Puppy Breath

The perfect antidote for a tough day
By Shirley Zindler, November 2011

Warm sunshine bathes my skin, soft fur tickles my cheek and the rich, intoxicating scent of puppy breath fills my nostrils. There must be no greater bliss than lying outside on a blanket full of sweet, wiggly puppies. I close my eyes as they lick my face and gnaw my fingers. It’s been a rough week and I feel the stress ebbing away as I cuddle the warm bodies.

As an animal control officer, I witness things no animal lover should ever see. On a daily basis, I see abuse, neglect, cruelty, hostility and apathy. I face armed gang members and unstable people who insist on the right to treat their animals any way they like. Sometimes I wonder how I keep doing this day after day. It can take such a toll on the spirit. As I ponder this, my attention is drawn back to the puppies.

They are a variety of mixed breeds and one purebred Boston Terrier and they tumble over each other in delight. All have come from difficult beginnings but are now thriving in foster care in our home. They will be well-socialized, vaccinated, wormed, microchipped and spayed before adoption, and I will choose their new homes myself.

The Boston’s mama belonged to a woman who was planning to make money breeding dogs. She bred her female and waited eagerly for puppies and big wads of cash. Knowing next to nothing about dogs, she was unaware that a large percentage of Bostons require cesareans to safely give birth. The unfortunate dog fussed around in distress for days, unable to push her fat-headed babies through her narrow pelvis. The woman, unable to afford a vet, finally surrendered the mother dog to a rescue agency, which rushed her to a nearby clinic for emergency surgery. Due to the long delay, all but one of the pups died and I was contacted to foster the mom and her surviving baby.

I like to think I make a difference in the lives of the animals and people I encounter. I can get a lot of mileage out of one good call. What keeps me going are the successful rescues, reuniting a lost dog with the owner, finding a great home for a dog or getting an animal out of a bad situation. 

One of the pups scrambles over the top of my head and grabs a mouthful of my hair. I quickly untangle him and hug him to my chest. Sometimes it seems that I’m fighting a losing battle to improve the lives of animals but right at this moment, I know I make a difference to these guys. 


Shirley Zindler is an animal control officer in Northern California, and has personally fostered and rehomed more than 300 dogs. She has competed in obedience, agility, conformation and lure coursing, and has done pet therapy. Zindler just wrote a book The Secret Lives of Dog Catchers, about her experiences and contributes to Bark’s blog on a regular basis.

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