Friday, December 31, 2010

The following is a repost of the original Auld Lang Syne post from 2009 .... which has somehow been one of the most enduringly popular posts this middle aged granny made last year ... there was not one single day that it was not visited for the entire year :)
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.

On behalf of all the adorable adoptable pets at  The Nova Scotia Homeless Pet Project, have a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Meet the Adorable Adoptable Dogs in Nova Scotia

Cat Rescue urgently needs a dog foster!!! Transport needed !! Foster found!!!

Webmaster update:  A kind heart has offerred to foster this sweet dog and now HART is looking for another kind heart to drive this doggie from Aylesford to Bridgewater.  Further update ... A Drive has been found!!!!

If I have learned one thing from the birds eye view I get maintaining the homeless pet site, it is that sometimes love for the animals has no boundaries.  Small dog rescues take in large dogs, german shepherd rescues can take in rat terriers and in this instance .... HART ... a hardworking little cat rescue has taken in a young female beagle.
Like a lot of little rescues, HART does not have a shelter. Their adoptables are usually cared for in Laurie's own home, along with a little fostering help from her friends.
This is what Laurie has said about this young little beagle who they have dubbed Beatrice  
We have a young female, unspayed beagle in our care. My daughter found her on the highway near South Alton (New Ross area). She is very sweet. All houses in the area were scoured to see if anyone knew of her or anything and it appears no one knows her. I believe she is in heat. She's young, very affectionate. She's only been here a short while and hates it when she sees someone go OUT the door!
As you know I am basically a cat rescue (but will take in ANYTHING!), so right now my house is jam packed with cats. 20 are my own and they don't even know what a dog is! So it's pretty nutty here right now. I had to take an adult cat out of my son's room and place her in the bathroom so this little beagle can have a place to sleep tonight. It's insanity!
If you know anyone that is willing to foster her or if you can post this far and wide to see if possibly someone is missing her? She did not have any tags or tattoos. I will get her checked for a microchip ASAP.
In the meanwhile she is safe, but it's VERY inconvenient to have a dog here to say the very least!
If you have room in your home and your heart to provide a temporary safe berth for this lovely little dog .... or if you recognize this little wanderer, please contact HART

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Practical magic

I've always been glad that I did a four year stint as an instructor at the military cooking school in Borden.  Hands down it was definitely the most interesting ... albeit busiest .. posting of my career.   What wasn't to love?  Widely varied schedules that never became routine?   The chance to hone my own tradecraft from my fellow "hotshots"?   The unparallelled opportunities to let our imagination inspire the students to stretch their own wings?
Within a very short time, I discovered that I absolutely loved teaching.  Mind you ... like any other job there were new skills to learn.  Most importantly, I had to step back and realize that while practice had made my personal tradecraft shine, the glossary and methodology were uncharted waters for most of the students in my charge.
In other words ... they still had to learn the language and discover all the practical bits.   Failure to remember that would leave them lost and discouraged.
This holiday season, I've been very much reminded of this as my daughter and her family are making their first journey as dogparents.    When I was talking about positive training methods, they had no idea it was an actual term to describe humane dog training until they started doing their homework.
After all, in committed families where pets are kept for life, most children were too young to remember the nuts and bolts of the dog training process.   Nor were most of the wonderful advances like clicker training around at that time:)
One of the other best bits about this day and age is the ability to share information online.   The great ladies who invented the clicker leash have an awesome How To page on their website and I've been told they are planning on expanding this treasure trove in the new year.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a demonstration video has immeasurable value.  Does this mean my grandoggy won't be going to obedience classes?  Of course not!  But it DOES mean that right here, right now, there are tools helping her new pawrents become more confident.   Humane tools.  Gentle tools.   And who knows how often they may have even been lifesaving tools?
What time is it?   Its always time to remember that a little 'practical magic' can work wonders.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Setting Rookies up for Success

I'm a middle aged grandmother, not a rookie, so doing a traditional holiday dinner with all the trimmings is an easy peasey no stress affair.  With tried and true recipes and over three decades experience with timings, there is never any doubt in my mind that things will be a success.
To be perfectly honest, there WAS one year that I didn't do the meal.   The last year that my daughter was home, we had agreed that it would be a great idea if she did the whole shebang, from start to finish.   This way she wouldn't be working without a net ... and if things went awry there would be a calmer head on deck to steer things back on course.
Does that mean there has been no need for "phone consultations" since she moved out on her own?  Of course not!  But both the dry run and the help line have made her a confident holiday chef whose dinners are already becoming legendary on their own.
This year she and her hubby have adopted their first family dog.   Even though she had lived with dogs at home since she was small, it is a completely different kettle of fish to have your own first family dog.    They perused Petfinder and her choice narrowed down to a lovely six month old lab/ bull terrier mix.
Before they brought her home, they had followed the links on the Pet Care Resource page to the great dog training guides listed there.  Did that set them up for success?   Not completely.   Over the first two weeks after they brought Jessie home, there were innumerable phone calls and at times their confidence was starting to falter.
Obedience classes were booked for January ... but what could be done in the here and now?   The shelter where they adopted Jessie from was long on suggesting they were irresponsible and short on offering any practical advice.
What would have happened if they hadn't had the resource of mom's help line?  What happens when there isn't a dog experienced grandogmother who just happens to have a myriad of expertise to tap into?  What kind of outcome is there for folks who have never needed to know about setting boundaries and clicker training before?  Who have never heard of agility training and don't know that dog club members are probably chock full of helpful practical suggestions too?
Probably what happens with a lot of well intentioned first time pet owners.   Good intentions fly out the window when they are overwhelmed and don't know where to turn.  Pets are returned/ surrendered/ passed on to someone else / sentenced to life on the end of a chain / or a myriad of even Unhappier Tails.
So here is my what if for today - What if every fall, municipalities were able to put on free workshops ... kind of a First week with Fido 101.   It is simply a fact of life that many families are going to bring home their first family dog during the holiday season.
Instead of being uppity about that ... instead of expecting these "rookies' to already know the ropes.. why not set them up for success instead?  These workshops could even be sponsored so that participants could get a little ten percent discount off obedience classes with local trainers.   Just imagine the possibilities!
Setting aside the fact that it would reduce the rescue workload, it would also help awaken more pet owners to the myriad of good training options available these days.    Even better, it would encourage new dog owners to bring their new best friends to obedience classes.  Best of all, it would help kind hearts to become the responsible pet owners who will become the 'dream adopters' of tomorrow.
What time is it?   Its time to remember that setting rookie dog owners up for success is always time well spent.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kindling a flame for the kitties

I love getting good news ... especially when it concerns animals!  So I was delighted last night to get an email from a dear friend of mine who works with the Clarenville SPCA in Nfld.   She had been inspired by SHAID's Home for the Holiday's program to put a similar one on the front door of the shelter website.
How did that go?   Well ... she was over the moon when she emailed me last night:
  • 28 Cats/kittens Adopted
  • 8 Cats/kittens Adoption Pending with most to be adopted before Christmas, along with
  • 15 dogs/ puppies adopted
Their cat rooms were blocked ( at one point they had 40 cats) ... and now soon one room will have three and the other will have four ... which of course opens up more possibilities for ones still in need
As she said in her email, " ... see what can happen when you don't stop adopting during Christmas. "
No wonder she is bursting with excitement.  The Clarenville SPCA does an awesome job ... they are open and transparent and publish their stats online.  I have seen them tirelessly search for out of province rescue slots to save lives.   I've watched them put their site to very good use to fundraise for pets needing special medical or transportation  costs. 
They are a lovely little lodestar and on any given day site visitors can see how often they have saved lives by bringing dogs in from other shelters in their province.
Do they deserve bragging rights for this?  You bet!  In a world where the difference between cats and dogs is more than purely anatomical, its always a great thing when people pull out all the stops for the cats.
What time is it?  Its always time to recognize the need to go the extra mile for the kitties.
Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.   Washington Irving

Monday, December 20, 2010

When experience is the worst enemy

I love going to the woods on a beautiful crisp morning like this.   What's not to love?  The sound of the snow crunching underfoot?  Good traction on the snow?  Its just frosting on the cake that we generally have the trails to ourselves because most folks will wait for the day to warm up.
Its actually not more sensible to wait until it warms up ... because the small skiff of snow on the trails gets so darned slippery it just slows us down and we wouldn't be able to get anywhere near the ridge. 
Many rescues still think they are being sensible by not adopting out pets during the holiday season.  But what a slippery slope that is.   One rescuer I know was recently quoted in the media as saying that they " keep at least 14 foster homes open into February because that’s eight weeks after Christmas,”
Not to be mean ... but that is one of the best arguments that I can think of for allowing holiday adoptions.   At the risk of sounding like a stuck record ... if an adopter is going to pass the screening in September, there are rarely any good reasons to refuse them during the holiday season. 
Its important to remember that the adoption application process doesn't allow people to give pets as gifts .. nor does it accommodate the impulse "purchase"   It is even more important to remember that every pet adopted during the holiday season will be much less likely to cause extra work for rescues in February.
Families with young children often use the extra time during the holiday vacation to get everyone off on the right paw with the pet ... especially the children for whom this very likely may the first family pet.
How has the Home for the Holiday's program been working so far in Nova Scotia this year?   Its like anything else ... kind of a reap what ya sow thing, eh?
At SHAID, as of today,  Regal is the only one of the long term residents that were featured who still is waiting to be adopted .... the rest are home for the holidays because the shelter used Home for the Holidays along with adoption incentive.
Atlantic Small Dog Rescue only has two of its adoptables still waiting .. and their extra boost helped Dixie go home for the holidays after months of waiting.  
Metro has been doing very well ..... in 2008 they only adopted 40 pets between the first and twentieth of December ... this year in the same time frame they adopted 104 pets!  That is a very radical boost in numbers ... without any reduced adoption fees ...just by using the Home for the Holidays publicity and by rebranding their Festival of Lights to bring attention to their adoptables ( Light up the Holidays for a Pet this Season is still going on for two more days at the Halifax Shopping Center and the Sunnyside Mall ... for a modest five dollar donation you can help the animals and help light the tree :)
I haven't been talking to The Yarmouth SPCA yet, but with all the great incentives they are offering it would be a surprise if they haven't found a few homes there as well.
What time is it?  Its always time to remember that undercutting the competition of pet stores and the free online ad sites at the holiday season is a win win for rescue.
In times of rapid change, experience could be your worst enemy   J Paul Getty

Friday, December 17, 2010

When the Chickens Come Home (for the Holidays) to Roost

She was certainly not the first puppy to ever be tossed over the fence of an animal shelter after hours.  Under the cover of darkness, with no surety that she would land safely .... to spend her first hours in a strange place frightened and alone.
She likely wasn't the first little uninvited guest that the staff at the Western Quebec SPCA shelter have .... or sadly will ... ever found at their front door.   Nor was she the first or the hundredth or even thousandth pet adopted in this years Home for the Holidays program.   
So what makes her so special?  Last Saturday, my daughter and her family adopted this sweet young dog and THAT really makes the whole Home for the Holidays program personal.
Four of my all time favourite minstrels once sang that "in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make"   Nowhere is that more evident than in the home schooling in humane education that children receive.
( the topic of how tough it can be to overcome that in a country where we are often one generation away from having our dogs live outside 24 / 7 is a sticky subject for a separate post of its own on another day )
When I was a little girl, we kept our pets for life even though that was frequently a challenge on the significantly smaller "Queen's Shilling" that my father drew.  When my daughter was a little girl, she was subjected to more of the same as we dragged our pets along with us wherever the military sent me.
So she and her husband had a baby ... they kept their cat.  When they moved to Ontario ... they brought their cat.   When the time was right ... they adopted another cat to give Eddy the company of his own kind.   Now they are sharing this new journey into pet ownership as a family ... at a time of the year when they will have some vacation time to settle Jessie in.
And THAT is the success of the Home for the Holidays program ... instead of dictating to people, the participating shelters are accommodating people's desire to open their homes and hearts to a new pet.
Even better, each and every pet that is adopted represents one less 'customer' for the unsavoury sorts who will continue to waltz out of court in this country until our criminal code acknowledges that living breathing sentient beings cannot be properly protected while they are classed as property.
Best of all, each and every family that found a warm welcome instead of a cold shoulder from a shelter or a rescue will in turn be an ambassador for pet adoption as their family, friends, neighbours and coworkers find out first hand how wonderful 'second hand pets' can be.
What time is it?   Its always time to understand that programs like this can keep the holiday spirit going all year long. 
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.    Dr Seuss


Friday, December 10, 2010

Hope for the Holidays in the Air

I love making fudge.  Old school and definitely not heart smart when it is chock full of butter and sugar and everything yummy.  Its actually a real family tradition because I'm using my own granny's tried and true recipe.
When I first moved out on my own, I had no success making it until I bit the bullet and bought my own candy thermometer.  Why would that be?  Hadn't I made it so many times at home?
Candy making of any sort is a deft art that depends on accurate temperatures for success. Its not like making soup, where one can still come up with something edible by tossing all the ingredients in the pot and hoping for the best.  One has to follow both the recipe and the method for any chance of success.  
The thermometer takes all the guess work out of things and ups the odds that every batch will be a success.  
There is no guess work about the No Kill Equation.  Its not a new concept, even if some folks still think its a radical fantasy.  Then again, I'm old enough to remember when organic gardening was considered to something those 'radical hippies' did and not the mainstream activity its become today.
One of the most effective elements of the No Kill Equation is the concept that it is possible to adopt the way to No Kill.  After all, that was the original idea behind the Home for the Holidays program .... to embrace the concept that the holidays are such a popular time for bringing home a new pet instead of shutting out so many potential adopters.
So how is it doing so far this year?  According to the website, there have been 571,833 adoptions to date.   last year there were a total of 1,363,638 pets adopted as a result and this year they have raised the bar yet again and hope for 1,500,000 adoptions.
Here in Nova Scotia, how are things going? 
Do you remember the post, More Hope for the Holidays, which talked about the fabulous way that SHAID celebrates the program?  (halving the adopting fee for the cats who have been at the shelter the longest time )  How is that working?  There is only ONE cat left still waiting .... a lovely lad named Regal.  All the rest are no doubt purring up a storm as they savour the delights of spending All their days in the comfort of their own homes.
Why did SHAID do this?  Because their own stats showed them what a success it has been to do this in the past.  
The kind hearts at the Yarmouth SPCA realize they are a little off the beaten path and so their way of celebrating Home for the Holidays is to offer two Very Attractive Adoption Incentives of their own:
  • the adoption fee is being halved for all pets that have been with them for over six months
  • the adoption fee is being completely waived for all pets that were at the shelter since last Christmas
  • and ... they realize what a social world this is and have made a special event for their facebook group
What time is it?  Its always time to celebrate and support programs that encourage people to embrace pet adoption.   Every pet that is adopted undercuts the competition of pet stores and the unsavoury sorts peddling their unfortunate 'wares' on the free online ad sites.
It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air. ~W.T. Ellis

Thursday, December 9, 2010

More Hope for the Holidays

I love Miss Ruby.  What's not to love? She's gentle and affectionate....great with my granddaughter ... good with other dogs .... wonderful with my cats ... walks beautifully on leashes of all lengths ... and best of all she's such a smarty pants that she is just pretty darned interesting to live with.
Did she come here that way?  Of course not! Even though her fosters got her off on the right paw, she wasn't really with them long enough to learn all the ropes.
Now Dixie, on the other hand, has had plenty of time to learn the ropes from her four different foster Mom's.  Why four?  When a dog is as sweet and loving as Dixie is, after a while its just too darned hard for fosters to part with her, eh?
The good news is that now she HAS all the skills that it took time to teach Miss Ruby ... although because she's never lived with little kids ASDR would prefer any kids in her new home to be over five.  
Lucky for Dixie, she is with Atlantic Small Dog Rescue.  Why is that?  Setting aside the fact that Dixie is an "honorary" small dog, they have pulled out all the stops to find a wonderful Furever Home for this grrreat girrrrl.   Gosh .. they even made a facebook page for her so that people could see what a sweetie she is!
As you know, ASDR is taking part in the Home for the Holidays adoption promotion.   As part of that .. they are going to underwrite Dixie's adoption fee in the hopes that she really can go Home for the Holidays.
What time is it?  Its time for everyone to put on their thinking cap and share Dixie's info with any of their friends who are looking to enrich their life by adopting a great family dog.
Once you choose hope, anything's possible.  Christopher Reeve.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Road to Happiness

I love holiday traditions.  They put the personal stamp on the season and are like comfy little quilts offering comfort and joy.  
All traditions start somewhere.   Last year the Westwood Hills Veterinary Hospital came up with a very special way to help ARC fundraise for surgery for Zowie, one of the young dogs in their care.   ( The subject of how ARC actually IS No Kill because they never define healthy and treatable with a dollar sign is a separate topic that I have .... and will again sometime ... discussed in a post of its own :)
Volunteers donated the ornaments on the tree and all the proceeds of the sale were donated to ARC.  
So I was very happy to hear that this is now becoming a tradition and that once again kind hearts will be able to buy beautiful ornaments AND help the animals.    Click Here for directions to the clinic.
What time is it?  Its always time to remember that the real spirit of the season is kindness.
"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion"  The Dalai Lama

Monday, December 6, 2010

Alice's Jam

Like many people who used to smoke, I quit at least half a hundred times before I actually got out of the gate.  Some attempts lasted as long as a few days ... others less than a day ...and a few memorable failures fizzled out after fifteen minutes.
But each and every time, I was confident that I had actually quit ... right up to that second when resolution went up in a puff of smoke.
At what point did that final effort become a success?  Was it when I put out my last cigarette? Hardly!  Truthfully it was years before I really reaped real health benefits.   
Perhaps it was nine months later, when the fine folks at Stad were able to entice one of HRM's surgical geniuses to perform heroic lifesaving thoracic surgery that would not have been considered if I had still been a smoker.  Had it only been the week before, my claim of quitting smoking would have lacked any credibility, hmmm?
So just how long does it take for a rescue or a shelter to become No Kill?  Do they need to have any successful history?  Or like Alice's jam, is it possible for today not to be like any other day?
So why all the fuss?  Isn't it lovely to be No Kill?  Of course it is.  Is it enough to say one is No Kill?  Of course not. 
No Kill may begin with an effort of will ... a determination to stop the killing, but it is more than a philosphy, it requires a strategic plan that includes all the elements of the No Kill Equation:
  • Accountablity requires clear definitions, a lifesaving plan and most importantly .. tracking both the successes and the failures.  I know I natter on like a stuck record, but if there is no sense of the scope of the problem, how on earth can any organization set goals?
  • This in turn also requires shelters and staff to be accountable with respect to their protocols for decision making with respect to all outcomes for all animals.   It involves not allowing protocols to supercede the cardinal rule of No Kill ... that the only rule that can't be broken is the No Kill rule
  • Life Saving programs are critical.  Shelter hours MUST include opportunities for working people to adopt or reclaim lost pets.  Keeping adoption fees affordable plays a critical role for adoptions .. particularly in small facilities obligated by contractual obligation to accept all the AC intake.    When privately run shelters are unwilling or unable to run offsite adoption events and to advertise their adoptables in the media, transferring adoptable animals to rescues and shelters with available space must be the first option if a shelter is to be considered genuinely No Kill.
  • In all fairness, sheltering contractors are not responsible for municipal pet retention programs such as low cost / high volume spay neuter.   Nor are they responsible for advocacy.  Those responsibilities lay with the municipality and the society respectively.   Its a fuzzy grey area as to whether a contractor can be considered No Kill if the municipality does not engage in their end of the No Kill Equation.
The common definition of No Kill has been summed up by Nathan Winograd:
No Kill does not mean that no animals die in the shelter. In our view, a no-kill community is one where all healthy and treatable animals, including feral cats, are saved. We don’t use the term “euthanasia” because euphemisms make the task of killing easier.
Now the No Kill movement wasn't born yesterday and over time there have been particular Matrix's developed to establish a consistant definition of the word healthy and treatable.
Why?   This was done to prevent shelters from having too broad a definition for "unadoptable"  They realized, for instance, that "some shelters considered a kitten with a cold or a dog over five to be unadoptable"
The purpose of the Matrix is to force accountablity ... to specify the definition of healthy and treatable.  It clearly states that shelters which are killing animals that can be treated with routine care or who are exhibiting normal behaviors for their species such as territorial marking, house soiling, scratching, digging, barking ...  are not entitled to consider themselves No Kill.
It also clearly states that:
  • Failure to achieve No Kill is a direct result of not following the proven No Kill Equation.  In realspeak, that means that if shelters are killing animals when there are available rescue slots to transfer them to, then they are Not No Kill.
  • Secondly, it states that when shelters do embrace the No Kill Equation, they will be able to resolve all the reasons for killing , and last but definitely not least 
  • No Kill is only achieved when 90 % of all impounded animals are saved ...and to make any claims to No Kill with less than a 90 % Live Release Rate indicates inappropriate use of the term No Kill.
What time is it?  While its always time to celebrate that first act of will when a shelter says "we are going to stop killing", its important to remember that the proof of the pudding will be in the stats.

'The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day.' 
'It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"' Alice objected. 

'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!' from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.  1871.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On the beauty of light

Every gardener has their own particular impossible dream.  In my case, its a lovely sweep of hostas flowing along the edge of the woods to the upper pond.   Why is that so out of reach for an experienced gardener like myself?
For years I could not figure out what was happening to the hostas.  They'd get off to a great start and then almost overnight they would vanish.  Finally, I went rummaging around online for the answer and discovered that deer like hostas every bit as much as I do.  
Behind every good garden is a plan b, so the remaining hostas now prosper in a raised bed right by the house and there is a lovely long sweep of day lilies in their original spot.
Plan B always makes the difference between the impossible dream and the achievable objective.  The ability to shift gears and find a plan that works is one of the lynch pins of the No Kill Equation.   It was only when determined directors changed shelter practices that they were able to move away from the myth that there would never be enough homes.
When I found out the facts and wrapped my mind around a different way of doing things, I was able to have both my hostas and the lovely long low maintenance garden to greet visitors to my yard.
Like any other successful plan, the road to a No Kill Community takes a lot of different components.   While its wonderful to have so many No Kill rescues in the province ... while its super that the society has embraced No Kill .... the actual path to No Kill will have to engage Animal Control as well.
In this province, that gets a little hinky, because there are as many different ways of doing business as their are municipalities.   If there is one constant, it is that there is NO constant.
There are a couple of websites south of the border that represent great examples of how volunteers CAN help animal control.  Not by doing unpaid work but by trying to promote the adoption of the pets in AC care.
The first one is run by dedicated volunteers in Georgia. faithfully lists every dog ( and now every cat as well ) that is impounded by Athens County Animal Control   A volunteer comes in and takes a few lovely pics of each pet and writes up an appealing little bio.  So how is that different from a Petfinder bio or say for instance the lovely web site that Homeward Bound Pound has?
Its different because nothing is sugar coated.  Even better .. this is being done with the full cooperation and blessing of the county AC.  
When dogs' time is up .. that's right out there.  When dogs are killed... that's clearly stated.  When there are behaviour or health issues, dogs are only available to rescues and yes .. you got it .. that's listed too.
There are no mysteries.  Nothing is glossed over.  Regular visitors to the site KNOW whether a dog has been adopted, transferred to a rescue or has been killed.
This site has save a LOT of lives by NOT trying to pretend that everything is just peachy keen.   Just imagine what would happen if any of our own municipal animal controls would let volunteers have a site or a face book group like that, eh?
Of course that would involve some of that darned transparency that so many at all levels of government seem to be so allergic too, eh?
The Second site that I REALLY love is an award winning one that saves lives on a broader canvas south of the border.   Dogs In Danger has a pretty cool premise.  Shelters sign up with them and the shelter volunteers have their own accounts so that they can list their animals ... including the scheduled day for the dog to die.  ( I'm sorry but I still refuse to use euphemisms ... dogs are not put to sleep ... they're not going to 'wake up' ... dead is dead)
The site has been running for three years now and they don't sugar coat things either ... when the dogs reach their scheduled day ... the are moved over to the memorial section.
This type of thing is the way that volunteers can really help the pets in animal control.   Its a Plan B that promises a lot more successful outcomes for the animals than the status quo.
Not of course that we know what the status quo is ... instead of being freely available to tax paying Nova Scotia voters, its swimming in a murky sea that will need Freedom of Information requests to bring to light.   ( The subject of how backed up the underfunded Freedom of Information office currently is begs a whole different post on a separate day, hmmmm? )
What time is it?  If Animal Control is looking for an appropriate way for volunteers to help the animals, letting them shine a little light on the picture would be an excellent place to start.
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. Plato

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Another way of measuring ... the value of the ounce of prevention

I love being able to come back from a chilly hike on a crisp morning ... knowing that the fire is all laid and will only need a match to start warming us up.
Of course anyone unfamiliar with wood heat wouldn't realize that there's a lot more to it than that.  Before the nice dry wood made it to the wood cupboard in the house, there were many hot buggy days stacking the wood outside to dry ....and then many more hot sticky days putting it in the garage.
It sounds like a lot of work but actually I take the easy road because my wood already comes here cut and split.  I long ago learned that getting wood in eight foot lengths that had to be sawn and split was actually just as expensive by the time I bought the beer for my buddies :)
Is it a lot of work?  You bet!  But if I have learned one thing in fifty-six years it is that anything worth having is worth working for.
And THAT is why I go on and on like a stuck record about the need to get to No Kill Nova Scotia.  That .. and the fact that its as normal as the blue sky out there for a mother and a grandmother to try to create a better community.
Its also a darned good reason to continue to nag about animal control.  To talk about what it is ... and more importantly, to talk about what it should and could be.
It comes as quite a surprise to folks to realize that most of the legislation and changes that make life better for the animals do double duty by creating better communities. 
Anti tethering legislation protects children from the dangers of unsocialized and untrained dogs.   Its just a bonus that it also reduces nuisance behaviors like late night barking and promotes public health by reducing the amount of unhygienic unpicked up poop
Legislation to ban the traffic of living breathing sentient beings in the free online ad sites is consumer protection legislation.  I truly wish with all my heart that certain rescues and shelters would STOP advertising there as they are only lending a thin veneer of respectability and lending strength to the argument that the whole business is acceptable.    Not to mention the notion that it completely voids any credibility by any of the participants when they complain about the problems caused by the site
But I am ... as I often do ... wandering afield here in my meandering way.  How would changes to animal control create better communities? 
  • TNR programs do more than manage feral cat populations .... they reduce both the health risks that are posed by unvaccinated cats and the nuisance behaviors associated with unaltered cats.  More importantly to the number crunchers ... TNR programs also save money because they reduce the number of animals that are impounded and killed.  
  • Low Cost / High volume Spay Neuter clinics are the only effective way to slow down the annual river of stray and abandoned cats.  Its absolutely no different than when residents in any area press their council rep for a traffic light so that they can get to work on time in the morning, eh?   Its just just frosting on the cake that sustained support for such programs will in time reduce the amount required to maintain them.
  • Pet retention programs .. at the risk of stating the obvious ... are the best way to prevent homeless pets.  Pets I might add that overburden every animal control facility in the province.    Investing in free dog training workshops, emergency veterinary assistance and even pet food banks all save money in the long run.
  • Think Lost not Stray !  Instead of talking about the high number of aggressive dogs that are impounded remember that lost pets are hard wired to respond in ways that seldom correlate to temperament tests.
  • And of course the most valuable tool in the animal control arsenal is to reevaluate how they do business with impounded animals.  In this day and age, when so many can barely afford to feed their pet, to charge high fees for reclaiming unlicensed pets is not going to encourage owners to step up to the plate.  Far better, and cheaper,  to implement a lifetime licensing program for altered and microchipped pets.   If that was accompanied by a "free ride home" program for first time offenders it would greatly reduce the unmanageable workload most municipal AC's are faced with.
It was a lot of money to buy my wood last spring.  It was a lot of work to stack it and put it away.  But without all of that there would be no chance of a cozy fire as we speak.
What time is it?  Its always time to remember the truth of the old adage... that an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Taking a little measure

I love shopping for the holiday parcel I'll soon be sending to my daughter and her family.   Mind you, while I know that the gifts are always appreciated, it will be the homely touches that will mean the most .. the three flavours of fudge, the little crafty bits of decor and of course Mom's best brownies :)
Shopping is a little different since they moved away ... these days I have to remember that the nice folks at the Greenwood Post Office are going to measure and weigh every box I bring in.   But of course, that is how they know what to charge ... by volume and weight and by distance.
In all walks of life, solutions start with taking stock.   That is WHY I continue to natter on like a stuck record about the need for transparency with municipal animal control statistics.  It is not to point fingers.  It is not to assign blame.   Straight, sweet and simple it is merely to measure the scope of the problem.
There should be no need to put in freedom of information requests for animal control statistics.   This is information that should be publicly available on municipal websites ... right up there with the council meetings, detailed budgets and tenders of all sizes.
Why all the reluctance?  The secrecy?  Are the councils concerned that if the general public was aware of the true scope of the problem that there would be a hue and cry for change?  
Or are they concerned about the cost of addressing the problem? 
Joan and I have both been swamped with emails on the subject ... she's actually a lot nicer than I am and actually publishes some of the sillier ones she receives.  
People sometimes don't realize how well they are arguing our case for us.  The rocket scientist who explained to Joan that donations of kennels were needed to make up for one's destroyed by the high number of aggressive dogs that they see is a good example.
High number of aggressive dogs?   Well, we all know that the pound is only going to adopt out the "suitable" dogs so that paints a pretty grim picture right there.  High number of dogs indeed!
I could almost find it in me to feel sorry for Hope to have such advocates pleading her case.   But, like many others in the animal loving community, I have difficulty drumming up sympathy for someone who has such strong support from the folks responsible for the Celtic Pets Six / Seven / Eight???
But I am wandering afield here ... as I often do in my meandering way.  The bottom line is that numbers are the most effective way of assessing the problem .. and of having it addressed
Before I called the Department of Holidays this week to complain about the dangerous potholes on my road, I got out a measuring tape.  Why?  Because I knew that if I simply used the word potholes, there would be no response.  On the other hand, to be able to explain that one of the potholes was 14 inches deep and 2 feet wide painted a picture they could understand.
Are politicians worried about the cost of addressing the problem?  You bet.  That's the same reason the fill in our potholes keeps popping out every year when the cold weather hits.
But unlike the potholes, the number of homeless pets is only going to keep multiplying until the problem is addressed in an effective and humane manner.  Killing the cats and dogs hasn't solved the problem.  All we wind up with is bins and freezers full of dead cats and dogs.
Nor is it doing any favours to the people who have to work frontline animal control sheltering.   I rather expect, if they  had their druthers, they would prefer NOT to kill the animals who are meant to be our companions.
Or perhaps not .. after all to admit there is a better way is to acknowledge the horrible dirty truth that there is no need to be going down such a dark path.
There are people who will tell you that things will never change.  That there are never going to be enough homes.  That it is better to kill the animals in care so they can be open admission ... so they can kill more animals.
When those people left the society ... what happened?  A new spirit of transparency is what happened.   No more dirty little secrets.  No more trying to seize animals that had been adopted by their critics so that they could have been part of the Celtic Pets Six / Seven / Eight ???
And THAT is how I know that it possible to change how business is done with animal control.
Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.   John Kenneth Galbraith

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pet Pics around the province

Pet Pics with Santa have already started up and if the well attended events this weekend are any indication they are even more popular that before.  Why wouldn't they be?  Where else is it possible to have a bit of fun, help the animals AND come away with a keepsake that makes such a lovely little gift?
They've started but there are still many opportunities yet to jump on board.
Metro still has the following scheduled: 
  • Tuesday, November 30,  from 6pm - 8pm  at Bark and Fitz
  • Wednesday, December 1, from 6 pm - 9 pm at the Mic Mac Mall
  • Saturday, December 4 from 10 am - 2 pm at Vetcetera Animal Hospital Bedford
  • Also Saturday, December 4 from 1 pm - 3 pm at the Halifax Veterinary Hospital
  • and Wednesday, December 8, from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Sunnyside Mall Bedford

CAPS will be holding Pet Pictures with the Grinch at the Greenwood Animal Hospital this Saturday, Dec 4th, from 3pm to 5 pm

SHAID still has two more sessions:
  • Gow’s Home Hardware, Bridgewater—Fri. Dec. 3rd 5:30 to 8:30 pm
  • &  again at Gow's on Sat. Dec. 4th 1 to 4 pm
  • at Your Friend & Mine, Gold River—Sat. Dec. 11th from 1 to 4 pm

PET Projects is holding its Pet Pics fundraiser this Saturday, December 4,from 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the shelter building (528 Sandy Point Road, Shelburne)

This Saturday, for anyone in the Yarmouth Area, the Yarmouth SPCA is holding their Pet Pics with Santa at the Shelter from 11 am until 3 pm.  ( there is also a craft sale and a bake sale too! )

That's all that I could find ... as always if anyone's been missed please email me or leave a comment  

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shopping in support of the animals - 2010

I love big fluffy flaked snowfalls like this.   As does the retail world because nothing inspires holiday shopping quite like it either.
The first year I did the blog post about holiday shopping to help the animals, I had no idea it was going to become such a popular thing :)  I don't like to do it too early, being old school to disapprove of anyone trying to start the season too soon.
So this year ... if you are looking for holiday gifts, decorations  and stocking stuffers that will do double duty by helping the animals, this is what I've been able to round up:

  • their beautiful wreaths were so popular last year that East Coast German Shepherd Rescue are selling them again this year
  • on their lovely website, ARC is selling Jewelry and they also have a neat little online store there where one can find all kinds of neat little stocking stuffers.  Helpful hint .. their lovely travel mugs hold exactly a package of Hershey's kisses to sweeten the deal .. although the boys tell me they are also great for keeping hornets out of their beer in the summer :)
  • there is going to be a Silent Auction at the 23rd Annual Telethon of Love for the LA Animal Shelter in Amherst which is being held on Sunday, Dec 5th
  • As well as selling their ever popular Cherished Pets Calendars, CAPS is also offering a Gift Sponsorship package where kind hearts can give a sponsorship package that includes a certificate and a picture of the pet being sponsored .... sent in a gift card to the recipient.   What a very cool idea for those hard to shop for folks!
  • Atlantic Small Dog Rescue has taken the extraordinary step of sharing their weekly online auctions with other rescues ... how awesome is that?  Every week there is a new auction, so its best to bookmark it for easy access.
  • And of course there are always interesting possiblities at the Second Chance for Charity Booth at the Harbourview Market
  • For those with a sweet tooth, Lab Rescue ALWAYS has their lovely almond chocolate bars for sale :)
  • Pick of the Litter society, being CRA registered, is able to offer tax receipts for any gift donations made to their group :)
  • SHAID is holding its Annual Open House at the shelter on Dec 5th and as well as lovely furry friends to meet there will be a bake table and crafts too !
  • The TLC shelter is holding its annual Open House on the fifth as well .... and I expect they would be delighted to receive any gift donations any kind hearts wanted to offer
  • I know that someone is doing a fundraiser for Ador a Bull but cannot find a link for it on their website ... so if someone would please email me about it I'll get it in this list
  • The Bide Awhile Open House is on the 13th this year
  • There is a really neat special Scentsy "I love my pet" flameless scented container being offered to help the Yarmouth SPCA
If I have missed anything, please let me know.  I'm going to do a separate post for the every popular Santa ( and in one spot Grinch) Pet photos because that's really caught on everywhere :)
And of course, last but not least, if you are thinking of enriching your life with a pet this holiday season, please consider the adoption option.   I know at one time it was impossible to adopt during the holiday season, but there is more Hope for the Holidays these days, eh?
What time is it?  Its always time to remember that there are many wonderful ways to shop AND help the animals.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

On the Importance of Making a First Impression

I love going to Avery's here in Greenwood.   Setting aside the fact that when Stephen brands something as local, its actually grown in Nova Scotia, there is also a certain satisfaction in supporting a good local business.  Even better, the prices are always much more competitive than the bigger chain stores.  Best of all of course is the consistently friendly and helpful customer service.
Successful businesses understand the importance of making customers feel welcome and wanted.  In a world where companies still keep falling by the wayside, good customer service is undoubtedly the lions share of the reason that the original Avery's in Kingston has over time expanded to nice welcoming little markets around the province.
When I put in the adoption application for preapproval from ARC .. the one that started the journey that brought Miss Ruby / aka The Queen of Sheba into my home and my heart ... I had a cheerful and positive response within a few hours.  Not days or weeks .. but HOURS.   It established the tone of our relationship and eventually led to my adopting Andy.
Smart businesses also use newsletters to keep their customer base engaged.   Even though I had already bought my wood stove for the house, the chatty and informative letters and customer holiday cards kept coming.   When there was room in the budget for a wood stove for my workshop .. and later on for one for a wedding present for my daughter ... where do you think they were purchased?  You bet .. along with a plethora of neat yard ornaments that they also sell. 
In fact, when I bought the pond kit that eventually became the ornamental pond .. they were savvy enough to toss in a gift certificate for pond plants:)
When I was doing the research to build the homeless pet site, I had started reading the very well written SHAID newsletter.  And that is how ...when I already had four cats .. when there was no shortage of homeless cats in the valley ... that I hopped in my car and went over to SHAID to adopt my mighty mini Morgan.
A common complaint about pet adoption is the adoption application process.   Personally, after everything that they have seen, I 'get' why its so difficult for anyone doing frontline animal rescue to be able to trust that potential adopters will keep their pets safe.
But I also might add that from my birds eye view is that there is no such thing as a fail safe screening process.  Even the most cautious of groups occasionally has pets returned.
Why?  Because its not unheard of for people to tailor the answers to what they believe is expected.  Honestly .. if a quiz asks what one would do if the pet chews/ soils/ barks/ etc... nobody with a brain is going to say they'll be tying it out back or putting it in the basement
So if there is no such thing as a perfect screening process, why scare away so many good homes with an intimidating application form?   Will there not be an interview? Required references that can be checked?   A home visit?   A good friend of mine who works with an SPCA in Nfld prefers to ask the questions in person because she says that its much easier to get a feel for things when you can see the reaction in people's faces.
In the business world they know that there is only one chance to make a first impression.  Why is that important for pet adoption?  Because the good homes, the ones who keep their pets for life are only ever going to be looking for a new pet every ten or fifteen years.  They aren't going to be back next year when things are better.  Even worse, if they have been put off pet adoption one time, odds are they won't ever be back.
But that's not even the worse thing.  The saddest bit of all is of course that nobody lives in a bubble.  Every person who is intimidated by the application process has family, friends, neighbours and coworkers who likely won't apply either.
What time is it?  Its time to remember that a friendly first response does not obligate a rescue to approve an application ... it is simply good customer relations that will encourage more good homes to apply.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Update on the Power of Change

If, like myself, you were far far away from the parade route last weekend, here are a couple of pics to save for your history file ... of the society's first float in the Parade of Lights.

Riding out the turbulence

I love going to the woods when there has been a fresh snow.  Not having such a sensitive nose as the dogs, I need to be able to actually see the tracks to have any sense of the foot traffic that's preceded us.   
Some paint a pretty clear picture .. like the running rabbit tracks with fox tracks in hot pursuit.  Sometimes the snow simply highlights the familiar ... such as the well worn deer runs crisscrossing through. 
But like the river, we never step down the same trail twice and this morning we were treated to the sight of bobcat tracks.  With all the changes to our local ecosystem, its nice to see they are still around ... even if they are such ninjas we only ever see the tracks.
A bobcat is a wild thing and should live out in the woods.   After seventeen years out here, I've honestly lost track of the number of cats that have been abandoned out here ... none of whom I am sure were thrilled to be out in the wild.
I've also lost track of the number of comments and emails that I receive, asking me to stop encouraging people to feed stray and feral cats.   Well Bob / Pam / Sara / Pete / Tom / Harry .. etc ... I only have one thing to say to that.
I will stop encouraging people to feed stray and feral cats when people stop abandoning cats.  Straight, sweet and simple.
It is not humane to let the cats starve.   And of course there is the whole other end of the stick being that one is far more likely to get a rescue or TNR group to help with vet costs and with rehoming the cat if one takes proactive measures to care for the strays and ferals.
The Community Cat Blog has only been up for little over a month and already it would be easy to lose track of the number of stray cats that kind hearts in this province are trying to help.
Yesterday when I was posting the newest additions, I was saddened by a story of a group of cats that have been abandoned after different tenants moved out of an apartment building just off Windmill Road.
A couple of tenants are trying to feed them when they can afford to ... but the landlord is pretty hostile about having any kind of shelter built for them.  The cats are struggling to survive and its only going to get worse now that winter seems to have arrived.
Like all TNR groups, the Halifax branch of ca-r-ma is stretched to the max ....  yet they have still managed to rescue a couple of the cats.   If they can drum up a few foster homes and donations of food, it would be possible for them to rescue the rest. 
The cats that they have picked up are incredibly friendly .... and are listed on their site.  
So if you ... or someone you know ... are looking for a wonderful way to really teach your children compassion, helping anyone of these beauties would be a great place to start.
In my perfect fantasy world, I'd love to see a couple of successfully prosecuted cases of pet abandonment in this province.  Penalties and public embarrassment after all being splendid deterrents for some
Until that day .... people like Bob / Pam / Sara / Pete / Tom / Harry .. etc  .... should stop whining about people feeding the cats and offer a little support for the kind hearts whose compassion moves them to help the community cats.
The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, its to act with yesterday's logic.  Peter Drucker

Monday, November 22, 2010

A little monday morning musing

I love my best friend.   I met him nineteen years ago this week and over the years our friendship has evolved into something more supportive than many spouses share.  We have shored each other up through the sadder life events and shared the joy of the sweeter ones.
It really is frosting on the cake that between the two of us we very likely know how to make / grow / build or fix anything we could possibly think of.  While its not the reason we are close, over the years we have both saved a lot of money by being able to dip into our joint skill set pool.
Its one of the reasons the military places such a premium on teamwork.   Centuries of experience have taught them that it is the most efficient and effective way to get any job done.
Which is why it is such a delight to see signs of this popping up in the animal rescue world.   Last week, I was thrilled to see the Petfinder rep for the Yarmouth SPCA promoting a fundraiser for Clare Feral Friends.  Their auction was a huge success ... no doubt in no small part from the boost.
Even better  ... efforts like this have a positive impact on the reputation of all parties involved.  In realspeak .. while it is not the original objective .. it is Very Good Public Relations for groups to support each other.
Last month .. the whole PACS team came down to the Valley to attend a HART fundraiser.  ( The subject of how the founder of PACS is trying to build better relationships within the cat rescue community is a really neat subject deserving of its own post on another day :)
Even better ... the kind folks running the online auction to fundraise for Atlantic Small Dog Rescue have been very generously sharing their auction with other rescues.  Last week they helped Second Chance Terrier Rescue fundraise for a good dog in need.  This week the proceeds for their auction will go to HART.
Best of all are the groups who share their own success and accept adoptables in from other groups who either don't have the space or the resources.  As with so many other things, SHAID has led the way with this and for years have been bringing in dogs from Metro.
Being No Kill does attract support and adopters, hmmm?   
Nor is SHAID alone in this now.  The LA Shelter up in Amherst has done well enough that they are often able to bring dogs in from other groups as well.
Being on a better path has also allowed the society to help others.  The Metro shelter has been bringing in dogs from the Yarmouth and Cape Breton Branches.  They have been able to take more owner surrenders and certainly deserve bragging rights for the way things have turned around.
Of course, they are blowing their own horn by publishing their stats online.   Are they legally obliged to?  Of course not ... but taking that first step towards transparency has played a significant role in their journey towards No Kill.
In fact, their adoptions are such a success now that they were able to very generously offer ..  both in writing to HRM and verbally to the contractor to accept any and all pets from the tiny little new pound. 
And before the keyboards catch on fire ... for a municipality that is home to well over half the province's population to have sixteen half or eight full kennels for dogs and eight kennels for cats is an incredibly optimistic number that seems to bear no correlation to the statistical history available from the society.  So yes .. I will call it tiny.
Remember the bold optimistic spirit at the end of March this year when the press and public were able to tour the new facility.
The owner was quoted as saying that " its vision was to change the way the people think about the city pound by providing exceptional animal care and a service the citizens of HRM will admire and respect" 
How were they going to do that with such a small pound?  On my friend Joan's blog, she quotes the manager as saying that they want to work with local rescues to adopt out animals that come in through them and are suitable for being adopted out - .
The reason that successful businesses research existing data before engaging in new ventures is  ... as our history teachers used to preach ... to avoid repeating mistakes that have already been made.
There is nothing in the existing historical data to suggest that transferring pets out to other rescues was a viable option.  Based on statistical data from the previous year, the number of dogs transferred to other rescues or groups for an eight month time period would equate to 12 dogs.
How many have been transferred?  To date,by asking all my rescue contacts,  I have only been able to find 15 dogs that have been transferred out to other rescues.   In all fairness it should be mentioned that SHAID was asked once, but at the time of the request already had a full house.
In a world where every rescue in the province generally has a waiting list of a dozen dogs for every available slot, this shouldn't come as any big surprise, hmmm?  Even worse, everyone I've been speaking with in rescue says that they are encountering the highest rate ever of owner surrenders and abandoned pets this year. 
No surprises there ... we've lost a couple of thousand jobs just here in the valley this year and are not alone on what sometimes seems to be a sinking ship.
What about Metro?  To date , they have been "taking in unidentified cats from them that were brought to HB or the Emergency Clinic injured, typically as a result of being hit by a car, with HB covering the vet treatment costs and us handling the adoption side." ... but that this has not been a large volume.
How many dogs have been transferred to Metro?  Zero. Zip.   How many requests have been made to Metro?  Nada.  Nothing.  Not a single one.
Is this a problem?  Only if any dogs are dying.    If everyone is getting adopted... if the number of dogs killed for behavior/health issues is under ten percent ... then its no big deal.  Clearly there is no need for the very generous offer of help from the former contractor.
Adoptions are the key to No Kill success and these days there is Always room at the Metro inn ... especially for dogs.  If for whatever reasons, the new facility has chosen not to avail itself of the standing offer of help, that simply means that Metro will be able to broaden their horizons and help other spca's in other provinces.
But of course, understand that this is all sheer speculation without anything but historical data to work with.   Based also on a constant ratio between impounds and reclaimed by owners.
What time is it?  It is always time to remember that teamwork is the best way to save the animals.  And as my old drill Sgt used to say ... anyone who thinks there is a "me" in team has it all backwards.
Its amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn't matter who gets the credit   Source unknown