"Hello? I have this picture....."
That's what the phone call started out like today. While most people searching among the thousands of posted pets online send emails initially, Maggie shored up her chances by calling too. Her daughter lived in New Orleans and owned a store. She evacuated, but thinking this time would be like all others, she left Selma behind with some food and water in the store, intending to return after the storm blew over.
Only this was one storm that didn't just blow over. Not without leaving hundreds of thousands and people and pets homeless.
Maggie's daughter is trying to get her life re-settled, and Maggie, her mother, is trying to help her find her "grand-cat".
It's rare that any of the Hurricane victims have a photo, but still, I am not optimistic. You see, we've had dozens and dozens of inquiries, but so few have even gone to the next step. The addresses don't jive. The gender is wrong. The animal wasn't altered and the one we found was. or vice versa. Even the most confident owners find that subsequent pics reveal that, indeed, that black-and-white cat we have is not their
So I encourage Maggie to send her grand-cat's picture to me, thinking at least this way we can let her know right away that it's the wrong pet....
And then I look back and compare Selma to this photo, of the pet we call "Sophia:"
That black stripe up the nose....the pink splotch on the nose leather....the horizontal black swath going from the nose up the right side of her face.
Even the sultry gold eyes. Oh my gosh. It's got to be.
RL then confirmed an address from something scrawled on the original Louisiana paperwork.
Sophia is now Selma, and Selma's mom, while losing so very much in recent weeks, will soon be reunited with the one thing that is irreplaceable.
Another Day In The Life
The shelter is packed with dogs. Adoptions is full. Receiving Kennels are full. Surgery Kennels are full. Big Iso (short for Isolation) has dogs. Small Iso has dogs. Even two kennels in the Grooming area (which is used for housing cats) harbors a pair of small, mostly-naked poodles. Surrenders, returns, foster drop-offs and hurricane Katrina have all converged in a collection of events that leave us with more canines in house than we've had for months.
Another series of events has left us short-staffed. Naturally. Such things very commonly go together in shelter work.
And somehow, we always manage to pull it off. Katrina animals are heading out to foster. The dogs in our back kennels are going through their temperament evaluations and compulsories. The dogs up front are getting matched with new homes. Kennel space is gradually becoming available again. I am amazed at how smoothly everything is going, despite the unexpected.
When I talk to non-shelter friends on the phone and they ask me what's new at work, I find myself saying something like "Oh, you know. Same old, same old."
And it's true.
Thank you, Al Gore.
Al invented the Internet. We think. Or he thinks.
Okay, well maybe he didn't invent the Internet, but he had a lot to do with it, and for that, I am thankful. I was reading a random Craigslist
forum tonight and ran into this photo:
It wouldn't be unusual except for that funny looking dog on the left is Jordan, a resident at our Tri-Valley SPCA facility in Dublin. I see Jordan daily, and go visit him when I need a laugh.
He's an Aussie/Corgi mix (maybe..who can really tell these things?) that is gathering a fan club for his friendly appearance and unusual shape. He almost looks like a whole dog until you get to his stubby legs.
Before the Internet, if you were in animal rescue, you had to cross your fingers that the right person showed up at your facility, or at the pet store where you were camped out on a Saturday, in order to get your warm, friendly, fuzzy dogs and cats in front of potential forever homes.
The reward was a life of kibble and love. Failure meant another night in the adequate but lonely kennel or cage.
But the Internet has provided a venue for homeless animals to be perused by homes-less-animals in the hope of making a match. That nice family from Concord doesn't have to spend three weekends driving hundreds of miles to animal shelters in the county, hoping that a pet with which they connect will present themselves.
By looking on one of the many adoptable pet sites, like virtualpetadoptions.com or petfinder.org they can view many more animals, including those who they may never have found otherwise.
Because someone was amused by Jordan's unique shape and goofy expression, maybe, just maybe, he'll have a new home by the end of the weekend.
It looks promising.
A client contacted us because he thought we had his lost Hurricane cat. He was in the Bay Area now and wondered if he could come by to see. I met him this morning and unfortunately, within seconds, he said, "that isn't him." He was confident he would find him since the SPCA in Louisana tagged his house (as evidence that they took the cat.)
Another person emailed saying that their dog was with us. He was confident. Unfortunately, his dog was neutered and the one that he thought was his was not neutered.
And we may have two cats from one address with a located owner. It isn't confirmed yet, but it looks promising.
It sure does add up.
Some days I get a lot done. Some days I get very little done. Such is life in the shelter. Yesterday I had to finish the preliminary budget for 2006. I thought I would have all day to work on it. Boy, was I wrong.
The morning power outage only set up back a little bit. 15 minutes gone.
The phone line issue in Admin sucked up the afternoon. 30 minues gone.
The other phone line issue at Hegenberger is still unsolved. 30 minutes gone.
The gas furnance leak made the clinic smell just lovely. 20 minutes gone.
The alarm problem at spay neuter may be fixed next week. 15 minutes gone.
The follow up for the recent floor stripping is endless. 1 hour gone.
The water spillage in the dog kennels wasn't too bad. 15 minutes gone.
The paint coming down at TV was just a phone call. 10 minutes gone.
And then there were the hurricane animals. Checking on status, getting medication, coordiantion of fostering, talking with potential owners. 2 hours gone.
It sure does add up.
I just couldn't stop crying.
Someone called the clinic today to tell them that they think we had their cat. I took the message and returned the call on my way back from an appointment from my car. David said that they lived in New Orleans but were on vacation during the hurricane and that their cats were in the house. They had called their vet to see if he could go get the cats, but when he arrived, the cats were not there. David has been searching on Petfinder for his missing long haired grey cat since then.
He saw Lolita and thought, maybe, just maybe it was her. She looked similar and there aren't that many that look like that he thought. I asked him if the location where Lolita was picked up was near his house and with great sadness in his voice, he said, "No, that is a long way from our neighborhood. It must not be her."
I told him we could still exchange pictures just in case I came across another cat like this. I told him to take care and I'll keep my eyes out for her.
I hung up the phone and even though I was alone in my car I said out loud...."that is rough stuff" and then I started crying. Thinking of David and his quest to find his missing cat, I just couldn't stop crying.
After two canceled trips and one very long night at the airport, we have taken in 27 pets displaced from Hurricane Katrina. 17 cats and 10 dogs. They are all doing well in our shelter. All much better than you would imagine after losing their homes, ending up in a makeshift shelter, getting on a airplane and taken to another shelter. Some of them seemed down righ content.
We are going through our internal process of getting them checked by our vet and then we will foster them for 30 days in the hopes that some can be reunited with their owners. I've got my fingers crossed.
Generosity and Adventure
Who says you can't combine good deeds with adventure? That is Deena and Kristy on the left. The pretty dog in the blue harness is their girl "Baby". That little scruffy little dark face peeking up above the box between them is "Cypress" now named "Ranger".
We received an email from this family earlier in the week asking if we needed donations for any animals we might be getting in from the Gulf Coast. Of course we would be delighted to get some supplies. Then we found out they were coming down all the way from Southern Oregon! Wow, what dedication.
They made a family road trip out of it, and on Thursday morning they pulled up with a truck and Uhaul trailer full of bedding, litter, food, toys, and even protective clothing for the staff who would be handling the "storm" animals.
"Ranger" is a puppy we had here at the shelter who after being introduced to this family decided that Oregon might make a great new home. Kristy and Deena came down with much needed donations and went home with a new buddy for "Baby".
Big thank you Kristy and Deena and all their friends who put together this wonderful donation. We wish them all the best in welcoming their new addition, Ranger!
People, Pets & Planes
Today, we are meeting Marin Humane on the tarmac at San Francisco International Airport to receive a 747 filled with 125 dogs and cats rescued from the region devasted by Hurricane Katrina. The East Bay SPCA has committed to initially take in 40 of these.
Who can watch the video images of dogs stranded on top of cars, hungry and wet? Or the incessant barking of dogs trapped in homes, heard over the camera recorders as it films images of otherwise barren, water-logged neighborhoods, without feeling an enormous pain in their heart?
125. Ugh. It seems like such a small
They'll be more, but it's still only a few, compared to the thousands of abandoned, orphaned, surrendered and lost animals we are seeing and reading about in the media.
The Bay Area, and the East Bay in particular, is one of the few regions in the country that can actually absorb more homeless pets. Unfortunately, most of the country is still battling the overpopulation of cats and dogs in their own backyard. This tragedy is brought about the old-fashioned way: the natural disaster of not spaying and neutering.
The East Bay should be proud to have adopted a sane, humane sensibility with bold spay and neuter policies, that puts us in the position to help as much as we can. If you can foster, adopt or donate, this week, please do so.Here's more information on our efforts.
What I remember...
The last three days have been very typical of what goes on at the shelter.
Two long term (and I'm talking very long term) cats got adopted. Yay!
Three kittens has to be euthanized for health reasons.
Many, many kittens are sick in our isolation ward.
One client came to look at a dog at Pit Bull Hall. Very glad.
One employee had to put his 14-year-old dog to sleep. Very sad.
One dog that was on probation got the green light to move into adoptions.
We socialized all the dogs in the yard each day, which is hard with only 2 Canine Associates.
One client got upset that we adopted a dog to someone else.
Six rabbits were spayed or neutered at our facility in Oakland.
We decided to create an employee pet adoption calendar.
We met to discuss what to do to help with Hurricane Relief.
A cleaning service gave us a bid on stripping and waxing the floors.
We celebrated our first five adoptions from Pit bull Hall.
One dog was put on hold (a newly-allowed option) and then taken off hold.
The next shot fair was finalized. October 29th here we come!
One stray cat was found on our property. Still lactating. Kittens not found.
One dog in terrible condition was left outside our gates last night. Too late to help him.
Finished the long awaited cat packet. Sent to printers.
Socialized a dog, Sandy, with 4 other dogs. One week ago, that dog was highly dog-aggressive.
Figured out that Ducky and Katie are a good match. But Abbey and Texas are not.
And that is just what I remember.
Why I work here.
After a frustrating, depressing or long day at the shelter, I sometimes find myself wondering why I come to work every day. Then I get letters like the one below that was received yesterday at our website email address.Dear Oakland SPCA--
If you could please make sure that this letter gets to your Operations
Manager, we would be very grateful. It is our understanding that she
discovered the lovely one year old grey tabby cat we adopted from you
a few weeks ago (you had named her 'Rhonda', but we've changed it to
'Georgia') under the stairs leading to her house [see post titled Four Felines from June 20], and we'd like her to know just how thankful we are that she made Georgia available to us. We would also like her to know how amazingly well Georgia has adapted to her new home.
I'm sure you recall what a skittish, semi-feral little thing she
was. At this point, you would hardly recognize her! The learning curve
was high; there were no litter box/eating issues at all, even on the
day we brought her home. We had expected Georgia to take her time
getting comfortable in "her" space... but by day 2 she was pressing us
to let her explore the next room. At the end of a week, she was
comfortable ruling over the whole apartment. Not that Georgia isn't
still a little shy, but we've cut off all the space below beds and
couches so as to encourage her to be social, and it seems to be
Though she has yet to crawl into one of our laps, Georgia is now
comfortable hopping onto the couch and curling up next to us. She
craves attention and is constantly mewing for belly rubs. In the past
week, she has become *extremely* vocal, almost as if she's trying to
have a conversation. Her loving ways are matched (if not exceeded!)
by her playfulness. I've known many a feline, and I've never met one
who was quite as feisty! She's able to entertain herself, certainly,
but she also wants us to take part. If we want to, say, read a book
quietly when she wants to play, Georgia will attack the turning pages,
or pull at our shoelaces. It's well worth the distraction, as her
antics keep us laughing all day.
We know that many of the wonderful SPCA worker/volunteers were worried
about the probability of Georgia's being domesticated, so we just
wanted to let you know that though she still has a bit of the wild
thing in her (and that's part of why we love her), she seems very
content to be the newest member of our family. Thank you so much for
taking such good care of Georgia until we could bring her home!
Letters like these are why I work here.
Does a heart good!
Last week I got am email from a local animal control shelter. They had over 60 kittens too little to be adopted hoping to find foster homes so they could grow up! All the kids heading back to school it seems like fall is in the air, but no...kitties are still being born.
I chatted with the foster coordinator on Tuesday about this crazy thought I had on the weekend. Maybe if we put out the word early in the week we could take all these kittens in!
Well, the word went out by email to staff, volunteers, and on Craig's List. By Thursday it looked like the impossible might happen. Foster reported she had at least 20 fosters lined up. Half of these new volunteers who answered the call. Our volunteer coordinator put out the call for volunteers to help process the intake, feeding, bathing, vaccinating, and worming of this many.
And as the pictures above start to illustrate. WE DID IT!
Friday morning we took in 57 kittens and 2 nursing mom cats.
The volunteers and staff on deck made short work of getting everyone comfortable in their cages and ready for foster parents.
Went home last night grateful for the staff and volunteers who made my madcap dream from last weekend come true.
Pit bulls: Who would have thought it?
Two more dogs are getting adopted from Pit Bull Hall this week. Zito and Summer bring the total to 5 adoptions (or foster to adopt) in 6 weeks. Which is pretty damn good considering most pit bulls that we have had are with us for at least 4 months.
When one of them goes to their forever fome this weekend, Selkie, my BADRAP foster dog, gets to join the hall. There, she will be socialized, trained and exercised daily by the wonderful BADRAP volunteers. I've learned a lot about pit bulls since I've had her. People stop and stare. People cross the street to see her or to avoid her. People ask me what kind of pit bull she is. People want her to mate with their dog. People can't believe she is such a cuddle bug.
I've also learned more about testing pit bulls for the correct temperament. TR and DR tested dogs in a city shelter this week, made their choices and then had me do the same. I was proud to have made the "right" choices. I never thought I would have said this, but testing pits is different than testing other dogs.
Anyway, I'm going to learn how to do a homecheck next. And hopefully, soon, after the right person comes to meet her, I'll be able to do a homecheck for Selkie's forever home.
Pit bulls: Who would have thought it?
Stones and Sunlight
A couple of months ago another CA and I were temperament testing dogs at the Stockton shelter. We had made our choices about which dogs we were taking and had started to pack up our temperament testing supplies when a Stockton Animal Control Officer popped her head into the small room we'd been using.
"Hey," she said, "I don't know if you guys would be interested, but we just got a standard poodle that was surrendered by her owners for euthanasia. She seems really sweet, would you want to take a look at her?"
"What was she surrendered for?" I asked.
"They said she had a urinary tract infection and they couldn't afford to treat it."
I was surprised. Medication for urinary tract infections isn't very expensive. It seemed an odd reason to give up a dog. Still, the other CA and I agreed to take a look at her and so were introduced to Amelia. She was a big black standard poodle with some distinguished grey creeping in around her muzzle. Her owners had placed her around six years, but we thought she might even be older. She was missing patches of hair along the back of her hind legs and despite a weakly wagging tail, seemed to be in poor spirits. Internal infections will do that to a body.
Because she was feeling ill, we didn't really know what her personality was like. However, despite the discomfort she was in, Amelia was tolerant of our handling and showed no signs of fear or aggression. If we left her behind, she would be euthanized that day. Bringing her to the EBSPCA wouldn't guarantee her survival but it would give her a chance that she simply didn't have in Stockton.
We loaded Amelia into our van and headed back.
Medical tests revealed that Amelia didn't just have a urinary tract infection but also a profuse amount of bladder stones. Stones are expensive to treat and remove, so it suddenly made more sense why this poodle's previous owners weren't up to the task. Our veterinarians operated to remove over a dozen stones of various sizes from Amelia's bladder. We put her on medication to get rid of her infection and gave her a dental cleaning and tooth extraction. Now, all we could do was wait, give Amelia time to heal, and discover the dog she would become.
Amelia blossomed into a sweet gentle lady who would sit quietly for attention, play with other dogs, and always enjoyed a good ear scritching. She won the hearts of shelter and clinic staff alike and everyone was excited for her the day Amelia moved up into adoptions.
It only took a couple weeks before she was adopted. A woman from out of town had heard we had a standard poodle and had driven from hours away to meet Amelia. She was looking for a dog who would enjoy greeting clients as they came into her store and who would make a calm, mellow companion for her when they headed home in the evenings. Amelia's combination of gentle and genteel made her a perfect match. I was Amelia's trainer while she was at the shelter and I also did her adoption talk. The only thing I regretted about the adoption was how far away her new owner lived. She wouldn't be able to attend classes at the OSPCA and chances were I wouldn't get to see Amelia again.
Last weekend, a friend and I took a little road trip up north to see some massive Redwood trees and enjoy a change of scenery. On the way back home, we began seeing signs for the town of Fort Bragg.
"Now why does that town's name seem so familiar?" I asked.
"That's where Amelia's owner lives," my friend replied.
We decided to stop in Fort Bragg for lunch and also to walk through the town. I didn't know what the chances were of seeing Amelia, but the business district of Fort Bragg was relatively small. Could she really be relaxing in a store somewhere on the street I was currently walking down? Then suddenly, there she was. A big black poodle with a silver muzzle lying in a pool of sunlight just inside one of the local shops.
She looked wonderful. The hair on the back of Amelia's legs had fully grown back. She had a big cushy dog bed, a fancy new collar, and had taken to her days at the store as well as we had hoped. Her new owner adored her and as we chatted, several people walked into the store to comment on how sweet and well-mannered Amelia was. Amelia had gone from being on the Euthanasia list in a municipal shelter to sleeping in a puddle of sunlight as people admired her.
It was the very best part of the trip.