you?
In many places, the SPCA is, or used to be, the ‘pound’, so many people believe they are one in the same. So, yes, often we are completely overlooked. I've had really nice dogs available for adoption for 2 - 3 months, then taken them to the SPCA and within two weeks, they've been adopted. It's infuriating, actually.
What is life like for those dogs, while they wait for homes?
At our pound - it's not the life of Riley, but it's not horrible, either.
What we do is this: A dog is impounded. We hold it for a period of at least 72 hours for the owner to claim. During this time period, we can usually tell if the dog is adoptable. After the 72 hours, if the dog is not horribly sick, and hasn't tried to bite us, or been aggressive with the other dogs, we book an appointment with one of the doctors at Lindsey Vet Hospital for an exam and vaccines.
During this holding period, there are other considerations, too, that will affect our decision on what we do with the dog. If we have a small breed dog that is not overly stressed in the kennel, *and* doesn't require a dental or other more extensive vet work, *and* we have room, we will place the dog for adoption here. If the dog is not spayed / neutered, we book that.
If it *is* stressed or requires something that I cannot afford to give it, I reach out to a group called ‘Small Dog Rescue’, and ask if they have space. They've been awesome and have helped me to save more than just a few lives.
Larger dogs go through the same considerations. Pitbull breeds are assessed and, if they pass, I surrender to HugABull Rescue and Advocacy Society or Bully Buddies.
Other pure breeds are potentially surrendered to breed rescue. I do this because I strongly feel the best potential homes are found by groups that are real experts on the breed's requirements for health, temperaments, grooming.
If I have a non-specific breed, a breed that is harder to get into rescue, *and* the dog needs a little extra (like a shy or fearful dog) I will discuss with the SPCA to see if they will take it on. I do this because the SPCA has never-ending volunteers, numerous staff, and endless visitors - this will help socialize the dog and potentially put an end to the dog’s shyness. Plus, they get to go for walks there. That is worth a lot to a dog waiting for a good home.
Back to the dogs I keep here to adopt out. We don't have much for them. Some dogs end up in my home, or Sheila (my employee) will open her home to it. For the most part, they stay in the kennel. Once they're vaccinated, they can have playtime with the other dogs. Obviously we can't put them all out together, so it depends on how many dogs we have, their size ranges, temperaments, who goes with who, and how long they get outside at a time. Rotation, rotation.
Sounds as though you have a good working relationship with the SPCA, and rescues?
I have a *working* relationship with our SPCA. It's reasonable. I've got issues with them, I'm sure they've got issues with me. For the most part, our local SPCA is awesome, right now. The staff is pretty good. Management cares, listens, and puts in a great effort in all aspects that I've been involved in, lately.
Remember, I've been here since 1990 - I've been through a lot of SPCA staff and volunteers.
As for rescues - I have a good relationship with the rescues I deal with. I won't work with just any rescue. There are too many, and many are fly-by-night. Many are too new to know, yet. Not all rescues have a good reputation.
The point of working with rescue is for the well-being of the dog. Not just saving its life. That's not what it's about. There is no point saving a dog’s life if his life is not going to improve from what it was. Some people might think that is a strange thing to say - but death is not always the worst possibility.
It might be strange to some, but I can see the truth of it. What do you think of the current popular shock-and-awe approach? Does it work?
Yes and no.
Some people are completely ignorant to the reality of the life of pets. A good example is the term "No Kill" There is no such thing, but a lot of people think that every single animal that goes through a "no kill" facility is kept alive. It's nothing for them to surrender a 12-year-old dog with health issues they've never provided vet care for, to a shelter thinking in their happy little minds that the shelter will spend whatever it takes, and provide whatever care it takes to keep that dog alive, then adopt it out into a perfect new home. They need to have their eyes opened to the reality of life.
On the other side, if you ‘shock’ some people, you cause them to shut down. What I mean by this is, sometimes when sharing the grizzly ugliness of shelter reality - for example, I have a photo saved from the Internet years ago, of 45-gallon drums filled to overflowing with euthanized dogs, puppies, and kittens - some people become so horrified with the idea of what may go on in a shelter, they actually avoid shelters, instead going to breeders, backyard breeders, accidental breeders. Instead of turning them away from supporting those people, we've shoved them right into their arms.
That must drive you nuts . . . come to think of it, what kind of people drive you the most nuts?
Your column isn't long enough for this question!
People yell at me that I've got a bad attitude. People yell at me because I'm smiling. People yell at me that I should smile.
People think I hate dogs. I've been called a dog killer.
Okay, here we are. What drives me really nuts (digging through a very long list in my memory): People who say to their children, "She hates dogs", or, “That nasty lady is making us leave the children’s park because she doesn't want the dog here".
Oh, I can go on. I had a wee kid yell at me, while I was driving down the street one day, "Dog killer!"
Or, kids who get bitten by a dog, then lying about it because they don't want me to "kill the dog". People really damage their children when they pull that crap.
Speaking of things that drive you nuts, some rescues are bringing in dogs from out-of-country. What do you think of this practice?
Ugh. Now this is a sore subject - and a very, very sensitive one. I hear all the arguments, but my argument is simple: Find a home for our local dogs first. Don't force us to become ‘High Kill Shelters’ because everyone is so busy saving the dogs from Mexico, California, etc.. Don't, don't, don't bring dogs from another country unless you know, for a fact, that there is a place for them. Again - what I said earlier - sometimes death is not the worst thing.
Then there’s the matter of pet stores. There seems to be far fewer pet stores selling puppy mill animals, but I doubt such profit-making businesses will simply fold up and fade away. What will be their next move, do you think?
Oh - that's easy. FACEBOOK.
First, many people think puppy mills = dogs stacked in cages, covered in feces, missing eyes, legs, maggot ridden. But the reality of it is, not all puppy mills look like those ones. Those are the ones that hit the news. The fact is, any place who breeds repeatedly, for an income, can be a puppy mill. (Don't misunderstand - I'm not saying *every* place).
I hope that changes for the better. Tell us a bit about the rescues you deal with.
I met Deborah Silk of Critteraid (well - met by telephone for the most part) in about 1992 when Critteraid stepped up to help a dog owner place their dog in a new home. It was a file I was working on, long story short, we all worked in agreement to help save the dog. Over the years, Critteraid sponsored a few of my pound dogs, really sweet dogs that I would have had no choice but to euthanize because of health reasons.
In 1994, when we had our forest fire here, Critteraid was there helping animals in need, saving some burned animals. In May 2003, I trained (through Critteraid) for working in disasters for animal rescue. Then, when all hell broke loose with the fires that year, I was out there with them for close to a month - first in 100 Mile, then Kamloops, then Kelowna. Whew! After that, Critteraid started CDART (Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team) and though I haven't gone into it as deep as the 2003 experience, both Don and I are still volunteers.
Getting back to the dog part, Critteraid sponsored so many dogs that eventually I became very involved with the group. I was a director for awhile, but stepped down after someone was screaming ‘conflict’ because I surrendered her unclaimed dog to Critteraid and she was trying to force us all into giving her dog back.
In about 2008, the lady in charge of the dog adoptions at Critteraid moved away. I stepped into her spot - although I did not want to take on the extra work - because of the dogs.
The group that really raised my awareness for breed rescue was Okanagan Collie Rescue - they rescued three lovely collie dogs from me. Doreen Steeves was the local lady that I worked with. She also taught an obedience class under Skaha Kennel Club.
I thought the idea of a kennel club was wonderful, I thought it would be a great asset to my job, a great place to learn about specific breeds that I had little knowledge of, and a good place to make friends. However, they wouldn't let me join. I was . . . well . . . crushed. But Doreen helped me to understand that many perceived me to be a threat to them, to their dogs, etc. (really - they didn't want me to know they had unlicensed dogs and were breeding (therefore had too many dogs) or fostering (therefore had too many dogs), and mostly just didn't want the pound in their lives.
They missed a good thing, Rose. At any rate, I would like to thank you, not only for this interview but also for all you do, and have done, for so many years. A final question for you: What makes Rose Gingras smile?
You know - 25 years ago, nobody would have convinced me that I would ever have any type of ‘different’ job - a contractor for something that had potential to either make a difference, or follow the leader. Me - the person that would shrink like plastic on a hot-plate if a stranger spoke to me - put into a position speaking to not only strangers every day - but on many occasions, very emotional strangers. A simple conversation can make your day, turn your day into a bit of a nightmare, or just be another moment in time.
In '92, I had my first really scary dog owner, shaking his fist in my face and truly making me feel like I was in real danger. Even so, I've been able to get up every morning, facing the challenges of the day. Along the road, jumping into the Christian faith with both feet has given me a different way to focus on human-kind (refer way back to me *not* hating people), and really helped to remove a lot of negativity from my thoughts, this opened my mind into a completely different frame of mind.
I love life, Jo. I love my life.
Don't get me wrong, I whine and complain about my aches and pains. I belly-ache about this idiot or that jerk. I get especially riled up over some wrong-doing against somebody. I get so much joy from my own dogs, all rescues. I feel so good when I can take a poor pound puppy and place it into a new family that will give him or her a whole new life. A happy life with somebody they can love and bond with. And the joy the dog brings to the people.
I don't know - I just can't imagine a more rewarding life.
Last week, we were at a Critteraid function when we got an emergency call about a scared little dog in a yard. We went and there we found this wee little Dachshund, crammed as tight as he could get his little body into the corner of this guy's fence. He had a 6 inch tree in front of him, along with some vine type branches - making it really difficult to get a leash on him. Don went to get the pole while I explained to the little guy how much I hate using the pole. With a stick, and my leash, I avoided his lunges until I managed to get his head through that leash. Again - screaming, snarling, biting . . . we started to work our way toward the gate with this little 8 lb fighter screaming. I told Don - "Wait. I don't want to do this," and gently as I could, I pulled the little guy over to the fellow's deck and patio furniture. I sat on the chair, talking. Then I sat down on the deck next to the little Daxie - the next thing I knew, he pressed his little body up against my leg. I reached under him, picking him up and carrying him out.
You know - there aren’t many things I find more rewarding than that.
My smiles come from my faith, my love for my husband, the miracles I've seen in this job, and some of the fondest, amazing memories of the experiences I've been blessed with.
That makes it all worthwhile.
If you’re looking to adopt a dog, consider the pound. You can reach Rose Gingras at email@example.com
by Jo Slade - Story: 92072
May 20, 2013 / 5:00 am
May 20, 2013 / 5:00 am
My daughter, Heather, likes to torment me by sprinkling the following two terms throughout email messages:
When I reply to the emails, I carefully put a space between ‘for’ and ‘sure’ and ‘never’ and ‘mind’. This does not help, because she does this to be cruel, she does it to get me. And she does a pretty good job of it, too. It has backfired, though, because she occasionally forgets, and uses the terms non-ironically, which is highly embarrassing for her. And that’s good, it will teach her a damn good lesson for trying to be smart with her mother.
Unfortunately, being smart with each other runs in my family. Apparently, back in another lifetime or so, my uncle, while an engineer student, loved to mispronounce words for the sole pleasure of driving my grandmother, a stickler about such things, around-the-bend crazy. He succeeded, but he played the game too often, and one day mispronounced a word while in the company of his peers, who then jeered at him. Good. Payback = a mother.
That was my mother’s side. My father wasn’t as bad about messing with words, but he was no saint. When I was a teenager, he informed me that real Hawaiian people pronounce their state ‘Havaki’, not ‘Hawaii’. He was so serious about this that I believed him, and went forth to inform everybody else of this enlightening bit of information. To say they were incredulous of my news is an understatement. All I can say is, thank god we didn’t actually go to Hawaii. Or Havaki.
When Heather was little, at that endearingly impressionable age when a child believes everything their mother tells them (read: is a sap), I went on mispronouncement-sprees. Heather was too wise by then to believe me when I told her chocolate milk came from brown cows but she sure wasn’t savvy enough to realize that ‘pedesTEERian’ is not actually how you pronounce the word ‘pedestrian’. I was doing her a favour, letting her learn the hard-knocks way that a) kids can be cruel when you mispronounce words, so you should be careful not to do it, and b) parents can be real bastards. She got the lesson, alright. I can tell, because all these years later she is still mercilessly playing payback with the ‘neverminds’ and ‘forsures’.
Word-smartaleckiness can be achieved in so many ways. Mispronunciation of words, deliberate misspellings, creation of brand new words, like ‘smartaleckiness’ or ‘naggification’, it’s all good. Or bad, depending on whether you get caught doing it in the wrong place, wrong time.
“Hello 9-1-1? We have an EEmerGENcy here. You need to come, quick, like a bunNEE.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, did you say, ‘EEmerGENcy’? Could you repeat that, please?”
“It’s an EEmerGENcy . . . umm, you know, like a CATastroPHEE. We need an amBULEance. A pedesTEERian has been manGELLED by an auTOEMObile. It is kind of ridiCULEous that you haven’t already sent an ENtir squaDRON of EEmerGENcy vehiCULiar DEEVices by now.”
“HEY, now hold on there, are you makin’ fun of me?”
“Oh no way, honey . . . ain’t nobody got time for dat.”
by Jo Slade - Story: 91307
May 6, 2013 / 5:00 am
May 6, 2013 / 5:00 am
The group description reads: “A low place where seedy people can hang out with their minds untucked.” And I have to say, I’m the one who created the group.
While I jest about the members not being decent, they are, in fact, just regular people, and reasonably decent (except maybe for the one who gets snow year-round, what kind of person lives in a place where it snows all year?). But why would decent people - even just reasonably decent people - want to hang out in a place where rude and state-of-the-art inappropriate comments are allowed? Worse, where such comments are pretty much required, by an unwritten minds-untucked rule?
Who knows. I just go there for the laughs, some easy . . . some uneasy.
The group was initially formed to allow myself and a handful of friends the freedom to post political/religious comments/cartoons/etc. among like-minded people. It has long since morphed to be many other - and much seedier - things, with one common factor in everything posted: It’s all bad. Really bad. Bad language, bad cartoons, bad-bad. Good people, bad minds. And it only works as well as it does because everybody in there has agreed not to be offended, or at least not to announce to the group that they are offended. I’ve had to bite my tongue (or rather, bite my typing finger) so often that there’s little left to bite. I’ve had to run away screaming like a little girl, I’ve wanted to pour bleach into my eyes to take away the images I’ve seen. On the other hand, I can stand on my own two feet in there. I give as good as I get.
Now, some people post this kind of stuff on their walls, but that’s not a good fit for me. It isn’t about being ashamed, it’s about respecting the feelings of my Facebook friends who would be mortified by such things. So, the way I have it set up, I have a nice civilized wall for when I’m very very good, and a godforsaken little group-from-hell for when I’m very very bad. It’s like having a little pocket devil, there for the asking whenever life gets too serious, too prim, too anything.
Still, the question remains, who would want such a place? The Internet is crawling with inappropriate stuff, one hardly needs to concentrate it into one small but toxic area. I think the answer is, in part, that most people do have reasonably bad minds, they just keep them tucked away under a socially-accepted veneer of civility and good manners. So, the easy answer is, it’s nice to have a place where things are looser, less restrictive, less politically correct. It’s the easy answer mainly because it’s not really the right answer, or at least not the entire answer.
Maybe being in a group lends validity to enjoying such things? Maybe, but I’ve never much worried about validating through others the sometimes dubious things I choose to do. Is my world made uglier for having this outlet, or is it a release for what is natural? The things I generally believe to be true suggest that yes, it kind of does make my world uglier, a place like that can only bring your better self down. Yet everything I feel when laughing myself silly in there says otherwise. It’s good to laugh. In this crazy world turned upside down and beset by troubles that seem only to go from bad to worse, it just feels good to laugh whatever way you can.
Am I uncomfortable with having - and enjoying - a private group of overwhelming rowdy badness and blatant inappropriateness? At times, yes. Would I change it? Not for the world.
by Jo Slade - Story: 90616
Apr 22, 2013 / 5:00 am
Apr 22, 2013 / 5:00 am
It’s sad but it’s true: I sometimes swear like a trooper, or maybe it’s more like a sailor. In fact, I could make a sailor blush with the colourful words I use, and sometimes do make a sailor blush (Jim being an ex-sailor). And worse, I enjoy the hell out of it. Saying swear words aloud is relatively rare for me, I prefer to type them (and I do, often and with glee), but I always appreciate an occasional well-turned creative volley of foul language from my own pristine lips as well as from the lips and minds of others.
Still, I believed my mother for many years, feeling guilty when inappropriate words fell violently out of my mouth, more or less against my will. Thing is, when you’ve just stubbed your toe (**** my life), or the wrong person just got elected (**** NO!) or the right person just got elected (**** YEAH!), or the store is out of your favourite craft beer (**** me dead), well, you just don’t have time to come up with a better choice of words, especially when the bad ones are right there on the tip of your tongue. Why on earth would you want to swallow them for something decidedly less satisfying?
Cuisinically (there’s a word for you) speaking, if a regular sentence is like a cupcake, adding swear words is like adding a whack of delicious icing. Musically speaking, if a regular sentence is adagio, any swear words added will crank ‘er it up to energico levels. Revvingly speaking, if a regular sentence is a plain old Lada, a swear word can make it roar like a Harley-Davidson. And seriously speaking, if a regular sentence is as tender as a moonlit night full of stars while canoodling with your sweetie, a well-placed swear word can help by adding zombies.
Swear words are almost never used in the literal sense, of course. If someone says, “**** you”, my recommendation is, you should keep your pants on. Or if they suggest that you “eat ****” don’t do it, you’re not going to like it. If you do, you may get so upset that you respond with your own “**** you” at which point it becomes an endless loop of blue air until you both throw up your hands in despair and exhaustion. Hopefully with pants still in place and nothing untoward eaten.
Aside from interjections during stressful times, swear words often find their way into garden variety conversations. I don’t recommend this, it’s not as easy as it looks, and is a skill best left to the expert. “Hey, **** me dead, how the **** are ya, ya ****ing **** **** ************? My sweet ****, **** me blind, I’m ****ing goin’ down for a **** beer, wanna **** join me, ya **** ****?” You have to have moxie to pull off something like that, but if you really want to get into it, start slowly with something mild, like “Damn. Got beer?”
A surprising number of swear words contain just four letters, no one knows why. This has resulted in the term ‘four-letter words’ to refer to curse words. Yet ‘bloody’, mild now but once considered a swear word, has more than four letters, as do many other inappropriate words. When I was about seven, I used the word ‘bloody’ in what seemed at the time to be a terribly naughty joke. I remember it to this day. Hell, I tell it to this day. It was, in fact, my first of many thousands of terribly inappropriate jokes enjoyed over the years. And like virginity, you never forget your first.
Jean, Jean, made a machine,
Joe, Joe, made it go.
Art, Art, made a fart,
And blew the bloody thing apart.
It doesn't seem very inappropriate now, but at the time it sure was, excitingly so.
There are few hard and fast truths about swearing, but one is that somebody somewhere is in the process of being offended by the use of them. Some are only offended by **** but not by ****. For some, it’s the other way around. Religions swear (oh!) that swear words are an insult to their god(s) but I’m not sure why, there’s just no reason to think that a supreme being is sitting around with a Divine Dictionary Of Bad Words ready to send you to hell if you use any of them. “Hold on, someone just said “****” instead of “intercourse”, kill him and toss him into the fire.
Some nations are blessed with citizens who revel in creative cursing. The Irish practically invented the bad word, and they use it with such joi d’ vivre that it is almost music to the ears. The Scots are good at it, too, och aye. Other countries, not so much.
Some people don’t like women to swear, presumably because it is ‘unladylike’. There are several swear words I can think of in response to that. Mind you, I don’t swear in front of people who are going to be terribly bothered by it (oldies, prudies, fogeys, deeply religious people, kids, dogs) (yes, my dog hated it if I used the ‘f’ word, it was weird). In a strange way, I think it is an assault of sorts (albeit minor) on another person’s sensibilities to deliberately use words that will upset them. It’s too bad, because swear words should not have that much power.
There’s one all-time vilified swear word used to insult women. In my job as admin of the Castanet forums, I get called this word a lot in email. If a month goes by that I don’t get called it, I start to look down to see if the damn thing’s still there. The word is usually followed by a stream of the best they can dish out, which, if they only knew, is tame by what I can produce on a stubbed-toe day. At any rate, it’s just a word that describes a body part, nothing more, nothing less. And besides, people sometimes forget to consider the source when choosing to be offended.
So, why are some people offended by ‘bad’ language? Why does it bother certain people to hear women swear but not men? Why should kids not swear? Why are swear words a religious no-no? And in closing, the mother of all questions, will the Westboro Baptist Church picket me and wish death upon me after reading this column? And what words should I use to respond, if they do?
Read more Old as dirt. Twice as gritty. articles
The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.
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