Above: “I’m Crackle… the last rice crispy left because all my brother found great homes. I love to play and run but prefer to chillax the rest of the time. I am still young and still ready to learn good manners. But I haven’t lost my puppy appeal just yet.”
Malta’s branch of the SPCA – MSPCA for short – prides itself in being “Malta’s most successful match-making service”. This catchy tagline belies a complex process by which prospective pets are ‘matched’ to their owners after being put up for adoption at the MSPCA’s headquarters in Floriana.
Visiting the shelter with photographer Joanna Demarco in tow, we decided to give the dedicated staff and volunteers at the MSPCA a helping hand.
Meet some of the dogs ready to be homed from the SPCA shelter… in their own words.
“Yeah, okay I get it. I’m a bit of a hard sell. Being one of the old-timers at the shelter — that’s a whopping 14 years old, if you’re counting — doesn’t do me any favours with prospective adopters, I know. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my walks… and truth be told, when you’re at my age, being fussed over by friends isn’t all that bad either.”
“I just love the shelter! In fact, even though I was adopted once I still made my way back here all by myself. Since then I’ve been given a lot of nicknames, like ‘escape artist’ and ‘Prison Break Odie’. And in fact, one of our volunteers has even said that I ‘bark like a mafioso’! So I guess you could say that I’ve got ‘character’. But above all I’m known to be friendly, even with the other dogs.”
“I’m not really all that fond of staying in the cage for so long, because I get bored really easily and start jumping really high to pass the time. Sometimes I jump so high that even the cats from the other window can see me! I’m not sure how to read their expression though. I like to get a rise out of them and could chase them into the sunset. I don’t like cats…”
“The reason why I’m so skinny is because I suffer from diabetes… along with a whole bunch of other ailments. In fact, I have to take quite a lot of medicine every day. That hasn’t stopped me from being one of the chirpiest dogs at the shelter, and I get quite excited when I’m let out to play with my friends! But I have another specialty reserved just for humans: I just love putting my foot on theirs!”
“When I first wandered into the shelter around a month ago, I had a bruise on my head and another one over my leg. People around me keep mentioning this, as if it’s something I should remember. But all I really care about right now is playing! People also say I’m the happiest dog of the bunch around here, and I guess that makes me happy too.”
“I’ve recently been returned to the shelter after my owners decided that they don’t want me after all. I can’t imagine why… because I’m one of the friendliest dogs around here — ask anyone, even the older dogs!”
UPDATE: It warms our heart to learn that Blackie was adopted just hours after our visit to the MSPCA!
BONUS: Lilly (Adopted)
Just like Blackie, the beautiful Lilly was also on her way out of the shelter. In fact, her prospective owner was there to spend some time with her. As it happens, this is a basic requirement for adoption by the MSPCA. As the shelter’s Re-Homing and Education Manager Chris Pace tells us, “We want to make sure that both the owner and the dog are comfortable with each other, and that the dog is going to the right home. And I impose a one-hour minimum for each meeting: I don’t want it to be a ‘hi, bye!’ sort of thing.”
In fact, after we did the rounds of the dogs up for adoption, we sat down for a chat with Chris about…
How not to piss off the MSPCA manager
It appears that despite all the effort put in by SPCA to ensure that the animals in their care are matched up to the most willing and appropriate owners, the sad fact remains that quite a few animals end up being returned to the home – sometimes even weeks after adoption.
This is clearly an exasperating fact for the SPCA’s manager, the conscientious – and clearly overworked – Chris Pace, who told us in no uncertain terms just why this pisses him off… and how it can be prevented.
“Basically, more than education or any kind of ‘cultural’ hang-up… I think it’s more about the simple fact that some people have skewed expectations about what having a particular kind of pet entails,” he tells us while stealing a few stray sips of coffee in his cramped office.
“The sad fact remains that quite a few animals end up being returned to the home – sometimes even weeks after adoption.”
“So for example, if I tell people that the dog they want to adopt needs to be walked roughly two times a day… sometimes they’ll just look at me live I’ve got two heads. Because it’s hard for some people to adjust to a different idea of having a pet to the one they’re used to.”
This is all the more true when it’s the people’s own lifestyle that’s changed, and they want to find a pet that fits into their new way of doing things. An amusing and relatable anecdote brings it home.
“There’s the people who, for some reason or another, can’t keep dogs anymore. So they choose to adopt a cat – thinking they’ll be easier to maintain because they’re more independent and what have you.”
But as Chris rightly points out — and this is something many cat owners can relate to — “with independence comes indifference,” so you can’t really complain if a cat refuses to snuggle up to you.
“That’s just not in their nature… much in the same way certain dogs behave differently to others. And not accepting that amounts to a lack of respect for what the animal really is, at the end of the day.”
This article was amended to remove an entry pertaining to the dog ‘Mira’, who wasn’t in fact among the dogs up for adoption at the shelter. The error is regretted.