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