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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.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Maybe day two will be easier.

Well...I'm officially on maternity leave. I thought I would make it to the end of August, but my doctor and husband thought differently.

Today was my first day of being at home when I should have been at work. Unlike the last time I was on leave (when I actually had a baby to care for), this time, I am home on the couch watching court tv shows for about 4 weeks before the twins arrive.

It's pretty hard to shut off the "shelter brain". Who got adopted yesterday? Did they get new dogs today? Did payroll get done on time? Do they have enough animals for spay neuter tomorrow? How is the sick cat doing? What about the injured puppy? Did AM actually get to take today off? Did those boarding requests get taken care of? How many animals did the spay neuter staff spay neuter today? Where did they get the kittens from?

Nothing too fantastic or earth-shattering, but thoughts that run through my head on a daily basis. Now, those questions will have to go unanswered. In four weeks, I'll be too crazed and busy and tired to care. But today, day one of leave, I miss work like one misses a boy friend who is out of the country. You know everything is OK, but just hearing his voice would make you feel so much better.

Maybe day two will be easier.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Obsess, much?

People who come home late on Saturday night, have no business poking their head into work and seeing what went on all day, particularly if that was their day off.

But when you work for an Animal Shelter, sometimes you. just. can't. help. yourself.

You have to know. Who got adopted today, on Saturday, the busiest day of the week? Did any of our long term pets finally get lucky today? How long did that super desirable little dog last? An hour?

So I peek on Satuday nights. I just am curious. Sure, I will find out the following week but I just want to know now.

Thanks to Shelter Buddy, I can look at shelter records at home, any time of the day or night.

And tonight, the whoop I let out woke up my two sleepy labs. They wouldn't care anyhow, but Boo and Muffin got adopted today. Together. By a person in Danville.

Man, can I just say? You got two TERRIFIC cats. May you all be very, very happy together.

And, thank you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Our storage room looks like a appliance outlet.

About six months ago, all of our washers and dryers broke. Well, not all of them. But almost all of them. One by one. Over the course of about 3 weeks. It may not seem like a big deal, but since we have commerical washers in both shelters and residential washers and dryers in all three clinics (and two at our Spay Neuter Center in Oakland), it was a very big deal. The build up of dirty towels and blankets was out of control.

And of course, we don't have the funds to buy new washers and dryers...or even used washers and dryers, so we had to get creative.

I posted a message on Berkeley Parents Network, an on-line community for all things child related in the East Bay, asking for donations of washers and dryers. And boy, did those parents come through. Not only did we get enough to replace the broken ones, we have several washers and dryers in reserve just waiting for the next one to break. It's great. Our storage room looks like an appliance outlet.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pit Bull Hall - First Anniversary!

One year ago, we blogged about a new program of which we were very proud, "Pit Bull Hall."

Pit bulls were, and still are, one of the breeds of dogs still at risk in the East Bay, and with an adoption solution not working nearly fast enough. So Pit Bull Hall brought a new approach to a burgeoning nationwide problem.

We wanted to communicate our results to the public and press that morning, and they were eagerly waiting to hear, as well. Unforunately, terrorists in the U.K. chose that morning to get arrested so the press was fairly distracted that day.

Fortunately, the East Bay's is home to one of the more animal-aware columnists: Mary Eisenhart, who provided this recap in her column.

Here's some more information on our first year of Pit Bull Hall:

It was a nice way to start the day.

I stopped at Starbucks this morning on my way out to Tri Valley to get my usual decaf iced latte. On my way in, many people stopped to say something to me. (For some reason, people think it socially acceptable to chat with pregnant ladies more than non-pregnant ladies, so I'm getting used to people stopping me and talking.) So when the guy behind me in the line started talking to me, I didn't think much of it.

"Excuse me, do you work at the East Bay SPCA?"

"Yes," I said, wondering how we knew and then realizing my shirt had our logo on it.

"Oh, I just dropped my dog off there."

I think to myself...'Great. Another jerk dumping his dog.' But then he says...

"I just left her at the Spay Neuter Center."

Doh! I jumped to a horrible conclusion when he was doing something so great.

"How great!" I say, "what is your dog's name? I'll check on her when I get over there."

While he mentioned her name, he offers to pay for my drink and croissant. I politely decline saying something about how he has already spent money with "us" today. Then he says,

"Nope, it was free. She is a pit bull mix. I'm unemployed so it was really helpful to me."

"Wonderful," I say, "I love our Pit Fix program."

"Yes, lots of people wouldn't get it done without that program."

We chatted a bit more until my drink arrived and I headed off to work.

It was a nice way to start the day.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I'll miss you more than you know.

Today was a tough day. We euthanized five dogs today. Two from Tri Valley and three from Oakland. That is a huge number considering we usually only euthanize a couple dogs a month.

Four of them came from other shelters. They were selected because they passed the initial temperament test we perform at the city or county shelter. Then, after they are settled in, we re-test them using a more extensive and comprehensive test. Three of these dogs showed problems during that second test and one showed problems only after being made available for adoption. The problems ranged from unmanageable possession aggression (where dogs are possessive over their food or other items, and it can't be safely controlled) to being aggressive during handling, to randomly
aggressiving biting at kids, to stranger aggression

The fifth dog was an adoption return. The dog was being managed in the home despite some possession issues for a couple years, but then started to guard space and people, aggressing to the point of scaring the owners. They worked with our trainers for a while, but ultimately decided, and we agreed, the dog was unsafe to have with a family.

They were all hard, but well-thought decisions, each was made only after each dog had been given time to work on the issues (to see if we could modify the behavior). We were saddened by them all and wished desperately that the resolution could have been more happy.

We were especially saddened with one dog in particular. This dog was Big Beulah (BB as I call her.) I took this dog in from Oakland Animal Services (and actually blogged about her many months ago) as my first self-selected pit bull, after being trained by BADRAP in pit bull temperament and evaluations. She was wonderful. Wiggly, friendly, a real people pleaser. We had a volunteer agree to foster her for a couple weeks to learn more about her temperament before putting her up for adoption. BB did great. She had no issues and was a real delight. She was put up for adoption with a special adoption process (including a home check, an application, and a foster period). But she had no takers.

Not sure if it was her big body or cropped ears or the funny way she stared at passers by. We knew she was wonderful, but our clients weren't buying it.

After about 60 days in the kennel, she started acting strangely. She didn't like being handled and would whip around with her mouth to show her discontent. Not good. She also started doing a weird barking thing, becoming agitated at seemingly nothing. Something would set her off and she would start barking in a non-friendly way at nothing and no one. Also not good.

We thought that perhaps she was just sick of being in the kennels. Many dogs can go kennel crazy after long stays. ,So we asked the original foster parent if she could take her home again to see if it was "environmental" or "temperamental." She agreed and started sending regular emails reporting on BB. BB was doing some growling and "woofing" at certain strangers on walks. There didn't seem to be any pattern or predictability to it.

It was at this point that we really started to question the breed we thought she was.

Pit bulls should never growl or bark at strangers and they should love to be handled. So, either she wasn't a pit bull or she was an unstable one. We talked to the Pit Bull people and they agreed she was at best a mix but probably some other kind of Mastiff. Then we talked to the Mastiff people (Mastiff rescue) and they asked for pictures of her. Based on the description of behavior, they thought she might be a Cane Corso. But after looking at her pictures, they thought she was a Presa mix.

That was the worse news we could hear. We knew we couldn't responsibly place a Presa mix and there were no responsible rescue groups to take her. We had to give her foster parent the bad news...she was not adoptable. Her foster parent, who knew all along that there was a chance she would not be put up for adoption, took the bad news fairly well. Because we knew what a responsible dog owner this foster parent was, we did give her the option of adopting her. But we also cautioned her against this. She would have lifelong behavior management issues as well insurance issues (due to the breed). And the worse part was that the behavior is expected to get worse when the dog hits about 3 years old. We couldn't predict what would happen, but there was a chance it would be very bad. She wanted to help her, but she also wanted to do the right thing.

We had many conversations about the pros and cons of adopting her as well as why we couldn't put her up for the general public. She came to peace with the decision not to adopt and we scheduled a time to bring her back to the shelter.

I picked her and BB up, brought them to the shelter where she got a good off-leash run. They she was spoiled with some peanut butter and belly rubs from two dedicated staff. She got her favorite blanky from her foster home and was happy as a clam. The foster parent and I left, both of us with tears in our eyes, while ND and the staff humanely euthanized her. It was quiet ride home as we both sat next to each other thinking of the dog we both loved so much. We got to her house, I asked if she would be OK and offered to talk anytime and then said my goodbye. I cried some more on my way home as I am sure she did in her apartment. I then called the shelter to make sure everything went well and was assured it did.

I know we did the right thing, but I do feel responsible for putting this amazing foster parent through this experience since I selected the dog. She gave BB an incredible life during the last few months. A life she probably never had before stuck in someone's back yard being bred for money. But had I never taken her in, the foster parent would never had fallen in love with her and wouldn't have had to ensure such deep sadness. I've met few people with the integrity, dedication and resolve to be as responsible as she has. It is an honor to know her and I aspire to be as strong as she.

Good-bye, Big Beulah. I'll miss you more than you know.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Clementine's Happy Ending

Early in July, I wrote about our retriever mix named Clementine who had a large foxtail in her ear (if you didn't read about Clem, see "It's Foxtail Season Again"). Well, as was reported by one of our trainers in the comments section, Clementine woke up the next morning full of puppy energy. There have been no signs of neurological damage at all. Unilateral deafness (deaf in one ear) can be very difficult to detect in dogs without special hearing tests, but for now we're assuming that she only hears out of her good ear.

On July 16th, after taking some time to recover, Celemtine went up for adoption on what is arguably our busiest day of the year - our annual adoptathon. There were dogs from our shelter as well as many Bay Area rescue groups covering the property, but even with so many dogs up for adoption at the facility, Clementine met a family who was interested in taking her home under our trial adoption program, Paws To Consider within hours of becoming available and moving to our adoption kennels. The week went well, and Clementine was adopted at the end of the trial period.

Clem is now known as Jessie, and is living with a pair of Schnauzers. From our notes on Jessie's 1 week check in, it sounds like all is going well. She's enrolled to start the five-week obedience class I teach this evening, so hopefully I'll be meeting her family tonight, and getting to see her when we begin having dogs in the class next week. I look forward to seeing her happy and well.

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