Thursday, December 31, 2009

For auld lang syne

Tonight, most people who sing this song at midnight will firmly believe that Robert Burns is the original author. The truth was that Scottish culture owes a large ( and well acknowledged ) debt of thanks to Robert Burns, who loved collected the old and ancient Scottish airs.

He may not have written the original version of the song, but the version that has survived to our times definitely has his original stamp.

Anyone who has followed this blog, or the old one, knows what a special affection I have for senior pets. All too often, people firmly believe a whole raft of myths about senior pets ....starting with the mistaken idea that one can't teach an old dog new tricks and running the whole gamut through to the biggest misconception .... that it isn't possible to really bond with a senior pet.

I've shared space with dogs that have grown old with me and some that were already 'seasoned' when they came in the door .... so I'm not just blowing smoke when I talk about senior pets.

In my perfect fantasy world, all pets would live their whole lives with their original guardians. Here in the real world, as you all very well know, that is not always how the cookie crumbles.

A pet is not a car ... or an appliance ... that depreciates over time. Like the old songs that Robert Burns was so fond of, elderpets haveand still have so much to offer. And like those old songs ... elderpets can be settled into a new way as well.

Best of all, they are old enough and wise enough to appreciate the value of a second chance at love. To paraphrase that old cliche often heard in movie wedding proposals .... you might not be their first love, but you really have to experience it to understand how rewarding it is to be their last love.

So just for your benefit, Benson, Bonnie and Clyde , Bruin , Clank , Mia, Elsa , Smokey, Mitchell's Cat , Hobo , Logan , Blue and Svetlana are here to offer you the old tradtional salute to the New Year!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Its always the season for saving lives

These are eight of the latest refugees ... the lucky ones who have narrowly escaped VERY Unhappy Tails in high kill gassing shelters down south.
Their journey has really only started ... now East Coast German Shepherd Rescue is looking for foster homes so that they can bring them into Canada and begin the process of getting them ready for adoption. For more information on these great dogs, please contact

Did you know:
  • that if your dream pet is a budgie, S.H.A.I.D has two lovelies available for adoption ... Lady Gray and Sir Peri ?
  • if you have your heart set on a bunny , that there is a nice fellow named Humphrey at the Metro Shelter and that TAPA has both Baby Bunnies and a lovely Lionhead female named Bunny :)))
  • that if you are one of the wise folks who understand what wonderful pets that rats can be, there is a sweet boy named Mortimer who is available from the Metro Shelter?
  • if an interesting well bonded pair of geckos would make your home complete you are in luck, because Rippy and Chompy are waiting for you with Ssafe Haven
  • no matter what anyone may have told you , there are always Babes In Toyland available for adoption all year long?
  • that all the cliches really are true? Settled Senior Kitties and dogs ARE more experienced at love!

Its never a bad time to take good advice

This was in my facebook inbox late last night from the Beulah Burman's PET Projects (BBPET) facebook group:
2009 is nearly behind us, and what a year it has been!
We're happy to report that BECAUSE OF YOUR PARTNERSHIP...
  • emergency foster care was provided for 118 homeless cats and dogs
  • 108 adoptions of foster animals were facilitated to forever-families in Shelburne County, Yarmouth County, the Valley, Halifax, PEI and even Newfoundland!
  • over 100 cats and dogs were spayed/neutered
  • 26 feral (wild) cats in local colonies were trapped/neutered/returned
  • lost pets were reunited with their owners
  • private rescuers and pet owners in need were able to access crucial services such as emergency vet care subsidy, food and supplies, and re-homing resources including advertising and PET Matching
  • hundreds of people experienced the joy of welcoming a deserving dog or cat into their family!

And so we thank you for your part in this great mission; through networking, encouragement, incredible volunteerism by wonderful and committed animal-lovers, and faithful financial and material giving, we are truly making a difference in Shelburne County and beyond. We look forward to continued partnership in the New Year!There are still some ways we can all contribute in 2009!

There are a few days left for year-end giving, and you can donate online ( and receive a printable charitable receipt via email which will mean a tax break come April! We also have some wonderful adoptables who would love to have new homes for the New Year --- if you know of someone thinking of adopting a pet, please direct them to!

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Here's to changing the world in 2010 - one animal at a time!

Now THIS is putting facebook to very good use! P.E.T. PROJECTS is also ringing in the new year with a great newly revamped site .... they are so engaged in creating a better community ... one paw at a time ... that they simply outgrew the old site.

And of course, the way time runs away on us all, its very sensible for every non profit group that can offer a tax receipt to remind its supporters that the deadline for deductible donations is midnight tomorrow.

What time is it? Clearly P.E.T. PROJECTS felt it was time to take Nathan Winograd's words to heart " Do a good job, tell people about it, and ask for their help"

Monday, December 28, 2009

from today's Herald

Clare group helps feral cats
Society wants to get problem under control

By BRIAN MEDEL Yarmouth Bureau Tue. Dec 29 - 4:45 AM

Laurent Comeau tries to coax a feral cat from hiding at the Saulnierville wharf. Many feral cats roam the region’s fishing wharfs. (Brian Medel / Yarmouth Bureau)

SAULNIERVILLE — The Clare Feral Friends Society has an ambitious plan for 2010.
It hopes to get a group of wild wharf cats under control by spring.
"This is where people drop off unwanted cats and kittens," Adele Bourque said recently, pointing toward huge boulders put in place to protect parts of the Saulnierville wharf from wind and waves.
The society was started in May 2006 when Ms. Bourque and Glenda Deveau decided to do something about the increasing number of wild cats at the Meteghan and Saulnierville wharfs. The animals, with neither food nor shelter, prowl the fishing wharfs.
A lot of kittens were born at the Saulnierville wharf this summer, and the society has been trying to trap female cats at both wharfs to have them spayed. But that’s expensive, so the society began its fundraising quest by placing donation jars around the communities and holding yard sales and raffles.
People drop off their unwanted cats at their local wharf when they don’t want to pay to have them humanely euthanized, Ms. Bourque said.
"Our group rescued about 15 of them," she said.
But most of the wharf cats don’t survive a cold winter.
Volunteers have built cat shelters where the cats can find refuge. The plywood cat cabins have straw bedding and a small opening only a cat can navigate. Food and fresh water is placed inside.
Laurent Comeau, a retired mechanic, has brought food to the Saulnierville wharf every morning for five years. The cats have come to know him and come out of hiding when he’s around.
In Meteghan, Ms. Deveau has been feeding the cats at the wharf every evening for four years.
The society estimates there are at least 40 cats at the two wharfs and it can’t help them all.
"We don’t have the money," Ms. Bourque said.
The society hopes it can raise enough money to pay for spaying and neutering projects and to establish foster homes for the cats. Donations of supplies, including cat food, bedding material and dishes, are always welcome for the cat shelters at the wharfs.
The society is on the Internet, too. Information can be found at and at
If you are interested in helping such a worthy venture, the Clare Feral Friends petfinder page has all the direct info that is needed. I don't have to tell readers here how useful Petfinder is.
If you are looking to help in your own area, or to adopt, TAPA (Taking Action to Protect Animals Society), Healing Animal SCARS - Sonya's Cat & Animal Rescue Society and Beulah Burman's PET Projects all use Petfinder to promote their kitties.
Vet cares for kitten found in trash bin
Tue. Dec 29 - 4:45 AM
A Halifax-area veterinarian is caring for a badly injured kitten that was found in a Dumpster just before Christmas.
Heather Mosher says it appears someone hit the four-month-old kitten in the back of the head with a blunt object and left her to die.
The grey and black kitten is now blind and has fragments of its skull embedded in its brain.
Mosher says the kitten, who she has named Maggie, will likely be adopted by a local family.
The Canadian Press

The story about the Clare Feral Friends typifies the biggest holdup for the tnr folks ... it isn't the lack of energy or love for the animals ..... the problem is the shortage of material resources needed to make a meaningful difference.

If .... at this time of year, you are looking for a tax deductible donation , you can still help the folks doing TNR by going to the Make a donation page on the society's provincial webpage, following the directions on the Canada Helps for the society site .... you will be able to select TNR as an option when donating to the society. I have been assured by the project coordinator that the funds donated to the society for TNR will go directly to the vet accounts for the TNR groups .... I would think that if you want more details, you should contact the society directly.

After all, if your politicians can't seem to pony up for the kitties, you can always do it for them by getting that tax deductible donation in before midnight on Thursday, eh?

Where oh where are you tonight

It would seem that it was premature for me to think that we had dodged another snowstorm .... the timing may have been a bit off, but its snowing to beat the band here right now. To be perfectly honest, its a lot easier to savour the postcard pretty view when I know that I won't have to drive through it.
On a lovely sunny day, it is at least a couple of hours drive from Sydney just to the causeway. Add at least another three hours on to that if you are going to the city .... and a couple more onto that if you're coming to the valley.
On a day like this, its easy to understand why the adopters aren't flocking to the Cape Breton SPCA. After all, outside of the animal rescue world and the dedicated animal loving community, most of the province has utterly no idea that there is even cause for concern for the animals.
When I was taking my instructor's training to teach at the cooking school, I was amazed to learn that one year after graduation, most people retain less than a third of the course material unless they use it on a regular basis. One third ... and that's the best case scenario.
Nor do people tend to stay current on any issue that doesn't personally engage either their interest or their sympathy. For instance, now that I'm retired and not engaged in the process of planning weddings, I haven't got the foggiest idea what the latest trends are for this years brides.
The original inspiration for the homeless pet site was the realization that most people .... good kind potential adopter kind of people ... have utterly no idea what the available adoption options are in this province. In the course of researching the site, it quickly became evident that many of the hardworking folks engaged in frontline rescue were so darned busy 'wrestling with alligators' that they simply didn't have time to try to 'drain the swamp' by promoting themselves.
At the end of the day, its not realistic to expect the general public to stay abreast of the animal related issues that somehow fly under the radar for all the media outlets in this province. The Herald for instance, will write the occasional article about a horrific case of abuse, such as the brief story about the kitten in this morning's paper Vet cares for kitten found in trash bin .... or a new tidbit about Metro, but generally animal stories are the exception rather than the rule.
Which is a real shame, because the media carries such power. Although I blogged about the cancellation of the Truro prison's Pawsitive training program, it was the presence of the article in the mainstream media that legitimized the story and galvanized reader reaction which in turn resulted in a reversal of things.
At the end of the day, the media reaches all the folks who could be potential adopters but are simply unaware of the issues.
There are so many ways that the media could truly help. Most people for instance have no idea that there is such uneven coverage around the province with respect to all animal rescue, not just the society. I have yet to see an article about responsible pet ownership, dog sports, spay neuter, etc....
Do people know what happens to the cats and dogs that are taken by Animal Control? The media holds a lot of power in its hands.... for instance, once the articles appeared about the dogs being shot by Annapolis County AC, it immediately galvanized concerned citizens to create CAPS. Particularly when AC is govt funded, it would only be appropriate for honest statistics to be publicly available, in just the same way that the society does on their website.
Its not a matter of pointing fingers .... its the only way of pointing out the true scope of the homeless pet problem. And THAT would in turn motivate that ..... what's that I hear ... oh yes the ever so effective sound of Strong Voter Feedback!
It is just a fact of life that its hard to motivate concern for change when people have no sense of the scope of the problem, eh? When most people have never heard of No Kill. When far too many good folks have no idea how many Unhappy Tails are out there.
But, I'm wandering afield here ..... lets get back to Cape Breton. My Dad used to say I should peel the apple in my hand... not the one on the tree. Until that magical day when the media use their powers for the good of the animals, there are things that the Cape Breton SPCA could be doing to promote itself:
  • first and foremost, they could use their petfinder listings properly. For the last few weeks, there have only been one dog and a couple of cats listed on their site. All their adoptables should be listed, with the appropriate details that adopters need to know before driving all that way .... is the pet housetrained/ good with kids / other pets/ etc. How old do they estimate the pet is? As we speak there are once again NO LISTINGS : (((
  • the Cape Breton SPCA website needs to be updated ..... the information needs to be positive , current and above all needs to let the public know that there is a desperate need for help. If animals are being killed because the adopters aren't there, being honest about it will garner much more help
  • use Facebook properly ..... every day animal rescues in the southern states are saving lives by using this important networking tool. If it can inspire the transport of dogs from high kill and gassing shelters to Northern Rescues, just imagine how much help could be found closer to home for the Cape Breton SPCA ?
  • Start a shelter blog... talk about the things that are needed... but more importantly, talk about the progress of the animals. Post pictures of pets in need.... of volunteers who make a difference .... of work being done to improve things.
  • If the Cape Breton SPCA has a contractual relationship with the CBRM, have them put something on their municipal site like Annapolis County has done for CAPS,
  • Update the Cape Breton SPCA petfinder page. The first thing visitors see is the heading ... Spring 2006, and 2010 is almost here, eh?

What time is it? Its time to understand that until the swamp is drained, everything else is just playing catch up.

Looking for miracles

What a wonderful muddy morning we had for our morning hike today. I shudder to think that we almost didn't go to the woods this morning because the top of the yard was so icy. If you have to ask why that would be a problem you have never slid down a slippery ravine or worried about dogs sliding down a stony hill into a tree.
There will be plenty of days yet when we will have to settle for a walk down our country road ..... that it would just be a real shame not to 'seize the day' whenever we can.
Every year, there seem to be certain times that are slower for adoptions ... when all of the grreat dogs and purrfect cats seem to 'sit on the shelf'. July ... when the whole world seems to go on vacation. September ... when parents are spending a small fortune on school. And of course January ... when pocketbooks are still recovering from the holidays and the weather doesn't encourage driving any distance.
But wait ... what about all those people who couldn't adopt the pet they were interested in? Won't they be lining up to adopt? Do ya really think?
Or did they do what they do every year, and simply go elsewhere? Somewhere without screening or support? Someplace where living breathing sentient beings are simply commodities with curbside guarantees.
Is it really good 'customer relations' for rescues and shelters to dictate to people when they can and cannot enrich their homes with a new pet? Ahhh ... but old habits die hard it would seem, and vestiges of the old "better off dead than in the not quite perfect home" still linger everywhere.
At the end of the day, each individual shelter and group that refer to themselves as No Kill are really like stand alone computers. While it is true that they are not personally killing any healthy adoptable animals, it still does not mean that their policies are not killing the animals.
There are waiting lists for every group and shelter in this province. Where do these pets come from? Not from reputable rescues and shelters .... because right in the contract they insist on their adoptables being returned if things 'don't work out'. No sir ... many of the good pets waiting for 'room at the inn' came from "the competition" ... the pet stores and puppy brokers and backyard breeders and of course the dreaded free online ad sites.
Not all of the animals on that waiting list will live to tell the tail. Nor do all the animals even make it to the lists when there is no 'room at the inn'. Sadly, far too many become Eagle / Hawk / Coyote Chow. Many simply starve and freeze to death because as pets they have not needed survival skills. Others find out first hand how horribly dangerous humans can really be.
The real holiday miracle would be if next year, all the rescues and shelters in this province embraced the Home for the Holiday's idea, instead of alienating adopters.
What time is it? Its time to recognize that sending adopters elsewhere is simply perpetuating the problem.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Next year ......

Tis the night before Christmas, and if there is anything stirring in this house, odds are it won't be a mouse. With six cats snoozing in their favourite spots, any sensible mouse has long ago found friendlier digs.
Like many empty nesters, over the years I have simplified the season. Bit by bit ... year by year ... all the time consuming minutiae fell by the wayside so that the season can be properly enjoyed.
To be perfectly honest, if I was looking to adopt a pet, there would be nothing in this weeks routine that would pose a problem. I'm fifty five years old, which means that I am at the younger end of that favorite target market, the Baby Boomers.
We carry enough financial clout that customer savvy stores no longer have senior days .... they have 'over 55' discounts. As a group, Baby Boomers pride themselves on their compassion and their social conscience.
Successful companies understand the value of catering to a large market base. They appreciate that there is only one opportunity to make a good first impression with a customer. They are aware that Canadians seldom complain, they simply go elsewhere.
Next year, just imagine what could happen if the rescues and shelters were willing to let their adoptables go 'home for the holidays" to the Baby Boomers? And before the keyboards catch on fire, no I am not advocating giving a pet as a gift. Why? Because a pet is not a thing, but a living breathing sentient being who deserves the opportunity to form a loving relationship with a kindred spirit.
Just imagine the possibilities. There is a target market of potential adopters, lovely kind people who have raised their own children and are generally financially stable enough to afford quality care for their pets. Even better, many of these folks have at least some experience with pets. Best of all, many of them are at least partially retired and so are well positioned to volunteer with the group who matches them with their new best friends.
What time is it? Its time to take a page from the profit sector and cater to the market base.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Looking for butterflies

If a picture is worth a thousand words .... its no wonder that the ads for puppies in the dreaded free online ad sites stage more appealing pictures than these in their ads.
There is a harsh reality behind many of the ads .. especially in the under five hundred dollar dogs for sale category:
  • both parents on site is no guarantee that the breeding stock is being housed humanely.
  • puppies born after Oct 30th are advertised as ready to go for Christmas .... whereas reputable breeders NEVER let puppies leave the bitch before eight weeks of age
  • The parents of "Purebred" puppies, or pure bread in more than one ad, must both be CKC registered. Most folks are unaware that in Canada, it is illegal to advertise animals as purebred that cannot be registered
  • "Designer' dogs are completely unregulated, so there is no possibility that a health guarantee or the protection of proper genetic screening will be available to purchasers.
  • Even the price tag should raise a red flag .... the days of being able to find a five hundred dollar pet quality puppy are long gone. The reason purebreds from reputable breeders are so "expensive' is that it costs a fair bit for the proper genetic screening and going to the shows to get the championship points. In truth, even in the eight hundred to a thousand dollar range, reputable breeders don't make money.

None of this is new information. So why, in this day and age do people continue to shop online and in pet stores?

For many people, getting a pet is a lot like buying a house. Most people only buy one house at a time. Nor do they buy a lot of houses in their lifetime. I've never done a survey, but most of my friends only have one or two pets at a time and they keep them for life. (Before the keyboards catch on fire, do bear in mind that I'm not really going to have enough in common with people who mistreat their pets in anyway to become friends, eh? )

If well cared for pets can live for 15 to 20 years these days, it doesn't take a mathematician to add up the numbers .... most people will only bring home three or four puppies in their lifetime.

What does that mean for in realspeak? It means that most folks never have a chance to be experienced at picking out a pet. It means that the people who couldn't adopt ( along with their friends, family, neighbours and coworkers ) because they wanted to enrich their family during the holiday season won't be back for another fifteen or twenty years. Unless of course there is a problem with the pet : (((

These committed pet owners, who are the 'target' market for rescue groups and shelters, can easily go their entire lives without visiting an animal rescue website or shelter. Why should they? People who take care of their own pets and aren't in the market for another pet have no reason to visit.

What time is it? Its time to come to terms with this challenge by using one of the tried and tested ingredients in the No Kill Recipe.... off site adoptions. If the adopters won't come to the shelter ( or the sites ), then its time to bring the shelter to the adopters.

"If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies" Author unknown.

No Home for the Holidays

Over the years here, supper has often been a science project. With recipes ... as with everything else in life ... my first thought is always ... now wouldn't that be better if.....? When it was good, it was very very good .... and when it was bad my daughter and her friends went to McDonald's.
If things were never meant to change, we would still be migrating after the herds and living in caves. Change will come, whether we wish it or not, because the desire to move forward and create a better world for our children is as natural as breathing. Whether one initiates it, embraces it or is dragged along kicking and screaming .... the wheel of change keeps rolling along.
At one time, I definitely supported the practice of not adopting pets out over the holiday season. The animal rescue community refers to the month of April as Christmas in the shelters... because that is generally when the Christmas Pets would start flooding the animal rescue groups and shelters.
But hold on just a minute. Were those pets adopted from a rescue or shelter? Didn't they all have a firm no Holiday Adoptions rule? Why yes they did! So all the kind hearted people who might have used the adoption of a homeless pet to teach their children the spirit of compassion went to the pet store or the backyard breeders and puppy brokers instead.
A friend of mine works at a shelter in Nfld and they used to turn away adopters over the holidays .... until they realized that was cutting off their nose to spite their face. They now see holiday adoptions as being part of the solution instead of sending people away to become part of the problem.
Are people more sentimental at the holiday season? You bet. That is why every charitable organization with an advertising budget steps up the commercials at this time of year. At any time of year, it is an act of love and compassion to adopt a pet .... so it should be no surprise that the holiday season might inspire a surge of applications.
Its important to remember that each adoption saves more than one life:
  • first and foremost of course is the actual pet being adopted,
  • which in turn provides room for another good pet in need, and last but not least
  • every adopted pet is an ambassador who will spread the good word about pet adoption to the adopters family, friends, neighbours and coworkers ... not to mention the casual acquaintances met out walking the dog or visiting the vet

Granted, the ones with the 'No Kill" groups or shelters are safe for the season. But when there is 'no room at the inn' until someone is adopted, No Kill is really more of a safe haven, hmmm? Refusing applications or adoptions during the holidays simply means that other pets needing rescuing will not be safe. Sending potential adopters elsewhere only perpetuates the Christmas in April cycle.

What time is it? Until there are no waiting lists for admission, until pet stores and breeders are regulated with mandatory standards .... until it is illegal to traffic in living, breathing sentient beings on the dreaded free online ad sites .... it is time to revisit the "No Home for the Holidays" policy still in place with some rescues and shelters in this province.

The heresy of one age is the orthodoxy of the next. Helen Keller

Calling all Cat colony Caregivers

This is Canada, not the Caribbean. So the days may be getting longer, but the hardest and coldest part of the season still lies ahead for the stray and feral cats. If you, or your group, has built winter shelter for the kitties, The NS Homeless Pet Project is looking for pictures to feature on the site. Please email all pictures to

Sunday, December 20, 2009

How picking the easy path can bring unimaginable blessings

I love Yule. While everyone else sees it as the start of winter, for me it heralds the promise of better days to come. From here on in, the days will start getting a little longer.
That doesn't mean the chilliest days are all behind us .... unless the weather breaks pattern in unprecedented fashion, the coldest days are still ahead of us. Nor do I expect that tonight's bluster will be our last stormy day before spring.
Still.... shortly after we ring in 2010, it won't be dark until dinnertime. By the time February's frigid weather sets in, at least it will be light after suppertime.
Anyone who reads this blog, or has been to the site, knows what a special affection I have for the homeless senior pets in our province. Perhaps it is born of knowing I personally am middle aged, not elderly. I could probably leave a lot of younger people behind me when I'm climbing up the ridge ... or even just hiking over hill and dale with the dogs.
Or perhaps its because I've always believed that pets are for life ... so I'm no stranger to the special rewards in store for those sharing space with senior pets.
Senior pets are particularly vulnerable when they become homeless. Potential adopters often skip past their listings ... usually out of concern for possible expenses of health issues or shorter time spans that might be left to share. Its not all that long ago that senior pets were automatically killed when they became homeless.
There is a promise of better days to come for homeless senior pets. Just outside Nova Scotia, fully a third of the pets listed with the Moncton SPCA are over eight. Closer to home, both the LA Animal Shelter and the Metro Shelter both charge a lower adoption fee for their Seniors. In many instances this year, the Yarmouth SPCA has completely waived the adoption fee for its seniors.
Does that mean there are no cold days ahead for senior pets in Nova Scotia? Of course not. What it does mean is the chance for senior pets to be their own best ambassadors. Everyone who meets Andy isn't just taken with how well behaved he is or by how quickly he settled in with the other pets. No ... they are amazed by how much energy and spunk he has.
Right now there are ten sweet and engaging senior pets listed on Petfinder in Nova Scotia - Benson , Logan , Elsa , Hobo, Bonnie , Clank, Bruin , Penney , Smokey and Josephina. Benson's sweet personality saved him from the gas chamber in Goergia. Logan is so full of get up and go that NS Labrador Rescue is looking for a family that can keep up with him!
I know I say it all the time wherever I feature the mature pets, but all the cliches are true. Senior pets are more experienced at love. They really are Zen companions. Anyone who has adopted a senior pet really does get to embrace the love without the sleepless nights.
There is nothing wrong with wanting an easy life. It really is just frosting on the cake that picking the easy path by adopting a senior pet can be rewarded with more love and devotion than anyone could possibly imagine.
"Every time we love, every time we give, its Christmas" Dale Evans

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Update on Ginger

While I was checking around this evening for site updates, I was very pleased to see that Ginger, whose story was featured in She could be the spice of someone's life. , has gone to her new home, just in time for the Holidays. Have a great life sweet girl ... and I hope nobody puts you on a diet until after the festive season!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Its time to finish what they started

Whatever happened to that promising new piece of Animal Protection legislation, referred to on last years docket as Bill 186 ? While it wasn't perfect, it was definitely a step up from the existing law.
Did it falter on first reading? Nope! Did it stumble on the second reading? No sir! Is it still lingering with the Law Amendments Committee? Wrong again.
The debating and submissions and voting have all been done. Bill 186 is ready to go ..... but like all legislation, it must be given Royal Assent. Royal Assent is given by the Lieutenant Governor before the House of Assembly and the Bill is thereafter referred to as an Act.
When THAT is done, then the new Animal Protection Act will become law. Until that is done, it is just a good idea ... a piece of paper ... that cannot help the animals.
Unless you are new to this blog, you have already read the other posts about Bill 186, the latest one being A tight timeline to make a difference , hoping to get the finishing touches done before the election.
The ready to go version can be read at ... pay attention to articles 31 - 34.
If the Bill had been finalized, according to articles 31, 32 and 33, there would have been an independent Appeal Board to hear the cases of people who have had their animals seized and were trying to get them back. It is a time sensitive process that is designed to move quickly so the animals are not held for long periods of time while the case is resolved in the courts.
Under the Appeals Board, owners of seized animals would be able to present their case to an arm's length tribunal and request that the animals be returned.
As I understand it, this is provides the owner with the right to a impartial hearing, while at the same time permitting the society to bring closure to the issue of animal ownership and proceed with adoption if the animals are not awarded back to the owner.
We all remember how long the Celtic Pets survivors languished in cages ... unable to be adopted under the existing laws.
If you went to college or university, if you worked hard and passed all your courses, you would be pretty ticked if they refused to give you the credentials that you had earned. Without that piece of paper, you wouldn't have the qualifications needed to get on with the job in the field of your choice.
The bill was originally inspired by the newfound enthusiasm for animal welfare by politicians of all stripes in the wake of the strong voter feedback in opposition to Bill 138. But politicians often have the same attention span as a ten week old puppy. Without the motivation of strong voter feedback, the bill could, and very likely will, sit on the back burner for months and months to come.
What time is it? While your MLA's are home for the holidays, its time to remind them to finish what they started. ( if your MLA isn't in your address book, you can find their contact info Members - Constituencies. Remember its usually best to contact the home riding office and not the House one. )

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Building a door for Zowie

The Dear Santa letter on the holiday feature of the homeless pet site is becoming an annual tradition it would seem.
This year, it has been written by a beautiful Great Pyrenees youngster who is one very lucky youngster indeed. Lucky you say ... especially after reading the letter and going to the ARC site to find out about the VERY expensive surgeries that she will need?
Yes lucky, because ARC does not define healthy and treatable by the dollar sign. Regular readers of this blog, and the old one, will remember the heroic energy ( and of course resources ) that were spent to rehabilitate HANDSOME HENRY from his horrible old life as a chained dog .... shut away from any love and human contact. To put that into perspective, the adoption fee for this grreat guy didn't cover one half of one percent of the actual rescue costs.
In the No Kill world ... healthy and adoptable means exactly that. There is no loophole there .... its not "healthy and adoptable' if it doesn't cost too much. Nor is it "healthy and adoptable" until we run of out resources. Nope ... it is what it is ..... straight, sweet and simple. The term is too often misused because groups or shelters don't like to admit that they are willing to put a price tag on life, or worse, that they are either unwilling or unable to spend what ti takes to save a life.
Ahh ... but this is the holiday season and I am wandering afield here. As beautiful as Zowie is, she isn't just posing by that tree to brighten up the space. Her foster mom ... in true ARC style, has lovingly made the decorations as a fundraiser to support Zowie's surgery, which is scheduled for January 22nd. The tree is at the Westwood Hills Veterinary Hospital . If you don't live in the area and won't have a chance to pop in , there is more information on the front door of the ARC site.
BTW, for those who are on the watch for those tax deductible donations that must be made before the end of this month to count on this years returns... you will be happy to know that ARC is a registered CRA Charity.
"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door" Milton Berle

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cat Cottage Eye Candy can only cheer you up

On nights when it seems to be raining homeless cats and dogs .... when its hard to catch even a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel ... its a real treat to find this years CAPS Christmas Cat Cottage pics waiting in my inbox.
(for the full lineup, go to Country Christmas, Kitty Style )
The pictures are so perfect and so pretty, it would be easy to overlook a couple of salient facts.
The first of course being that there are no elves to keep the cat cottages in such lovely ... and immaculate .. comfort. Every day, everything is scrubbed out .. taking hours of hard work that Anna refers to as "chores". From the refurbished furniture to the appealing decorations .... every little bit is powered by love for the animals without a paid employee anywhere to be found.
The second bit being that there are over 200 cats in CAPS' care ... 200 cats that were either tossed aside like rubbish until they were picked up by Annapolis County AC ... or who were born to the unfortunate little mothers who were picked up by AC.
Whenever I worry that nothing can be changed for the animals, I remind myself that CAPS is just having its fifth birthday this month. In five short years ... powered completely by volunteer love .... they have made a real change for the animals.
When Van Horne laid the original line for the CPR, he had construction crews working westward through the prairies and eastward from British Columbia until the tracks met in Craigellachie, BC. At the time, it was so commonly thought to be a pipe dream that our first Prime Minister was actually ousted for five years.
Yet within three years of its completion, CPR was back in the black and went on to be a leader in the transportation industry for the next century.
In a sense, every little Nova Scotia animal rescue group is "laying track" right now. The road to No Kill Nova Scotia isn't a pipe dream ... its a journey that is moving forward because of this type of love for the animals.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Seeing the bigger picture

One of the nicest things about living out here is that the starwatching at night is ever so much better than down in the village. That almost makes up for the bitterly cold wind that makes it so 'fresh' out tonight (fresh being valleyspeak for pfc or pretty darned cold if you prefer.)
Perhaps it takes living off the beaten path to really be able see the bigger picture. When I was working on the holiday feature for the site, I had emailed P.E.T. PROJECTS with a few questions about a new petfinder program they're taking part in this year, Foster a Lonely Pet for the Holidays . It really looks like a decent idea .... fostering a shelter pet for the holidays might not lead to adopting ... although in some cases it could ... but it would be a real lesson in the reason for the season that could be shared with one's children.
Now I've always had a lot of respect for PET Projects because they had the courage to pick a better path when the Beulah Burman shelter wasn't working out ... always in the red and with their volunteers badly burned out.
Instead of giving up, they chose a different direction and changed their focus. Instead of managing the shelter, the pets in their care are all in foster.
In fact, one of the innovative things they are doing is to encourage people who are surrendering their pets, or who have found a stray, to foster the pet for PET Projects until he or she is adopted.... and all of these 'stay at home' fosters are listed with their Petfinder adoptables
And that's not even their best idea. Besides offering Spay / Neuter subsidies and doing Trap Neuter Return in the Shelbourne area, PET Projects have some nifty little things up their sleeve:
  • on the front door of their site, they are asking for donations of used doghouses to help shelter animals (chained and penned dogs are common practice in rural areas like Shelbourne)
  • right below that, they have a diplomatically worded paragraph offering to help owners rehome chained and penned dogs so they can have a better life
  • its not listed on the site, but they are working to help caregivers keep their animals ... admittedly easier to manage in a small community. When people are looking to surrender their pet because of financial need, PET Projects will provide short term food and / or vet care to get them over the speedbump.
  • they were smart enough to get some admin savvy and fundraising help from the The NSCC Office Procedures class
  • if you will remember, they found out first hand how successful offsite adoptions are too
  • they've just started a Lost and Found Facebook group,
  • they also have Lost and Found listings on their site
  • the bit that I really like is the Pet Match form they have at the bottom of their page. If they don't have the pet of your dreams listed, they will keep their eyes open .... and your email address and information private.

And of course, in keeping with the season, they've found a fun way to fundraise by partnering with “Maria’s Santa Paws Giving Tree” at Maria’s Convenience with the clever idea of selling Christmas card inserts to let your loved one know that a donation has been made in their name for PET Projects.

Clearly P.E.T. PROJECTS are just far enough away from the madding crowd to really have a feel for the big picture.

Something to warm your heart on this chilly day

Do you remember Bailee, from Urgent .... the shelter system is letting this great dog down ? It warms my heart on this chilly day to be able to tell you that she has finally found her Forever Home!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A few updates

The 2009 holiday feature, The Reason for the Season, is up on the homeless pet site, and can be accessed on the front door. This years feature focuses on three things that anyone can do to help the animals:


Do you remember Fire and Thunder on their way through the storm ? They are safely in Canada now and in keeping with their narrow escape have been renamed Bonnie and Clyde . For more info, you can also go to their new pet blog, on the homeless pet blog ..... Bonnie and Clyde

Do you remember She could be the spice of someone's life. ? The kind folks at CAPS have had Ginger in their care for a few days and so were able to take some new pics of this sweet girl as she is now.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Make a wish and save a life

There were a lot of tracks down by the river when we went for our hike this morning. Deer of course ... fox and coyotes and even a wandering set of kitty cat tracks. (Before the keyboards catch on fire, not all kitty tracks represent a homeless cat and many are simply born of the unaltered wanderlust of toms from the neighbouring farms )
IMHO, there really is no downside to going to the woods with my dogs. Its peaceful and quiet. There's always something new and interesting for them to sniff. Its just frosting on the cake that its the kind of good exercise that keeps this middle aged granny off the merry go round of medicines so many my age are engaged in.
Now this is where I have to come clean about a deep dark secret of mine. Although I advocate almost every day for groups and shelters to use Petfinder, I didn't personally adopt all nine of my kids that way.
Nope .... when I was looking for my girl .... I put in a preapproved application to ARC, NS Labrador Rescue. and S.H.A.I.D. The night that Miss Ruby was rescued, Elsie called me to ask if I might be interested in a malnourished, but very sweet girl. The next day .... Valentine's Day .... Elsie sent the first pics of my girl and the rest was history. Miss Ruby wouldn't have done well with a couch potato, but we suit each other just fine.
As anyone who has followed my blog this year knows, Andy never had a chance to be listed with Petfinder either. Once again, I had a preapproved app for a senior .... so when ARC was asked if they had room for Andy they were able to accept him right away.
Out of nine pets, only two of mine came from Petfinder and even then its a bit of a stretch to say that about Henry. I met him at the vets when I was buying food on the day that he was rescued. But, I was not preapproved with CAPS, nor was I sure I was ready to adopt yet after losing Ben a couple of months before. However, Morgan would not be here if her story hadn't been listed both on the S.H.A.I.D Petfinder site and her own listing.
For the benefit of anyone who just found this blog ... the other five found their own way here over the years .... I think I have a sign on my mailbox that only cats can read : )))))
Most rescues and shelters have a waiting list for owner surrenders. Granted that the adoptables in their care have found safe harbour .... but that still leaves a long long list waiting in the cold.
If you, or anyone you know, is thinking of enriching your life with a new pet, putting in a preapproved application to at least one rescue is an excellent idea because:
  • reputable rescues around Atlantic Canada network and will pull out all the stops, including transporting, to find you the poodle/ spaniel/ etc of your dreams.
  • rescues and shelters already have waiting lists of preapproved adopters. Many of the lovelies who come into their care never need to be listed on Petfinder because they are already spoken for. First time adopters have no idea how many lovely family friendly dogs are available because they never need listing, and of course last but not least
  • all rescues work miracles on a shoestring. If they know that they have an adopter waiting and hoping for a poodle/spaniel/etc then it is easier for them to accept one in need.

People use matchmaking services when they get tired of going to the bars .... and virtual reminder services when they get tired of keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries. Preapproved adoptions are just one more way of letting the experts help adopters to have an easier life.

What time is it? Its time to remember that rescuers aren't psychic ... they won't be able to help you find the pet of your dreams unless they know what you're looking for. Its not just convenient and easy ... its also a great way to save a pet that might have been left waiting in the cold.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

In the spirit of the season


1. to promote the growth or development of; further; encourage: to foster new ideas.
2. to bring up, raise, or rear, as a foster child.
3. to care for or cherish.
4 .British. to place (a child) in a foster home.
5. Obsolete. to feed or nourish.

In the animal rescue world, the word foster has a world of other meanings as well. There are as many different ways to foster as there are lovely animals waiting in the wings.
Waiting you ask? Don't rescues always find space for every pet in need? Maybe in my perfect fantasy world ... but here in the real world each rescue, big or small, can only accept the animals they have space for. To quote a friend of mine who works animal rescue, "its not as hard to fund raise as it is to find committed fosters."
Admittedly, there is no shortage of initial enthusiasm, but rescues everywhere lose a lot of fosters to "their first" Many have no trouble opening their hearts and their homes to bring the pet in ....where it gets sticky is watching the pet go back out the door after what can sometimes be months of nurturing.
In all honesty, the pets listed on Petfinder and on the rescue websites are really only the tip of the iceberg. For everyone that has found safe harbour, more are just 'waiting in the wings'
The need is so great that more than one rescue maintains a waiting list for owner surrenders. Not all of these owners are prepared to be patient until a vacancy turns up ... resulting in a sad series of Unhappy Tails which range from an unhappy visit to the vet ( the subject of how vets who work to save lives should be protected by law from having to kill a perfectly healthy pet is a separate subject for another day ) to the abuse of abandonment.
Fostering is like any other arrangement in life .... the parties involved have a contract and in every case terms can be arranged. If one is unwilling to foster puppies, or feels they lack the training skills to work through behavior issues, they will still be welcomed with open arms.
After all, most of the good pets in need of safe harbour were 'somebody's baby' until for a wide variety of reasons the owner no longer was willing or able to care for their faithful friend.
Things of course vary from group to group, but generally the rescue is responsible for food and vet costs and the foster is responsible for the love. If you are thinking about volunteering, Best Friends has three 'must reads' Become a Foster Parent! , Becoming a Foster Home and Foster Care Handbook .
Another way to make a difference is to volunteer to transport animals. When rescues work miracles on a shoestring, there isn't money for transporting the animals to safety in their new foster home.
While we are all shopping and wrapping, there are good pets in need of a second chance with a more committed human. While we are sledding and skating, good pets will be travelling down another Unhappier Road.
No matter how one celebrates, the spirit of the season is all about compassion and kindness. What time is it? Its always time to put a little love in your heart.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

There will be no going home for Christmas in Kings County

From the front door of the Kings SPCA website
Christmas Adoptions Notice
Adoptions from the Care Centre will stop from December 21st until December 31st. You may still come and pick out a pet and fill out the necessary paperwork though. The pet can then be picked up after January 1st.
If you are planning to give a holiday pet as a gift we suggest buying and wrapping the necessary supplies such as a bed, collar etc... and put them under the tree with a note saying that the owner of said items will arrive in the new year.
We appreciate your understanding

Do you know who WILL appreciate this? All the backyard breeders peddling their wares on Kijiji. All the NS Pet Store owners who still peddle animals .... because Kings County is central enough to be an easy commute to the city.
Now before the keyboards catch on fire, I am aware that for years the rescue community felt that it was too risky to adopt at the holiday season. Then one day, someone woke up and realized that when rescues wouldn't adopt out pets over the holiday season that did NOT deter people from getting a pet at that time. All it did was drive potential adopters straight into the arms of the pet stores, backyard breeders and the puppy brokers.
In fact, the worlds largest pet adoption campaign is the Home for the Holidays one, which has proven so successful that it has spread across North America. Why is that? Because the holiday season is a sentimental time ... making it the time when many families want to enrich their life with a new pet. In many cases, the Christmas vacation allows everyone a little more time to help the new family member get off on the right paw.
The bottom line is that if an adopter would pass the screening in July, there is no reason that the same adopter couldn't adopt over the holidays. Particularly these days, where in many homes the holiday festivities are much more relaxed and casual than they were at one time.
Any shelter or group that does NOT adopt out over the holiday season can become part of the problem instead of the solution. Why?
  • they aren't simply sending away potential adopters ... they are also alienating the families, friends, neighbours and coworkers of every individual who cannot adopt over the holidays.
  • people are still going to get a pet ... they just won't get one of the vaccinated and altered pets from rescue.
  • the pets from backyard breeders/ puppy brokers and pet stores are not altered and vaccinated, ergo they are more likely to contribute to the pet overpopulation problem
  • because backyard breeders have seldom breed for temperament and rarely do any genetic screening, there will just be more problems waiting down the road than if people had been allowed to adopt
  • and last but not least, while the pets that are currently in their care will be safe for the holidays, not adopting over the holiday season leaves a lot of others out in the cold when there is no room at the inn.

In all fairness, the Kings SPCA are still finding their way with operating their newly opened shelter. After taking a high handed approach for years, they are having trouble finding enough volunteers to have the shelter open often enough for adopters' convenience. For some inexplicable reason, they are using the Pet Tango pet listing service to list their adoptables. Pet Tango is a free service provided by the pet insurance industry , which would be laudable except for the fact that the better known and more commonly used free Petfinder service is the first place that adopters search. Indeed, many adopters have no idea that Pet Tango exists.

But I am wandering afield. It is to be hoped that this will be the only year that this type of notice will be found on the front door of the Kings SPCA website. It would be a shame if they felt that the path to success lay in following an outmoded practice that most of the North American rescue community has discarded.

What time is it? Until there are No More Homeless Pets in Nova Scotia, it is NEVER time to turn away adopters.

Monday, December 7, 2009

She could be the spice of someone's life.

When I first saw this face six months ago, I was sure she would be adopted quickly.... and she was. At the time her name was Cinnamon and she was like a poster girl for a family dog. Sweet. Well behaved. Gentle. Loved everyone and everything.
Nope .... I wasn't one bit surprised to have to take her listing off the homeless pet site almost as fast as I'd put it up.
My vet .... whose advice I've learned to trust over the years .... once told me that it really takes a rescued dog six months to really feel safe and secure. That doesn't mean they won't fit in or learn the home rules. Rather, it means that six months is the average time it takes a dog to relax and trust that their new home isn't a temporary thing.
So just imagine for a moment what it would be like should the dog hit that lovely six month place ... and instead of being able to let out her breath and relax she gets returned to the rescue she was adopted from? And before the keyboards catch on fire, within my experience I have seen this type of thing happen to pretty much everyone ... no matter how carefully they screen.
Granted, in some situations the adopter might have overestimated either their own training skills or their family's patience with transition. There are dogs that need a special environment that not everyone has the skills or the resources to provide.
Her name is Ginger now .... and she is heavier than she was in last summers photos, which were taken at the start of summer, when everything was fresh and green. She is understandably bewildered to be back with CAPS ..... just as she was beginning to believe that she could relax and trust. Its a safe bet that she hasn't been getting the exercise she needs to be healthy either.
When I adopted my sweet O Henry from CAPS , Janice was very forthright about his issues. There were NO surprises when I brought him home ... I knew we had work to do but he was so sweet, and got along so well with Ruby and McG that I knew it would be time well spent to teach him our house rules. I knew he wasn't house trained. I knew about the resource guarding. He wouldn't have been the boy for everyone, but he is definitely the guy for me. We built a solid relationship while we were building trust.
I already have everything in the world I could possibly want. My only child grew up to be a wonderful, creative woman. She is successful in the field of her choice, married to a man who respects women and they are both happily well engaged in parenting my granddaughter. I was able to retire when I was fifty. I have a warm dry home in a neighbourhood I love. Best of all, there is never a dull moment when I am surrounded by so much love ...... with three dogs and six cats. I may not be rich but I'm lucky enough to lead a rich life.
So this year I have asked Santa for something different .... I'd like him to find someone more reliable and committed for this sweet and gentle disappointed dog .... someone who would see her as the kindred spirit who could be the spice of their life.