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Archive for the ‘Pet Adoption’ Category

The most popular pups – for now…

After being involved in animal welfare for a few years, I’ve learned to really hate these lists. The American Kennel Club has put out its list of the top dogs based on registration statistics. The winners are Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Beagles, Golden Retrievers and the Yorkie.

Labs are America's favorite dogs - until they are no longer wanted. Adults like Edy may never find another home.

I have no qualms with the dogs or their popularity. In fact, Molson, my in-laws late Lab is one of the best dogs I’ve ever been around. The problem is our culture – the need to possess whatever item is hot – whether or not it’s a living, breathing being – and getting it as quickly as possible.

It’s that need to possess that ties this story with the other dog story in Chicago yesterday. Chicago Animal Care and Control put out an alert that they’ve taken in a large number of dogs recently – they are full. Because they are an open admission shelter, animals die when they are full so they are able to make room for more animals that come through their doors.

This Husky is another pure breed dumped at CACC who also needs a home.

The plea yesterday was for no kill shelters and rescues to come to CACC and rescue the animals to give them a second chance. Although many of the dogs will be mutts or pit bulls, you’d be surprised how many of the top five dogs from the list at the start of my post have been left behind. In fact, around 25 percent of the dogs in shelters are pure breeds.

You know the dog – the Lab, the Golden, the Beagle – that someone just had to have until they didn’t have to have it anymore. Many of these animals were purchased at a premium from a pet store or the Internet because people had to have a pure breed – until something else caught their attention. And this need to have it now fuels one of America’s most inhumane industries – the puppy mills.

Because people don’t want to wait or do their homework, they purchase dogs through newspaper ads and from pet stores. All of these dogs are mass-produced in commercial breeding operations known as puppy mills. Breeding dogs are kept in inhumane conditions and dogs are cross-bred with no concern for any genetic issues that may plague a particular breed or bloodline.

Fluffy is 16 years old and terrified of the shelter.

And consumers buy, buy, buy – until they can’t afford the vet bills or get tired of the responsibility or see something else they want more. Then, the dogs end up in a shelter or rescue – often it is death row because there are just so many wonderful homeless pets out there and not enough homes or shelters for them all.

Dogs of all sizes - like Pilot - just need a second chance.

If you are interested in any breed of dog, you really need to do you homework. Check out what that type of dog was bred to do and decide if that is behavior you can live with because it’s not going to change. Ask someone who’s lived with rat terriers, herding dogs, pugs or dachshunds…any pure breed. They all have their pros and cons. A lot of the Chicago breed rescues have monthly meet ups and they encourage people who are considering taking in that type of dog to come and learn about the beauty and blemishes of their favorite breed.

Then, do more homework. Check out shelters and rescues and ask as many questions as you can about a particular dog and the breed. You are not purchasing something that can be discarded or returned. You are bringing home a family member who loves and cares and wants nothing more than to be with you. When you get a pet, you are actually getting into a very long-term commitment – 12 to 20 years. That’s a long time – too long for a lot of people.

Taylor is still a puppy, but lost a home anyway and now needs a second chance.

Skip a puppy and go for a grown up. With the current economy, there are many adult dogs that have been trained and in a loving home and just want to get back into that routine – try that to start. Even better – try a senior dog.

If you do want a pure breed from a breeder keep in mind, good breeders not only care about the gene pool of the dogs they reproduce, they are very picky about who takes their puppies home. While you’re asking questions about bloodlines and if a dog will be good with kids or cats or other dogs, they are checking out your backyard, your neighborhood, your ability to pay for vet bills, your ability to handle a long-term commitment.

Unfortunately, people don’t want to wait, do their homework or really think it through. They decide they want a dog, they want it now and they want a pure breed puppy so it won’t “have the issues you get with a shelter dog.” So they purchase a dog from the paper, the Internet or go to their neighborhood pet store and end up with what they think is a pure breed with papers – but – it’s a dog mass-produced in a puppy mill.

Calvin also needs a second chance.

And when they find out how much work it is to have a puppy – that it needs to be trained, that it will produce more puppies if not fixed, that it gets sick and needs medical care – then they think about those issues. If the dog has health issues because of poor breeding standards – people think about it after they buy a pet.

Plenty of pitties like Domino also need a second chance.

That’s when they decide having a dog isn’t the best thing for them.  That is when they find out that dogs are not returnable. That is when CACC, the Animal Welfare League and any number of open admission shelters get the responsibility of the dog that people just had to have. That is when the plea goes out for help. And, that is when so many dogs get their death sentence because no one just “has to have” that dog anymore.

All of the dogs shown in this post were listed on the Facebook Page for Chicago Animal Care and Control’s Transfer team yesterday. They need a rescue, a foster home or better yet a true forever home.

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Too many cats. . .

If you walk into any shelter that takes in cats, it doesn’t take long to notice how many cats are in their care. How many adult cats that once had a home, a family, a warm place to sleep to call their own. It is just overwhelming…

Sun Pacific is a senior cat found wandering the streets of Chicago. She is waiting at Tree House for her forever home.

Why are there so many kitties? The economy and aging population play a very small role in this. The sad answer to the question is this – although cats are America’s favorite pet, outnumbering dogs by 15 million (according to the AVMA), they are the most likely to be relinquished to animal shelters. Too many people don’t get that the cute little kitten could be a 15- to 20-year commitment and in our disposable society dump them and move on.

Here’s another staggering number for you. Tree House Humane Society is in the midst of a trap neuter return program in Chicago’s Humboldt Park. An astounding 65 percent of the cats they trapped last year are friendly strays – 65 percent. As they’ve canvassed the neighborhood, someone has usually been able to pinpoint where the cat used to live before being dumped by his or her family. Even the folks at PetSmart Charities that are providing the grant money for the program were shocked by that statistic.

Many TNR programs do just that – Trap, Neuter, Return. For Tree House, feral cats fall into the TNR part of the program, but strays do not. They are given a second chance and finding a permanent home. The organization took in 300 cats off the streets through its TNR efforts last year.

Yor came in through the TNR program at Tree House and is looking for a home.

Those 300 cats were fortunate to have been taken in by a no kill shelter that considers them “Tree House Cats” for life. That means they will live there until they find a home and will come back if the need to find another home. It also means that those cats didn’t end up at Chicago Animal Care and Control or another open admission shelter where adoption prospects are dim and where many adult cats especially don’t make it out. Tree House is working on building more partnerships with foster homes and boutique pet shops to help more kitties find homes.

My goal this year in this blog and in the Examiner has been to shed more light on the plight of cats in our community. As the cat lady of my neighborhood, I’ve failed on that front so far in 2012.

The dogs have taken over – with pit bull controversies, parvo and puppy mill stories – for the first few months. But, that is changing. Next week I’ll be focusing on a new suburban group that is working on FIV education/adoption and rehoming black cats. We’ll also look at TNR efforts in Lake County and update you on events in the city.

In the meantime, please forgive a typo or two on my blog – like may animal lovers I get all kinds of furry help when I write…and the cats never did too well in editing class. So, meow for now. The Blog is back and check out my stories next week on the Examiner.

For the love of a senior pet

You could set your watch by Scarlett.

At the same time each morning, she’d either be sitting next to my head in full throttle purr or she’d be letting out her long raspy meow on the top step of the cat stairs next to the bed – just a reminder that it was time to get up (AKA – breakfast time). She would be waiting next to my desk as I stopped in to check email after work each day and would climb on my lap the same time each night. The list goes on.

We lost Scarlett a year ago at the ripe old age of 19 1/2 and it took us awhile to get back into our regular routine. After all, she was no longer there to remind us it was that time of day to do whatever.

Meeeeoooow!

Ah…routine! So many pets, through no fault of their own lose their home in their golden years. Their owner may die or go into a nursing home or their family may lose their home. Or, they just get dumped for no reason at all (it’s my blog so I can say – stupid people). These animals not only deeply miss a family…their family…they miss their routine.

November is Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month and I’ve been working on a series of stories with rescues, adopters and people that have a lot of great new products and services for senior pets. The universal comment I get from rescuer and adopters is that the senior cats and dogs they’ve rescued, fostered or adopted have almost immediately settled into their family routines. In some cases, it’s been like that pet has always been a part of the family. They also tend to bond with their new family and catch onto the rules much more quickly than their younger counterparts.

We all love kittens and puppies and energetic young cats and dogs. But, let’s face it, those loveable fur balls have their own schedule and don’t care about your routine. Another thing I’ve learned is that there are many animals that are adopted as a puppy or a kitten and returned because the were destructive, not housebroken etc. In reality, the adopter never spent the time training and nurturing their latest acquisition.

So, if you are considering adding a pet to your home, consider adopting a senior or older cat or dog. Here’s a link to my latest feature showing some of the animals that just want a break and a family. Young at Heart Pet Rescue in suburban Chicago rescues only older cats and dogs and have many wonderful pets needing homes. Heartland Animal Shelter, Save-A-Pet and Anti-Cruelty Society also have many senior pets looking for families. And, Tree House Humane Society – the shelter that introduced me to Scarlett as a kitten – has lots and lots of senior kitties needing homes.

Doing the right thing

I love the Staples commercial on TV when the person confronted with a crisis just hits the “Easy” button and everything is great. In reality, it’s a different story.

PJ’s Pet Stores in Canada have been getting a lot of attention after announcing they’d stop selling pure breed puppies and kittens. From now on out, they will work with shelters and rescues on animal adoptions. Since the pure breeds come from puppy and kitten mills and more people are aware of the horrors of those businesses, you’d think moves like these would be simple for pet stores to make.

Dogs from a puppy mill.

Apparently, it is not.

In the Chicago-area, the war has been brewing between the store owners, who have no problem selling animals from puppy and kitten mills, and animal rights activists. The number of stores shut down by protests is on the rise with more of the worst offenders in the sites of the Puppy Mill Project. This organization works on educating the public about the horrors of puppy mills and working with merchants to stop the sale of puppies and kittens.

I’ve always been an animal lover and to me, the right thing to do is a true “no brainer.” Animal abuse is wrong and to abusively reproduce for profit should be criminal. One of my dearest friends has a dog rescued from a puppy mill and Reese is the face I picture whenever I discuss this issue.

There are pet stores that are doing the right thing and it is working. Dave Cozzolino owns Wilmette Pet Center. Although the store had sold puppies and kittens for years, Cozzolino had developed a relationship with North Suburban Adopt-A-Pet. The store would foster a cat for adoption and hold adoption fairs at the location.

When he took over as owner three years ago, he decided that he no longer wanted to sell puppies and kittens and wanted to work for more adoptions instead. He worked with Adopt-A-Pet to change over the cages in his store one by one to the rescue. He fosters the animals and the rescue handles the adoption. After a year, the move has been good for his business.

Animals that have been rescued by Adopt-A-Pet are now up for adoption at Wilmette Pet Center.

I interviewed him recently and a couple of things really struck me about Dave. First of all, he feels like many of us do – because there are so many homeless cats and dogs in the world, it’s just not right to sell so many puppies and kittens for profit. The other thing is his very strong sense of community.

Dave feels that if he is good to the community, they will be good to him as well. Along with Adopt-A-Pet, he works with Midwest Greyhound Adoption, the Midwest Labrador Retriever Rescue and has hosted events for other shelters and rescues. But in his Wilmette neighborhood, community is much more than that. He supports school groups and scouts and other local organizations. As long as he’s in business, he’ll be around to help out a lot of local folks.

Bonny from Adopt-A-Pet

Like most business owners, he is in the business to make a profit. But he also was genuinely concerned about who would support those organizations if his business wasn’t there any longer. So, he switched from selling to adopting – cage-by-cage – and worked to come up with new products and revenue streams with each change.

In the past year, his business is up and adoptions for Adopt-A-Pet are also up – especially the kittens. He reports he has lots of new customers who adopt from him and now shop there and from people who are now coming back in because he has stopped selling pure breeds and changed how he does business.

Kitten from Adopt-A-Pet

A few other small operations are also joining forces with rescues, shelters and even Chicago Animal Care and Control to help save lives and move Chicago a bit closer to being a no-kill city. We still have a long, long way to go.

The Late, Great Rhett the Wonder Cat

He was the goofiest kitten I’d ever seen. His ears were way too large for his head. His body was scrawny. He had this enormous fluffy tail and his back legs worked faster than the front. So, he ran funny. When I first saw Rhett at the Tree House Humane Society nearly 20 years ago, it was hard to image that he “belonged” to the beautiful, puffy little kitten next to him in the cage. She was so purr-fectly proportioned – he was far from it.

The two kittens came home with me that day and today’s post is about the little kitten that got into loads of trouble. You see Rhett didn’t so much move into my Wrigleyville apartment as he invaded it. He climbed, attacked, bit and partied when everyone wanted to sleep. He got into so much trouble that first year, he answered to Booger – as in – “You little Booger!”

It may look as if Rhett's relaxing - it's just a ploy to plot his next move.

Each time he got into trouble, he looked at me with his silly little look and purred so loudly that I though a Harley was speeding through my apartment. I talked to my vet and behavioral people at Tree House. Still, the little booger kept reeking havoc in my life. They say in the cat books that male kittens settle down after they are neutered – not Rhett.  Kittens with a buddy get into less trouble – not Rhett.  My kitten was too busy getting into trouble to read any book.  I eventually had a roommate move in with a little male cat – Tin-Tin – and once the two of them started re-enacting the WWF – Rhett settled down a tad.

There was another strange thing about this cat. His first birthday came and went and he kept growing. The vet said he could have some Maine Coon in him and that would explain the continued growth spurt. When he finally stopped growing, he had developed into one of the most handsome cats I’d ever seen.

Rhett as a handsome adult cat.

His head and ears finally matched and the tail complimented his body – he also ran like a normal cat. He still didn’t act like one.

When the cats and I moved into our Edgewater condo, something strange happened each day. I’d leave the house in the morning and the throw rug would be in front of the door. At night, it would be under the front window or in the kitchen. The mystery was finally solved one weekend. Rhett and Scarlett would take turns running down the hall and jumping on the rug – it would slide a few feet – they’d repeat until they hit a wall. So, this cat rode a magic carpet, jumped furniture in a single bound, and worked hard to keep us safe from invisible invaders. Just call him Rhett the Wonder Cat.

Rhett felt that company came to see only him and would jump on anyone’s lap, especially those who he sensed didn’t like cats. When my husband-to-be and I first started dating, Rhett jumped up on Tom’s lap, put his paws on his shoulders and sniffed him out nose to nose. Tom, who wasn’t a cat person at that time, asked if this was normal behavior for a cat. Of course it wasn’t, but this wasn’t a normal cat.

From then on, the boys were inseparable. They wrestled and played games and when Tom’s Jeep pulled up in front of my condo, Rhett was waiting for his buddy to arrive. When we got married and the cats moved with us to a house on the North Shore, he started to shadow Tom’s every move. Yes,  Darth Cat had gone over to the Dark Side.  Tom taught Rhett how to sit and shake hands and Rhett taught Tom how to turn on the water in the sink in the master bath at 3 am by knocking items off the counter and into the sink.

Rhett was all wet after drinking out of the sink.

Rhett loved life and loved most company. But, he didn’t like little boys – even when they grew up into teenagers. He’d growl and hiss and dive under the bed with the nephews came to visit. At an early age, they all joked about the “mean, scary” cat and wisely  left him alone. Since Tom isn’t overly fond of children, it gave them both another reason to bond.

At one point, my sister-in-law came to feed Rhett and Scarlett when we were out-of-town and called me in a panic. Rhett had met her in the hallway and let out a cougar scream before going into hiding. She didn’t know what set him off because she’d left the boys at home.

Well, kind of.

She was eight months pregnant at the time with my future godson Anthony – Rhett must have sensed that there was a little boy in the house and wanted everyone to know that wasn’t fine with him.

Eventually, the senior years took over and Rhett slowed down, jumped less and ceased to get into much trouble. During the summer five years ago, he lost his appetite and eventually ended up in the emergency room. In the middle of the night his true closest friend Scarlett, let out the saddest howl. When the phone rang, we learned his time was almost over.  He died five years ago today at the age of 15  and the house was too quiet for the longest time.  After being called so many nicknames through the years, he has just one title now he’s gone off to the Rainbow Bridge – the Late, Great Rhett the Wonder Cat!

Rhett and Scarlett relaxing in the bathroom

Tom and I had both loved and lost pets growing up. Nothing was as difficult as losing our first true rescue as adults. It took us a long time to recover and when we did, we ended up with another bonded pair and a cat just as goofy as our Rhett (much more on those cats in future posts).  In recent years, I’ve also been active in the animal rescue community helping with public relations, community outreach and education. While volunteering, I learned the craziest thing – people actually return cats for all the reasons I listed above. Seriously!

You know what, the thought never once crossed my mind. To this day, I just can’t imagine what my life would have been like without the late, great Rhett the Wonder Cat! As the little nephews say – R-I-P little buddy!

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