Monday, March 30, 2009


(Picture Left: Heather (her boss) and the two "mystery" dogs)

Many things going on the past week that have made it difficult to keep up with this blog.

Earlier last week, for example, I was in the process of trying to save a Chow and Pitbull mix who had arrived at the shelter as "Eviction" cases.

Police had apparently seized the dogs from the residence after the owners had been kicked out and abandoned the animals.

Although obviously well cared for and in the Chow's case, beautifully groomed and coiffed, both dogs reacted very badly finding themselves in the city pound. "Fluffy" and her companion Pit mix, "Wendy" barked furiously in their cages and were uncooperative when handled.

I was of course called on the Chow by one of the shelter staffers. But, with a "Severe" behavior assessment on Fluffy by the shelter vets and no information from the former home, the dog presented us with a quandary.

Is the dog's behavior due to fear and nervousness in the shelter or does Fluffy (and her companion canine friend) really have "issues?"

It was impossible to know.

I did go with Firouzeh, one of our volunteers to see Fluffy and Wendy when at the shelter to pick up Leo, our Pitbull.

One of the kennel workers managed to get both dogs out of the cages through very careful handling with a rope. We then took Fluffy and Wendy into the yard in back of the shelter.

Though it was clear that the dogs were deeply bonded to each other, both remained skittish and seemingly unpredictable with new people. Fluffy softened up somewhat when offered liver treats, but it was still difficult to get a real "feeling" or read with either Fluffy or Wendy.

Once returned to their cages, both dogs continued to bark, Wendy, particularly furiously.

"I hate to ask, but do you think you could get a home for Wendy?" Firouzeh asked, hesitantly.

"Firouzeh, it's going to be difficult to try and find placement for the Chow, let alone the Pit mix! I have someone looking to adopt a Chow, but unless Fluffy settles down enough to be safely handled, I don't know that we can even take the chance of trying to place her!"

Both dogs presented with a baffling mystery:

It was obvious from their excellent physical conditions that Fluffy and Wendy were extremely well cared for and loved. Fluffy's long, silky and perfectly clean and groomed coat indicated a dog who presumably enjoyed brushing. Indeed, she looked like she stepped out of the Westminster Dog Show! How "vicious" could Fluffy really be?

But, with the former owners seemingly vanquished off the face of the earth, how was I to get any kind of verification of what I felt intuitively?

All we had to go on were the dogs' hostile, guarded and defensive behaviors in the shelter.

It was a horrible dilemma.

Back in the shelter "New Hope" office, Jesse, the rescue coordinator, asked me, "So, do you think you can take the Chow?"

"I'm not sure," I replied. "Is there any way of tracking down and getting some information from the former owners -- or anyone who knew these dogs?" I asked.

"We sent a letter out to the address from where they were evicted," Jesse answered quickly. "But, we have no phone number..... So, can you take Fluffy?"

Frustrated, I replied, "It's not that simple, Jesse! For now, put a memo on the dog. But, unless she calms down somewhat, I can't make promises."

Normally, in eviction cases, the shelters send out letters to the old addresses and the owners have ten days to contact the shelters and reclaim their animals. (The animals are put on "hold" during this period and cannot be adopted out, rescued or euthanized.)

But, one has to conclude the owners are no longer at the addresses to receive the letters.

Of course, under the circumstances, few eviction animals are ever reclaimed by former owners.

In the cases of Fluffy and Wendy, both dogs were seemingly heading towards euthanasia as soon as the "holding" period was off.

Their "severe" behavior in the shelter was as good as death warrant.

Later that evening, I called one of the shelter volunteers and requested her assessment of the two dogs.

"Evelyne" is an extremely dog-knowledgeable, experienced and sensitive person when it comes to animals. She is one the people I most respect in animal work and is at the shelter almost everyday.

Whenever there is a question about a particular dog, I usually request that she look at the dog, spend some time with the animal and give me her honest opinion and assessment of the dog.

Evelyne has always been obliging and eager to help in any way she can. I greatly value her opinions which to date, have rarely, if ever been wrong.

Evelyne assured me that she would try to evaluate the two dogs the following day and get back to me.

Sure enough, Evelyne called the next day to give me a reasonably optimistic report on Fluffy, the Chow, but a much more guarded prognosis on Wendy, the Pit mix.

"I was able to take Fluffy out and pet her," Evelyne told me. "She's very skittish and scared, but not aggressive. I was not able to take Wendy out. She's seemingly aggressive and very stressed in the cage. I think you should probably let her go. She's already on the Euth list for tomorrow."

It was obviously very good news on Fluffy, but not at all good for Wendy. Still, I could not help that "gut" feeling I had on both dogs. How bad could Wendy really be to have been so well cared for and seemingly loved in a former home?

After speaking with Evelyne, I called the woman seeking a Chow about Fluffy.

"Heather" has a house in New Jersey where she lives with her 19-year-old daughter and Mother. The family previously had a (personally rescued) Chow for 14 years and were heartbroken when the dog died from liver cancer 6 months ago. Heather had been seriously seeking to adopt another Chow for the past couple of months but had not been successful in finding one.

Heather was thrilled to hear about Fluffy and asked me many questions.

I told Heather everything I knew about Fluffy -- including the fact the Chow had arrived at the shelter with another dog who was then on the next day's Euth list.

"Oh, I hate to hear of any dog being euthanized!" Heather replied. "Our house is big enough for two dogs and if Fluffy is bonded to this other dog, then perhaps we can take Wendy, too!"

I was momentarily stunned by Heather's seeming willingness to adopt both dogs, especially considering Wendy was a Pit mix and had been behaving so poorly in the shelter. Part of me even regretted telling Heather about Wendy. Had I opened a potential Pandora's box here? If willing to take Wendy, would the dog harm Heather or one of her family members?

I had no way of knowing the answer to any of those questions.

Nevertheless, after speaking with Heather, I called the New Hope number to pull Wendy from the next day's kill list and assured the shelter we would come the next day to potentially pick up Wendy and Fluffy.

Heather arrived Thursday afternoon in a large SUV with her Mom, daughter and boss who, according to Heather was better at navigating city traffic.

But, when walking into the New Hope office, Jesse announced that we would have to find a kennel worker to get both, Fluffy and Wendy out of their respective cages.

"These dogs are too aggressive! -- Wendy, especially is a biter," Jesse added, causing me to inwardly cringe.

I was lucky that the family didn't suddenly remember a doctor's appointment they were urgently late for. I halfway expected them to bolt out the door.

But, thankfully, the family didn't flee and a very nice kennel worker removed the dogs from their cages and we were able to spend time with Wendy and Fluffy in the yard.

I was amazed when seeing Wendy walk up to Heather and gently lick the woman's face!

Wendy was particularly happy this day after finally being reunited once again with her canine buddy, Fluffy. It appeared that Wendy was the protector of the more skittish and kind of "woosy" Chow.

For her part, Fluffy was a great deal less stressed and welcomed gentle stroking and petting. She particularly loved her rump being rubbed.

Within an hour both dogs were happily adopted together and were on their way to their new home in New Jersey!

But, the best part were the two phone calls I received from Heather later that evening.

"I just want to THANK YOU for these wonderful dogs!"

Heather went on to describe how Wendy was the "lover" following Heather all around and that Fluffy loved head and belly rubs and being petted all over.

According to Heather, both dogs were fully trained, wonderful with her family and adjusting beautifully to life in the country.

"These are NOT the same dogs you saw in the shelter!" Heather reassured me. "You can't believe the changes!"

I was obviously thrilled to hear all the good news as I had been so worried about the dogs, their situation and what would become of them.

I was also most worried over what these potentially "severe" dogs might do to people. After all, the only concrete information we had to go on with regard to Wendy and Fluffy was their behavior in the shelter!

Three days later, it is still disconcerting and frustrating that those dogs arriving to shelters from eviction, arrest or owner death situations come with NO information on them.

While the owners may no longer be around to give information, surely Supers, landlords, friends and especially neighbors almost always know something about the dogs and their former owners.

It was nothing short of a sheer miracle that saved both Fluffy and Wendy.

But, we can't count on miracles to save most of the eviction (or other human mishap) animals arriving as "mysteries" to animal control shelters.

There needs to be efforts to obtain information from those who have known the owners and the animals, just as there are such efforts in animal cruelty cases.

Animals condemned to die as "mysteries" in shelters due mostly to a lack of credible, past information on them is itself, a form of cruelty. -- PCA


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ah, For the Love of Pits! (Reply)

(Picture Left: Leo, gratefully accepting a kiss from one of the shelter volunteers. What's more, Leo, loves to give hugs!)

In a message dated 3/24/2009 10:02:27 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, Runwithmee writes: i was the, i guess, ironic and accidental beneficiary of the assholes dumping their "pitties" as you call them. Two orphans, showed up on my daughter's porch. She has the dog, i have the bitch. Sweetest, smartest and yes strongest dog i've ever had. Life support system for a jaw, but still. all required is to love them

Reply: I am so pleased and grateful for your daughter rescuing the two abandoned Pittie puppies. They are very lucky dogs indeed!

As you know, Pitbulls have garnered a very undeserved reputation.....not because there is something wrong with the dogs, but because there are many things wrong with the people who breed, abuse and abandon them.

Most people don't realize this fact, but the #1 breed recommended by the AKC to be with children are American Staffordshire Terriers!

How ironic is it that the best breed of dog to be with kids would be the most abused and tormented by human adults?

So many things in life sometimes make no sense.

It also makes no sense that an unneutered male Chow and unneutered male Pitbull would be a bonded pair of dogs.

But, that's exactly what was the case when a man abandoned Tommy (the Chow adopted out a few days ago) and Leo, the Pitbull who Fiorouzeh and I picked up yesterday from the pound after Leo landed on Sunday morning's shelter kill list for "Kennel Cough."

Unfortunately, we could not place these dogs together in the same home for all the reasons cited a few days ago on this blog.

But, we did rescue Leo and brought him yesterday to a Manhattan boarding facility.

At first, I had doubts about pulling Leo and still have to admit he will not be an easy placement.

He is a rednose, purebred Pitbull. I can't say he is some kind of hound or lab mix, as we often try to do with Pit mix dogs.

What's more, when we first walked Leo at the shelter on Sunday, I almost fell flat on my face, as Leo is so strong on the leash!

But, when picking him up yesterday from the pound, we used a doubled-handled leash. That is a leash that has a regular handle on the end and another handled close to the dog's collar. When walking the dog while holding the short handle, it forces the dog to walk right next to you and makes it almost impossible for him/her to pull.

I would thus highly recommend these leashes for Pitbulls or any powerful breed that has tendency to charge in front of the walker.

Fiorouzeh and I shared dog walking duties last night when walking Leo the 20 blocks to the boarding facility. Neither of us had difficulty walking Leo with the appropriate, double handled leash. They are indeed a God-send for any dog that needs serious leash training!

Leo is initially a shy (and very skinny) dog, but once warmed up to someone, gives hugs and kisses. He actually stands and wraps his "arms" around one (like a person would) and nuzzles his head against one's torso!

Very, very sweet.

But, what's not "sweet" is the challenge and dilemma of trying to find any loving Pitbull an equally loving human home.

Too bad your family already has two rescued pitties. I would love to put Leo on a jet plane and send him to you. After all, what's one more?

Still, if that's not possible, do you have any clones here in NYC who would be, like you, willing to take in a nice Pittie who needs a loving person for the rest of his life?

Ah, for the love of Pits!

That we could only find the loving people to match the love of these very fine dogs. -- PCA


Sunday, March 22, 2009

In Search of the "Perfect" Fantasy

(Picture left: "Alanda" --Loving, healthy and bright Lab/Pit mix rescued two months ago and still languishing in boarding. Unfortunately, we can't answer on how Alanda is with small kids, cats, rabbits and goldfish.)

As predicted, Leo, the pitbull who arrived at the shelter with Tommy, (the Chow) landed on the kill list today. It was inevitable and as easy to forecast as the sun going down at the end of the day.

I called the "New Hope" number in order to pull Leo off the deadly list.

But, that is the easy part.

The hard part is being able to find any Pitbull a loving and responsible home, especially when we have so little in terms of background information on the dog.

All we know about Leo is that he a somewhat shy, but sweet dog (according to volunteers) who quickly warms up when he gets to know someone. That -- and Leo seems to like Chows.

None of these things will help in placing Leo with any of the people who typically call to adopt a dog.

90% of those inquiring on dog adoptions have either very young children or cats.

One person calling yesterday has two rabbits. She wanted to be assured that the dogs we have would be "good with the rabbits."

I could give the woman no such guarantees.

And therein lies the problem.

Most people today have complex lives that contain demanding jobs, a house full of small kids or other pets. They want guarantees that the dogs they adopt will "fit" their homes and lifestyles the same way one would expect a pair of gloves to fit.

But, we are not in the glove business.

Nor, can we realistically give out "guarantees" on animals the same way a store issues guarantees for a computer or a toaster.

In most cases of animals rescued from shelters (or streets) we have very little in the way of information regarding the animal's past history or the environments they grew up in.

As noted previously, most people when dropping animals off at shelters tend to lie about ownership in order to avoid paying Owner Surrender Fees or be accountable for the animal's condition. When people claim an animal to be "stray" they are not expected to provide information on background, history or behavior.

Not only does this tendency to lie about ownership hurt the dog or cat's chances for adoption to another home, but it also seriously skews shelter data and accurate information.

For example, according to shelter data, approximately HALF of all animals arriving at NYC shelters are so-called "strays." The REALITY is that probably only 10% (if even that) are actual strays.

Trying to adopt "stray" dogs out to busy homes with 1-year-old toddlers, cats, rabbits or birds is to almost beg for some sort of calamity.

In some ways I would love to return to the "good ol' days" when people simply had to accept personal responsibility for any animals they brought home.

That's the way it was when I adopted my first dog (a small Shepherd mix) from the pound 40 years ago.

The shelter told me absolutely nothing about the dog, except that she came in as a "stray" and if the adoption didn't work out, I could bring her back.

"Sheppie" turned out to be wonderful with me, good with my cats, not so great with my Mom, a great runner, extremely smart and healthy, but always a little guarding of bones.

In other words, Sheppie was a really, really good dog who I had for 17 years, but she wasn't perfect.

I trust such is the case with most dogs.

Unfortunately, our "job" in rescue is to make the animals perfect. -- PCA


Saturday, March 21, 2009


(Picture left: "Leo," the pitbull who was dropped off with Tommy, the Chow. But, can there be a happy ending for Leo as there was for Tommy? That is in doubt because........)

Some good news for us over the past couple of days.

"Tommy" the Chow Chow rescued three days ago, was adopted yesterday without having to be advertised.

I literally had the home lined up as the woman from the young couple called last week seeking a Chow. The couple came to meet Leo the first day I had him in the boarding facility and were thrilled with him. They officially adopted Tommy yesterday after buying a whole bunch of stuff (bed, fancy leash, collar, toys, brushes and treats) for the scruffy, but endearing Chow.

Tommy was a very sweet, easygoing and kind of cheerful dog. Affectionate (unusual for a Chow as they are typically aloof and reserved around new people), easy to walk, totally housebroken and nice around other dogs.

The bad news is that one day after picking up Tommy up from the shelter, I found out (through an email sent to me) that Tommy had been dropped off at the pound with another dog!

The man giving up the two dogs claimed that both were "strays" although Tommy and "Leo" seemed to onlookers to be a bonded pair.

Unfortunately, "Leo" is a Pitbull that we know almost nothing about.

As noted many times in this blog, many people when dropping animals off at the pound fail to tell the full truth by admitting to ownership.

If one admits ownership of animals, there is a required "Owner Surrender Fee" in addition to questions that are posed to owners.

If one however lies and claims the animals to be "strays" one neither has to answer questions or pay a fee. Giving the man the benefit of the doubt however in this particular case, it is quite possible that he originally and actually found Tommy and Leo as "strays" but then perhaps ran into financial or other difficulties in trying to keep them. It's very unusual for someone to have a Pitbull and Chow together.

We thus, don't know anything about Leo, the Pittie other than he seems to be a nice dog at the shelter and he apparently lived with Tommy, the Chow.

We DO know that unlike Chows, Pitties are almost impossible to find homes for!

When hearing this story, Firouzeh, one of our volunteers feels for Leo, the other dog dropped off with Tommy. She's offered to pay boarding fees if he fails to get adopted at the shelter and winds up on the kill list.

For my part, I hate to rescue one animal from an abandoned pair and leave the other behind even when it would be impossible to place both dogs together.

I had told the couple who adopted Tommy about the companion dog he was dropped off with, but their building doesn't allow Pitbulls.

It would be virtually impossible to place a Chow and a Pitbull together anyway. Usually the people who are into Chows don't share the same affection for Pitbulls and vice versa. The two breeds are almost diametrically opposed in natures.

Leo is still at Animal Control, but it is almost certain he will wind up on the kill list, some time this weekend.

If and when he does, should we pull him?

I don't know.

The prospect of long-term boarding (i.e. "warehousing") for a dog -- even is someone else is willing to pay for it -- does not appeal to me. It's not kind to the dog and it is extremely expensive over the long haul.

We already have two Pitbulls in boarding for months. And although both are truly great dogs, we have yet to get one serious and qualified adoption inquiry (or offer to foster) for either one.

The PROBLEM is almost all shelters, rescues and boarding facilities in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and even Connecticut are filled with Pitbulls and this is what is making the prospects for the adoptions of these animals so difficult. We are literally flooded with Pitbulls as are all shelters in large, urban cities across the country.

Why is this happening?

On an episode of "Animal Cops, Philadelphia" a couple of weeks ago, in which the agents confiscated Pitbulls from a dog fighting ring, a supervisor explained that out of every litter of Pitbull puppies bred, "only one or two" are considered suitable for fighting. The rest of the puppies are basically thrown out into the communities. (i.e. sold, given away, or tied up somewhere and abandoned.)

Most of these non-fighting Pits eventually wind up in our shelters either as "strays" or owner surrendered dogs. (Often deemed, "shelter trash.") Young Pitbulls, even when very friendly and socialized, are strong dogs who require a good deal of exercise. As puppies or adolescents, they can be notorious "chewers." Unless properly exercised, trained, crated and provided with chew toys (things that cost a great deal of money), these dogs often prove problematic for their owners (most of whom live in small city apartments without benefit of yards or nearby parks to exercise the dogs).

The sad truth is MOST of the dogs being killed in shelters are young, very loving Pitbulls whose energy and exercise needs have simply surpassed their owners abilities or resources to deal with.

Since the problem has become so big, many communities or buildings have now banned Pitbulls.

But, simply banning a breed in a particular community or building does nothing to stop the breeding, abuse and dumping of Pitbulls.

That requires enforcement of the dog fighting laws and prosecutions and imprisonment of the offenders.

Simply confiscated and killing the victims of dog fighting, while allowing their torturers to go free does NOTHING to stop the actual CRIMES against both, the animals and the TAXPAYERS but merely punishes the VICTIMS (the dogs).

But, less we think that dog fighting only affects those animals thrown into fight rings, think again:


It's time we, as Americans (especially in this downward spiraling economy) said "enough is enough." It's not enough to have a law on the books that forbids dog fighting while virtually never being enforced.

The law has to be ENFORCED and its violators prosecuted and jailed.

Only then will we eventually see an end to the horrific waste of life and taxpayer money currently going to subsidize the violent and vicious world of dog fighting.

Only then might there be real hope for dogs like Leo. -- PCA


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Longing for December....

(Picture left: "Tommy." The first of many of what we anticipate will be spring dumps of long-haired breed dogs and cats.)

About a week ago, I predicted to a friend that now with Spring on our doorsteps, Chow Chows would start arriving at city shelters, en masse.

As a double-coated, long-haired breed, Chow Chows tend to "blow out" (i.e. shed) their winter coats in the spring. For some people, having to suddenly pick up or vacuum mounds of shedding hair becomes reason enough to dump their pet dogs or cats -- though of course few actually admit to that. In most cases, the owners will drop the animal off at the shelter with the claim that they found him/her as a "stray." Such frees the person from either having to answer questions about the dog (or cat) or pay an "Owner Surrender Fee."

Unfortunately, it also leaves both the shelter and any possible rescues in the position of virtually knowing nothing about the dog or what kind of environment s/he came from.

Well, it didn't take long for my "prediction" to come true.

Spring is not officially here yet, but just in the last week, three "stray" Chows came into the Manhattan animal pound.

One of the dogs was reclaimed by the owner, but we were requested to take the other two.

Both Chows are red in color, about the same age (3-years-old) and heavily matted. Nevertheless, it's clear that both dogs came from homes as they are fully socialized and easy to handle.

I am fortunate to have a woman experienced with Chows and a lover of the breed willing to take the female dog, Lilly.

The shelter is arranging transport of Lilly to Dottie in upstate New York.

Unfortunately, the male dog, Tommy, I am going to have to bring to a boarding facility today.

I am not happy about having to put still one more dog into boarding.

We have, however, been pretty lucky with Chows lately.

All of our recent Chows have been successfully adopted in recent weeks.

The most recently rescued Chow Chow, "Blacky" only had to spend two days in boarding before being adopted by a man who had previously had a rescued Chow for many years.

"Michael" left a telephone message the other day, enthusiastically thanking me for Blacky (since renamed, "Brad") and indicating that he was extremely happy with the Chow.

It's always nice to get feedback like that from our adopters. Too often, in this line of work, the main times you hear from adopters is when they have some sort of complaint.

I don't know that I am going to be so lucky with Tommy, as we have been with Brad, Ellie, Shadow and Poochie over these past few weeks.

But, I'd better hope that we are.

The coming of spring means we are going to see many more Chows (and other long-haired breeds) suddenly arriving as fully socialized "strays" to our shelters.

One reason to regret the arrival of otherwise the most beautiful season of the year to New York.

The other reason of course, is all the "spring litters" of kittens and puppies soon to be born.

Many or in fact most of them soon to show up in shelters come the very dreaded summer just now a few months away.

How ironic to think that the otherwise regarded "beautiful and fun" seasons to most people are in fact, the mean seasons for our pet cats and dogs.

I am already missing December........PCA


Monday, March 16, 2009

"Big House"

(Picture Left: Carrie with "wild dog" Adrienne. For a while, the bane of my existence.)

I love my volunteers.

Carrie, Sarah, Firouzeh. All are tireless, dedicated people who have given much of their time and money to foster and walk dogs and occasionally foster cats (Carrie).

Indeed, without them, our tiny organization would not be able to rescue and place the numbers of animals we do.

This past Saturday, Carrie's foster dog, Lexi was finally adopted.

Lexi was a fabulous and smallish, 5-year-old Shepherd mix who should have been a quick and easy adoption due to the fact, she was fully trained, loving and wonderful with kids, cats and other dogs.

We advertised Lexi as the "ultimate family dog" and I personally promoted her to many people with either cats or children. But, low and behold, we had Lexi for more than a month!

The "ultimate family dog" was eventually adopted by a single man in New York City who already has a pound-adopted Chihuahua/Corgi mix.

So much for "ultimate family dogs."

I guess they are only family dogs when people with kids and/or cats are actually receptive to them.

Normally, when one of Carrie's foster dogs is adopted, Carrie goes into "canine withdraw syndrome" and we quickly have to act to get Carrie another foster pooch.

One time Carrie didn't wait for me to meet her at the pound to pick out a dog, but rather went on her lunch hour from work to pick out one herself.

Carrie chose, at that time, to "pull" a very young and strong hound type dog, "Adrienne" from the next day's scheduled Euthanasia list.

When meeting Carrie at the shelter the following day to pick up and sign Adrienne out following the dog's spay, the overly exuberant mutt almost rammed me into a wire mesh fence when attempting to walk her.

"WHOOOOOAAAAEEEEEEEEEE!!!" I screamed barely missing the fence by a mere inch or two.

Carrie burst out laughing.

"JEEZE, Patty! What's the matter with you? You don't know how to walk a dog?"

"ITS NOT FUNNY, CARRIE! This dog almost killed me! What are you, crazy? This is like a WILD HORSE! I don't think this dog's EVER been on a leash!"

I had doubts about rescuing a dog who was a liability on the leash, but the deed had already been done. It was Carrie who would have to deal with and teach Adrienne how to walk without killing somebody.

But, the one incident of me attempting to walk Adrienne and my terrified screams when the dog almost made a pancake out of me turned out to be a source of constant amusement for Carrie. She would not let me live it down for many weeks.

"WHOOOOOAAAAEEEEEEEEEE!!!" Carrie would tease incessantly. "Woe, you should have seen the look on your face, Patty! -- Like someone about to be run down by a train! Man, I wish I had a video camera. I would put that clip on YouTube!"

"SHUT UP, CARRIE! That's ENOUGH! I will never walk a dog with you again!"

Carrie fostered Adrienne for about a month when the kid and cat-friendly pooch was finally adopted by a very active family from upstate New York who love taking camping trips and running. -- Hopefully, there are no wire fences in the area.

I thought the adoption of Adrienne might finally put an end to Carrie's relentless teasing.

But, I was wrong about that.

Figuring that Carrie might again go into "canine withdraw syndrome," I requested that she walk our dogs boarding in Manhattan yesterday. (Carrie's husband has requested a brief reprieve from actual dog fostering over the next few weeks or so. The family is planning a trip next month.)

That turned out to be a mistake.

The inevitable call came in from Carrie last night:

"WHAT THE HELL, PATTY?!" (Carrie's usual greeting to me over the phone.)

"OH MY GOD, this dog is SO FAT! What are you calling her? Lard Ass?" Jeeze, I tried to walk her to the dog park and she kept trying to turn back!"

"Well, first of all, Carrie, the dog's name is 'Coco!"' And I told you not to take her for a long walk. Are you trying to give her a HEART ATTACK!"

"COME ON, PATTY, this dog needs EXERCISE! Man, she's got to get some of that flab off somehow! I am trying to walk her up the stairs now and she looks at me like she expects me to CARRY HER!...... Come on, Lard Ass, move your butt!"

"Carrie, you are going to give this dog a COMPLEX!! Think about her self-esteem! It's cruel to call her those names!"

And then Carrie began to sing:


OK. At this point, all I could do was roll my eyes.

It was like being rammed into the fence all over again with the crazy hound mix.

"Carrie, you know that is very CRUEL. This poor dog has just gone through a major trauma. She's insecure. Now, you are destroying her self esteem!"


Well, it was obviously a mistake asking Carrie to walk the dogs.

I just have to be afraid that when trying to promote the lovely Collie mix, Coco to a potential adopter, I don't slip up and accidentally call the dog, "Lard Ass or worse, "Big House."

Yes, I love my volunteers, but sometimes.......!! -- PCA


Sunday, March 15, 2009

One Way or the Other

(Picture left: "Coco" -- lovely and sweet Collie mix, distraught -- and condemned, shortly after owner died. But, now preparing for swim season and a Dog Fancy cover shot!)

Kayla, our little 5-month-old Neufie mixed puppy flew her jet plane last night and is now happily in her new home, with Tess in Portland, Oregon.

It's was a long journey from ruthlessly being tied to a tree and adandoned in the Bronx, just a few weeks back on a freezing February day in New York City.

While we did get a few other adoption inquiries on Kayla, none were as prepared and enthusiastic for Kayla as the photographer from Oregon, her husband and their other dog.

Already the two dogs played together and Kayla seems none the worst for all she has had to experience over these past few weeks -- including a 6-hour trip in the cargo section of a jet plane. She is a very happy girl now and we trust will be for many years to come.

Meanwhile, the everyday challenges of animal rescue and adoption continue....

Just a few days ago, I received a call from Sabrina in the Brooklyn Animal Control center about a 7-year-old, "Chow mix" who had just been brought in the by the police after her owner died in a Brooklyn apartment.

The dog named "Coco" was depressed and distraught when first arriving at the city pound.

Nevertheless, due to the severe crowding issues in the shelter, Coco was immediately rushed for so-called, "Behavior Testing."

Of course a depressed, disoriented, confused and distraught dog is not going to "orient" well to a stranger suddenly pinching, playing tag and staring at her, while also poking a plastic hand in the dog's food bowl!

Coco wasn't even interested in eating at the time.

Coco basically failed her "Behavior Evaluation" not because of showing any actual aggressiveness, but simply not "orienting" to all the nonsense going on around her.

When Sabrina first called me about Coco, I suggested the dog be given a couple of more days to better settle in and be better able to accurately access her temperament and behavior. Since Coco's owner was dead, there was no way of getting information from him/her about Coco's history and personality.

Sabrina agreed and promised to spend some time with Coco and call me the following day with updated information.

Well, the "updated information" the following day was that Coco was already on the Euthanasia (kill) list, this despite only being a few days in the shelter!

"Damn, this is messed up!" Sabrina proclaimed though she should be well used to such occurrences after working in the NYC animal pound for some years now.

"Patty, this dog is not aggressive or mean. She's a GOOD dog! I walked her and petted her. She even wagged her tail for me today! Anyway you can take her immediately?"

"Pull her from the euthanasia list," I requested from Sabrina. "Since you say she is kind of overweight, she is probably spayed already. Have one of the vets look for a spay scar and as soon as that can be determined, we will take Coco."

After determining that Coco was indeed already spayed, she was sent yesterday to the boarding facility in Manhattan where we keep some of our dogs until able to find suitable foster or adoptive home.

I met and walked Coco yesterday for the first time.

She is in fact, a very lovely and gentle dog. It's beyond me how this sweet creature could flunk a "Behavior Test" -- except for the fact the evaluation was conducted way too prematurely for most dogs to do well on.

Here was a dog who suddenly lost her owner to a tragedy, was picked up by cops and hauled to the animal pound.

How would any animal do on a "behavior" assessment under circumstances like those?

For that matter, what human would do well on a personality or IQ test immediately after suffering any kind of tragedy or loss?

I am amazed at the utter lack of compassion, empathy and even understanding of dogs and cats at too many of our so-called "animal shelters."

While one can sympathize with the terrible pressures on animal control facilities to quickly "move" animals, one way or the other, due to intense dumping and crowding issues, there is NO EXCUSE for attaching false "behavior" labels to dogs and cats simply because one needs to despatch them quickly -- one way or the other.

If the shelter has to kill animals due to crowding issues then THAT (i.e. "space") is the reason that should be given for the so-called, "euthanasia" rather than some other excuse (such as "behavior" or "illness") that somehow pacify's and makes the public "feel better" about all the killing, but has, in fact, nothing to do with the actual truth.

Were it not for the fact Coco was (I believe wrongly) identified as a "Chow" and Collie mix (I believe she is really a Collie/Samoyed mix) and that Sabrina thus called me on the dog, Coco would be dead right now.

There are a number of things wrong in that picture. Unfortunately, they continue year after year with little, if any at all, correction. There is simply no accountability for the labels attached to animals killed in shelters.

The city and public fails to question the labels. Until that happens there is no reason to expect that things will ever change.

Meanwhile, Coco is simply a very lovely dog who appears that she was somewhat neglected over the months that her former owner might have become elderly or infirm. Her long nails were practically growing into her feet when she arrived at the pound, her coat is a little matted and disheveled and Coco is a good ten to twenty pound overweight. -- All of which indicate a dog who was barely walked.

Coco was slow on her walk yesterday and I did not want to suddenly overtax her. We walked only a few blocks. She walked well, but seemed nervous around other dogs. Well, all of this is so new and strange to her.

The good news is, Coco can handle stairs okay, though I wouldn't place her with someone in a 5th floor walkup apartment.

I wouldn't want the chunky, but infinitely sweet 7-year-old pooch to suddenly die of a heart attack!

Coco has to prepare for her "Dog Fancy" cover -- and swimsuit season. -- PCA


Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Only Thing "Predictable" is Its UNpredictability

"It's like rolling the dice in Vegas and just hoping you get lucky."

The above words were spoken a short while ago to Carrie, one of our organization's leading volunteers and foster people.

I was talking about animal rescue itself and the fact that the only thing "predictable" about it is its UNpredictability.

Carrie was feeling particularly down and depressed today.

She seemed to blame herself for choosing two cats to rescue from the shelter more than a month ago only to see both cats succumb to severe Upper Respiratory Infections (and Anorexia) requiring hospitalization at the vet.

The other day I received a call from the receptionist at my vet's office that one of the cats (Enya, the declawed kitty) was now sufficiently recovered to go home.

But, when Carrie went to pick Enya up yesterday, she was told by our vet that the cat had a relapse and was now showing signs of renal failure.

Blood tests will have to be done with results by tomorrow, but the prognosis does not look good.

Meanwhile, the second cat, Theo who arrived at the shelter in much worse shape than Enya (very emaciated stray) appears to be slowly recovering and gaining weight.

"We rescued these cats and now at least one of them may die!" Carrie lamented. "I feel terrible about this!"

"Well, come on, Carrie, it's NOT your fault!" I replied. "Surely you don't think that, do you?"

"I don't know," Carrie responded, her voice dropping. "I feel I should have known something. Enya seemed so healthy in the shelter. I never thought something like this could happen!"

"Well, unfortunately things like this DO happen, Carrie! -- especially with cats who get dumped in shelters from homes after so many years and seem to just 'shut down.' Perhaps its the stress of being abandoned and winding up in a scary and strange place. Perhaps its the crowding in the shelter or even the sudden loading up on vaccines. The cats immune systems are not normal under high stress conditions. Some cats get through it all with relatively little damage or trauma. But, other cats -- particularly declaws and some purebreds -- just seem to shut down. Even with the best of veterinary care, it's not always possible to bring them back."

Since Theo and Enya's hospitalization Carrie rescued and is fostering another cat, "Tinkerbelle," a black long-haired kitty whose time ran out at Animal Control. Although Tinkerbelle had been at the same shelter the other two cats came from for almost two weeks, she came out with no symptoms of "Upper Respiratory Infection" and has remained totally healthy.

It is a total mystery of why some animals come out of the shelters thriving and healthy and others, seriously ill. In most cases, dogs and cats typically come out with minor symptoms of URI infections, but usually recover uneventfully within a week or two and treatment with medications.

The crazy irony is, that had the first two cats not gotten sick requiring them to be hospitalized, Carrie would not have had the room in her home to take in the third, healthy and very loving cat, Tinkerbelle.

Tinkerbelle would have been euthanized at the shelter for simple failure to get adopted.

One cat's horrible misfortune can turn out to be another cat's ticket out of a date with death.

Or, "The only thing predictable about animal rescue is it's Unpredictability!"

It is indeed, like a roll of Vegas dice. -- PCA


"If Only!".... (Reply)

(Picture Left: "Blackie" -- Lucky dog who defied the typically long odds for a Chow.)

KD in Texas writes: What a gorgeous puppy... I marvel at the cruelty, selfishness, or just plain stupidity of people who would leave this or any creature tied up and abandoned at any time of year, let alone at a time with such extreme temperatures. No creature deserves to be treated that way.I often read your posts and wish I could offer my home as a space for some of the animals you've rescued, both dogs and cats. But I know it has not been your policy to ship animals cross-country because it's both impractical and stressful for the animals. Still, with each animal I read about, I send a little hope your way that he or she will find a forever home soon!

Reply: Thank you for your kind and supportive comment.

What I write about is sadly not unique to New York City. Animal abandonment and abuse occurs everywhere.

If you are in any kind of position to foster a cat or dog, please contact your local animal control facility and volunteer or ask for rescue groups that need this help. For sure, there isn't a rescue anywhere in the country that isn't seeking volunteer and foster help!

Things are particularly bleak now due to the economy and many animals discarded due to people losing homes or jobs.

Last week we rescued a Chow from the shelter -- "Blackie" as he was called.

Blackie was tied up and abandoned in front of the shelter. Apparently, the former owners didn't want to pay an owner surrender fee or answer any questions. Or, perhaps they were just in some sort of hurry or panic.

I suspected by his dirty, unkept condition, but social and trusting disposition, Blacky was some type of "working" (garage, gas station or auto parts store) dog.

Perhaps the business was forced to close and the dog had nowhere to go.

Desperate people are doing very desperate things these days.

But, amazingly, we turned out to be very lucky with Blacky!

A man who had recently lost his 13-year-old Chow to liver cancer called interested in adopting Blacky.

"Michael" (unlike most of the callers we get) knew exactly what he was seeking and came into the city two days later to officially adopt Blacky.

It was so refreshing not to have to jump through hoops or provide a long list of "guarantees" to the perspective adopter: "The dog is great with kids, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, parrots and goldfish!"

The man had loved his former (rescued) Chow and simply sought another as a companion.

Ah! If only rescue and adoptions were always that easy!

We would be able to rescue and place hundreds of animals every year! --PCA


Monday, March 9, 2009

"Leaving on a Jet Plane?"

(Picture Left: "Kayla" -- beautiful, healthy, intelligent and extremely loving 4-month-old Neufie/Retriever puppy. Tied to a tree and abandoned on a dark and frigid February day in New York City.)

I have taken a break from writing on the blog over the past fews weeks.

That's because we have experienced a sudden rash of dog returns -- in one case, a dog who was adopted out five years ago, but recently dumped at the city pound, due to a new baby.

All of this has left me scrambling and trying to figure out where to send the dogs.

We already had too many dogs in boarding. Adding more did not seem a sensible or even humane option (since adoptions are so poor and lacking right now). But, the "choice" has been either to put the dogs in boarding or "euthanasia" (destruction).

Of those two "choices" only the former allows for the existence of hope.

But, "hope" is not something I personally have a whole lot of these days.

If I might think that the problem is only with me or our animals, other rescuers I speak with are experiencing the same: An alarming decrease in the numbers of potential, qualified adopters and an increase in animals being abandoned or "returned."

One of our very recent rescues as a matter of fact, is a loving, healthy and amazingly housebroken and beautiful, 4-month-old Newfoundland/Retriever mix puppy who was cruelly tied to a tree and ruthlessly abandoned in the middle of February (Temperatures in NYC ranging mostly in the 20's at the time.)

What kind of people would do such a thing?

If "changing their minds" on raising a puppy, why would people not bring the animal to a shelter as required by law?

The puppy (whom we call, "Kayla") was rescued by Animal Control and brought into the city shelter.

Following evaluation for both health and temperament, Kayla was placed into the Adoption ward where she was quickly "adopted."

The shelter, according to state law, proceeded to spay Kayla before she could go to the "adoptive" home.

But, the adopters when finding out or learning that Kayla would grow bigger, reneged on the adoption.

One wonders of course, how any fully functioning adult would not know that a 4-month-old puppy would grow?

It reminds one of the lady who asked me the question (when told that we had to shave a Chow Chow due to the dog's prior neglect and matts), "Will the dog's hair grow back?"

Does a human's hair grow back when cut or shaved?

One would think one wouldn't need a Master's Degree to figure out these simple and basic facts of life such as shaved hair growing back or a puppy growing bigger.

But, whoever said "common sense" was actually common?

The shelter didn't want to keep Kayla in the pound after she had just undergone surgery and called me to take her as a "Chow Rescue."

Of course, Kayla is not really a "Chow," but she is a totally delightful puppy.

But, having no open fosters or potential and immediate adopters for Kayla, I had to put her in boarding as well (with almost all our other dogs) -- where she has been for the past week and a half.

I thought when advertising a healthy, extremely intelligent (Kayla actually retrieves and returns balls!) 4-month-old puppy, I would be swamped with calls to adopt the adorable puppy.

But, that hasn't happened!

In fact, the only decent call to come in on Kayla has been from a married couple in Oregon who previously had a "Neufie" for 13 years!

Do we have to put this beautiful little puppy on a 6-hour plane ride to the other side of the country simply because we can't find anyone decent enough to adopt Kayla on the East Coast?

I don't know. Right now, that is looking like a real possibility -- though I would have answered, "Never!" if asked this same question only a year or so ago.

But, considering this part of the country (North East) constantly being bombarded with so-called, "puppy rescues" brought up from the South and handed out to people at various "Adoption Events," it's possible that all the good puppy homes have now been tapped out in New York and other Northeastern states.

What else could explain a beautiful, healthy and loving 4-month-old puppy being tied to a tree and abandoned on a freezing NYC, February day?

If that's all NYC can offer a trusting and endearing little puppy like Kayla, then perhaps "leaving on a jet plane" for a more stable part of the country is not only the best option for Kayla, but indeed, the only viable one.

Part of me wishes I could go with her. -- PCA