Monday, December 23, 2013

Love and Logan

There's a story behind every adoption. Some involve love at first sight; some require lots of thoughtful deliberation. We love Shawna and Sam's story about how they found Logan the cat--and what an integral member of their little family he's become. Just in time for the holidays, here's a tale of togetherness:

"Let me tell you about our experience adopting our walking, talking, giant mess of fur named Logan, because it's one of my favorite stories to tell.

Logan, our 15 pound, 10 year old, long haired, Maine Coon mix, cat came into our life surprisingly quickly, considering how long we'd been looking for him:
After finally moving out of our tiny downtown studio this past May, my boyfriend Sam and I decided we were ready for our very own furry friend. We started our search in June, and every 4 or 5 days we'd stop by the Humane Society of Chittenden County to spend some time with its feline residents, and checked the website for new arrivals daily. Our adventures included kicking HSCC volunteer manager Shayla (who was more than happy to oblige!) out of her office once or twice so we could hang with her office kitty; asking adoption supervisor Amanda limitless amounts of questions about each cat we considered, continuously taking twenty minute blocks of her time; my partner Sam rubbing his fingers in his eyes after petting each cat to see if he was allergic (as it turns out, he was allergic to many!); and learning, on my birthday, that after being placed on a waiting list our very first choice was, indeed, adopted by someone else. I believe that in our process of finding and adopting Logan, we first learned to adopt the spirit of the HSCC staff. We found this spirit to be one of generosity, endless enthusiasm, and an infallible ability to roll with the punches.

Finally, on Saturday, July 13, our day came. We'd planned a hike up Camel's Hump, but after I opened my laptop for one quick look at HSCC's website - just in case! - we soon found ourselves cycling like mad people over to the shelter to see this cat, this Logan fellow, that looked quirky in an our-kind-of quirky way. I can't tell you how much we wanted to ride our bike right through the doors, come crashing into the shelter and get this cat in our sight just a little bit faster. We did manage to compose ourselves, huff out an excited, "Amanda! Logan - yeah?", and get a quick rundown of his story. We walked into his room, and when we called out an inquisitive, "Logan?", we were instantly met with an equally intense and  inquisitive look from this distinguished guy, previously sleeping contentedly on a shelf. That was it. We knew instantly. Within five minutes we were purchasing a kitty carrier, signing papers, telling our new buddy that we'd be back with the car.

Once home we were acquainted with Logan's distinct grumpy-old-man voice, and learned that he likes to talk as much as we do, if not more. He was nervous at first, slowly stalking the perimeters of our living room, letting out loud and long words to express his fear, but we were lucky: we scooped him up, put him on our laps, and scratched his cheeks. That was it. He was home, and he's been our friend ever since. The rest of our first night was actually rather unfortunate. After being so careful to watch Sam's allergies, we realized after a full night of kitty cuddles that I was actually quite allergic to Logan; so allergic, in fact, that my throat closed. So there we were, 3am, sitting in bed with a bottle of benadryl, listening to our lovely and long-awaited new cat cry outside our bedroom door, which we had to close because of my reaction. We were scared; he was scared. We were sad; he was sad. I wondered if we'd made a mistake, and I hated leaving him alone on his first night. There were tears. It makes my chest ache to think of this even now.

Luckily, we were equipped with the spirit of HSCC's staff, and the help of Pet Food Warehouse. We started a new project: project revitalize Logan's coat. We brushed him several times a day; we fed him cat food and treats specifically for hair and skin health; we pet him so much, spreading his oils around, that his hair was shinier than ours. By Monday, July 15, his dander was under control, his old flea dust was gone, and we were smooth sailing.

I can't tell you how much we love our cat. Sometimes we think he's more like a child than a cat, with his big, distinctive personality and need to be a part of everything we're doing. We're so happy for that, as he's made our lives, our little family, so much richer. Wherever we are, he is, too. If we're on the computer, he's attempting to sit on the keyboard. If we're eating dinner, he's right there, telling us he'd love to share. Lying down? He's on your back, kneading your hair, or wrapping his arms around your neck to engage in a big buddy hug. He loves to hold hands. He's terrified of the exercise ball, and of bath bubbles. He's a serious spider hunter. He's quite the gymnast, as we've watched him, numerous times, flip over the couch/chair rails/cat scratcher/counter to catch a toy. He loves playing in boxes and bags, and really loves to tear them up. He may love Sam's ice cream most, as he'll follow the scent across the house and sit at his side, loudly asking for just a small taste, and occasionally try to dunk his head in the bowl. He's the quirkiest, most distinguished cat I've every known; he's like a Wes Anderson character, or maybe Woody Allen. We love him, and we know he loves us, too. He knows we're his people.

I didn't want to write in about our wonderful experience until the cat Logan came in with, Nikke, was adopted too, because we thought it might be too bittersweet for his previous owner, knowing one cat was well and one was still waiting. I checked in on Nikke often, asking Amanda about her status and such, and was overjoyed when I saw she was adopted in August. I know that Logan and Nikke were very loved in their earlier life, and I really want his previous parents to know how loved he is still. I'd love for them to know how happy he is, and how thankful we are to have him in our family now. I was so appreciative of his sponsored adoption fee, and was really eager to give back in some way. This is what made me so excited to head our promotion here at Edgewater Gallery, and I'm so happy that it's been so successful.

Thanks so much to HSCC's staff for such a positive experience, and for giving us this amazing opportunity to spend our time with such a funny little guy. We still have his original photo that was posted on HSCC's website, and looking at now still inspires me to rush over to him as fast as possible, give him a squeeze, and thank him for being here with us."

~Shawna and Sam, HSCC adopters

Sam and Logan get into the holiday spirit!

... and share a moment of tenderness.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Diamond Traveler

In early September, a beautiful marbled tabby arrived at our shelter as a stray. The woman who brought her in said she'd been hanging around her neighborhood for a few weeks, and seemed to be abandoned. She would have loved to keep her if she weren't allergic! And no wonder--this kitty was incredibly friendly and affectionate. We named her Bobbie-Jo.

Bobbie-Jo appeared healthy and well-fed, so we did what we always do when strays come in: looked for a microchip. A microchip is a tiny chip of semi-conducting material that holds an animal owner's address and contact information on it. The chip is implanted just under the skin at the back of the animal's neck. If the animal is lost, anyone with a microchip scanner can scan the animal for the chip and retrieve the owner's information.

In Bobbie-Jo's case, she did have a microchip--and we were shocked when we saw the address on it: Illinois!

We called the phone number listed and were even more shocked after talking to Bobbie-Jo's owner, Laura: Laura and her family did live in Illinois now, but this cat--originally named Diamond--had gone missing in New York City. A year ago!

It turns out that Diamond had escaped from their home while the family was in the process of moving. They had closed her in a bedroom while movers loaded up their furniture--but the movers accidentally let her out, and she disappeared. The family had only three days to look for her before leaving New York. Laura writes,

After she escaped from our home while moving to IL from NY, we searched everywhere for her. We called the animal control, the military veterinarian, and the animal shelters as well as asking around the neighborhood if anyone had seen her. I even continued to call the shelters and animal control for a few months after we had moved - and nothing. No sign of her.

I had nearly given up on finding her. A few weeks ago, I was looking at her health records and nearly threw them away because I didn't think I'd see her again after so long (over 14 months). Something told me to hang on to them, and I thought "what can it hurt?" Then I got the phone call from Jen that Diamond had been found (hooray for microchipping)! I was shocked to say the least, and very excited, yet anxious to see her. I kept the news a surprise for my kids, and arranged it with Kayla to fly Diamond back home.

On Friday, September 13, Diamond caught a flight to Illinois. Laura met her at the airport that afternoon.

I was worried Diamond would be stressed out from the trip, and when she arrived she was hiding in the back of her kennel. As soon as we got her settled in the car, she relaxed some. Once we got home, my kids took one look at her and their eyes got so big! They were so excited to see and pet her, and couldn't believe she was actually found - and in Vermont! We were all pleasantly surprised that she was just as healthy and beautiful as she was before. We introduced her to our new home and let her settle down in her little room for awhile. After a bit, she meowed to let me know she was ready to come out (she was always very communicative). I opened the door and she walked around a bit, then settled right onto her place on the couch. It was like she was never gone. She wasn't timid or afraid of the new surroundings, and seemed to remember all of us. She even returned to sleeping in her favorite spot at night - on my oldest daughter's chest. We are so happy to have Diamond home finally, and are so very grateful for all of the assistance everyone gave us in caring for her and getting her home to us! Thank you all - you are appreciated!

As for the missing link about how Diamond traveled from New York to Vermont? That'll have to remain Diamond's secret.

We're so happy for this kitty and her family. She's our new poster cat for microchipping!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Gift to Animals

One month ago, our CEO, Nancy, got a phone call from a man in our community named Andi. A leave of absence from work meant he had a lot of free time on his hands--and Andi is not one to sit idly by. He wanted to help in some way--was there any volunteer work he could do for HSCC? Scooping poop, even?

Our volunteers are the lifeblood of our shelter. We're fortunate to have an active volunteer force of 250--and we depend on each and every one of these folks! Just to give you an idea, last year, the number of hours logged by volunteers equaled nine full-time staff positions. Can you imagine how much would NOT have been done without that help?

At the moment Andi called, we happened to have a very pressing need for administrative help. We had a huge data entry project--hours and hours of work--that needed to be tackled. Lucky for us, Andi was game.

Three weeks later, Andi finished that project. He asked if he could be of service in any other ways. Could he ever! Andi hauled sand for one of our dog yards. He organized our retail inventory. He accompanied our humane investigator on a couple of cruelty calls. He chased down an escaped dog. He replaced a faucet, repaired dog kennels and disinfected cat rooms. And last Friday, when one of our staffers witnessed two men escaping on bikes after breaking into another staffer's car, Andi was out the door like a shot. He swung on to his own bicycle and chased those guys through the urban wilds behind our shelter. Unfortunately, they got away, but Andi didn't give up looking for an hour in the cold rain.

Over the last month, we have all become incredibly fond of Andi. In fact, we wish we could find a way to keep him around permanently! His good nature, humility, and sense of humor keep us all in high spirits--and the fact that no task is beneath him makes us all want to chip in a little harder!

Andi helping us keep our records up to date!

Of course, Andi couldn't escape without adopting an animal. Last Friday, he adopted a kitten who's now leading a wonderful life as the bosom buddy of Andi's doting daughter.

We asked Andi if he would share a bit about his experience volunteering for HSCC. Here's what he had to say:

A gift.

I was looking to give my time to an organization that works for the greater good in our community. The personal void I was trying to fill was the internal call to ‘give back’--it is something that has been so much a part of my life since childhood. What better place to turn than the Humane Society of Chittenden County? I knew that they have a well organized volunteer program and over the years I have had many positive interactions with the staff for a number of reasons. My daughter had once even attended Camp Paw-Paw and found it most rewarding.

I first made a call to the newly appointed CEO, Nancy Cathcart, a well respected community leader. After a warm and pleasant greeting, Nancy invited me to the ‘animal kingdom.’ It was then that I met the rest of the team and began to learn what goes into making the Humane Society of Chittenden County a true success story. Their pride, caring, dedication and energy exudes true professionalism. But most importantly, the animals that come into their care are treated as if their own!

In the weeks that I have spent at HSCC I have been afforded several rewarding tasks. Not one I could rate better or worse than the next. I knew in my heart that the work I was doing allowed the experts to focus on what they do best. I have helped with things such as data entry to track gift giving, decontamination of the isolation rooms, kennel repairs, plumbing, and humane investigations. I even tried my hand at rounding up a fast moving fugitive chihuahua that made it off the premises for just a few minutes.    

I have heard the stories of animal abuse and neglect that some of these pets have endured. It tugs at your heartstrings. On the flip side, I have seen the flow of volunteers that come daily to help with the chores; I have seen the line of people waiting patiently for the adoption center to open; I have seen the eyes light up when someone makes that special connection with a pet who has been waiting for a loving home; I have seen the generosity from those around the corner to those from as far away as London; and finally I am witness to the love and affection the staff has afforded these animals while in their care. Truly amazing!

I myself finally made the move to adopt! I have a beautiful, patient and equally energetic kitten my daughter and I have named “Sonny” in memory of my dad who absolutely adored cats.  

I have had the unbelievable good fortune to have spent the last couple of weeks with some of the finest and most dedicated individuals that truly believe in the work they do. They should be proud. I am and I take my hat off to each of them. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for giving these animals a second chance! 
This has been a memorable experience for me and the friendships that have been forged will be most cherished. My time with the Humane Society of Chittenden County has been a gift.

Andi L. Higbee.

Andi, we couldn't ask more of a volunteer! You've been a gift to the animals.

Sonny in Andi's home

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Watch out for Wildlife!

Summer is a wonderful time to be in the Green Mountains: trees have blossomed, flowers have bloomed, and the area wildlife has come out of hiding!

Unfortunately, wildlife and modern life don’t always integrate as well as we’d like. Merging nature with motor vehicle traffic can be especially troubling, and it’s not uncommon for fellow animal lovers to express concern over the well being of wildlife on the road.

While HSCC is not licensed to handle wildlife, our Humane Investigator, JoAnn Nichols, runs her own wildlife exclusion business and has shared some advice on what to do when confronted with wildlife on the road.



Who To Call

Stopping to check on an injured animal can put you at risk of getting hit and is highly inadvisable. It's best to report wildlife incidents to the appropriate local agency.

If a “game” animal, such as a turkey, bear or deer is on the road--alive, injured or deceased--it's best to call the fish and wildlife department. For more common types of wildlife such as raccoons, skunks and opossums, call your local town and roads office. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department also has a helpful list of licensed wildlife rehabbers on their website.

In the event of a domestic animal found injured by the road, calling your local animal control officer (or, absent an ACO, the police department) or public works office is the way to go. If you are able to safely rescue an injured domestic animal, Burlington Emergency Veterinary Specialists in Williston offers 24-hour emergency services 7 days a week. They'll also care for injured strays free of charge (please help by donating to their stray fund!).


What to Say

When reporting wildlife on the road, it will help officials understand your concerns if you address it as a public safety issue. Injured and deceased animals on the roadways may cause drivers to swerve or stop suddenly. Even if an animal is on the shoulder and out of the way, it may attract more wildlife--such as crows and scavenger rodents--to converge near traffic. Some animals may have young searching for them, or parents may come searching for babies that have been hit, and cause an accident or get hit as well.



It can be frustrating to see wildlife and traffic at odds, but there are solutions! Here are some great ideas enacted in other areas of the country:

In Texas and Colorado an organization called Animal Help Now provides immediate information on the nearest appropriate resource for animals injured on the road.

Scientific American recently published an article regarding the threat of vehicular traffic to wildlife populations. In one example concerning turtle migration in Florida, a PhD student was able to persuade the local transportation department to provide nylon fencing along the roadways, saving almost 5,000 turtles by forcing them away from high-traffic areas.

The Federal Highway Administration website has information on how traffic impacts wildlife and the ways in which specially-designed wildlife crossing structures such as underground tunnels are helping to preserve the habitats and livelihoods of the animals we share our roads with.

Badger crossing tunnel
Bear crossing tunnel

What solutions would you like to see enacted in Vermont? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

by Janine Fleri, HSCC's social media intern extraordinaire

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fat Cats

Here at HSCC, we take in a lot of "big" cats. Obesity in kitties seems to be a growing epidemic in our country. The "fat cat" image is often considered cute and funny, but in reality, obesity is just as serious a health risk for cats as it is for people.

What can we blame for this trend in the expanding feline silhouette? At its most basic level, obesity is a result of caloric intake exceeding caloric metabolism--or food intake exceeding exercise. Cat foods today are often high in starch, carbohydrates, and additives--and it can be hard to ensure that your indoor-only kitty gets enough exercise.

But that's not to say that obesity is unavoidable for today's cats. There is a growing variety of healthy cat foods that are high in protein and low in starch, and more and more advice on how to keep indoor cats active and engaged with their environment. The folks at Pet Food Warehouse are highly knowledgeable when it comes to feline nutrition and enrichment--as are our local veterinarians. And of course, we're always here to help, too!

Harbor provides a great success story. Harbor was one of the most obese cats we've ever cared for at HSCC. Weighing in at close to 23 pounds, Harbor more closely resembled a beach ball than a cat, and spent his days in the communal cat room mostly sprawled on his back--probably because that position was most comfortable for his stomach, spine and joints!

So we were thrilled to receive this update from his adopters the other day:

"Hello. I adopted a cat named Harbor from you in October 2011. When I brought him home he was 22.8 pounds. He couldn't walk across the entire living room without stopping to rest, he couldn't clean himself, or reach his own face to scratch it when he had an itch. But he's always been incredibly playful and loving. It took us a bit to find a weight loss plan that would work. But, almost 1.5 years later, Harbor is weighing in at a slim(mer) 17.2 pounds. He has more energy than ever. He loves to run, jump, chase, and play and can now do so without hurting himself. Weight loss is still progressing slow but steady.

At first, I wasn't sure I was ready for the commitment of an animal. But, the odds seemed to be stacked against him as far as finding a home. And I knew he needed someone to not only love him, but to help him get healthy. I love him more and more everyday and I haven't regretted my decision for one second since I brought him home. He has the biggest and best personality I have ever witnessed in a cat. He loves to love and loves to be loved.

I've attached 2 photos of Harbor so you can see his progress. One is a side-by-side comparing the day I brought him home (Oct 2011) to him on Christmas 2012. The second is just to show his adorable face."

October 2011                                                                                           Christmas 2012
If your kitty is overweight, the first step is to talk to your veterinarian about a weight-loss plan. It can be dangerous--even lethal--for a very overweight cat to lose weight too quickly, so this must be done under the supervision of your veterinarian.

If you're wondering how to tell if your cat's overweight, a quick test is to feel for his ribs and backbone. If you can't feel them without pressing, your kitty may be a carrying a few too many pounds!

Thanks so much to Harbor's adopters for committing to his health and well-being. We're sure he's grateful to have his normal kitty life back!

A happier Harbor!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Year for a New Poodle

Poor Charlie looked more bedraggled mop than canine when he arrived at HSCC.

A white miniature poodle mix, Charlie had been purchased at a pet store as a young puppy. Over the next five years, his daily life was limited almost entirely to the confines of his home.

As our medical supervisor, Jen, examined his severely matted coat and overgrown toenails (which were so long that they were causing his toes to twist in odd directions), Charlie bravely held still for her—but quietly shook in fear. With the help of our canine supervisor, Robyn, Jen gave him the first grooming he’d seen in a very long time—carefully shaving the tangled fur that was matted down to his skin in some places, and clipping his curling nails. 

Left: Charlie's overgrown nails.       Right: Charlie's right front leg groomed.

Two and a half hours later, Charlie resembled a miniature poodle again! Yay, Charlie!

His medical check-in and grooming complete, Charlie’s first major ordeal was over. But he now had to face life at the shelter. Robyn brought him downstairs to the kennels, where he was greeted by loud barking and strange dogs staring at him from behind their glass doors. According to his former owner, Charlie had never met another dog before. He’d never met many other people aside from his owner, either, and now suddenly he was being cleaned, fed, and let outdoors by multiple unfamiliar people. Not surprisingly, Charlie reacted with fear-based aggression over the next few days, growling and barking at our staff from within his kennel. When reached for, Charlie would growl and lunge, and we had to keep a lightweight leash attached to him to avoid having to reach for him directly. 

Fortunately, once outside of his kennel, Charlie would eventually warm up to his handler, and after some time even began to solicit attention and play!

Though he was making progress, we realized that Charlie would gain the confidence and world exposure he needed a lot faster in a foster home. He needed a quiet space with patient, dog-savvy folks who could invest a lot of time in giving him positive experiences with new things. Robyn contacted Poodle Rescue of New England to see if they might be able to take Charlie into rescue. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any room, but referred us to Poodle Rescue of Vermont. Within moments of seeing Charlie’s picture, Poodle Rescue of Vermont agreed to take him!

Soon after we'd said goodbye to Charlie and wished him luck, we received an update from the president of the Poodle Rescue, Terri Gerard, saying that as soon as Charlie reached his foster home, he ran right up the steps, found his dinner, and gobbled the whole thing down. A great first start!

Charlie's foster dad works from home, so the pair bonded quickly, and Charlie spent his afternoons napping right next to his foster dad's desk.

Now, two weeks later, Terri writes:

Charlie is such a little superhero who has come so far from the scared little boy in the shelter. Charlie has had his first professional groom at Doggie Styles in Colchester. Charlie raced around the place happy to meet all the dogs there, large and small.  

Since arriving in foster care with Poodle Rescue of Vermont, Charlie has mastered the stairs, is nearly 100% potty trained and has expanded his play to toys other than a ball and has an excellent appetite and eats two meals a day. Charlie is working on losing a few pounds which will come off easily now that he is getting exercise and a healthy diet. Just in the last few days, Charlie will leave his foster Dad's side and venture into the other room to snooze by the fire. 

Charlies' foster parents had a very busy holiday season and Charlie was right in the thick of it, with overnight house guests, parties, other family dogs. Charlie had a few moments of nervousness and feeling unsure but for the most part, no one would be able to know that just a few weeks prior Charlie was in terrible shape. 

Charlie went snowshoeing this past weekend, riding in a front pack and enjoyed the trip very much.

Could Charlie have ever envisioned a life like this just one month ago? For this little poodle, the New Year truly brought a new life.

Charlie is currently available for adoption through Poodle Rescue of Vermont. Click here to view him on their site.

Charlie was in a loving home for the holidays, and so were the 725 other formerly homeless animals we matched with new families in 2012--plus 25 lost animals who were reunited with their people!

Of course, we wouldn’t have been able to place any animals in homes if you--our community--hadn't opened your doors to them. This is teamwork, really, and we’re so grateful to be partnering with such a compassionate community! Whether you adopted, fostered, volunteered, or donated in 2012, THANK YOU for helping us give so many dogs, cats, and small animals a better life.