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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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Last Rites

The following is pretty gross.

The shelter is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and that always inevitably means explaining to people that arrive at our doorstep that we are actually closed today, but we'll be open Wednesday and could they come back then?

Then there are those folks who decide any day is a good day to drive in, drop off their pet, and drive away. Today was such a day, although usually the abandoned animals are, well, alive.

Not today.

Today, JP spied a man in a pickup truck drive up and roll something wrapped in a blanket off of his truck and onto the corner of our parking lot. He leaned over the shape, clasped his hands together, shook them several times, and then hopped back into his vehicle and sped away. JP rushed out to stop him, but he was gone. What he left behind was a dead Rottweiler.

Very dead. Several days dead. Juicy and maggoty and oh my GOD what is that STENCH kind of dead.

RL, JP, and I put on some latex gloves, rolled out the clinic's gurney and attempted to work the prone body into a disposal bag. Things slid off. Things moved. Eventually the Rottweiler was hefted onto the gurney and rolled to our freezer, hefted in there where she awaits disposal. I don't know how she died, but I do know she'd been dead for a while before she was left on our property.

I can only hope that dog's life was a great deal better than her death.

Somehow, I kind of doubt it.

What else can we do?

We are sometimes criticized for not helping animals that are truly in need. "Others" feel that groups like ours should be rescuing only animals that are truly in need or rescue (i.e., animals that are going to die) rather than taking adoptable dogs. They say that taking adoptable animals from city or county shelters doesn't help and just makes those shelters look bad because they are left with "all the dogs no one wants." What they don't get is that if we take all the dogs that no one wants, then we don't do any adoptions and then we can't help any other shelter or animal in need.

On the flip side, our adopters sometimes criticize us for not providing the most perfect dogs to visit. Dogs without any issues. Dogs that can live in apartments, with kids, with cats and with one short walk a day. No one wants the dog with slight possession issues, or dog aggression, or medical problems, or dogs that are too hyper.

So, our "peers" want us to take more dogs with issues and our clients want us to take less? So what do we do???

We try to do both.

We try to have dogs that the average dog owner can adopt. AND we try to help city and county shelters by taking dogs that might in fact be fine dogs, but are either too shut down or too scared or too untrained in their current situation.

Sometimes a few weeks with us allows them to shine. Sometimes it just makes the bad things more obivous.

Yesterday, we went to a local shelter and took 6 canines.

  • One dog that was not available to the public since it was too scared and under socialized.
  • One dog was an older shepherd mix that was super freaked out in the kennel and wasn't available to the public either.
  • One dog that would have been put up for adoption, but it also wasn't the greatest of dogs.
  • We also took an 80 pound cropped ear pit bull.
  • And lastly, we took two underage pups that needed some fostering to make it to the age when they could be spayed or neutered.

Are any of these dogs available to the public now? Nope. It will be a couple weeks for all of them.

Did we take the cute cuddlies available to the public? No. Do the groups who see themselves as being the "real" rescue groups (i.e., the folks who criticize us for being too strict) see that. Nope.

Do they see the dogs that we have had for months that we took when no other group would touch them? Nope. Do I care? Sometimes, but not too much really. We'll just continue to do what we think we should do. What is right for the dogs, for our clients, for our local shelters.

What else can we do?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Goofy Pictures

Kirsten's post "Every So Often" inspired me to take a look at my photo collection. Not every picture gets used for the website. Here are some of the more "goofy" ones, and then some, for good measure.

Allie, caught mid-meow.

I don't know how to describe Artie's expression here.

Ashlyn likes to jump on the door-sill to get your attention.

Cousteau on his way to his new home.

It's hard to get a puppy to stay still for a photo shoot.

The kitten with his head over the edge is actually asleep that way.

Malcolm likes to hang out in his box.

This dog's name is Meatball.

Another kitty caught mid-meow.

Pokey likes his Winnie the Pooh toy.

Ralph is just so handsome. In his new home, his name is now Garfield.

Rupert loves the gigantic stuffed dog toys we have. His new name is Chester.

Dottie is so silly. She had a bad case of skin irritation (see the pink around her eyes), and was fostered, but now she is all better and adopted!

Stella, in anticipation of a treat.

Tux, such an easy going kitty, yawning and streching.

Monday, February 20, 2006

In fact, I still do.

A new employee started today. When I sat down with her to go over the new employee paperwork...you know boring stuff like W-4s, I-9s and payroll deposits, she says to me, "I couldn't sleep last night at all, I was so excited about starting here. This is my dream job."

I felt that way too on my first day.

In fact, I still do.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

This was the best exception I ever made.

About a month ago, LD came to me and said, "Let me run something by you..." LD is a man of few words so I knew I should listen to what he was about to say.

"Cousteau has some suitors in Washington. I've talked with them on the phone and they really want Cousteau."

I'm thinking, "Great. Have them fly down to meet him." We don't have a rule against out of state adoptions, but all our normal procedures would apply.

LD then tells me that they have a dog. Well, actually two dogs. So they couldn't bring the dogs down to meet him, as required.

So, I think about it for a few moments remembering the Cousteau is an unusual dog. A French Spaniel, which is incredibly rare, but also a dog with some behavioral issues. He doesn't warm up socially to people, the way an adopter would like. It took him a long time to actually get put up for adoption after we got him. And we had already moved him from Oakland to Tri Valley since he got no looks in Oakland. He wasn't at all dangerous. People just thought he was weird. It would take a long time to find a suitable match for him.

I ask LD some questions. Can you talk to their vet? Can you get pictures of their dogs? (You can tell a lot about a pet owner by the condition of their dogs.) Can you get other references? What do they know about this breed? What would they do if the dogs didn't get along? Were they prepared for that.

That was when LD tells me that the woman who wants him is the President of the French Spaniel Rescue Group. She was quite prepared to introduce them slowly on leash and handle whatever happened. I confirmed she didn't want the dog to rescue but to own as a pet and I was sold.

Then, a couple days later, LD calls me to say everything has checked out, but there is one hitch. The folks live up in the country in Washington and they can't make the planned trip due to a snow storm. They would need to wait until the snow cleared which could be a couple weeks. A couple weeks!??!

"Ship them the dog," I said. LD beamed with delight.

I then told KP, who said, "You aren't seriously shipping them the dog, are you?" We have never done this so her question was and reasonable.

"Hell, yes," I said. There could be no better home for this dog and I wasn't going to keep him in a shelter one day longer than necessary.

A couple days later, LD went to the airport with the couple's brother and said good-bye to Cousteau.

The next time I saw LD, I said, "So, how is Cousteau?" He just smiled and said, "Great. He is living in doggie heaven." I think the following pictures will prove that this was the best exception I ever made.

(Cousteau is the one on the couch. :) )

Friday, February 17, 2006

Every so often.

Dogs in. Dogs out. Cats in. Cats out. Adoption clients. Clinic clients. Dog training clients. Volunteers. Donors.

Every day is different, yet the same, with an endless parade of animals and people.

But then every so often I see a picture taken by our talented shelter staff, that just stops me in my tracks and cracks me up:

There's Mikey:




I know we don't work hard at taking goofy pictures -- there is barely enough time in the day to take normal ones. But every so often, the goofiness just leaps out at us.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

You Know You Work For An Animal Shelter When...

  1. Your printer stand is actually a dog crate.
  2. No matter how many times you re-record your voice mail greeting, you can't get one without the sound of dogs barking in the background (and then most of the volunteers who leave messages tell you they like it!)
  3. You find yourself discussing pit bulls or the importance of spay/neuter at parties.
  4. Despite being provided with EBSPCA logo t-shirts, you buy your own shelter logo wear online-- especially if it features a cute picture of Tigger the shelter cat or Kaluha the pit bull.
  5. When you think of your benefits package, discount vet care for your pet(s) comes to mind before your health, dental and vision benefits.
  6. Your work clothes are a sweatshirt covered in cat hair and an old pair of jeans. Did you know that some people actually have to dress up for work?
  7. You use lots of needles and syringes daily to vaccinate, microchip, or deworm animals.
  8. You have emergency lint roll sessions every few days when your coworkers decide you're wearing too much cat hair.
  9. When your friends chat casually about their pets, you find yourself giving them behavioral advice.
  10. When people talk about taking care of children, your main frame of reference is bottle-feeding kittens.
  11. You get more excited hearing about great dog and cat adoptions than you do about the Superbowl or the Academy Awards.
  12. You dream about shelter animals.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Waiting for the "Big One."

Today, I was a guest of Marin Humane. They held a workshop, inviting the Bay Area animal shelters who took in animals from Hurricane Katrina, to discuss "lessons learned." The hope is our experiences with Katrina animals will help prepare us for our challenges when the Big One hits our region.

Now, this area has had its disasters: the Oakland fires in the early '90s, the earthquake that disrupted the World Series in 1989, and wildfires, seemingly every year. The East Bay SPCA was instrumental in the Oakland fires by hosting a triage staging area of recovered pets, so we have cooperated successfully with animal control to save lives in unusual circumstances. But this event was to prepare specifically for worse case scenarios.

One of the biggest lessons learned: the best indicator of how well a pet will survive in a disaster is if the pet evacuates with the owner. That was a challenge in Louisiana as many of the rescue organizations such as the Red Cross were not prepared to rescue people AND pets.

So, take them with you, okay?

(And make plans with your neighbors to recover each other's pets if you can't be home when the Big One hits.)

Now that is something I had not heard before.

I was taking some dogs outside today to get some fresh air and some clients asked me if those dogs were available for adoption too. I said, "Yes" and followed up with, "What kind of dog are you looking for?" "A big dog," was the gentleman's response which was slightly amazing since you always hear "we are looking for a small dog."

He then said that he had a small dog (who liked big dogs) so now he was looking for a big one. I said that there was a large dog inside that did really well with small dogs and I would get her name in a minute when I went back inside. He asked what kind of dog and I said that it was a lab. He said, "Oh no. We don't want a lab. They are too fat."

Now that is something I had not ever heard before.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Sometime during the day yesterday someone tied up a small mixed breed dog to our fence. No note. No food. No id tags. Nothing. Just a helpless dog alone and abandoned. This happens a lot, but we always tell ourselves that it was probably some Good Samaritan who found the dog and wanted to "do the right thing" by bringing it to the SPCA. We don't like to think of the alternative...a owner dumping their pet in this bizarre way rather than choosing one of so many alternatives for rehoming him or her.

Well...today, someone called the clinic and asked about the dog. She had left it there, but now she wanted him back.

"East Bay SPCA, this is Rachel, can I help you?"

"Yes, are you the one that abandoned your dog yesterday?"
"Ah yes, but I have a home for her now, so can I come get her?"

"Why did you leave her tied up alone?"
"I was moving and had to get rid of her."

"But why did you tie her up and leave her?"
"I didn't know if it would cost anything to leave her so I just left her."

"Well, abandoning an animal on private property is illegal."
"I didn't abandon her...I left her at the SPCA."

"That is still abandoning her. I will not give her back to you."
"Why not?"

"Because you have already proven yourself an irresponsible pet owner and I could be held liable for negligence if I knowingly put her back in this situation. We will take her to the animal control department in Oakland."
"Doesn't it make a difference that I am calling now to get her back? It isn't like I dumped in her the ghetto. I'm willing to pay a fine."

"No. She could have been hit by a car, stolen, hurt, attacked by a loose animal after she was tied up, so you put her at risk the moment you left her."
"Are you not going to give her back for personal reasons?"

"I don't even know you so it couldn't be personal."
"I mean, is this a procedure or are you just doing this to me?"

"Yes, it is our procedure to take all stray and abandoned animals to the city animal control department."
"Will they give me my dog back?"

"I don't know. You will have to talk to them. She'll be there tomorrow."
"Are you in charge there?"

"Yes I am and my name is Rachel."
"Can I have the number for animal control"

"Good bye"


Images from Shelter Life

"Who left me in the tub? What's going on out there?

Looks comfy.

Monique and Littlebit.

An adorable kitten named Charles (now called "C.C."), adopted by a man named Charles, from a picture taken by Charles.

Jenny; Holy Bat Ears!

Mir, now Murphy, going home with a new friend!

What foster cat doesn't enjoy watching "Family Guy" from your lap?

"do not disturb"

Does Wookiee truly appreciate Juliet's love? These are the questions we always ask ourselves. Look how he only lets her halfway on the bed.

Now, for the more exotic. CHP found this baby calf on the side of the road. East County Animal Services, the animal shelter next door, walked across the street, and brought her over for a visit.

And of course, the more mundane. Each blinking letter represents a paper jam. Ouch.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Thumbs Up

Small dogs usually don't get trainers at our facilities, and at 25 pounds, Stella came in just under the wire. It's not that small dogs don't need training, but a small dog who pulls on leash or jumps up on people is still more likely to be adopted, and less likely to be returned, than a big dog with the same behaviors. Besides, small dogs are usually adopted so quickly, they aren't around long enough to learn much of anything.

But Stella was assigned to me, not because she needed a trainer, but because I needed a dog. I was the newest trainer at our Tri-Valley facility, and new trainers are assigned "easy" dogs: small dogs, older dogs, dogs who already have some training.

During Stella's temperament evaluation, we discovered that she is stone deaf. We weren't too concerned, because most deaf dogs get along just fine. They can learn anything a hearing dog can learn, and training a deaf dog isn't all the different from training a hearing dog. There are a few differences, though.

Deaf dogs can't hear praise or a clicker, so in order to tell a deaf dog that she's done something right, we use the "thumbs up" sign. At first I felt silly giving a thumbs up to a dog, but as she learned to sit and stay and come when called (well, when waved at), the "thumbs up" started to feel more natural. It's the perfect way to say "Good job, Stella!"

I find myself using the "thumbs up" more and more. When a dog is sitting nicely in his kennel, not barking or jumping up, I'll give him a thumbs up. At home, when I'm talking on the phone and my dogs are being calm and quiet, I acknowledge them with a thumbs up.

I even gave a thumbs up to a store clerk the other day, and I didn't feel silly at all! (What she thought of it is another matter...)

Stella is attentive and motivated and smart, and always eager to learn something new. She walks nicely on leash, keeping a close eye on me in case I change pace or direction. She goes into her crate on command, and will stay there quietly when the door is closed. She loves to play with people and other dogs, but also knows how to entertain herself with a toy.

I don't quite understand why Stella is still here.

The rest of the staff warned me that deaf dogs stay in the shelter a long time, but I can't imagine someone turning Stella down just because she's deaf. "Disabled" is the last word I would use to describe this dog. She has gone out twice on our "Paws to Consider" program, but both times she came back. The first family just wasn't ready for a dog, and the second family wasn't ready for a dog with Stella's energy.

Perhaps that's part of the problem: although Stella is small, she is not a lap dog or a couch potato. She's an active girl who will get into trouble if she doesn't get the exercise and attention she needs.

So, Stella still waits for her forever family. You can often see her sitting by the door of her habitat, her ears pricked, her face serious, just waiting.

Waiting for a "thumbs up" from someone who sees something special.

(posted for Sarah)

This shouldn't make me laugh...

Really, I am ashamed for giggling. Especially in light of the poignant posts below about returned animals.

But the most adorable dog was returned this week, after having been adopted for ten months. It's an adorable dog -- trust me, one of the cutest moppets you'd ever want to see -- but he is a bit of a pill, and is not an easy dog to manage. He has...energy.

The reason the dog was returned? He attacked the parrot.

You don't hear that one every day.

Was the parrot on the floor? Was the dog standing on a chair? Did they think the dog wouldn't attack the parrot? Was the parrot mocking the dog?

I just have so many questions.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

If we only had a crystal ball.

We chat with our adopters after the adoption, usually many times. We like to keep in touch to ensure any problems are addressed quickly before they become unmanageable. We document our conversations in our shelter software system so as to keep a nice trail.

Here is an example of what we, unfortunately, have seen at times:

24hr Call Back: Doing great. No problems. Loves everyone. Slept with son. Explained the importance of using crate and not leaving child unattended with dog so soon.

1 week Call Back: New name is Spot. Great dog. Just perfect. Not using crate anymore. Explained again purpose of the crate and how it was still necessary to avoid problems like housebreaking, destruction of property, dominance, etc. at the one month mark.

1 month Call Back: Still doing well. Using doggie door to go in and out. Barking some at neighbor's dog. Doing some digging in yard, but said they didn't mind. Reminded client about training classes.

Client contact, a few days later: Returning dog today. Dog is destructive, loud, knocks over the son, pees in the house, has ruined the backyard, torn down the drapes, ripped up the couch. They can't take it anymore and don't think anything can help.

If we only had a crystal ball...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

An Apple finds a family.

"We can't believe nobody adopted her in a year. She is sweet and we think she is beautiful. She isn't plain at all!"-- Apple's New Family

Two weeks ago, I told you about winsome Apple, and the other plain, long-term pets in our shelters, who tend to get overlooked by adopters on account of their common qualities.

I suppose I should confess that I was hoping Apple's paw would reach out and touch someone who reads here.

I was hoping by acknowledging her one-year anniversary in our Tri-Valley shelter, that I would break the jinx that has allowed her to stay for so long.

And, boy, did it!

Maureen H. and Kathy B., long-time friends and volunteers of the East Bay SPCA, read about Apple right here in the blog, and, well, got touched. That is Apple up there, relaxing in her first few days "on the job," at her new home. She has snuggled right into their work space, claiming the office chair as her own. Like all cats do. Kathy has to now work around Apple, but isn't that the way it is supposed to be with cats?

Maureen happily reports that Apple is doing well, and is content and curious in her new home.

They adore her.

All the moving around at the shelter has paid off because Apple has settled right in isn't fazed by change, the way a more pampered pet might be. To the left, Apple is pondering life from one of the perches she has made her own. One can only guess what Apple is thinking:

I am loved. I am safe. I have family.

Are cats really that different from the rest of us?

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