Monday, March 29, 2010

Great News and (at Long Last) Kudos!

Its taken a few days to learn exactly what happened to the female coyote darted and brought to Animal Control last Thursday.

And it is really good (for a change) to be able to report exceptionally wonderful news!

The coyote was determined to be in good health and was released to someone in the animal field who is highly respected, experienced and expert both in animals, transportation and just about every inch of the five boroughs.

If anyone would know the proper and humane procedures for release of a wild animal and appropriate location, it would be this man (who shall remain nameless here).

The location of the release of the coyote was not divulged to me, nor should it be publicly.

Sadly, coyotes are still very much misunderstood and hated by much of the public and to release sensitive information like that would only bring out those "Not In MY Neighborhood" people or worse, those who would actually do harm to the coyote.

I am grateful to the AC&C for not releasing that information. It would be totally unwise, detrimental or even deadly to the coyote.

And so yes, at long last there is some exciting and truly positive information to report here!

We seem to be slowly but finally moving away from those dreaded and barbaric days of simply killing everything we refuse to understand or learn about.

Kudos to the AC&C and the city of New York on this one! -- PCA


Friday, March 26, 2010

What Will Become of the Manhattan Coyote?

What awaits the Manhattan coyote captured yesterday morning and brought to the AC&C? The answer unclear as what's on the other side of the bridge.....

On the news last night, they reported that the coyote who was roaming around Tribecca was captured yesterday morning and brought to the Manhattan AC&C.

Considering the current state of our animal shelters, that is not good news at all.

The entire first floor of the two story shelter in Manhattan is still shut down for various cosmetic procedures (like painting) which results in severe lack of cage space and overcrowding on the second floor of the facility. Moreover, the shelter has been running out of basic supplies in recent weeks, such as wet food and (as of last week,) dog leashes.

One is forced to wonder how an animal shelter conducts dog adoptions without something as basic and necessary as temporary dog leashes?

The city and shelter officials always seem to deny any serious or long term problems. "Euthanasia down, adoptions up!" Whatever reported problems or shortages are merely temporary glitches.

But, I personally am beginning to think they would say the same were they captains on the Titanic: "Everything is fine! All problems resolved."

When a coyote named "Hal" was captured and brought to the AC&C several years ago, the entire shelter was in use and there was no shortage of basic supplies. The coyote still died from the stress of being held in an overcrowded facility not meant for wildlife. In fact, the building wasn't created for cats and dogs initially.

Of course the local news tried to put a "positive spin" on yesterday's story. According to the report on ABC, the coyote (after medical evaluation) "will either be released to the wild or sent to a zoo."

Well, let's see what actually happens.

Stay tuned...... PCA


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Urban Coyotes?

(Picture Left: A couple finding serenity in the park last night. Hopefully, the coyote finds his/her way here.)

It was all over the news last night that a coyote was -- and is running around downtown Manhattan.

News cameras captured the scared coyote cringing under a parked car. But, when the cops gave chase, s/he disappeared into thin air. -- Not easy on busy Manhattan streets.

Gotta give it to these creatures. They are wily and they are smart. -- Smarter than most criminals.

Of course I saw a coyote a couple of weeks back in Central Park. Its possible this is the same one, but unlikely.

Speculation was that the coyote might have traveled from New Jersey through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Well, there is no doubt that coyotes move very fast. And they can jump very high too, as I personally witnessed.

Most people interviewed on Manhattan streets seemed pretty cool about having a coyote in their midsts.

Personally, I believe it must be quite terrifying for a wild animal like this to find him/herself in the middle of Manhattan.

But, no more terrifying than being captured and taken to the AC&C (Animal control shelter.).

The last unfortunate coyote captured and forced to spend several days in the overcrowded pound died from apparent stress and panic.

Viewers of the news were told to call 311 or Animal Control if spotting the coyote. But, I certainly didn't -- and wouldn't.

The city obviously has no humane plan for these animals.

Hopefully, the coyote finds his/her way to Central Park.

After all, if Red Tail Hawks can live there, why not a coyote or two?

Coyotes are no more a threat to someone's toy poodle or small child than the hawks.

Coyotes are far more afraid of us than we them.

Yes, I am hoping that the coyote will find his/her way to Central Park.

Maybe, if I am lucky I will be able to get a picture of him/her at some point.

And hopefully, if the coyote is lucky, s/he will find the quiet peace of the park that so many of us humans enjoy. -- PCA

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Few Nice Runners and a Red Tailed Hawk!

Pictures above: The Red Tail Hawk on the stake-out -- hopefully not for fat Pomeranians! Runners on the bridal path -- or, "Boys Night Out?" My dog, Tina checking out squirrels or new buds on the trees -- the path less traveled.
Since the world of animal rescue has once again turned bleak over the past couple of days with calls to dump or place animals outnumbering adoption inquiries about 5 to 1, I will try to focus attention on the more positive experiences of this period.

One of those was catching sight of a red tailed hawk in Central Park early yesterday evening!

Immediately, I dropped the leashes on my two dogs, Tina and Chance to grab my camera! (Both dogs are now sufficiently trained to stay put when I am snapping pictures.)

Unfortunately, the light was dark and overcast making this kind of photography difficult. Moreover, I had to use the zoom on my simple "point and shoot" camera, which without a tripod, causes some blur.

If these challenges weren't enough, a jogger came running down the path I was on and Puppy Boy suddenly decided to turn into Protective Dog!

Chance (aka "Puppy Boy") started to chase the jogger and nip at the young man's heels!

Embarrassed, I had to corral my wayward "guard dog" and apologize. But, the young fellow was very nice about it -- even to the point of laughing it off.

I guess there are still some nice people in the world.

I then returned to trying to get a couple of shots of the hawk, who, by that time was staring down at the dogs and me, wondering I suppose, what all the commotion was about.

Or, perhaps he was considering my fat Pomeranian as a possible dinner!

I decided to quickly get out of there.

Dusk is one of my favorite times in the park. Most people are leaving, but the runners remain.

Lots of runners in the spring and summer.

That has always seemed a bit strange to me, since one would think the cold weather would be far more pleasant for running. Then again, what do I know about running? Swimming and walking are my "sports." And long walks are something I definitely prefer in the colder weather. Perhaps running however, is different?

The trees are all suddenly starting to sprout buds and tiny leaves now.

Amazing how only last week they were entirely bare!

The park changes from day to day and even from hour to hour, depending on the lighting, weather and season.

But, whatever the day on the calendar, Central Park is always beautiful to me. -- especially when one is lucky to find a swan, a duck, a blue-jay, a cardinal, a raccoon, a coyote or a red tail hawk!

Indeed, one never knows what one will find and see -- even if already having been to the park ten thousand times (as I think I have.)

Always fun to take pictures too -- even if your dog is suddenly chasing a jogger down the path.

Just pray that the runners are nice and have a sense of humor about it. ;) -- PCA


Monday, March 22, 2010

The Lucky Ones

(Picture Left: "Dina." A dog with seemingly no chance in the world for placement, but who ironically turns out to be "the lucky one.")

The past week has been busy. Several new rescues (and thankfully, two adoptions) over the weekend.)

But, sometimes the most satisfying rescues are those that you don't actually have to rescue and take in. -- The dog or cat fortunate to find his/her forever home without fanfare, advertising or sheltering.

Usually, such animals are the young, fancy little breed dogs for whom some rescues luckily have "waiting homes."

One would not expect to get lucky with a dog like Dina.

Dina is at least ten-years-old and appears as if she has been through the mill for at least nine of those years. She arrived at the shelter as a "stray" with absolutely no history.

What's more Dina is a black Chow. -- a breed we normally don't have "waiting homes" for.

Despite the odds against an older, filthy and disheveled black Chow, one of the shelter volunteers took a shine to Dina.

Evelyne sent me Dina's pictures a few days ago and said the dog was an extremely gentle and sweet soul. "No aggression whatsoever."

I told Evelyne it was extremely unlikely I could pull Dina because we had already taken in several new rescues and the age of Dina was against her, even assuming we could clean up the severely matted and uncared-for Chow.

Still, I kept Dina's image and circumstance in the back of my mind.

One never knew if a miracle could come up.

Late last week, I received a call from Marcia, a long-time Chow lover and a woman who, over the years has adopted several Chows from me.

Marcia has a house and several acres of property in Pennsylvania.

"I see you have several new Chows lately. Jada looks very sweet. Do you need a home for her?" Martia asked.

"Jada is a lovely, older gal. Very sweet and gentle. Currently she is in boarding, so yes she needs a real home and we need the space. Are you interested?"

Marcia was very interested and after speaking a little while longer, it was arranged that she would send her driver in on Sunday to pick up Jada.

But, on Friday, another woman called interested in adopting Jada.

"Christine" already has a younger, neutered male Chow and was interested in a friend for her dog, as well as a second Chow for herself.

She sounded as though she could provide a wonderful home for Jada.

I explained to Christine however, that I already had a home lined up for Jada. I would have to ask Marcia is she would be willing to take a different Chow.

Later that day, I called Marcia and told her about Dina -- the older, messed up Chow still sitting at Animal Control and for whom, there would be no chance for rescue and placement.

Marcia has a special spot in her heart for the older, neglected Chows no one else wants.

In the past, she has adopted senior blind and deaf Chows from me. "Malcolm," was Marcia's first adopted dog from us about 10 years ago. Malcolm was an older, blind Chow who I had in boarding about 8 months and worried would never get adopted.

But, he was lucky to find Marcia and she him. In many ways, Malcolm inspired Marcia's love and devotion towards the breed. She had Malcolm a number of years before the well cherished Chow finally succumbed to cancer.

Currently, Marcia has three Chows from me, including a deaf one. The new dog, whoever it would be, would be her fourth.

I of course, told Marcia about the younger and more robust Chows we had in boarding. But, her heart was already set on either Jada -- or Dina!

"You know me, Patty. I am a sucker for the older ones who have been so neglected and need the love and care. They are usually so happy and grateful for the attention."

I knew well what Marcia was speaking of. It has also been my experience that the older, neglected dogs (or cats) usually turn out to be the most devoted and appreciative. One of my dogs, Chance is a good example of that. Though I only have the 12-year old Pomeranian a couple of years, I truly think Chance would throw himself in front of a train for me.

The following day, (Saturday) Christine adopted Jada and so far things are going very well.

Meanwhile, Marcia was kind enough to switch plans and told her driver to meet at the shelter to pick up Dina.

Although Evelyne had sent several pictures of Dina and warned about the dog's condition, I was not at all prepared for the shock of this dog's truly wretched state!

Dina's dirty matted fur seemed to go in all directions, giving her a somewhat comical appearance.

Dina's hair was completely bare on her tail, making the tail appear more like that on rat than a Chow.

The black Chow was truly pathetic looking. One had to suspect Dina either spent years in a junkyard or roaming the streets as a true "stray."

I said to Lisa, one of the shelter Rescue coordinators, "Certainly no one could have walked this dog on the street without getting reported to the ASPCA for cruelty."

But, despite her abysmal appearance, Dina was nevertheless, everything Evelyne indicated her to be. -- Extremely gentle, affectionate and seemingly thrilled to be getting any attention at all. A truly lovely and cheerful dog in contrast to her dark, dreary and even scary appearance.

Last night, Marcia called to tell me how happy she was Dina. "She's given me at least a dozen kisses since she arrive here. What a sweetie!"

I apologized about Dina's condition, but it didn't bother Marcia at all.

"I have grooming equipment here and do my own grooming. I will bathe and shave her down in a couple of days. Want to give her a little time to settle in. So far, Dina is doing wonderfully. Perfectly mellow around the other dogs and just a total sweetheart!"

Thank God for the rare people like Marcia willing to take in the animals who most need them and for whom, normally there would not be a ghost of a chance to be placed.

But, it is Marcia who considers herself, the lucky one.

As said, sometimes the most gratifying and rewarding rescues are the ones you never have to actually do.

Today, I consider myself the "lucky one."

But, it is really Dina, a lost and pathetic soul, if ever there was one, who is now, the luckiest one of all. -- PCA


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Bellevue, Here I Come!"

(Picture Left: "Patty." Throwaway Mom whose ticket off the Euth list rode on the particular day of the year -- and her name.)

"Instead of calling you for a dog boarding space, I should be calling Bellevue for a space -- preferably one with padded walls for me."

The above words were spoken a short while ago to Ed, an excellent dog trainer who also runs a boarding kennel in New Jersey. I have often relied on Ed to train and board dogs for us.

Although already boarding two dogs with Ed, I was calling him to take in another.

One, who I had no business pulling off the Euth list today.

Then again how does a second generation Irish woman with the name, Patty turn her back on a dog named "Patty" on (of all days) Saint Patrick's Day?

"I bet the shelter gave her that name at ten O'Clock last night," Ed laughed. "They looked at the calendar."

"Well, sure its pure manipulation," I replied. "But, the dog also has a face that would melt stone. I'm a sucker for this stuff. As said, Bellevue is preparing a padded cell for me."

If I feel somewhat "crazed" over the past few days, it is not just because of the pressures and stress of animals already rescued and in boarding or even those who need rescue, but mostly from the people contacting us over the past week or so.

If I had a dollar for every dump call or plea asking for help, I'd be on my way to the Millionaire's club. If I add into those, the calls from time wasters and assorted loonies, I'd be in competition with Donald Trump or Bill Gates.


Caller: "We need to put our cat up for adoption because it doesn't fit into the home anymore."

Me: "Are we talking about a cat or a dress, Sir? What do you mean, 'doesn't fit?'"

Caller: "It doesn't get along with our other cat."

Further conversation with the man revealed the cat was a purebred Abyssinian that the family bought from a breeder three years ago.

Me: "Call up the breeder and ask her to take the cat back. -- She brought the cat into the world, I didn't! "

Caller: "Hm, I didn't think of that."

Why is it that the people who buy animals from breeders call shelters and rescues when they don't want the animals anymore instead of calling the people they actually got the animal from?

Who ever said common sense was common?

There have been numerous calls like that one. But, the worse call was from a woman calling last week to offer foster for a "small dog."

"Cara" lives alone on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, has a good job, previously had a Shih-Tzu for 16 years and sounded like the ideal person to foster a small dog.

As matters turned out, I had just gotten off a call from a desperate woman in the Bronx who needed help in placing a purebred Pug.

"Marina" is a lovely Spanish woman who already has four rescued dogs in her small apartment, three of which are Pitbulls. She called to tell me her neighbors didn't want the family Pug anymore (named, "Brutus") and were leaving the little dog in the building hall way.

I asked Marina to temporarily take the dog in until I could arrange with my vet a boarding space, neutering, shots and whatever other medical attention the dog needed.

I then explained all this to Cara and asked if she would be willing to foster the 7-year-old Pug whom I was told was a very friendly and housebroken dog.

"After the medical attention and neutering, Brutus should be a very adoptable dog," I added.

Cara agreed to foster the little dog and I told her I would call her back as soon as the vetting was taken care of.

Marina meanwhile, did her part to get the Pug away from the neglectful and irresponsible owners and held the dog a few days until my vet had cage space to take the dog in.

Marina was finally able to deliver Brutus to my vet this past Saturday.

With neutering and dentistry scheduled for today, I called Cara to let her know Brutus would be ready for pick-up tomorrow (Thursday.)

"I need to know something," Cara said to me cautiously.

"What is it you need to know?" I asked.

"Does the dog snore?"

"Excuse me? Does the dog snore? Are you kidding? How would I know something like that?"

"I read that sometimes pugs snore. How much does he weigh?"

"I don't know his exact weight. He's a purebred Pug. He's not going to be the size of a Great Dane!"

"Well, I dunno." Cara replied looking obviously to get out her promise.

"Look, Cara, I am quite sure you won't have this dog very long. He's a very adoptable dog."

"Oh, so you don't need a foster then!"

"Yes, we need a foster! My vet needs his cages for sick dogs, not healthy ones. He's not running a boarding kennel!"

Cara abruptly hung up on me.

Infuriated, I called her cell back and got voice mail. I left a message:

"Please don't call other shelters or rescues to waste their time with this kind of nonsense. Animal rescue is serious, life and death business not fun and games!"

A few weeks ago, we had three dogs adopted.

We have quickly replaced those and filled up all boarding spaces -- and then some.

But, it is never the animals who make you crazy in this work.

It's the people.

"Bellevue, here I come!" -- PCA


Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Coming of Flowers

(Picture Left: "Big B" and brother, "Cool." Among early spring drop-offs at Animal Control.)

The worst part about being at capacity in terms of animals either in foster or boarding is that you then have no place for a new rescue.

That is our situation now.

Thus, when getting a call from the shelter the other day about two brother Chows mixes who were just abandoned from a home when their former owners "moved," I had to regretfully say that we could not take the dogs as there was no where to put them.

This is a reality and task that I personally find among the most unpleasant in animal work. -- Having to say, "no."

And yet it is a reality we in rescue work face everyday. -- Either having to ignore the dozens of email "Alerts" sent to us daily of shelter animals needing "urgent rescue" or actually having to say "no" to personal pleas.

I just wish the pleas were made more to the public and the press. I wish owners, when dumping animals in the shelters for things like "moving" or "having a baby" were told the entire truth.

Most people discarding pets leave the shelters with the idea that their dumped cat or dog is immediately getting "adopted to a loving home." This, despite the fact most shelter drop-offs have been neglected for years and are often in poor medical or psychological condition.

It's as if we had a line of potential adopters for animals lined up around the block, (regardless of condition of the cats or dogs) -- like the people lined up applying for jobs these days.

Unfortunately, most of the "lines" regarding animals are those of people waiting to unload their pets at an animal shelter:

"Can't afford." "No Time for." "New boyfriend or roommate allergic," "Landlord won't allow" and of course, the most common excuses, "Having a baby" and "Moving."

In addition to the regular excuses for animals to be abandoned at a shelter, there are also the hardship or owner screw-up reasons, such as illness or death of the owner, evictions and arrests or loss of the cat or dog (pet arrives at shelter as "stray.").

There are in fact, hundreds of reasons why animals end up in shelters. There just aren't so many reasons for people to adopt. -- Other than (hopefully) just wanting to care for an animal and seeking a 4-legged companion.

With these realities in mind, it should come as no surprise that the number of appeals and pleas (whether by email or phone) for animals needing rescue far outnumber adoption inquiries about 100 to 1.

I am only surprised that the shelter "Euth Lists" are not a great deal higher considering these grim imbalances.

The reasons they are not higher is that thankfully, more animals are getting spayed or neutered these days either before getting adopted out by shelters or rescues or in some cases, owners actually get their pets neutered.

Additionally, there are more groups and individuals doing animal rescue these days than in years past.

Unfortunately, that can also result in many animals spending months or even years in overcrowded boarding, foster or "sanctuary" situations.

As noted at the top of this entry, one has to learn and respect the line of capacity and know when to say, "no."

Not everyone in rescue recognizes those things, sadly.

It has been an almost deadly quiet week in terms of serious adoption inquiries. In fact, we haven't had any that seem likely to result in an actual placement of one of our dogs or cats currently in boarding or foster.

On the other hand, I could not even count the number of appeals, pleas and "alerts" that have come via email or phone over the last week alone.

Indeed, the true highlight of this past week was sighting a coyote in Central Park a few nights ago!

I just hope the parks department and Animal Control don't get a hold of him (or her.)

The last coyote, "Hal" captured a few years ago, died in transport by the time the shelter finally found a place for him out of the city. The stress and panic of several days containment in the crowded AC&C was apparently too much for the shy and terrified (of humans) coyote. These animals are surprisingly small and extremely agile.

Indeed, it is pretty scary for most of the domesticated pets dumped everyday at our animal shelters. Imagine what it is for a "wild" animal? Especially a species that has been so persecuted, hated and decimated by humans over the decades.

If the Central Park coyote is smart, he will stay as far away from humans as possible.

Not an easy feat considering we are soon going into spring and summer and the park will thus attract millions of people.

One more reason to dread the coming of spring and summer to New York City -- beautiful and flowery as these seasons may otherwise be. -- PCA


Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Primary Bane Against Pet Shops and Puppy Mills

(Picture Left: "Taco" -- 3-year-old, beautiful, but sad Chow now without a home. Taco and former owners victims of puppy mill and pet shop irresponsibility.)

Following the successful adoptions of a couple of our dogs two weeks ago, we briefly had a bit of breathing room.

But, that did not last long.

Boarding spaces were quickly filled with new dog rescues and the other day, I was requested from the shelter to take still another Chow.

"Taco" is a three-year-old, Chow Chow turned in as an "Owner Surrender" for some kind of incident involving the wife in the home.

In one of the rare cases where we actually are able to talk with the former owner, I was given the telephone number upon request.

I called and spoke with the husband, but communication was extremely difficult.

"Carmello" spoke with a heavy Spanish accent and the reception on his cell phone was terrible. It was like trying to have a conversation with a foreign person speaking from inside the Lincoln tunnel.

While I was not able to discern exactly what happened with Carmello's wife and the dog, the gentleman did communicate repeatedly that "Taco is a very, very good dog who we had since he was 8-weeks-old!"

The couple apparently bought Taco from a pet store.

Further information revealed that Taco was good with the family cat, but had not been exposed to much of anything else. The couple have an adult son, apparently don't entertain much at home and didn't socialize Taco with other dogs.

"He scared of other dogs," the man told me in broken English.

I got the feeling that it was the husband who was primarily attached to Taco, as he had fed the dog, walked and cared for him. "I love Taco and would never give him up! But, my wife not comfortable. She scared of the dog," Carmello told me.

Cases like these are difficult for a number of reasons:

First, you have a dog who was purchased from a pet shop at only 8-weeks of age. This means Taco most assuredly came from a puppy mill and was separated from the Mother and siblings too early in life (typically about 6-weeks of age or even younger.)

Cats, dogs and presumably other animals, (including humans) separated from their mothers too early in life tend to almost always have "insecurity" and fear issues, sometimes leading to aggression.

Quite often these animals will only trust one or two individuals. They generally have problems trusting and socializing with strangers and often other animals.

These problems tend to be magnified and/or exacerbated when the animal goes to a home where it is primarily one person caring for the cat or dog and there is little attempt to properly socialize the animal with strangers, kids, family members and other pets early on.

This might explain why Taco was "good with the cat" (who was already in the home when the couple bought Taco as a small puppy) but seemingly nervous and fearful with everything else -- other than the husband who loved and cared for the dog.

Taco's behavior in the shelter was all that we would expect under the circumstances (especially from a Chow):

Scared, wary and guarded.

I could not send this dog to a foster home (even if I had one.)

He needs to spend time with a trainer and get socialized around other dogs and people.

And even with all that, I could not be comfortable adopting Taco out to anything but an experienced Chow home without small children.

The good news is that the couple socialized Taco with cats and already had the dog neutered.

I write about this today primarily to illustrate the folly of ever buying animals from pet stores OR breeders who sell animals BEFORE 12-weeks of age.

One also has to add the same about adopting infant animals who have been separated from their Moms and siblings too early in life.

I realize of course, that in shelters and rescues, kittens and puppies often arrive without their Mothers and the facilities have no choice but to try and place the animals as expediently as they can.

But, those adopting very young puppies or kittens need to recognize the burden and responsibility of properly socializing and handling these animals immediately, as well as exposing them to members of their own species early on. This is why the more knowledgeable and responsible shelters and rescue groups ONLY adopt out small kittens either in pairs or to a home that already has another cat.

Over the years there have been many campaigns attempting to educate and discourage the public from buying animals from pet stores. The focus of these campaigns has mainly been the horrible and cruel conditions in puppy mills, as well as the abomination of adding still more animals to an already alarming pet overpopulation problem that results in millions of "surplus" cats and dogs killed in shelters each year.

But, no one ever talks about the (lack of) trust, confidence and insecurity issues of most infant animals torn from their mothers too early in life and either sold or adopted out to an unknowing and unsuspecting public.

In my early years in rescue, I rescued and fostered many Mom cats and their litters. I never adopted the kittens out until they were at least 4-months of age (16 weeks). By that time, they were happy, extremely well socialized and adjusted animals (with everything) who brought nothing but joy to their adopters.

That is the way animal placements should be done regardless of what the public wants or "demands." -- The public sadly doesn't know better.

The real and biggest weapon against pet shops and puppy mills (in my view) is that the baby animals have almost always been separated from their Moms and siblings BEFORE 8-weeks of age.

That is practically guaranteed to be a recipe for trouble down the line -- unless these animals are fortunate to be acquired by people who understand the socialization challenges ahead and actually take the necessary measures to meet them.

That did not happen with Taco much as his owners might have been caring and responsible in other ways, such as neutering and veterinary care.

We will now have our work cut out with Taco. -- PCA


Monday, March 8, 2010

"It Might As Well Be Spring!"

(Picture Left: A duck wedding at Turtle pond? "I now pronounce you mallard and wife.")

Not only has the weather in New York City suddenly warmed up, but it might as well be June or July by the sudden rush of calls and emails over the past week to either place or dump animals.

The distinction between "place" and "dump" is that of reason for the contact. Dump is, "I'm pregnant and can no longer take care of my 13-year-old cat (or 8-year-old dog)." Place is, "I just found a cat abandoned in a carrier near a busy street corner and the landlord doesn't allow pets."

Unfortunately, we cannot take any more animals as we just rescued three new dogs from Animal Control last week and two of the three dogs went into boarding. Not only is boarding animals expensive, but it's also not the best situation for the animals.

Ideally, boarding is a temporary action designed to get animals out a potentially lethal situation until either a foster or adoptive home can be found. But, all too often it results in a long-term commitment.

The weekend was also grim in terms of media coverage of animal-related issues.

First, there was the horrific and long-winded article in the New York Times about raising and slaughtering rabbits for "meat." This should outrage and disgust anyone who cares even minimally, about animals.

When one considers the billions of animals already on the human hit list for "meat," it is incomprehensible to add one more species. That the particular species in this case also happens to be a popular family pet makes both the action and the Times article even more inexcusable and repugnant.

It was as if the New York Times gave a "stamp of approval" to one of the most violent and revolting scenes in "Fatal Attraction." One can only presume the New York Times would have asked, "Okay, what time is dinner?"

The other media horror this weekend was the "60 Minutes" apparent "special" about the "sport" of bullfighting. Personally, I did not watch this particular assault on the senses and common decency (and don't plan to ever watch 60 Minutes again). Suffice it to say, I cheer whenever learning a bullfighter has been gored in the ring. Unfortunately, most of them survive -- unlike the animals who are their victims.

If there was any silver lining in the media carnage (literally) this weekend, it was a report on NY1 yesterday that a public school in the East Village is initiating a "Meatless Mondays" on the school lunch menu.

The impetus for this is to try and confront the childhood obesity problem in the city and to introduce kids to a healthier and more variable diet. The program apparently has the backing of the Mayor and the borough President (though only for health and environmental reasons, but that is good enough). Hopefully, it will spread to the other schools in the city assuming education leaders don't read the "dining" section of the New York Times.

Meanwhile, I took my dogs, Tina and Chance yesterday to a very crowded Central Park.

The beautiful, spring-like weather brought out what seemed like a million people.

But, my fascination with and love of the park is its wildlife.

The ducks and geese are now back in an unfrozen Turtle Pond and the feeling of spring is definitely in the air.

In fact, I could swear I witnessed a duck "wedding." ;) -- PCA


Sunday, March 7, 2010

What Next, Indeed?

Amongst my emails this morning is a shared article from the March 3rd addition of the New York Times.

It is one of the most revolting pieces ever read.

Below is a letter I just emailed to the Times. I hope others will do the same after reading the entire (nauseating) article which follows my response.

What next, indeed? --PCA

Re: "Don't Tell the Kids" by, Kim Severson, NY Times, 3-3-10 (Dining).

"Don't Tell the Kids" (Kim Severson, Times, 3-3-10) which describes the raising and slaughtering of rabbits for culinary aberration is one of the most revolting and nauseating articles read in a long time.

But, perhaps the title says all we need to know:

Whatever it is we're doing that we have to hide from or lie to our kids about is usually something we should not be doing at all.

Slaughtering a harmless animal normally regarded as a pet for something completely unnecessary seems only to suggest a new low in "adult" jadedness and hardness.

What next for our culinary "delights?"

Figuring out ways to kill and cook the family parakeet, dog or cat? -- And then lie to our kids about it?

Shame on the Times for publishing garbage like this.

Patty Adjamine
New York City


March 3, 2010
Don’t Tell the Kids


RABBITS are supposed to be easy to kill. The French dispatch them with a sharp knife to the throat. A farmer in upstate New York swears that a swift smack with the side of the hand works. Others prefer a quick twist of the neck.
It didn’t seem so easy at the rabbit-killing seminar held in a parking lot behind Roberta’s restaurant in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn in November.
The idea was to place the rabbit on its belly on straw-covered asphalt, press a broomstick across the back of its neck and swiftly yank up the rear legs. Done right, it’s a quiet and quick end. But it takes a little skill and a lot of fortitude, which some of the novices lacked.
Nine people had paid $100 each to learn how to raise, kill and butcher the animals. One was a woman hoping to start a farm in the Bronx. Another was considering a move to family land in Montana. A couple dressed in black had traveled from the Upper East Side with their knives and cutting boards in an Abercrombie & Fitch bag.
Sharleen Johnson, who rode a bus in from Boston, wanted to raise livestock in her backyard.
“This is my gateway animal,” she said.
In an age when diners scoop marrow from roasted beef shins and dissect the feet of pigs raised by people they’ve met, rabbit certainly seems like the right meat at the right time.
American rabbit is typically raised on smaller farms, not in some giant industrial rabbit complex. The meat is lean and healthy, and makes an interesting break from chicken. For people learning to butcher at home, a rabbit is less daunting to cut up than a pig or a goat. And those who are truly obsessed with knowing where their food comes from can raise it themselves.
Still, it’s a rabbit, the animal entire generations know as the star of children’s books and Saturday-morning cartoons, and as a classroom mascot.
Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn had rabbit on some menus shortly after it opened in late 2008. But after a table of guests walked out, it came off. Now the only rabbit served at the restaurant is disguised in a country terrine.
“It seems to me that the more you can make rabbit not look like rabbit, the easier it is to sell people on it,” said the restaurant’s owner, Doug Crowell.
But not everybody is squeamish. Some restaurant chefs are lining up for well-raised rabbits from small farms, using the meat in coconut chili braises, liver pâtés and even upscale sliders inspired by White Castle.
“Every time I put it on the menu it flies out the door,” said Chris Kronner of Bar Tartine in San Francisco.
Rabbit is also becoming popular among those with an interest in raising farm animals but without much space or experience. Sure, rabbits can be fragile. They get scared and have heart attacks. Heat or the cold can knock them off. They can be bad parents, abandoning their babies or worse.
But they breed like, well, you know. That means they produce a lot of meat for not much money. And they’re clean and quiet — especially welcome traits in the suburbs.
“I always say rabbits are the new chickens,” said Novella Carpenter, who built a farm on an abandoned lot in a poor section of Oakland, Calif., and turned her experience into a book called “Farm City.”
“You can pay more, which is the Slow Food method,” she said. “Or you can do it yourself. Which is my method.”
Ms. Carpenter believes anyone who is thinking of raising rabbits should kill one first. That is one reason she, along with Samin Nosrat, a Bay Area cooking teacher, conducted the Brooklyn class.
The seminars were part of a larger East-West rabbit cultural exchange organized by the magazine Meatpaper. It was built around a series of rabbit dinners at Bar Tartine last month and at Diner in Brooklyn last November.
As the pre-slaughter lecture in Brooklyn began, Ms. Carpenter prepared students for the moment.
“Today is a somber day because we are going to be killing rabbits,” she said. “But I am always psyched after slaughter because I’m like, now I’m going to eat.”
The rabbit events appealed to the kind of adventurous cook who signs up for weekend sausage-making classes, in part because rabbits are an especially good way to learn basic home butchery.
“They have the same muscle structure as a pig,” Mr. Kronner said. “For someone who hasn’t broken down a large animal, a rabbit is a great place to start.”
The classes and dinners also attracted those seeking a slower way of living.
“American palates are expanding and looking backwards, and rabbit is a big part of that, ” said Sasha Wizansky, the editor in chief of Meatpaper, who first suggested the bicoastal food exchange.
Still, arguing that the country is in the middle of a rabbit renaissance might be overstating it. Rabbit never really had a strong first act to begin with.
It has always been something of a crisis meat in America. Poor rural dwellers who moved to the city and European immigrants looking to assimilate found other animals to eat as soon as they could (the French notwithstanding).
And although rabbit consumption spiked during World War II, when the United States government encouraged people to raise them for meat, it never translated to the supermarket. When the French food revolution changed American dining in the 1960s, rabbit in mustard sauce would turn up at the occasional dinner party or restaurant. But the country never quite got past the pets-or-meat problem.
Ever since the Victorians began keeping them as pets, the relationship between the rabbit and the table has been uneasy.
“It’s this weird association with Easter,” said Sean Rembold, the chef at Diner and at its sibling restaurant next door, Marlow & Sons.
Chefs have to tap-dance between customers who are excited to eat rabbit and those who find the mere idea intolerable. And despite its reputation as a staple in frugal times, rabbit isn’t cheap these days. A seven-pound live rabbit might weigh four pounds cleaned and cost a restaurant $25 to $30. D’Artagnan sells a whole fryer rabbit for $36.99 on its Web site.
Chefs searching for local, fresh rabbit can’t always find enough. In the Bay Area, cooks wait for a call from Mark Pasternak of Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Marin County. Along with his wife, a rabbit veterinarian named Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak, he raises the most coveted rabbits in Northern California.
They are such believers in the economic and health benefits of eating rabbit that they travel regularly to Haiti to teach families to raise rabbits on foraged food. The Pasternaks and their two daughters were in Haiti during the recent earthquake, when they turned their attention from rabbits to rescue.
Mr. Pasternak began growing rabbits about 12 years ago for his mother-in-law, who is from France. She brought a French chef to dinner and word leaked out to Bay Area cooks. Soon, Mr. Pasternak was selling rabbit to Chez Panisse and the French Laundry.
“I went from two to 2,000 in no time,” he said. Not that he butchers 2,000 rabbits every week. Usually, it’s about 100. But he is preparing to quadruple the number of breeding rabbits he keeps, making chefs in the Bay Area happy.
“I turn down two, three, four restaurants every single week,” Mr. Pasternak said. “I get calls from all over the country, but I discourage shipping the rabbits. You don’t need me shipping rabbit back to New York.”
Some chefs in Manhattan turn to John Fazio, who sells his rabbits with most organs intact to restaurants like Savoy and Marlow & Sons and to a few Italian markets on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.
Mr. Fazio started raising rabbits near his home in Modena, N.Y., 80 miles north of Manhattan, after an accident left him unable to make a living as a truck driver. A couple of years ago, a chef at Cookshop in Chelsea started ordering them. Others followed. Now he sells 300 to 400 a week.
He slaughters to order. And he has a signature.
“If they don’t have a rabbit with a head on it, they don’t have a rabbit from me,” he said.
Both he and Mr. Pasternak raise a mix of New Zealands and Californians, the two most popular meat breeds. New Zealands are longer and thinner but produce more babies. Californians are a little meatier. Mr. Pasternak adds in some tri-colored Rex rabbits, which are used in the fur trade and have a good temperament.
In the kitchen, rabbit can be a challenge. The bones are tinier and more fragile than those of chickens, making splintering a constant concern. The meat sticks and clings in an endless number of small nooks and crannies.
Like chickens, rabbits have parts that cook differently. But it’s hard to roast the whole animal at the same temperature without making some meat too dry or tough.
The hind legs especially almost always need a moist, slow braise. For frying, plenty of cooks like to give them a good soak in buttermilk or a light brine.
The saddle, or center portion of the rabbit, is a different story. The meat can be fried, but it can be dry. So it helps to apply a bit more finesse.
“Treat the loins like pork tenderloins and wrap them in pancetta,” Mr. Rembold said. “It’s a great home cook trick. It’s like a chicken breast.”
For a salad of bitter greens and rabbit he served at the Brooklyn rabbit dinners, Mr. Rembold removed the legs, sautéed the rest of the rabbit whole, then removed and sliced the meat to toss with frisée and a mustard dressing.
To make the most of all bits of the rabbit, Mr. Rembold suggests a sausage made with a medium grind mixed with some fatback or chicken skin to enrich the lean meat. Ms. Nosrat likes to use up all the scraps and legs in a long-simmered ragù.
Angelina Lippert, the woman who took an Abercrombie & Fitch bag and her boyfriend to the class in Brooklyn, brought home the legs of the rabbit they killed and braised them with almonds, apples, Calvados and cream. The saddle, kidneys and heart went into a rolled roast with garlic, sage and rosemary.
The killing itself was a little more intense than she had expected, she said.
“When I was the first person to volunteer to break the neck, it all seemed so easy and emotionless that I didn’t realize until after I’d done it that I was shaking,” she said.
But she recovered quickly. After all, there was a rabbit to dress.
Ms. Lippert still has the pelt, the head and the feet. They’re in her freezer, awaiting the taxidermist. But she doesn’t have the boyfriend.
“He ended up leaving me for a vegetarian,” she said.



Friday, March 5, 2010

An Endearing Chihuahua!

(Picture Left: "Ginger." A little scared, but a real trooper. Sweet, endearing -- a dog to win hearts!)

So far, the two adoptions over last weekend seem to be working out and that has enabled us to rescue two new dogs.

One of the dogs I was able to get into a foster home yesterday after initially sending her to my vet to be medically checked out and boarded for a couple of days.

"Ginger" is a total delight!

Although I can't claim to be a "Chihuahua" person, per se, we have rescued a number of these frisky little dogs over the years.

Often they can be little terrors when they feel insecure or frightened of people or circumstances they don't know.

But, Chihuahuas can also be adorable and the most devoted little lap dogs when they feel comfortable with someone and their environment.

I didn't know what to expect from Ginger as I was simply told about her when speaking with Sabrina (the New Hope Rescue Coordinator) from the Brooklyn AC&C.

I told Sabrina I had a potentially very good foster home for a small dog and she told me about Ginger.

Ginger was indicated to be 8-years-old and recently arrived at the AC&C after her owner became ill. To everyone's amazement, (especially mine) she was already spayed!

Sabrina described Ginger as being somewhat "nervous" in the shelter and I imagined a snarling, lunging, ferocious looking Chihuahua in a cage. Some of the toughest dogs ever witnessed in shelters have been Chihuahuas (including some of the ones we've taken). However, the most "severely aggressive" dog ever rescued from Animal Control happens to be my own Pomeranian, Chance -- who is now of course, the perfect angel. ;)

I thus warned "Molly," the potential foster to "go very slowly" with the Chihuahua. "The dog will probably be initially terrified and wary of everything. Don't push her. Don't over-handle her. Don't overwhelm her with too much stimulus, activity and too many people. Just let her be. -- Allow Ginger to acclimate at her own pace."

Molly is a young doctor who works in a hospital and lives with her sister on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The young women grew up with dogs, one of whom was a Poodle the family had 17 years. But, how much would they understand Chihuahuas, I wondered?

Although both breeds are small, Chihuahuas tend to be quite different from Poodles. Chihuahuas get cold easily, are usually quite protective and/or possessive of their people and don't usually enjoy long walks (or, at least the Chihuahuas I've fostered over the years weren't into long hikes.)

But, once again, many of my worries were for naught.

Since Molly was working at the hospital yesterday, I met with her sister, Hillary at the vet to pick up Ginger.

When first brought out to us, Ginger was a little scared with her tail between her legs.

But, there was nothing "scary" or threatening about the little dog.

In fact, I felt a huge wave of relief when noting that Ginger was comfortable being petted and even picked up and held.

We took Ginger for a short walk in the heavy mid-day pedestrian traffic of Manhattan's Upper East Side and surprisingly, she was frisky, curious and aware on the walk. Although she didn't pee or poo (which was expected under the unfamiliar circumstances) I was impressed that Ginger was able to hold her own without freaking out.

She was a little trooper!

Ginger is 13 lbs -- a bit chunky for a Chihuahua. It seems not only was she well fed by her former owner, but thankfully well socialized with strangers. If I didn't already have two dogs at home, I would have loved to have taken Ginger myself!

She is so cute and cuddly, she is like a sausage! (I mean that in a good way.)

Hillary too, seemed very happy with Ginger and spoke with her sister enthusiastically on the cell phone.

A few minutes later, I saw Hillary and Ginger off in a cab to go home. Last night I received a call from Molly, her sister to let me know all was going extremely well with the new little foster dog.

Although the young women had questioned "how long" a foster might be until a dog is adopted and I cautiously answered that there are no guarantees, but that most small dogs get adopted within a couple of months, I have a feeling the issue might never come up at all.

Little Ginger is a keeper and I would be surprised if her foster people don't elect to adopt the endearing Chihuahua themselves. -- PCA


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hope for the Future -- Just Ask a ten-year-old Boy

(Pictures: Swan taking "swan dive" in serach for underwater treats as curious goose looks on. Ten-year-old boy taking delight in feeding ducks and geese and they taking joy in him! Note, the three white ducks as first class beggars!)

Although matters continue to be grim and troubling in our city shelters from disheartening euth lists to wet pet food and cat litter shortages, we actually had a decent weekend with two of our dogs in long-time boarding finally finding (hopefully) forever homes.

I say, "hopefully" because one can never assume anything in animal adoptions. So far, things seem to be going well for both Coco and Cassy in their new homes. But, its a little too soon to write up either of these placements.

Although it might be presumptuous, we have already arranged for two new rescues from the Brooklyn AC&C. An older Chihuahua and a sweet, older Lab/Chow mix. I am optimistic about having a good foster lined up for the Chihuahua, but, "Sal," the larger mixed breed will have to go to boarding. --Hopefully, for not too long. Former owners said Sal was good with cats (and kids and other dogs.)

The cat information alone is enough to sell me on almost any dog.

If I feel reasonably relieved with two of our dogs adopted, I feel even greater hope for the future due to something witnessed this past weekend.

Last Sunday, I walked my dogs to Harlem Meer to check on the white Peiking ducks (who mysteriously showed up in the Central Park pond last summer after either being placed there or escaping from a nearby "Live Poultry Market") and the swans who apparently took up residence in the duck pond over the winter.

The white ducks are not indigenous to the area and I had almost no hope these animals would ever survive through the summer, much less the snow storms of the winter.

But, incredibly, the white ducks are not only surviving, but thriving! The swans too, seem to feel very comfortable in the area and have seemingly elected to stay.

Perhaps there is good reason for that.

It seems some of the area residents have taken interest in the welfare of the ducks, geese and swans and apparently feed the animals regularly.

When arriving at the pond on the North side of the park, I noted the birds already being generously fed by a young boy, while his parents sat on a bench and freely gave the youngster seemingly endless treats for the birds.

The ducks and Canadian geese swarmed up to the young boy -- particularly the white ducks who are now twice the size of the regular ducks. They have turned out to be very proficient beggars -- and they have the size to show for it!

The cool swans kept their distance, preferring to do comical "swan dives" for food just under the water's surface with their butts raised high in the air. (I now know where the expression, "swan dive" comes from!)

What was so heartwarming about these sights, was the sheer joy and earnestness the young boy seemed to take in feeding the birds. He was extremely focused and diligent with the task, apparently not wanting any of the birds to go hungry.

I don't think any of them did that day.

It is sometimes all too easy to get swept up with all the negative news of the times:

Budget cuts, unemployment, hospital and school closings, food shortages and other inadequacies in our animal sheltering system.

But, sometimes it is really nice to see something that reminds us that there is still a lot of good out there.

Like the smile and joy on a young boy's face as he shares his food blessings with a few hungry animals.

"Alas, " I thought to myself. "There IS hope for the future!"

And, thankfully today, news of the animal shelter's woes and food shortages has finally reached some of the major media outlets.

It is hoped this will result in needed monetary and food donations.

New Yorkers can indeed be very generous when made AWARE of the human and animal needs in our great city.

Just ask a ten-year-old boy. -- PCA