I have been a volunteer at Winnipeg Animal Services (W.A.S.) since 2010. I love it there. I love the people, the staff… but mostly the dogs.
The majority of the WAS dogs enter through the back door as strays… alone, often unwanted. If no owner comes forward after 5 – 10 days, the dogs are vet checked and many then enter the adoption program. It is on their vet check day that we first meet.
Being in a noisy, kenneled environment is a strange and scary time for these dogs. They have no idea of who I am or what I want. Each dogs reaction is individual. As I open their kennel door to enter, the majority are simply happy to have contact and come easily towards me, with happy grins and wagging tails. For those that are unsure… we go slow and take our time.
After an introduction (differing on the circumstances) I slip on the lead and we walk to the outside enclosure. This is often the first time the dog has seen the outdoors in over a week.
I never tire of the transition that then takes place. Yes, I know it may not happen every time… but I would say that with 98% of the dogs it does. The slinking, head down gait makes way for a bouncier step as a busy nose continues with the diligent investigation of new smells. Slowly the ears relax and fall forward. On a really good day, a toy is spotted and poof! … the fearful stray dog completely disappears, replaced with one happy toy tossing goofball. This is the magic moment.
And this is when I turn the camera to “on”, crouch low to equal height and start clicking… doing my best to capture the real dog before me. Not the scared shelter dog but the dog who, through little fault of his own, now finds himself in need of a second chance.
I learn from these dogs each and every day… and it simply never grows old.