A revelatory, smartly written account of the workings at an impressive animal shelter in New York State, from Village Voice art critic (and shelter volunteer) Hess. It is Hess's hope that this book ""will turn the most common myths about shelter animals inside out"": principally that the animals are losers, either sick or frantic or vicious. She accomplishes that task in the first few pages and the remainder of the book is given over to profiling the denizens--both human and animal--of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society. The animals are a genial and motley crew of mostly dogs and cats, with a few rabbits and goats and others. The humans are a no-nonsense group of extraordinarily dedicated, underpaid men and women devoted to the welfare of animals. In the process, Hess dispels the notion of shelters as blood-mad abattoirs, stinking and neglected final ports of call for the dregs of the pet world (though Hess doesn't shrink from taking a long, hard look at the role of euthanasia in a shelter). A couple of the chapters provide adrenaline-pumping excitement--going on patrol with a humane-law enforcement agent, taking part of a raid at a grotesque puppy mill--and there are stories aplenty of cruelty and its consequences: ""Chances are, when a crazy dog arrives at the shelter, there's a crazy person on the other end of the leash."" Perhaps most troubling to Hess is how far our throw-away culture has gone, how we can show so little compunction about handing a pet over to a shelter, absolve ourselves of responsibilities, and how that in turn is reflected in the modern tenuousness of human survival as well. As Hess makes all too clear, shelters aren't slaughterhouses but sanctuaries, witness--protection programs for animals that are more refugees--from neglect or abuse or abandonment--than strays.