Helping an Angel Find her Wings

One of our concerns when we made the decision to adopt Georgia, was that we wouldn’t be able to make our mark in the world of animal rescue. However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth! Without all of the time I was devoting to her training and ‘rehabilitation’, as well as marketing her and working to find her perfect adoptive family, I am able to spend that much time volunteering in the rescue in other capacities.

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A few weeks ago, J and I were able to assist this sweet little angel on her path to a forever home!

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And when I say ‘angel,’ I mean spit-shined halo, fluffy wings, and stars in her eyes… this girl was about as close to perfect as I’ve seen! She was totally house-trained, mellow yet affectionate, and incredibly obedient. She was friendly with our cat and gently curious with the dogs (we chose not to allow them to meet face-to-face).

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She came from a shelter in Tennessee, along with the name Darcy, and 8 adorable puppies! They had been in the shelter since May, and the shelter workers and volunteers were desperate to get the little family out.

4Thankfully our rescue, A Positive Promise, stepped up to bring her and the pups to safety. She made sure that we were able to feel the full effects of her gratitude!

1We picked her up on a Saturday in State College (We are!) and brought her home for the evening. She snuggled right in bed with me, slept soundly through the night, and was ready to go only once I’d gotten out of bed the next morning. We loaded her up in the truck and made the trek toward OH, where her foster (to-adopt!) family would be meeting us!

Darcy's puppies, with their fosters!

Darcy’s puppies, with their fosters!

She has been in their home for a few weeks now, and after a little bit of a bumpy start, the future is looking bright for all involved! I have been counseling her foster family on the benefits of the two-week de-stress, as well as positive reinforcement training, slow introductions to their other dog (another APP alum, Ringo, a handsome deaf pittie!), and issues with mild leash-reactivity. They are so dedicated to helping make Darcy (now Ruby!) a happy member of their family. She is truly in ‘heaven’ and definitely seems to be in love with her brother. I call it a match made in heaven!

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6Let’s send lots of positive thoughts and warm-wishes their way!

 

The Great Debate

When you read this blog title, what did you imagine the controversial topic would be? To be fair, the options are seemingly endless.

I want to talk to you today about something that I can almost guarantee all of our readers will not agree on. The No-Kill Movement. This is a topic that came up during my time at the AFF Internship, and the conversation was an especially deep one, given that we had individuals present from both No-Kill and Municipal/Open-Admission Shelters. I appreciate that AFF takes a neutral stance on all controversial issues, but it was also eye-opening to hear the perspectives from individuals who are in the ‘pits,’ so to speak. Let’s start with the background…

Another photo from AFF!

Another photo from AFF!

The No-Kill Movement

Nathan Winograd is the advocate of a comprehensive movement for animal-shelter reform. Winograd and his supporters believe that no animal should ever be killed for any reason other than to alleviate the animal’s suffering or because the animal is so vicious as to be uncontrollable.

Private Shelters

A private shelter is funded by private donations. The primary purpose of these shelters is to find homes for lost or displaced animals, and provide them with a safe haven until such a home may be found. While specifics may vary, these organizations typically do not euthanize animals for reasons other than health or quality of life. However, no facility is limitless. Because of this, they often only admit animals that would be considered highly adoptable.

Animal Friends, a private animal shelter that is local to our area

Animal Friends, a private animal shelter that is local to our area

Municipal Shelters

A municipal shelter is run by a city, county, or other such public entity. These shelters are funded by taxpayer dollars. They are staffed by government employees, who may or may not have a background or education in regards to animals. Most often, these facilities are required by law to take in any unwanted animal that is brought in, regardless of available space or the animal’s condition.

Manhattan's Animal Care & Control, which is infamous for its conditions

Manhattan’s Animal Care & Control, which is infamous for its conditions

My Perspective

By now you should know that while I always strive to share authentic truths in this space, it would be dishonest of me to claim that the things I write are always without opinion or bias. I am not a journalist, reporting facts for the nightly news… this is my creative space where I attempt to share information that will interest others with similar passions and morals.

You also know by now that I adore my pets more than life itself. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do or give up to make their lives better. More importantly, I believe that the animals sitting in shelters are just as “special” as the ones who sleep soundly, curled up at my feet now, as I type this out to for all of you to read. I believe this so deeply that I reserve much of my life (financially and so far as my time and emotions) toward this cause. For anyone to say that my efforts are not made with the animals’ best interest at the forefront of my mind would be incredibly misguided.

Of course, I would love it if one day, all animal shelters were able to have 99%+ rates of release (meaning, that 99% of the animals that come into the shelter are released into loving homes, as opposed to being euthanized). With all of that being said, it might surprise you that I am not entirely in support of the No-Kill Movement. There. I said it. Now you wanna know why, right?

There are worse things than death

The reality of our world, is that many municipal and open-admission shelters are working with minimal budgets and mediocre facilities. They may operate with a miniscule staff or volunteer base. From experiences shared with me directly from employees in such shelters, animals are often kept in small cages (think of the stacked kennels you see in your veterinary office) and may or may not be walked a few times per week. Yes, you read that right… they are certainly not guaranteed even a daily walk, much less multiple times per day. There are no toys or blankets in their kennels, and kennel enrichment is a non-event. Can you imagine how quickly the dogs’ attitudes decline in such an environment? As for health care, it is procured by the local government worker, who has worked his way up, but boasts no prior experience with animals, and certainly not with veterinary care. This all may sound bad, but can I say that it is not anywhere close to one of the worst shelters in our country? If I told you which shelter it was, you would be astounded.

Don’t forget, these facilities are required to admit any animal that walks through their door. Young or old, sick or healthy, well-trained or aggressive, surrendered or ‘found’ as a stray… any animal must be accepted. Most importantly, these requirements are made regardless of space. There are only so many open kennels in any facility, and if adopters do not come through their doors, difficult decisions must be made. There is truly no other option.

None of us want to see photos like this, but they are a grim reality. This dog is available for rescue in CA.

None of us want to see photos like this, but they are a grim reality. This dog is available for rescue in CA.

It is a community problem

You may have read the above, ready to lay blame on the employees in that facility. But in reality, that does nothing. Those people are performing a thankless task, with endless stress and emotional strain, nights, weekends, and holidays, for very little financial return. Believe it or not, most of them are there because they can’t imagine walking away, and they want to make a difference for any animal they can.

The larger problem exists in our community. This large group of people who still believe that animals are disposable. This isn’t to be blamed on those of a certain ethnicity, in a specific zip code, or of a particular socio-economic status. If there are animals being killed in your community due to improper facilities, lack of homes, or lack of space, then it is a problem we are all responsible for. To me, the biggest problem with the No-Kill mentality, is that if a community has a shelter that claims to be No-Kill, what do they do when they run out of space? Regardless of a shelter’s social designations, each one is simply a collection of rooms in a building, with kennels or runs that end at some predetermined number. There is no magic button to add space! When a No-Kill shelter runs out of available room, they must turn animals away at their door. There is no other option for them, just as there is no other option for the municipal shelters. In this way, they are the same.

The difference is that when a No-Kill shelter turns away an animal, they do not know what happens to it. If it is an animal being surrendered, the owner may find another home for it or reconsider their decision. However, realistically the shelter is their last option, and so all others have been exhausted. Perhaps they take matters into their own hands, and find a way to ‘get rid’ of it, one way or another. If finances are the issue, maybe the animal starves or is neglected and denied medical attention. More positively, they may turn the animal loose or run it off, in hopes that someone will take it in. But most likely? If the animal is not admitted to the No-Kill shelter, the one that usually boasts extensive funding and eye-catching marketing tools, the animal somehow finds its way to the municipal shelter, who will not turn it away. To make room in the shelter for this new dog, space, and difficult decisions, must be made. Do you see how this comes full circle?

Because of this, I believe that until all shelters in a community, both private and municipal, are simultaneously able to boast high release rates and open-door practices, then no shelter should be able to call themselves No-Kill. Maybe these shelters don’t practice euthanasia within their walls, but if it is happening to animals in their community that they have turned away or are not able to accommodate, then they need to recognize that until they are part of the solution, they are still a part of the problem.

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A Pittsburgh night walk that raises money for local shelters

Conclusion

I am not suggesting that the No-Kill Movement is a pointless one, or that it is misguided. We have to start somewhere, and their objectives are admirable. Furthermore, I am certainly not suggesting that municipal shelters have it all right, and that euthanasia is our only option. What I am suggesting, is that instead of labeling shelters in this way, taking sides, and pointing fingers, why don’t we all start working toward the same common goal? Let’s stop labeling each other… shelters should not be designated as Kill and No-Kill. These so-called ‘No-Kill’ shelters should not be advertising themselves as such until they are able to pull all At-Risk dogs from the municipal shelters. And perhaps instead of continuing to argue advocate our own missions, we should focus on marketing our adoptable animals, as well as Spay/Neuter programs and other practices that support the eradication of unwanted pets.

I would love to hear from readers on this subject. Did you have a strong viewpoint on this subject before you read my own? If so, what was it, and has it varied at all after you read my thoughts? Are there any facts that I have missed? I look forward to input from you all!

This is the Animal Rescue League of Pittsburgh, our area's only Open-Admission shelter. They admirably claim not to euthanize for space reasons, and advocate very hard for the animals in their care

This is the Animal Rescue League of Pittsburgh, our area’s only Open-Admission shelter. They admirably claim not to euthanize for space reasons, and advocate very hard for the animals in their care

Life is a Highway

You guys. Have you ever known me to be speechless? I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I’m seriously close. Some of you may remember (smarties!) that I am currently in the scenic, rolling hills of New York attending the Animal Farm Foundation Language and Advocacy Internship! The trip has only just begun, and it is already vastly exceeding my lofty expectations. I’m seriously in my own version of heaven. My schedule is jam-packed with amazing dog-related seminars, lectures, and activities the next few days, and I promise I am collecting lots of information and photos to share with all of you! That is, if I ever decide to return (that is to be determined… if someone could deliver my dogs to me, there might not be any question! Oh, and that ol’ ball & chain of mine, too! I kid, I kid.) The scenery on my way here was so drop dead gorgeous that I almost teared up at the good fortune and serendipity that has led me to such an amazing opportunity. I am so blessed.

Ok sorry but this one upload took 10 minutes... so you'll have to wait in anticipation for the rest upon my return!

Ok sorry but this one upload took 10 minutes… so you’ll have to wait in anticipation for the rest upon my return!

(Please note, I risked my life on the side of back roads and blind turns to obtain these pictures for my loyal readers. You’re welcome.)

On my travels, I was able to stop in and visit some of the amazing women behind our rescue, LCPO (soon to undergo a name change). Those of you out there that are geography wizards might have picked up on the fact that we are located about 4 hours from the rescue with which we volunteer. The whole story behind that is one for another day, but because of that, I don’t often get to interact with the other leaders face-to-face as often as I’d like. I took this trip as an opportunity to do just that! Some of you may know that our rescue recently pulled a mom and 8 pups from a shelter in the south, and so I couldn’t resist stopping in to do some puppy snuggling!

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Baby Marshmellow!

Baby Marshmellow!

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I may not have time to squeeze in a post tomorrow, but please know that while I will of course have lots to share with you from this exciting trip, we also have a busy weekend jam packed with some fun dog adventures. We will be crossing some things off of our Summer Dog Bowl List! So next week will be full of fun posts and awesome pictures. Be sure to check in with us!

Sick as a Dog

Early last week, this picture came up on my news feed…

chukie-1His name was Chukie, he was at the NYC public shelter, and he was slated to be euthanized that day. This photo? A shot of one of the volunteers saying his last goodbyes to his favorite pup. Chukie had absolutely glowing reviews from staff members and volunteers alike. Most of us have gotten used to seeing things just like this on our news feeds, multiple times per day. While it is unfortunate, you sometimes have to grow a bit numb to prevent yourself from being in a constant state of despair, misery, and hopelessness. In spite of that, Chukie’s story really struck me, and I shared him in hopes of helping him find a foster or forever home.

I was so pleased when that photo quickly received a comment from my friend Josh from That Touch of Pit and Bully Project. If you are familiar with dog rescue, you’ve probably heard those names a few hundred times… they are responsible for the rescue of so, so many wonderful pups. They do great things for New York’s neediest dogs, and beyond. Josh informed me that although they were still searching for a foster or adoptive home, they had put a safe hold on Chukie. With Josh’s help, Chukie had narrowly escaped euthanasia!

430029_518596208207046_717395621_nUnfortunately, the struggle for Chukie’s life was not over. While he has since been removed from the shelter, he is spending his days in a veterinary office, where they work diligently to save his precious life. This is one sick pup, friends. And because they are struggling to find a worthy foster home, the funds that should be dedicated to his mounting medical costs will also need to be allocated toward expensive veterinary boarding fees. In spite of his dwindling health, Chukie remains friendly and affectionate with everyone he meets. It is easy to see what a wonderful family member he would make, if and when he recovers from his illness.

1000424_518927361507264_795835897_nNow renamed Chunk, this boy has overcome so many obstacles, but he is not yet assured a chance at a happy life. Please help Bully Project help Chunk, and other dogs like him, by making any donation, here. I know that if he could, Chunk would thank you with a big wet, sloppy kiss! I will choose to thank you in a way that is more subtle 😉

CharlieDog & Friends: L.O.V.E.

“I’m in love, I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it!”

-Buddy the Elf (…and Stephanie the Blogger)

Love #1? All of you. Can I just say how awesome our readers are?? You never fail to inspire me with your comments and support and even constructive criticism. This blogging community has become such a treasured and vital part of my life, and I don’t know what I would do without all of you! It is so special to be able to share my passions and find others who can relate.

Love #2: CharlieDog and Friends

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Charliedog and friends is a company that is doing amazing things for the plight of unloved and unwanted animals. Their approach? Start small… as in, with the smallest of animal lovers.

Almost every family experiences the begging and pleading from their children for a new four-legged family member. But what if those children were not pestering for just any pup, but for a shelter dog? I can’t say it any better than they have eloquently described it themselves, so I will be pulling much from their Mission Statement page:

”  Our mission is to help rescue organizations change the way people think about, and go about, getting their family pet.  It’s to make sure the animal shelter is the first (and, hopefully, only) stop on that exciting Saturday afternoon, when children and adults get in the car and set out to find their new best friend, brand-new leash in hand.

We hope every child that loves a CharlieDog toy loves the spirit of that toy, the spirit and the story of the once-homeless pet that inspired it.  And when the day comes — and it will! — to start pestering the parents for a dog or cat, we hope that child will say, “I want a homeless pet.”

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The unique, hand-crafted toys themselves are made in America, and based on real-life shelter and rescued pets, and now they help homeless pets get to their forever homes. In addition to their toys, they make colorful, playful, patterned bracelets that mimic pet collars, simply embroidered with the word ‘Adopt’. Talk about a conversation starter!

67485_474802525912793_176412963_n 549843_466402763419436_1926436812_nThe above pups are real-life rescue dogs Ruko and Adolla, pulled from New York City kill shelters just before their time was up. They continue to do good by touching the lives of children as treasured stuffed animals.
 
Their website calls this pup a little red-nose pit bull from PA... it MUST be Gia, right?!

Their website calls this pup a little red-nose pit bull from PA… it MUST be Gia, right?!

We can’t wait to make a little red pocket pittie addition to our family! (Remind you of anyone?!) As if all of that isn’t enough to send you running to their website to share and make purchases, CD&F isn’t just talking the talk barking the bark… they are also walking (no-pull leashes & harnesses in hand!) the walk in their every-day lives. $5 from each and every purchase goes directly to rescue shelters across the country.

”  We promise never to waste your money.  We’ll pledge to spend it thoughtfully and directly on on-the-ground rescue needs — exactly how we would spend our own money.  Vet care for sick or injured animals.  Transport costs (gas and tolls) for pets who have been rehomed, but have no way there.  Direct sponsorship of individual dogs or cats in shelters.  The people behind CharlieDog and Friends have seen local rescue in action (we volunteer ourselves) and we can tell you: it’s awe-inspiring, and because it’s a job that tears at the heart, it needs constant funding. We’ll never donate to large, bloated animal welfare organizations, that — despite their size, and without a doubt — do good.  Rescues need more help. 

My friend Suzy Allman is the brains, brawn, and (especially inner) beauty behind this amazing group. If you’ve fallen in love as quickly as I did with her heart, which she so openly shares through her words, then show her some love by following her blog and liking their facebook page. She is essentially an angel for animals… not only is she running this amazing yet fledgling company, she is a blogger, writer, NY Times sports photographer, and shelter volunteer, but she also provides free transportation for ‘super urgent’ rescue dogs out of New York shelters in her spare time. Wow.

Perhaps my favorite kernel of light from the CharlieDog website is as follows, because it so closely resembles my own mission when it comes to unwanted animals (here):

”  It’s hard for us to see a homeless animal without thinking of our own pets — safe, warm, loved, living a life that we know they need, and deserve.  It kills us, and we’re not alone.  We’re in the company of millions. CharlieDog and Friends believes we all want the same thing for our animals: a soft place, a loving place, a place where scraps sometimes land on the floor and it’s okay to pick them up with your tongue.  A special spot in the heart of a family.  ”

The dogs in shelters are no different than the dog resting at your feet, guarding your front door, or curled up beside you on the couch. (Cats too!) They deserve the chance to prove that. By supporting CharlieDog and Friends, you are giving those deserving animals the opportunity to find their forever families.

While CharlieDog and Friends is entirely deserving of a post all their own, I will be back tomorrow to talk about how their toys just might pertain to some of you! Stay tuned…

Challenge: Changing Stereotypes

Guess what today is? Our 100th post! And we think that deserves something special, don’t you?

Many of our blogging friends (including my BBF* Morgan at Temporary Home, Permanent Love) have found unique and creative ways to simultaneously increase readership and blog involvement, while also giving back to their local shelter communities.

Morgan & Maggie from TH, PL

Morgan & Maggie from TH, PL

*BBF: Best Blogging Friend

They call it ‘Kibbles for Comments’ or some similar idea, where the more involved their readers get, the more food they donate to their local shelters. How cool is that?! We wanted to copy them follow in their charitable foot steps, but with our own unique twist…

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So we wanna know: what is the ‘meanest‘ thing your pit bull does?? Let’s change some stereotypes, people! For each photo you send me, with info about what is happening, I will make a graphic like this, and share it on the facebook page. Who knows; maybe one of your photos will go viral! AND spread pit bull love at the same time. Simultaneously, you will be earning one pound of dog food, which we will then donate to a local shelter. You have two weeks to send in your stuff, so let’s get started! This is a super easy way for you to make a difference. My email address is sel1490@gmail.com, and I can’t wait to see how creative our readers and blogging friends can be.

If you don’t have a pit bull of your own to use for the photo, borrow one from a friend, or better yet; head to your local shelter and spend time with one of their adoptables! They could use the social interaction, and I’m sure they’d be happy to be your model.

Your Dog

I wait behind these cold, dark walls. Staring eagerly through the bars.

Wondering what I have to do… How to align the stars?

Thurston waits patiently for his forever home at the Staten Island center of NYACC

Thurston waits patiently for his forever home at the Staten Island center of NYACC

You have your faithful dog at home: Obedient, loyal, and true.

He is your partner, defender, and friend. He is so special to you.

What makes him different? What sets him apart? Do I not deserve the same?

I could be adventurous, devoted, and smart. I could be deserving of the same name.

Moxie is a frightened lady that wants to love volunteers at the Stark County shelter in Canton OH, but doesn't know how to trust. She needs a friend.

Moxie is a frightened lady that wants to love volunteers at the Stark County shelter in Canton OH, but doesn’t know how to trust. She needs a friend.

You grant him a spot at the end of your bed, a collar with jingling tags.

He gets a good dinner, fresh water, & treats; with thanks, his happy tail wags.

You see my photo and read what I’m about, but you don’t know who I want to be.

Take a chance on my life, on my paws, on my heart. Please, take a chance on me.

Jeffey has earned himself amazing evaluations from the staff at the Brooklyn ACC in NY, proving how much he deserves a loving family.

Jeffey has earned himself amazing evaluations from the staff at the Brooklyn ACC in NY, proving how much he deserves a loving family.

I could learn to be quiet, cuddly, and calm, or brave and defensive of you.

I could be athletic and strong and compete, I’m ready to begin anew.

Nookie was displaced by Hurricane Sandy, and has spent the past 6 months living in a cage in a NY vet's office. He needs someone to show him what living is really about!

Nookie was displaced by Hurricane Sandy, and has spent the past 6 months living in a cage in a NY vet’s office. He needs someone to show him what living is really about!

Some look at me and imagine the worst: assume I’m discarded for reasons severe.

But all that I want you to understand, is that your dog could have ended up here.

Your dog that you know inside & out, could have wound up stolen or lost.

He’d find his way to a place like this. In the kennel, without thought, he’d be tossed.

This boy has displayed excellent manners during his time at the Manhattan ACC. Though he came in as a stray, he is made for life as a part of a family.

This boy has displayed excellent manners during his time at the Manhattan ACC. Though he came in as a stray, he is made for life as a part of a family.

In the chaos of the shelter, would his voice be understood?

Amid his confusion and his fear, would anyone see the good?

Without a thing that is familiar, would he still remain the same?

Would he get a fair chance, or would your dog they blame?

Naji's good looks are only the cover of an amazing book... this girl earned a wonderful rating at the Manhattan shelter in NYC.

Naji’s good looks are only the cover of an amazing book… this girl earned a wonderful rating at the Manhattan shelter in NYC.

I know that you’d do whatever it takes, to bring your pup home, safe & sound.

So why do I wait forever it seems, my fate resting on the clock in the pound?

All I am trying to convey to you is that I’m no different than the pup in your bed.

The one that runs, guards, and plays fetch… The one who gets to live instead.

This is Howard. Despite glowing volunteer recommendations, and a winning personality, as well as stellar interactions with children, cats, and dogs alike, he was put to sleep due to a lack of interested adopters.

This is Howard. Despite glowing volunteer recommendations, and a winning personality, as well as stellar interactions with children, cats, and dogs alike, he was put to sleep due to a lack of interested adopters.

Though my stay is up, my life not worth your time,

Please help the others who wait, for they have committed no crimes.

They could be brave, quick-witted, & sweet.

Play with your children & sleep at your feet.

They are just like the dog that you call your best friend.

Their lives lie in your hands, for you to defend.

Our Georgia girl. Once a shelter dog, slated for euthanasia, she has proven to be a wonderful companion and part of our family.

Our Georgia girl. Once a shelter dog, slated for euthanasia, she has proven to be a wonderful companion and part of our family.

I’ve always felt that a part of the shelter problem lies in people placing their own dogs up on pedestals. We adore our pets, and so therefore we believe that they are above all others. However, the bottom line is that so many of our dogs would not show well in shelters, and so many shelter dogs have the capacity to make amazing family pets. We need to start imagining the dogs we see in shelters as our own dogs, so that there is a higher value placed on their lives.

If any of these dogs have captured your heart, please contact me for more information about fostering or adopting: sel1490@gmail.com