Friday, May 22, 2009

Rascally Raccoon Rescue

While at the Union shelter today taking pictures of cats and dogs to post on, an unexpected rescue mission developed. The shelter is located behind a Home Depot store. One of the Home Depot employees came over to the shelter asking what to do about some sickly orphaned baby raccoons that were hanging out in the parking lot. Apparently, the mother raccoon and her 3 babies had been living in the warehouse but mom had not been seen for a couple of days. The employees put the babies over the fence into the park but they came right back to the Lawn & Garden department in the Home Depot parking lot. They weren't looking well at all. Dehydration was setting in.

The first raccoon went into the carrier without much ado, just a little shove did the trick. Not a good sign at all. He had discharge in his eyes and really wasn't feeling well. The second one was a little perkier but not enough to run away. After a brief battle and near escape, my gloved hand won and he ended up in the carrier with his brother. The third sibling was not around.

So now what? I have no raccoon experience. Were they old enough to eat on their own? If not, exactly how was I supposed to give them a bottle when they were obviously old enough to already mistrust humans and put up a fight? I was completely out of my element. They napped comfortably in a dog crate on the kitchen table, out of reach of curious canines, while I emailed and telephoned in an attempt to find a wildlife rehabilitator. I reached one fairly quickly who was unable to take them - she was already bottle feeding a dozen raccoon babies. But she kindly passed along some tricks on how to get to them eat on their own, none of which worked. As I expected, it was because they were indeed too young to eat on their own. At long last an offer from a rehabber who came highly recommended and was "only" bottle feeding six at the moment. She could take them. I packed up the babies and off we went. The rehabber immediately whisked them away to get them on the bottle. It was of the utmost importance. She stands ready to accept the 3rd sibling if he comes back around. The Home Depot employees are on the lookout for him. I'll be checking in over the weekend to see how the babies are doing. Now that they are in experienced and capable hands, chances are much better that they will survive to be released back into the wild.

Sunday, May 24, 2009 Update: I called to check on the babies. They are both taking the bottle, have perked up considerably and are doing great.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Farewell To Our Feline Dog Testers

If you stay in foster care long enough, I put you to work. That is how some of our canine-savvy felines have become official dog testers. I have always had one. Suddenly I have none.

Abigail came into foster care with her two nursing kittens in April 2000. Adoption opportunities never materialized for Abigail. She was a very sweet, schmoozy kitty but sit on your lap? Not a chance! People want lap cats and that she was not. But Abigail had other attributes. She stood on her hind legs for treats and took them with her front paws. She was awesome with dogs. I actually think she was a dog in a cat body. If a dog got the "Abigail Seal of Approval" which consisted of head bonks and rubbing on the dog, that dog was deemed safe to live with cats. If a dog did not get approval, the kitty world was spared a potential tragedy. Abigail was never harmed during dog testing. She simply would not come near a dog that was not good with cats. She was extremely accurate in her assessments. Somehow, she just knew... Sadly we lost Abigail on December 31, 2007 after battling Irritable Bowel Disease for over two years.

Little did I know that Abigail's replacement, or rather, replacements, were already in residence. The raiding of a hoarder's house in December 2007 sent 116 animals to shelters, rescues and boarding. Two cats remained at a kennel after the others had been taken by rescues - Amelia with one eye and JoJo with a cauliflower ear. They came here for a foster stint that ended up lasting 1 1/2 years. If their physical "imperfections" weren't a turnoff, nobody wanted to adopt both cats together. As you can see from their picture, they were a package deal. Amazingly, Amelia had the same canine assessment aptitude that Abigail had. In fact, other rescues would bring their dogs over for Amelia's highly valued opinion. JoJo was her backup. If Amelia said a dog was OK, then JoJo would confirm it.

At long last JoJo and Amelia have made it to their well-earned forever home. Yes, TOGETHER! I am thrilled that they now have a whole house to roam instead of just the one room they had here. They now have a sunroom where they can safely watch outdoor birds and wildlife from their indoor cat tree. Thank goodness I had the foresight to say my good-byes as I was loading them into their carriers for the last time. They were just too busy checking out their new digs to be bothered with formalities when I left them at their new home. (Click here for JoJo and Amelia's adoption page.)

So, dear dog applicants - if you need to know if a dog we have for adoption is good with cats, well, chances are we simply will no longer know with the level of certainty we have in the past. None of the other cats here has what it takes to fill the paws of those who have previously held the position of dog tester.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kindred Canines

That's my Shawnee on the left, watching over her buddy, Billie Joe, on the right. Billie Joe is for adoption through All Star Pet Rescue, a group we share adoption days with. As a rule, we have human volunteers who each chaperone a dog at adoption day. In Billie Joe's case, Shawnee is his chaperone. A dog to chaperone a dog? Oh yes.

On July 11, 2001 I found Shawnee, 4 months old at the time, at a large animal shelter. The shelter staff begged me to take her. She was in the corner of her cage, tucked into fetal position, shaking violently. This was due to sheer terror. Of what? Of people. She had never been properly socialized and the thing she most feared was the unfamiliar: humans. Shawnee came with me into foster care where we played catch-up with her socialization, baby steps of introducing her to the unfamiliar world around her. She was exposed to lots of very social dogs and went to group obedience class every single week for 5 years to build up and maintain self-esteem. Although Shawnee started out as a foster, she became a permanent member of my family. Unless you knew her in her early days, you would never believe how terrified she once was. She is now, for the most part, like any other dog. Except Shawnee now has a job. She socializes scared dogs.

In April 2008, Billie Joe went into foster care with All Star Pet Rescue. Billie Joe was 9 months old and had lived his entire life outside in a yard with 15 other dogs. Another case of extreme fear of humans due to lack of socialization. For almost one year, each time Billy Joe was at adoption day, he would slither (or as we call it, GI Joe belly crawl) smack up against the building in a desperate attempt to hide in the crack between the wall and sidewalk - that same crack Shawnee used to try to hide in. He would duck his head and not look at anyone. "If I can't see you, you can't see me."
People would always assume Billie Joe had been abused. How could he possibly have been abused if nobody ever interacted with him before he was rescued? People could pet him. People could do anything to him. Billy Joe simply never responded. He would pretend you did not exist. He would pretend he did not exist. Until he met Shawnee.

I knew Shawnee was drawn to shy dogs. I had seen it too many times - her honing in on the less social and taking them "under her paw." Those shy dogs would respond to her, feel more at ease, and become much more interactive with humans. It made them more adoptable. So after a year of minimal progress with Billie Joe it only made sense to let Shawnee have a go at him. Shawnee simply had to start coming to adoption day to show Billie Joe the ropes.

The changes were dramatic and almost instantaneous. Billie Joe now walks all fours at Shawnee's side - no more GI Joe belly crawl. Billie Joe no longer tries to hide in a sidewalk crack - he now positions himself parallel to Shawnee on the blanket in full view of the world. Billy Joe now responds to people paying attention to him, even to the point of looking at them as though to say "Why did you stop petting me?"

So until Billie Joe gets adopted, which he is now most definitely ready for, Shawnee will be his chaperone at adoption day.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Extreme Doggie Makeovers

In honor of Be Kind To Animals Week (May 3 - 9, 2009) a shout out to our wonderful, animal-and-rescue-friendly volunteer groomer, Anne Marie, owner of Reigning Cats & Dogs Salon!

Anne Marie provides many of our homeless dogs with desperately needed grooming. In many cases these dogs have never been at the receiving end of a comb or clippers. The before pictures don't do justice to the carpets of underlying rock solid mats and the accompanying filth and stench. Anne Marie turns the hideous into high fashion, the disgusting into divine, the stinky into stunning, the unkempt into unbelievable. Anne Marie makes them adoptable. Just see for yourself.

These dogs (and many others) are all in wonderful homes now where they will never want for grooming again. Thank you, Anne Marie for starting them off on their happily ever afters!