Help Yourself By Assuming The Best

English: Animal Rescue

English: Animal Rescue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you volunteer with homeless animals, it’s easy to start hating people.

 

Let me explain:

 

You really love animals so you start helping out at a rescue or a shelter. Petting the animals releases seratonin in your brain and you get warm fuzzies. It really is very relaxing and you feel good because you helped an animal.

 

Then you keep hanging around the shelter and you see something awful. For me, it was a frail, old, sick cat that was brought in because its elderly owner died and no one in her family wanted it. That beautiful cat spent its last few weeks on earth in an unfamiliar cage and it broke my heart into a million pieces.

 

So, now that you’ve seen something awful, you brace yourself for more awfulness. Every time you read “Owner Surrender” on a cage card, you picture your hands choking the life out of the heartless *&^%$#@#$%^& who dumped this perfect cat at a crowded, underfunded shelter where it may spend months before it finds a new home.

 

It’s so easy because most everyone in the animal rescue community will justify your rage because we’re all tired of euthanasia and backyard breeders and puppies in pet stores and people who insist they MUST HAVE A PUPPY despite the dozens of well behaved, adult dogs who fill our shelters and foster homes.

 

Sometimes I fantasize about decapitating every last person who swears they’re moving and “just can’t take their pets with them.”

 

It’s easy to assume the worst about people when we have limited or no information about them. Many times, animals come to the shelter with no backstory at all and since they can’t talk, we try to fill in the gaps ourselves.

 

And that’s where we have a choice.

 

We can choose to assume the worst about the animal’s previous owners and our blood pressure and mood will suffer for it,

 

OR

 

we can just as easily assume the best. If there’s truly no way to know, then what’s the harm in making up a fantastic story?

 

Instead of “These stupid people dumped their cats here because they don’t care about them”, I can say “These people loved their cats very much, but they are moving to Uganda to build schools and orphanages and the locals would have eaten their cats, so they really couldn’t take them. They pray every night that their cats find a loving home.”

 

Which story makes you feel better?

 

Then that’s the one you should believe.

After all, we don’t know what we don’t know, and most people are doing the best they know how to do.

 

When someone drops off a box of puppies at your shelter in the middle of the night and drives off, think to yourself, “This is the best place in town these puppies could be right now. Here, they will have shelter, medicine, and a hopeful future. I’m so glad they’re not wandering around a dangerous highway where they would certainly get run over. They are safe here.”

 

Do this as often as you can, because it will make you a happier person and extend your life as a volunteer in the animal rescue community.

 

This article was inspired by a wonderful essay in Animal Sheltering Magazine’s Sept/Oct issue called Don’t Believe Everything You Think.

 

We Found The Cats!

I received news about an hour ago that Sylvester and Sebastian were found in their owner’s kitchen cabinet alive! FURR reports that they were dehydrated but otherwise okay. FURR is covering all their vet bills. To make a donation to FURR, go to their website: http://www.teamfurr.org

 

Update On Apartment Cats

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This morning, a rescue attempt was made by the maintenance crew at Forest Place apartments, but they couldn’t find the cats.

This afternoon, after a lot of facebook shares and phone calls, FURR got the fire marshall’s consent to set humane traps for the cats on their owner’s balconies.

FURR jumped into action, providing four brand new traps stocked with rotisserie chicken and catnip and I watched the maintenance crew carry the traps to the balcony.

We have the full cooperation of Forest Place Apartments as we wait for the cats to walk into the traps. FURR has located a foster home where the cats will stay until the owner can relocate permanently. FURR has also offered to cover the vet care and bathing these cats will need when we get them out.

I want to thank my readers who shared this story via email and facebook and who made phone calls that launched this story into the city director’s office.

Page views were at an all-time high today. Facebook was blowing up with supporters who took the time to nag all the right people until this thing got done. Thank you, all.

Especially thanks to FURR, Forbidden Hillcrest, the Little Rock Fire Marshall, Channel 4 News, and Forest Place Apartments for their cooperation.

Channel Four News carried our story and interviewed me and Ms. Betty:

http://arkansasmatters.com/fulltext?nxd_id=664992

Let’s cross our fingers and await the return of Sylvester and Sebastian!

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Rescue in progress!

I finally talked to the right person! A rescue attempt for msbettys cats is on progress!!

Little Rock Police Prevent Rescue Of 83-Year Old Resident’s Cats

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My name is Pam Cameron, creator of Arkansas Pet Gazette.

Thursday morning at 1:00 am, I was awakened by my boyfriend and my roommate who were concerned about the presence of fire trucks outside our apartment building at Forest Place. My roommate checked the hallways, heard the crackle of fire, and told us we needed to go outside.

We had no idea we would never go back in.

That crackling fire turned into a blaze that consumed the third floor of our building. It took firefighters til sunrise to put it out.

My only thought as I watched from the parking lot while my apartment building burned to the ground was “I hope Ms. Betty is okay.”

Ms. Betty Call was my neighbor on the second floor. She is eighty three years old and we became friends shortly after I moved in two years ago. We bonded over our cats. When she saw me walking mine outside on a leash, she invited me up to meet hers: a solid black named Sylvester and an orange and white named Sebastian.

Ms. Betty made it out of the fire alive, but her cats hid from the noise of firemen banging on the door and she couldn’t find them in time to take them with her.

“My apartment was filling up with smoke and I couldn’t find my cats.” she said.

She had no choice but to go with the firemen, leaving her cats behind.

Friday and Saturday came and went, the burned out building wrapped in caution tape. I had almost lost hope that her cats had survived.

Then, Sunday, I witnessed a miracle. As I walked around the grounds of our former apartment, I saw an orange and white cat jump up on the railing of her second floor balcony! Then I saw a solid black cat walking around on the floor of the balcony! They survived!

I called Betty and told her the good news. She was overjoyed. “Pam, those cats are just like my children. God bless you!” she said.

Her daughter called the fire department, and the fire department showed up at the apartment, only to be told by Little Rock Police that they could not even get close to the building.

I drove to the apartment and asked the cop doing surveillance if I could at least throw cat food up onto the second floor balcony and was told, “No. You’re already standing too close to the building. No one gets in until the fire department completes their investigation (into the cause of the fire).”

“When will that be?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” she replied.

Having been completely stonewalled, I called my last available option, Channel 7 News, and told them the situation. They didn’t seem interested in the story.

So, here we are. Two cats are still alive walking around in apartment 228 with no fresh water and no food other than what they can scavenge. And no one is going to help them unless there is a public outcry.

Please forward this story to everyone you know. I have no connections within the police department or the fire department, but maybe someone who reads this story will. And just maybe, if we’re not too late, we can save Sylvester and Sebastian.

The cat pictured looks similar to Ms. Betty’s cat

The cat in this photo is similar to Ms. Betty’s cat

Get In The Car And Go…With Your Pet!

Walter and Albert on their favorite beach

Walter and Albert on their favorite beach

Spring is here which means warmer weather and Labor Day to look forward to!

A lot of people are planning vacations right now and the pet lovers among them are thinking, “Can I take my best furry friend with me?”

To answer this question, I sat down with Brittney Turner, a local photographer and bulldog lover who took her bulldog Walter on numerous trips to Savannah, GA before he passed away in January this year.

(Coincidentally, the University of Georgia mascot is a white bulldog and Georgia fans love their bulldogs.  This made Savannah the perfect place for Walter and Albert to receive VIP treatment.  Brittney said, “People would always come up to us wanting to take pictures of or with Walter and Albert.”  She estimates that over 1,000 people have taken pictures of Walter and Albert.)

Like any pet owner, Brittney was nervous about taking Walter on his first long road trip ( a 12-14 hour drive). Add to that the fact that Walter was in his retirement years (ten, which is old for a bulldog) and you have a recipe for a very nervous dog mama.

After making multiple phone calls to the hotel and reading everything she could get her hands on about traveling with pets, she set out on her first trip to Savannah with Walter.

When taking your dog on a car trip, you may be wondering:

How Often Should I Stop?

Brittney says “I read all the pet articles about traveling with your dog and they said to stop every two hours and let your dog out. So on the first trip, I did and after about two or three stops, he had had enough of that. He would get out of the car, do his business right there and want to get right back in. He was like ‘I don’t care that you have food. I don’t care that you have water. I’m ready to GO!'”

So finally what I started doing was I would make really quick stops for myself and about halfway through the drive, we would stop for an hour so Walter could get out, eat, and drink. Usually we would stop at Sonic so we could eat outside.”

What Makes A Pet-Friendly Vacation Spot?

Albert: Don't forget the dog!

Albert: Don’t forget the dog!

If you’re planning to spend a lot of time with your dog on vacation, look for a walkable city with lots of parks and outdoor dining. Brittney found  Savannah’s historic downtown district to be very pet friendly because of all its green space and its walking- friendly layout.

Arkansas’ State Parks are very pet friendly. My parents have been taking their Chihuahua along on their RV adventures for years to Petit Jean, Mt. Magazine, Mt. Nebo, the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and even the Florida beach!

I was surprised to learn that Disney World, and in fact all of Orlando, Florida is pet friendly. Disney World has five kennels where you can board your pet for $15/day and every restaurant in the city with outdoor seating is mandated to allow pets.

Brittney emphasized that if you’re planning a beach vacation, check ahead of time to make sure they allow pets on the beach because policies differ from place to place.

For the top five pet-friendly vacation spots, click here.

What Should You Look For In A Hotel?

The Mansion

The Mansion

Assuming you’re not staying with relatives or camping, you’ll need to find a pet-friendly hotel. Brittney picked The Mansion on Forsyth Park for her accommodations in Savannah.  They not only allowed pets, but were very accommodating to Walter each and every time he stayed there, which was two to three weeks at a time several times per year.

When you’re checking out hotels, look for:

  • Pet-friendly policies (is your pet within the weight restrictions?)
  • Amenities (does your dog take medicine that has to be refrigerated?)
  • Location (Is there an appropriate “potty area” right outside the hotel? If not, are you willing to hoof it a few blocks?

Of course, not all dogs are up for a road trip. If your dog has frequent accidents indoors, gets sick in the car, or if you won’t have the time to care for him on vacation, then boarding him at a reputable kennel or a friend’s house is the best idea. I recommend Furry Feet Retreat in Alexander, Ar. for boarding (phone: 501-847-5927).

Have you taken your pet on vacation? If so, how did it go?

I want to thank Brittney Turner for granting me an interview and the use of her photos. In honor of her late, great bulldog, Walter, Brittney has a special photography service for pets called “Special Attention Sessions”. These packages are offered at a discounted rate for elderly and terminally ill pets and can be done in your home. For more information, click here.

Walter in his wagon

Walter in his wagon

Kitten Season Is Here: What You Need To Know

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Spring is officially here…

because today when I visited the Little Rock Animal Village, I was greeted by five litters of kittens!

Kitten season, as it’s known in shelter circles, starts in Spring and extends through Fall. If you’re looking to adopt a kitten, Spring and Summer are the best times because there will be a wide variety to choose from and because shelters often discount adoption fees during this time in an effort to free up cages.

It’s also a fun time to be a shelter volunteer, because, let’s be honest, who can resist this face?

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BUT…

Maybe you’re not in the market for a kitten at all but a pregnant cat shows up in your yard, at your school, or where you work. Now you have a dilemma. What should you do in this situation?

I spoke with Tricia Power of the Bryant Animal Control and Adoption Center and she advises anyone who finds a pregnant cat to, first of all…

1. Notify local animal control with a description of the cat.

It could be someone’s missing pet.

If no owner comes forward, Tricia recommends…

2. Get the cat spayed ASAP.

This part may be a little upsetting to some folks because spaying the mother cat will mean that she loses the litter. However, it is a lot easier to find a home for one cat than five cats. Also consider that even though the kittens would surely be adorable, your local shelter may have fifty other adorable kittens who need homes as well.

If you need help affording the surgery, go to my Spay/Neuter Clinics page where you’ll find a directory of low-cost spay/neuter clinics all over Arkansas. Also check the Events calendar for scheduled clinics.

But what if the mama cat has already had her kittens?

sleeping kittens

In this case, you’ll want to…

Get the mama and her kittens to a confined space

This could be a garage or laundry room. The objective is to keep the cats safe from cars and predators. Keeping the mother cat safe is important because young kittens don’t stand much of a chance of survival without their mother . (Rescuing orphaned kittens is another topic completely and is addressed here at Alley Cat Allies.)

Kittens should remain with their mother until they are at least eight weeks old. During this time, the mama cat is teaching her kittens manners as well as predatory skills. Separating kittens from their mothers too early can result in behavior problems later on. (for a photo guide to kitten age, click here)

tuxedo kitten

At eight weeks, you can bring the mama and litter to the local animal control and they will be placed for adoption. In Saline County, there are several towns that do not have access to animal control. In those cases, Saline County residents can contact Bryant Animal Control and Adoption Center and they will help find homes for the kittens and mother.

I want to thank Tricia Power for her help with this article. This is merely an overview , but if you want in-depth information on how to care for feral cats and kittens, as well as advice on trapping and socializing, visit the Alley Cat Allies website.

Shelter Volunteering Is Not Sad

Foster Cats

Foster Cats (Photo credit: sneakerdog)

 

The other day, I was chatting with a client…

when I brought up that I volunteer at Little Rock Animal Village (the city-run animal shelter). She asked me a question that I get a lot:

“Does it make you sad?”

I’d like to answer that question here.

No, the vast majority of the time, shelter work does not make me sad. It’s relaxing for me and very rewarding to see animals get adopted into good homes.

In fact, I’ve compiled a list of experiences that have made me much sadder than petting cats at the shelter:

1. The state of Arkansas sending my tax refund to the wrong address

2.The price of Starbucks coffee

3. The mall during the month of December

4.Cubicles

5. Pop stars that are younger than me

6. Millionaires who are younger than me and have less education

7. Facebook during election season

8. The declining spelling skills of our nation’s youth

At the cat shelter - its like crack for my wife

At the cat shelter – its like crack for my wife (Photo credit: nicco)

I think the reason more people don’t volunteer at shelters is the fear that it will be depressing. For this, I partly blame the ASPCA, who is responsible for running those black and white TV ads that would have Cruella De Vil reaching for a tissue box.

The ASPCA has done a lot of good things, but that ad is not one of them. Watch it a few times and you’ll be convinced that animal shelters are full of pitiful, sick, injured animals whimpering at the backs of their dirty cages.

I’ve been working with the cats at the city shelter for a year and a half, and I can attest that it is not a depressing place to volunteer. The employees work hard to keep the floors and cages clean, and they all love animals. Ask them who their favorite cat or dog is and they’ll be quick to point out the ones they’ve become attached to. The building is well-lit and there is a lot of fenced-in grassy area outside for volunteers to walk the dogs.

So here’s a list of things I love about volunteering at the shelter

1. Watching kittens play together (they think they are so ferocious!)

2.Walter, a cat who would put a paw on each of my shoulders and nuzzle me under my chin

3. A solid white cat who perched on top of my head

4. Chaplin, the cat with a mustache

5. Tiger, who purred like a race car

6. Watching a shy cat slowly come out of its shell and learn to trust

7. The cat who had 6 toes

8. The cat who had “smoke” fur (white at the base, black at the tips).

9. Holding a purring cat in my lap

10. Cats going to good homes

And if that list doesn’t convince you, watch this video I took of a shelter cat attacking a jingle ball!

 

 

Free Pets: Good Idea or Bad Idea?

Toy or Treat 1

Picture yourself browsing the kennels at your local animal control…

and you come across two pets, one with an adoption fee of $100 and one with no adoption fee. Which of these animals has a better chance of going to a good home?

Conventional wisdom tells us that people only value what they pay for, so someone who gets a cat for free wouldn’t value it enough to feed it and care for it properly, would they? People who adopt a cat for free probably doesn’t have the money to give it a good life, or do they?

These are questions the rescue community is faced with all the time, and opinions vary widely.

Let me give you two local examples:

1. The Little Rock Animal Village

catsnightout

I’ve been volunteering with the cats at LRAV for a year and a half. Recently, they started an event called Cats Night Out where on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month the shelter stays open until 8:00 pm and allows adult cats to roam the halls and lobby area to get some exercise and exposure to potential adopters.

On these nights, adult cats over one year old are free to adopt. As a volunteer, I have had a lot of fun at these events introducing visitors to our cats and mingling with other cat volunteers. At each event, at least one cat has been adopted, and last Thursday, we had a record of eight adoptions. The reason for this event is kittens usually fly out the door pretty fast, but adult cats can linger in the shelter much longer if they don’t get special attention.

2. The Humane Society of Pulaski County

Ryan

A few days ago, Arkansas Pet Gazette made a donation to the HSPC to sponsor two adult black cats, which typically take longer to adopt out than their lighter-colored friends. I talked to the receptionist about using the donation to cover the cats’ adoption fees and she told me that even if a cat is sponsored, they don’t tell potential adopters until they have already filled out the adoption application and are ready to pay for the pet themselves.

The HSPC feels that if they advertise an animal as free to adopt, it will attract the kind of adopters who can’t afford the upkeep on a pet.

So, you can see by these two examples that shelters frequently disagree on the subject of free pets.

My personal opinion is that as long as a shelter screens potential adopters by running an animal cruelty background check and talking with them about their expectations for having a pet, it won’t matter in the end how much they pay for their new furry friend. However, I respect HSPC’s decision not to advertise free pets and I know they have the animals’ best interests at heart.

What do you think about free pet adoptions?

Regardless of where you stand on the subject, you may be interested to read about  a study conducted by the ASPCA that investigated whether it was harmful to adopt out cats for free.

Looking to adopt? Check out our Events Calendar for local adoption events!

How to Make a Hipster Cat Toy With Michelle Munyon

Michelle Munyon with her son

Michelle Munyon with her son

Tired of the same catnip-filled mice and jingly balls for your cat? How about an octopus? Or a mustache?

Michelle Munyon is the crafter behind Etsy store The Hip Catch where she specializes in unusual cat toys.

Michelle was kind enough to do an interview with Arkansas Pet Gazette and even passed along instructions for her most hipster item:

The Toy Mustache.

Screen Shot 2012-12-03 at 4.02.17 PM

APG: When did you first get interested in making cat toys?

Michelle: I discovered etsy a couple years ago. I was sewing handbags at the time. I started my shop with those, and then I added in pet Christmas stockings, because I had made a few for friends for the holidays and I thought they turned out pretty cute. And then since I have a cat, I started making cat toys and now that’s what I mostly sell in the shop.

APG: As a cat owner, I have to ask, how do you get crafting done with a feline around? Because my cat is always trying to bat at my yarn, bite at my scissors and basically prevent me from accomplishing anything other than rubbing her tummy.

Michelle: So, being a cat owner and making cat nip treats really brings out my cats love for me! As soon as I open up the jar of catnip, Mija is over in my face. I normally will put a towel on the ground and let her roll in her own stash so she keeps busy. But, when I’m photographing the finished toys to add them to the shop, she is constantly in the pictures, trying to get the toys. I just pick her up, put her behind me, try to snap a few shots, and repeat, cause she will be right back up in about 30 seconds!

Michelle's indoor cat Mija

Michelle’s indoor cat Mija

We also have an outdoor kitten. We live on an old farm in the country and in July we found out we had a kitten living under the old chicken coop. It took us about a week to get it to come out and another few weeks for us to be able to pet him, but he has warmed up to our family and we’ve adopted him as our “stray.” My husband named him Hobo and we feed him a little food each day and he sticks around but he’s free to go where he pleases (except in the house).

Hobo, the outdoor cat, with Michelle's son

Hobo, the outdoor cat, with Michelle’s son

Are you ready to try your hand at making the mustache cat toy? I’ll warn you: I tried it and it’s harder than it looks!

You will need:

-felt
-scissors
-catnip
-pen or chalk pencil for tracing
-scrap of paper
-embroidery thread and a needle
-fiber fill

The execution is simple.

  1.  Cut two pieces of felt (for the front and back) into a mustache shape.
  2.  With your needle and thread, sew the two pieces together–ALMOST!
  3.  When you still have a little sewing left to do, stuff the mustache with fiber fill and catnip
  4.  Finish sewing.

Mine turned out smaller than I wanted it, so I turned it into a Christmas ornament and it hangs on my tree! Here’s how it turned out:

mustache

Thank you, Michelle, for being our guest here at Arkansas Pet Gazette!