Monday, December 19, 2011

A Warm Parka

Let the Christmas countdown begin!
The holidays have treated our cause well this year. Not only have we received very generous responses to our recent event and holiday mailings, we've also more than doubled our sales this year at the downtown Holiday Store (which, I might add, has been continually stocked with new merchandise--all donated!). We also had two instances this month of feral cat colony caretakers presenting humane investigator (and cat trapper) JoAnn with sizeable donations of appreciation following the TNRs. On top of all of this, 56 animals have found new homes this month alone! That's five smallies, six dogs, 18 cats, and 27 kittens who have traded a kennel or cage for a cozy living room this season--and for the rest of their lives.

Yes, we're feeling very positive about the future for animals at the moment. We're feeling especially good about the futures of the animals who were adopted last week!

Aussie-mix puppy Ariel was the sole dog to find a new home. But the kittens made up the numbers! Perseus, Hubbard, Munchkin, Justin, Maisie, Bunny, Pumpkin, Millie, Acorn, and Hopper are (hopefully not) climbing up curtains right now. (Only 14 kittens left who are still in foster care … a far saner number than 50.)

Regarding cats, Reese, Addacat and Tony are all outgoing, fellow-cat-lovers who met their perfect matches.

That leaves just one small cat who's not outgoing, and who's intimidated by other animals, who quite unexpectedly found her perfect match, too. The featured adoptee this week is … Parka!

Parka is an eight-year-old gray Tabby with a vanishing temperament--by which I mean she seems to wish she were invisible. Permanently glued inside a deep cat bed, it was typical to see only the tips of Parka's ears. She was, in fact, so immobile, that at one point we became worried she'd lost the strength to walk.

Parka was relinquished to us in August because she was having a bad reaction to the dog in the home. Apparently, Parka became either scared or jealous of the dog as it grew to adulthood, because she started defacting along its common paths through the house. As you can imagine, such a situation is hardly sustainable.

Parka's former owner had taken her in five years ago as a stray. And she was already quite shy at that point. But what was Parka's story before that? She came to us with the oddest behaviors: she loved petting and asked for it, but pinned her ears and flinched each time a hand came near. She seemed too embarrassed to ever lift her tail or rise up higher than a crouch, and she often performed somersaults of pleasure when stimulated--when most cats would be standing with everything raised high in proud delight.

It was almost as if Parka felt she didn't deserve to be loved. She wanted it so badly, but was inwardly restrained to the point of shrinking muteness, with nothing but a beseeching look in her green eyes to hint at her feelings.

Parka was overlooked again and again in her Tokyo cage. And the months went by … August, September, October.  At the beginning of November, feline supervisor Kayla decided to stage an intervention. She was moved to a staff office, where we hoped she'd get more exercise and come out of her shell. She did both to some degree. Staff discovered the full extent of her hidden cuddliness, and though she spent most of the days sleeping in a drawer, we did sometimes catch her cruising the floor after hours. There was progress. But not on the adoption front. And now that Parka was living back in the administrative area, it was even less likely that she'd be noticed.

Another intervention at the start of December: Parka was moved to volunteer coordinator Shayla's office, just off the lobby. She's get seen there … right?

Last Thursday, a 90-year-old woman named Edwena emerged from a shuttle in our parking lot, and made her way into the shelter with the help of a walker. She had lost her cat Hannah two months earlier to old age, and sworn at the time that she'd never have another one. But, as she told adoption staff Amanda, "I'm just so lonely." Edwena had to have another cat. And she had her mind set upfront on one of two, whom she asked to meet. Amanda introduced her to both of the cats, and then helped her fill out an adoption form for either one. Edwena just wasn't sure, though, who it should be. She paused at the front desk to consider. And then her eye caught a sign our shelter manager, Allie, had made to make our vanishing cat a little more visible. "Looking for warmth?" it read. "Try a Parka!" Something about the sign struck Edwena, because she immediately asked Amanda, "Where's this Parka kitty?" Amanda led her to Shayla's office, where, in a moment of affection, Parka had forgotten her shyness and was somesaulting with happiness on Shayla's lap. "That's the kitty," Edwena announced. "Write it up!"

By this point, Edwena's shuttle had returned for her. I ran outside to ask the driver if he could wait ten minutes while Edwena had her exit interview. He graciously agreed. I sat with Edwena for a few minutes while Amanda drew up her paperwork. She told me about how much she loved cats, and how empty and quiet her home had been since Hannah left. She told me that Parka will love her apartment, because there's never any noise--except when the fire alarms were tested. "But I already know what I'll do," Edwena said. "I'll take her to Cats Vermont for the afternoon, and I'll go to the hospital and read. And then, at the end of the day, I'll bring my kitty home." Edwena's eyes welled up a bit. I could see that it felt good--right--for her to make plans involving a cat.

Parka's adoption fee was covered by Purina Pets for Seniors, which is an excellent program run by Purina that subsizes pet adoptions for the elderly. From Purina's website:
"Companionship offers a multitude of benefits. For senior citizens, it can contribute to a healthier outlook on life, promote a feeling of safety, and improve health, including lowering stress and blood pressure"
We are given $2000 a year by Purina to cover adoption fees for people like Edwena.

So we packed Parka up and set the box on Edwena's carrier, just between the handlebars. A perfect fit! The driver helped cat and woman aboard, and off they drove to their new life together. And so Parka--the vanishing kitty--was adopted to fill up a home. And Edwena found her conviction ... and her cat.

That's the good news this week.

Happy, happy holidays everyone!


Director, Development & Outreach

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Matter of Timing

This week's report: twenty-two animals adopted from our shelter in one week. With about fifty animals finding new homes just this month, we've had a whirlwind December thus far!

This tremendous success was dominated by the feline faction. Only one dog--Border collie mix Piper--found a forever home last week.

Even the smallie sector has the dogs beat! Gerbils Peanut & Pumpernickel went home together, as did hamsters Cayenne & Paprika. And we must acknowledge Fiona the bunny, who was fortunate enough to be a failed foster case (staff member Susie DiDonato took this bunny home the first day she arrived, named her Fiona, and refused to return her).

But the felines … You know, when we've got a lobby full of adorable kittens tumbling over each other and mewing piteously, it's truly remarkable that we adopted out an equal number of adult cats.

Fortunately, we found new homes for all but one of our nine kittens last week! Congrats to Magic (one of the ferals I wrote about last week), Helo, Nora, Orion, Athena, Moxy, Chief, and Starbuck! We've now got plenty of room for this week's deluge of cuteness.

And the adult cats? Gabby, Katie, Lucy, Chopper, Kenadie, Bailey, and Salem all went home.

That's only seven. The eighth cat is our featureed adoptee this week: Sammy!

Sammy arrived in mid-September, relinquished because his owner had to move to a new home that didn't allow pets. A three-year-old, long-haired, solid black, fiesty guy, Sammy is the type of kitty who's not reserved about his feelings. He let us know right away that he prefered not to socialize with his own kind … but he didn't feel much better about having to live by himself in a Tokyo cage, either.

                                                                              (Tokyo cage)
Sammy also did not like to be picked up. He wanted to come out of the cage during play time, but as soon as the solicited person lifted him out, he promptly protested with his teeth.

He's a kitty who knows what he likes (and doesn't). And there's nothing wrong with that, by us--because Sammy's preferences were always clear and consistent, allowing us to understand and predict his behavior (it's only when an animal's reactions seem totally inconsistent and unpredictable that we start to feel less safe around them).

Though discriminating, Sammy was also ever charming. He was always perky in his cage and engaged visitors, and when out of the cage, he loved meeting new people, running right up to them with fluffy tail lifted like a high-flying banner. (Unfortunately, this often encouraged said people to stoop and sweep him up--which they soon regretted).

As our Halloween black cat promotion came and went, and Sammy was one of the few remaining sable felines in our care, it started to look like he was going to be a tough adoption case. Especially when November had passed, too. What's more, his disapproval of Tokyo life was only increasing, and feline supervisor Kayla sent out a special call to staff and volunteers asking them to give Sammy extra time out of his cage. The last thing a fiesty guy needs is to become irritable on top of it.

Ironically (serendipitously?), his new companion person was spending time with him all along.

Claudia Walsh has volunteered at HSCC for five or so years now. An expert in morning animal care--cleaning, feeding, socializing, and tastefully refurbishing the living spaces of our available cats--Claudia shows up every single week to (above all) give the kitties moral support. She is an excellent interpreter of feline communication, has a special fondness for the "hairy" cats, and is adept at choosing the perfect color of blanket to best show off a kitty's coat. Because after all, the cats must be "ready for showtime"!

Claudia has volunteered in other ways, too. For example, last year, we decided it was about time to replace the lumpy, wrinkled, mismatched sheets we draped each Tokyo cage with (to give the cats privacy and a barrier from sneezed germs) with something fitted. Not only did the old system look sloppy and unprofessional, it was a pain in the neck to have to constantly clip and reclip the sheets in place as they inevitably slid off the cages. Claudia took the matter into her own hands. She raided our enormous store of shelter sheets, and came in the next week with a prototype that was simple and effective.


The following week, she organized a group of volunteers to help her cut sheets into "kits" to make construction of each cover more efficient. After that, week by week, she brought in more and more perfectly constructed, attractive, and FREE (aside from her time) cage covers. Not only has staff time been drastically reduced in awkward cage draping, our lobby now looks a lot more neat and tidy, and our cats have better health and privacy with perfectly-fitted covers.

Claudia is also a master quilter, and generously agreed to donate one of her creations to our recent Black Cat Soiree fundraising auction. Claudia made an absolutely beautiful piece for us--fittingly, a quilt with a cat pattern!--and her quilt attracted the most bids in the Soiree silent auction of any other item. In fact, it was the only item to go for MORE than its retail price!

Last Monday, Claudia arrived for morning animal care in tears. Her beloved Miss Lydia, faithful feline companion, had succumbed to chronic ailments over the weekend. We all felt like we knew Miss Lydia personally, as Claudia had aptly described her antics in colorful detail each week. It was easy to see that the thought of returning to an empty house was more than Claudia could bear.

Some people need time after a pet's death to decompress before adopting a new companion. Not Claudia. Where she recognized an opportunity to reach out to another animal in need, she took it immediately. That very day, Claudia scooped up Sammy (very carefully) and brought him home.

We've since heard about Sammy's transition in his new home. True to his discriminating nature, Sammy held his bladder for nearly 24 hours because he refused to use the type of litter Claudia prefers. (Obviously, this relationship will not be about what Claudia prefers!) Claudia, in fact, was forced to race out early the next morning to find exactly the same kind of litter Sammy had used here (plus a new litter box, of course). As soon as she poured the new litter, didn't Sammy run right in and relieve himself! Crisis averted. She also reported an initial snobbiness about food selection, but fortunately, that seems to be wearing off.

Thus we have a case of person and animal mutually meeting each others' needs. It's so often like that, isn't it? In the long two and a half months he was here, waiting optimistically in a little cage, Sammy's answer was right there all along, feeding, cleaning, and brushing him every Monday morning, practicing a bestowal of love that neither party yet realized was destined for a lifetime. It was simply a matter of timing. It's comforting to extend that concept to those animals who are still patiently waiting in small cages, glancing hopefully at those who pass by. It's just a matter of timing.

                                                    (Lucky waiting for her new home.)


Monday, December 5, 2011

From Shadow into Light

December already!

And the spirit of giving is well underway. Want proof? Nineteen more animals were given a second chance at happiness last week here at the shelter! That's about 1/5 of our entire population, and nearly 1/2 of the animals available for adoption! We'll take it.

Let's start with dogs: Smoochy, the Pom who was on WCAX last week, went home with a volunteer family. Seven-year-old Lab Jill is stray no longer, and another of the fuzzy pitties, Paige, has begun the adoption process with a Vet Tech who helped with her spay surgery. Finally, remember Payton--the Border Collie mix who found her confidence through tiny Beagle Copper (see last week's post)? She was adopted just a few days after Copper left by a sweet family who is head-over-heels for her.

Moving on to kittens, we moved lots of kittens! In fact, nine tiny mewers found new homes last week: Saffron & Sesame together; Chai, Oolong, Ceylon, Jasmine, Earl, Scooter, and Sneakers. Good thing, too: these were just the first nine of fifty kittens scheduled to return from foster care in the next week. We could use some help spreading the word about our kitten frenzy!

Finally, five cats are lounging in new living rooms as I type: Abby, Watson, Barnum, Lulu, and Buddha.

The sixth cat is not indoors. Shadow spent three and half weeks at the shelter, and was returned to his caretaker last week--to go live back outdoors. Shadow is a feral cat.

You may have seen our Facebook posts about the three feral kittens we've been socializing in staff offices. Tom (CEO) has one; Allison (shelter manager) has one; and I have one. They're all solid black, just like their father, Shadow.

Shadow's family lives on the streets of the Old North End. It consists of four kittens and the mom and dad--all completely black. Their coloring means that on the feral scale, they're about as far from domesticated as it gets. As cats in the wild reproduce, subsequent litters are born increasingly darker in color with each generation, as the population returns to its most camoflaged state.

We have a Trap-Neuter-Return program here at the shelter, led by our Humane Investigator, JoAnn Nichols. For feral cat colonies who have a caretaker (someone who feeds them regularly), JoAnn will trap as many cats as possible, have them spayed or neutered, and return them to their territory. This keeps population numbers down, and sustains the health of the colony. But JoAnn wasn't responsible for trapping Shadow and the kittens.

 In fact, there's a little old lady in the Old North End who frequently traps stray and feral cats and brings them to us. Somehow, she managed to coax Shadow and three of the four kittens into carriers--without even using traps! We'd have guessed that Shadow would be so feral, he'd have to simply be neutered and returned. But we found out that he and his family did belong to a caretaker--a younger woman who lives down the street from the little old lady--and this woman had developed a positive relationship with Shadow. So we decided to test his sociability by housing him in our Feline Supervisor's office.

As aforementioned, the three kittens were each assigned other staff offices. And staff was asked to spend as much time as possible with the kittens: petting them, holding them, talking to them. At five months old, these kittens were already well on the cusp of being too old to tame. But we wanted to try. And if we couldn't succeed, they could simply go back to their caretaker's property.

The kitten in my office, Grover, proved the hardest to convince. He spent the first few days huddled in his litterbox (or elsewhere in the office), not daring to move.

I didn't want to push him, but as Jen (Med Supervisor) and Kayla (Feline Supervisor) half-jokingly pointed out, we have to "fast track" feral kittens at the shelter. They each made a point of visiting my office at least once a day, removing the quaking Grover from his litter box, and hugging him to their chests. He never struggled to get away, even the first few times. And after just a couple of days, he began to emit a stingy purr.

Halfway through that first week, I was able to hand-feed Grover his breakfast, which was a huge step forward, as he was terrified of hands.

And by the end of the week, he was so relaxed in Jen's arms that he'd do a complete backbend over her forearm just so she could scratch his chin!

By the second week, all three kittens were happily cavorting in their respective offices even while people (and dogs!) were around.

Tom's kitten was totally in love with people already. Allison's kitten was mostly convinced. And Grover--though scared and hissy when anyone reached for him--turned miraculously affectionate when clasped to a chest. The decision was made that these three were adoptable. They were spayed and neutered and made available.

And so, Grover, Magic, and Raisin are waiting for new homes. Grover increasingly reveals his inner lovebug. Now, he delights in licking one's face and chewing on one's hair when held. He's ready to take on the big wide world of people outside of my little office.

Shadow, however, did not make the cut. In her assessment, Kayla wrote that Shadow loves to be pet, and gives vigorous cheek rubs. But he quickly becomes overstimulated and then confused … at which point, his behavior deteriorates into hissing, biting, and swatting. So Shadow went back to live out his days as a street cat--but a well tended-to street cat. When the caretaker came to pick Shadow up, she stopped by the administrative area to witness the progress the kittens had made. As you might imagine, she was delighted by the transformation.  

JoAnn (Humane Investigator) returned to the property today to set traps for Mama and the fourth kitten. She couldn't catch Mama, but the fourth kitten is now in our care, awaiting his turn at socializing. He's already been neutered and had his ear tipped, just in case we can't tame him. In TNRs, feral cats who are altered have the tips of their ears cut off, so they won't have to return to the vet in the case of future TNRs. JoAnn will try again to trap Mama. It's imperative Mama be spayed, because in just seven years, one female cat and her offspring can produce nearly 400,000 kittens. Yes, you read that right.

Shadow is no doubt happier today in his old stomping grounds. That's the difference between strays and ferals: stray cats are domesticated but homeless; ferals are wild, and their home is the outdoors. Grover, Magic, and Raisin have left the feral life behind. But we count their father as a success story, too. One less intact cat on the street is hundreds of thousands of fewer kittens being born into the feral life. Add to that up-to-date vaccinations and a committed caretaker, and we can rest easy about Shadow's future.

That's the good news this week. Take care, and please do stop by our Holiday Store at 198 College Street if you haven't visited yet!


Megan Stearns
Director, Development & Outreach

Monday, November 28, 2011

Copper Top Dog

Hello, fellow animal lovers!

I trust you all had lovely Thanksgivings. We're still grateful about the fact that ten formerly homeless animals are now home for the holidays following last week's adoptions, and we hope to add many more to that list between now and the year's end!

Speaking of Home Fur the Holidays, don't miss this Saturday's benefit event, held at Play Dog Play! A bevy of fantastic local pet-themed vendors are signed up to sell their wares (including pet portrait sessions with Mountain Dog Photography, and dog photos with Santa by Northern Greyhound Adoptions!), and 25% of all earnings will be donated to HSCC. Heck, our volunteers are even rolling up their sleeves for a benefit dog wash. Come visit us at 668 Pine Street between 10 & 4 on Saturday.

And now, without further ado, the lucky kitties this week are: Juniper, Kanga, Buddha, Davey and Richard.

And the pooches: siblings Marley and Lua (Bichon-Yorkie mixes) each found new homes, as did Della (Pit bull) and Josie (Golden retriever).

And this week's featured adoptee? … Copper!

Copper is a miniature Beagle. Never heard of a mini Beagle? Neither had we! And yet when all 12 pounds of him arrived with the Colchester ACO (Animal Control Officer), we didn't know what else to call him.

We aged this long-earned wanderer at seven years old, and yet his size wasn't the only puppy-like thing about him. He had absolutely no manners. No training, no house-breaking, no sense of boundaries in a home. It quickly seemed evident to us that this dog may have been either kenneled or tied out most of his life. A seven-year-old dog with no house manners? How well would that bode for adoption?

But Copper was puppy-like in positive ways, too. He was insatiably curious, playful … and a total comedian. Staff chuckled at Copper's antics in his shelter kennel. Daintily lipping at his toys, he'd gently pick one up with just his front teeth--only to shake it mercilessly with a toothy snarl. His quirks in the dog yards had staff rolling with laughter. Copper just LOVED other dogs, and his favorite thing to do was launch his tiny body into the air, land on all four feet on another dog's back, and bounce off again as if leaping from a spring board. The other dog was always far too baffled by this behavior to get offended.

And so, despite the daily accidents in his kennel; his propensities to surf countertops, bolt out doors, and impolitely jump in greeting; his total lack of even basic formal training; Copper won the affections of staff and canine kennel mates alike. One dog, in particular, developed a fondness for Copper. And through their friendship, we gained an even deeper sense of Copper's informal talents.

Payton is a striking black and white Border-Collie mix who is so shy around strangers that it took her relinquisher six weeks to catch this stray girl in a have-a-heart trap, in order to bring her to us. Once here, Payton presented an aloof and skeptical demeanor that required an abundance of cheese and patience simply to coax her to take food from one's hand. Over a few weeks at the shelter, Payton did reach a level of comfort with staff that allowed us to pet her slowly and gently. But cuddly she was not. Payton has been very loathe to trust people.

Somehow, Copper got through to her. Perhaps the difficult backgrounds they came from allowed them to relate; perhaps they attracted each other as opposites often do. Whatever the case, the serious and reserved Payton ultimately fell for Copper the joker. And Peyton's love for him gave her the courage to grow.

First, she began to exhibit playfulness. Animal care and adoptions (ACA) staff person Cara loved to watch the pair play hide and seek in the yard. Payton would hide under the doghouse, and Copper, upon spotting her there, would run excited laps around the structure until she popped out and nipped his back legs out from underneath him.

Eventually, Payton's burgeoning boldness extended to people. ACA staffer Amanda could hardly contain herself one afternoon as she described a scene in which Payton was in the classroom meeting volunteers for the first time. Payton wanted absolutely nothing to do with these new people. Copper was brought into the room, and he characteristically jumped into a lap and began to cuddle. All of a sudden, Amanda watched in amazement as Payton trotted right over to a volunteer and climbed into his lap! Bingo!

From then on, whenever visitors wanted to meet Payton, Copper was brought along with her. As Copper greeted new people with friendliness and trust, Payton followed suit, casually sniffing hands she otherwise would have run from.

Last Tuesday, a woman came in to meet Copper. She was drawn to Copper's playfulness, as her 11-year-old son wanted a dog he could play ball with. Copper's less appealing traits were carefully explained to her: the fact that he would require lots of careful attention (and probably cleaning up after) as he acclimated to a life indoors. But all she could see were his positive qualities--and the rest just didn't matter. Copper went home the next day.

As happy as we are for Copper, the thought of Payton losing a friend does give sad pause. And yet, his good influence lives on. She now relies on other dogs to show her the way when greeting new guests. And a lot of the self-confidence Copper inspired in Payton has stuck permanently.

We were able to give a seven-year-old dog with no manners a second chance. Copper capitalized on it. And then helped a kennel mate with no confidence make the most of her second chance. Just goes to show that sometimes the best leaders come in the least assuming packages.

That's the good news this week!

Until the next round of successes,

Megan Stearns
Director, Development & Outreach

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dupton's Redemption


I'm writing you hot on the heels of a very successful Black Cat Soiree last Saturday night. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of staff, our board, and our volunteers, the FlynnSpace was transformed into a splendor of lights and the event proceeded without a hitch. Incredibly, we raised over $15,000 in profit--a huge success for our animals! A large portion of that ($2500) was donated by Burnett Scrap Metals of Hinesburg, so we owe them a big thanks, too!

We have two more fundraising opportunities quickly approaching: Home Fur the Holidays on Saturday, December 3rd, which is an all-day event at Play Dog Play (Pine Street) with pet-themed vendors and holiday pet portrait sessions; and our 2nd Annual HSCC Holiday Store! This year, we'll be at 198 College Street (formerly Downtown Discs). Our grand opening is Thursday, December 1st at 11 a.m. We're still accepting donations of gift wrap and items to sell (any sort of new gifty-type things for people or pets is great). Please let us know if you'd like volunteer for either event!

And now for the beneficiaries of your generosity: the animals. Ten animals found new homes last week!

To begin with dogs, three of the Pit Bull/Border Collie mixes I wrote about last week (remember Alfie?) went home just as quickly as Alfie did upon becoming available: Simon, Piglet, and Pablo. Rocky, a large Mastif-Lab mix (of "big dog in a little basket" fame) also found a new family; as did Gunner, a Black Lab who patiently tolerated six weeks in medical isolation while overcoming suspicious skin troubles.

The cats also boasted five adoptions: Kaiser, Sukie, Snowflake, Bryn--and the featured adoptee … Dupton!

Dupton is a good example of why it's important to think long-term about pets. This black beauty belonged an elderly couple who had to transition into a nursing home. The wife moved first, leaving Dupton with her husband. When it the time came for the husband to follow, he brought Dupton to us. The trouble was, he was now facing memory loss. He couldn't remember what vet Dupton had been to in her six years, or where her records were. He couldn't remember if she likes small children, or other particulars about her behavior. There was very little he could fill us in on, in fact--which made it difficult to construct a profile for a potential new family. Most puzzling of all, nearly all of the fur on Dupton's hind half was missing, which he couldn't explain, either. After ruling out medical cause, we ultimately attributed the hair loss to severe stress. What was this cat dealing with emotionally, and how could we help?

The first two weeks here, Dupton was a shy, nervous, hissy mess. When she still hadn't improved after those two weeks, our Medical Supervisor prescribed composure formula to be mixed in with her meals (supposed to have a calming effect), and moved her into her own office. Immediately, Dupton turned around. She was still mostly shy, and preferred to hide, but with a little coaxing she released her bottled-up affection in a frenzy of cheek rubbing, purring, and drooling. Most promising of all, Dupton's fur began to fill in again.

One month into her stay here, Dupton was finally made available for adoption in our lobby. She was a given a Tokyo cage and a cube-like bed to hide in. Though she'd made a ton of progress since moving into Jen's office, the Morning Animal Care volunteers noticed right away that she needed more work, and scheduled additional time to come in and shower her with love. Dupton continued to make strides. Her hidey bed was replaced with a normal bed that made her more visible, and Dupton began to engage visitors outside of her cage.

Last Tuesday, a very sweet older man who had just lost a cat (an HSCC alum, no less!) to old age came in looking for a black kitty. He lived alone and was feeling lonely. Animal Care & Adoptions (ACA) matchmaker Amanda suggested Dupton. He agreed to meet her. Would Dupton revert to nervous shyness out of her Tokyo cage--her safety zone--with a stranger?

Not at all. In fact, once Dupton met this man, she wouldn't leave him alone! She was in his lap, in his face, purring away--and didn't want him to go! The next thing we knew, this man was filling out paperwork. She was the one, he announced. And such a dainty, refined cat, he felt, that the name Dupton would never do. He would change her name to Midnight. ACA staff woman Cara handled the adoption, and said that it was an emotional experience for both of them. The man's eyes welled up as he talked about losing his wife a few years ago, and then his cat just a week earlier … he was ready for a new companion. And thereby, this little, black, half-bald cat who'd been nearly forgotten had suddenly become someone's all. 

And Dupton--Midnight--was ready for a new home. We'd worried that without background information, we might not know what sort of family to match Dupton with--but she knew all along. Isn't that so often the way?

That's the good news this week. Thanks again for an amazing Soiree, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We certainly have a lot to be grateful for here at the shelter :)


Monday, November 14, 2011

Fuzzy Pitties

Good evening!
Let's start with the smallies today. Since animal care & adoptions staff person Cara agreed to take on the additional responsibilities of Small Animal Coordinator, our small animal program has made tremendous strides. We're mostly dog and cat focused, as you've likely noticed, and the smallies had really fallen by the wayside. Limited by space, staff resources, small animal accoutrements, and even knowledge about these critters, we had a waiting list of folks seeking to relinquish their bunnies, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice, etc. that was pages and pages long. People on that list had literally been waiting for as long as a year to bring their animals to us. Hardly a service to the community, huh? Cara was handed that list last January, and began to systematically tackle it--with measurable results. Though there's still a long wait (we're still in need of gerbil cages, for instance!), most folks are able to relinquish their animals within a couple of months. And boy has Cara embraced the opportunity to bulk up on her smallie expertise! She's attended conferences, is constantly reading new articles, and has updated all of the information packets for adopters and staff. Feels like we're finally able to do these little guys justice. Our latest smallie adoption success is Basil the black bunny, who was a stray found in Winooski. Basil had a great time while he was here, and went home with his new family on Saturday.

We had only two kittens on the adoption floor this week, and they got to go home together: Toad & Muffin.

These cats all found new homes:
Izzy (a rotund black cat who had been here for a looong time. She finally went home with a couple who was very excited about her on Tuesday.)
Callie & Tilla together

On to the dogs! Robyn, our Canine Supervisor, had been feeling a bit glum about the decrease in dog adoptions lately. While our canine population is no longer at the overwhelming size it was a month ago (over 30 dogs!), our usually fast dog adoption rate has been quite sluggish. Well … not this week! We sent seven dogs home between Tuesday and Saturday, including the last two Labs from the Bakersfield puppy mill:

Jupiter (Lab)
Drake (Lab)
Petula (Lab)
Duncan (pit bull)
Shadow (Lab)
Piglet (pit bull mix)

And our featured adoptee: Alfie!

Alfie came from a local hoarding situation with five other dogs like him. An odd cross between a pit bull and a border collie, these dogs range from funny-looking to unspeakably adorable (see Alfie's photo), and are best described as fuzzy pitties.

When our Humane Investigator found them, they were being kept in small pens outside, ankle-deep in feces, with no bedding. They were infested with fleas, and their skin showed the ravages of flea bites in scabs and missing fur. Their ears were badly infected. They had coxidia. Alfie was quite underweight. And they were extremely undersocialized.

In fact, they did not want to leave those pens. When rescuers pulled them out, they refused to walk, dropping flat to the ground in fear. It was much the same when they came to the shelter. Staff had a tricky time moving them from their kennels to the outdoor yards, and upstairs. For a long while, the dogs had to be carried around the shelter. But Robyn and the rest of the staff provided an abundance of love, patience, and encouragement. And Robyn says that despite the conditions they grew up in, these dogs carry no resentment towards people. They are all remarkably sweet tempered, and eager to learn.

We were quick to notice that in Alfie. Robyn brought him to the administrative area one morning to give him additional socialization. At first, Alfie skulked and fled when we tried to approach him. By crouching low, staying still and quiet, dropping our eyes to the floor and offering an abundance of cheese, however, he soon came around. Before long, Alfie was one of our favorite dogs to visit with. Calm, respectful, and snuggly, he prefered to always be by someone's side. Alfie was quickly promoted to the adoption floor, where he was noticed by a lovely woman who has previous experience training dogs. This woman was very excited about the opportunity to continue cultivating Alfie's adjustment to the big wide world. And what an excellent ambassador for "bully dogs" everywhere!

From a flea-ridden, underweight, timid creature, to the bright and companionable dog he is today, we were fortunate to watch Alfie blossom in our care.  That's a funny thing about sheltering: animals who had it pretty bad before they came to the shelter tend to do the best here--not just in physical improvements, but mentally, too. It's like they know this is a new and better beginning for them, and are grateful. Humanity could take a lesson from their ability to simply move on from adversity.

That's it for this week. Hope to see many of you at the Soiree on Saturday!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Serendipitous Siamese

Happy November!

We've started the month off with a bang, placing no less than 17 animals in new homes last week.

Let's start with the smallies. Louise and Patch, guinea pig life partners, went home with a VERY excited nine-year-old girl who had been told that she was now deemed responsible enough to adopt.

In dog land, Zoey (terrier mix) and Buster (Jack Russel mix) united with new forever families.

And six kittens went home!: Taurus, Orion, Polaris, Aurora, and orange tigers Sunny & Cloudy together.

But the cats take the fishcake for adoptions this week:
Burly & Hazen together

and the featured adoptees: Cleo and Cassanova!

You know, from an outside perspective, it's easy to condemn those who relinquish their animals to a shelter. If we can't imagine doing it ourselves, we might assume that the motivations of those who do so are less than loving. But the truth is, the majority of our relinquishers are in extremely difficult situations. For many of them, this is a last resort. And those owners are absolutely heartbroken to have to say goodbye.

Cleo and Cassanova's relinquishment was one of those cases.

A pair of purebred seal point Siamese, Cleo and Cass are astounding beauties. They sport matching tawny coats with dark chocolate faces, ears, paws, and tails--and brilliant blue eyes. The owner had purchased them separately a year apart, each at a very young age, and had taken impeccable care of them for four years. The cats were insperably bonded. Life would have blissfully continued like this--cats and owner all lovingly attached--except that this woman suffered a devastating stroke, and found herself unable to care for them. With tears and a palpable sadness that made our adoption counselor's heart ache, she turned them over to us.   

If only we could have told her then that she need not worry. The cats did have a tough time at first; Cassanova, especially, was very shy, and didn't want to come out of his hidey bed. But feline supervisor Kayla housed them together in one of our larger cages, and this certainly helped them adjust. Both kitties proved to be just as affectionate as they are graceful, and they arrived on the adoption floor last Tuesday.

Where they didn't remain for long. One of our volunteers had heard about the pair, and was ready and waiting to pounce as soon as they became available. She did! They went home on Wednesday--not here long enough to even make it to our website.

What's so incredible about this adoption, though, is that Cleo and Cass must have been fated from birth to receive royal treatment. The volunteer who adopted them has a very special job here: every Thursday morning, Carol comes in and assesses our most difficult feline cases. Using a thorough checklist of "tests," she selects our shyest, most mal-adjusted cats, and gets to know them. One at a time, she pulls these tricky cases from their cages or rooms, brings them into a small and quiet space, and sits silently with them until they're ready to engage. Sometimes they never do become ready, and Carol has to return to them the next week. But by the end of each completed session, she has a full profile on what makes these cats tick. I have long admired Carol's unending patience, gentleness, and quiet intuitiveness about these animals, and her assessments have played a large role in helping us find the right matches for our cats. No doubt Cleo and Cassanova are basking in the same standard of loving care that they enjoyed in their last home. Their previous owner could not have asked for her loves to wind up in better hands.
I received an update from Carol the other day:

I wish the previous owner could know that her dynamic duo is doing well, and will be loved and cared for no matter what. Amazing how this all worked out for us.

When our new cats are out free in the condo it's like having double vision--every time I turn around there are two cats--two cats jump up on the toilet after I raise the seat, two cats jump up on the counter when I'm at the sink, two cats go into the kitchen when I do, two cats go for every door that is opened and every drawer that is opened. Wow, they are a curious duo! Their names are now Tango, the male, and Jazz, the female. ~ Carol

Don't you just love perfect matches?

That's the good news here. To view our animals who are still waiting for forever homes, or to support the work we do, please visit our website: Thank you!