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The East Bay SPCA saves 
     and improves the lives of cats and dogs and connects
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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.


Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"Sorry can't keep."

You know it's kitten season when you see a box at the entrance (that your dogs are VERY interested in....) and you find yourself saying, "Please let that be a box of donations...."

But you know it's not.

Last Tuesday morning, CK and I were walking in at the same time and saw the box with five (what we thought were dead) kittens. This time of year, its not uncommon. Even though most private shelters aren't equipped for strays, that doesn't stop people from leaving animals for us, dead or alive. We do what we can and then bring them to animal control to be handled according to local regulations.

Here's the story:
Contra Costa Times.

So, we ended up with four, very sick, very cold, maggot-infested kittens. (The fifth didn't survive the cold morning.) After stablizing them, warming them up and checking them into animal control, turned out that, when warmed and fed, those four little bodies were pretty active and noisy. One of our best foster families took them over from the staff and they are due back in a few weeks.

These guys were lucky; most aren't, this time of year.

"Kitten season" is in full force!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Put those leashes towards a good cause.

Animal shelters rely on donations heavily. From food for the dogs and cats to bags for picking up poop, if you have it to give away, we can usually take it and use it to help the animals.

In June, we are having our 2nd Shot Fair of 2006. Despite the rain, our first one in February was a success. We are changing locations this time to see if we can reach more people. We will be at 410 Hegenberger (our spay neuter center) on June 17th from 11-3.

Although many items (like vaccincations, food to give away, microchips) have already been donated for the Shot Fair, we are in desperate need of leashes to give away. Dog owners show up to these fairs with their dogs on ropes, chains, towels, string and one even showed up with her dog stuffed up in a tiny shopping cart. We like to provide these well-meaning, but uninformed people, with appropriate leashes and collars so they can better handle their dogs and so their dogs can be more comfortable.

We have plenty of collars, but we need leashes. Good, sturdy leashes for those big dogs. If you know of any stores that can donate leashes, please let us know! If you have any lying around the house, bring them down to the East Bay SPCA and put those leashes towards a good cause.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Sweet Sorrow

Today is my last day as an employee of the East Bay SPCA. After four years (okay, nearly four years. It would have been four years at the end of June), I am packing up my leash and treat bag and moving out of the state. Since the SPCA can't keep me on as a long distance correspondent, I have to say goodbye.

I've learned an amazing amount in the time I've spent here. I've seen things that make me smile and will for years in the future, like the thirteen-year-old who asked that her presents for her Bat-Mitzvah (a Jewish coming of age ceremony) be instead donations for the animals at the SPCA. And I've seen things that will creep into my nightmares, like the abandoned kittens who were so sick their eyes were crusted shut and who were covered in ants besides. I've met a colorful collection of characters from co-workers to clients, from cats to canines (that was seven 'c's if you were trying to keep count). I've watched and been a part of stories that will fascinate and/or horrify people, and you better believe I plan on telling them. I am not the person I was when I first arrived at the East Bay SPCA. I am wiser, better at the skills I've learned here, and boy do I know a whole lot more about dogs than I used to.

To better facilitate the many queries that leaving will create, I've put together this nifty set of 'Frequently Asked Questions'.

Q: You said you're leaving the state. Where are you moving to?
A: I'm moving to Ohio.

Q: Ohio??
A: Yup. Ohio. Cleveland, Ohio more specifically.

Q: What the heck is in Ohio?
A: Many things, but the short answer is that my family is there and I've wanted to move closer to them for a while. Now seemed like the right time.

Q: What are you going to do there?
A: I don't know for sure. My current plan is to try and work part time with a Cleveland animal rescue organization, and also to try and start my own dog training business.

Q: Your own business, huh? What will you call it?
A: I have absolutely no idea. I'm trying to come up with a name that's witty without being corny. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Q: Don't you have, like, twenty dogs? What are you going to do with them?
A: I have four dogs. They're coming with me and my fiancee in our Honda Civic Hybrid. We're all six going to drive cross country.

Q: And your stuff?
A: That's coming in a moving van we hired to shlep it all to Ohio.

Q: Will you miss me?
A: Yes, [insert name here], I will miss you very very much.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege working here. Thank you, everyone, for having me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

First Peaches, then Pearl...when's Pierre's turn?

While the Gulf Region of the United States will be living with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for a long time, in many ways, the rest of the country has moved on.

Out of the animals arriving in our shelter, Peaches went home first. Then Pearl was relinquished to her foster family. One by one, dog, cat, kitten and puppy found their place in the Bay Area.

Nine months later, most of the refugees around the region from Hurricane Katrina have been returned or adopted. A few died or were humanely euthanized. But at least one has been left behind in the shuffle.

Pierre is our last Hurricane Katrina import.

A loverboy, Pierre's sultry eyes and friendly manner seduced even the non-cat people. But unfortunately, he tested positive for FIV. Sometimes fatal, many cats who are positive for FIV go on to live long, healthy lives. They must be indoors, and since cats transmit this through bites, living with a non-FIV positive cat is not an option.

So Pierre waits. He is one of the "broken" ones. But he doesn't know it. He is doted on by volunteers and staff alike. Volunteers at our City Center offsite mobile adoption, took pity on Pierre's plight and knitted him outerwear.



He is not amused, but we think he looks cute. Come visit Pierre at our Tri-Valley Adoption Center in Dublin.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Collective voices matter.



Over a year ago a group of animal shelters in the East Bay got together to discuss pet overpopulation, specifically, the overpopulation of pit bulls. Most of these pit bulls would not find homes and would be euthanized in our public shelters.

It was, and is, a difficult situation for all of us, with no easy answers. One thing we knew for sure though, and that was Craigslist, a terrific tool for finding homes for homeless pets, had also turned into a free black market of sorts for irresponsible breeders of pit bulls.

And it wasn't just pit bulls; really it was anyone choosing to make money of the backs of pets, mostly popular puppies. This includes Chihuahuas, Yorkies, Malteses and all the variations of those "-poo" dogs

We came up with different solutions, some of which we have already been offering for years: free dog training classes with pit bull adoptions, free spay and neuter for owned pit bulls and pit mixes, and of course, Pit Bull Hall.

But the one thing that each shelter agreed on, that there had been in an increase in for-profit puppies from Craigslist, and we were all picking up the pieces. In time, hundreds of shelters around the state of California, and even the country agreed with us.

If only we could help stem the sale of puppies online, then fewer people would be inclined to think that breeding for quick money was a good idea. If you have ever had a litter of puppies in your home, you understand the desire to find them all homes -- quickly! They are noisy, smelly, expensive, and destructive little furballs that eat like minature horses. Mom wants little to do with them after a certain point in time, so you then need twice as much room.

If the "casual breeder" finds selling a litter difficult, then they might think twice the next time cranking out a litter of puppies sounds like a good way to make a buck. (A responsible breeder is usually not even looking for profit, and has plenty of buyers, so it's not a deterrent for them.)

And we have achieved some success! Craigslist rocks. That link brings you to our column that came out this weekend.

They really came through, and they did it in a way that honors the community style of their ground-breaking website. The problem is not solved, but now the community can help communicate the standards, just like Craig Newmark and his team originally intended.

And to top it off, they are all pretty nice guys, too.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Foster Spotlight on: Mother(s)

Mother's Day with the East Bay SPCA Foster Program

This is a special Mother's Day for the East Bay SPCA because we have a record number of 14 mother cats raising litters of kittens! The entire shelter staff joins the foster department in taking this opportunity to honor these mamas and their human caregivers for Mother's Day 2006!


(Pictured: Blythe, named after the Foster Coordinator-- by a foster volunteer, not by me!-- with her 3 lively kittens).

These devoted mama cats all have kittens who are too young to be placed up for adoption, so they are living temporarily in loving foster homes until they're ready for adoption.

Kittens need foster care until they are eight weeks old and weigh two pounds. Two pounds is the minimum weight at which it's safe to alter kittens and we can't place them up for adoption until they've been altered. Kittens lucky enough to have a mother cat benefit from her careful attention-- mama feeds her kittens (while they're still nursing), keeps them clean and teaches them how to use a litter box, how to groom themselves and other important social lessons about being a cat. At first, our devoted human foster parents take care of mom and she takes care of the babies. Her kittens will spend most of their time sleeping curled up with her and nursing from the time they're newborns to 3-4 weeks.

When the kittens are 4 weeks old, mom usually begins the weaning process and the kittens become more active (pictured: one of Donna Lee's 5 kittens illustrating how active he is! See previous blog postings for more about Donna Lee and her babies). By the age of 6 weeks, the kittens will probably be eating wet and dry kitten food on their own like little champions! When the kittens are 8 weeks old and weigh 2 pounds, then kittens and their mamas will return to the East Bay SPCA for their spay/neuter surgery and then they will all be placed up for adoption.

Some kittens who are too young to eat solid food come to us without a mother cat and have to be bottle fed by human surrogate mothers. This is a huge commitment on the part of the foster volunteers since the kittens need to be fed every 2-3 hours. (Yes, even at night!) They are really saving these kittens' lives by giving so much of their love and their time.

We also receive lots of kittens without mothers who are old enough to eat on their own, so their human surrogate mothers and fathers play with them, cuddle them and keep up with their unceasing kitten energy and curiosity. It can be exhausting to try to tire out kittens!

Thank you to all our devoted foster volunteers for being such amazing parents to their foster cats and kittens! Although your foster kitties won't take you out for brunch on Sunday 5/14, make you a thank you card or bring you wrapped gifts, I hope they bring you some extra special joy this weekend.

Happy Mother's Day to all our mother cats and their human moms and dads, as well.

Pregnant ladies of the world...keep your cat.

We've heard it all when it comes to reasons people give up their pets. Moving, allergies, too much work, not house-trained, doesn't like the other cat, scratching furniture, barking too much, etc.

One of the top ten reasons for giving up a cat is "Having a Baby".

This one kills me for personal and professional reasons. You see, I'm pregnant. And yes, I have two cats. And I was pregnant before. And yes, I had those same cats. Did I take ill? No. Did my son take ill? No. Are the babies (yes, babies) healthy as horses? Yes. Oh, and by the way...I work in an animal shelter where there are hundreds of cats.

Did I take necessary precautions in terms of wearing gloves and washing my hands a lot when handling cats? Yes. Do I have the hubby change the litter? Heck, yeah. In fact, I even got tested to see if I was immune to toxoplasmosis (the illness that can be transmitted in feline fecal matter). Despite the fact that I had handled literally thousands of cats, I wasn't immune. I was shocked. But, I was also shocked to learn that getting toxoplasmosis was easier from handling dirt and soil then handling a cat.

And now that I have a toddler and expecting twins, am I giving up my cats because "I don't have time for them anymore?" No. Do they perhaps get a fewer number of head scratches and belly rubs now? Perhaps. But they are happy and healthy and glad to have a home.

And when my grumpy 14-year old female cat doesn't like being harassed by a curious toddler and hisses to show her distain for the situation, will I turn her in because "she is not good with kids?" No. I'll teach my kid that although he can pull on my young male cat's tail all day and night, he can't bug the old gal.

So, pregnant ladies of the world...keep your cat.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Do any SF residents read here?

Every so often ...... well, actually, quite frequently....something happens that makes me especially proud of this organization:

Latest Press Release

So, I hope we have residents of San Francisco who read here. (Let us know if we do!)

Offering $49 spay/neuter surgeries to residents of San Francisco who have pit bulls or pit mixes is a good idea but not one born solely out of the goodness of our hearts. It's a good decision for the long term.

San Francisco's new ordinance, requiring pit bull and pit mixes be spayed and neutered, almost ensures that there inadvertently will be homeless dogs, due to the unexpected financial burden. Geography being what it is, some of them will end up across the bay.

Can you imagine if this sweet face was homeless?

We can. In fact, Tula, above, is a guest at Pit Bull Hall, so she is looking for a home. She's already spayed, of course. :-)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Who's yapping in there?

So, since as the Foster Coordinator, BMS will have very little time off in the next few months of kitten season, I pushed her out the door this week with instructions to take a couple days off.

Such a nice boss I am. Of course, the ramifications are, this busy time of year, that I have to cover for her on my day off. The staff cringes when this happens, because I am a very poor imitation of BMS and the great work she does with our fosters and with the new Feral Fix program.

Anyhow, so this morning, I am getting the run down from ND, the shelter manager, in her office, figuring out all the stuff that needs to happen today (dang! these people are BUSY on Saturdays!) and I hear this yap-yap-yap-yap!!!!!! from a crate in the office.

I wondered what annoying puppy that could possibly be? Because surely a canine with lungs like that is 3 months old and anxious to see the world.

Nope. It was Bobbi.

"Bobbi," I ask? "The one who is supposed to be dying?"

Yes. The dog that was supposedly on the last few days/weeks of his little-dog life looks nowhere near like he plans to go along with the script. Apparently, a slightly higher dosage of his medication has worked wonders. He was visiting in ND's office this morning and non-too-happy with my interrupting their time together.

We still can't consider him a good candidate for adoption, because of his condition, but we'd be open to a kind-hearted "hospice" arrangement. If you are interested, let us know.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The snake who broke the rules

People bring us animals all the time. Of course, that's a natural part shelter life. But some people don't realize that we are a private shelter dedicated to cats and dogs, that we are not allowed take strays, and that we don't have resources for injured wildlife. Those services are provided by animal control, which, in Dublin, happens to be right across the street from us. Even when they are closed, they have night drop boxes, where animals can safely be left overnight.

The police officer who pulled into our parking lot on Wednesday night as I was leaving knew the rules, and had no intention of asking us to take the injured snake he had in his patrol car. All he wanted was an appropriate container to put the snake in so that he could carry it across the street and leave it in a drop box.

It was a small green snake that had gotten tangled in a bit of plastic mesh. It was cold to the touch, it wasn't moving, and the mesh bit deeply into its delicate skin. The snake looked very close to death, and I doubted that it would make it through the night in the drop box. Neither the police officer nor I could think of anywhere else to take him. There are plenty of places to take injured wildlife in the Bay Area, but nothing open after 8 o'clock in the evening.

So I told the officer that I would take the snake home. I knew that it needed warmth and moisture, and I thought that I could provide those things overnight, and then take it to an appropriate wildlife facility in the morning on my day off.

I took the snake inside, and within minutes TF had used the scissors on his pocketknife to free it from the plastic mesh. It was still cold and sluggish, but at least now it was moving a bit and flicking its tongue.

I took the snake home, and set him up in a plastic storage box with a warm, moist washcloth, a shallow dish of water, and a heating pad under one end of the box. The snake revived quickly. He explored his enclosure, took a drink of water, and then curled up in the warmest corner of the box.

I took pictures of him and got online, and within minutes learned that he was a Coluber constrictor, commonly known as a racer, that he was a native snake, and that the best thing to do was to release him back into the wild.

Although the snake didn't appear to be seriously injured, he was scratched and bruised where the mesh had torn his skin, so I wanted to make sure he was well enough to fend for himself. The next morning I took him to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, where they looked him over and pronounced him fit and healthy. I took him to some open space and set him down in a patch of sunlight. For ten minutes he lay sunbathing while I stood guard over him. Then he slid quietly into the tall grass, and vanished.


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