The Loss of a Great Volunteer
I heard some very sad news last week.
BJ, a beloved volunteer, lost her battle with cancer.
I heard the news from BJ's best friend Betty.
Betty G. and BJ were one of the first animal assisted therapy teams to join our PALS (Pets And Love Shared) program in it's infancy 3 years ago. BJ was a furry brown dog with deep soulful eyes and a real gift at knowing who needed some gentle unconditional love.
BJ was diagnosed with cancer awhile ago and had some dramatic facial surgery that left her scarred but still able to visit all her beloved people at chaparral House in Berkeley.
The staff and residents there will miss her, the PALS gang will miss her, and most of all I know her family (especially Betty) will miss her very much. Her work as a therapy dog volunteer touched many people.
Lucky for Betty, she is not out of a job. BJ was working on raising up a successor. Gypsy will be doing visits and trying to fill the big pawprints left behind by a wonderful spirit.
Just some pictures of the dogs playing for this update today.
May Flights of Angels...
Just a little memorial to a wonderful dog.
Don't Turn a Blind Eye
Such an important lesson we all must remember. I am always so heartened when young people see a need and put together a response that is helpful. It is so natural for kids to hear that animals or people or our earth are in need of saving and want to do something to make things better. This is why when kids come to the shelter I get excited. These are the people who one day will be in charge, they will be the ones who keep up this hard work we do.
When kids come by and want to volunteer we make sure that there are opportunities for them. See our "Kids and Volunteering" webpage. http://www.eastbayspca.org/volunteer/kidsandvolunteering.cfm
Kids take their volunteer work very seriously. RK, one of our young foster care volunteers, after a very hard week of fostering young kittens was overheard saying, "These kittens are my life, Mom!"
Sometimes a whole group of kids will come by with donations. They worked together to raise money, food, blankets, or other needed shelter items. While raising donations they were also raising awareness in their peer group of the need to take care of the animals in our communities. These generous children and their proud parents are such a vital link for us to the greater community.
I always hope we have a warm welcome for each child who offers to lend us a hand. In that warmth we help nurture seeds of generosity and awareness. It is with great appreciation and gratitude that we accept the fruits of their efforts. Rock on kids!!!
Two Fairytale Endings
Recently, we were looking at having to make some very difficult decisions. Two dogs in our shelter were determined to be unadoptable due to medical issues. One is hard enough. Two on the same day is practically unbearable. Needless to say it was a tough pill to swallow.
Titan, an older pit bull, and Holly, a senior standard poodle, are staff favorites. The senior dog veterinary exams we do for all older dogs entering the shelter brought us bad news for these two lovely dogs. Each was determined to have medical issues that prevented them from moving forward to adoptions. LG, the shelter manager in Tri Valley, let the staff group know the bad news. Both dogs would need to be euthanized.
Unfortunately or fortunately, (depending on how you look at it), the closer you get to an animal, the harder it is when the toughest of decisions has to be made. I got the call on my day off, and it hit me like a freight train. "Titan is going to be euthanized today, I am sorry."
Titan in particular holds a special place in my heart because during his nearly 6 month stay at the shelter we spent a lot of time together and I grew to love his easygoing personality. Most importantly, he is a pit bull, and I have a serious soft spot for the bully breeds. Once he bonds with you, he never leaves your side. I would take him out to the yard to play, and he would sniff around my immediate area, never straying further than 5 feet or so, always keeping me within eye, nose, or earshot. I would train him in the lobby of our adoption center, and kids would run up to him, asking me if they could give him a treat. Gladly obliging, he sat like a gentleman and gently took treats from their hands all the while wagging his happy pit tail.
After hearing the news, I quickly got in my car and headed to the shelter. On my way there I stopped and bought a bacon cheeseburger. It is nice to be able to give our animals an extra special treat before you say goodbye, besides, it is the least I could do. On my way there, I got another call. I had to stop the car. I had to concentrate because I found it hard to believe what I was hearing. I couldn't believe this mind-boggling turn of events. It turned out one of our dedicated canine volunteers, who had fostered Titan for 2 weeks, wanted to adopt him. Since this was by no means a typical situation, our shelter manager had to speak with the volunteer first to make sure she was fully informed of Titan's medical issues and that she had thought it through thoroughly. It turns out that she had thought it through, and she adopted him the very next day. By the way, he did still get his cheeseburger. Incredible sadness followed by triumphant joy. This day might just turn out all right, or so I thought.
Holly, an 8 year old standard poodle had come to us full of mats and burrs. After a good shave and a bath, she was looking and feeling much better. As one of our old timers, Holly got the full work up, also known as a Silver Muzzle Club exam, which involves a blood test. Her lab results didn't show anything terribly concerning, but our vet decided it would probably be best to send Holly to a foster home and recheck her blood work again in a month. So off she went, lucky girl, she got to spend the holidays with a loving foster family. Then came the bad news. Holly's second blood test showed signs of chronic liver failure. She, too, would have to be humanely euthanized.
Once again, before the difficulty of this news could totally set in, I heard the news. Holly's foster home didn't even think twice before deciding to officially welcome Holly into their family. It is unknown how much longer a life she will have, but she will get to live out her days in the love and caring attention of her foster turned forever family. Of course Holly is oblivious to all of this, all she knows is that she has two new loving parents, and she'll be able to live the rest of her life in spoiled bliss.
It is days like these that make me want to tear my hair out.
It is days like these that shave years off of my life.
It is also days like these that, corny as it sounds, make it all worth it.Submitted by Chris H. in the Volunteer Department
Overshadowed by a dog
There was a volunteer orientation this weekend at our Dublin shelter, and as part of the introduction to our foster program, I came into the room with a puppy. Not just any puppy, but Taina(who you read about in Kirsten's last blog
). I walked into the room, and immediately, no one was listening. While I talked about the foster program, people responded at the appropriate moments, but I could see who the real star of the show was.
This happens once a month, actually. I take a dog on ABC-7 KGO's Perfect Pet segment the first Friday of every month (I am on around 11:25am if you are interested in watching). I always walk on set with my pulse racing, tongue all tied up, certain everyone is going to laugh at me. But I have watched these segments, and even when I am looking to see how I did, I find myself watching the dog, seeing what they were doing while I was talking about them. This weekend showed me that when I show a cute dog to people, they are watching the dog as well, which takes the pressure off of me!
So thanks Taina, for reminding me not to be nervous.
"Living" in Two Shelters
A few of the staff here at the East Bay SPCA, myself included, split their time between two or more facilities. Working in two locations sometimes feels like being the child of divorced parents - your stuff is always at one place or another, if you need something in a day or two you have to remember to bring it with you, you have two different rooms (or desks as the case may be). My canine staff are like step or half siblings who only live at one of the houses. I care about them all equally, but those at one place hardly even know those at the other.
Although trying to remember where I'm supposed to work the next morning can be a hassle once in a while, I do think that in this case the benefits outweigh the costs. I get to know twice as many people and work at a pair of places which, despite having all the same processes and procedures, have vastly different feels from one another, and I get to enjoy it all.
In the hot summer months, there is nothing I like better than a Sunday morning in Dublin. I'm the first to arrive to the quiet shelter, and the air is always perfect. I go through the building, greeting the dogs, letting them out, seeing if any alumni are boarding with us, check out the new dogs that were taken in when I was in Oakland the day before. I catch up on my email, make plans for the week, and take a walk across the street to our neighboring shelter to take a look around. Of course, in those same summer months, if I leave my Berkeley home at 7am and it's already t-shirt weather, I thank my lucky stars if I'm on my way to Oakland where it will be 10 or 20 degrees cooler than Tri Valley.
Sometimes I look forward to the slightly slower pace of our smaller Tri Valley shelter, and other days I'm itching to get to work in Oakland where there's always a ton of action. I love having our shelter cat in Tri Valley roaming free in the office, whether it is Voodoo scaling the cubicles or Sugarfoot trying to steal my Peet's coffee in the morning. I love having my office space in Oakland be shared with our "Real Life Room" (a room which does its best to imitate a home setting) where I can bring a different dog in for some down time with me while I do my paperwork every day.
I guess what it comes down to is, the grass is green on both sides of the fence. For that, I'll give up forgetting which filing cabinet has that handout I'm looking for any day.
The New Hayward Foster Program and "The Kitten Equation"
Every year thousands of kittens are euthanized in Alameda county, mostly because our county and city shelters are not equipped to handle the influx of kittens during the aptly named "kitten season"- known to laymen as March through October.
During this time feral cats and owned cats are out gallavanting around, and the product of their freedom in the warm weather is the countless litters of orphaned, abandoned or surrendered kittens. At the East Bay SPCA we do our part by sending all the kittens too young to be spayed or neutered (for shelter animals, they need to be 2lbs. in order for the vets to perform the surgery) into foster homes. We have almost 200 active foster homes who take kittens (and puppies, and adult cats and dogs!) for us for up to 2 months at a time depending on how long the kittens need to reach the target weight. We fostered out almost 1000 animals last year, all thanks to our great foster parents. Unfortunately, even 200 foster homes brings us nowhere near saving every litter of kittens that ends up in a county shelter from euthanasia. The ones we can take, because of time and foster homes available (and shelter space) are put up for adoption in our shelter, living proof of the kind people in this county willing to spend time and money to take care of meowing, playful bundles of fur.
So "The kitten equation" is this:
Kittens at Animal Control- (Available foster homes & Open kennels)= the number of kittens left in the county shelter.
Our goal is to make the last number 0. Currently we have foster in the Tri-Valley area who pick up and drop off their kittens at the East Bay SPCA in Dublin, and fosters in the Oakland area who foster through our Oakland shelter, but we still need to reach more people. So we are starting a new program with Hayward Animal Services this year to open our foster program up to more foster homes, and hence, more kittens. I, as foster coordinator, will be in Hayward 2 days a week helping find foster homes in that area, along with our other two foster programs. The goal is to transfer a record number of kittens out of the Hayward shelter, into a loving foster home, and eventually to an adopter!
Please, if you live in the Hayward Area and would like to be a part of this new program to save the lives of hundreds of kittens, contact me at email@example.com
, because together we can make that last number 0. For everyone who fosters already, you have my warmest thanks and I know a few thousand animals thank you as well, from the bottom of their hearts.
Use a Personalized ID Tag!
Yes, this is quite a corny post and post title, but it's important for those who love your pets.
Please use a personalized tag with your phone number for your dog or cat, in addition to a county license.
I ask because as I was about to get home from work on Sunday, I found this poor old dog wandering around the street. He seemed to be having a good time, but he was headed toward a busy street so I couldn't let him go any further without trying to get him home. Fortunately he was friendly, although a little shy, but I had some leftovers from lunch in my car.
I finally got comfortable enough to take hold of his collar and look at his tag. He had one, but only the county ID tag, which has a serial number. It was 7pm on a Sunday night, so I couldn't call his license. Poor old guy would need to wait to see if there was a home to return to. I brought him to the shelter in the area I found him, left my contact information, and would follow up the next day.
If he had a phone number he could have gone home right away. Please folks, put a tag on your pet's collar.
FOLLOWUP: 1/10/07 After following up with animal services shelter that issued this guy's license, "Buck" as he is called was reunited with his owner.
Holiday Greetings and Happy Endings
This is Babs. She was adopted back in 2004. She was one of our Silver Muzzle Club guests and was here for a long time waiting for her forever family.
This year, in the stack of holiday cards, there she was. A photo of Babs in a Santa hat along with her handsome chocolate lab brother in a yamulke! All through the holiday season staff and volunteers would walk through the office where the cards were on display and you could hear the comments. "Remember Babs?" "Look how happy she looks" "I loved that dog"
We, the staff and volunteers, always love to hear about the dogs and cats who find homes through our efforts. Thank you to each of you who sends us a card at the holidays, a happy ending letter during the year, or an email saying it is going well. There is nothing more heartening than these stories and photos. As we clean up the holiday decorations, the cherished cards with photos of our adopted animals move back to the break room where they will be posted on our Happy Endings Board. Each dog and cat posted there reminds us about our mission. It also reminds us how wonderful all our adopters are!
Happy New Year!
Somebody's Destiny Awaits
Destiny is one of our long-term dogs, and she is my staff pick. She has been here for over four months, and may be here for quite a while longer before she finds a home. But she will find her home eventually, and whoever adopts her will count themselves blessed. I am sure that Destiny is somebody's perfect dog.
Long-term dogs stick around for a number of reasons. Sometimes only because they're old or plain looking. Some dogs are shy or aloof and don't sell themselves; these dogs have to wait for someone who takes the time to get to know them. Some dogs have behavioral issues which require a home that is just right, such as with someone who's home all day, doesn't have children, or is willing to commit to a specific training and management plan in order to prevent problem behaviors. For all these reasons, some dogs are less desirable to the general public.
But here's the thing. Once long-term dogs are adopted, they're not less desirable at all. In fact, many of our former long-term dogs are living happily ever after in homes where they are cherished, and their owners wouldn't want any other dog. These people didn't pick the dog that no one else wanted because they felt sorry for her, they picked the dog that was perfect for them.
Long time blog readers will be familiar with Simon
. Simon was blogged about a second time, although not by name, in Searched and Rescued
. Now here's the rest of the story: Simon was indeed accepted into Search and Rescue training, and we all celebrated. But then he flunked out, and was returned to the shelter, unwanted, unmanageable, and incorrigible. We feared that he might be one of the dogs we couldn't save, but he was given one last chance. He managed to behave himself long enough to be put up for adoption, and on his very first day in adoptions, he found his person. Simon has been living in his forever home for over seven months months now, and is doing well. He's still a butthead, but his owners love him for it, and at the ripe old age of two, he's mellowed into a more manageable butthead.Sugar
found her perfect people just a couple weeks shy of her one year anniversary at the shelter. This spring, she will be celebrating a much better anniversary: one year in her forever home.
Every day as I walk from the front of the shelter to the back, I pass by pictures of Stella
out and about with her canine brother, wearing a spiffy collar and looking so very happy. These photos were sent to us by Stella's owners to show us how perfect she is for them.Smiley
is living happily ever after. She has three cats to play with, and she gets to go everywhere with her person. She is off her medication, and hasn't destroyed so much as a sock in her new home.
Bridget was never blogged about, but she was my staff pick before Destiny, and one of my all-time favorite dogs. She was a middle-aged, plain brown shepherd mix, who needed a home without other animals. She is now a pampered family member, and her nametag reads, "Princess Bridget."
Destiny's time will come, I know it. But waiting can be hard, and some days I feel sad and frustrated as I watch people pass Destiny by, and shower their attention on smaller, fluffier, cuter dogs.
In the meantime, I'm having a blast training Destiny. She is smart, athletic and fun! She's not the cuddly type, but is always ready to go for a hike or play a game of fetch. Just the other day, she surprised and delighted me by jumping up onto a countertop and standing there to survey the room. Now, I realize that jumping on the counter may not be a selling point for most people, but I can't help but admire a dog who has the athleticism, curiosity, and confidence to jump onto a counter just to see the view. (In a home, proper use of tethers and tie-downs will help Destiny to learn that such behavior isn't appropriate.)
Destiny is very well crate trained, and doing well with her house training. She loves stuffed kongs and chew toys, and can entertain herself for hours. She doesn't bark much, and has a short, clean coat. She would do quite well in a home with someone who works full time, provided she got daily walks and play time, and some vigorous exercise on the weekends. She's not a good candidate for the dog park, but loves to play with rough-and-tumble boy dogs and sturdy puppies. Because Destiny can be a bit possessive of her food, she needs to go to a home without children.
I can't wait until Destiny finds her forever home. When that time comes, I will rejoice for her, but I will also miss her, and I will be just a little bit jealous of her adopters. They will be very lucky people indeed, to be able to share their life with such an awesome dog.
The Witching Hour
Although it is no longer near Halloween, this struck me as the perfect analogy for our puppy, Midnight.
Midnight the pup is a pit bull/lab mix who is about 3 1/2 months old now. She came into the shelter slightly under-aged, a dog whom no one wanted to take responsibility for. Midnight has been with us now for over a month (quite a while for such a cute pup!) While she is here, Midnight continues to be well socialized with all sorts of people and other dogs, to attend puppy training classes, and to play and grow daily. Midnight can fetch, Midnight can sit at doors, and Midnight can lie down and stay longer than most puppies her age.
Because Midnight is a pit mix, she has a special adoption procedure. Her new adopter must be over 21, and either own a home or have permission from a landlord to have a pit mix. An application, home check, and training classes with us are required. Midnight will go to her new family on trial adoption until she is finished with puppy training and then she will be able to be adopted. All members of Midnight's new family, including resident dogs, have to be here to meet her before an application can be given. While she is certainly still a puppy and needs consistent rules and training, Midnight is also a very good girl who deserves to have a home!
'The Witching Hour' (in mythology) is a time after dark, sometimes said to be near midnight, when those so inclined are most likely to see ghosts who do not materialize during the day. It is a time of 'hurry up and wait'. All activity comes to a halt, observations are made, and the events of the future are anticipated. The time right now is Midnight's Witching Hour. Midnight was in a hurry to come to us when she was a very little puppy. Now that she is here, though, she just has to sit and wait and wonder what it would be like to have a family of her own. In the mean time, she continues to go to puppy classes, perfect her obedience commands, and hope. Who will materialize as her forever home?
The More The Merrier
OK, what do you think you see in this picture...if you are like most folks you see a Mom kitty and her kittens right?Well, a little closer look reveals that the big cat in the middle is "Charlie" and he is just that a "he"!"Bib" who has the white chest and a stub tail and "Shadow" who is a manx are the little brother and sister to Charlie.To make a long story short, like their little tails, this trio are bonded very much to each other and we are hoping to find a home that really would like the sounds of 12 thundering pawprints! Charlie is very bonded to his siblings. He grooms them, encourages them to socialize, and pulls them close at night to sleep with him. Charlie is also a gentleman with dogs who are civil with him.Come on down to the East Bay SPCA Oakland adoption center to visit with this trio and let's hope we find them a home together.Update: 1/7/07...this trio has found a new home today!
It will be a very good year for Taina.
Puppies are somewhat rare in our shelter these days. Isn't that great?
Not long ago, the East Bay was the kind of community where dozens of unwanted puppies would be dropped off at the doors of shelters all over the county, every day. The public shelters, responsible for strays, got the brunt of these orphans, but we saw our fair share, too. The public shelters transferred as many of them as we could handle for adoptions. We were able to find them good homes, and it gave crowded public shelters more room, but not all puppies got adopted.
Since then, spay and neuter campaigns, and responsible pet ownership have dramatically reduced the number of homeless puppies. That means fewer have to be euthanized for lack of space. In fact, nearly all homeless puppies get adopted quickly these days, but that doesn't mean there are none, or none looking for a warm place to sleep and a nice person to cuddle with.
This is Taina (ty-EE-na); she's just five weeks old, and a few pounds. She was a stray--a hungry stray--in a Tri-Valley shelter a couple days ago. Taina doesn't know that the homeless population of puppies has been reduced. She has no idea that puppies like her find homes easily in our community. She doesn't realize that there are lots and lots of families who comb our website and shelters looking for pups just like her.
All she knows is she doesn't have a home, and then we got her wet (we bathed her!), and she's sad.
I cuddled with Taina yesterday (in fact, I gave her my middle name!), and she shivered and whimpered uncontrollably. She really was miserable.
But she has no idea what a fabulous life is in store for her. She wouldn't have survived long as a five week old stray in the elements. She is only barely old enough to feed herself.
But, my! has her life taken an amazing turn! One of our most experienced and dedicated puppy foster homes, Joanne, is showing Taina the ropes today, and will for the next three weeks until it's time for Taina's spay. She'll be fully vetted, dewormed, vaccinated, and microchipped. She'll be adopted to a home who has been educated in puppy training and will take classes with her.
This week is my last week at the East Bay SPCA, and Taina is the last puppy I will name, and probably the last one I will see. But her uniqueness is such a terrific reminder of the accomplishments of animal welfare in the East Bay.
We still have a ways to go, but we have come so far, and I have been proud to have been part of it.