Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chubbs

Hello, all!

We have an unusual category of adopted animals to report this week: PUPPIES! After a long lull with no puppies, HSCC recently had a sudden influx of youngsters. Of course they never stick around for long … Congrats to Ricki, Sienna, Javelin, Dash, Montel and Fallon on finding new homes to grow up in!

Javelin and Dash

We had four adult dog adoptions, as well: Thumper, Speedy, Gracie and Copper went home.

Kittens Dill, Butter, Vlasic, Gherkin, Bugs, Sylvester and Merle are romping in new homes!

And 12 adult cats became new family members over the last couple of weeks. Congrats to Agatha, Cliff, Silver, Bewster, Cooper, Zoey, Sparkles, Dilly, Loki, Abbott, and Muffin!

Our featured pet this week is also a cat, and we're returning to a previous adoptee. Chubbs the cat went home at the end of July--but his story is just too good to skip.

Chubbs

Chubbs arrived at our shelter in mid-April. True to his name, he weighed in at 19.6 pounds. Despite his plump physique, we found Chubbs very handsome with his smart orange tabby coat and engaging yellow eyes. His owner, Sally, was moving to the Midwest, and would not be able to take him in the car with her. She explained that Chubbs was deathly afraid of his carrier, and could never tolerate the road trip.

We gave Chubbs the usual medical check-up that we provide all animals on arrival: checked his skin and coat, eyes, ears, mouth, teeth and gums. We gave him a blood test for FIV, which tested negative. We tested him for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) … and it came back faintly positive. Twice. Not good! Obviously, we can't expose our entire feline population to FeLV. So Chubbs moved into a medical isolation room while we considered what to do next.

In the meantime, staff addressed Chubbs' carrier phobia. Our resident cats are fed in their carriers: convenient because it allows us to clean their living spaces, and beneficial because it helps them associate their carriers with yummy food. But cats with extreme crate aversion are treated to our "I Hate My Crate" intervention program. The averse kitty is assigned a chart on which staff notates which rewards they've tried to convince the cat that a crate ain't so bad, and how effective each tactic is. Staff might try stocking the crate with especially yummy treats or tuna, filling it with a blanket that the cat's been sleeping on (familiar smells are comforting), or placing a cotton ball soaked with Feliway (a synthetic copy of the feline facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure) in the carrier. Ultimately, Chubbs learned to feel comfortable in his crate.

And then good fortune struck. Dr. Ryan Canales of the new Long Trail Veterinary Center in Williston, Vermont dropped by our shelter for a visit. Our medical supervisor, Jen, gave him a tour of the building. When they approached Chubbs' isolation room, Dr. Canales paused and inquired about Chubbs' quarantine. Jen told him about the positive FeLV test results. Dr. Canales suggested we try a different test that's more specific and sensitive. It's also more expensive, but can detect a false positive. Jen followed his advice, sent the test to the lab, and lo and behold, discovered the positive results had been false! Thanks, Dr. Canales!

Chubbs was cleared for adoption take off, and moved to a Tokyo cage in our lobby. ... But there he sat. Chubbs simply didn't elicit much interest from our visitors, and he grew increasingly despondent. Our feline supervisor, Kayla, decided he needed another intervention. Chubbs moved to our administrative area, where most days he was permitted to roam at will. That spiced things up for him!


We soon discovered Chubbs to be the Shaquille O'Neal of cats: despite his prodigious size, Chubbs could MOVE! Our jaws dropped as we watched Chubbs fly across the admin space after plastic balls, scale the backs of computer chairs ("Timmmmmberrrrrrrrr!"), and leap three-foot gates. On days we needed him sequestered in an office, we tried stacking two gates in the doorway. That didn't deter Chubbs, who nimbly leapt five feet, caught the top of the gate with his paws, and hauled himself over the top.

In the meantime, we opted to cut dry food from Chubbs' diet in an attempt to bring his weight down (we supplemented it with more wet food). The diet change coupled with the exercise did wonders for Chubbs' waistline. In fact, over the three months he was here, Chubbs lost a little over two pounds!

And we fell in love … although Chubbs wasn't always a charmer. In perhaps stereotypical feline style, Chubbs desired affection on his own terms. Often, after just a few pets, Chubbs would roll on his back and dare you to try that again. Other times, he'd seem positively voracious for attention, and would claim a staff person's lap as his own--purring and kneading and rubbing his nose all over his hostage's face. One quickly learned to let Chubbs call the shots. 

Still, how could we not fall in love with a cat as intelligent and inquisitive and wholly active as Chubbs? He loved new objects and changes in his environment. He liked meeting new people (though with some time for deliberation). He was very curious about the other cats and dogs who occasionally visited the administrative area, and developed a peaceful coexistence with staff dogs.   



Sadly, though several potential adopters did meet Chubbs, none left totally impressed (probably didn't help when he got a little swatty with them). Chubbs grew bored again, and we did our best to keep his environment enriched.

Chubbs nesting in cat grass.



video



But good fortune had not forgotten this plump pussycat. In early July, Kayla received an email from Sally, Chubbs' former owner. She missed him dearly. She'd be returning to Burlington for a visit in late July, and would now be able to fly him back to the Midwest with her. Was he still available? He sure was!


We thought surely Chubbs would be adopted before Sally's visit … but at least we had a back-up plan. However, when mid-July rolled around and Chubbs was still here, we began to hold our collective breath for Sally's return. On July 20, we put Chubbs on hold for Sally. And on July 21, she made it to the shelter just before we closed, completed the adoption requirements, and scooped Chubbs up!

There wasn't time for the joyous reunion we'd all yearned to observe. But fortunately, the story doesn't end on that anticlimactic note!

Sally had spoken with a veterinarian ahead of time about Chubbs' flight home. He recommended she give Chubbs both Comfort Zone and Composure before the flight, and reminded her that he would need a health certificate signed by a veterinarian and a carrier small enough to fit under her seat (good thing we worked on crate training!).

Sally followed his advice … but ran into a problem at the airport when she got to security. Apparently, she had trace amounts of the rememdies she'd given Chubbs on her hands, and one of them tested positive for explosives! Chubbs had been taken out of his carrier and patted down for weapons! Sally says that Chubbs was so drugged that he didn't mind being dangled in the air while they looked him over (she felt a little traumatized for him, though!). Fortunately, the rest of his journey went smoothly.

Sally reports that Chubbs does seem to remember her (he slept next to her the entire first night of their reunion) and is enjoying his new home. A six-toed cat often comes calling on the porch, and Chubbs enjoys covertly spying on him. 

Chubbs' new friend.
This brainy orange kitty lists James Patterson among his favorite authors (when it comes to napping, anyway), and is very considerate about keeping Sally's graduate school assignments warm. 

Fortunately, Chubbs would rather sleep on homework than eat it.

From a medical isolation room at the shelter to a new home in a big city halfway across the country … Chubbs' journey has been long and sometimes arduous. But good fortune always stepped in just when his situation seemed particularly dire. We'll never forget this floppy-tummied kitty or his funny antics ... and Sally sent us a photo to remember him by. 



That's the good news this week from HSCC.