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East Bay SPCA Home
The East Bay SPCA saves 
     and improves the lives of cats and dogs and connects
     people and pets in our community.











What is No Kill 
Shelter Life Blog 
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Welcome to Shelter Life at the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

We began as the Oakland SPCA in 1874. Today, the East Bay SPCA includes two animal shelters and three clinics in our community.

This is our day.

Friday, December 30, 2005

In crate

Thanks to a few employees, we now offer our adoption packets online in HTML and PDF versions. Take a peak at them to learn about collars, leashes, food, training programs and even how to use a crate.

Adoption Packet for Dogs

Adoption Packet for Cats

Thursday, December 29, 2005

I am ready for the challenge.

I'm taking my second Pit Bull Hall foster dog to her new home today.

Cleo arrived about 6 weeks ago from Oakland Animal Services. She was just one of many pit bulls and pit bull mixes at the shelter that day, but BADRAP reps knew she was special. They also knew, I could handle her. You see, I like calm, low key dogs. Dogs that sleep away half the day. Dogs that don't jump up on you and lick you to death. Dogs that act like cats. And boy did BADRAP pick me a winner.

After the temperament test, I took her to the shelter for a bath and shots. She was spayed two days later and then spent the next week and a half at my house. Most foster dogs with BR need more time than that, but she was so easy, she moved into the "the hall" when there was an opening.

She stayed there just over a month, but was having some trouble in the kennels. (Some dogs do.) She was going to be moved into another foster home, but then two applications came in for her. I took her home again while we waited to see if one would pan out. Sure enough, a lovely couple from Portola Valley met her and wanted her. They also liked sweet, calm dogs. She spent the holidays with another Badrapper since I had to go out of town and then came home with me again for her last few days.

I've fostered two dogs for BADRAP and seen about 12 pit bulls come in to the hall and get adopted. Each one is amazing. From Mikey the first to Jonny Sue who is going home next, they all have a unique story and happy ending. 12 pit bulls may not seem like a lot, but considering the shelters are crowded with rows and rows of unwanted pit bulls and adoptions are incredibly rare, it is no small miracle these dogs have found good, no, great homes.

I look forward to the continuing partnership with BADRAP as we move into 2006. Not only will more pit bulls find their forever homes, but we are going to work hard to pull off 4 more shot fairs targeting communities with overpopulation issues, track statistics from the counties on pit bulls, get more owners to take advantage of Pit Fix, teach many pit ed and other pit related classes, create presentations for local schools, and even put on a pit ed camp for shelters workers looking to learn more about pits.

It's an exciting time as we look to reducing the number of pit bulls entering shelters in our communities and therefore reduce the number needlessly dying. I am ready for the challenge.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005 is snapping shut on us.

Shelter Life is always hectic during the holidays. This is the case for a few reasons.

One, common to all businesses, vacation time is used up at an annoying pace.

Of course people need time off, and its a great time of year to take it. But unlike a regular business, the shelter worker's work can't just be put "on hold," until they get back. Every day, whether the regularly-scheduled employee is here or not, someone still has to clean kennels, feed the cats, exercise the dogs, prep animals for the vets, call foster parents to schedule their appointments, answer adoption questions, show animals to adopters (we don't want them here until 2006 if we can help it!), reboot the server, let volunteers inside the building, keep the animals up-to-date on the various websites we use, mop the floor, take out the garbage, complete intake for animals coming in, test and evaluate dogs, and ...

You get the picture.

Two, clients and volunteers are feeling a little more rushed than usual.

Whether it's the traffic, or the pressure of gift-giving or even the financial strain that goes with the season, holiday cheer on the go can be tough to muster this time of year. People are in a hurry and we have less folks to help. Sometimes balls get dropped and for that we are apologetic.

Three, the weather.

Cats, no problem. But 60 dogs who need walks, exercise and potty breaks? Fuggedaboutit. See "mop the floor" above. Every hour.

Four, adoptions decrease.

While adopting a pet before a stay-at-home vacation can be a great way to acclimate a new pet before returning to a full-time schedule, bringing a new, still-adjusting pet into a noisy household on Christmas morning can be disasterous. So while some pre-holiday adopters have great timing, we also encourage many others to wait until after the holidays, especially if their intent is to give a pet as a gift. (We don't allow a pet to be adopted to someone who hasn't yet met the pet.)

So it's hectic and we look forward to returning to your regularly scheduled programming.

2006 is bringing new challenges and new opportunities. We'll continue to see success in the dog population in our community. Fewer and fewer dogs and cats will be killed in 2006 for lack of a home, including pit bulls and incoming kittens.

We will spay and neuter more dogs and cats at low and no cost, than ever before, thanks to generous donors who agree this is the key to ending the suffering of homeless pets.

We will concentrate more resources than ever on finally solving the feral cat problem. While feral cats are not adoptable, and therefore outside of our mission, they are producing nearly 100% of the kittens we shelter and find homes for every year. Concerned citizens will be able to rely on us as a resource in helping them curb the feral cat populations in their own neighborhoods, and that benefits the community. Together, we will make a huge impact.

And we will find homes for all the adoptable dogs and cats in our care. Like we do every year.

2005 is snapping shut, but I see the light peeking through from 2006, and it's bright and hopeful.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Lily-Beignet Finds A Home

One of our hurricane dogs, Beignet (Lily to her foster) found a home yesterday. She was adopted by her foster family, and considering everything this dog and this foster family have been through, they both have a special place in the hearts of EBSPCA staff. There were tears from staff and lots of photos taken when we processed the adoption last night!

We treated Beignet for heartworms, a condition that can be fatal and is more common in the South than other regions of the country. She made it through her treatment and was in her foster home for nearly three months. Her foster family took wonderful care of her. With her heartworm condition, she needed to stay on restricted activity -- which wasn't easy, since she's an energetic Boxer mix! Her foster family had fostered one other hurricane dog before Beignet, a small dog named Madame who was reunited with her owner (see October's blog). Madame's owner was verified and the dog was flown home right about the time that the family decided that they wanted to adopt her. To help them recover from that disappointment, and knowing that they'd take great care of Beignet, they were fortunately up for another foster dog.

When the family decided they wanted to adopt their second hurricane foster dog, they didn't tell their children yet, but plotted with me to have her outfitted in her new leash, collar, harness and tag when they arrived to pick her up. They'd told the children it was to foster her some more, and then once they were reunited with their foster dog, they revealed that they were adopting her and she would be theirs forever! When Lily-Beignet arrived home, the first thing she did was fall fast asleep, content to have a home of her own at last. Her new owner described her happy homecoming, "I think if she could, she would pinch herself to make sure it was all real!!"

Welcome home, Lily-Beignet!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Head. Hit. Keyboard.

"I'd like to return this dog."
"Oh? What seems to be the problem?"
"He's peeing in the house."
"Oh dear. He's having accidents, even when you're crating and tetherng him?"
"I haven't done any of that."
"I see. Have you spoken to a trainer during your included obedience classes?"
"I haven't gone to any of those. None of that would have made a difference anyhow. I'd like to return this dog."

Being bruised on the upper arm when a dog leaps up and bites me. I am standing near this dog in the first place because the owners, who want to surrender him, are trying to explain to me that despite the growling and barking, he's a friendly dog.

The pair of dogs abandoned near our property, both terrified. One so terrified that she dashes out into the street to be hit and killed by a truck, all before L.'s eyes.

"I'd like to surrender this dog."
"How come?"
"I've realized I'm not really a dog person. He's too much work and he's kind of annoying."

The terrier mix, purchased from a friend and surrendered the next day by his new owners because he chews on things.

The purebred Spaniel imported from Europe to end up, unwanted, at a local animal control.

Toenails that have grown so long that they're curling around and imbedding themselves into the flesh of the paw.

"You mean you charge MONEY for animals here? I thought you wanted to find them homes."


3 Names, 2 Owners and 1 Dog: Part 2

The foster family had adopted Caper after fostering him for two months. They changed his name to "Tyson" because he was such a tough guy, and sent me an email about how much they adored him and how pleased they were to have him in their lives.

About one week later, that happy, glowing email fresh in my mind, the EBSPCA heard from a rescue worker that his New Orleans owner who had found his photo on Petfinder and our web site. Her address matched the house where he was rescued from the second floor, safe from flood water by about 10 feet.

When asked if they wanted, and if they were in a position, to take the dog back, M.M., the dog's original owner, said, "We want him back, we need him back. He is the only thing we have left." The bodies of their other dog and two cats were found in the flooded home. M.M. offered to send his adopted family regular photos and updates, but hoped his new family would understand. They just wanted him back.

K. called the new family and let them know that the original family had come forward and that we'd verified that they had been his owner. She pointed out to both parties that the foster family was under no obligation to return him. I kept looking at Tyson's picture on my fridge that night, worrying about his adoptive family who loved the dog so much and his owner in New Orleans who had lost so much but had now found her dog-- and also found out that he wasn't hers anymore.

After an emotional day of thinking and soul searching-- and probably cuddling Tyson a lot, his Bay Area owners let us know that they wanted to do the right thing, which for them was returning the dog to his New Orleans family. As if that weren't thoughtful and generous enough, the foster also tentatively booked a flight for herself, her boyfriend and Tyson, since on her foster application, she had written that if his owner claimed him, she'd willing to take him back to New Orleans herself. She wanted to keep her word.

She and the owner had a nice chat (for over an hour!) on the phone and arranged to meet in New Orleans where she can hand deliver the dog to his prior home, where he lived before the hurricane changed everything. For a family who has lost so much, and whose home and city are so changed, it will mean the world to them to have their same Meeko back tomorrow.

The Sensitive Soul

There are people who are very sensitive to crowds and strangers. You may be one of these folks. Parties are exhausting, chatting with strangers is stressful, and you would really rather just kick back somewhere quiet with a good friend and relax.

Not everyone is a party animal and the dogs here in our shelter are no different. As you walk down the aisle of kennels you may be met with friendly tail wagging wiggly dogs, excited dogs ready to play, barking dogs, shy quiet-in-the-back-of-the run dogs, or growly grumpy dogs.

Today in our kennels is a dog named "Elmer". He is a wonderful rottie mix who is a deep and sensitive soul. He does not like living in a kennel where it is loud and busy. All those people coming in to stare at him makes him very nervous. He has decided that being growly and barky is the best coping strategy. This is unfortunate since it makes many people just walk right by. No one wants a dog that is scary.

But wait, folks! This is just Elmer when he is in his kennel. Out with the volunteers or trainers he is a very sweet boy. His quiet and gentle demeanor lends itself to spending time sitting outside just enjoying a sunny day or watching the squirrels. He loves to ride in the car, is good with other dogs, and will offer his paw for shake hands.

If you are planning to adopt this season from a shelter, and you meet a dog like Elmer in the kennel, ask someone more about the dog. Maybe he is a wonderful dog who finds himself in a very difficult situation. Maybe he is the friend you have been looking for.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

3 Names, 2 Owners and 1 Dog: Part 1

Imagine a scenario involving two different people, each of whom has a legitimate claim on the same dog, but only 1 person can have him and 1 person is bound to be disappointed.

It's trickier if one of these people happens to be a foster volunteer who has taken wonderful care of her foster dog and then, to your delight, adopted him. She and her boyfriend are both a pleasure to work with-- friendly and good-natured and completely committed to taking the best care they can of their dog. They've brought him in for numerous vet checks, medicated him with about 100 kinds of antibiotics and even dressed him up in a funny costume for Halloween and brought you a photo that you have hanging on your fridge. They call him Tyson.

The other person is his owner who lost all her pets, including him, in Hurricane Katrina. The dog is a hurricane survivor and only one of all the pets of his Louisiana household. His owner nursed him back to health a few years ago, staying up round the clock with him to administer SQ fluids to keep him hydrated during a health crisis. Her kids ask everyday when their dog is coming home, and her family also dressed him up for Halloween, although you've never seen that photo. They call him Meeko. At the shelter, we called him Caper.

So many names and claims on just 1 small dog.

To be continued...

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Our website gets tens of thousands of page views a month. One-third of these pages are referred via various Internet search engines.

I review our referring URLs. Those from search engines contain a string of text that shows the actual words a user typed in to generate links that deliver them to our site.

While I do this in the name of "market research," I confess to feeling a little like a voyeur. I am peeking into an anonymous person's mind, getting a glimpse at their concerns or interests at the moment their browser googled or yahooed us.

Sometimes this glimpse is pretty straightforward. I find many completely unsurprising strings of search terms that indicate someone is looking for a facility just like ours:

Sometimes it's clear they aren't looking for our facility but saw something interesting and clicked anyhow:

There are people looking for pets:

And happily, people take their pet-searching seriously:
I like seeing those search terms.

There is no shortage of searches that reflect challenges people are having with their cats:
(Heh. A hyperactive kitten. Who could have thought?)

Challenges with dogs can be more difficult:

And of course, there is the challenge of pets co-existing:

We don't just get pet-owners.; we sometimes get job-hunters:
(And no, A.M., we don't list your salary on the website.)

The most interesting searches, to me, are those that cause me to wonder what the person is doing. Researching a paper, perhaps?

I had to look at this one twice:

I found myself worrying what pet owners were going through when they typed in their search string:

And I hope my (anonymous) neighbor in Pleasanton found their dog:

Sometimes, the search string is disturbing. Reminds me how much work we have in front of us:

And I don't even want to know why this person is asking this:

But when all is said and done, this is my favorite:

This is what it's all about.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Stepping Up

People fascinate me. The choices that are made intrigue and amaze me. Sometimes, that's a good thing. Other times, not so much.

Since I've started working here, we've had a number of dogs returned for reasons I haven't agreed with. "Moving" is one of the most common ones, although I personally believe that's more an excuse than an explanation. Those dogs that can't come along for the move often happen to be big, pushy, or poorly trained. I think that "moving" gives people a tangible reason to give up a dog they weren't happy with anyhow. That frustrates me, but I get it.

Then we get the older dogs who have given years of their lives to a family only to find themselve back in the shelter as seniors. One dog, who had lived with his owners for eight years, came back for marking furniture. The behavior began after the arrival of a baby and could have had more to do with stress than with poor housebreaking. Had the owners tried any crating or management to work with the problem? No. They decided it would be easier to simply not have their dog any longer. Easier for them, anyhow.

Occasionally we get a real heartbreaker. An animal who is clearly on his last legs, but belonging to a family who cannot bring themselves to make that final decision. Instead, the geriatric and incontinent dog finds herself back in a kennel, with the family hoping that some other household will be willing to take on the dog. The truth is, the poor pooch's quality of life is so diminished that he is no longer adoptable. But, some people would rather leave that final choice to somebody else. These dogs particularly sadden me, because their final moments ought to be with the family they love. Not with a stranger in an unfamiliar room.

I suppose what it comes down to is that as much as people want that adorable face in the window, they're not always prepared for the level of commitment it really takes. Dogs are work. Hard work. And, what is a person to do when their older dog isn't adjusting to the new baby? How does a parent explain to their little girl that her dog is dying? What choice should you make when the pet you brought home is far more challenging that you'd realized? These are all tough questions.

I just wish more people would ask them BEFORE they get a dog.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"Momma, is it Boots?"

Hurricane Katrina has moved from the front pages. Except for the occasional follow up, the nation is going about its business, the horrific scenes of New Orleans, broadcast over the television and internet, fading from our minds, competing with jumbled messages about "Black Fridays," "Cyber Mondays," the over-commercialism of Christmas, and the Iraqi war.

Except for the victims still putting their lives together, many with amazing grace and resiliency.

We received a message this morning from HSUS; it was a tangled message about somebody or other, calling on behalf of someone else, who thinks that "Cranks," the testy black and white tuxedo cat might be theirs, and can we please call the possible owner and let her know?

If you have been following along, you know that shelters who took in Katrina pets, all over the Bay Area and the country, are fielding calls like this daily. Frankly, many of these vague leads are dead ends, and heartbreaking to follow. But we have to try, because like with Sophia/Selma, you just never know.

But this was a super-duper long shot: Cranks is our resident Cranky McCrankypants. We think she may have been a former feral who was scooped up inadvertently in the pet rescue frenzy. She is just not nice. Even though she was found spayed, she won't let anyone touch her. She hisses at you if you dare enter her line of sight. She can't be placed in a foster home (but we, and a brave soul trying their hand at fostering, did make an attempt). The idea that she may have belonged to a real home at some point was laughable.

But a guy named Joe, called a woman named Sheryl, who called us, thinking our "Cranks" might be the cat belonging to a woman named Daphne. Daphne had been evacuated to Salinas, Kansas with her eight-year old boy, who is missing his kitty "Boots," terribly. This is the kitty that his Mommy got the year he was born and who, until that even crankier hurricane, spent every night of his life that he can remember in bed with him.

Joe or Sheryl or someone hoped that based on just the scantest of information, maybe it was a match.

I finally reached Daphne tonight by phone.

I warned her right up front it was probably not a match, that this cat was likely not a pet, and had not been found in a house, but had been found at the Intersection of I-10 and I-610. She gasped. That intersection is two blocks from her home.

We had time to kill while she booted up the nearby computer to go online and view the photos we'd posted of Cranks. Listening to the most gracious Southern accent, I found myself chatting with this remarkable young mother about her experiences.

She was up to her neck in floodwaters. She was rescued from the roof of her home when a boat came by to take her, her son, and their cat, to safety. Boots would simply not go along with this plan. This sweet, loving, pet clawed and badly scratched at Daphne, refusing to be carried into the boat, refusing to be held. Darn cat. Faced with risking her son's life or leaving Boots behind, she left Boots on the roof of her house. Boots often played there in the sun anyhow.

She told me that she has spent nearly every day in Kansas looking at online pictures after pictures of slightly-different-but-all-eerily-similar black and white cats, hoping to catch a glimpse of Boots. I asked if she had a current picture of Boots -- most survivors have no pictures -- and she said she didn't but she didn't need one; she would know her Boots when she saw her.

While her dialup was connecting, I asked her what her plans were. They were returning to the South, to Mississippi, on Sunday where she will live with family and find a new job. She spoke so plainly, and confidently but without bravado or drama or seeking pity. Simply another chapter in a life that was unfolding exactly the way it was intended, whether it seemed to make sense or not. To say she is a "True Survivor" is such a cliched description, but it fits so well. It doesn't seem so cliched anymore to me.

Her serenity and composure impressed me.

"Oh, that's not my Boots. That's not her," she said when the page finally opened, "but we had to try."

I was surprised at how sad that made me. I wished her the best and we chatted for just a few seconds more, and then I hear in the background a little boy's eager voice, "Momma, is it Boots? Is it?"

And in that composed Southern lilt, with compassion and strength she replies, "No, Baby, it's not her."

We said our goodbyes and couldn't help my eyes filling with tears at the sound of the little boy missing his kitty. Keep searching, Baby.

Coming Home

This Thanksgiving, I flew to Ohio to visit with my family. It was a much needed break from shelter life. Working at the EBSPCA, as in any animal welfare organization, can grind you down if you're not careful. Stress from work can creep into your everyday life and can appear in your dreams as you sleep. It's important to make yourself step back and take a break. Otherwise, you'll go nuts.

So, flying back to Ohio came at a perfect time. I was about due for some R&R and my nerves were feeling a little jangled. Taking a week off, sleeping in, and catching up with my family was just what the veterinarian ordered.

On Tuesday, I came back to work, grabbed my leash, and headed into the kennels for morning housebreaking. I opened up the first kennel, reached in, and snapped the leash on a big, boistrous, black Lab. As soon as I touched his fur, I got a little tingly sensation that shot from my fingers to my arm and then settled in my belly. Much as I enjoyed the time off, I missed sinking my fingers into shelter-dog fur. I missed meeting new furry faces and being sniffed by doggy noses.

Guess I'm in the right line of work.

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