Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hope for the Lucky Few?

(Picture left: "Andy," one of the five cats abandoned in milk crates and left to die in a Bronx garage. Can there be hope for him and his four feline companions?)

While at the shelter the other day to pick up, "Lou" the ginger kitty we pulled from the Euth list, five cats were brought in from a seizure in the Bronx.

The cats were picked up from a garage where they had been abandoned and confined in milk crates without food or water for two weeks.

The cats, emaciated and starving were immediately fed and each one gulped the food.

One of the shelter workers was moved to tears when witnessing the horrifying condition of the friendly cats and their sad plight.

Kim immediately took pictures of the bony felines and sent out an emergency alert to rescue groups on behalf of them. She pleads in her mail for rescues to each take one cat.

But, knowing the plight of most cat rescue groups, the rescue of these animals is not guaranteed despite the horrific cruelty they endured.

Cruelty and denial are in fact, the keywords for most of the animals arriving at our city shelters.

The cat, Lou that we pulled the other day, for example, was cruelly dumped inside the shelter lobby the day after Christmas in a cardboard box. The person couldn't be bothered to give information to a shelter clerk or even write a note inside the box. He or she just dropped the box containing the cat and walked out.

Lou, presumably unnerved by the incident, made the dreaded mistake of hissing at a shelter vet when examined and quickly ended up on the Euthanasia list as soon as the 3 day "stray wait" was over. Do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars."

That seems to be the fate for most cats coming into city pounds. Show a little nervousness or fear or shyness and the cat is soon a dead cat. There are just too many of them coming in and too few people to rescue them.

It was extremely difficult for me the other day when in the cat ward that contained a number of cats on the next day's Euth list to make the choice for "Lou."

I agonized for what seemed hours; torn between this cat and that one. Overwhelmed by so many lovely and needy faces. Frustrated that I could only save one cat out of the dozens I was looking at.

In the end, I made a kind of hurried "eenie, meenie, miney moe" decision for Lou, if for no other reasons, than he responded very sweetly to my petting him under his chin and he was already neutered.

But, I felt very depressed when finally leaving the ward, thinking about all those cats I wasn't saving.

And then I saw the five cats that had just arrived from the Bronx milk crates. Each one was in an individual wire cage quickly gobbling up the food that Kim had just given them. I noticed the tears in Kim's eyes and asked if she was having an allergic reaction.

"No, I am just upset about what happened to these cats" she said and then explained to me the situation.

"Sometimes I feel I hate people," she added.

To which I answered, "Welcome to the club. That tends to happen when one has been in shelter or rescue work too long."

Kim is fairly new to the shelter. I have a feeling that with her sensitivity, she might not last too long. One has to develop a somewhat hard shell to remain in this work -- Learn how to bury one's emotions.

I quickly left the shelter Monday night with Lou safely in my Sherpa bag and tried to wipe out the memories of all I had just seen.

The packed dog and cat wards. The line of people waiting to drop off more animals in the shelter lobby. The gaunt faces of the five cats almost starved to death inside of milk crates.

I arrived at Elizabeth's (the foster person's) home a short time later with the new cat.

Elizabeth had her bathroom set up for the new arrival as usually with new cats, it is best to provide them with a small, quiet space where they can feel secure and comfortable before mixing them with other animals or giving them free reign in the home.

Most cats will hide when initially going into a new environment.

But, "Lou" was different. He let both Elizabeth and I know pretty quickly that he didn't want to be shut up in the bathroom and was rather, very curious to come out and explore.

Less than two days later, Lou has adjusted very well. He is friendly, eating well, using the litter box and getting along swimmingly with Elizabeth's other cat, Loverboy.

One wonders why a social, sweet and healthy cat like this was so cruelly abandoned in the first place and why he landed so quickly on the shelter Euthanasia list without being given any kind of chance?

But, one shouldn't wonder too long on these questions because, reality is, they happen everyday and many times a day in shelters around the country.

I just hope Kim is able to find rescue for the pathetic five cats left to die in milk crates and for whose cause she has taken under her wing.

If Kim is to survive in this shelter, she's got to feel there is some human kindness still left out there and some hope -- at least for the lucky few. --- PCA

Sunday, December 28, 2008

If Ever the Day Arrives.....

(Picture Left: "Rudy" -- a happy little Pekingese now. This, after being dumped in the pound just prior to Christmas with no exlanation given or apparently even required.)

Yesterday was a kind of banner day for us.

For one matter, two of our cats were adopted (together) to a fabulous home and this enables us to rescue a new cat.

If some wonder why we can't rescue two cats to replace the two adopted, its because the foster person normally fosters only one cat at a time (Elizabeth already has an adopted cat of her own). She had been particularly gracious over the past six months to foster an extra cat because Princess and Lucy had been rescued together and already had a close, established bond.

Despite the fact these two cats were totally wonderful in every way, (in terms of health and socialization towards both people and other cats) it nevertheless took six months for Princess and Lucy to find a new home. And that's considering that we did not even require that they be adopted together! Still, its very nice they were finally placed together into a cat-loving home that already has one cat.

Sometimes you get lucky in this work.

Unfortunately though, not as often as we need to.

The other good news yesterday, was that I was lucky to find a reliable and caring foster person for Rudy, the Pekingese dumped just before Christmas by people who didn't even bother to give a explanation for why they were abandoning their pet of six years. Rudy's kennel card only says the people "owned him for six years." -- As if length of time one owns a pet is sufficient reason for dumping. "We've had the dog (or cat) 6 years and now we're done....time to move on!"

Rudy was rejected by other rescue groups because he has a grade 3 heart murmur and according to vets, represents a risk for neutering.

I hope that's not going to represent an impediment to Rudy finding an adoptive home. He is a beautiful and extremely affectionate little dog who can only bring joy to a potential adopter.

Rudy even allowed me to cut off the long hair and stuck on feces from his rear end without so much as a snap or protest. He is truly a lovely little dog who one wonders how anyone could have given up.

If I felt good yesterday about the two cat adoptions and one dog foster, there was nothing uplifting to be found in the shelter. Every cage in every ward was filled and as I left the shelter last night, the lobby was packed with more people dropping off more animals.

One woman held what seemed like a very friendly Pitbull who appeared as if she had given birth to at least ten puppies in the last few days.

It's the same old movie being seen over and over again. One wonders what ever happened to the spay/neuter message in this country?

At least 85% of dogs arriving at New York City pounds are unneutered Pitbulls or Pit mixes.

But, still the people continue to breed and dump.......

Considering the crowded state of the shelter, as well as the influx of new animals coming in yesterday, it was no surprise earlier today to see 37 dogs on the Euth list and almost as many cats.

So yes, we "feel good" about a new dog and new cat we are able to rescue -- and horrible about all the hundreds we can't.

There are very few truly happy days in animal rescue.

And there never will be until the day ever arrives when there is no "Euthanasia List" to view on our computers and no line of dumpers in a shelter lobby. -- PCA


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Turning Off the Faucets (Reply)

(Picture Left: "Daisy" -- Still languising in boarding after almost two months)

Lisa D Writes: As to loving and caring for animals, some people just don't get it. I have been wanting to foster a cat or two of late, but my husband wants no more pets under our roof. We have 3 ACC cats and a rescue dog. The dog still doesn't completely get housetraining (she's a puppy mill rescue). The cats sometimes claw the furniture. You know the drill. Who cares? Our furniture isn't perfect. The hallway smells a little. What joy these animals give me, and our children! Sometimes I would like to give him up for adoption.

Reply: Thank you for your supportive comment and a chuckle, particularly to your last sentence. ;)

But, we are certainly not seeking to create strife in anyone's marriage. The plea for fosters in our last newsletter was specifically directed towards those people who either might not have any pets right now or only have one cat.

It sounds like you have done more than your part in rescuing several homeless pets and I applaud you for that.

There are other ways people can help animals although fosters and adoption are clearly the most direct ways. Volunteering to walk dogs in boarding, for example. Or, helping rescue organizations find fosters or adopters for animals already rescued and waiting for placement.

For those with particular talents in writing, photography or press connections, there are ways to help bring these issues more to the public.

For those not suffering from the poor economy, donations are always welcomed and needed to pay boarding and vet bills, as well as supply animals with food, bedding, leashes and other items.

But, yes, the greatest need of all is for those who can foster a homeless cat or dog.

Unfortunately, such people seem harder to find right now than diamonds in a mud pile.

We are presently down to three regular fosters, one of whom is away until mid January. -- This, at a time when our email boxes are filled with dozens of Alerts and pleas every day (mostly from the city shelter) for animal rescue help.

Our newsletter, as you know begged for fosters throughout its four pages. But, at least to this point, no one has called.

Perhaps its too soon yet as the newsletter only went out earlier in the week.

Still, I am not too hopeful.

The newsletter goes out to mostly past adopters. Since most already (like you) have animals, they are likely not in position to take more.

As said, many times throughout this journal, rescue is ultimately NOT the solution to the pet overpopulation, failures to neuter and abandonment problems.

We have to find ways to turn off the faucets. -- PCA

Friday, December 26, 2008


(Picture Left: "Abbey" as she appeared on the shelter Euth list many months ago. -- For one dog, sweet and for another, bitter.)

Thank God, it's over.

That's what I find myself thinking this day after Christmas.

Hopefully, it signifies an end to the, "I want a small dog (or puppy) for my ten-year-old daughter" and other assorted, flaky calls that we can't do anything with.

The holiday season is normally a rough time for adult animal adoptions, but this particular season (for us) has been the worst, by far.

We only had two dogs adopted this month. A beautiful German Shepherd/Samoyed mix named, Teddy and Goldie, our lovely, older Cocker Spaniel. Teddy had spent almost two months in boarding and been returned from another adoptive home after only one day. Fortunately, the new family who adopted Teddy is quite happy with him. Goldie too, had spent almost a month in boarding, despite being a healthy and extremely gentle, affectionate and well behaved dog.

But, aside from the two dog adoptions, it has been a grim and frustrating time.

A few days ago, a beautiful, 4-year-old, already neutered Chow mix went down at the Brooklyn shelter. The dog named, "Coca" had been in Adoptions and had been described by shelter volunteers as very nice and easy going. Apparently though, no one thought he was in great danger and so I didn't get a call or email alert from New Hope personnel.

Despite all that, Coca was destroyed last week. I was late in checking the Euth list for that day and though I called to try and save Coca at the last minute, I was too late.

Another animal "falling through the cracks" of what really are, overwhelmed and overburdened shelters and rescues who at this point, have few, if any places to put new animals. We thus may become lax in vigilantly checking shelter alerts and Euth lists as quickly as we should.

I know of at least two other rescues who have requested to be taken off of shelter volunteer email alerts. One woman told me it is all too overwhelming, depressing and guilt producing. I feel exactly the same way, but still remain on the alert lists.

I feel remorseful and guilty for not checking the Euth list in time last week to save Coca, but the truth is, I had no place to put the dog, other than boarding.

I have too many dogs in boarding already and in fact, am feeling guilty about that.

Dog boarding ideally should serve only as emergency measure. -- A place to put a dog for a few days or a week or two at most, until a foster or adoptive home can be found. Unfortunately, for too many rescues, (including us) dog boarding is serving as a kind of "warehousing" of animals because reliable fosters have become so difficult to find.

Some rescues run up bills that they cannot afford to pay. Others bounce animals around in attempt to find reliable foster or out-of-city boarding they can afford.

But, for the dogs undergoing all these stresses, it cannot be good.

Almost two months ago, I pulled a beautiful, young, Retriever/Shepherd mix named "Daisy" from the shelter Euth list and brought her to a new boarding facility in Manhattan. When I picked Daisy up from the Manhattan shelter and walked her 20 blocks to the boarding establishment, she was easy to walk on the leash and barely pulled at all. Now, after languishing in boarding for 8 weeks, she is almost impossible to walk. I can barely make it to the corner with Daisy as she is so strong and wild on the leash, I have all I can do to hold on to her.

Daisy is advertised on all the major adoption sites, as well as I have tried to promote her to many adoption callers, but so far, nothing has materialized for her.

A few days ago, I received our first adoption inquiry on Daisy. But, when I met the young woman at the boarding facility and we took Daisy for a walk, the woman quickly declined.

I tried to explain to "Ilene" the frustration dogs undergo during long term confinement and boarding and that once the dog was in a home and receiving regular exercise and stimulation, she would presumably become much easier to walk on leash.

But, Ilene didn't want to hear it. I then suggested other dogs we have to her.

"We have a lovely, 7-year-old dog named, Lady who is a joy to walk." I told Ilene. "Lady is a small Mastiff mix. She is wonderful with kids, cats and other dogs. She is totally trained and virtually perfect in every way. Would you be interested in meeting Lady? She is in a foster home, not far from here."

But, Ilene declined on Lady, because of the dog's age. She also declined on smaller dogs because of "concern" the dogs wouldn't be good with her young nieces and nephews who sometimes come to visit. Every dog I suggested to Ilene, she in fact, declined on. In the end, I couldn't figure out what the woman really wanted. She couldn't deal with the "energy" of a young dog like Daisy. But, then she didn't want an older dog because of "health concerns" nor a smaller dog because of kid concerns.

I perhaps should have suggested a hamster to Ilene.

Yes, it has been a very frustrating time over these past couple of months, especially just prior to the holidays.

But, Christmas can also have its positive side, too.

Such as the cards, pictures and personal notes we receive from some of our past adopters.

One received a few days ago, was particularly sweet.

"Marcia" is a Vermont resident (and former Chow owner) who made the long trip to New York many months ago to adopt "Abbey" a beautiful, red Chow mix who had been returned after only a few days from another adoptive home for "not being good with the other pets" in the house. Marcia has a couple of cats and of course, I had to tell her of Abbey's previous return and to warn her to go slowly and carefully with Abbey.

But, Marcia made the long trip and adopted the then somewhat skittish and wary Chow.

In her Christmas card received this past week, Marcia writes:

"Abbey is doing great! She gets along wonderfully with the cats, even sharing her food with the one who likes to eat what she is having."

I remember the previous adopter saying how "aggressive" Abbey was with the family cats. Apparently, the dog needed more than 48 hours to adjust to other animals.

In addition to the lovely Christmas card, Marcia also sent two new and beautiful pictures of Abbey.

Now, the thing I love most about Christmas is when former adopters send pictures of the animals and these two were particularly lovely: A smiling, happy and well cared for, beautiful red Chow.

But, these two photos, rather than bringing a smile to my face, instead brought tears.

Because, in the pictures, Abbey looks like the dead ringer to "Coca," the Chow put down in the shelter the same day the Christmas greeting arrived in the mail.

It was suddenly a cruel and macabre irony.

A story of "what might have been" turned into a horrible, "what went wrong."

I hung Martia's lovely Christmas card and note up with several other cards received. But, I tucked the pictures of Abbey away in a small tin box where I sometimes put things I am not sure what to do with.

I might call that my "bittersweet" box.

And bittersweet is perhaps what rescue is ultimately all about. -- PCA


Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Simple Fact, Rarely Understood (Reply)

Amby111 Writes: Nice endings like this make all of the frustration and heartache of rescue work a little more tolerable, don't they? I hope this holiday will bring another Josh along to give one of your foster animals a second chance.

Reply: Unfortunately, "Christmas Story" was from ten years ago.

And no, this year, Josh was replaced by "Garth," as well as a number of others like him (see previous entry) and the number of cats dying in our shelters has risen dramatically over the past year.

It was indeed easier for some reason, ten years ago to recruit kind, caring and giving people like Josh than it is today.

I'm not sure of the reasons for that.

I just know that whenever I ask people these days to consider fostering and help save the life of a dog or cat I usually get all kinds of excuses from "I'm not ready" or "That's not what I want" to (my favorite and by far, the most common), "I'm afraid I'll fall in love and won't want to give the animal up!" Of course, I always answer to the last lame line, that fosters always have first option to adopt if that is what they choose to do. But it neither required nor expected of them.

It all comes down to selfishness and consideration for what's good for THEM rather than what is needed in animal rescue.

If only people realized that in most cases, What is good for the animals is ultimately good for humans too, as the story of Josh and "Little Orphan Annie" testified to. -- PCA

Christmas Hang-Ups (Losing My Religion)

(Picture Left: "Rudy" 6-Year-old, Pekingese. Dumped at the pound just prior to Christmas Eve. No home, no heart and [for me] no religion.)

Last night I celebrated Christmas Eve by losing my temper and hanging up on a caller.

The action surprised me, as hanging up on others is something I never do.

Shortly afterwards, I considered briefly calling the young man back and apologizing.

But, I didn't.

Later in the evening, while walking Tina and Chance and passing people on their way to Midnight mass, I thought more about the earlier incident and wondered what could bring one to such a level of intense frustration that it would result in a Christmas Eve hang up on another person of all times of the year?

"Garth" (the young man rudely hung up on) had called several times earlier in the week.

Garth is a law student supposedly interested in adopting a dog. Garth has never had a dog and has done little in terms of reading about dogs or understanding their needs.

As I see my "job" as trying to help others better understand animals and make sensible and successful choices in adoption, I at first, took a great deal of time with Garth over at least 4 or 5 previous calls.

I explained to him that it was important to read some books on dogs and to watch shows like "It's Me or the Dog" with Victoria Stilwell. I further suggested to Garth that an older, already trained dog would be a sensible choice for a first time dog adopter and told him I was willing to help him in that choice.

Last night, Garth called again.

It was shortly before 8PM and I was a bit surprised (and slightly annoyed) to be getting another of these "Can you help me with more information?" calls on Christmas Eve. It was as if this guy didn't consider that I might have some plans or other things to do on what is to many, the most important and sacred holiday of the year.

But, I brushed the initial annoyance aside and once again took time to answer Garth's questions.

"I went into a pet store and the person there told me I should have a gate or cage to help train a new dog and prevent him from chewing the furniture. Will I need to get a cage?" Garth asked.

"No," I replied. "Generally, cages aren't needed for mature dogs beyond the chewing stage."

"Will I need a lot of money? I will be coming into some money in February. Should I wait until then to get a dog?"

"You don't need to get a lot of 'stuff' in the beginning with a shelter rescued dog. You have to remember the dog is a bit traumatized from having just lost his/her last home. They are usually not interested in toys, beds and the like in the beginning. The main thing is to allow the dog time to adjust and that's not something you need lots of money for. You need patience, empathy and understanding and those things don't cost money."

I then considered offering Garth an opportunity to foster a dog and do a "test run" so to speak.

I told him about a 6-year-old Pekingese dog named "Rudy" (pictured) at Animal Control that we are seeking a foster for.

"The dog is small and quite friendly. He was abandoned at the shelter when his former owners moved. Pekes are generally pretty easy, low key dogs who don't require tons of exercise. Six years is a good dog age for a first time dog person. Not too old and not too young. Would you be interested in fostering this little guy?"

"Would he bother my Parrot?" Garth asked.

"Look, I don't know that the dog has ever lived with a bird before. Probably not. He might bark in the beginning, but Pekes are not a hunting breed and I imagine that there shouldn't be a great problem with the bird." I answered. "If you should run into any kind of trouble, I will place the dog elsewhere. I promise, you will not get stuck."

After some more discussion, Garth finally agreed to do a trial run with the little homeless Pekingese from the shelter.

I told Garth I would call him back on Friday to discuss further and make arrangements for a possible foster.

About twenty minutes later, Garth called back again.

"I just talked with a friend of mine who has a young Pitbull Terrier mix and he told me that I shouldn't get a dog right now as they are a lot of work."

(Feeling anger suddenly rise to my temples) "Garth, there is a HUGE difference between a young Pit/Terrier mix and an older Pekingese! Did you not absorb anything we discussed? I would not suggest a young, hard to care for dog for you. Pekes are easy dogs! And as said to you, if there was a problem, I would take the dog back!"

"Well, I think my friend is right and that I shouldn't get a dog right now."

(And this is where I lost it.)

Then why the hell did you make all these calls to me pretending to want a dog? Why did you call me on Christmas Eve with this bullshit? Do you think my time has no value? Do you think we in animal rescue have nothing better to do than spin wheels with time wasters and bull shitters? WE'RE LOOKING AT ANIMALS DIE EVERYDAY IN SHELTES BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU BAILING OUT ON THEIR COMMITMENTS. I DON'T NEED THIS CRAP -- ESPECIALLY ON CHRISTMAS EVE!. THANK YOU FOR NOTHING!"

And that is when I hung up.

And no, I did not call Garth back to apologize.

Last night while walking my dogs at Midnight along Park Avenue with its lit up Christmas trees and people making their way to Saint Ignatious Church for midnight mass, I thought about all the animals languishing in shelters and dying in streets or shelters this Christmas I thought about our own rescued dogs, most of whom are presently sitting in lonely cages at boarding facilities, rather than being in a home. And I thought about Garth and the angrily aborted phone call earlier in the evening.

I thought, "I am tired of dealing everyday with people who don't get the true mission of animal rescue or animal rescuers as people."

No, we are not running 24/7 Chinese restaurants where people call up any old time and give their orders for quick take-out on what they "want." And no, we are not here to hold your hand and gently walk you through all the things you should have learned and known BEFORE you called us. And no, we are not here to cook or conjure up for you, the perfect pet -- the one who "won't grow big" or ever get sick. The one who will be great with your parrots, dogs, cats, mailman, neighbors, grand kids, nieces and nephews. -- The one who will run beside you on nice days in the park and sleep peacefully all those other occasions you "don't have the time" for him/her or the weather is lousy or you have some party to go to or some new playmate to sleep with.

As Tina, Chance and I passed the Church, I peeked inside and entertained a brief memory of when I used to attend Saint Ignatious school and church as a child.

I haven't been inside the church in many years.

I wondered where and how did I lose my religion?

Returning home about half past midnight, I turned on the TV to the "Midnight mass from Saint Patricks's Cathedral."

Cardinal Egan was giving his homily.

He talked (as he seems to every year) about how during these "hard times" people need to be more willing to help others out. "Be a hero," he said.

I chuckled to myself.

It seems Cardinal Egan has been watching too many superhero movies. Someone should tell him that Spiderman and the rest are fictional. They don't exist in real life. Or, perhaps real heroes simply went out with hoola hoops of the 1950's or the ration stamps from WW2.

For all that talk about caring for the downtrodden and the beautiful carols sung at the end of the mass, I noticed Cardinal Egan going up to greet all the politicians and high rollers of New York. I didn't notice him going out to shake hands with the beggar in the street.

I think I know how I lost my religion.

I finally turned off the TV, admired my pretty Christmas tree with all its lights and cuddled with my two dogs, Tina and Chance. Both dogs looked at me with a kind of love and devotion in their eyes that is rarely seen in other humans.

And I thought to myself, that aside from spending Christmas with my daughter (who is married, living in Utah and having to work this Christmas) there was no one that I wanted to be with this holiday others than the ones I was already with.

When it comes to simple and pure love at its fullest and most untainted, it is more likely to come from one's dogs (or cats) than another human being.

That is the simple truth that almost no human wants to admit.

Its a truth that people like "Garth" don't get now and will never get.

No, I don't regret hanging up on this individual.

I've already wasted too much time with users and losers like Garth.

-- PCA

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Christmas Story -- "Little Orphan Annie"

As previously noted, the weeks immediately before Christmas are usually tough in terms of animal adoptions. Most people are caught up in shopping, family and travel plans and this generally impacts negatively upon animals, shelters and rescues.

There have been calls over the past several days.

But, those calls have either been to "donate cats" to us or seeking to "adopt a Yorkie puppy" or our "Pongaramium" dog (and no, that is not a misspelling. The woman asked for a Pongaramium and told me her last one was stolen two weeks ago.)

It is easy to get down during times like these.

However, sometimes it's better to try and take things in stride and look back on what we might call the "lighter moments" in rescue.

This morning, when relating some of these stories to fellow rescuer and foster, Carrie, I was reminded of one that is particularly significant around Christmas.

It's the story of "Little Orphan Annie."

The year was 1999 and I was doing cat adoptions out of Petco on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

I had fought for and finally landed a prime spot in the store for Adoption showings. After complaining to a corporate supervisor that adoptions were difficult hidden away on the second floor of the store, we were suddenly moved to the main floor, right before the 86th Street windows.

Cat adoptions immediately took off with the better promotional site. Within months we were rescuing and placing up to 30 cats a week. I was working 7 days a week and almost 12 hours a day.

It was a constant stress, but at the time, extremely fulfilling and exhilarating.

I was fortunate during this period to attract a number of very dedicated volunteers.

One of these was a young woman named Judy, who, although a rescuer in her own right, came to me both offering and asking for help in placing homeless cats.

Judy was a petite, smart and very perky blonde. She had the persuasive powers of both a politician and an evangelist minister. I often joked that Judy could sell ice to Eskimos.
She used her charm, good looks and quirky sense of humor to talk casual passers-by into fostering or adopting cats and knew quickly how to sort out the true animal lovers from the losers and time wasters.

At least twice a week, when having enough volunteers in the store, I would make a trip to the pound (then called the "CACC) to pick out and rescue more cats.

On one of these occasions, Judy requested to come with me.

"We have enough volunteers in the store and I really want to see the shelter," Judy said to me.

Since it was a relatively slow day, a couple of weeks before Christmas, I agreed that it was probably a good thing for Judy to accompany me to the shelter.

As always before any major holiday, the shelter was packed in every ward. A long line of people waited in the shelter lobby, holding either boxes containing cats or anxious dogs on leashes, ropes or chains. The people weren't there adopting animals. They were dropping them off.

"Don't say, I didn't warn you, " I said to Judy when noting that she was becoming clearly and profoundly upset with what she was seeing. "Holidays are dump times in shelters. They have to unload their pets before they leave for holiday travel," I added, matter of factly.

Judy and I walked through cat wards as I objectively and dispassionately tried to look for what I considered to be "adoptable" cats that we could take back to the store.

But, while I was struggling to make tough decisions as there were so many pretty and friendly cats coming to the front of their cages begging us to take them, Judy was becoming unraveled.

"Oh my God, look at all these beautiful cats! How could people abandon them like this?" she cried. "This is so terrible!"

"Now you know what I've been talking about all this time," I replied sadly. "I guess it's something one has to see for themselves. Come on, let's go. I'll take you into the Euth ward. That is where the cats are who are going to be put down. Let's see if we can save one or two from there."

There was a handsome and very friendly red tabby cat that I picked from the Euth ward, but when I turned around, Judy was standing in front of one of the cages, fixated on a particular feline.

"Oh,. Patty, look. Can we take her?" Judy asked.

I was horrified when I looked in the cage.

The cat appeared more dead than alive. A wretchedly skinny and filthy black and white (although the white was a murky dark grey) tuxedo cat who appeared more than ready to leave this world for the next one. The present world had not been kind to this cat. She sat in the back of her cage and barely had the strength to move forward for a little petting.

"Judy, this cat appears very sickly. We can't take this cat back to show for adoption! She needs care and nurturing. She couldn't even be spayed now as she is too weak and emaciated. Who's going to foster her? I have too many cats in my place and so do you."

"Patty, PLEASE! I promise I will find a foster for her! Judy pleaded. "I swear! We can't leaver her here just to die!"

Judy then began to weep profusely.

As hard and "practical" as I tried to be, I finally caved to Judy's waterworks.

Although I was convinced that I would end up with the cat as I couldn't see anyone agreeing to take home a scrawny animal that looked on the brink of death, Judy had successfully widdled me down.

The cat had arrived at the shelter as an obvious "stray" and Judy and I thus named her "Annie" after the Broadway show.

We finally returned back to Petco with a total of five cats, four of whom went immediately into adoption cages. But, Little Orphan Annie remained hidden away in her carrier, where we had placed some food and water. There was no way we could "show" her.

Hours passed and the store was nearing closing time. Judy, another volunteer and I began preparing the cats in cages for their overnight stays in the store. I was also anticipating taking Orphan Annie home with me, though I was not at all happy about it.

But, then a young man sauntered into the store and casually walked by our cats for adoption.

Like a hawk suddenly sensing prey, Judy opened up a conversation with the clean cut and kindly looking passer-by. I could see her utilizing the full brunt of all her charms. Judy asked the young man some questions and talked to him about some of the cats. A couple of minutes later, Judy walked him over to the carrier where Annie was still contained.

I couldn't believe my eyes!

About twenty minutes later, Judy walked over to me with the young man.

"This is Josh," Judy said to me. He has kindly agreed to foster Annie. Isn't that nice?"

"Really?" I said incredulously. "Did you explain that she will need Nutrical (a high calorie nutritional supplement), extra food and careful watching?" I asked. "Did you tell him she can't be spayed yet?"

"Oh yes, I explained everything," Judy answered confidently. "I also told him, if he has any questions or problems to call you."

"Yeah, OK...."

We sent Josh (who merely wandered into the store out of curiosity, but fell victim to Judy's charms and persuasion) home with Annie, some food, Nutrical and cat supplies. I crossed my fingers and prayed this wouldn't turn into some kind of disaster.

But, my prayer was not to come true.

Later that evening, around midnight I got a call from Josh.

"Hm, I'm not sure what's happening here," Josh said with concern in his voice, "But, Annie's in a corner and she's just ex spelled several small bloody masses. What should I do?"

Oh my God! I thought frantically. The cat's having a miscarriage in this guy's living room!

I tried to gain my composure so as not to panic the young man.

""Well, I think she may be having a miscarriage (trying to make it sound like this sort of thing happens all the time). If the cat doesn't appear to be in great distress, we can send her to the vet in the morning. Unfortunately, since the kittens weren't formed, there's nothing we can do about them."

After speaking with Josh for some time to help ease him through the situation (thanking God all the while, it didn't happen in my home as I surely would have panicked!) I immediately called Judy.

"YOU KNOW THIS POOR GUY JUST HAD A CAT WHO HAD AN ABORTION ON HIS LIVING ROOM RUG!!! We're damned lucky, Judy the man is so nice about it. Someone else would have OUR HEADS ON A PLATTER!"

"I'm sorry, Patty, but how was I to know the cat was pregnant? Jeeze, she's so skinny! How could anyone know that?"

I knew I was just screaming in vain. Judy was always going to be Judy. It was impossible to be mad at her for any length of time.

The next day, we rushed Annie to the vet where it was confirmed she had a miscarriage. The cat was so debilitated, it was a blessing in disguise. There was no way she could have carried a litter to term.

Annie was sent home with antibiotics. Fortunately, for us, Josh agreed to take her back to foster.

About six weeks later, Annie had recovered enough and gained sufficient weight to be spayed.

Following the spay, Josh adopted her. Having gone through so much with Annie, the young man who hadn't even come into the store originally to adopt a cat, had fallen in love with a scrawny, homely and wretched little animal who simply needed him and later repaid his kindness with bounds of affection and devotion.

Almost ten years later, Judy has moved on to a home in the suburbs, a husband and family.

I eventually "burned out" from the grueling schedules at Petco, though the constant treadmill of 11th hour rescues still remains.

I still think of Judy from time to time -- especially around Christmas when we send each other greetings.

She was the most charming and persuasive person I've ever known. She could indeed, "sell ice to Eskimos."

But, Judy never accompanied me again on trip to the pound.

Underneath all that bravado, confidence, charm and quirkiness, was a sensitive heart that was too vulnerable and easily wounded in the confines of the animal shelter.

But, for one very lucky little cat, "Little Orphan Annie," it was a good Christmas and indeed, a miracle, the day Judy showed up to save her. -- PCA


Biden To Adopt Second Dog (News)

December 20, 2008 Biden announces family will adopt pound puppy, too

The News Journal Vice President-elect Joe Biden, who took heat from animal-rights advocatesfor buying a German shepherd puppy from a breeder this month, is looking fora second pooch -- and this time it will be a pound puppy.

Biden revealed his canine intentions during an interview on the ABC Newsshow "This Week with George Stephanopoulous" that will air Sunday at 9 a.m. Stephanopoulous -- who also spoke to Biden about such topics as hispriorities as vice president, his historic campaign with Barack Obama andthe economy -- blogged about the dogs Friday. "I've had German shepherdssince I was a kid and I've actually trained them and shown them in thepast," Biden said during the interview, according to the ABC News blog. "SoI wanted a German shepherd and we're going to get a pound dog, which my wifewants, who is hopefully a golden [retriever]."The dogs will live at the vice president's residence with a spacious fencedyard in Washington, Biden said.

The longtime Delaware senator also indicated the new dog will be picked outany day, telling Stephanopoulous he expects his grandchildren to name bothdogs on Christmas morning.

Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander dismissed any notion that Biden was bowing to pressure from groups such as People forthe Ethical Treatment of Animals. After Biden got the shepherd at a Chester County, Pa., kennel, the group'spresident said: "By paying money to a dog breeder, the Bidens have in effect signed a death warrant for a loving dog at an animal shelter who would havebeen thrilled to go home with them.'

'Taking home a shelter dog was always Biden's intention, Alexander said."When the Bidens have had dogs in the past, they've gotten two so they couldplay with each other,'' Alexander said Friday night. "As he mentioned, they are in the process of looking for the second dog, from a rescue shelter,which was always their plan.''Shelter and rescue advocates in the region praised Biden's decision.

"That's terrific,'' said Jane Pierantozzi, executive director of FaithfulFriends, which operates a no-kill shelter near Newport and encouraged Bidento choose from a Delaware shelter. "I honestly think some people don'trealize the plight of homeless and abused pets."The Faithful Friends shelter frequently has Golden Retriever mixes.

"The shelters get great animals,''she said.Robin Adams, president of the Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue, saidPennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has adopted at least two dogs from her shelternear Lancaster.Adams encouraged Biden to ask his friend and fellow Democrat Rendell "aboutour organization and the efforts we go through her to make sure we match theright dog to the right family.''Robin Heinecke, president of the Golden Retriever Rescue Education and Training group that serves dog-seekers from Washington to Pennsylvania, saidshe was heartened by Biden's decision."When I saw that he got a puppy, I thought he should have rescued a dog,''Heinecke said."It's an idea I come to love. A golden retriever for the vicepresident would be a lovely thing.' ________________________________________

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"It's Not Nice to Fool with Mother Nature"

(Picture left --killing healthy dogs in shelters, while breeding sickly ones.)

I was speaking with a friend last night about our new Vice President purchasing a German Shepherd puppy from a mass breeding operation and the effects this action would have on public perception regarding animals.

"Many people already mistakenly think that something is 'wrong' with shelter and rescued animals and this kind of action from a public leader merely feeds into that misperception." I said. "If Obama also buys a puppy from a breeder or puppy mill, the cause of saving and adopting out shelter animals will be set back decades."

Elizabeth agreed.

Elizabeth is both friend and cat foster. She has been fostering two of our rescued cats (Princess and Lucy) for months now. Elizabeth is a successful (arts) writer, lives on Park Avenue and tends to hang out with those from similar circles. (i.e. intellectual and artsy types).

She told me that among those people she casually knows, many seem to think that animals in shelters are there because of "doing something wrong," such as biting people or having housebreaking issues.

They wrongly believe that the only way to acquire a "good" animal or a breed they want, is to buy from a breeder.

These days, nothing could be farther from the truth.

For those people intent on getting a specific breed of dog, such as German Shepherd, there are "Breed Rescues" that specialize and focus on saving only the particular breed, working with the dogs on any medical or behavioral issues and doing responsible adoptions.

Now, granted, some breeds are in fact, "rare" and their arrivals to shelters are far and few between. Someone seeking, for example, an Irish Setter or Bloodhound would presumably have a hard time finding these dogs in shelters. One imagines too, any "Irish Setter" rescuer might be sitting around with a lot of time on their hands. (I have personally never seen an Irish Setter in our city shelters, though over the years, I have seen a couple of Bloodhounds that were taken by rescue.)

I am not one of those people who say that all dog breeding should end. I believe there is a place for limited and responsible breeding as we wouldn't want to see a day when we have only Pitbulls, Rotties or Shepherds available for adoption. I don't want to see most of the dog breeds go extinct.

But, when I say, "responsible breeding" I am referring to those people who breed only one or two litters a year, OF A BREED THAT IS NOT FLOODING SHELTERS. Such people breed for LOVE, QUALITY, HEALTH AND TEMPERAMENT of the breed -- not as means of making a living or feeding their egos. They have the parent animals on premises and have health guarantees that their puppies have been screened and checked for any genetic diseases unique to the breed. They screen their buyers carefully, work with contracts and TAKE BACK animals that for whatever reason, can't be kept. Where possible, they NEUTER the animals before they are sold.

NO "RESPONSIBLE BREEDER" EVER SELLS ANIMALS TO PET STORES! If truly fitting the definition of "reputable" and "responsible," breeders have waiting homes for the puppies they produce.

But, unless one is running a farm where one specifically needs a herding or sheep protective dog or is doing police work and needs a protective and working breed, most people can find what they need and seek in a shelter or through rescue -- a loving, companion dog, whether mixed or "purebred."

The current situation of back yard breeding, thousands of puppy mills and pet shops and the killing of millions of adoptable animals in shelters is deplorable and disgraceful and has in fact been occurring for more than a century.

Puppy mills are like canine concentration camps. Breeding dogs are usually kept for their entire lives in small, cramped and filthy wire mesh cages. They get no socialization, walks or any of the things that dogs need for any kind of a "normal" life. When the dogs get sick or stop producing they are usually shot or killed in some other way and their bodies hidden or buried. Only when owners fail to provide adequate food, water and protection from the elements are puppy mill owners raided and their animals taken to animal control (which ends up costing taxpayers millions.)

Recently, in New York, a Border Collie breeder on Long Island was raided and more than 50 filthy, malnourished and sickly dogs were taken to Animal Control. One can presume many other dogs were put down to make room for the 50 dogs coming in from the cruelty case. The holding and care of the dogs until the case can be resolved in court will cost the taxpayers in the community many hard earned dollars.

Puppy mills and back yard breeders not only hurt animals, but ultimately cost taxpayers through the nose.

We need to have better legal definitions of what constitutes "animal cruelty" in this country as well as what represents, "responsible breeding."

Certainly, no one breeding dogs or cats in this country refers to themselves as an "irresponsible breeder" though most in fact, are.

But, for those doing it prudently and responsibly, they should not be put in the same bag as the rest. We need a clear cut definition of what "responsible breeding" actually IS.

In the meantime, the biggest myth we need to dispell is this ludicrous notion that shelter and rescued animals are somehow deficient or "inferior" to those being produced by breeders.

On the contrary.

Nature does and has always done a better job in producing healthy and fit animals than humans.

As an old commercial once proclaimed, "It's not nice (or smart) to fool with Mother Nature." -- PCA

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Environmental Waste and Destruction

(Picture Left: "Sheba" (at time of rescue). German Shepherd puppy who was on Euth list of the shelter at only 9 months of age. Rescued by us earlier this year and successfully adopted out.)

Fellow animal rescuer and foster, Carrie speculated this morning that Joe Biden's purchase of a puppy (from what we know now is a puppy mill) is a way of the new administration "testing the waters" of public reaction before Barack Obama buys a puppy.

I think Carrie is dead on in this suspicion.

After all, there were no prior media reports of Joe Biden's intent to get a new dog (he already has animals). However, the Obama's intentions to get a dog have been widely publicized and even mentioned in Obama's victory speech on election night.

This is why there needs to be wide public outrage to this mysterious decision on Biden's part.

It would be bad enough were Joe Biden just some "average Joe" who nobody knows.

But, the fact he will be the new Vice President and that millions of Americans voted for the Obama/Biden ticket is a message to the entire country that even though there are many thousands of dogs available to the public any day of the year via rescue groups and shelters, apparently something is "wrong" with all those dogs as none are good enough for the Vice President and following that "logic," the President.

This ghastly misconception is already a problem and has been for many decades -- which is exactly WHY puppy mills have flourished, while millions of loving, healthy and adoptable pets are put to death in shelters every year.


Everyday we in rescue are looking at lists and pictures of beautiful dogs and cats to go down in our shelters. Everyday, we are swamped with "Alerts" on shelters animals, pleas to take animals and sad, bemoaning emails about "Max to Die Today or Susie to Die Today."

Meanwhile, one of our nation's top leaders goes to a puppy mill to purchase a German Shepherd dog.

How many German Shepherd Dogs (or mixes) will die in shelters around the country today?

Can Ken Jennings (famous Jeopardy winner) answer that question?

The fact is, nobody can.

But, Joe Biden and Barack Obama (unlike people getting off a boat from a Third World country) are fully aware of the horrors of puppy mills and consequences of overbreeding in this country.

They both have opportunities to "send a message" far and wide that adoption is the only way to go if one is seeking to acquire a dog or cat.

But, at least one of these men has chosen instead to support further exploitation and overbreeding of animals and as consequence to that overbreeding, the so-called "necessary" killing of animals in shelters because there are "no homes" for these animals to go to.

Not only is this decision to support a puppy mill detrimental and ultimately destructive to animals, but it is also a slap in the face to all those caring about "conservation" and the environment.

How is the cremation of so many thousands of bodies every day or dumps of dead cats and dogs in landfills "good for our planet?"

Our politicians talk about "wastes of energy" and electricity?


The buying of animals from breeders and pet shops needs to be stigmatized as the buying of animal skins (fur) has been stigmatized for the last two decades.

Animals are not ours to skin or throw away and kill en masse.

The sooner we learn these basic facts of life the better off the planet, animals and humans will ultimately be.

But, apparently our nation's new leaders have yet to get that message.

Its up to us to deliver it to them, loud and clear. -- PCA

Kennel (Puppy Mill) where Biden bought puppy is cited (News)

Kennel where Biden bought puppy is cited
Monday, December 15, 2008, 9:44 PM
By Amy Worden, Philadelphia Inquirer, Commonwealth Confidential

The state Department of Agriculture has issued citations to the owner of the Chester County kennel where Vice President-elect Joe Biden recently bought a puppy.

In a kennel inspection report posted online Monday night Linda Brown, owner of Wolf Den kennel, was cited for violating the dog law for failing to provide records for dogs purchased or sold and failing to produce complete rabies vaccination records for her adult dogs.

Rabies vaccinations are required for all dogs over three months of age.

Dog wardens also found a strong ammonia smell inside the house where a number of dogs are housed, and broken wires and piping in several outdoor kennel areas. As a result they issued warnings for maintenance and sanitation and will conduct a follow up inspection in the near future, the report said.

Brown could face fines of up to $500 for each citation. It was the kennel's first negative inspection report in five years.

Brown, of Spring City, who also operates as Jolindy's German Shepherds, holds a commercial kennel license that allows her to keep more than 250 dogs. She had 84 dogs on the property when the inspection took place on Dec. 10.
Biden bought the six-week-old male German Shepherd puppy from the kennel earlier this month.

Five warnings, two citations issued four days after Biden paid her a visit on December 6 to buy his puppy! Remarks from the actual PA kennel inspection report are below.
610-495-7247 (Business)

Inspection of kennel took place on December 10, 2008. A total of 85 dogs were located on the premises at the time of inspection. Kennel owner was unable to produce the Bureau's 2008 kennel license for verification, however, Warden Orlando Aguirre verified said license through Bureau's database. Inspection was performed with Kathy Andrews.
The inspection of Wednesday, December 10, 2008 is as follows:
21.21(a) - Maintenance
There were several broken wires in the outside kennel area. Also, outside fencing near entrance of kennel had broken piping. In the house there was a medium-sized hole approximately 14" x 6".
*Warning Issued
21.26 – Ventilation
There was a significant smell of ammonia present within the kennel that was not present at the prior inspection. Warden Andrews attributes the increase of ammonia to the house's windows and doors being closed during the winter months.
*Warning Issued
21.29(b) – Sanitation
There was an accumulation of dog hair/dog food underneath the piping in primary enclosures within the house.
*Warning Issued
21.29(c) – Housekeeping/pests
Several open bags as well as numerous cobwebs were noted throughout the barn where dogs were housed.
*Warning Issued
21.41(a) – Records Kept
Kennel owner did not possess all records for dogs sold/boarded/adopted/ transferred/returned to owner during the 2008 calendar year. Numerous records possessed by kennel owner failed to contain the complete name and address of where dogs went.
Kennel owner must keep all records for dogs sold/boarded/adopted/ transferred/returned to owner during the 2008 calendar year. Kennel owners must go through her records and complete name and address portions of said records thereby indentifying where and to whom dogs went.
*Citation to follow
21.42 – Bill of Sale
Bills of sale were not available for this warden's review.
*Warning Issued
455.8 – Rabies Vaccination
Rabies vaccination records were not available for review upon this warden's inspection. Despite anindication by kennel owner that all dogs on the premises that were 3 months and older were vaccination for rabies, kennel owner was unable to produce all records on the date of this inspection. Kennel owner was advised she had 48 hours to produce said records.
*Citation to follow
Recheck to be done. As of the filing of this inspection report, kennel owner had not produced all records for rabies.
Citation Issued on 12/10/2008 by Warden Orlando Aguirre


As a sidenote, a recent visitor to these kennels described:
"When I was there she had dogs living outside in igloos and a large side building wrapped in blue plastic... the barking was deafening.... her inspection report states approximately 100 breeding dogs... she sold more than 275 dogs in was a stupid move on Biden's part... a puppy mill, for sure. "


Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Forwarded Mail:
Have you heard the bad news that Vice President-elect Joe Biden bought a dog from a breeder rather than adopting one from a shelter? UGH times a gazillion! However, since he is not picking up the dog for a month, we have a chance to change his mind.

President-elect Obama is featured in a book, A Rare Breed of Love, with Baby, an abused 3-legged survivor of the dog breeding industry. Here, Barack pledges his support to stop the cruelty of the dog breeding world and to promote the adoption of the 4-5 million shelter dogs who are euthanized each year. With the Biden's purchase, rather than an adoption, the dog breeding industry will only be emboldened to continue to fuel the pet overpopulation epidemic. It will also perpetuate the horrific cruelty at puppy mills by increasing the demand for the kind of dog the Bidens bought.

In case you've heard that the American Kennel Club (AKC) approves of the breeder the Biden's chose, please know that the AKC are the bad guys. They are “the front” for the puppy mill industry as well as all breeders who breed irresponsibly. The AKC's spin that they only endorse "humane breeders" is a patent lie. Moreover, "humane breeder" is a contradiction in terms given that millions of loving, adoptable dogs are dragged to the gas chambers every day precisely because breeders continue to flood the market with new puppies, just like the one the Bidens bought.


Please e-mail Vice President-elect Biden at to firmly, yet politely ask him to cancel his purchase and adopt from a shelter instead. Feel free to include some or all of the following talking points:

1) By buying a dog from a breeder, VP-elect Biden is supporting cruel puppy mills. The puppy shown to them may look cute, but the unseen victims are all the mother dogs who are forced to live their entire lives in tiny cages without exercise, socialization, proper vet care, and of course, ever being part of a family.

2) Let VP-elect Biden know it costs taxpayers $2 billion a year to round up, shelter, and euthanize 4-5 million homeless dogs. By adopting, he will set a national example that would be a win-win for homeless dogs and Americans who are looking to put more money in their pockets.

3) In A Rare Breed of Love, President-elect Obama pledges his support to protect the millions of innocent animals who are brutalized 24 hours a day by the puppy mill industry by helping to shut them down and promote adoption. Why isn't VP-elect Biden upholding this pledge?

4) Since the buying habits of our leaders and celebrities are, sadly, imitated by millions, remind VP-elect Biden that he has a golden opportunity to set a humane example. All he has to do is cancel his purchase and have a big ol’ press conference at a shelter!

As always, thank you for speaking up for those who can’t,


Better than emailing, it is more important to CALL Biden's Washington office:

(202) 224-5042

Obama and Biden are role models for millions of people in this country who voted for this ticket with the belief that these men cared about the downtrodden and exploited.

The buying of dogs from breeders sends a ghastly message that rescued and shelter animals are not good enough for our nation's so-called, "elite." But, more important, it is a message of blatent hypocrisy.

Joe Biden "rides the train to work" everyday -- but buys his animals from breeders. Obama and Biden pretended to care about injustice and important social issues, but at least to this point, Biden's action betray that claim.

Millions of adoptable animals are killed in shelters every year simply because they have NO HOME TO GO TO.

Why couldn't Biden offer a home to one of these condemned animals? The puppy pictured on the news yesterday, appears to be a German Shepherd. Following Pitbulls and Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Shepherd mixes are among the most common dogs to go down in shelters.

We might expect such ignorant and uncaring action to come from Sarah Palin, but not Joe Biden.

The action is disgraceful to the platform and claims of the Democratic party. It smacks of pure pretense, elitism and hypocrisy.

Oprah Wimprey recently did a show exposing the horrors of overbreeding in this country and the deaths of millions of animals in shelters. She begged her viewers to ADOPT animals from shelters, rather than buy.

Oprah passionately supported Barack Obama.

The purchasing of a dog from a breeder completely undermines all that we are trying to accomplish in animal shelters and rescue.

Unless we who care about animals act quicky and strongly on this in terms of speaking out and calling the Senator's office, we can expect Barack Obama to do the same as Biden -- buy a puppy from a breeder.

That is extremely bad news for animals across the board. More will die in shelters. And more will be continue to be abused via the breeding industry.



Monday, December 15, 2008

The Ultimate Christmas Wish

(Picture Left: Carrie and Julie. Julie is a sweet, Austrailian Kelpie mix who was on Euth list at shelter for failure to be adopted in less than a week. Fortunately, for Julie, Carrie was willing and able to take in a second, "Eleventh Hour dog." That only there were no more "eleventh hours" for all the others we can't get to in time.)

Ah, ten days before Christmas.

Like everyone else, animal rescuers usually find themselves in a mad rush before the holidays, but, not so much in traveling or family plans, but rather acknowledgment of those who have supported the organization over the past year, either through contributions or adoption.

Try as we may though, we know we don't get to everyone.

"Support" comes in many ways. The most obvious is financial donation, but just as important (or even more so) are those people who have fostered animals over the year or who have adopted a cat or dog.

All three are necessary for an organization or rescue group to be "successful" and continue to be able to responsibly rescue, care for and place animals.

These days, rescue has become more and more expensive and challenging.

Unlike past decades when animals were offered to the public "as is" with little or no information known about the pets and little attention paid to the animals' medical needs, these days shelters and animal rescuers are not only expected to "know" everything about a particular animal, but also to be able to predict how animals will behave in individual homes and take care of all the animals' medical needs prior to adoption, including neutering.

Adopters seemingly are only required to know what they want.

As covered in previous entries, what people "want" and what is actually good for them can be two very different things.

I have many people to be grateful to for helping to get the organization and me through what has been a pretty tough year for the animals.

The current economic crisis is impacting negatively upon all animal shelters and shelters in turn, place more pressure on rescues to take animals.

But, rescues can only take animals according to the availability of open foster homes or their means to pay high boarding expenses. Additionally, they have to be able to place/adopt out animals at a pretty fast pace in order to take in new ones.

Most rescues -- especially cat rescues -- are completely "maxed out" at this point.

But, still there are all those kind and generous people who have supported, one way or the other over the year.

They need to be acknowledged, thanked and updated, particularly at the end of the year.

I am quite busy right now in trying to get out a year-end newsletter, send out Christmas cards and figuring out acknowledgements or gifts to those who have been particularly helpful in fostering -- indeed, the lifeblood of any rescue group. Without fosters, it is virtually impossible to do rescue in any appreciable numbers. On the contrary, there is too much danger of some rescuers taking in too many animals as individuals and dancing with the line of eventually becoming "collectors."

Certainly that danger is one that every animal rescuer has to face and be always acutely aware. One has to lean how to draw lines and learn when and how to say, "no."

I in fact, had to say "no" to a fellow rescuer last week who was in a dire emergency situation when one her fosters suddenly bailed on three cats. "Jane" (not her real name) begged me to take in the three cats. I told her I could not bring in more cats to my home even on a temporary basis, but was willing to help her with boarding costs.

I am not sure what Jane ultimately decided (hopefully she found other people to take in the cats). I felt terrible saying "no" to a friend and colleague, but I had to. There was no other choice. I am at my limit in terms of animals in my home.

I hope in writing this journal that more people are inspired to help in hands-on ways. While this journal focuses on the animal overpopulation and abandonment problems in New York City, it could be written from Anywhere, USA, as the animal situations are pretty much the same in all large cities and indeed, the smaller communities throughout our land.

All rescues need fosters. All shelters and rescues need donations. And of course, we all strive for the all important adoptions.

But, ultimately, our "dream" is that there would come a day when we no longer receive the "dire emergency" ("Please take in these animals!") 11 th hour phone calls and "Euthanasia Alerts" on our computers everyday.

Rescue itself will never "go out of business," because there will always be need to help those animals whose owners have fallen on particularly desperate times or those animals struggling, breeding and dying on our streets.

It's just the 11 th hour, "do or die" nature of these events that is so troubling and ultimately defeating and depressing. - That and the lack of places to send animals on such short, "make or break" notice.

If only the availability of rescues, fosters and resources was able to meet the demands for these services, oh, what a wonderful world it would be!

That is my ultimate Christmas wish: A day when there was no "Euthanasia List." -- A day when no loving cat or dog would die for simple lack of a place to go. --- PCA


Friday, December 12, 2008

"Be Careful of What You Wish For...."

(Picture Left: "Lady" -- Our latest rescue. Wonderful, fully trained and affectionate Mastiff mix. Great with kids and cats. But, will be a hard adoption due to size and age -- about 7 years.)

Good news on Goldie, our Cocker Spaniel. She is doing wonderfully in her new home. Goldie is happy, as is her new family with her.

But, as noted the other day, that is an adoption we really had to "work" for.

In the end, common sense prevailed and rather than worry about unforeseen or possible events due to Goldie's "age," the people opted to make the sensible and right choice in adoption.

But, too often those seeking animals are searching on superficial or unrealistic basis.

There is usually much emphasis on "breed" type, age, size or looks of the animal, rather than what dog or cat would be the right animal for the particular situation.

For example, many dog seekers with small children or cats in the home fail to mention these important facts to the adoption agency they are calling. Or, they fail to mention they have long work schedules or live with roommates.

They will however, communicate what type or breed of dog they are seeking, as well as the age and size the dog should be.

But, adoption failures often occur when an animal who may fit the breed, size and age the people seek goes into a home to which the animal is ill fitted and prepared.

An example of this is a call I received a few weeks ago:

The gentleman told me that he and his family had gone to their local shelter and adopted a purebred Yorkshire Terrier.

The dog had arrived at the shelter after "his owner died."

Meanwhile, this dog (who can be presumed to have formerly lived with an elderly person) was placed into a home with small, active children.

The man told me the little dog was terrified of, growling at and trying to bite the children in the home. The dog seemed to be only comfortable with him and spent most of his time with the husband, cowering from and running away from the children and even the wife.

The parents didn't know what to do as the adoption clearly was not working.

I told the man this was a poor adoption choice as the dog was not accustomed to being in a noisy, active home with children and his "adjustment" to such would require a great deal of time, patience and understanding on the part of the adopters and probably some help from a trainer.

The alternative was to return the dog to the shelter where the little Yorkie might be more suitably placed and instead seek a bigger, perhaps younger dog who was more comfortable with kids. -- A Lab mix for example.

Many parents of young children are in fact, frustrated and dismayed that many rescue groups and some shelters generally are reluctant to place small dogs into homes with young children.

The above scenario is the main reason why.

Too often the little dogs have come from quiet homes where they formerly lived with one person -- usually a senior citizen. The adjustment to a drastically different situation is often too much for them to contend with. Add to that the fact that many small dogs are generally more "nervous" and easily threatened than larger dogs and you have a recipe for disaster should the dogs be inappropriately placed.

Goldie was the exception to the rule. But, in Goldie's case, I had information from former owners that Goldie "loved kids" and it was obvious from the start that Goldie was a very well socialized dog who seemed to love everyone she met. She had no obvious "issues" or fears.

Another area where people often run into trouble "getting what they wish for" is in the insistence and choice for very young dogs.

Often there is the expectation that puppies or young dogs will behave like adults.

But, that's like expecting human babies to be born toilet trained.

Young dogs are young dogs and behave in many ways, like human children.

They are active, often "disobedient" and rebellious and can often run havoc in an otherwise, quiet, peaceful home.

Unless exercised properly and enough, a young dog's energy can be unleashed in the home where it can result in excess barking or destructive behaviors a la, "Marley and Me."

And while the antics of Marley to his owners might make for humorous reading or a comedy movie, one can presume they weren't so "funny" to the people while they were occurring.

Fortunately, for Marley, his owners kept him.

But, in too many cases, young dogs wind up being abandoned to pounds and streets after they chew up the couch or tear through a door.

What the owners don't seem to understand is that one cannot expect a puppy or adolescent dog to behave like a mature and already trained dog.

Then there are the people who don't seem to know what they want.

A few days ago, I fostered out an older, (about 7 years) already trained Shepherd/Samoyed mix ("Teddy) to a young, married couple with a cat.

Teddy is good around cats so that wasn't a problem.

But, apparently in a past home, his former owners allowed Teddy to sleep on the couch.

When he settled down on the young couple's fruton (which they didn't want) and the husband attempted to yank Teddy down, the dog snapped at him.

They returned Teddy the following day not so much for the fruton incident, but more so, because the young man explained that they really want a younger dog.

I showed the couple a couple of young dogs we have for adoption, but they felt they couldn't deal with the energy of the overly exuberant pups.

The young man now tells me they want a dog "about 4-years-old" or another cat.

I am not sure what they really want.

The couple's cat is going to be "stressed out" no matter what new animal they bring in.

The bottom line to all this is that there really is no such thing as the "perfect" adoption.

All animals are going to present with certain challenges, "positives" and "negatives."

The advantage of senior pet adoptions is that the animals are almost always trained, generally easier to deal with in terms of energy levels and needs and they more easily fit into working situations or city apartments.

The disadvantages are yes, the animal probably won't live as long as a younger one and some animals can be stubborn or set in their ways (as Teddy jumping on and sleeping on a fruton).

Chance, my older Pomeranian, for example, was apparently never allowed to go on furniture in his former home and though I welcome him to sleep on the couch or bed in my home, chooses nevertheless to always sleep on the floor. It's apparently what Chance is comfortable with and accustomed to so I just let the situation be. (Tina, my other dog sleeps with me anyway.)

While one can still "teach old dogs new tricks," it takes time to reverse the conditioning that many dogs have grown up with and incorporated into their psyches. One doesn't accomplish those things in a few hours or a day.

The advantages of adopting younger animals are that one can more easily "shape" the animal in terms of the dynamics of the home (i.e. children, other pets, etc.) and that the pet will most likely live longer.

But, the disadvantages, as previously noted, are the "shaping" itself -- which in almost all cases, involves training. Additionally, the exercise and chewing needs, particularly of puppies and adolescent dogs are usually a significant challenge to most people. One needs a great deal of time and patience when dealing with young dogs.

So, yes, there is no such thing as the perfect adoption, but there can be the sensible adoptions that in the end, almost always work out.

If only people would put aside the superficial demands, "wishes" and concerns for breed, size, looks and to some degree, age and seek more the animal that is appropriate for their situation.

As the old saying goes: "Be careful of what you wish for. You just might get it." -- PCA

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Greatest "High"

(Picture Left: "Goldie" -- Happy at last!)

Goldie, our older and very socialized Cocker Spaniel was finally adopted yesterday morning. As a result of her adoption, in addition to Lady's placement last week, we were able to rescue two new dogs from the shelter yesterday. But, more about that later.......

Despite being a healthy, happy, frisky and extremely loving and gentle purebred dog, Goldie was nevertheless a tough adoption. I had to keep her in boarding for more than three weeks.

What was the "problem?"

Apparently, Goldie's age.

She was somewhere between 7 and 10 years of age. (It said "10 years" on Goldie's shelter record and anything in the double digits represents problems in trying to place.)

In fact, I was speaking with Goldie's ultimate adopter for more than a week. The woman's biggest concern was Goldie's age.

"I would hate to adopt a dog that might get sick or die. That would be devastating to my kids," Donna said to me.

And no, I could not lie to the woman and promise that Goldie would live ten or fifteen years.

But, I could easily see Goldie going another 5 to 8 years.

By that time, Donna's kids would be in college.

Donna and I had several, rather long conversations about Goldie.

The family had been seeking a Cocker Spaniel for some time. (Donna grew up with one.) To their credit, they did not want to purchase a dog, but instead wanted to adopt from a shelter or rescue. They wanted to help save a dog.

But, the reality is, that most smaller dogs that come to shelters or rescues, are, in fact, older.

Like declawed cats, it is rare that people would spend a great deal of money to purchase (or declaw) an animal and then dump the pet a few months or even a couple of years later. That is, unless the animal has very serious medical or behavioral problems. For example, there was an adorable, purebred 4-month-old Shih Tzu puppy at the shelter the other day. The puppy was brought in by people who "couldn't afford" to have their pet treated for a case of Mange. (One wonders of course, how the people could "afford" to buy an expensive Shih-Tzu puppy in the first place -- unless, of course the puppy was a "gift" from someone else.)

Aside from the unwanted "gifts" or people who can't deal with the training or exercise needs of a puppy, most smaller dogs given up to shelters are mature dogs who usually arrive due to some kind of changes to or issues of the owner. In Goldie's case, her former family had "personal problems" -- whatever that means.

At the same time she was speaking with me, Donna was also in contact with another rescue group in Connecticut. They had a two-year-old Cocker Spaniel for adoption, and like us, had the dog in boarding.

While understandably anxious to place their rescued dog, the group's spokesperson was honest with Donna in telling her the young Spaniel had "issues with strangers" and would require adopters with patience and experience and perhaps training help in dealing with the problem.

I told Donna honestly that such problems are not solved overnight and a dog who has fear issues with strangers would not be appropriate for a family with children. Even if the dog learned to love the kids in the home, s/he could represent a liability for other kids (or adults) visiting. Were the dog to bite someone, the family would be looking at a lawsuit.

Donna and her family considered all the matters discussed both, with me and the other rescue organization.

While desire was (understandably) for a younger dog, ultimately Donna's family made (what I am sure is) the right choice for Goldie.

I even truthfully told Donna, "If the situation were reversed and I had the younger, more protective or fearful Cocker and the other rescue group had Goldie, I would still recommend Goldie to you. That's how strongly I feel about this decision."

It was wonderful yesterday, seeing Goldie happily jump into the car of Donna and her very kind, enthusiastic husband. Goldie seemed to "know" that she was going to her new home. She settled down on Donna's lap in the back seat and even played with Donna's husband before he started the car. The couple had already purchased a beautiful leash and collar for Goldie, as well as a bed, treats and toys.

Part of me wanted to cry -- but such would have been tears of joy.

As hard, frustrating and "depressing" as rescue and placement can often be there are those times when you have saved an animal from certain death and are there to see him or her go off to a wonderful and loving home. -- That home you know is going to be forever.

That is the part of rescue that is in some ways, "addicting" and what one can never walk away from.

There is no greater "high" or feeling in the world! -- PCA


Monday, December 8, 2008

Only the Names Have Changed

Today is my birthday.

I am officially "old."

What are the advantages of getting old?

Well, there are a few -- like only paying $10.00 a year now ("Senior Membership") at the city recreation center where I swim.

One is also supposed to get "wiser" with age.

Well, I don't know about that one -- unless one equates crankiness and impatience with "wisdom."

Perhaps that is due to us old folks realizing we don't have that much time to right the world.

Idealism of course, dissipates with age.

We tend not to see the world the way we would like it to be, but rather what it is.

In fact, one of my favorite lines to people calling to "put my pet up for adoption" but also saying they don't want their dog or cat "put to sleep" is, "The world doesn't revolve around what you want, Ma'am, it revolves around what IS."

Definitely a line from an old, cranky curmudgeon.

Sometimes I think I am getting too old for animal rescue work.

Yesterday, I was in Petco with one of my foster people, (Sarah) showing Foxy, our sweet little Pom mix for adoption. We had been invited to bring the dog by Gisella of "Zany's Furry Pets" who runs adoptions there on Sundays.

I used to run adoptions at the Upper East Side store during the late 90's. We were in fact at Petco 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. A grueling schedule to be sure and one where one tends to "burn out" after a few years.

Yesterday's brief experience felt like "de-ja vu" to me -- especially when Gisella said to a passerby, "All these cats were on the euth list of the city shelter and we rescued them. They all need homes now."

How many times did I say the same exact thing to customers wandering in and out of the store 8 to 12 years ago?

Thousands of times.

When hearing it again yesterday, I could only think to myself:

"Ten years later and only the names of the players have changed. But, the situation is still the same."

Sarah and I didn't stay too long at the store. Foxy was a bit stressed with all the activity around him and for me it was, "Been here, done that."

Perhaps I would have felt the same had it been a trip back to Xenon's, China Club, Visage or Studio54.

Only it wouldn't have been quite so depressing.

There is a saying that "One can never go home again."

There is a reason I haven't hankered to get back to store adoptions.

Ten years later and nothing has changed.

Will it ever change?

Will there ever come a time when we don't have to say:

"We rescued these animals off the Euth list?"

Not in my lifetime -- but hopefully for those who are younger.

Perhaps its that realization that makes so many of us "senior folks" old and cranky. -- PCA


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Forever a Dream, Unless......

(Picture Left: "Lady" Throwaway Mama Pitbbull. Loving, gentle and sweet. Missing her babies. Lady was on Euth list yesterday, but saved at the last minute by "Stray from the Heights." Now in boarding and awaiting foster or adoptive home. Lady is one of the very lucky ones. Rescue not the fate of most abandoned Pitbulls.)

The above link is to a video produced this past Friday on Fox News.

Special thanks and praise go to Megan Kelly, one of the anchors of the conservative leaning station who called on Thursday asking how she could help animals.

I told Ms. Kelly that while donations are the fuel and lifeblood of any shelter or rescue organization, what was even more needed was greater public awareness to the realities facing animals, shelters and rescues, as well as greater public responsibility and willingness to help on a proactive basis -- i.e. specifically, fostering.

While I talked to Megan Kelly for more than an hour over the phone, the actually news piece which evolved from that conversation the very next day was only two minutes long.

To her credit, Ms. Kelly did an amazing and very professional job in condensing into a two minute presentation, what really is a very complex and nuanced problem. (My personal biggest complain about most cable and broadcast news shows, is they merely skim issues without going into any kind of depth or examination.)

I was invited on the program and I in turn invited another rescuer from a mostly cat rescue organization to come on with me. Gisella from "Zany's Furry Friends" brought several rescued cats for showing on the program, while I brought along two of NYCA's rescued dogs.

The Center for Animal Care and Control was also invited to bring some of the shelter's animals for show, but they declined supposedly due to the shelter and I not being on the same page in terms of " public message."

(Most full service [or "euthanizing"] shelters don't like to admit publicly that they are forced to put animals to death on a daily basis.)

The "message" that has been going out publicly for almost a decade now in New York City by the major shelters and organizations is that New York was and is, "on the road to no kill" -- a message that I feel, while well intentioned, has had disastrous consequences. The message has had disastrous results, not only because it was an impossible feat in a city that lacked sufficient shelters to serve a human population of over 8 million and an estimated 5 million pets, but even more importantly because it lulled the people of New York City into a complacent mindset, thinking wrongly, that we had already "solved" our pet overpopulation and abandonment/cruelty issues.

We haven't.

The "On the Road to No Kill" message has thus had the cumulative effect of "anesthetizing the public" from the harsh realities that befall tens of thousands of pets being bred, sold, abandoned and dying in our city animal shelters every single day or on our city streets.

There was little incentive for people to "do the right thing" by neutering their pets and taking the responsibilities of pet keeping more seriously because many were under the illusion that if bringing litters of kittens or unwanted dogs and cats to the shelters all the animals would be adopted or rescued.

And yes, while much progress has been made over the last decade in shelters being able to adopt out or send to rescue most small and purebred (other than Pits or Rotties) dogs, the fact is these animals don't represent the MAJORITY of animal arriving at city shelters on a daily basis.

Cats, kittens, PitBulls, Rotties and larger mixed breed dogs DO!

And the majority of THESE animals end up dying -- if not directly from "euthanasia" in the pounds, then often due to secondary illnesses and infections acquired in the shelters.

The increase particularly of cat and kitten intakes (and subsequent deaths) over the past 5 years or so is, I believe a direct consequence of the ultimately destructive, false and misleading "no kill" message. The same could be said for the huge increase in Pitbull and large dog abandonments.

People dropping off these animals to the shelters wrongly believe the pets are all getting adopted or rescued.

The shelter meanwhile, apparently prefers to blame rises in cat intakes and deaths, to "climate change" -- a ludicrous notion when one considers most cats being abandoned to city shelters are not "feral strays," but rather cats from human HOMES.

"Denial" is not just a river in Eqypt!

And yes, so the city shelter declined to go on the Fox news program mostly because they did not want to be associated with the main message of the brief, two minute segment.

That is, that "everyday New York City shelters are forced to put down between 25 and 100 dogs, cats, kittens and puppies."

The shelter could of course argue that they normally don't have to put down small puppies. But, in fact, many of the Pitbulls destroyed are under one-year-old, an age that technically defines them as "puppies."

Many shelters and rescues would prefer to be able to avoid thinking of Staffies and Pits as even being dogs. But, the fact is they ARE dogs. -- In most cases, very loving and smart dogs.

It is of course, not fair to blame shelters for problems that humans CREATE.

It is not the shelters breeding or selling or abusing or abandoning animals.

But, it IS the shelters who are to blame for most people not understanding the TRUTH and the realties.

The cat and dog problems in shelters are in fact, very different.

Rises in cat abandonments and deaths is more attributed to the general public being mislead on the realities of adult cat adoptions in shelters.

However, because most of the dogs arriving at city shelters are now in fact, Staffies and Pitbulls, this is a very specific problem that needs to be addressed and targeted towards certain population groups in the city.

I personally believe we desperately need Humane Education programs in city schools -- particularly those in the inner city. -- We need to get to the kids, before the streets do.

I'd also like to see some famous Rap star or highly respected figure in the minority community to step forward and and say something like, "Hey, people, we need to be doing better by our pets. Too many of them are dying in our animal shelters! Spay/neuter, that's the answer. C'mon, people, we gotta do it!"

Until, some of these things are accomplished, we are forever spinning our wheels and surreptiously rushing the bodies of the dead out the back doors of our animal shelters.

The dream of "no kill" animal control shelters remains forever a dream; it's possible reality one day, not only years away, but in fact, decades. ---PCA