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

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Power to change IS the power of change

On chilly days like this, I love making bread.  Making it by hand is a great way to work out the figurative frustration of Rome not being able to be built in a day.  Even better ... I know enough about nutrition to recognize the benefits of knowing what's in my food.  Best of all is the lovely way the colder temperatures just seem to magnify the already aromatic scent of bread while its baking.
On a breezy day like this, the scent will carry around the neighbourhood... sending more than one of my neighbours down to the village in search of their own.   Its the same principal that underlies the success of offsite adoptions, hmmm?  In this busy world, the very best 'advertising' are the tangible things that can be experienced first hand.
Which is why I was pawsitively delighted to discover last night that this year the society is going to have a float in the annual Parade of Lights this weekend.  What a wonderful idea!
Why?  Because this is an event that attracts lovely big crowds .... last years parade was attended by an estimated 70,000 people.  Just imagine the possibilities!  If only one percent of the people who attend are woken up to the possibility of pet adoption ... one measly little percent ... that could translate to 700 good pets finding homes as a result!  Wow!
Even better .. because most of the society branches have embraced the Home for the Holidays program ... the float will also include a promo for their main holiday fundraiser ... which in keeping with the spirit of the program has been rebranded as Home for the Holidays.
Best of all, this is all happening at a time when people are just a little more sentimental and so are better able to embrace the lovely idea of opening their heart to a homeless pet.  What an effective way to underscore the 'competition' offered by pet stores and back yard breeders and grubby puppy millers hiding behind the facade of the free online ad sites.
Three years ago, when personal agendas were still powering the society, who would have imagined this lovely new world ... where they actually deserve bragging rights for the work they have done?
Or to paraphrase an old Jimi Henrdrix song .. what wonderful things can begin to happen when the power of love for the animals is greater than the love of power.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Cat)ching Up

From the first time I saw a picture of Miss Ruby, I could tell she was a smarty pants.  She was so emaciated that we had absolutely no idea what a beauty she would become .. yet I could tell from her eyes that this clever girl already understood that life had just taken an abrupt turn for the better. 
To this day, she leads my boys around by the nose.  When Henry has something she wants ... she still uses her tried and true tactic of distracting him by barking at the window.  When Andy has commandeered the spot closest to me ... she will use a bit of soft sell to entice him out for a little fun before taking his spot ;)
Amazingly ... my sweet girl is not one bit food aggressive .. although she carries enough clout that even the cats take the long road around past her dish.
The point that I'm making in my roundabout way is that I have always been a big fan of women that think outside the box.  And nowhere is that more evident in my everydays than in the incredibly resourceful way many find to fundraise for their rescues.
They hold BBQ's and walks .. they go to market each week ... from festivals to open houses right through to speed dating gigs ... if there is an innovative way to raise funds for their rescues and shelters, it will be found.
Now before the keyboards catch on fire, yes I know that many good and kind men are engaged in animal rescue .. up to and including my hero Nathan Winograd.
When people think of TNR, most folks do tend to get sexist and portray them as a bunch of "crazy cat ladies".  Yet nothing could be further from the truth than such a sexist generalization.
Here in this province, one of the first folks to embrace TNR was a lovely man who has done much to get the idea and concept of TNR out in the media... Pierre Filiatrealt ... of PACS.   He is also currently serving on the provincial board of the society and if I'm not mistaken has also taken some promising first steps to unify the voice of the hard working TNR folks around the province.
Another one of my favourite fellows is a person who blogs by the name of Peter T Wolf with a must read blog called Vox Felina.  The next time someone starts spouting off about the damage that stray and feral cats cause to the local wildlife, you send them off to read this blog. 
Unlike the TNR opponents, this is a fellow who Does deal in facts, hmmm?
I've been feeding birds for most of my adult life and have to say that the biggest danger to wildlife is humans.  We encroach on their habitats, bringing chemicals that affect their ability to procreate  ... and as such represent a much more significant threat to wildlife.
But I am wandering afield in my usual fashion.  The point I am trying to make in my meandering way is that our hard working TNR folks ... of both genders .. are remarkably innovative.  Even better, they have fine tuned the art of doing their work in an economical fashion efficiency experts can only fantasize about.
These days, municipalities are all concerned with making ends meet.  Might I suggest that supporting the hard working TNR folks in their area would give them excellent value for their "buck'
When riverbanks overflow and bridges burst at the seams, municipalities are quick to seek help.  If their budgets do not include providing modest support for TNR, perhaps its time for residents in this province to contact their MLAs to request provincial assistance.
What time is it?  Its always time to remember that just as the roads and bridges aren't going to fix themselves, the cat overpopulation issue isn't going away until the kitties get fixed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On Painting the Whole Picture

Last night, I was working on my gardener's journal.  Why do I do that?  Over the years, I've learned that the best way to see the big picture is by creating a relevant database. 
This is particularly important for an organic gardener who uses time honored traditional methods of pest control and crop management instead of the quicker but more environmentally lethal chemical choices.   Is it more work to be an organic gardener?  You bet!  But it is a personal choice made out of regard for my own health... and that of the continual parade of wildlife that are attracted by the shrubbery and gardens.
Numbers have been critical to the success of the No Kill Movement.   When advocates argue that "many" dogs die in shelters .. no one gets particularly worked up.  But when advocates have been able to provide specific numbers, it paints a clear picture of the problem at hand.
Numbers are also a great way to measure success.  Which was why, back when there was a changing of the guard on the provincial board of the society in 2008, one of the first acts of the remaining board was to initiate a new policy of making their statistics and the minutes of their monthly meeting freely available online.
Prior to that, the society was long on rhetoric about respect for life and short on taking any serious steps toward No Kill.
What happened when they started posting the numbers?  Were they always pretty?  Not even close! 
What did all this transparency achieve?   Quite a bit.  By being bold enough to shine some light in some dingy and disgusting corners, the society was able to measure the scope of the situation and start taking steps down their New Path.
Every year now, their stats as a whole are getting better.  But that isn't even the most important result.   Like the proverbial rolling stone, the society is shedding its 'moss' and picking up speed and support along the way.
In other words .. the better they do .. the better they're doing.  Just like anything else in life ... hmm?
Is everything peachy keen and perfect now?  Of course not .. but at least they're on the right track.
Three years ago ... when Celtic Pets was a ticking time bomb waiting to implode on our consciousness ... who would have imagined that the society would be working its way to No Kill?  That is the power of numbers and the true strength of transparency.
Which is why of course the reputable private rescues in this province have declared a position of support for the principals of No Kill.  They also take Nathan Winograd's advice ... " do a good job, tell someone about it and ask for their help" 
Even better, Shelters like the Lilian Albion in Amherst and SHAID in Bridgewater understand that there is strength in numbers for the animals and are quick to bring in animals from other groups when they have space.
At the end of the day ... we have almost all the tools needed to get to No Kill Nova Scotia.  A provincial society with resolve and determination, private rescues and shelters, hard working TNR groups and of course many many kind hearts in the animal loving community.
Whats missing from this picture?  A little clarity about Animal Control.   But aren't they government and so subject to Freedom of information requests?  Not in most cases.   For instance,  Annapolis County has a pound run by its AC, so a concerned citizen can apply for the information if its not given on request.
But in other places, such as Kings County and HRM, the sheltering is contracted out.  Why is that a problem?  Because of course contractors are not handcuffed by the same freedom of information restrictions as their government counterparts.  In other words, they only have to provide the information if they WANT to ... and are under no obligation to provide accurate numbers.
And it will very likely stay that way unless the law is changed.   Without a law that requires AC and all of its sheltering contractors to provide publicly posted stats, most of Nova Scotia's animal control stats will remain veiled in mystery.
Why is that a problem?  If there is no sense of the scope of the problem, how can their ever be a meaningful solution.
Of course it might not be in the best interests of contractors to provide the information that might inspire the institution of pet retention programs that would reduce the size of the plum pie, eh?
What time is it?  Its time to understand that shining a little more light isn't about pointing fingers and assigning blame.  Its about painting an accurate picture with the information that taxpayers are entitled to  ... so that as voters they can make informed decisions about what kind of communities they want their children to grow up in.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Grandmother's Guide to Living with Coyotes

I love going to the woods on a downdrenching day like this ... especially this time of year.  By now all the serious hunters looking for deer for the freezer have already used their tags .... so in realspeak a rainy day means we are less likely to bump into recreational hunters unfamiliar with property lines.
Being the cautious sort, the fire is laid but not lit before we go ... but by the time the dogs are towelled off its coziness has already caught.  The dogs have all been with me long enough to know the drill, so they are never put off by the wet.
But the earlydog detection system DOES give me good warning when there are coyotes ahead on the trail.  There was a time when such sitings were more rare, but as the area has built up my friend's land has become one of the last pockets of old wood around, hmmm?
River Ridge subdivision now sits where the west end of the woods were.   To make matters worse, one of the old time large landowners in the area passed away a few years ago and his widow was quick to have the property clearcut... taking out hundreds of acres of woodland wildlife habitat in one fell swoop.
Is she the only villain in the picture?  Not even close... although the topic of the political pressure and publicity campaigns being mounted by the wood related businesses to justify clearcutting is subject for a blog with a different focus than mine.
Without wandering too far afield, suffice it to say that in the natural world, nothing exists in a bubble.  When wildlife habitats are destroyed, of course the wildlife will have to shift location if they are to survive.  I'm a middle aged grandmother, not a biologist .. but even I can see that.
Instead of a coyote cull, it would be more to the point to place a moratorium on irresponsible wood harvesting practices that destroy wildlife habitat.
But until there is sufficient strong voter feedback to change the status quo, here are a few lessons that this middle aged grandmother has learned about living with coyotes :
  • Never, Ever leave children out unsupervised.  Coyotes teach their young to hunt with the more vulnerable living beings like children and pets
  • coyotes are wild things, not pets .... don't feed them.   Keep a bucket in the freezer for meat bones and such so that your green cart doesn't draw them in
  • don't tie dogs out .. in fact don't leave dogs out unattended.  Period.
  • don't let your dogs offleash after dark ...even in a fenced yard.
  • It just isn't safe anymore for house cats to go outside.  Period.
  • always carry something noisy like a loud whistle or an air horn in the woods.  Cell phones are great but the coyotes don't care if you call 911, eh?
  • If one is feeding feral cats, make sure that safe secure shelter is provided so that they dont' become coyote chow.
  • If you are feeding stray cats, please be aware that they very likely do not have the finely honed instincts of a feral and will need to have safe shelter in a building after dark.   Insulated little snuggeries can be tucked into garages or sturdy sheds to keep them safe ... until they can either be vaccinated and introduced into a household - yours or someone else's
  • Carry a flashlight after dark
  • Keep your BBQ clean
  • If you're not experienced in the woods, please don't go out there by yourself
  • and last but definitely not least ... pay attention to your own dogs.   I always know when the coyotes are down by the pond because Miss Ruby is on full alert when she's watching them, hmmm?
Last night the coyotes were singing up in the gravel pit not far from my place.   Out here in the country, sound really travels, and I could also hear every dog outside for miles kicking up a fuss.   After all, our dogs may be pets but they instinctively know what we often shrug off .. that good care and caution is needed around coyotes.  
I'm a middle aged grandmother who either hears or sees coyotes nearly every day and I still do not believe in a coyote cull.  Its been on for a month now and hasn't slowed the coyotes down
What time is it?  Its time to encourage our politicians to effectively address the coyote issue properly .. by restoring and protecting wildlife habitats. 
Until then ... be sensible and be safe... because the cull isn't really going to do a darned thing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

More Hope for the Holdays

I love cool crisp sunny days like this.  Last week's weather has put paid to the last lingering leaves ... and seeing as we are still knee deep in hunting season it just seems ever so much safer when the woods are wide open and brighter, hmmm?  
I know that we are on private land ... and I know that we are wearing more orange than the average road crew ... but I also Know from experience that occasionally we can still stumble across the odd soul who has lost sight of property lines while tracking their prey.
I also love the way SHAID has embraced the Home for the Holidays spirit.   Once again, they are celebrating with special adoption fees for the kitties who have been waiting for more than five months to find their Furever Homes.  This year, Claire, Iman, Copper and Bridget ... along with two sweet seniors - Flash and Gonzo are being featured.  
What does that mean?  It means that SHAID has underwritten the adoption fee for each of these lovelies so that any one of them can be adopted for the Very Modest Sum of seventy-five dollars.
Why do they do this?  Because the kind folks at SHAID have tried this before and they know that it works.  They are Not adopting pets out to become presents ... but they DO understand that this is a sentimental time of year that just inspires kindness and compassion in so many people.
I've also noticed, that when they do this program, that the other cats in the shelter seem to 'move through' a little more quickly.  Why?  Because any adoption incentive has the lovely side effect of bringing notice to all the pets for the group wise enough to take the first step.
What time is it?  Its always time to understand that adoption incentives are not putting pets "on sale" but simply shining a brighter light so that their loveliness can be seen more clearly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NEVER too old to be loved

shel-ter:  5. a building serving as a temporary refuge or residence for homeless persons, abandoned animals, etc.
I'm sure when Watson was first brought to the Yarmouth SPCA shelter, he was pretty darned grateful to be warm and safe and not to be hungry anymore.   But if its tough to be a homeless pet, the ante really steps up for chubby middle aged fellows like Watson ... no matter how cute and snuggly and affectionate and appealing that they are.
If I fall a little in love with all the great pets that I list, I really root for the seniors.   So of course I was delighted when I had to remove Watson from my site because he had been adopted.
Now usually when dogs are returned to a rescue, there is some new little tidbit on their bio.   Maybe they'll need to obedience training... or perhaps they'll need a cat free home ... or an adult only one ... sometimes they might even need to be the only dog in the home.
So when Watson popped back up on the Yarmouth SPCA Petfinder listing, I was curious not to see any new little bits on his bio.  Why was this adorable little guy back at the shelter?
But sometimes there just isn't a good reason .... and I suppose we should just be glad for dog's sake they are welcome 'back at the inn'.  
So now .... after a tease of a taste of life in a home,  Watson is back at the shelter.  Quieter and sadder to be back .... so now when people come to the shelter he might not put his best and brightest paw forward this time.
The good news is that he is a dog, and that means that he will have even more love than anyone could possibly imagine for someone willing to give this great guy a real shot at the good life.  Even better, he's a beagle and that means there is a super sized serving of smarts in a snugly little package.
Best of all, being older means wiser and Watson is not going to need to be housetrained / learn how to leash walk/ etc.   He's just a great little guy who is ready to be someone's very best friend right now :)
What time is it?  Its always time to remember that senior pets are NEVER too old to be loved.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The More the Merrier

Meet Princess, Grey and Silver.  All three of these lovelies are fourteen and have been well loved and cared for since they were kittens by the same kind heart.  Now their "Mom" has to go into a nursing home and her family are trying to find good homes for these lovely middle aged cats.  They've been together for their whole lives, so the perfect home would have enough heart for all three, but in in this less than perfect world the family understands that might not be in the cards .... and are willing to adopt them out as individuals if necessary.
Anyone who has shared space with cats understands how much they love the company of their own kind.   Back in the day, when I was still brave enough to let my cats go outside, it was part of the daily routine to see their 'friends' pop by to visit them for a little social sunning on the boulders down by the upper pond.
These days, I think it would be a very dull life for any of my six kitties if they didn't have the others to interact with.  They groom each other.  Nap together. Whatever they are up to, they are like the marines and nobody ever gets left behind alone.
Lets face it ... life is just more fun with your friends ... and being able to share that is the best bit of living in a multicat household.
If you ... or someone you know has enough heart to open your home to these three lovely cats, please contact The Metro Shelter  , who are helping the family find homes for their mother's dear little companions.
Time spent with cats is never wasted.   Sigmund Freud


Monday, November 8, 2010

URGENT!!! Senior Dog needs a new home ASAP

UPDATE:  Basil is now in the care of Atlantic All Dog Rescue, who will now of course be looking for new home for this sweet boy.   If you, or someone you know is interested in adopting Basil, please click here for more information.

Meet Basil.  Eight years ago, he was adopted from the Yarmouth SPCA and until very recently had a happy and secure home with the same family.   Basil's primary caregiver has passed away and now the remaining members of the household are too dysfunctional to provide a secure home for this sweet senior boy.
Basil is believed to be a duck toller, corgi mix and has the short corgi legs.  I am told he is a very sweet boy, but that there was an incident with unsupervised small children in the house.  As a result, this grieving dog has been banished from the main part of the home where he has lived for eight years.
To make matters worse, the children's father wants Basil out of the house ASAP... which in realspeak means that this kind and loving dog is grave danger.
If you, or anyone you know can provide a loving, child free home for this sweet senior dog, please click here for more information

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A wish list for the season

I love doing yard work on chilly days.  I always seem to have more energy and of course there are none of the health concerns with overdoing it in the heat.   Its just frosting on the cake that its such a treat to come back into a comfy cozy house.
Now I doubt very much that the stray cats who have been abandoned around the province feel quite the same way about these nippy days.   Those who have managed to survive the predators ... those who haven't starved to death already or met a myriad of other Unsung Unhappy Tails ... well THOSE little survivors are not going to last too much longer once winter really sets in.
Its no secret that we have a cat overpopulation problem in this province.  Nor is the situation going to improve while politicians are dithering about "affordability".  Every year that they put Low Cost / High Volume Spay Neuter clinic proposals on the back burner ..... every year that they pussyfoot about funding the TNR groups .... every year that they expect rescues to be their unpaid cleanup crews ... the cats just keep reproducing.
None of the kitties of course would reap the financial benefits they are hoping to accrue with big ticket items like convention centers and railroad subsidies.  On the uptick, none of the programs would cost a fraction of any new infrastructure costs.  In most cases, the work is carried out by volunteers who are so used to working on a shoestring that they already know how to get best value for every dollar.
Even better, once the ways and means are found to begin addressing the problem, every year the costs will actually diminish as the solutions start to make an impact. 
However ... until the problem is addressed, every year the problem is simply going to get bigger and become more expensive to address.
There isn't a politician in this province that would drive a twenty year old derelict down the road.  So why do they want to 'drive' a twenty year old outmoded clunker of a concept of animal welfare? 
Why?  Because animals don't vote of course!   I know I natter on about this like a stuck record, but the simple fact is that strong voter feedback is the only effective way to motivate politicians at any level. 
We should cherish the fact that we live in a democracy and exercise our right to bring issues that concern and move us to the attention of the politicians that we elect.
The House is sitting now, making this a dandy time to let your MLA know that you have a definite wish list this season for the animals, that includes meaningful support for:
  • Low Cost / High Volume Spay Neuter Clinics
  • Banning the traffic of living breathing sentient beings in the free online ad sites
  • Instituting the specific regulations to support Bill 186 that would enable the society to successfully shut down Puppy Mills
  • Banning the sale of companion animals in Pet Stores
  • Drafting anti tethering legislation
  • and last but not least, acknowledging the community contribution made by TNR with enough resources to effectively address this man made problem.
What time is it?  It is always time to remember that compassion should obligate every citizen to "speak for the animals"
It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.  Samuel Adams

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Its a bit of a mind flip

I love making macaroni and cheese.  Old school ... from scratch and baked until bubbly in the oven so that the whole house smells like a hug.
Is it more work than KD?  Of course it is!   More cooking means more pots .... not to mention more time and effort.  But then the best things in life are usually a little like that.
In a world where we are accustomed to seeing solutions served up in sixty minutes, we really shouldn't be surprised that senior pets can sometimes 'sit on the shelf'.   They don't fit into the stereotyped idea that so many have ... bring home a young pet to raise and train and keep for life.
And make no mistake about it ... for most kind hearts that is exactly how the journey goes .... fur life.  Nor is that a bad thing, per se ... unless one is a senior pet who still has so much love and loyalty left to offer.
Yet ... in this busy world seniors can often be the best fit for those looking to take the simple road.  When there is no time to housetrain, when adopters are looking for a pal who is ready to go right now .... senior pets aren't going to be nearly as much work as a youngster.  They bring a WYSWYG bit to the table that makes it easier for kind hearts to tell if they are truly kindred spirits.
Does the word senior put people off?  You bet.  In fact many rescues are reluctant to categorize pets as senior ... knowing full well they will be weeded out of many searches.
Should the word senior be changed?   Not if the spirit of transparency is to be adhered to.  What needs to change is how senior pets are marketed.   Their experience should be seen as an advantage for those who are either unwilling or unable to start from scratch.
What time is it?  Its always time to work at the mind set to help kind hearts see that senior pets really are more experienced at love.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Not every wanderer is actually lost

I love hiking in the woods at any time of year.   With the shifting seasons and continually changing parade of wildlife, our trails are like the proverbial river and we never walk the same one twice.
Once the leaves are all down, the light shifts so dramatically and overnight our cool shady woods become wide open and bright.  That's lovely for us, but not such a safe thing for the smaller creatures struggling to stay under the radar of the predators.
James Herriot once said that "I could do terrible things to people who dump unwanted animals by the roadside".   I know there is a huge trend these days to 'think lost, not stray', but its impossible to believe that every stray we have seen found their own way out here from the village.
I wish we put could webcams in the woods and force the people who abandon animals to see the Unsung Unhappy Tails.  For every Oscar who charms their way to safety, there are ever so many more sad stories that don't end well.
But I am wandering afield here ... besides being the Celtic New Year ... this day also marks the beginning of Adopt a Senior Pet Month.  Unless this is your first time reading this blog, you already know what a special place senior pets hold in my heart.
It is of course the heart of The NS Senior Pet Project and the soul behind my blog post boosts.  
How does Nova Scotia stack up for senior pet adoption?  Eight year old dogs DO tend to get adopted.  At that age many are really more middle aged than senior and bring the best of both worlds to the table .... well behaved AND energetic.  
After eight is another story and not every rescue is willing or able to bring them in.   ( the connection between cherry picking and stats is a separate subject deserving a post of its own on another day)
If its a crapshoot to be a homeless senior dog ... the ante really steps up for the kitties.  In spite of the fact that well cared for cats can live for twenty years,  kind hearts willing to adopt senior kitties are the exception rather than the rule.  
Nowhere is the fact that difference between cats and dogs in rescue is more than purely anatomical more evident with the senior kitties.   Dogs have come and gone off the senior pet site, while  Hazel, Freddie , Abigail and Elsa are still waiting for someone with enough heart to offer these eldercats the comfort of a loving home.  
And before the keyboards catch on fire, I know that the Metro Shelter has an awesome and award winning palliative care program for elderly pets with 'compomised health issues' ....  and that IS a beautiful thing to see.  But not every eldercat has serious health issues ... to be perfectly honest for most the biggest handicap is the fact they have been left in the lurch.
Nor do they have room for every cat in the province. 
In many cases, potential adopters around the province are utterly unaware that some rescues will negotiate a reduced fee for senior cats in order to help them into loving homes.  In some instances the fee is completely waived .... but once again this is something adopters have to ask about because its not advertised.
Reducing or waiving the adoption fees to help the eldercats out of the shelter is not the same thing as 'putting them on sale' .  Rather, it should be thought of as a proactive way for a shelter or group to demonstrate their compassion and commitment to ALL pets.
What time is it?  Its time for municipalities to run a few ads reminding people that abandoning a cat IS animal abuse and that it IS illegal.  After all, they don't hesitate to spring for ads about flushables and other bylaws .... and this is the kind of 'ounce of prevention' that could save (taxpayers) AC budget Dollars.