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Do shelter dogs smile?

Posted by siyerwin on Monday, October 13, 2008 at 7:10 PM

Former shelter dog Missy with JJ!I remember about 2 years ago when I started volunteering and shooting pictures of the residents of the PAWS Animal Rehabilitation Center (PARC), I often got requests from PAWS to take pictures of "smiling" shelter dogs. While I often said yes to the requests, I distinctly recall that I failed to deliver that particular assignment week after week. I did catch a few "smiles" along the way but most of the stuff I kept producing would have given me the boot if they were paid gigs. All I kept getting were images of sad, bored dogs longing for something better.

The images on this post were sent to me by a reader who, with his family, have brought a couple of shelter dogs into their wonderful home. Jeremy PedreƱa's photos of Missy and Tweety with his wife Julie and son JJ are photos that I would have loved to have taken.

There's a ton of material on the internet asserting that dogs smile as a very clever adaptive mechanism. Wolves pull back their lips into a smile as a submissive posture to dominant wolves. Pet dogs differ from wolves in that they use the smile to elicit favorable reactions from their human alphas. If smiling gets them a warm hug or a nice pat on the head, why would they not do it, right? Alex Lieber of believes that a dog genuinely smiles because he "associates the expression with something that makes him happy."

Do shelter dogs smile? Yes they do but since happiness is a commodity not very easy to come by in a shelter for homeless animals, dogs probably smile simply to satisfy a biological need (panting) or to maintain the peace in the shelter pack hierarchy.

There's something different about the smiles in Jeremy's photos compared to those that I get at the shelter. Jeremy's images put mine to school!

All smiles with July, Tweety and Missy -

Jeremy takes a picture of Julie with Missy and Tweety. Jeremy and Julie has a long history of loving animals. He tells me he chose Tweety because it was sort of love at first sight when they met at the shelter. He loved Tweety's playfulness and thought she was perfect for his active lifestyle.

Julie and former shelter dog Missy!
Missy on the other hand was chosen by Julie because she wanted to give her another chance at a good life. Missy was abandoned at the shelter apparently because she was causing fights between a husband and wife. The husband threatened to kill Missy so the wife decided to leave her at the shelter. Missy initially didn't cope very well with her new homeless life. She went into some separation-anxiety and fell ill. She was on her way to recovery when Julie decided to adopt her.

Tweety sleeping at her new home! -
To most homeless dogs, finding a forever home is but a distant dream. Dream no more, Tweety.

Missy and Tweety and their forever home! -
Home is where the smile is. Ted Teodoro of OnLovingAnimals , in a comment made in my fostering post, attests to the positive effects of a loving home environment to a rescued pet animal.

Tweety at the shelter -
The photo above is a photo I took weeks before Tweety was adopted. Do you see the difference? Tweety was one of three dogs rescued from UP village. They used to be some of the Pasilyo Dogs (Corridor dogs) of PARC back when the dog quarantine was still under construction.

Thinking of getting a pet? Going to pet shops means death to thousands of animals in animal shelters and dog pounds everywhere. Make a difference in the lives of homeless animals. Visit the closest animal shelter & dog pound and save a life.

Did you adopt a homeless animal? Send pics! I'd love to put them here to show the world--- to give hope and to inspire more people into adopting homeless animals. It doesn't have to be an adoption made through PAWS. It can be an adoption from other shelters, or one that you personally did; a kitty you picked up from the street, a puppy that ended up on your door steps, or an adult dog you rescued from a dog pound, etc.! Email me. I'd love to hear your story!

sherwin [at]

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  1. 12 comments: Responses to “ Do shelter dogs smile? ”

  2. By kouji | haiku on Oct 13, 2008, 8:12:00 PM

    such sweet dogs. the look so happy. :)

  3. By liza on Oct 14, 2008, 2:28:00 AM

    great post sherwin, you made my day :D

    that family is so wonderful. missy and tweety are two very lucky dogs.

    couple of days after they were adopted, happened to give julie a call to check how the dogs were adjusting to their new home, and she said that tweety was upstairs in their bedroom with their son watching cartoons, and missy was sleeping on the sofa beside her in the living room as she was speaking with me on the phone - such music to our ears! :) i thought my heart would burst with happiness for these two dogs.

    especially missy, who had gone through so much. she fought hard to survive and to get to where she is right now :)

    btw, piolo (the third UP-village-dog-turned-pasilyo-dog)is still looking for his forever-home :)

  4. By Marla on Oct 14, 2008, 9:31:00 AM

    Great post, Sherwin! :-)

  5. By Ted Teodoro on Oct 14, 2008, 9:38:00 AM

    Shall we say that every dog has its day? Very well written piece. We have a dog at our shelter that has been there for over a year now, passed over by several generations of shelter dogs. Just leaves me scratching my head. She needs one of those smiles that are sprung from a " joie de vivre, " as our French friends would put it. We love her, and so her waiting game is our waiting game as well.

  6. By 5 on Oct 14, 2008, 1:06:00 PM


  7. By fox on Oct 14, 2008, 1:25:00 PM

    i was there during the parc blessing with this family. i saw how happy these dogs are with their new-found family;am sure your good deeds will be multiplied with blessings

  8. By keli keni on Oct 14, 2008, 2:10:00 PM

    I'm happy for the dogs and their new family..
    I love this post kuya, :)

  9. By siyerwin on Oct 15, 2008, 7:41:00 PM

    Thanks, everyone. Jeremy's a really nice guy. Sent him a ton of questions and he answered them all! Left out a lot of stuff as I only had a short time to come up with a post. He's one of those consummate animal lovers talaga. Lucky Tweety and Missy.

    Ted, meet Marla. She adopted the erstwhile longest staying dog Jasmine! hehehe. I wish that dog all the joie de vivre in this world. Hang in there, buddy!!!

  10. By Marla on Oct 16, 2008, 1:32:00 PM

    Honestly Sherwin, I couldn't understand why Jasmine was at the shelter for so long.

    Hi Ted, best of luck going your shelter dog's way. At least for now, she is at a place where she is loved.

  11. By Janette on Dec 2, 2008, 4:23:00 PM

    Hello! I want to congratulate and thank you for inspiring us so much with your blog and all your photos. This article is, by far, the most well-written and most inspiring of all!

    I'm an Advertising Design student and I wanted to ask you if I could borrow some of your photos (especially this one of Emil) to make some advocacy posters for the shelter animals. Thank you in advance!

  12. By siyerwin on Dec 5, 2008, 11:11:00 AM

    Thanks, Janette. Go ahead use the images. See you around!

  13. By Hanna on Jun 2, 2010, 2:14:00 PM

    Hi Siyerwin! Good post. Pets do smile when they are happy and feel good. The pictures in your post are too cute. Thanks for sharing lovely post.

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Please do not leave your email or contact numbers in the comments. Email me directly at sherwin @ if you have concerns or questions. This blog is increasingly attracting breeders/pet sellers trying to advertise their business through the comments and I don't want that. The blog seems to also be becoming a bulletin board of sorts for people who wish to abandon their pets. allows no way to edit your comments so there I have no other option but to delete comments that I deem inappropriate in this regard. I apologize for the inconvenience. Again, if you have any questions/concerns, better to email me at sherwin @ than to comment here. Thank you very much!

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