The most important part of my job
May just be maintaining a sense of humor.
It's easy to get caught up in the little (or not so little) things that go wrong at the shelter: the returned dog who panics on the stranger portion of her behavioral evaluation. Or the frustrated family that really, really wants to adopt the seriously food possessive dog and doesn't want to understand the safety risks the dog may pose to their small child.
But some days, it's also easy to find the funny things that happen at the shelter.
Today, and I'll admit, this happens to me often, I couldn't find my leash. I asked my coworkers if they had seen it. They had seen my leash. In the fridge, with my gentle leader. Apparently, I put it there before I went on vacation. I don't know why I thought my leash would be better chilled, but I must have been thinking something!
We visited the shelter next door today, to try and fill up some of our kennels left empty by our recent adoption event. It was about 100 degrees in Dublin, and TT and I didn' t feel we could move fast enough in that heat to safely temperament test outside. So we moved into the only available indoor area in that shelter- the food storage room- which smelled so potently of mouse pee that we had to move back outside again!
By the end of the day, I had also joked with a client about his newly adopted dog's bad breath, outfitted the same dog with a fabulous faux leather jacket (donated by the Girl Scouts), and whacked my head so hard on a cat cage that I have a nice lump on the back of my head. And with over 96 adoptions in the last few days, I think I'll go to bed smiling.
96 new homes. 96 happy pets. 96 more spaces.
As of this morning, 96 previously homeless dogs, cats, bunnies and guinea pigs have new homes.
Yesterday was the All Day Adoptathon, from 9 AM to 9 PM. We held it in both of our facilities simultaneously and ended up with 28 different shelters and rescue groups represented.
Things got started early, the second the doors opened to the public and it stayed packed right through morning til late afternoon when it finally started to slow down a little. It seemed everyone had heard about the All Day Adoptathon, and took advantage of the event to meet representatives and available pets from lots and lots of organizations. We were on the morning news before the event, the evening news, the radio. People heard about it from various websites, pet stores, bulletin boards, and friends.
While the official total was 96, I have no doubt that the number will climb over 100 in the next few days as adoptions from people who took a little more time to think about a particular pet start to come in.
What does 96 adoptions mean?
To those homeless pets, a lot. Instead of sharing time and attention from harried fosters and shelters workers, trying to do right by many pets, they will get the love and cuddles from one family, who commited to them, and to making them part of their home.
And to the other homeless pets out there, especially those at risk in crowded public shelters, this means 96 more spaces. 96 animals at risk in public shelters, the kind that have no ability to slow the number of incoming animals, will be able to move into those foster homes and shelters that now have space. And that is probably the best news of all!
Good job, and thanks to all who participated: Alameda City Animal Shelter, Berkeley Animal Care Services, Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, Countryside Rescue, 4 Paws Pet Rescue, Friends-Fairmont Animal Shelter, German Shepherd Rescue of Northern California, Hopalong Rescue, Island Cat Resources and Adoptions, Milo Foundation, Nine Lives Rescue and Adoptions, Northern Ca. Sled Dog Rescue, Oakland Animal Services, Rabbit Ears Rescue, San Francisco SPCA, Smiley Dog Rescue, Cavy Spirit Guinea Pig Rescue, Community Concern for Cats, Friends of the Formerly Friendless, Friends-Fairmont Animal Shelter, Golden State Greyhound Adoption, Hayward Animal Services, Humane Society Silicon Valley, Northern Ca. Boxer Rescue, Ohlone Humane Society, Tri-Valley Rabbit Rescue, and Valley Humane Society.
These tireless folks began setting up at 7:30 AM and stayed all day long, or until they ran out of pets!
And of course, big thanks to our staff at the Oakland and Tri-Valley SPCAs. The day was extra challenging as our online shelter software, Shelter Buddy, picked yesterday to be off line: all. day. long.
That meant all our adoptions were recorded manually, which is a challenge in the best of circumstancs but nearly impossible at an event like this.
Oh well. I didn't hear anyone complaining about too many adoptions!
A safe, calm and peaceful journey
I signed off on two unadoptable forms today. You see, whenever it looks like we will have to euthanize an animal for health or behavioral reasons, we have a process that includes documentation of the reasons, the work that we did, the temperament tests and the approval of the the shelter manager, dog training manager (for dogs), and me, the operations director. This process was created to ensure that no one person was making these incredibly important, ridiculously difficult, emotionally challenging decisions.
Health issues are more cut and dry. "Kidney Failure. Cat won't eat, drink, use litter box, move." This is an easy one. We need to stop the suffering of that poor kitty.
Behavioral reasons are more challenging. Temperament tests are not an exact science and we don't pretend to be the experts at it. Don't get me wrong, we're good. Very good. But no one here would ever guarantee an assessment or claim to see into the future. We make the best decisions we can with the best information we can get.
So, as I said, I approved the euthanasia of two dogs today. One came from a public shelter we work with in the county. What they call a 'D' (where A, B and C dogs go up for adoption) dog. He was going to be euthanized there and we took it sight unseen to see if we could turn him around. His behavior was so scary that we couldn't safely even finish the test.
The other dog came from a different shelter months and months ago. She tested great at the shelter, but upon further inspection had many issues. Possession and problems with other dogs were the major ones. Our trainers dug right in and started working on those issues. After a couple months, not only was she doing better, but she was even playing with dogs! We were all proud of her trainer for making such a turn around. She was up for adoption with a disclaimer describing all the issues we saw with her so anyone who was considering adopting her could be fully aware. (We do this when a dog isn't dangerous, but does have some issues that will need to be managed.)
She was here for over 60 days and when a dog hits a certain length of stay, we re-check their temperaments officially to ensure they are still stable and adoptable. She was not. Her possession was worse and she had shown scary behavior out on a field trip with staff. She, as all dogs are that start to show some bad behavior, was put on "probation" (made not available to the public) and moved to the back of the kennels, where clients could not see her. Her trainer kept working with her. Hoping that she could pull through it. But alas, her final retest yesterday was very bad. She was worse than ever and simply put, not safe to adopt out.
I'll help with the euthanasia tomorrow. A day that we should all be happy and celebrating our exciting Adoptathon, there will be a sadness in the air and a lump in our throats. We wish Martin and Maddie a safe, calm and peaceful journey.
Let there be light.
Last week, I received seven boxes of light bulbs for the Tri-Valley facility. If you have never been to our Tri-Valley shelter in Dublin, you should take the trip. It is a beautiful place, with high ceilings, glossy floors, and spacious habitats for the cats and dogs. It's very clean, shiny, and well lit.
Or at least it is supposed to be.
Over the past few months, it seems many of the lights all began failing at the same time. Which makes sense, if they all have about the same amount of life in them. They'd never been replaced since the building opened in 2001, so it's not surprising that so many are out at the same time.
So we have been working in rapidly diminishing light, in the hallways, the cat halls, grooming and the adoption lobby. We have gradually gone from well lit, to a soft glow, to dim, to downright dark in some places.
OSHA would not have been happy with us, so getting our light bulbs replaced has been a priority, and an expensive one. It's not the kind of expense that most donors think of with a smile on their face as they write out a support check.
Isn't that kind of odd? Here we are, a bustling shelter filled with devoted volunteers and staffers, funded by generous donors all united by a compassion for homeless animals.
And replacing our light bulbs is the day's budget priority.
It's the less sexy side of funding an animal shelter.
On the Soapbox
"The East Bay SPCA saves and improves the lives of cats and dogs, and connects people and pets in our community."
This is our mission statement, and you wouldn't immediately think it, but sometimes "saving", "improving" and "connecting" can contradict one another.
To "save and improve" animal lives, the majority of our population comes from municipal shelters. Unlike the SPCA, which is a private organization, public shelters are required to intake any and all unwanted pets as part of their job. This means always having enough kennel space for the next unwanted dog or cat, but kennel space is finite. When a municipal shelter finds itself full, kennel space must be made and this often means euthanizing animals. Municipal shelters don't put animals to sleep because they want to, but because they have no other choice. This is where the East Bay SPCA and other rescues come into play. When we have space in our kennels, our first stop is a municipal shelter. If we can pull dogs or cats, that also frees up space which means less euthanasia. So, our shelter's population is directly affected by the county municipal shelters' populations.
To "connect people and pets" we must have a selection of dogs and cats that appeal to the general public. The most highly desirable pets seem to be small dogs, puppies, and kittens. However, these are also the cats and dogs that are in the least danger at municipal shelters and are the least common (except for kittens during kitten season). It's all well and good to select our animals from municipal shelters, but the longer those pets sit in our kennels, the less space we have to take more dogs and cats.
So, what do you do if the dogs that need rescuing are large adolescent pit mixes and the dogs that find homes are small, fluffy and under twenty pounds?
In the words of Johnny Cash, you "walk the line". You find a balance between which animals are on euthanasia lists and which will find homes quickly. You have population restrictions that insure your kennels do not get filled with the same type of dog, but rather are a healthy collection of various breed mixes, colors and ages. You take educated risks and pull dogs with the understanding that if their temperament proves unsafe, they may never make it to the adoption floor. You create wait lists while knowing that some of the animals on them may have to be euthanized before a space becomes available.
I have heard many times from potential adopters, "I chose to come here because you don't euthanize
" or "You're not one of those shelters that kills dogs
are you?" What they don't understand is that no rescue or shelter in the community is truly independent from the others. We're all working with the same unwanted animals and no shelter euthanizes because it thinks killing animals is fun. Rather, municipal shelters are forced to euthanize because they must always have space available.
It is too easy to point a finger and say "that shelter is the bad guy". Television and film have long depicted the local dog catcher as a cranky man who enjoys nothing more than nabbing frightened animals and locking them away. In real life, animal control officers often want nothing more than to see the cats and dogs that come through their doors leave in a new owner's arms or at the very least with a rescue. And we rescues would like nothing more than to have empty kennels because the animals coming into local shelters are so few and far between that we're no longer necessary.
For now, we "save and improve the lives of cats and dogs and connect people and pets in our community". And we dance our careful dance to be certain we're able to do both.
A wonderful event
Yesterday around 11am, FC, Katie, The Count and I headed off to Daly City to participate in the Golf Tournament fundraiser at the private Lake Merced Golf Club. We arrived late, due to a last minute scramble to round up some kittens that were left in an open milkcrate in the ivy at the shelter.
We forgot that the weather in Daly City was not the same as the weather in sunny Oakland and were caught wearing short sleeves and summer-appropriate pants. The golfers had already started, so we went to our spot (the margarita table) to show off our canine pals. You see, the organizers - volunteers who just wanted to do something for the animals - wanted to show the golfers just who exactly they were helping.
So we sat there, shivering, watching the golf carts go by. After a bit, in an effort to meet the golfers and stay warm, we decided to walk the course. I've played golf before, but not 18 holes and not with a dog. so I wasn't sure how long it would take us. We started the walk and soon warmed up.
At each hole, we saw a foursome, either driving or chipping or putting or chatting in their carts. We said to each, "The dogs wanted to say Thanks!" Katie wagged her tail, while the golfers fawned all over her and The Count stayed warm and cozy in Frances' borrowed jacket. Everyone was just so darn nice. Thrilled to be playing golf and even more thrilled to be helping dogs like Katie and The Count.
We made it back to our table, gave the dogs some water, and soon chilled right back up. We had planned to stay the whole day, but the weather caused us to pack up early. The Count stayed behind with the three cute kittens, and KP and SL. We were to miss the silent auction and dinner, but we did our part helping the golfers see just exactly who their money would be helping. Despite the cool temperature, we had a fabulous time, saw some great (and not so great!) golf, and were so pleased to be part of such a wonderful event.
Dear Old Cats
Here at the Oakland Adoption center we have a limited number of owner surrender appointments for people needing to give up their cat. These are some of the hardest conversations to have here at the shelter.
This time of the year all of the public shelters in our county are bursting at the seams with adult cats and kittens. These felines are more at-risk then one in a home, so we transfer them first as often as we have foster or adoption space for them.
From May through October there is no end to the need.
In the midst of this we get calls from folks who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to keep their own cat. Their singular hope is to place their cat in a program like ours where it can be housed and cared for until adopted. It is our job to have a conversation with these folks to determine if an appointment to evaluate the cat for surrender is appropriate, and to remind them, especially this time of the year, that it is likely the cat will need to go onto our waiting list even if it passes our behaviorial and medical evaluation.
I met with someone yesterday who has custody of her deceased father's two cats. They are an 8 year old brother and sister pair, Gina and Gino. The owner feels they really need a home together. Nice enough cats, the male was a little frightened. The best I could offer them was a spot on the waiting list. They have 3 strikes against them this time of the year...they are adult cats (harder to place during the kitten season), they need to go together, and they are seniors. The owner and I discussed options for trying to house the pair at their home in a way that would not stress their own cat. After placing them on the waitlist I said goodbye to these folks.
The waitlist doesn't have a lot of animals on it. Most people cannot hold onto animals they have decided to give up and we usually recommend that their local animal control agency is their next option. Well, I already have had a pair of seniors who need to go together on the waitlist since May. There is also another senior from earlier this month waiting to come in.
Gino and Gina get entered onto the list, and I say a silent little prayer that maybe someone this weekend will come in and want a pair of older cats, who have provided a life of love and have more to give.
There are many wonderful, giving years left in older felines. Our Silver Muzzle Club members can attest to this.
Tayna Part V
Last night, I checked to see who got adopted that day and I saw that my Tayna went home! I don't have the details yet, but I was so excited, I exclaimed to my husband, "Tayna got adopted!" He, having seem multiple foster dogs in our home during the last month, said, "Which one was that?"
I'll add more details when I get them...
One of the great things about working at the East Bay SPCA is that we believe that every dog is different. When we train our dogs, we approach them with this in mind.
Every dog has to do five basic Compulsory Behaviors ("comps") before they can be put up for adoption: walk on a loose leash, sit before leaving the kennel, go into a crate willingly, stay in a crate quietly, and stay on a tie-down quietly. These are basic training skills that we have found help the dogs transition into their homes gracefully. Each trainer finds the most successful way for each individual dog to do each individual skill. A dog may walk on a loose leash with a flat collar, for treats, with a Sense-ation harness, on a Gentle Leader, on a martingale, or, occasionally, on a pinch or choke collar.
Some dogs are harder to train than others. These dogs require creativity and patience from trainers. Jake is a hound dog, heavily distracted by his nose, and not particularly interested in our requirements. Jake came into our Oakland shelter in March, and was so distraught while learning his comps that a rare exception was made. He didn't have to sit. When Jake transferred to Tri Valley a couple months later, he still couldn't sit.
It takes every dog a varying amount of time to do their comps. It rarely takes a dog longer than a month or two.
I set out to teach Jake to sit. Jake wasn't having any of it, in any of the traditional ways. I tried to lure Jake: pushing food up from his nose to between his eyes. Jake looked at me like I was crazy. I tried the old fashioned push-on-the-rear way. Jake would not be pushed. I tried to "capture" him sitting inadvertently and reward him for it.
Jake did not sit.
I gave up on teaching Jake to sit and perfected his loose leash walking. Then I taught him to lie down. It took a few days, but Jake got that trick. But then the oddest thing happened: on the way back up from lying down, Jake sat!
He sat over and over and over.
I tried this in admin, and it worked. I tried this at the front desk, and it still worked! I tried this in the hall, and Jake could STILL sit! This picture may look like just another sitting dog, but it is the culmination of 4 months of training and lots and lots of patiently trying different (and sometimes strange) training methods.
I have never been so proud to see a dog sit.
As a literature major, a dream of mine (a rather geeky one, I admit) even from before I worked at an animal shelter was to write the "pet personals," or the Pet of the Week ads for the local paper. I thought of lots of cute and playful double entendres and even wrote a fake pet of the week ad to bring to an animal shelter at a job interview a few years ago. I wrote about a Single Orange Tabby Female seeking a longterm relationship who enjoys long walks to the kitchen, sleeping late and full body massages.
I currently write one of our Pet of the Week ads for the East Bay SPCA and am much more businesslike about it now. There are space limitations, so really just room for the facts: the animal's age, description and maybe a personality attribute-- loving belly rubs or ear scratches are always good ones to include (if they're accurate). I just have to settle for telling the clients who come in about our single orange tabbies hoping to meet that special someone.
Remember them? The sock puppet
Pets.com is, like, the poster child for the dot com crash. They epitomized the excess -- and lack of strategy -- evident during the rapid ascent of popularity of the world wide web.
Today, we have a better idea of what "works" on the Internet. (Memo to the CEO: shipping large, heavy bags of dog food doesn't.)
How ironic then, that while pet supplies were one of the biggest losers in the early 2000s, the biggest winners were shelters and rescue groups all over the country, working hard to find homes for pets in need. Ten years ago, you wouldn't drive to an animal shelter 30 miles away to see if they had any cats you liked. But IF you saw the perfect two-year-old-white-kitty-with-just-a-bit-of-orange-on-the-tips-of-his-ears, and by the way "he's" a she, and you were looking for a female kitty.... well, a 30-mile drive is nothing.
Viewing the available animals at www.virtualpetadoptions.com
is like visiting a dozen or more shelters in one afternoon.
Pets.com was a bust. Their legacy, however, was a win for homeless pets everywhere.
Shot Fair Stats
In four hours at the Eastmont Mall in Oakland on Saturday, we
- helped 194 clients and over 250 pets
- gave 146 feline vaccines and 267 canine vaccines
- implanted 64 microchips
- signed up 49 animals for free spay or neuter appointments and passed out many more vouchers
Many thanks to all the volunteers, from our organization and from all the others organizations, who gave up a Saturday to provide care to the animals from this community.
A View from the Vaccine Table
From the vaccination table, the Shot Fair looked like an amazing event. As soon as I arrived from Tri-Valley, I started prepping DHLPP (a basic yearly shot for dogs) and rabies' shots as fast as my fingers could pull back the syringes and peel off the paperwork.
On my left, two lines of people waited patiently with their pit bulls, rottweilers, chihuahuas, dachsunds, Heinz 57s, and even their large Tupperware bins full of puppies. All to sign up for free shots and cheap microchips.
After people had their paperwork, they came to our table. We asked them some basic questions about the health of their dogs to make sure we could vaccinate at that time: "How does he feel today?" "Is he eating and drinking okay?" "Any vomiting or diarrhea?" A few people asked us to look at ears or feet, and we referred them to our clinic in Oakland, and explained what a visit would likely entail.
Then it was vaccine time! We asked each person to hold the head of her own dog, and showed her where the shot would go. Most dogs were extremely tolerant and acted as though they didn't feel anything. A few small dogs were quite frantic about the crowd of people and dogs, and had to be muzzled. A few people were quite alarmed at the shots--their dogs had never been vaccinated before--and they cooed to their dogs, telling them that everything would be okay.
We microchipped quite a few dogs, too. This means fewer lost dogs will stay lost.
After the shots, microchips, and flea control, people moved to the right, to the tables with free spay neuter vouchers and the tables with cool, free leashes (we saw lots of those on the dogs that came to get shots, some with tags still on). There were also tables about pit bulls with information provided by BADRAP. The West side of the lot had tables with shots for cats and cat things.
Yesterday was a great day for the city of Oakland's dogs and cats. I got the feeling the little kids liked it, too. All those needles and not a single kid got a shot! There was a jumpy machine for the kids to keep them busy, and sodas, water and popcorn for everyone.
The need for the Shot Fair was clearly there: so many dogs had never had their shots, or had out-of-date shots. And even more, so many of the pets were intact and have the potential to lead to the next generation of homeless dogs and cats. Hopefully, the people with intact pets made their way directly from the vaccine table to get a free spay and neuter appointment, and our clinics will be hearing from them soon!
A Bird's Eye View
Over the course of the last month, here are some of the things I have seen:
- An Akita jump out of the back of his owner's truck, his leash forcing him to scramble alongside as the vehicle continued to move.
- A client struggling to decide which of two very long term dogs she liked better and wanted to adopt.
- A mother cat and her kittens literally thrown over our fence when we were closed.
- That same Akita blossom into a happy gentle dog in our shelter and find a new home.
- A four month old puppy already aggressive enough that I had to explain to the family coming in for classes why it would be unsafe to keep their dog.
- Maddie, a herding dog who came into the SPCA unable to politely meet other dogs on leash, become one of our best play group dogs.
- A senior poodle, her bladder so chronically infected that it had made bladder stones 2 cm wide. So many, in fact, that a vet referred to her as "the sandbag".
- The same poodle having her stones removed, her infection treated, and regaining the spring in her step.
- A dog abandoned outside of our property, his back legs mostly paralyzed.
- A pug finding a new home in spite of his potentially chronic hairloss.
- Row upon row of unwanted pets that we cannot transfer to our shelter.
- The one that we could.
See you there.
I came in today to check out the final prep for the Shot Fair we are having tomorrow. LG has done a great job getting it all together and I just wanted to give it the once over. So much stuff to take up to 73rd and Bancroft. Tables, chairs, shots, paper, coupons, leashes, books, canopies, signs, etc. I think it will be a great event and I'm totally excited about it.
Only when we see the animals coming in for spay neuter with coupons from the shot fair will we know if it was truly a success. I'm betting it is!
Maybe we'll see you there. http://www.eastbayspca.org/events/shotfair.cfm
Finding God (or is that Dog) in the Details
Managing the adoption center in Oakland can sometimes feel like High School Physics. I really struggled with Physics in school. So many different formulas and variables to remember. Even more difficult was trying to remember exactly which formulas to use in solving which problems.
Somehow, I never figured that Physics would be important in my adult life but tonight I had an epiphany! Our busy adoption center is like a Physics lab.
Each day presents us with problems: dirty cages, hungry animals, ringing phones, appointments to make, clients needing referrals, clients ready to adopt, new animals to process, animals needing meds, animals to be evaluated, and the list goes on.
Each of these problems could be approached from a variety of angles. The variables can be manipulated any number of ways. Imagine the anarchy of each staff person or "physicist," if you will, deciding to work with the variables of, say, cage cleaning (newspaper, litter, litterpan, food dish, newspaper, water dish, food, water, bleach spray, paper towels, bedding, and the cat) each in their own way. Who knows which formula would solve the problem of a clean, sanitary cage?
Thankfully, our laboratory management team has put together a set of agreed upon formulae. They are the processes that we teach each employee and volunteer so that, as much as possible, we run a consistently smooth program. This allows for the needs of the animals and the programs to be met, and more importantly, for us to replicate among new staff and volunteers.
It is within the framework of the routine formulas each day that the organization finds a stability that then allows for immense creativity. We aren't reinventing the wheel everyday regarding the basic things. Instead, we can dream of new programs, offerings, and outreach. The animals who need us depend on this.
Tomorrow, I will open the shelter, hang the daily schedule of routine tasks, and smile a little knowing our routine tasks will lead to some anything-but-routine accomplishments.
Hush, hush Sweet Charlotte.
When I first started working here, I met all the animals in the shelter. I was so enthralled, and moved by those sad, little homeless faces that I made daily trips to the kennels and habitats to get an idea of the constituency I supported.
Those early dogs and cats....Fanny, Pirate, Bubba stuck with me because they were all the first "long-timers" I met. I was also a sucker with a treat.
But since the shelter halls are not my normal work-a-day route, and since I am really a paper-pusher in admin, and especially, since I know that virtually all our homeless fur-kids go to great homes, I can now sometimes go days, even weeks! without meeting any of our new dogs and cats.
(I meet the kittens all the time but they are never in the shelter long enough to bond with; they are in foster care, back in the shelter, and then whoosh! in a new home! Kittens are very popular. Good thing, because there seems to be no shortage of them.)
But I saw this kitty today...her name is Charlotte.
Have you ever seen such a silly expression on a kitty? I can't tell if she reminds me of a person trapped in a cat's body, or a cat who has spent so much time around people that she starts to resemble one.
We are not sure how five-year-old Charlotte got this way (she hasn't told us, hah!), but she is totally meow-less.
Without a meow. Missing meowing. Exhibits meowlessness.
Instead, Charlotte whispers and it sounds a little like a hiss. She is at Tri-Valley SPCA if you want to share secrets with her.
Helped out just a short time today with "soc". That is what we call it when we get dogs out of the kennels and into the play yard for some socialization with other dogs. The group I was out with is quite the bunch of odd ducks.
Brewster, who isn't focused enough to be a search-and-rescue dog (we tried; we had him tested), has an obsessive desire to fetch anything not nailed down. High-energy, lanky, mixed-breed that has some sighthound in there somewhere.
Maddie, who had no clue how to treat other dogs when she got here. Thanks to the efforts of J her trainer, she is now playing with an eclectic group of dogs, and loving it.
Then there is Lil' Boo who recently came back from a stay at another shelter (sometimes we do that with dogs, to help increase their chances at adoption). I commented to L. that Lil' Boo seemed to be really getting the attention from Maddie. Sure, she said, Lil' Boo was the first dog that Maddie ever learned to play with! Doggies never forget their friends.
It is a wonderful thing to give our shelter dogs an opportunity to make life-long friends. I am on my way back into the shelter; the dogs are happily hanging in the shade, tongues out. (My tongue, however, is not.)
Come on by and visit soc. You can usually check out the adoption dogs socializing in the early part of the day in the big yard by the parking lot.
Nothing like happy dogs to put a smile on your face.
94621 is a long way from 90210.
Raising funds is an important part of the life of any non-profit. Especially one such as ours, which receives no government money, or any money from any national organization.
A lot of people mistakenly think that the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is some national humane organization that doles out money to SPCAs everywhere, when in fact, the ASPCA is nothing more than the humane organization for New York City.
So we fundraise. We mail appeals. We have events. We keep in contact with donors and tell them what we are doing and how we are making our community a better one for animals. We keep them posted on the status of Goal 2007.
It's common in animal welfare to cater to the very wealthy, and provide events and adoption opportunities tailored to their tastes.
"The Lint Roller Ball
," a star-studded event held in Los Angeles every year for an animal welfare group in Utah comes to mind. Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, which hosts "Stars to the Rescue
," is another.
These kinds of events cost a bunch of money to put on, but I guess they also raise a bunch.
But we set our sights a little lower: 94621 is the zipcode of the Oakland SPCA, just off of Hegenberger Road and International, in the heart of urban East Oakland.
That is also the zipcode of a region in Oakland teeming with animal control issues. It's the zipcode of a pilot project we are running to tackle the overpopulation of pit bulls in ONE zipcode, to see if we can get it right--something no shelter in the country has achieved--and then duplicate those efforts across Alameda and Contra Costa County.
And finally, it's the site of our Free Shot Fair
this weekend, where we are vaccinating dogs and cats for free and scheduling appointments for free spay and neuter surgeries. Our goal is to get a bunch of the pit bull population spayed and neutered, stem the tide of overpopulation, and curb attacks by unneutered dogs, which is the single most common factor in dogs who bite.
I feel pretty good about what we are doing.
I don't think Lauren Bacall or Bob Barker will show up, though.
The right decision
I was interviewed for KGO/ABC today. They, along with KRON, picked up the Craigslist story that was on the front page of the SF Chronicle today (Article
). I don't know much about the press, but it seems that someone comes out with a story and then they all jump on the same one.
But since the story was a story we wanted told, I was happy to be jumped on. I never get nervous for these interviews, but I also never brush my hair, put on lipstick or get excited about them either. I answer the questions, make sure to get my talking points in there (as provided by KP), stand where they want me to stand and hang out with the dog they want footage of.
The reporter today tried to throw me some fast balls, but apparently those that saw it said I didn't sound like a moron and had 'the last word'. See the video
Hopefully, all this attention will encourage CL make the right decision.
For more on the CL situation: http://www.eastbayspca.org/aboutus/memotocraigslist.cfm
I am a geek.
Today I officially became an animal welfare geek. I've been in this field for five years and have seen many animal welfare geeks come and go. But not in my wildest imagination did I expect to become one. But it happened. When I wasn't looking. Depsite my best attempts to the contrary. And the funny thing is I'm only slightly embarassed about it.
What was the momentous occassion that marked this transformation? The purchase of a vanity license plate (you know the kind that you order with a cute phrase or acryonym on it). I spent the $30 and got this one: 4PITFIX.
What did I tell you? I am a geek.http://www.eastbayspca.org/vetservices/pitbullspayneuter.cfm
Anything you can mew, I can mew better
A brief history on the position of Shelter Cat:
The Shelter Cat is given free run of the back area and offices of the shelter in exchange for allowing strange dogs to come up and sniff him or her. This service lets us safely observe dogs reactions around a cat so we can better place them in appropriate homes.
It is not just any cat who has the chutzpah to meet and greet dogs of all shapes and sizes. These cats tend to be in a league of their own and they necessarily have unique and large personalities.
Tigger is our third shelter cat. The position, like all other staff positions, is subject to At Will employment and our previous two cats quit to accept better offers of permanent residence in adoptive homes. Better hours, I'm told, though fewer open cans of wet food.
Tigger is a small, slender cat who is mostly orange on top and white on the belly, paws, and nose. One eye has severe cataracts so the pupil reflects silver instead of black. This rather makes him look like some sort of furry pirate. Tigger is also vocal. Very vocal. You can usually locate him by noise alone. While our previous two shelter cats managed to find their own amusement (which primarily consisted of sleeping) Tigger is BORED. He wants to be picked up, pet, fed, scritched, allowed in forbidden areas of the shelter and he wants it all right now.
We have tried various approaches to cater to Tigger's demands. We've placed a luxurious scratching post and cat bed in our food storage room. We've offered him little toys with treats tucked away inside. But yesterday, I tried something new. I began training Tigger.
The beauty of Positive Reinforcement training, we have always been told, is that it can be (and is) used to teach any animal of any species. There is nothing in this method of training that is specific to dogs. Well, I had a hot dog and some free time, so I headed over to N.'s office (a frequent haunt of Tigger's), and watched our shelter cat at work.
Tigger was sitting on a chair complaining about the fact that he was being ignored. I tore off a tiny chunk of hot dog and held it out to the beleaguered feline. Tigger immediately popped up onto his hind legs to reach it and swallowed the tidbit down.
Aha. A behavior.
I spent the next couple minutes giving Tigger hot dog and marking the moment he rose up onto his hind legs with the word "yes". Then I stopped and waited. This is the moment of truth. Would Tigger repeat the behavior without a bit of hot dog held over his head? I waited. Tigger waited. I waited. Tigger lifted and batted a single paw in the air. I waited. Tigger tried the other paw. I waited. Success! Up he came off both front feet. "Yes!" and Tigger got another treat.
We are now working on both sit pretty and shake and Tigger seems to be enjoying the training (or at least the hot dogs). And, miracle of miracles, when we train, he works silently.
"...Everyone in your household"
"Is there anyone else going to be living with your new companion?"
"Does anyone else need to come in to meet the kitten?"
"Are there already any resident animals at home?"
These are some of the ways that we try to ask adopters about who lives in their household. It is so important to know all the different people and animals the new companion is going to encounter and adjust to. Often a client is a bit put off with our asking that everyone at home come in to meet the animal before we complete an adoption. Recommendations we make regarding helping an animal adjust to the new home and other pets fall on deaf ears at times.
A handful of returns this week are related to the above issues. Family members not mentioned at the time of adoption made decisions regarding returning the animals. Adopters integrate a new animal into the home too quickly (with felines we recommend a slow and gradual introduction into the whole household) and decide it won't work. They return the animal. Another family considers returning a pair of kittens because they adopted out of impulse right after the death of another animal.
Sometimes when people come in to adopt it seems you can almost feel that they are in a "hurry". I want to just walk up to each person and say "...relax, there is lots of time, there are lots of animals, take your time and put the thought into this that a decision like this deserves."
Each one of the animals in our shelter are waiting for a home, but they deserve to have people really give it the time to make the right decision. Well considered decisions make for Forever Homes!
Yesterday, the staff alerted me to a situation. A dog had been found and was being held near our Oakland facility, wearing our tags. We figured it must be a dog we adopted out, so I called the contact person and told them I would be over.
Why I did that, I'm not sure. I could have said that they should contact Oakland Animal Services and have the dog picked up. This way the owner would be sure to find it and be charged the appropriate impound and reclaim fee.
But I didn't. (Somedays my mouth is quicker than my brain.) I just grabbed a leash, hopped in my car and drove the 5 blocks to the address I was given. Sure enough, there was a small, old, slightly worn out and scraped up white dog wearing our rabies' tag and an OAS license. After avoiding me for a bit, I was able to get him in the car and we went back to the shelter.
I tried to look up the rabies' tag number, but it was too old. (Our records only go back 6 years.) Next, I called OAS to see if they could look up the dog license number. Success! They gave me the owner's name and number and I called. I reached him right away. The dog had gotten out during the festivities and noise of July 4th and they had been looking all over for him. The owner told me he would be right over.
Sure enough, they came to get him. The scrapes and bruises on his body were not from the last two days of mischief, but were the result of being alive for the last 20 years. The dog was 20 years old. Oh. My. God. A 20 year old dog is going to have some scrapes and bruises, I guess.
I was glad there was a quick and happy ending to the story for this dog. He was with us only about 30 minutes and we called him Cream Cheese.
Font of Useless Information
The saying "let the cat out of the bag" is thought to come from the 18th century when piglets were sold in cloth sacks. Some swindlers would place kittens in the sacks and sell them as piglets. If the kitten mewed or the client looked inside before buying, he would...yep.
"Three dog night" comes from when the best way to keep warm was to use body heat. On chilly nights, dogs were allowed to sleep in the bed, and the number would vary depending on the severity of the cold.
In ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped as emissaries of the cat-headed goddess Bastet.
It is thought by some scholars that the latin warnings 'cave canum' (beware of dog) found in ancient Rome were not speaking of vicious guard animals, but requesting that guests please not step on the resident lap dog.
In Japan, calico cats are considered to be good luck.
The haircut on a Poodle was actually designed to be functional.
All cheetahs are as genetically similar to one another as siblings.
All dogs are descendants of a single species of wolf found in Asia.
Sometimes, I just need to share.
The Craigslist Memo. The Craigslist situation. Craig craig craig craig craig.
How can we have such a love-hate relationship with Craigslist? We love:
- Posting animals online for adoption.
- Recruiting volunteers to help care for the animals.
- Telling the public about our events.
- Promoting responsible pet ownership.
- Offering FREE spay and neuter surgery to those who need it.
What we hate:
- The irresponsible selling of unaltered dogs, cats and rabbits, who reproduce at rates we can't imagine.
- The greed evident in people selling litters for profit without regard for the health or future of the animals they sell.
- Hearing one more time, "I figured I could just sell them on Craigslist and make a few thousand...."
- The obvious abuses: The female dogs enduring litter after litter, and kept in small pens awaiting the next pay off, or her uterus tearing open, whichever goes first. The poor temperaments of dogs bred sometimes to dogs even in their own line -- in-breeding -- creating generations of disturbed, anxious and dangerous dogs. The puppies yanked from mothers too early, ensuring they spend a life tied up in the back yard because they are poorly socialized. The disposable cats left to fend for themselves, and reproduce by the thousands in just a few years.
- The uneducated public, who can't see farther than the immediate gratification of getting their new puppy or kitten today without considering what got it there.
- But most of all, we hate cleaning up after all the unwanted animals, those that got too big, too old, too untrained, too inconvenient or too "not-what-I-expected". And those that are too dangerous and need to be euthanized.
Puppy mills are bad enough; but at least there are laws regulating those. There are virtually no laws regulating sales dogs and cats off of Craigslist. Just your conscience.
Craig Newmark may not end up changing his site to accomodate the environment he's created, but if he chooses not to, he's not going to be able to claim ignorance. It will be a conscious decision.
If you'd like to read more about The Craigslist Situation visit our website. Send Craig a (polite) letter, too. That's his email address up there.
"Adoptions, Call On Park One"
Paging is a part of life at the East Bay SPCA. Within the shelter, you hear announcements over our loudspeaker system throughout the day that usually go, "Clinic, call on park one," or "Adoptions, please pick up park one." Parks one through three on our quirky phone system just refer to the phone lines where clients have been "parked" on hold while they wait for the Adoption Center or the Vet Clinic to pick up the call.
For my particular job as Foster Coordinator, I also carry a pager (remember those?) with me in case any of my volunteer foster parents have an animal in critical condition after hours (after 5 PM or before 8 AM). I train volunteers to take care of young animals in their homes until their puppies or kittens are ready to go up for adoption and am available to them 24 hours in case of an emergency. I'm not paged very often, but when I am, it's an insistent beep, instead of a polite "call on park one" announcement. Some of the more exotic places where I've been paged include an Irish pub in Rockridge, Ocean Beach in San Francisco where I was having a bonfire this weekend, Skyline Gate where I was about to go trail running and my friend's cheese fondue party in downtown Berkeley.
I don't mind being paged; I'm glad that the volunteers monitor their kittens so closely and feel comfortable paging me when they have a kitten who's lethargic, dehydrated or not eating. I'm glad that they alert me sooner rather than later-- usually before the situation gets really critical. I'm glad that I can reassure the foster parent and create a plan that ensures that the kittens get the medical attention they need and leaves the foster parent feeling confident. I'm also glad after I've talked to the foster parent and we've handled a potential emergency that I can breathe a sigh of relief and go back to my beach bonfire!
Life is so fragile
There are a few kittens in distress this weekend.
Our medical support staff and the foster coordinator are having to stay on their toes. We have so many underage kittens out in foster homes
But a lot can happen in the time it takes for these babies to get old enough to be adopted.
Kittens stop eating, have diarrhea, vomit, get upper respiratory viruses. We do our best, but so many times these babies' immune systems are just not mature enough to fight common germs.
Most of the time we are able to keep them going long enough for medicine or time to make it right, and these kittens go on to be adopted and loved felines. Sometimes, however, our best efforts do not turn the tide and we lose a baby.
It is so tough.
I left the shelter last night with three babies doing poorly. One isn't eating, one has terrible runny poop, another seems to be in pain for no identifiable reason. Dr. A. left us with medications and instructions to help support these little ones. The staff will all do their best, I know. Even though I am off today, I phone in to be sure they are still with us.
They stayed alive overnight. One of them even looks like there was never anything wrong.
So far so good.
Tanya Part IV
Well...Tanya made it up to adoptions today. The visiting vet didn't find anything new and suspects that she is anticipating pain rather than actually feeling it. How sad to be in distress from things you think
Since we think she isn't dangerous, just a nervous wreck, we gave her a green collar (red collars are for dogs that have not yet fully passed our temperament tests or are on probation, and green collar is for dogs that can be handled by anyone) and put her in Kennel 5 in the Adoption area.
She has a disclaimer that talks about her hips, sensitivity, stranger stuff and ball craziness. And she can't go home with kids under 8. But at least she can be visited by lots of volunteers and fawned over a little. And she can wait for her new (forever) home.
It could be a long wait.
What happened to my Lap Buddy?
A couple people wanted to know what happened to the little Lap Buddy
I wrote about last week. It was a sad (for me) ending, so I didn't post an update.
Oakland Animal Services looked up the name and number of the owner since we had a license tag number (an expired tag), and told us the dog had been picked up previously. We sent Lap Buddy to OAS, so the owner could pay the fine and pick up her dog
That next morning, we did get a chance to call the owner to inform her that her dog was going to be at OAS, and we took that opportunity to discuss his condition with her.
She said she'd been planning
on starting to look for her little 12-pound dog that day...
I'm sorry I couldn't do more for you, Lap Buddy.
Senior Gentleman Seeks Long Lasting Relationship
Yesterday, a dog was returned to our shelter. He had been adopted in 1998 and since he was one and a half then, he's now over nine years old. The reason for this return? Moving. Can't keep.
There is more to the story than that. There must be. You can't just own a pet for eight years and then one morning decide not to own it anymore. Can you? I am left scratching my head at this thought. Are we animal welfare folk so different from the rest of the pet owning population that this concept, so bizarre to me, would be perfectly logical to most dog owners?
Maybe this dog had some behavior issue, and moving was an opportunity for the owners to justify giving him up. Maybe there's more to the story than just "moving".
What the shelter is left with is a nine year old dog who I last saw panting heavily and looking out through the bars of his kennel. It's these moments that make me wish I could creep inside a dog's head and understand what they're thinking. What runs through a dog's mind when he finds himself in a kennel after living in a home for eight years?
Our return is not the only one. There are senior dogs in nearly every shelter, and we have a senior animal program
specifically so we can bring a few in and get them adopted out. But finding homes for older dogs is a challenge. Most adopters want a young, spry pet and few are interested in a dog or cat who has most of its life behind him.
It seems an injustice to me, to spend your entire life with someone only to be given away in the sunset years. There is something about the senior dogs that strikes me even more than the others. Many of these dogs are sweet, mellow, attention seeking companions. What did they do to be turned away?
They say when you love something, forever is not enough. Apparently, eight years is too long.
Pit Bull Politics.
We emailed our supporters last night, with a statement on the recent issues surrounding pit bulls. It's a difficult topic, surrounded by so many unnecessary tragedies of late. I have to remind myself that we are in fact acting
, and have been, instead of just wringing our hands about it.
It is heartening to know that so many people feel the way that we do, and that regardless what happens on a state or local level, our programs do and will play a big part in solving the problem of too many, and too many badly-bred, dogs in our community.
If you didn't receive our statement, and would like to, just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tanya Part III
I didn't bring Tanya home last night. One of our vets wanted to take a second look at her after I showed the vet the seemingly painful response to firm touches. She suggested that a visiting surgeon, who happened to be in our clinic today, might be able to suggest something.
So I left Tanya there (since I am off today) and she will be looked at around 9am.
I've got my fingers crossed!