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!