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‘Unadoptable’ animals find loving homes

By Sari Friedman, Special to the Daily Planet
Saturday November 24, 2001

Once upon a time, long before the San Francisco SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) had the resources it has today, it had a special small fund reserved for the most pathetic of cases.  

The Cinderella Fund, as it was known, provided for former pets who had been abandoned and weren’t likely to be cared for by a human owner ever again, because the animals were too unmanageable, too sick, and/or too old.  

According Berkeley resident, Paul M. Glassner, editor of “Cinderella Dogs: Real-life Fairy-tail Adoptions from The San Francisco SPCA,” just out from Kinship Communications, animals that had been abandoned for being too ugly didn’t usually qualify for the Cinderella Fund…. Because if they were ugly enough, someone somewhere would consider them cute, and then they’d have a chance at finding a home. 

Each of the 16 dogs surrendered to the SF/SPCA and featured in Cinderella Dogs might well have been judged “unadoptable” by the intake workers at the average animal shelter. “Unadoptable” pets, of course, don’t usually live long in Animal Care and Control departments largely supported by taxpayer funds.  

Rejected animals can face the same fate in charity-based shelters. It can cost more than $40 a day to house a healthy, abandoned animal who needs no special attention.  

In contrast, Cinderella Dog’s cover dog, Daisy, had been left at the SPCA shelter at the age of 9 with four serious medical conditions.  

The quality of writing and photography in Cinderella Dogs is evocative, elegant, technically astute and truly artistic.  

Editor Paul M. Glassner, who has guided the SF/SPCA membership magazine, “Our Animals,” for 12 years, is largely responsible for that magazine having won more than 100 awards, most at the national level. His stewardship is a major contributing factor to the SF/SPCA’s success at garnering widespread community support and substantial donations.  

Contributing writers describe each animal’s condition and personality, then talk about the rehabilitation procedures that helped the animal into his or her new life.  

The photographs of dogs and humans together are equally engaging. My 11- year-old especially liked the photos taken by Albany photographer, Evan Pilchuk, of Skippy, a 10-year-old Chihuahua who is shown with some cute Chihuahua-loving kids.  

Even the chapter names pull at your heart strings: “From Hopeless to Hopelessly in Love.”  

Every word in Cinderella Dogs could make you want to weep. One dog is described as a “Gentle Giant.” An adopter says, about her pet: “To tell you that I love her is an understatement. I believe my goal in life is to be worthy of her.” 

These stories of near-unadoptable pets and the humans who come through for them make compelling reading, as seductive as any soap opera. There’s not only drama, pathos and the terror of abandonment… one even gets romance. A newlywed couple starts thinking about adopting a pet, but the husband doesn’t even want to go into the shelter to look: he hates the idea of choosing one dog over another.  

“You go in and tell me about it,” he says to his wife.  

So the wife goes in and she picks out Tobago, a defensive and extremely difficult Akita mix, a dominant dog who’s not particularly receptive to strangers, whether canine or human….and the newlywed husband goes for the adoption, sight unseen.  

You can guess what happens next. According to Cinderella Dogs, some fairy tales come true. With training from behavior counselors and volunteers, Tobago does fine. The newlyweds adore him. He sleeps in their bed.