Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Memorial Day Miracle!

A Buddhist Temple, a homeless man, one woman’s journey, and a Memorial Day miracle!
Okay… so it has been a really, really long time since my last blog. Sometimes the rescuers are too busy “rescuing” and running day to day operations to stop long enough to describe what goes on here at SOHS...
It is on this day that traditionally plays host to barbeques, softball, and a tribute to our fallen heroes that I have been inspired to blog again by one woman who wanted to make a difference. We received a call about five young dogs that needed a home from a woman in Fresno. She had been told that we might be able to help because no one in her area would accept them with a guarantee of life due to space and time limitations. (At five months of age they were not as desirable as younger puppies.)

Rassami had taken her mother to a Buddhist temple in the countryside near Fresno. She was surprised to find that numerous dogs had been dumped there and were being cared for by the monks and a homeless man. Return trips yielded heartbreak and hope. A small female Chihuahua mix dog had become pregnant. The male was shot by neighbors and bled to death near the temple. Rassami offered to help the homeless man care for the pups but he was unwilling to part with little ones that filled the hole in his heart left by the shooting incident. But he didn’t have the resources to even get them basic vaccinations. She was eventually able to win his trust and he surrendered them to her because she promised him that they would be spayed and neutered and placed in good homes.

Once she had the pups in hand she had no idea how difficult it would be to save their lives. Shelters and rescue organizations in California simply have no room with the state’s current challenging economic times. She was not prepared to care for that many dogs and did not have the resources herself to spay and neuter all of them. Our own economic constraints left us with no way to travel to get the dogs, but she volunteered to drive them up here herself if it meant that they would live. She left Fresno at 5 am and arrived in the afternoon the day before Memorial Day. One little black dog had many scabs from a massive tick infestation that included numerous larval ticks in his nose and ears. Two pups were somewhat shy and the other two could not stop giving lots and lots of dog kisses.

For these five dogs this Memorial Day holiday offers the opportunity to live and it also stops the cycle of suffering since these pups will be spayed and neutered before they go home with their new families. A woman who inspired us with her dedication leaves the Rogue Valley also inspired… to start a nonprofit organization in her area that will serve as a clearing house for information and resources to help those with limited funds care for homeless pets. Education is such a key component in the epidemic homeless pet crisis in California. She is going to see to it that all of the dogs residing at the Temple get spayed and neutered. One woman cared enough to save five special dogs. They will be available for adoption at SOHS on Tuesday June 1. Heartfelt thanks to Rassami for spending her holiday weekend traveling with some special canine companions in need of a second chance.

Heaven Can Wait Rescue Transport will be bringing 50 small/medium size dogs to SOHS. They will be available on June 18, 2010.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wow Chihuahua!

Adoptions Saturday, Jan. 23 - Tuesday, Jan. 26.

The Adoption Center was filled with frenzied activity on Saturday morning. The dogs had arrived the night before, but all things that normally would have been completed for an adoption event had not even been started. Despite our best efforts, kennel cards were still being printed as the doors were about to open. The word we were back had obviously spread because the parking lot was full and there were more than 20 people in line at 10:45am. By 11 am the only place to park was across the street. Some folks knew exactly who they wanted to meet after previewing the new dogs on the website and others were there to look at all of the newest residents of SOHS.

Soon the Adoption Center was filled to capacity, with no standing or sitting room anywhere. The walkways through the outdoor kennels were also packed, so it was fairly challenging to even see the small dogs. The puppies were all quickly adopted as were the two tiniest Chihuahuas and one tiny toy rat terrier. Then things seemed to simmer just a bit while potential adopters carefully considered adding a new family member. The “hold” board had nine names and all of the families came back that afternoon for a “meet and greet” with their other family dogs. Some left empty-handed because they had come to the conclusion that it was not the right time to make a lifetime commitment. And that is actually good news for pets, because we want to make great permanent matches. There really were some super adoptions. Adopters represented every age group as did the dogs that were chosen.

Sunday was just as busy with lots of nice adoptions to seniors who found the size and temperament of many of the dogs to be a perfect fit. Many who had adopted dogs on Saturday came in to visit their new pets. Two senior couples spent an hour just holding and stroking their new dogs and left reluctantly. Thirty adoptions were completed over the weekend! Many of those dogs are now waiting to be scheduled for spay/neuter surgery before they can go home.

The Monday Mail Tribune featured a beautiful photo essay entitled “Rescue Me,” which was complimented by an online photo gallery of the dogs. Many of the photos captured the dogs’ sense of trust as humans comforted and cuddled with them. It really is amazing how forgiving they are after some of the unimaginable circumstances that forced them into a shelter where their fate had already been determined. Monday and Tuesday there was a steady stream of visitors through the adoption center which resulted in another 18 adoptions. So four days after they set their paws on Southern Oregon soil, half of the rescued dogs have been adopted. Wow Chihuahua!

I cannot help but reflect on my own Chihuahua-mix that “adopted me” after the first Fresno rescue last year. He definitely is a spunky firecracker of a dog that makes me smile every day. Referred to as “Honey I Shrunk the Pointer,” Pocket Rocket mimics the behaviors of his Pointer sisters. He “points” baked potatoes, roasted marshmallows, and moths. Wow Chihuahua!

Major Medical

100 x 5 procedures – every dog must have their day!

Once animals arrive at SOHS the real work begins… every dog from the Saving Train rescue trip must receive vaccinations, worming meds, intranasal bordetella spray for kennel cough, Frontline, and have a microchip implanted. Many dogs require additional medical procedures from stitches to medications to surgery. It's all part of the routine protocol at SOHS but… there is nothing normal about performing all of the basic procedures in one day on 100 dogs! An army of volunteers and three staff members were assembled to insure that all dogs would receive everything medically required to be available for adoption.

One of the elements of temperament testing is making sure that a dog’s mouth can be opened and their head can be touched easily; this lets intake staff know whether or not a dog can be properly medicated without too much difficulty. Some dogs are calm about the medical process and others are squirmy but after nine hours, all required procedures were completed. But, there is more… dogs are also bathed as time and bathtub permit although baths are not always given to the smallest dogs in cold weather. It is important to bathe the dogs before spay/neuter surgery because they will not be able to have a bath for two weeks following their surgery.

Dogs that are not crazy about having their nails clipped will have it done while they are under anesthesia for their surgery. They have had a stressful journey and must acclimate to a new environment so we try to make the transition as stress-free as possible. SOHS volunteer Peggy sees to it that dogs in need of a makeover receive one so that they can put their best paw forward!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Journey Home

100 dogs – 10 hours to a second chance

“Whether the weather be fine,
Or whether the weather be not…
…We’ll whether the weather,
Whatever the weather,

Whether we like it or not!”

Two days delayed in our journey home we were finally ready to roll. We arrived first at Rambelaine kennels where 38 dogs had been housed at no charge to SOHS while we had waited out the dangerous stormy driving conditions. Even at 7am there was a small army of ARF volunteers waiting to help us load. The media was also waiting. They have covered the SOHS Saving Train rescues on all three of its trips to the Fresno area. Reporters from both radio and TV stations were asking why this many people would go to this much effort for 100 dogs. The answer is very simple: What is a life worth? These 100 dogs have a second chance at life and the opportunity to have a home and family.

One reporter and cameraman seemed perplexed and puzzled by the whole energetic scene. Then they moved to the rear of the Saving Train bus and filmed the back which features a larger-than-life photo of “Siluk,” a dog who came to SOHS on the Saving Train. Below the dog are graphics in big bold red letters – Please Spay and Neuter – Help Save lives! The cameraman turned to me and said that the sign would be the "lead-in” and the ending for the story. At that moment it became apparent that he understood the magnitude of 70,000 animals euthanized in one city, most for no other reason than the fact that they had no home.

Loading the bus is one giant jigsaw puzzle of a challenge comprised of portable kennels. Larger and medium-sized dogs must be loaded first because their kennels will be surrounded by carefully stacked crates of small dogs that are bungied together, and to the inside walls of the bus. Every trip we learn or try something new to make procedures work more efficiently. Dogs in the kennels were grouped with dogs they would share a kennel with when they were back at SOHS. Most kennels had three or four (a few had more) dogs in them. We then headed to ARF to load up the other 50+ dogs. The media was also waiting there. The Clovis Police Department brought us 5 that they had been holding for us. A fight broke out in the back of the bus so all of the portable kennels had to be pulled to solve the problem. An intact male decided to assert his authority over his kennelmates and so he had to be removed to keep the peace. Only two dogs got a little “snarky” and had to ride in individual crates because of their attitude. They had transitioned into a heightened state of arousal and agitation from the stress of all of the activity and commotion.

The loading process had taken just under three hours. All dogs were safely aboard and after hugs goodbye we headed out. I am always asked what it is like to ride in a vehicle with barking dogs for hours at a time. There is raucous barking and yapping for about 20 minutes and then it just subsides. I do not know if the dogs are calmed and lulled into sleep by the rolling motion while traveling down the road or whether a sense of survival and acceptance kicks in. It always seems as if they know that they have been “saved.” There is usually one lone yapper or mournful yowler that occasionally lets out a cry but for the most part the ride home was relatively peaceful. Poop happens, and that is part of any rescue even on trips only 45 minutes away, and so is motion sickness. The puppies were all isolated in the separate Humane Society van. Needless to say, puppies are pooping machines so our vehicle was a tad on the stinky side by Sacramento, but you just get used to it. Some brave dogs “held it” until we reached SOHS!

Snow was piled high on the sides of I-5 near Dunsmuir but there was none on the roads. The deluge of heavy wet snow that had closed the freeway had melted. However, when we were fueling up in Mount Shasta, we came across a man who was purchasing food to take to his family, currently living in a motel because the roof on their house had caved in from the weight of the snow. In the midst of personal trials and tribulations he thanked me for doing what we do. Wow!

We pulled into the SOHS parking lot at 8:45 pm. One hundred very weary four-legged travelers were off-loaded by a crew of volunteers and snuggled in their blankets with bellies full by 10 pm. There are usually a couple of escape artists, because our kennels were not designed to house small dogs. There were only two this time and they were housed in the adoption center. When I left around 11pm all was quiet… but the rescue in many respects was just beginning!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thirty Adoptions Saturday and Sunday!

Visit the Medford Mail Tribune website to see a gallery of photos taken when we got back to SOHS. And stay tuned, because we'll soon be adding more stories of our return trip to Medford from central California!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

We're Back!

Great News!
We've returned to Medford and now have 100 new dogs. Please check the Adoptable Pets page on our website for the very latest news on every available pet.

And please come back and visit this blog. We'll have many more rescue stories to tell!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Heading Home

The SOHS Saving Train is headed home at last - arriving some time late this evening!

Being born a tan Chihuahua in the Central Valley

“It is unconscionable that people do not spay and neuter their pets. The overpopulation of Chihuahua mixes is actually beyond description. This is my third trip to Fresno and it is heartbreaking to know that hundreds of animals are euthanized every day when the crisis is totally preventable.”
Leisha – Southern Oregon Humane Society

And so we head home this morning… it will take more than two hours just to load all of the dogs. We will travel to two separate kennels to pick up all of them and Clovis Animal shelter will deliver the last five. It is a massive jigsaw puzzle to make all of the kennels fit for the long drive. Dogs will be grouped usually with those that will be their kennel-mates at SOHS.

Being stranded here in Fresno due to the closure of I-5 may have delayed our journey home but it gave 18 more dogs the gift of life. We will be bringing home a total of 100 dogs to Southern Oregon Humane Society. We will arrive some time late this evening depending upon the road conditions. Much needed sleep was not on the agenda as we spent a final full day evaluating dogs. In the end we were being asked by rescuers if we could take home more. There was a steady procession of dogs and photos of dogs. But, we have no more room at the Humane Society.

“Wagner” is a beautiful golden boy approximately one year-old with a spirit that matches his gorgeous coloring. He was tied to a tree in an orchard and left to die. Someone cut the rope that prevented him from moving in any direction. He was taken to ARF and now he will have the opportunity to have a family of his own. “Pencil” is a sweet nine-month old tan Chihuahua who was running along the road with her two siblings. A truck roared by and killed both siblings. “Pencil” was spared and someone immediately took her to ARF. Her new family has not found her yet. If you like a dog that fetches, this is your girl. She is a talented “Chug” (Chih-Pug mix) that loves to retrieve balls.

In total, we went to six shelters and also worked with many private rescuers. I will most remember our incredibly dedicated and tireless friends from ARF who made this entire rescue effort possible. There is so much coordination necessary to insure a successful outcome. How could anyone forget the endless kennels filled with no hope? In one shelter we were pulling dogs out as others were in the process of being “tagged.” Their fate had been determined because the 3 day stray-hold was up. They would not make it to the adoption center and their place would be taken the next day by another wave of homeless pets. I will tuck those haunting memories away and resolve to continue to try and make a difference in every way possible. We have been inspired by Linda, the Executive Director at ARF, and her dedicated volunteers. They keep the faith in spite of the massive number of homeless pets in the area. We will also keep the faith and make every effort to do more. The anatomy of this rescue will become the blueprint for the future for homeless dogs and cats at home and everywhere.