Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Angora Allure-a

As we say goodbye to January, we bid adieu to eleven animals, too!

That number may not be as high as what we're used to from December, but it's actually quite a large percentage of our current population, because we're feeling quite empty right now! We've got maybe 15 cats, three dogs, and one guinea pig available. You should see our lobby.

There are usually lots of cats here ... 

Handsome has a room all to himself!

That's about to change, however. Firstly, we've got a lot of cats scheduled to come in in February. Secondly, our canine supervisor, Robyn, will drive to New Hampshire this weekend to meet a transport of young dogs from South Carolina who are being pulled from a high-intake municipal shelter. This shelter receives around 5500-6000 animals every year (by comparison, we take in about 800 a year, and that number is carefully controlled by our intake-by-appointment-only policy, to avoid overcrowding). According to Robyn, the overcrowding they do experience results in 95% of the animals they receive having to be euthanized for lack of space. We're happy to help them lighten that load just a tiny bit ... 

Back to the good news. Fuzzy pittie Dodger (the last of the batch of fuzzy pitties!) found a forever home this week, and his mom has since let us know over Facebook that he's aptly named (he's proven to be quite artful): "Today he has learned how to escape 2 stacked gates, and also how to open a heavy fire-rated door with the lever handle ... and it's not even 2 pm!"

Dodger climbing a ladder to raid his treat stash!

One kitten found a new home: Stevie. As did our last bunny pair: Oreo & Samoa!

Seven cats found new homes! Grover, our last transformed feral kitten, was officially welcomed into a life of domesticity by a smitten young couple. Both Fraidy and Carrie ended their stay on the adoption floor after just a couple of days, and we had another black cat adoption with Sid. Lovely, shy tiger Kylee stole a heart, and two seniors found new homes: Oreo (age 9) and … our featured adoptee … Mya (age 8)!


Mya is remarkable in many ways. A lovely Angora, she sports a diluted pink and gray coat, which is nicely set off by her distinctive sap green eyes. And her personality is just as lovely: Mya is outgoing, confident, and sociable with people--and positively enthralled with dogs. But this sweet cat had a long haul here, due first to litter box issues, and secondly to chronic asthma.

Mya was relinquished by her owner in September. She had found Mya as a stray and taken her in to a home that already included a lot of animals: cats, dogs, a ferret, a lizard. When a visit to the vet revealed that Mya had asthma, the owner could no longer afford her care. Furthermore, Mya was having a hard time managing the other animals in the home, who weren't always nice to this newcomer.

It became immediately clear that Mya had trouble with the litter box. By the second day at the shelter, she had gone outside of it, and it happened several more times before we were able to move her into a litter box testing zone (for whatever reason, we've found ourselves up to our elbows in "pee cats" lately: cats who exhibit inconsistent box use. With only four testing zone kennels (and a mandated two-week period in the zone, at least), our pee cats have lately had to wait their turns). By this point, our medical supervisor, Jen, had discovered crystals in her urine (can cause a urinary tract infection in cats, which would definitely cause inconsistent box use). She switched Mya's diet to u/r (prevents crystal formation in the urine) and started her on amoxi to quell an infection. Often, cats develop crystals in their urine when stressed. And from the sound of Mya's contentious relationship with the other animals in her previous home, there's a strong likelihood that stress was the culprit.

This is a good time to mention that Jen and I recently attended a nutrition seminar presented by Drs. Kessler and Berger of Affectionately Cats (Williston). They have groundbreaking new findings on feline nutrition, and the lecture was quite eye-opening. We hope to host them at HSCC in March for a free seminar for the public, so I won't relate everything, but a keystone of their hypothesis is that dry food is the cause of the top three feline medical issues seen by vets (UTI, Gastristis, renal disease). Our house cats descended from wild cats who lived in desert environs, so their bodies are built to store water. Because of this, they don't have high thirst drives (if your cat is in good health, you don't see him/her at the water bowl very often). Take the fact that they don’t drink much, and add it to a diet of dehydrated food … and you get dehydrated cats. This leads to all sorts of issues, particularly with flow and sediment build-up in the urinary tract. To make a long story short, these findings have led the vets to reconsider the usual prescribed UTI dry diets of u/r and c/d. They contend that simply giving the cat a totally wet-food diet would resolve urinary issues. We are taking all of this into consideration as well, here at the shelter. Of course, we're also having to work within a restricted budget.

Back to Mya: in accord with the previous owner's report of asthma, we did notice frequent bouts of coughing and wheezing. Jen started her on prednisone to calm inflammation in her airways, and recommended that she go to a smoke-free home and use a very low-dust litter.

After a full month in the zone, Mya's litter box issues cleared up, thank goodness, and she finally made it out to the adoption floor two months after her arrival, in mid-November. Despite her asthma, special diet, and senior status, we assumed that such a unique-looking cat would get a lot of interest. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

Mya went unnoticed through the rest of November, December, and January. Her coughing seemed to increase with her length of stay in the Tokyo cage. We were careful to try to get her out more often for exercise, and loved watching her interact with our shelter manager's big German Shepherd when she visited the administrative area. She frequently rubbed on his baby gate, inviting a hello. She also quickly became a favorite among the volunteers for her warm personality. Yes, she had a lot working against her. But she had so much more working for her …

Finally, last week, a couple came in whose daughter had worked at HSCC in the past and is starting vet school this fall. They have three senior dogs: a collie and two beagles. And apparently those dogs just love cats. In describing what Mya's life would be like in their home, they wrote, "Our house sprawls and there are cat toys and a cat tower and catnip and dogs and plenty to see. Sunny windows, too." Sounds pretty perfect, no? They were immediately struck by Mya's sweet nature, but a little nervous about their fireplace: would that cause an asthma attack?

It was determined that Mya would go with them on a foster-to-adopt basis: they could have a one-week trial run with her. As we said goodbye to Mya on Tuesday, we crossed our fingers and toes that this home would be the one.The very next day, we received an email from the adopters, entitled, "Mya's first night--splendid!" They reported,

"Just a quick update to let you know that Mya is doing great, seems incredibly happy, is very social & affectionate.  She had one brief coughing episode late last night and another this morning around 7:15, but neither one lasted long - less severe than the one we experienced on Saturday while visiting with her.

She has taken up all of my previous cat's favorite perches, including sleeping next to me on the bed.  She is anxious to explore more of the house, so she'll get expanded territory tonight.

So far, so good!"

Today is the decision day: adopt, or return? We've heard nothing else yet, but are taking that as a good sign. From life as a stray (and who knows what before that), to bad relations with other animals in the home, to transitioning to shelter life, having trouble with the litter box and dealing with asthma … to a rambling, sunny house with people who are just as warm as she is, and all the canine companionship she could wish for. Keep your fingers crossed with us!**

That's the good news this week.

More good news to follow soon (you'll see) … !


**UPDATE on Mya: She's been adopted for good! With a $70 donation over and above her adoption fee! Congrats, Mya, for finding such fantastic people :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Thousand Words of Love

It takes a lot of talent to photograph animals well.

Those of us who whip out the camera each time our beloved cat or dog pulls a cute stunt, know that. As our smart phones quickly fill up with shot after botched shot of blurry, under-exposed, half-in-the-frame animals, we sigh … and then realize we're now half an hour late for whatever productive thing we're supposed to be doing.

Better to leave it to Kelly Schulze, really. The photographic phenom behind Mountain Dog Photography, Kelly and her husband Ian know what the heck they're doing when it comes to successfully capturing an animal's appeal. 

The photographs of our shelter animals prove it. The quality of an animal's portrait really can determine how quickly that animal finds a new home (if at all, in some shelters), and Kelly's work maximizes our animals' potential for alluring adoptive hearts.

Many of us are familiar with author Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule, which asserts that success in any field is achieved after 10,000 hours of practice (Outliers). It seems Kelly's burgeoning success at such a relatively young age confirms that: she grew up with camera in hand, spending her childhood taking, as she puts it, "really bad pictures of my pets" (she can relate to us!). Her interest in photography got a major boost when she joined the Living/Learning program at UVM, and was housed in the Art of Photography suite, gaining 24/7 access to a darkroom.  

She also grew up working with animals. Throughout high school and continuing into college breaks, Kelly and her sister worked at a shelter in New Milford, CT, where she "did everything": caring for cats, walking dogs, nursing sick animals, grooming, helping with adoptions. As college graduation loomed and she had to choose a career path, she quickly ruled out photography in lieu of working with animals. "I thought professional photographers are like actors," Kelly says. "You had to know someone--have connections--to make it." So she earned a living as a milk tester at local dairy farms.

But while on the job, Kelly often witnessed inhumane treatment of cows. And rather than become desensitized to it (like she assumed she would), she found herself increasingly less tolerant of the abuse. It wasn't long before she realized that working directly with animals--rescue work, grooming, milk testing--would inevitably lead to burn out for her. Which brought her love of photography back into focus.

By 2009, Kelly couldn't ignore the fact any longer that photographing animals was the perfect marriage of her two greatest passions. Furthermore, after doing some research, she discovered that a handful of photographers were actually making a living at animal portraiture! That was enough to convince her to take the leap. She  formed her business, Mountain Dog Photography, that very year. The plan was to pursue it only part time for several years while she built a client base, but by May of 2010, Kelly had had enough of the dairy industry. She left for good six months later, and has been pursuing her business full time ever since.

Kelly's involvement with HSCC began in 2009, too. She had long been missing volunteer work, but felt the shelter had plenty of dog walkers and cat socializers. She wanted to contribute in a unique way. So she stopped by with some 5"x7" snapshots, and two weeks later, the then Executive Director called her back. After an informal interview, Kelly agreed to begin photographing the shelter animals on a volunteer basis every week … and it's continued ever since. When asked if she had any initial sense that she would become such an integral part of the adoption process, Kelly said no. "It was just something I knew I wanted to do. And now, I can't imagine it ever ending."

Kelly and Ian come to the shelter every Thursday morning to photograph that week's newly available cats, dogs, and smallies. She usually sends the finished products by Thursday afternoon--and staff is always excited to see them. Commentary on favorite portraits is a frequent topic of conversation among staff.

I captured a recent session, and took footage of three very different cats. These sessions further attest to the unique individualities of animals: their introversion or extraversion; confidence or shyness; attractions and repulsions; sense of humor or gravity; goofiness or refinement. You'll notice in these videos (rough as they are--more bad camera work with the cell phone!) how adept Ian has become at holding the animals' attention. What also struck me was how well this husband-wife couple work as a team. Kelly gently directs, and Ian happily complies.
First up was Moon, a six-year-old female. As you'll see, try as Ian might to woo her with the Da Bird cat toy, all she could think about were the treats in his hand.

Moon lost concentration and got somewhat riled up, so Kelly demonstrated how she gets cats to sit calmly.

Next up was Zen, a three-year old female. As you'll see, she's aptly named. Kelly quickly realized that a "flop" pose would be best for Zen, and Ian attempted to arrange her accordingly.

This cat was not into treats or toys, but a scruff massage made her relax and give Kelly a Zen expression …

Last up was Peaches, an eight-year-old female. Though the oldest of the bunch, she's the most kittenish! Peaches was all about the Da Bird, and gave Kelly photographic gold.

And then we got to see Peaches' softer side …

And now, without further ado, the end results … !




Okay, so be honest: how many of you are ready to adopt at least one of these fabulous felines based solely on what you see in the photos?

I prove my point.

Kelly and Ian, from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU.

Ian and Kelly Schulze

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Bronx Tale

Hello there!

We're still walking on air around here after a week flush with good feeling! We're just stunned by how much our community cares about animals.

On Wednesday, JoAnn responded to a call about neglected chickens. Upon investigation, she found that 30 chickens, two ducks, and two rabbits had been left to their own devices with totally insufficient food and water. The woman's husband had died, and she had moved off the property and mostly given up caring for them. JoAnn was able to find immediate placement for all but eight chickens, and didn't know what she was going to do with these last birds. We discussed temporarily housing them at the shelter, but didn't want them to acclimate to indoor temps, and realized our dog yards were not predator proof.  JoAnn suggested we could maybe ask for help on Facebook? We decided to give it a shot … and the response was tremendous. The post was widely shared across Facebook by individuals and other rescue organizations, and by the end of the day we had 16 options for foster care or permanent placement. The widespread public interest inspired a brilliant thought for JoAnn: Could she develop a network of foster/permanent homes for future livestock investigation cases--a list of contacts to call in such situations? We made a second ask, and the public said yes. JoAnn now has a sizeable network of safe havens for rescued livestock. (THANK YOU, community!) Incidentally, the chickens are now happily roosting at the home of a young couple who had seen the Facebook post--with the exception of one rooster, who was relocated to the farm of one of our staff member's parents.

This rescued rooster went to Wolf Hollow Farm in New York

Secondly, we kicked off two sorely needed cat promotions on Friday.  Our adoption floor has become increasingly saturated with black cats and senior cats. In fact, half of the population was black, and half was senior (yes, there was some crossover there). We published a blog on why black cats and senior cats are least likely to get adopted, and created "Black Fridays" and "Senior Moments." Our Senior Moments promo will extend until February 4th, and offers cats aged 7+ for 50% of the usual adoption fee (just $30!). Black Fridays will continue until our black cat population has been drastically depleted. As you may have guessed, the adoption fees for black cats are reduced by 50% every Friday.

The great news here is that two senior cats (Kona, age 7, and Nala, age 7) were adopted, and five black cats were adopted (Emma, Sid, Violet, Bella, and Miss Muffet) since our promos began on Friday! We also can't forget to mention Oakie, who is neither senior nor sable, but was here for a VERY long time before finding an excited family with three happy young children on Friday.

Three kittens found new homes: sisters Bonnie & Betsey went home with the aforementioned Bella (yes, three cats adopted at once by the same family!), and the adorable buff-colored Caramel went home.

Two rabbits also found new homes this week: Quincey and Mel.


We have no new dog adoptions to report, but then again, our dog population is extremely low right now: we've only got nine dogs in house!

That said, we have a wonderful dog story to tell. Bronx's adoption happened the week previous to last, but we felt we couldn't let it slip by untold.

Bronx is a one-year-old Boster Terrier mix with the amusing self-importance and Napoleonic swagger typical of his breed. Staff quickly fell in love with his inquisitive persona, his zest for life, and the fact that he talked with his ears.


Bronx was relinquished at the end of November because his owner had to serve in the military. He came to us in good health, but with some handling sensitives (doesn't like his feet touched), nippy-ness, and reactivity to other dogs.

Bronx was unendingly cute, and we knew he'd appeal to lots of people, but his home would have to be very specific. We ruled out children under the age of 13 because of his nippy behavior, and stated that he needed a high-energy family to really thrive. Unfortunately, most of the people who spotted him on the web saw an adorable little dog and looked no further. They came to the shelter expecting a low-energy lap dog, and were rather astonished to meet instead a busy little inquisitor who thought he was thrice his size. They quickly changed their minds.

Until one day, a woman came in who thought the real Bronx might be just perfect. She and her husband had another dog named Earl--a Lab/Cattle Dog mix who was similarly high energy and looked remarkably similar to Bronx in size and coloration. That similarity--superficial as it was--struck the woman as the first sign that Bronx might be the right dog for them. She met him in our adminitrative area, and loved him immediately. Bronx ran back and forth on business, sniffing here, looking there, his ears deftly communicating each thought with delicate twitches and nuanced swivels … and the woman's heart melted. She snapped some photos of him with her phone (difficult to do with Bronx in constant motion) to share with her husband, choked up a bit about having to leave, and promised to be in touch.

She returned to fill out paperwork for Bronx on January 3rd, and returned on the 4th with her husband and Earl for a dog introduction. We always conduct dog introductions between adoptive families and the potential new adoptee, just to rule out any surprises. In Bronx's case, it was especially imperative, because he simply doesn't approve of many dogs. This couple seemed perfect--they had asked all the right questions, and had the busy lifestyle to keep Bronx exercised and entertained--but would Bronx deign to accept Earl?

The day of the introduction, Earl and his family waited in the administrative area. Bronx was formally presented, and … he caught sight of Earl and barked. Everyone held their breath … and then suddenly they were playing, chasing each around and around the room in manic glee! It was brotherly love. As we watched this amazing exception to Bronx's rule of dog reactivity, we felt this match must be fated in the stars. But the decision wasn't final yet.

The couple needed time to think. They just didn't know if they were ready to add a second hyper dog to their lives. They would be out of town for the next ten days … and there was a very good chance that Bronx might find another home before then. The woman sighed. "If it's really meant to be, it will be," she said. For the third time, they left.

We anxiously waited as the ten days dragged on and other people came in to meet Bronx. We wanted him to end his shelter stay as quickly as possible, but we were also pulling for Earl's family to adopt him. It had just seemed so … right.

Friday the 13th proved a fateful day for Bronx. The woman called and said they had decided. First thing Saturday morning, Earl and his parents returned. They took Bronx up to the play yard with Earl, and watched them race around together. The woman explained that she felt she had gotten several more signs about adopting Bronx over the week: for instance, she met a woman at a dog park who said she was going to name her new rescue dog Bronx. Mostly, however, she'd come to the conclusion that she just didn't want to leave the shelter again without him. The man swung Bronx up into his arms, and in an unusual moment, Bronx relaxed, his paws draped languidly over the man's forearms. He wasn't going anywhere, his placid ears seemed to say. Joining this family was his main point of business.

After the exit interview, Bronx donned his new harness and leash and trotted out the doors at a self-assured clip, with nary a look back. As Earl happily fell into step with him, we thanked the universe for making this union "be."

That's the good news this week. Stay warm!



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Black Fridays and Senior Moments

A black cat and a senior cat walked into a shelter … and several months later, they still hadn’t left.

Juniper, age 14

Thunder, age 8

Here at HSCC, we see the same trends in cat adoptions that are consistent nationwide: black cats and senior cats are at the greatest disadvantage for finding new homes. Now, we realize we're probably preaching to the choir. No doubt many of you reading this post are diehard cat lovers who have found unforgettable companionship with both black and senior cats (after all, young cats become seniors).
Alphonse, age 8
But judging from the fact that 11 of our 24 current feline adoption candidates are black, and a full half of the 24 are seniors, it’s clear that biases exist. In the case of senior cats, it’s a little easier to understand. Older cats are generally more prone to illnesses, which may result in larger costs upfront at the vet. Furthermore, most adopters are looking to invest in long-term companionship rather than a few years of friendship. Lastly, senior cats are usually less engaging at the shelter, and therefore less tempting to adopt. Young cats are active in their living spaces—drawing attention—and tend to put themselves forward; whereas older cats often find the environment overwhelming, and hit the shut-off switch in an afternoon nap.

Stout, age 6
The dearth of adoptions of black cats, however, is a bit more puzzling. It’s a well-known fact among cat afficiandos that sable kitties tend to be the most outgoing, vocal, athletic, and personable of the domestic felines. Of course, we can’t generalize across the board; every cat is an individual. But for all of the hundreds of cats that come through our shelter, we’ve noticed a definite pattern: black cats have personality to spare.

So where’s the missing link? Psychology offers up a theory: because the color black absorbs more light than lighter hues, the human eye can’t make out facial features of black animals as distinctly. We feel less of a connection to faces we can’t see as well. Alternately, there’s the old superstition that black cats are bad luck.

Or perhaps it comes down to simple aesthetics: a gleaming, jet black coat just isn’t as appealing?  
Whatever the reason(s), the bias against black animals is so ubiquitous that the shelter world has actually coined the term “Black Cat/Dog Syndrome” in reference.

Why does this matter? Because a shelter is not a home. Not only is it less comfortable (a life of confinement with minimal physical and mental stimulation), it’s a less healthy place to live. Sure, we use shameful amounts of bleach, clean like demons, observe strict protocols limiting animal intermingling, and give them exemplary medical care. And yet, stress chronically looms in the background, threatening to undo every careful measure we take. A stressed animal will deteriorate—if not physically, mentally. And length of stay in a shelter is directly related to the likelihood of deterioration.   

So what can we do to end the bias and get black cats out the door faster? How can we convince adopters of the benefits of rescuing senior cats, who are generally more mellow, self-possessed, and endlessly grateful for love?

Mya, age 8

For now, most shelters resort to financial incentives—lower adoption fees. I guess the hope is that if one more person gives a black cat a chance, onyx cats everywhere will earn one more convert.  If someone decides to take compassion on a senior kitty, there will be one fewer seasoned sweetheart spending his golden years curled up in a cage.  
Bella, age 5
We hope so, anyway. So for the next two weeks, we’re taking
50% off of senior (seven years and older) cat adoption fees (lowering the price from $60 to $30). And, for the indefinite future, we’re presenting Black Fridays: 50% off the adoption fees of black cats of every age—every Friday.

Both of these promotions begin tomorrow, January 20th!

Can you help us spread the word? If your friends or family are in the market, can you encourage them to take advantage of Black Fridays, or have a Senior Moment?

Lucky, age 9

Because these cats spend every day waiting … just waiting to love a family of any age or color.

Admire the rest of our available senior and black kitties on our website.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Royal Lotus

Good chilly afternoon!

The freezing temps (welcome back, Vermont) last weekend didn't stop a slew of adoptions on Saturday, with seven animals going home that day alone!

Another influx of kittens helped boost our adoption numbers for the week. Congratulations to Auggie, Bridget, Hudson, Alaska & Pacific, Caspian, and Arabian--all of whom emerged from foster care only to immediately find new, loving families to take them home for good. 

Four dogs are no doubt enjoying the heat in their new digs today! Daesyn (Bichon Frise), Ava (Wheaton Terrier mix), Bronx (Boston Terrier mix), and Annie (Chihuahua) are all living the good life.

On to cats! I mistakenly reported Lyndi as adopted in last week's update, but that must have been a moment of prescience--because she went home on Thursday! She and a cat named Merlin--who went home on Tuesday--were two of the 20 animals taken in from the family who'd been evicted.

The third cat adopted last week is our featured adoptee: … LOTUS!


Lotus was here for what felt like FOREVER. In fact, he'd been at the shelter since mid-July, relinquished because his owner had to move into housing that did not accept pets. A six-year-old male with a distinctive white ring around his tail and humongous green eyes, Lotus was reported to get along with other animals, but had a history of being fractious with his vet.

We saw a bit of that here, too. Staff found him initially hissy and somewhat wary, but friendly enough when given attention. As he settled in, his spirits seemed to rise, and staff declared him "sweet."  We still weren't quite sure what to make of this cat, but his behavior was deemed safe and predictable enough for a home. The feline supervisor rated him a "black diamond" cat, and he was made available.

I bet many of you are thinking, "What's a black diamond cat?" Though we've used our feline personality rating system for years, it seems to be largely overlooked.

Each available cat is placed into one of three different categories based upon the cat's history and our observations of his or her preferences and temperament.

A "green circle" cat is ideal for a first-time cat owner or families with small children. These cats are usually highly adaptable, laidback, confident, very tolerant, and gentle in their interactions.


"Blue square" cats are great companions for those with basic experience with typical feline behaviors. These kitties may have mild handling preferences or sensitivies, and they may exhibit shyness or reserve at first; but with patience and encouragement they tend to come out of their shells and prove loyal friends.


And then there's Lotus' category: black diamond cats. These finicky felines are best suited for those with considerable cat experience and an appreciation for distinct feline personalities. They are quite resolved to live life on their own terms, and unreserved about saying so. If their boundaries are respected, black diamond cats will bond closely with people they trust, and allow interaction they likely wouldn’t with "just anyone." These cats tend to do best in mellow, low activity homes.


As you can imagine, our green circle cats tend to fly off the kitty shelves, while black diamond cats usually endure much longer stays at the shelter.

Lotus' case was no exception. His daily routine was the same: he darted from the communal cat room every morning when unsuspecting animal care volunteers opened the door, and made a beeline for our potted palm, which he delighted in gnawing on. After being escorted back to the room and served his breakfast, Lotus spent the rest of the day upon his cat tree castle, curled up on the topmost turret oblivious to afternoon visitors.  

In Buddhist theology, the Lotus represents "floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire; the full blossoming of wholesome deeds in blissful liberation" (Wikipedia).  

For all of his pionted ignorance of potential adopters who stopped in to visit, you could say Lotus was floating above the waters of attachment and desire. He certainly wasn't working on developing any attachments or attracting desire. The months dragged on.

Finally, as the new year approached, our feline supervisor, Kayla, decided something had to be done. It just wouldn't due to let Lotus go on living out his days on top of a cat castle--not when he could find a real home to be his castle. Lotus was moved into our volunteer and events coordinator's office on January 8th--and we hoped he might show better!

Weren't we surprised to find that Lotus bloomed like his namesake! Turned out that in true black diamond cat style, Lotus had no interest in winning the hearts of the masses: he prefered to bond with one or two people. And boy did he bond with Shayla! She reports of her daily love sessions with Lotus, who spent the first ten minutes of every morning saying hello with vigrous head butts to Shayla's face. Who was this new kitty who'd clearly developed an attachment?

It was just three days later that a wonderful couple stopped in specifically to meet Lotus. Seven Days had run a spread on him (they periodically do that for our animals, and it always works wonders!), and the couple had seen it. Shayla worried Lotus might not show interest in new people with her around, so she left. The couple met him ... and he was courteous, but aloof. They decided to look at other cats. Our staff's collective heart sank as they walked away. Shayla returned to her office, disappointed. Lotus hopped right up on her lap to say hello. She sighed as he began his headbutting regimen. "It's all well and good that you're so lovely with me, Lotus," Shayla said, "But how will anyone else ever get to see what a special cat you are if you aren't nice to strangers?" Lotus gazed up at her with his huge green eyes, blinked, then turned his head to the door. Shayla followed his gaze, and saw the couple standing just outside the office. "He wasn't so friendly with us," they remarked thoughtfully. "No," Shayla explained. "He's a one- or two-person cat. We had no idea he was this affectionate until he moved in with me. Now he's like this all the time. He'd certainly bond in the same way with whomever takes him home!" They smiled. "Alright," they said, and asked to fill out the paperwork.

Lotus went home the next day, to a very fine residence. We can envision this black diamond cat now, the royal Lotus, asleep in his real castle, finally "blossoming in blissful liberation."  

That's the good news this week. Stay warm!


Monday, January 9, 2012

20 for '12

The good news is:  What we're lacking in numbers this week we make up in great triumphs.

Most exciting to animal care and adoption staff is the adoption of Salty and Pepper, ten-year-old sisters who'd been waiting for months to find a forever family. The couple who adopted them had been in to visit with all of our cats multiple times. In the end, they felt that this black-and-white duo had exactly the mellow personalities they were looking for. We couldn’t be more grateful!
Top: Pepper, Salty
Bottom: Salty and Pepper sit nicely for a treat from feline supervisor Kayla.

Chocolate Lab Kip went home with an older couple who was super excited about him. Cat Mansfield found his new family in JUST ONE DAY! Lovely feline lady Tofu had been returned by her adoptive family a month ago when the home environment just didn't prove the right match for her. She was adopted by a new family on Saturday, and we hope she's home to stay this time around.

We have multiple featured adoptees this week, because they all came from the same home.

Husky mix Posey, and cats Wendie, Trout, and Adrianna were four of 20 animals who came from a single household. The three cats were adopted before our photographer, Mountain Dog Photography, could even get photos of them!


Early in December, two town officials arrived at our doors with an emergency situation. A family had been evicted from their home, and the officials entered the premises to find stacks of crates inhabited by animals in the apartment. The animals had ample food and water, but--especially in the case of the cats, who were living, in some cases, three to a crate--not nearly sufficient living space. The town threatened to seize them. Fortunately, the owners agreed to sign the animals over with no cause for legal proceedings.

Under normal circumstances, we accept animals on an appointment-only basis. This helps us avoid overcrowding (and the spread of contagious disease that results), and makes it possible for animals to stay as long as they need to until getting adopted (we don't euthanize for length of stay). However, we're almost always at capacity, so suddenly receiving notice that we need to find room for 20 new animals immediately greatly stresses the system. Fortunately, a local veterinary hospital and dog kennel agreed to house the pets until we were able to make room.

Humane investigator JoAnn Nichols, feline supervisor Kayla Malzac, and shelter manger Allison Stark loaded up the HSCC vehicle with JoAnn's tubs of emergency investigation supplies. They had only two hours available to process the animals--which involved photographing each of them with a specific tag number--and documenting the living conditions they came from. JoAnn, Kayla, and Allie processed two dogs, three rabbits, one rat, two hamsters, and 12 cats that afternoon.


The cats had all been exposed to upper respiratory infection--the feline version of a common cold--which can spread like wildfire in a shelter environment. So they were given a single room to themselves at the shelter while we assessed them for adoption. Fortunately, most of the animals have lovely temperaments, which means they were given plenty of attention and affection. Because of their outgoing natures, they've been quick to leave the adoption floor, once made available! Aside from the four animals listed above, Lyndi the cat was adopted two weeks ago, the two hamsters found new homes in record time for smallies, one kitten was snatched up quickly, and one of the rabbits went home.


Hoarding situations are often like this: the owners love the animals, and want to do the best for them. But because they become overtaxed on space and resources, the animals' wellbeing is compromised. A family who can't make rent payments certainly can't afford spay/neuter surgeries. These cats may have been confined to crates simply to prevent breeding, as there's some evidence that small groups of cats were periodically given free time in the home. And in stark contrast to the lack of space, we did find lots and lots of food stored away for the animals. Our hearts go out to this family, who lost their home and companion animals in one fell swoop. But hopefully, just as the 20 animals were given fresh starts in far better circumstances, we hope this occurrence might afford the family the same kind of fresh start.

We currently have three more cats and two rabbits from this household available for adoption--and they're all very sweet. We're confident that each of these animals wil have a happy ending--homes in which they can run and play freely.

That's the good news this week!

Please don't forget to join us tomorrow night at The Scuffer steak and ale house! 15% of food and alcohol proceeds from the evening will be donated to the shelter. We'll see you there!


Director, Development & Outreach

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Paige


2011 truly outdid itself in striving to be memorable … We finished the last two weeks of the year with 33 adoptions, bringing December's total to 90 new forever homes found! Many thanks to everyone who adopted for making the holidays so good to our animals.

Congratulations to rabbits Matilda and Cobalt on beginning the new year in a new home! Congrats also to kittens Pumba, Simba, Timone, Gerard and Pumpkin.

You won't believe the list of cats who received the gift of a new family this season: Gandolph, Molly & Dini together, Liberty, ORCHID!, Patriot, Luna, Douglas, Bayleigh, Aune, Dusty, Gwen, Abu, Rafiki, Geranium, Lil' Miss, Lolita, and Minnow.

Seven dogs of all shapes and sizes found new homes in the last two weeks, which was a big relief after a rather slow month for dog adoptions. Congrats to Cinnamon (Hound mix), Tommy (Schnauzer mix), Chance (Pomeranian), Hershey (Rottweiler), Paco (Teacup Chihuahua), Suri (American Bulldog mix), and … our featured adoptee this week … PAIGE!

Paige is a three-year-old black, white, and brindle Pit bull/Collie mix with soulful eyes and pom-pom ears. The sister of Alfie (you can read about Alfie here), Paige came to us through a humane investigation--one of six dogs we seized from a neglectful situation. She had clearly already birthed several litters of puppies in her young life, and seemed to have received little exposure to the world.

                                                                      Paige's former home.

All of the dogs were severely infested with fleas. Paige also had an ear infection, a few broken teeth, and some scars. Later we would discover a mass in her mammary gland that fortunately proved to be benign. We had it excised at the same time she was spayed.

The six dogs were so undersocialized that our humane investigator literally had to carry them from their enclosures, and it seemed to us that leash-walking was a totally unfamiliar concept to them. To meet them at this time, it was hard to imagine these pitties as well-adjusted companion animals who could join the ranks of formally trained dogs who knew how to "shake" and "roll over."

Paige had the advantage of seeming the most world-saavy of the bunch, and was obviously a friendly dog at heart. Yet, she was very wary of meeting new people. In fact, one of the vet techs who met her during her excision surgery fell in love with her, and took her home on a foster-to-adopt basis. Unfortunately, the tech had a scare when Paige wouldn't let her boyfriend on the couch (she growled and snapped at him), and Paige came back to us.

A concerning incident, but we were not ready to write her off. Instead, we kept working with her--tried to make the experience of meeting strangers positive and fun for her. And Paige got better and better at it.

Just before Christmas, I received a call from a woman named Donna who had a couple of questions about the available dogs on our website. Donna informed me that she and her husband had very recently lost their beloved Mindy, an Aussie mix whom Donna had rescued from HSCC as a puppy and trained to be her service dog. Mindy was incredibly intelligent, she told me, and they shared a very special bond. Her passing had left a yawning hole in their lives. She knew that Mindy could never be replaced--and that maybe they'd never meet another dog as intelligent or intuitive as Mindy. But they were ready to look.

Donna was especially interested in finding another Aussie mix, but inquired about Paige, who was exactly the size of dog she was looking for. I told her about Paige's background and the incident with the vet tech's boyfriend. I also told her how sweet and snuggly Paige was. Donna said that she needed a dog who would be alright with cats, and fortunately we had evidence that Paige could live harmoniously with cats. But Donna needed a service dog. Could Paige--who had spent the first three years of her life in neglect--ever develop the skills or temperament required of such a purpose? Donna didn't seem phased by the question--she had experience working with undersocialized dogs--and I could hear in her voice a growing excitement about meeting Paige. She said she'd come in right after Christmas.

No sooner did I say goodbye to Donna, then I found out there was already another application for Paige that was nearly finished. I hoped Donna wouldn’t be too disappointed if Paige went home with someone else. Incredibly, the applicants did not follow through with scheduling an introduction between Paige and their dog, leaving her available for another adopter! Donna and her husband David came in last Tuesday, and it all went very well.  Canine supervisor Robyn Lane could tell that this couple was very knowleageable about training dogs, and it was certainly advantgeous for Paige that Donna is retired and can spend most of the day with her in their quiet home. Paige went home with Donna and David that very day.

I called Donna today to ask her how it was going with Paige. "Oh, we couldn't be happier," Donna exclaimed. "It's like she was made for us!" She told me that before the adoption, she'd said to her husband, "What if we adopt a dog that isn't an Aussie, and a week later find an Aussie who seems better for us?" She worried about that. "But," Donna continued, "we have absolutely no regrets. We were meant to find Paige."

Donna shared stories of Paige mistaking herself for a lap dog, snuggling, and enjoying shopping trips. She's doing just fine with the cats, and recently covered their oldest cat with kisses, something the cat probably only tolerated because she couldn't see it coming (she's nearly blind)! And meeting new strangers? Donna and David have already introduced Paige to lots of new people, and with the help of biscuits for the really "scary" men, Paige has warmed up nicely to all.

But … will Paige make for a service dog? Donna is convinced she will. She's very smart, and learns quickly. In less than a week, Donna has taught her to "come," "stay," and "lie down," and Donna is sure that she nearly understands "brace"--holding still to allow Donna to use her to catch her balance. "Most dogs require a year or two of training to become service dogs," Donna said. "But I think Paige might beat that."

And what of the connection between Paige and Donna? The sort of bond Donna experienced with Mindy? A strong bond is also integral to her service training. That question was answered for Donna just yesterday, when she asked David to feed Paige her breakfast. David did it all just right, but when he put the bowl down in front of Paige, she refused to eat. "Let me try," said Donna. She picked up the bowl, asked Paige to sit, and then put it down in front of her again. Paige immediately began to eat. Clearly, a deep loyalty is already forming.

"Mindy's death left such a hole," Donna said. "Paige is helping to fill that. She's so different from Mindy … but just as amazing. By the way," she added, "We decided to keep her name. Because she's a new Paige for a new chapter in our lives."

                                                                 Paige in her new home.

Donna and David are offering Paige a new chapter in her life, too. From the depths of neglect and a total lack of development of any skills or socialization, to one of the highest purposes a dog can have ... Who says "old" dogs can't learn new tricks?

Paige's story offers an excellent opportunity to mention that the Association of Pet Dog Trainers have named January "National Train Your Dog Month," to emphasize the importance of socialization and training for all pets. Hundreds of thousands of pets are relinquished to shelters each year because their owners find the animals' behavior unmanageable. Most of the dogs who are relinquished to us have little training, and dogs who have less training are less attractive to new adopters. Paige was extremely fortunate to find a family who had the experience, patience, and lifestyle that matched her needs. Could you help us spread the word about the importance of training dogs? We offer classes here at the shelter for puppies and adult dogs! You can also check out the APDT's website for free webinars on dog training:


That's the good news this week.

A very happy 2012 to you all. May it bring just as many (or even more!) good tidings as 2011!


Director, Development & Outreach