A Taste of Perfection by Laura Langston, 2002
Erin was ecstatic about her chance to volunteer at the SPCA over the summer, only to learn that her father had been laid off and she was to spend the summer at her grandmother's kennel, with black and yellow Labrador Retrievers. On the positive side, at least she gets to see her friend Cassie, who is about everything horses, and her sister Treena, who help her embark on a major makeover for seventh grade. Like any teenager, Erin is very self-conscious, in particular about the warts on her hand, the hair on her legs, and her height. Luckily, Erin's grandmother is very understanding and convinces her mother to let her shave so that she can wear a skirt in the show ring with Mr. Lavender Blue, the black Lab that she is lucky enough to get to train.
Erin was allowed to train Blue because her grandmother is busy helping Duchess, a yellow Lab, whelp her puppies. Unfortunately, one of the black puppies is born with a club foot, whom Erin names Twister. The veterinarians try to correct the problem with braces. Erin is fortunate enough to be trained on how to train dogs by one of her grandmother's associates. Erin desperately wants two things, in addition to seventh grade, to have her own dog and to volunteer for the SPCA. Will she achieve either one?
A Taste of Perfection by Laura Langston
Walking Dogs in My Childhood: When I was growing up, I loved talking walks in the woods, and I noticed that our neighbor's dog was often chained outside, so I asked permission and I started taking her along with me. It was exciting to enjoy the outdoors with an animal. Now, I enjoy taking trail rides in the Bronx on horseback. I loved walking dogs. My high school best friend had a collie that looked like Lassie, and I always bugged her to take her dog for a walk while I was there.
My Experience with pit bulls: In my adult life, I wound up volunteering for about 7 different shelters over 6 1/2 years in 3 different cities. This hobby started while I was in library school in Albany, NY. I walked dogs at the same shelter that I adopted my first cat from. In fact, I did not even know what a pit bull looked like until I was walking one. I knew that people feared them. Someone yelled out, "Oh my God! She's walking a pit bull!" I momentarily feared an imminent attack and I looked at the dog, but he just kept nonchalantly walking. I have since walked many pit bull terriers. I realize that some are bred and raised for fighting and that those pit bulls are aggressive, but I have enjoyed walking many overly affectionate, very rambunctious pit bulls. In fact, Vivienne at the Pennsauken, NJ shelter was one of the sweetest dogs that I have ever met. She eventually got adopted by a woman who frequently visited her at the shelter.
Pennsauken, NJ Animal Shelters: In Philadelphia, I primarily sought out dog-walking at the shelters since I was not in a financial position to be able to afford horseback riding. I volunteered at 4 different shelters in the city and in the surrounding areas. I loved going to the Pennsauken, NJ shelters on weekends and working with the other volunteers there. It was a country setting, and the dogs were incredibly pleased and eager to have a break from sitting in their cages or outdoor pens. It almost seemed like an animal liberation video playing over and over in my mind: me opening the cage door repeatedly and dogs springing out to freedom. I loved their joy, and I felt bad that they didn't have homes, but I wanted to make them happy.
There, I met Bob, a tri-colored border collie, who just did not seem to belong in an animal shelter. Soon after I met him, he turned around in his pen and picked up a toy and brought it to me. He just belonged in someone's back yard. Most of the dogs were nice dogs and I enjoyed walking them, but I did not personally feel miserable over every dog's situation. Bob was different. I loved him, and I really wanted him to find a home. Sometimes I would take him on extra-long walks through the woods, which he very much enjoyed. He was adopted once, then returned for jumping over fences. The no-kill shelter was slated to close, and I was worried that he wouldn't find a home in time, but he was lucky. He finally got adopted before the shelter closed, and the facility lost a little bit of its vitality after that. I was glad for him, but I missed him.
Philadelphia Animal Shelter: I also volunteered at a shelter in Philadelphia, where I met Misty, a Malamute. She was gorgeous and calm, and she was very gentle with children. I used to take her out and sit with her on the front lawn. (Everyone thought that she was mine.) They tried to find a no-kill rescue organization to take her, but that did not happen. Sitting with her face-to-face was like looking at a wolf and being really close to a wild animal. She had one brown eye and one sky-blue eye. I loved seeing her and spending time with her.
Volunteer Opportunities with Dogs
Laura Langston Books
NYPL books on Booktalking
School Library Journal's A Fuse #8 Production blog
Pit Bulls and Parolees TV show