Sunday, November 30, 2008

(Normal) "Holiday Blues" -- or, Something Else?

(Picture Left: Daisy, momentarily enjoying a belly rub. But, what does the future hold for her?)

These are downright dark and scary times in animal rescue and adoptions.

While we normally expect increases in animal abandonment and drop-offs in adoptions prior to any major holiday, I personally have never witnessed such extremes as we are experiencing now. And I've been in rescue almost 20 years.

There are constant and very desperate email "Alerts" from the shelters and from volunteers working at the shelters. Recent kill lists from the shelters include kittens, purebred cats and even a few small dogs.

We in fact, rescued a very loving, sweet, purebred Cocker Spaniel from the shelter yesterday who was on last week's "Euth list." The shelter simply ran out of space and time to keep Goldie any longer. If loving Cocker Spaniels can end up on a shelter kill list, what does that say for the larger mutts and Shepherd, Pit or Rottie mixes? What does it say for cats?

If I could normally feel confident about being able to place a small, purebred dog with a nice temperament (even when a senior dog), I am not at all confident now.

Even Foxy, our small and extremely loving and well behaved Pomeranian mix has failed to generate any qualified or serious adoption inquiries so far. And we've had Foxy almost a month now.

I'm not sure what exactly is going on.

Is it the normal "pre-holiday" ("I don't want to adopt right now, because I/we will be traveling over the holidays") downturns?

Or, is it something else?

Like, "I don't want to adopt right now because I'm not sure I'll still have a job or a home, six months from now."

I don't know.

I just know that while our abilities to rescue animals decreases due to a lack of fosters, boarding space and adoptions, the pressure on us to do so increases.

We currently have 6 dogs in boarding!

A couple of months ago, we experienced a very brief upsurge in dog adoptions when a number of our foster people elected to adopt their foster dogs. I thought we were finally out of the "summer doldrums."

But, unfortunately, I was wrong. We have been unable to recruit new foster people to replace the ones who adopted.

I try not to worry and fret over this stuff too much as its something we don't have ultimate control over.

We advertise the animals; try to get decent photographs and do nice write-ups and usually with some time, good and qualified homes come through.

And yet, what seemed to work so well in the past, just doesn't seem to be working now.

Yes, I try not to worry and fret too much, but deep down, I am very nervous.

Yesterday, I went to see and walk some of the dogs we have in boarding.

I am particularly concerned about "Daisy" -- the lovely Golden Retriever/Chow mix who was given up from a senior citizen unable to care for the lively, exuberant dog.

I remember the shelter worker telling me Daisy's former owner had requested euthanasia, not wanting her dog to be bounced from home to home or to end up being "warehoused" somewhere.

Have I honored the heartbroken former owner's wishes for her dog by rescuing Daisy? Or, am I in fact, just "warehousing" Daisy as the owner was seeking to avoid?

Daisy is a young, beautiful, vibrant, healthy and chock full of love and energy dog.

But, where to find that family or person who can give Daisy the care and exercise this dog needs?

So far, despite advertising her on three adoption sites, including Petfinders, we haven't had one inquiry on her.

Perhaps, Daisy's former owner knows something I don't.

It seems almost 20 years in animal rescue and placement hasn't taught me anything at all.

And yet, we still keep rescuing........

I guess because its what we "do."

We just can't think or worry too much, about what's waiting around the bend.

But, I am, right now, very, very nervous. -- PCA


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Never To Be a Bird with Severed Wings

It occurred to me on Thanksgiving Day that if I had my choice of doing anything or being with anyone (other than my daughter), I would have chosen exactly has things turned out.

A quiet day with my animals, a couple of phone calls to old friends, a call from my daughter and feeding the ducks in Central Park.

I guess I am not really one for social or traditional gatherings -- though I used to love rock concerts and dance clubs when younger. -- Then again, I guess one can't refer to those kind of events as "traditional gatherings."

I've never liked parties of any kind. And my memories of "family gatherings" usually turned into excuses for some people to drink too much and nurse or rehash old grievances.

I don't think holidays are all they're cracked up to me -- though from my personal vantage point, I appreciate the quiet and temporary peace of the city.

I wondered to myself the other day, if we do, in fact, "choose our own fates" much as we might deny that fact at times?

What is really random and what are our actual choices?

Well, for the poor young man who was trampled to death at Wal*Mart by a mob of savage shoppers, we could sadly say his fate was random. A horrible freak accident brought on by a series of circumstances and events: Poor security planning and anticipation of danger by the store itself and people, who in their frenzy to grab a "bargain" seemed to throw their sense of humanity, order and decency out the window.

But, I think in most cases, baring the unforeseen and random, we choose our own eventual circumstances whether or not we claim to like or appreciate them.

I received a marriage proposal on Thanksgiving Day.

To say I was surprised would be the understatement of the century.

So thrown off guard was I, I was unable to respond with anything discernable.

I probably should have said, "But, you know I am not the marrying kind."

What is "the marrying kind" anyway?

As a kid, I never (like most girls, one supposes) dreamed of being married and having lots of babies. But, I did daydream about great romance.

As an adult, I did experience several great (if not somewhat turbulent) romances.

But, only one brief marriage.

The marriage I went into with great trepidation (like a prisoner going to jail for a life sentence) even though I loved my husband.

Moreover, it was not a case of me being "unhappy" while married. I rather liked it, as a matter of fact.

But, nevertheless, I eventually destroyed the marriage.

There is something about me and marriage that apparently doesn't mix.

Following the blowup of my marriage, I tended to celebrate a kind of wild freedom, telling myself all the while, that I sought and needed a lifelong partner.

Well, the idea of "partner" does appeal to me. The idea of marriage doesn't.

Perhaps some of this is due to the fact that my parents had a rocky marriage that ended in divorce when I was a toddler.

I don't think my Mother ever truly got over the failure of her marriage (perhaps a difficult thing, especially for a woman in the late 1940's and '50s).

My Mother was like a bird with severed wings.

Perhaps on one level, I never wanted to be or become like that.

So, I found myself this past Thanksgiving (like most major holidays) basically alone, but no worse the wear for it.

There is the magic of the telephone which helps to keep my married daughter (living in Utah) and I in touch.

And ironically, this Thanksgiving also brought a marriage proposal from an old friend.

Yes, it is the last thing one would ever expect to hear -- especially at a kind of twilight in one's life.

It raised the age old question:

"What is the marrying kind?"

I don't really know the answer to that question.

I just know, like an old Bob Dylan song:

(Whatever the marrying kind is) "It Ain't Me, Babe."

Never to be, a bird with severed wings. -- PCA


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Anesthesia From the Truth

I find myself this early Thanksgiving morning thinking a little about language.

Yesterday, in an annual ritual, President Bush pardoned two Thanksgiving turkeys.

I wondered to myself about the use of the term "pardon" for this act.

Doesn't the term denote that the recipient has committed some misdeed or crime for which s/he needs or receives the "pardon?"

What crime or misdeed did the birds commit?

And what about the term, "Thanksgiving turkey."

What does that mean?

That the turkey has something to be thankful about? Or, that we bred and raised the turkey to be killed on a specific day?

"Breed to kill." In some ways that seems like an oxymoron. Or, at the very least, a waste of energy and resources. That might be something to consider during these times of supposedly becoming more "green" and forward thinking in how we're using/abusing or conserving the planet.

Of course another misleading term used to describe actions towards animals is "euthanasia" of shelter animals.

Literally, the term means, "humane death."

I'm not sure how "humane" it is to gas animals in many shelters around our country or even if it can be considered humane at all to kill healthy animals for what in many cases, is human convenience.

Is it the dog or cat's fault that his/her former owner(s) "moved," got sick, lost their job or home, became allergic or got a divorce?

Should it be considered "humane" to kill animals for things they had no control over and played no part in?

Every living creature strives to live and is endowed with certain tools for survival, be they fast feet, wings, keen eye sight, hearing, smell or superior intelligence.

And even though cats and dogs are also endowed with basic means for survival, these attributes don't unfortunately help them in animal shelters.

We, as human "predators" have learned how to "control" and overwhelm for our own purposes, those means of survival that cats and dogs naturally possess.

Thus, we are able to kill roughly ten million cats and dogs in shelters each year.

But, we call it "euthanasia." (So-called "mercy killing" for what really are human means and purposes).

I submit that the annual White House ritual of "pardoning" so-called, Thanksgiving turkeys should be referred to as "sparing" of these animals because it is, in essence, sparing them from an otherwise gruesome, human created fate. I also believe the term "Thanksgiving" should be dropped from referring to any turkeys. As the term has no place in designation of species or breed, it therefore has no relevance in description of any living being. There is no such thing as a "Thanksgiving turkey" any more than there are "Easter" or "Passover" humans.

Finally, the term "euthanasia" should not be used to describe the mass killings of viable, healthy animals in shelters for human convenience as it totally debases and in some ways bastardizes the word.

The only ones really being "euthanized" (i.e. "put to sleep") under these circumstances are members of the human public who are being anesthetized from the truth. -- PCA

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Memories and Match Considerations

(Picture left: "Lady" -- a memory and match consideration saved her)

Even though it has been a terrible month for adoptions (only one, so far) I nevertheless, pulled a dog from the shelter Euthanasia list yesterday.

There are many reasons why those of us in rescue pull certain animals, even when at capacity and scrambling where to put them.

Certain animals pull at your heartstrings, often for emotional reasons and/or memories of a past pet.

Such was the case with "Lady" (pictured).

She reminds me of Fawn, the dog I had for almost a dozen years, just prior to getting Tina, one of my current dogs. Fawn was a fantastic Lab/Whippet (and perhaps a little Shepherd) mix that I had adopted from the ASPCA when my daughter was about twelve-years-old.

Fawn was probably one of the smartest dogs on the planet and certainly, the most devoted. She was a great Frisbee dog and never needed to be walked on leash. (In those days, one could get away with walking dogs off leash, even in the streets. -- Something that would land one a hefty ticket these days).

Anyway, Lady reminded me of Fawn when I saw her picture on the kill list yesterday and of course, I had to call on her.

I was lucky to get the very last rescue space in one of the boarding facilities we use and last night I went to pick up Lady.

Lady arrived at the shelter as a so-called, "stray" although it's obvious, Lady was an owned dog. She's already spayed and in reasonably good condition -- except for the exceptionally long nails.

The long nails and elbow callouses on Lady make me think she might have belonged to an elderly or infirm person who was unable to walk the dog on a regular basis. Perhaps something happened to Lady's former owner.

Lady is a true sweetheart and well, yes, "lady." She is gentle, sweet and walks like a dream on the leash. She also seems lovely around other animals, including cats.

Lady is, however, an older dog (between 7 and 9 years) and that of course, could make Lady a tough adoption.

It took a while to walk Lady the 20 blocks to the boarding facility. She is obviously not used to long and vigorous walks.

Last night, when leaving Lady at NY Dog Spa, I also walked Daisy, the beautiful and very vibrant Retriever/Chow mix rescued last week.

Daisy is very frisky, enthusiastic and lively. A walk with her is a power walk. Fun, but you need to be fast and on your toes!

When returning Daisy to the boarding place, I spoke with one of the owners.

"It's hard to imagine Daisy formerly belonging to a senior citizen. Small wonder the woman had to give her up. On the other hand, Lady would be perfect for an older person. She's so easy, sweet and mellow. So often, dogs end up homeless because of people choosing the wrong matches for them."

"Dan" (not his real name) didn't say a whole lot in response. His expertise isn't in the field of animal matchmaking, but rather, general animal care.

But, he will learn, as we all need to learn who care about helping animals.

I rescued Lady yesterday, primarily because she reminded me of one of my former dogs, Fawn.

But, I also pulled her in order to have an older, easier dog for a mature couple or potential adopter.

Too bad, I can't call up Daisy's former owner and ask if she'd like to take Lady who would have been a far more appropriate dog for her.

But, it's funny how older people so often want and demand the younger animals or even puppies.

Daisy's a good example of what usually happens with those placements or (mis) "matches." -- PCA

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Getting Back to Basics (Reply)

Amby111 Writes: But, something was missing........."Patty, you've quoted Peggy Lee's wonderful song, "Is That All There Is?" (pretty much the way I feel about life in general)I agree with you about today's song lyrics, at least in the case of mainstream music. There aren't many Peggy Lees around anymore.

Reply: As said yesterday, I don't believe the problem today is a lack of talent. (There are many very skilled singers). It's that the talent is scattered, unfocused, homogenized and marginalized. It's like all the artists come out of the same pastry (or "idol")-making machine.

These days, singers (especially if female) also have to be great dancers, squeeze into skin tight, revealing outfits, be sexy, cool and look and act like models for either soft porn movies or Vogue.

You're right. Peggy Lee was a great singer with a sultry, smooth voice. But, that's all she had to do. Sing and look reasonably attractive. (I'm not sure if she wrote her own songs). We could appreciate Lee's (and others of her generation like Cloony and Sinatra) talent for what it was -- without all the other distractions of light shows, pyro techs, fashion shows and seemingly forced and created sex appeal.

Emphasis in the "old days" if you will, was on the music, singing and quality or catchiness of song.

These days it seems to be on everything, BUT quality of actual song, melody and lyric.

It's embarrassing to say, but I actually can't remember one song I heard Sunday night!

But, I do remember the light shows, outfits, dancing and hair styles.

The problem is, it was supposed to be "The American MUSIC Awards." What happened to the actual music?

In many ways, I feel this is a problem that transgresses across all areas in our culture -- including our relationships with animals and animal shelters:

We are far more concerned with how things seem and appear, rather than actual reality and substance.

Perhaps that is why our economy is in the tank now. Everything revolved around how things LOOKED on paper, rather than what was actually going on.

Over the years, I attended, perhaps hundreds of rock concerts.

The best concert I ever saw was Bob Dylan in, I believe, 1965.

The singer came out on a bare stage, in a plain black suit with seemingly just one light overhead and sang two sets of songs. One set alone and the other "rock" set with a small band.

Now, Dylan was never a great singer. But, the songs were intense and his lyrics unmatched by anyone in music, perhaps in all of music history.

Dylan was mesmerizing and in some ways, hypnotic.

One literally became lost in the words, moods and meanings of the songs as well as the singer's very focused performance of them.

There were no theatrics, no sexy dancers, no designer fashions and no flaming fire shows.

Just a reasonably adequate singer and absolutely, mind blowing songs and music.

Dylan was not just a concert performer. He was an experience.

The same could be said for Simon and Garfunkle. Two guys who sang a bunch of songs on a rather empty stage before a crowd of maybe a half a million in Central Park. But, there was total silence in the crowd because we were all so moved by the actual SONGS. Songs, most of us knew all the words to and grew up with. Songs that had meaning to our lives. The songs weren't about bad loves, bad drugs or wanting to jump in the sack with someone you just met. They were about LIFE.

So, yes, I am in total agreement once again with what you say in comment.

It's very hard to imagine anyone leaving an Elvis, Dylan, Lee, Sinatra or Beatles concert years ago and not remembering one song they heard.

Its hard to imagine anyone asking, "Is that all there is?"

But, yes, that's exactly what I came away with Sunday night after watching "American Music Awards."

The actual music was missing.

Unfortunately, promoters and CEOs of the show will simply try to figure out how to do it "bigger" and more spectacular next year.

What they need to do is get back to the simple basics, (like quality and depth of actual music) as we need to get back to basics in society itself: Substance over style, visuals and appearances. --PCA


Monday, November 24, 2008

"The Day the Music Died"

In effort to escape the grim news of our times, last night I sat back for 3 hours and watched the American Music Awards.

Hm, what can one say about this?

OK, the light shows and theatrics were fantastic, as well as the dancers, hairstyles, outfits and singers.

But, something was missing.........

What was it?

Well, it wasn't talent as no one can dispute the great skills and voices of performers like Alicia Keys, Pink, Annie Lenox, or groups like Coldplay or The Jonus Brothers, who in many ways, seem like the new Beatles.

But, what about the actual songs -- and lyrics?

Who the hell is writing songs and lyrics these days?

They are so forgettable (when actually understood) and excpet for Coldplay who seemed to sing about a night on the town, only revolve around two subjects:

Love found or love lost.

For a gal who grew up in the 60's with great song and lyric writers like Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkle, the Beach Boys, Beatles, Doors, Animals, Stones, Al Stewart, John Denver and an infinate number of others, I find the actual songs and lyrics these days to be tragically lacking.

If I hear Mariah Carey sing one more time about "being so in love" I will put my head through a plate glass window.

Or Pink or Kanye West whine about bad loves and bad drugs.

As a kid, I grew up literally next to the radio. Peter Tripps' "top 40" and Murray the K's, "Swingin' Soiree" were my very best friends and were closer to me than the bible.

There was Elvis and Buddy Holly in the 50's, the songs of Motown in the early 60's and then all the revolutionary and folk rock stuff that came a little later.

During the 70's and 80's, we had Disco and the great voice of Donna Summer.

The 80's brought us MTV and the visuals of fantastic and usually very clever, creative or funny videos.

These days, MTV and VH1 are mostly dull "reality show" reruns.


OK, one could say I am an "old fogie" who still carries with her, a Walkman and homemade rock tapes spanning all the decades -- except the last one.

I listen to Don McClean singing:

"Bye, bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levy,
but, the levy was dry.....
Them good ol boys, drinking whiskey and rye
Singing, this will be the day when I die
This will be the day that I die."

But, for those who say I am too old to appreciate the touching and profound lyrics of a really deep or tragic love song, well, that simply ain't true:

"I told the witch doctor I was in love with you!
I told the witch doctor you didn't treat me true
And then, my friend the witch doctor,
he told me what to do
He said that,
Ooo, eee, ooo aahh ahh,
ting, tang walla walla bing bang
Ooo eee ooo aahh ahh,
ting, tang walla walla bang bang"

What I missed last night were the stirring tunes and powerful emotions associated with great songs and memorable lyrics. -- PCA

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Macabre Game of Musical Chairs -- No Safe Place to Land

(Picture Left: Daisy -- For now, a chair)

I met Daisy the other day.

Daisy is the Golden Retriever/Shepherd mix who ended on the euth list of the pound after her elderly owner tried to give to the dog away because she was no longer physically able to care for Daisy.

The person entrusted to "adopt" Daisy, instead turned her into the pound the following day after encountering some sort of problem.

I am not sure exactly what "problem" the so-called adopter ran into. But, I do know that many, if not in fact most people adopting new dogs have unrealistic expectations of near perfection when bringing home what in fact is usually a very confused and disoriented animal, having just lost his/her home and in many cases, having landed in a pound.

Simple things like the dog peeing on the floor or crying at the door when first left alone are usually enough to send many "well intentioned" adopters running back to the shelter with the dog with some sort of complaint: "You didn't tell me the dog wasn't housebroken or has separation anxiety!" "She tried to bite me when I gave her a bath!" "My cat or dog doesn't like her!"


Rome wasn't built in a day, but many (or most) people expect instantly built relationships with newly acquired pets. If the animal fails to live up to exaggerated and unrealistic perceptions, back s/he goes to the shelter or rescue group!

Daisy seems like quite a lovely dog. But, it is hard on her being in boarding.

She is a healthy, high energy Retriever mix who needs a good deal of exercise and lots of attention. It's hard to imagine Daisy living with a senior citizen with physical limitations.

Whether Daisy was given to her original owner as a puppy or adopted by the woman directly, it was a poor match in any case. --- One that was almost doomed to fail from the start.

Daisy rolls on her back for belly rubs and was extremely affectionate and sweet with me. She was pleasant to walk on the leash.

But, I can't see placing her with some couch potato or someone living in a tiny Manhattan apartment with a 70 hour work week. Nor, does it seem, from her background of living with an old person, that Daisy could go into a home with small, active kids.

She needs some good dog-experienced people, preferably with a house and a fairly active lifestyle.

The question is, how soon can we find that for Daisy?

Sometimes, I think the world of animal adoptions is like a macabre game of musical chairs with the loving, responsible and available homes at any one time representing the chairs.

All these animals vying for the few available chairs. Running around in circles while the music plays.

And when the music stops.........

This weekend the dog kill list at the pound was almost as bad as those for cats. More than 50 dogs have gone down.

For them, the music stopped and there was no safe place to land. -- PCA

Whether Signed Up For or Not (Reply)

(Picture Left: "Gabby" -- Affectionate, if not slightly quirky cat rescued last year. Despite being advertised, has never been officially adopted, or even inquired about. Forever a foster -- or do we call such animals "default adoptions" of the rescuer -- who can then, no longer rescue?

Amby111 Writes: Adoptions have dwindled dramatically during the last few years. This past summer I rescued six kittens from a trailer park where my TNR group started a trapping project. I wasn't too worried when they didn't get adopted in July or August. I've always been able to count on adoptions picking up in the fall. But now it is November, and not one of them has been adopted. No one has even shown any interest, and they are beautiful, friendly kittens (now 5 mo. old and not getting any smaller). I have no idea what I will do with all of them, but I can no longer take any other kittens or cats for fostering. This is probably the end of rescue work for me, and I know many other rescue groups are in the same position. I feel very badly for all the wonderful cats out there who will never get a chance. It's heartbreaking.

Reply: You've hit on the hardest dilemma facing most cat rescues today: What to do when all your fosters are full and none of the cats are moving. What to do when you can't find new people willing to foster cats?

I don't have an answer for that.

I remember times in the past when I fostered more cats than I currently have. I didn't mind all the extra work because I could feel confident that the cats would eventually be placed and adopted.

But, I don't feel that now.

On the contrary, I feel (like Marla) somewhat "stuck" in a situation I didn't exactly sign up for or anticipate: Keeping rescued cats forever -- cats with little or no hope of being placed.

There are times, even in rescue or sheltering work, when one needs a "break" from the daily cleaning, picking up after and general stress of having a number of animals to constantly care for and keep peace with.

Ah, to get away for a few days! Or, to get some time and space to finally paint the house or pretty things up in some way. Wouldn't it be nice to finally put down your pretty carpeting again? Wouldn't it be nice to live like a normal person again?

But, one has a "job" just trying to maintain some semblance of order. -- Keep things from falling apart.

I sometimes wonder and worry what happens to these animals were I to become ill and unable to care for them?

I know I could find people to take my two small dogs.

But, the cats would, without doubt, end up back in the pound. All that sacrifice, expense and effort only to end up with the same result: Animals dying in the shelter.

But, the very worst part of all this is exactly what you cite in your last paragraph: "This is probably the end of rescue work for me."

Though still rescuing dogs, I have only been able to rescue a small handful of cats this entire year.

A couple of purebred cats were placed, but the others are still in foster.

I look at the shelter (cat) euthanasia list each day -- a list that keep growing ever higher and can only feel a profound sense of continual failure -- and guilt.

Here we are supposed to be "rescue" and we aren't saving ANY of the cats!

I can hear and feel the total frustration in the voices of those calling everyday seeking to place a cat they cannot (or won't) keep anymore or a cat they found.

"So and so gave me your number and said you are cat rescue. Why can't you take in my cat?"

Usually they have called me after calling a dozen other shelters or rescues who can't help them either.

There is no place to direct the callers other than Animal Control.

"But, I don't want my cat to DIE!" most of them say.

To which I answer:
"The world doesn't revolve around what you WANT. -- It revolves around what IS."

Unfortunately, I have to tell myself the same thing everyday.

And so, the home remains in need of a paint job (after 8 years) and the carpets remain rolled up.

And no, I won't be going anywhere during the "holidays" -- other than Central Park with my dogs and a couple of "cat sitting" jobs for friends.

This is the life I chose and yes, there is a price for it.

As I tell everyone else:

The world doesn't revolve around what one wants -- it is what it is and one has to learn to roll with the punches and try to live up to one's commitments and responsibilities, whether "signed up for and anticipated" or not. -- PCA


Friday, November 21, 2008

And Sometimes.........

(Picture Left: One of thousands of cats euthanized at city shelter. What happend to America's "love affair with cats?" Did it ever truly exist?)

In a blog entry earlier today, I wrote:

When people do the right thing, it almost always turns our right."

Notice, I said, "almost" always.

That's because there are times when the old adage, "No good deed goes unpunished" is also true.

Such unfortunately is the case with a woman who graciously took three kittens from us more than a year ago for foster.

The kittens had been rescued from euthanization at the city pound. "Rider, Conin and Tigger" had been found as tiny strays near the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island.

They were about 12-weeks-old at the time of rescue and mostly feral.

I fostered the kittens briefly and worked on initial socialization of the very frightened trio.

By the time "Marla" volunteered to foster, two of the kittens were pretty friendly, but "Rider" (the black kitten) had made little progress. He still ran upon human approach and was tense when being picked up.

At the time Marla took the kittens I was reasonably confident all three would eventually become "adoptable" and find loving homes.

It is more than a year later now and only one of the three kittens (the friendliest gray kitten, Conin) actually was placed.

Throughout this period, Marla has occasionally contacted and pressured me about finding homes for the other two, now adult cats. (Marla already has two cats of her own.) One of the cats, Tigger is, according to Marla very social, good with other cats and good with kids. Rider, on the other hand, still remains quite skittish and scared -- particularly with strangers.

But, truth is, I haven't been able to place cats in my home rescued about the same time as the Coney Island trio.

It seems like the bottom dropped out in cat adoptions and placements more than a year ago.

I'm not sure what exactly happened over the past couple of years in terms of public affection and desire for cats, but I guess I should have gotten a "clue" about six months ago, when waiting in my vet's office one day for one of our dogs to be examined.

A man overheard me talking to another person in the waiting room.

"Oh, do you do pet rescue and adoptions?" the man asked.

"Why yes! " I answered. "Are you looking to adopt a dog or cat?"

"Oh no. But, I own a pet supply store on the Upper West Side and I am looking for a group to do adoptions out of my store. Would you be interested?"

"Of course! We have many great cats who urgently need homes. The cats are already neutered and vetted and friendly. They were all rescued from the city pound."

"Oh NO!" the man replied adamantly. "Not cats! The people coming into my store are seeking puppies or dogs. No one wants cats!"

I was taken aback by the man's rather stern reply and demand.

I told him that although we had dogs for adoption, it would be impossible for us to get a group of dogs to a store every week, as well as try to monitor and control the situation. Most of our dogs are larger or medium sized dogs. The offer didn't seem workable.

But, I think of this event now, when trying to figure out what's gone wrong with "America's love affair with pets."

It doesn't seem that "love" is for cats.

ALL of my calls on cats over the past year or so have been to give up or place cats. No one calls us to adopt cats. -- NO ONE.

I can still hear the man's words reverberating in my ears:

"No one wants cats!"

I promised to call Marla later, but I don't know quite frankly what to tell her.

I know she wants and expects me to still find homes for Tigger and Rider.

I should have made a recording of the store owner's fateful words that day.

Sadly it seems, when it comes to most cat rescues and placements, "No good deed goes unpunished." -- PCA



(Picture Left: "Toby" -- Wonderful and loving Chow/Retriever mix who lost his home when former owners moved. A woman named Marianne offered to foster Toby whose time was quickly running out in the shelter. Toby turned out to be such a sweet and well behaved dog, Marianne has decided to adopt him. "When people do the right thing, it almost always turns out right!" )

Cheri Block Writes: You are doing very important work. I don't see how you do though. I am such an animal lover that seeing cats and dogs without families would break my heart.

Reply: I didn't expect a thank-you note. You write an excellent blog and it doesn't surprise that you've had many positive responses to it.

Regarding your comment quoted above, anyone can help animals. It doesn't require a particular talent, calling or expertise.

It does require some awareness to the problems. That is what I see as the "job" of this journal. -- To help bring awareness to people.

At some point in your life, an animal will come your way who needs a helping hand.

Hopefully, when that occurs, you will be up for the challenge.

In the meantime, anything you can do in terms of helping others to become more aware or even making small changes in some of one's lifestyle choices (such as buying free range meats over factory farm produced or substituting good veggie alternatives when possible helps animals in significant ways.

Collectively, we all make a difference for better or worse.

Thanks for taking the time to write back. -- PCA

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trying for Daisy

(Picture left: Daisy....a desperate owner's pleas)

It seems in most cases, when animals arrive at municipal shelters, little information comes with them.

Many people, not wanting to pay an "owner surrender fee" or, in some cases, not wanting to answer questions, turn over their pets as "strays."

Unfortunately, when an animal is designated as a "stray," it means there is NO information regarding the dog or cat's prior living situation, background or behavior.

Many shelters, trying to get around this dilemma, have developed so-called, "Temperament Evaluations," but as noted numerous times, the tests come with their own sets of problems, primary among them is the difficulty of accurately assessing animals in a high stress, unfamiliar and unnatural environment.

But, sometimes we get lucky and are actually able to track down an animal's previous circumstance.

Such is the case with "Daisy," a pretty, 4-year-old Collie/Shepherd/Chow mix who was dropped off at the Staten Island animal control shelter some days ago by a woman claiming to have "no time for" the dog.

Upon further questioning, it was learned the woman had only had Daisy one day after "adopting" the dog from an older woman who could no longer keep Daisy.

One of the shelter staffers was able to later get in contact with Daisy's original owner.

The senior citizen told "Joanne" that she had Daisy since the dog was an adolescent. But, passage of time had taken a toll on the woman's health. Additionally, Daisy was stressed and difficult any time the woman's small grandchildren came to visit.

Many people don't seem to realize that for animals who live with senior citizens, the occasional visits of small children can be very disorienting and stressful. There is huge difference between the usually slow movements and general quietness of elderly people and the fast and noisy antics of young children.

Some dogs mistakenly perceive the children as a sort of "threat" to protect their vulnerable owners from.

Such should not be a terribly difficult problem to solve with some understanding, patience and in some cases, expert help from a trainer.

But, usually senior citizens don't have the knowledge, energy or finances for such.

Joanne tried to reassure the elderly woman that the shelter could try to seek rescue for Daisy, but the woman, apparently disillusioned that the person she gave Daisy to callously dumped the dog at the pound after only one day, became skeptical.

"I don't want Daisy passed from home to home or abandoned on the streets! It's better she be put to sleep than tossed around!"

But, Joanne persisted in trying to get more information from Daisy's former owner, who at this point, was extremely distraught and crying on the phone to Joanne.

Joanne was assured that Daisy had never bitten anyone, despite the dog's somewhat nervous behavior with the vets at the shelter.

I learned all this the other day after calling the shelter to pull Daisy from the Euthanasia list.

Daisy has since been sent to Manhattan where I am currently boarding her.

Knowing her circumstance and background as we do now, it is not surprising that Daisy would initially have some "adjustment" issues, unless going to a very quiet home with a senior citizen (what the dog is accustomed to).

But, its unlikely we would seek such placement for a comparatively young, healthy dog who would need a moderate amount of exercise.

I am going to need someone special who can understand and be patient with the dog's now dramatic adjustments from a quiet home with a senior citizen to the stresses of a shelter, going into rescue and boarding and eventually going to a new home and entirely different set of circumstances.

Do such people exist?

Sure. But, they are very hard to find -- especially these days, in what is now a very economically challenged climate.

Imagine the total despair and seeming hopelessness of an elderly woman pleading for her beloved dog to be "euthanized" rather than to be put through the rigors of repeated adoptions and rejections.

Was the woman wrong?

The real tragedy is I cannot answer that question with any certainty or confidence.

I just feel we have to try for Daisy. -- PCA


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Like An Old Costello Song

I can't make up my mind about the holidays.

On the one hand, I love Christmas music, the twinkly lights and decorations and the cheer. It's nice hearing from old acquaintances (usually via Christmas cards) and if one is real lucky, one gets to see and spend time with loved ones once again.

But, I hate the holidays in terms of animal rescue and adoptions.

The needs for animal "rescue" increase as it is sadly customary for many people to dump pets just prior to any kind of holiday or vacation travel.

But, at the same time, adoption opportunities decrease significantly for exactly the same reasons:

It doesn't make sense to adopt a pet when one is making holiday travel plans.

Being in rescue as long as I've been, I am very used to the predictable drop offs in adoptions, usually starting in November and continuing until just after the New Year.

But, its never been as bad as it is right now.

We had a couple of good weeks in the beginning of October when a number of our dogs were adopted -- in most cases, by their foster people.

But, about the time the stock markets plunged and the sinking economy became front page news, so too, did our adoption inquiries suddenly tank.

We haven't had one animal adoption since the middle of October.

Meanwhile, the pressure on rescue groups is particularly intense right now, as cats and dogs are pouring into shelters in numbers we haven't seen in years.

I can't come online without being inundated with dozens of emails each day -- each one, a desperate plea (complete with pictures) for particular animals about to go down in the shelters:

"Missy to die today! Please help!" "We are swamped with kittens! Rescue needed!" "Our favorite dogs on the Euth list! Please help!" "If not rescued, Joey to die today!"

On and on it goes.

So bad, that I just suggested to a particular email list I am on, that shelter volunteers and staffers need to seek out other strategies and avenues to try and save some of the animals and raise badly needed funds.

"You can't keep going to same well over and over," I wrote. "We in rescue are overwhelmed and nothing is moving for us. This information needs to go to the public. The public creates the problem and ultimately, only the public can solve it. I am not opening most of these pleas now. They are guilt-tripping and demoralizing."

Some of us are talking now of meeting and trying to figure other strategies.

But, I personally don't know what strategy works right now.

Without public enlightenment and engagement, we and the animals are screwed.

It's as simple as that.

And so, yes, the time of year may be beautiful in terms of the changing colors, occasional snow, inspiring and spiritual music and holiday "cheer" and good tidings.

But, for those dedicated individuals volunteering or working in shelters and scrambling to save some of the animals or those in rescue, the times are as dark as a sinking well.

As with so many other things in life, I have a "love/hate" relationship with the holidays -- especially Christmas.

It seems it fails to live up to its promises of "peace, love, giving and understanding." -- sort of like an old Elvis Costello song. -- PCA

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Beautiful Little Puppy Boy's" Other Side (Reply)

(Pictures: 1 -- Foxy against fall leaves. 2 -- Chance demanding to know when the newcomer is leaving)
SKDean53 Writes: Glad you are making some progress with Foxy. As you well know, trust can take while a while to develop when a dog enters new surroundings and new relationships with people. Foxy probably was seldom (if ever) walked where he could meet new people and see new places. And being the outsider in a place where a "pack" is already in place is surely stressful to him. He would probably do well in a home as an only dog or with one who is very accepting. I do hope you find the right foster, or better yet, "forever" home for him soon. He looks like a very sweet animal who would be capable of bringing much joy and laughter into the right home.

Reply: There is good news of Foxy.

Sarah, one of our prime foster people has taken Foxy for a while.

Currently, Sarah has no other dogs as her roommate had requested "taking a break" from fostering for a while. But, we are hoping Foxy's charms and sweet nature can help win Sarah's roommate over.

You are totally correct in your assessment of Foxy. Yes, I believe he was seldom, if ever walked in his former home. Fly bites on the tips of his ears usually indicate a dog left primarily in a yard. And yet, Foxy was found with an old collar and torn bit of green leash on him. It's possible that he either broke away from the leash or someone deliberately cut it.

We of course, will never know about Foxy's past. We can only speculate and try to put pieces together.

The important thing for now is that Foxy is out of my home with a dominant dog pack to contend with. Although my Tina was reasonably nice towards Foxy, Chance was downright hostile, territorial, overly protective (he wouldn't allow Foxy to come near me) and jealous.

The last thing an insecure dog with confidence issues needs is to be around a rejecting "dog pack."

Already Foxy is happy and affectionate in his new foster home. The smile is coming back to his face.

I advised Sarah to take Foxy for long walks in the park.

Meanwhile, Chance is flat on his back, rolling around in my lap, like the sweetest little (20 lb) puppy in the world.

Just human and canine strangers beware, that "beautiful little puppy boy" indeed has a darker and feisty side. ;) --PCA

Monday, November 17, 2008

"I Think I Could Learn to Like This!"

( Pictures Above: Left, People and dogs enjoying "off leash" hours in Central Park. Right, Foxy learning to like the new adventure.)
Chows must be gaining in some popularity these days. Perhaps some of my advocacy for the breed is paying off?

Although I contacted the shelter to pull Cogney, apparently another rescue is taking him.

That is good news as we are having such a struggle these days in adoptions.

It is quite shocking that we still have not had a good offer for Foxy, the delightful little Pomeranian mix rescued more than two weeks ago.

I am fostering Foxy, but matters haven't been all sunshine and roses.

It seems, Chance, my personal Pomeranian, is not accepting of Foxy and has attacked the nervous little dog numerous times.

Yesterday, Foxy finally stood up for himself -- at least a little. (He was previously running away from Chance.) I am nervous now that one or even both dogs might get hurt. Breaking up dog fights is not a particular talent or desire of mine.

I really hope to find either a foster or adoptive home for Foxy soon.

Perhaps there is some truth to the old saying, "Two's company, but three's a crowd."

"Three" is definitely a crowd in my place. I have to walk Foxy separate from my other two dogs, Tina and Chance.

Tina and Chance are a couple. But, poor Foxy is the odd dog out.

Yesterday morning, after returning from Central Park with Tina and Chance, I took Foxy to the park. It was before 9AM when dog owners are allowed to let dogs off leash.

I didn't dare to let Foxy off leash, as he is still so skittish and scared -- at least when first going to the park.

His tail tucked beneath his legs and that "deer in the headlights" look on Foxy's face still reveal a dog for whom going to the park is an entirely new and somewhat frightening experience.

But, after a while, despite himself, Foxy begins to relax a little, his tail comes up and a smile struggles to find its way to his face. He shyly goes up and greets other dogs.

I can almost hear Foxy think: "Hey, I think I could learn to like this! -- It's not so bad!"

Foxy is really a sweet little dog with so much potential.

But, although he may be the same "breed" as Chance, the same size, age and sex, that is where the similarities between the two dogs ends.

Chance is such a totally confident (and OK, "spoiled" little dog) that the word, "cocky" doesn't even begin to describe him! Always walking with his head held high in the air and a George W. Bush peacock "strut," Chance defies anyone to mess with him. He knows he's beautiful and seems to think he's God's gift to the world. (Well, at least to me, Chance is!)

Foxy, on the other hand, has no confidence at all. Though I try to comfort and give him loving attention, in so many ways, Foxy is still like, well, a scared little fox! The darting, the furtive looks, (especially when out on city streets), one would think Foxy came from the depths of the forests, rather than some kind of human "home."

Foxy is an easy dog, but nevertheless needs someone who can be gentle and kind and patient with him. So much in this new life is strange and intimidating to him.

And yet, I could almost hear Foxy thinking yesterday, "Hey, I think I could learn to like this!"

Sure, you can, Fox.

Just learn to stay out of Chance's way, in the meantime. -- PCA

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same"

(Picture Left: "Cogney" -Sweet Chow currently at the Manhattan shelter and in need of rescue. Just as we rescue two, more come through the door.)

There is good news on Puffy -- the Chow who didn't dig her butt being pinched by strangers. She was apparently taken by another rescue.

That is good for me, because I just picked up a Chow mix the other night from the Manhattan shelter and have been asked to take another.

We are quickly filling up in boarding.

My phone was out of order yesterday for most of the day. Normally, one would worry about missing potential adoptions when having the phone line down.

But, the way things have been going lately, it was actually kind of nice to have the phone out of commission for almost a full day. -- Peaceful.

Leaves are dropping to the ground, the temperatures are falling, but I feel by the calls that do come into our organization that it might as well be the middle of summer -- or the dark ages.

The other day, for example, one young man, couldn't get his lies straight.

"I had two dogs in the past. They died of old age."

But, then five minutes later, the same young man informed me that he had given his bulldog away.

I should have asked, "Was the dog alive or dead when you gave him away?"

Instead, I told him that he needed to get his stories straight before calling adoption agencies to adopt a dog.

If one is going to lie, one needs to have a good memory -- or, at least be able to remember what one just said five minutes before.

I of course, am always a bit skeptical when people tell me their past pets "died of old age."

Old age, is after all, not a disease in and of itself.

Usually I will ask the people exactly how old was the cat or dog and what specifically s/he died from.

One of the most unforgettable conversations I ever had with a potential adopter was with regard to this very issue:

The young woman told me her previous cat "died from old age."

"How old was your cat?" I asked.

"Three-years-old," the woman replied, nonchalantly.

"Three-years-old?" I questioned, increduously. "Three is not old for a cat! What exactly was wrong with your cat?"

"Ummm, well, she just didn't bounce back after her last pregnancy."

"Pregnancy? Your cat wasn't spayed? How many litters did she have?"

"Umm, I don't remember....Maybe about three or four."

"What did you do with all the kittens?"

"Some we gave away......Most we brought to the shelter."

"Why did your cat get pregnant so often? Did you have a male cat?"

"No, my husband used to put her outside when she came into heat."

(Rolling my eyes to heaven at this point)

"Ma'am, I suspect your cat probably died from a uterine infection, NOT old age! That is a direct result from your failure to spay the cat. Did you bring her to a vet when she was showing signs of illness?"

"No, we didn't realize she was sick. She just died one day."

"Well, Ma'am, I'm sorry, but you and your husband did not demonstrate much responsibility towards your last cat. She should have been spayed when she was young and would assuredly be alive today had she been. I am not adopting a Calico kitten to you."

Although this conversation took place years ago, I can still remember every word like it occurred yesterday.

I remember so well, because so many of the calls we get today are eerily similar.

We truly and sadly have not progressed very far. -- PCA


Friday, November 14, 2008

Puffy's Dilemma (Reply)

(Picture Left: "Puffy" --a dog who doesn't like her ass being pinched by strangers)

SK Dean 53 Writes: Spending time in a shelter for the last several years, I see so much of this. Perhaps there should be a "pet owner's test". Many people just have no clue how much really HARD work goes into training a dog; when it doesn't work out, or when they decide it requires too much of their time and effort, theanimal then becomes "disposable". Dog ownership requires a huge amount of commitment, time, effort and repetition. A dog is not just a furry person--they don't "just know" not to soil in the house, or how to walk on-leash, or to sit, stay, and come when called--these behaviors are learned through repetition and reward. But after all this, when it is done successfully, there will never be a friend as loyal as your dog....well worth the effort, in my opinion.

Reply: You are so right, SK -- as always.

Matters have become so insane that tonight I noticed on one of the dog "evaluation" tests at the shelter, one dog, "tried to bite when her hindquarters were pinched."

The dog is a Chow Chow named, "Puffy" who the shelter is requesting me to take.

What am I supposed to make of this information and "test?"

When did hindquarter-pinching and tail-pulling become parts of Behavior Testing? (They didn't get to the tail pulling on Puffy.)

Have we (the animal community) become so paranoid and distrustful of the ignorant or even cruel ways some people will treat animals that we now feel compelled to torment dogs before daring to pass them for adoption?

Of course, almost every dog adoption inquiry I get demands to know how a particular dog is with kids.

"How will Snoopy be when my grand kids come over?" is a typical question.

Or, "I have four children ranging in age from one year to twelve. Will Missy play with the kids and be good with my two cats and other dog?"

Or, "How will Joey be with the customers who come into my store and their children?"

If I knew the answers to all these questions and more, I'd be in the fortune-telling business, not animal rescue.

And I am not about to start pulling tails of our foster dogs, pinching their feet or hindquarters in order to peer into crystal balls.

I know if someone had pulled Foxy's (my current foster dog's) tail at the shelter, he would have quickly landed on the Euth list. Yet, he is a very endearing, smart and loving dog.

Should I not attempt to adopt Foxy out because he doesn't like to be messed around with in his tail area?

No, I just won't adopt him out to people who have no control over their kid's behavior or refuse to take any responsibility for it.

I am supposed to pick up another Chow mix from the Manhattan shelter later today. "Charlene" is scheduled to go into boarding as I have no open fosters.

I am not sure what to tell the Brooklyn shelter about "Puffy" (pictured above), the Chow who apparently doesn't like her rear end being pinched by strangers. -- (Come to think of it, how many human women like such?)

For now I simply requested that the shelter get in touch with Puffy's former owner(s) to see what information they can provide about Puffy's REAL behavior in a HOME.

Tormenting dogs in shelters just because the public seems to "demand" it doesn't tell us ANYTHING other than how low we have truly stooped in our relationship --and paranoia with companion pets. -- PCA

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"I Have An Idea About Driving!"

(Picture Left -- "Teddy," our latest rescue. Fabulous dog currently awaiting neutering at our vet.)


"Going out and just getting a dog, is like me going out, jumping in a car and attempting to drive down the West Side Highway. I may have an 'idea' about driving, but the fact is, I've never driven a car, taken a test or have a license."

The above was spoken to a woman who called a while ago, seeking a "young dog who won't grow big."

The woman has never had a dog, nor read a book about dogs, but assured me she had an "idea" about dogs and dog training.

"How would you train a young dog"? I asked, "Since you've never had one nor done any research?"

"I would tell the dog, 'no' and give him commands." the woman replied.

"Well, unfortunately just telling a dog, 'no, no, no' or giving commands to an animal who doesn't understand what the commands mean is like yelling 'no' or 'stop it' to a child repeatedly when the child isn't paying attention. Its ineffective."

I suggested to the well intentioned, but naive young woman that she needed to read at least a couple of good books on dog behavior and communication and then perhaps foster or adopt an adult dog who was already partially trained.

The woman was polite and thanked me.

But, I have the feeling she is not going to do what was advised to her.

These days, it's too easy for anyone to go out these days and get a dog. They can walk into a pet store and slap down some bucks for the cutest puppy in the shop, offer to "take" a neighbor's puppy, or order a puppy online. In some cases, they can walk into a shelter and adopt an animal with few, if any questions asked.

Perhaps this helps explain why our shelters are so constantly filled.

Too many animals impulsively acquired by people who haven't the first clue on how to properly and responsibly raise and "train" one. Too many animals doled out to people who don't know the difference between having a living, breathing, feeling animal and having a stuffed toy.

When the acquisition doesn't work out, it's always someone else's fault -- usually the dog or cat's fault, but sometimes the source of the animal, be it shelter, rescue, pet store or breeder.

"They didn't tell me the dog wasn't housebroken!" (or, needed grooming, medical care or training) is a typical lament. Or, perhaps its a complaint about the dog (or cat) reacting negatively to some (usually to the animal, new or threatening) situation.

Unfortunately, at least half my calls are like those from the young woman earlier today. The other half are those usually calling with a problem:

"I'm moving and can't take my cat." "I just found a cat, but can't keep it." "My aunt is sick and can't take care of her 13-year-old dog."

Unfortunately, these days, virtually none of our calls are offers to help animals or foster.

That means that we, like so many other rescue groups are in a real hole right now in terms of rescuing new animals.

We haven't been able to rescue cats in months and though we have rescued dogs and continue to, three of those dogs are right now in boarding. One of them, "Nia" (a very loving Pitbull mix) has been in boarding for three months.

Matters have become so dismal, I can't read all my emails anymore (95% of which are desperate "alerts" about animals needing rescue) or scan the daily Euthanasia lists from the shelters.

It's simply too overwhelming and depressing.

When I finally do get around to skimming the alerts and daily kill lists, it is like listening to a broken record caught in the same groove over and over.

We (in rescue) realize that despite all our efforts and sacrifice over the years, "rescue" is not a solution to the problems because, try as we may, we never catch up to the problems -- and the onslaughts.

For every animal we rescue, there are five hundred going down.

For every person that we reach with attempts at education, there are thousands we don't.

Most people are under the impression that rescue groups are rescuing all the animals who are either strays on our streets or dying in shelters. They think we are huge organizations with unlimited money, resources and hundreds of volunteers.

People think that rescues either find adoptive, loving homes within days of rescuing animals or that we have huge shelters or mansions on which to keep the animals forever.

None of these perceptions is true!

Most rescues are in fact, very small entities, often with just a hand full of people fostering animals in their homes or paying huge sums of money to board animals until homes can be found.

Few, if any rescue groups have actual shelters. Most are run by one or two dedicated, but often overwhelmed individuals.

Our society has placed too great a burden on rescue groups and shelters. Its expectations of these institutions is way out of proportion to the realities these organizations have to face and deal with on a daily basis.

Will the realities ever change?

Not in my view, until people start to realize that acquiring a pet is, in many ways, like owning and driving a car.

Merely having an "idea" about it, isn't enough. -- PCA


Sunday, November 9, 2008

"Change" Needed Exists Within

(Picture Left: "Foxy" enjoying his first day in the park)

The calendar says November, but it might as well be the middle of July in terms of animal abandonments and the difficulty finding either foster or adoptive homes.

The Euth (klll) stats at our city shelters are looking far more like the middle of summer than mid fall. More than 50 dogs have gone down this weekend and cat/kitten numbers are usually doubling those of dogs.

This is very grim news.

I of course, have noted and written about this terrible downturn over the past year. Those of us in rescue and shelter work could feel the so-called, "economic crisis" now affecting the country long before it actually hit newspaper headlines.

It seems the first "luxury" to be given up by people during an economic downturn are the public's pets.

With the prices of pet foods, supplies, grooming, boarding and veterinary care skyrocketing we can only expect matters to get far worse over the ensuing months.

Loss of jobs, housing and saving accounts will only result in more animals being tearfully "surrendered" to shelters by desperate owners with few, if any options left.

Then there are the heartless landlords and/or ruthless, trouble-making neighbors who make it impossible for those people even willing, wanting and able to do the right thing.

A call to this effect came in yesterday for example:

The woman told me that she rescued a stray kitten about a month ago. She took the friendly kitten to the vet for exam and shots and then brought the kitten home with the intention of keeping him. But, the woman lives in a "no pet" building and one of her neighbors reported her to the landlord. The neighbor complained that the cat "meows." The landlord then sent the woman a letter threatening "inspection" and eviction unless she "gets rid of" the cat.

The desperate woman had called every no kill rescue group and shelter in the city only to be told that every one was "filled" and could not take in any more felines.

Of course, I could only tell the woman the same thing. We have cats rescued more than a year ago that we still have not been able to place.

The fact is, no one calls us to adopt cats anymore. ALL of our cat calls are either give ups or finds.

Because the woman has only had the kitten a month, she is not protected by any laws that guarantee if someone has an animal more than three months and the landlord has failed to take action on a "no pet" clause, the person can usually keep the animal providing it does not pose any danger or nuisance threats to the building.

The woman, having signed a "no pet" lease in her building doesn't have a legal leg to stand on.

All it takes in situations like these is one trouble-making cretin to land someone (and their pet) in a heap of trouble.

I advised the woman to bring the kitten to the Humane Society, ASPCA or Bideawee for neutering and that while at one of these (no kill) shelters, in person, to speak to heads of Adoptions. Having the friendly, healthy (and then neutered) cat with her might help propel the woman to the "front of the line" in getting the cat admitted into one of these shelters.

Aside from asking friends and acquaintances to take the animal (already tried and rejected), the woman's only other option was bringing the kitty to the AC&C where the cat has a better than 80% of dying.

All this for a bitchy neighbor and a seemingly callous landlord.

This is the main reason I am very paranoid about fostering any extra animals now and feel compelled to "hide" my current foster Pomeranian, Jay.

All it takes is one trouble-making creep to land one in a heap of trouble.

Speaking of Jay, (now called, "Foxy" by me) he went for his first walk in Central Park yesterday.

I believe, from his reaction, it was probably Foxy's first walk in a park, ever.

Foxy was initially very frightened, skittish and wary during the initial phases of the walk. It seems he's never seen joggers, cyclists or skaters before.

But, he kept up a brave front and relaxed enough to finally enjoy the walk. It probably helped the situation that it started to rain quite heavily and that had the effect of pretty much emptying out the park.

It was nice to see the little fox-like dog scooting around and finally relaxing and smiling.

I never heard back from "Vi," the woman who had come to see Foxy the other day as a possible foster. I wonder how serious she and her husband really are about getting a dog in the first place.

After all, Vi didn't keep the last one.

People like Vi (and unfortunately, there are too many of them) are seemingly seeking "perfect" animals.

And though Foxy is a sweet and relatively easy dog, he has adjustments to overcome in adapting to both, life in the city and life in a caring, loving home.

Its obvious "care" was something Foxy received very little of in his former home(s).

Yes, it is rough and dark times now both, in the economy and especially in animal rescue and placement.

Our country has just elected and will soon have a new President.

The question is, will we as a culture adapt new attitudes?

As the wizard of Oz said to Dorothy:

"I don't have the power to send you back to Kansas.......You've had it all along."

Or, to quote Shakespeare:

"The fault is not in our stars (or stocks or pets), it's in ourselves." -- PCA


Striking Gold

(Picture left: "Ruffles," new name, new home, new life)

There is good news on the Chow who was dropped off at the Yonkers shelter when his owners moved to California.

After advertising "Ruffles" on adoption sites, I received one call on him.

Fortunately, it was a good call.

The mature married couple recently lost a their 14-year-old Chow to Diabetes and kidney disease. They were seeking another.

Today, I received an appreciative email from my contact at the Yonkers shelter saying the people came to meet Ruffles yesterday and will be adopting him. His new name will be "Rudy" -- more appropriate for a boy.

I am relieved about this. Since Ruffles was used to a house and yard and not familiar with walking on a leash, I figured he would have a hard time adjusting to a city apartment, as well as the noise, stress and crowds of Manhattan.

Moreover, I did not have an open foster home to send him to.

We didn't get many calls on Ruffles, but at least the one we got was gold. -- PCA

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lost Little Dog (Who's Going to be OK)

(Picture left -- Jay, when a "stray" at the shelter. Note, the green remnants of former collar and former life).

You know things are really bad when you advertise for foster or adoption, a small breed shelter dog and wind up having to bring the dog home yourself.

That's exactly what happened when, two nights ago, I picked up Jay, the Pomeranian mix from the Animal Control shelter here in Manhattan.

I was sure I would have foster placement after promoting Jay on Petfinders and other sites, as well as directly asking several people to foster him.

But, nothing came through.

I of course, already have two dogs and a number of cats.

It is to really "push my luck" in bringing a third dog home -- even on a temporary basis.

I live in a city apartment.

Since bringing Jay home, I have more or less been "hiding" him.

I only walk him very late at night when the differences between him and my other Pomeranian, Chance are not so obvious.

What are the differences?

Although the same breed, size and color, Chance (my dog) is much cleaner, rounder and "fluffier" than Jay, as well as much more confident, prouder and cheerier in demeanor. I suspect Chance originally came from a breeder and Jay a puppy mill. I am not in fact sure that Jay is a purebred Pomeranian. He carries his tail low, like a fox and even has the same quick, darting movements of a fox. If one didn't know better, one might actually believe Jay is more fox than dog!

Although very nervous, skittish and shy when first rescued, Jay is now starting to settle in. He follows me around and seems to enjoy some soft petting.

I was able to bush out and clip some of the mats behind Jay's ears, but Jay became snappy yesterday when I attempted to cut a large mat on his tail.

Oh well, I knew I was probably "pushing too much too soon" when I tried that. One has to be careful about overwhelming newly rescued dogs too soon. This is advice I give to new fosters and adopters all the time.

After all, I didn't even attempt to bathe and clip Chance until something like 4 days after bringing him home.

The three dogs are getting along well, although Tina and Chance have a very established "pack order" and both dogs have let Jay know that.

Chance particularly resents the new dog coming on to his "space."

Chance and Tina are usually by me wherever I am.

Jay has been forced to "keep his distance" and stay further away.

All in all, however, things have been quite peaceful.

I am lucky that Jay is a reasonably quiet dog who doesn't seem to have much trouble being either alone or the low dog on the totem pole.

Last night, I showed Jay to a potential foster person.

"Vi" is a well intentioned young woman who called yesterday seeking a Shih-Tzu or Lhasa type dog to adopt.

But, her former experience with dogs is a bit sketchy.

Vi had a Lhasa Apso for two years, but when moving to the city from upstate NY, the dog (according to Vi) had a hard time adjusting to the noise, stress and crowds of Manhattan. The dog is now with her Aunt and Uncle in Long Island.

I asked Vi a bunch of questions pertaining to this situation and decision to give up her former dog.

Did she consult a trainer when encountering this problem? Was her dog neutered? How long did she attempt to keep her dog in the city? How is he doing now?

In the end, it was a hard judgment call.

The woman doesn't strike me as an irresponsible flake who easily gives up on situations when the going gets tough.

She tells me that her Aunt and Uncle had been seeking a smaller dog to adopt anyway and love her dog. She sees her dog regularly and occasionally brings him back to the city. According to her, the dog is much happier in a suburban environment.

I do know from past experiences, that some dogs who have grown up in the country and are used to that sort of environment have a very tough time adjusting to Manhattan apartments and the seeming chaos of the city.

I can see from just fostering Jay that the crowds and noise of the city are very tough and scary for him. He is a dog most likely used to living primarily in a Bronx house and yard.

In the end, I suggested fostering a dog to Vi. -- Something I usually do with people who I deem trustworthy, but lacking deep experience or knowledge of dogs.

Fostering is, in many ways, a "trial adoption."

It enables one to keep better tabs on an animal caregiver without giving up ownership of the dog.

If the foster goes well and the people love the dog and feel up to a permanent commitment, we move forward with the adoption.

I think Jay would probably do well with Vi. Her vibe (or energy) seems to be calm and pragmatic. When meeting Jay, she did not immediately try to pet and overwhelm him. We walked with Jay for a while outside before Vi gently knelt down and petted him. He was accepting of her overtures, but was still a bit wary and distracted by the noises of the street.

Vi still has to consult with her husband (who, according to her also wants a dog and grew up with a Pomeranian). I told her, that if going through with the foster, I would bring Jay to the home, which ironically is only a few blocks from me.

We'll see what happens.

In the meantime, Jay continues to settle in.

He is a sad and seemingly "lost" little dog in some ways. It's so obvious, that although quite neglected in his former home, Jay nevertheless loved and misses his former owner(s).

Still, I am starting to see that Pomeranian smile come across Jay's face more and more now.

He is going to be OK. -- PCA


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Great Expectations

I am glad election day is finally over.

For one matter, it took up too much of the news.

For another, the constant partisan snipes, swipes and bickering becomes tiring after a while and leads to cynicism and distrust in both, the political process and the actual candidates.

Finally, the country needs to get back to business -- especially the business of trying to fix a messed up economy and pay attention to what is happening on the world stage. Already, Russia seems to be seeking ways to "test" our new President-Elect.

Although the election results showed John McCain to be the "loser" last night, I believe the ultimate losers are going to be the comics, so many of whom, seemed to build careers railing against the current President, excoriating Hillary Clinton and bashing John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Will they feel free to go after Barack Obama with the same abandon and vitriol?

Perhaps because he was the new kid on the block or interracial or seemingly exotic, comedians and pundits for the most part, have handled Obama with soft, kid gloves during the course of the campaigns.

But, what will they do now -- or after Obama actually takes office?

One should not envy Barack Obama, despite all the present media glory and adulation.

He is actually in a difficult position.

Pander to the left wingers of his party (despite their zeal and commitment in electing him), and Obama and the Dems will be sure to go the same way as the Republicans have gone in the last two elections.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Obama should be grateful that the Dems didn't win a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate last night.

Checks and balance is a must in keeping our politicians (regardless of party) in line.

But, should Obama play matters pragmatically and cautiously and pull back on some of the elaborate promises of the campaigns and he is sure to "disappoint" or be tagged a "sell out" by many of his passionate supporters.

Glory and adulation tend to be short-lived in the political and media worlds.

Today's hero is tomorrow's bum.

There's always something better and more "exiting" around the next bend.

For the moment, Obama should bask in the sunlight of his new found glory -- the "honeymoon" so to speak.

After January 20th, much of it is sure to change.

Especially if the comics and pundits want to hold on to their jobs. -- PCA

Historic Victory for Farm Animals!!



Historic Victory for Farm Animals! Prop 2 Passes in California

Congratulations to animal protection advocates throughout the country for getting the word and the vote out for farm animals!

In a historic victory, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 2, a landmark measure that bans three of the cruelest factory farming confinement systems battery cages, veal crates and gestation crates -- in the state by 2015.

By a vote of more than 60 percent Californians sent a clear message to big agribusiness thatcruelty to animals is unacceptable. While Prop 2 will curtail the suffering of millions of animals in California, the repercussions throughout the country promise to be even more profound: As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation. California’s new law against farm animal cruelty holds the potential to spark an unstoppable precedent for change in the way farm animals are treated nationwide.

Although veal crates, gestation crates and battery cage confinement systems have been banned throughout Europe, they remain common across most of the U.S. With the passage of Prop 2, California becomes the 5th state to outlaw gestation crates (joining Florida, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado) and the third to outlaw veal crates (joining Arizona and Colorado). Perhaps most significantly, it becomes the first state to ban battery cages for laying hens, who are killed in far greater numbers than either pigs or calves. Debeaked shortly after hatching and crammed five or more into a cage the size of a filing drawer, each laying hen is provided less space than a sheet of typing paper to live her entire life. Now, California egg producers will be required to provide birds with enough space to turn around, stand up and spread their wings. This ban on battery cages sets the stage for other states to follow in California’s path—ultimately affecting many millions more animals a year.

The impact of California’s passing of Prop 2 will be significant, and the efforts of animal protection advocates across the country toward its passage will continue to send ripples across the nation. Thank you to everybody who gave their time and energy to help achieve this phenomenal victory.

Together, we are making a difference! Check out more information on this monumental victory!

Monday, November 3, 2008

"Property" and Entitlement, They're Not

Picture Left -- "Jay" Lost, little shelter dog.
Ah, our archaic animal welfare laws!

I went to see Jay, the so-called "severe" (behavior) Pomeranian yesterday at the Manhattan animal control shelter.

I did not see a nasty or "aggressive" little dog in a cage.

Rather, what I saw was a very frightened, confused little dog in a ward filled with large and barking dogs.

I was instructed to wait for a kennel staffer to take Jay out of the cage, due to the "caution" sticker on his kennel card. But, after a few mintutes, I was able to loop my leash over Jay's head and lift him out of the cage myself.

There was nothing "aggressive" about him.

I took Jay into the yard in back of the shelter and spent some time with him. He seemed a bit lost and distracted, but I was able to stroke him and lift him up on the bench beside me.

He seemed very much to be looking for his former owners.

Of course one has to wonder about Jay's "former owners."

It's not too often that one sees a small, purebred dog with fly bites on the ears, but they were certainly prevalent on Jay's ear tips.

Such usually indicate a dog kept primarily outside in a yard.

Further evidence to neglect is Jay's dirty, matted coat and his thin condition.

One tends to think of Pomeranians as "spoiled, pampered" dogs.

But, nothing about Jay suggests any kind of pampering or even minimal care.

He's a sad little dog trying to put up a bravado of independence and nonchalence.

After returning Jay to his cage, I went to the "New Hope" office in the shelter to tell the woman in charge of rescue, that I was happy to take Jay.

"Can he be neutered tomorrow?" I asked Jesse.

"Well, he's still on stray hold until tomorrow. He could be neutered on Tuesday and you can pick him up then if not claimed." Jesse replied.

"Stray hold" is a 3-day wait period allotted for owners of lost dogs or cats to claim their animal.

That means that Jay's former owners could potentially show up at the shelter and claim him and I would have nothing to say about it.

It doesn't seem to matter that the dog had been severely neglected for months or possibly even years.

In my personal opinion, if found, Jay's former owners should be arrested and forced to spend at least one full week tied up in a yard.

Of course, were it up to me, many of the laws pertaining to animals would be changed.

But, primary among them would be the notion of animals as inanimate "property" to be purchased, sold, discarded or claimed regardless of condition or previous care.

Having, keeping or claiming animals should be considered an earned privilege, rather than an entitlement. -- PCA

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"Vicious Little Pomeranians"

(Picture left-- Chance, the "vampire dog" shortly after rescued.)
"Oh my God, he looks like he's Chance's brother!"

Such was my email response this morning to a message from one of the shelter volunteers about a Pomeranian named, "Jay" who, well, like Chance, doesn't seem to be doing too well in the shelter.

Jay is in fact, a "Severe" (just like Chance) in his shelter behavior evaluation.

I seem to have a "thing" for Pomeranians and Chow Chows.

In fact, the last Pom I brought home to "foster" I ended up keeping.

"Chance" has since become my "beautiful little puppy boy" -- despite the fact he is about ten years old.

That's because Chance looks like a baby Chow Chow and loves to be babied.

For those who don't know Chance's story, he arrived at the city shelter about 4 months ago and was trying to bite everyone who went near or attempted to handle him.

The veterinary notes on Chance's record say:

"Extremely aggressive, lunging, biting rope."

Despite being a small, purebred dog, Chance nevertheless ended up on the shelter Euthanasia list due to "severe" behavior.

I called the shelter to pull Chance from the list and a couple of days later brought him home with me with the idea of fostering and socializing until Chance could be adopted.

But, I fell in love with the fluffy, little fox-like dog. What's more, Chance is very good with my other dog, Tina and totally devoted to me. I can do anything with Chance, including rock him in my arms and lap like a baby.

Meanwhile, Chance and Tina make a very beautiful and balanced pair. Tina is the more independent, "alpha" and exploratory of the two dogs. Chance is the more protective and dependent. He always stays right beside me during a walk, while Tina always prances a few steps in front of both of us. -- Tina would have made a great sled or "herding" farm dog.

When first rescued, Chance needed dentistry, removal of a fatty tissue mass on his stomach and neutering before I could even hope to place him. But his distrust of strangers, as well as his age and the "behavior" notes on his shelter record made me think that even following the vetting, Chance would not be an easy adoption.

I in fact, never advertised Chance for Adoption, even following the surgeries.

It's as though I never really considered adopting Chance out at all.

But, the bad part of a rescuer making the choice to keep a "foster" pet over adopting out, is that you then use up that potential foster spot for another animal who would desperately need it.

I thus have no open foster space now for "Jay," the Pomeranian who not only looks like a clone to Chance, but also seems to be heading on the same path in the shelter. Unless rescued, Jay too, would land on the Euthanasia list -- if not today, then tomorrow.

So what do I do?

I will probably head to the shelter today to meet with Jay, take pictures and try to figure out some way of pulling him, if in fact, no other rescue has stepped forward.

I know I will not let this little "fluff dog" go down.

For all the love, joy and laughs Chance has brought to my life, I "owe" it to his fellow other Pomeranians in distress to find something for them.

Pomeranians are feisty little dogs and like Chow Chows, not the easiest to understand.

Both breeds take time to trust people they don't know and can be combative and contrary when they don't.

But, when finally winning over the trust of these dogs, there are few of any species who will show you more love, devotion and loyalty then the so-called, "vicious little Pomeranian" --or "nasty Chow Chow."

Ah, how first impressions and outward behaviors sometime deceive! -- PCA