Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No New Home for the Holidays!

This is Cassius Clay, one of my favorites at the League. He is a big, bruiser of a cat who looks tough, but is a real love. Cassius Clay's namesake is Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.; January 17, 1942). Ali, the three-time World Heavyweight Champion is widely considered one of the greatest boxers of all time. Our Cassius Clay is definitely not a fighter. He'll nudge your fist or knee and he'll come running right up to you when you say, "Hi Handsome!"

So, why is he here and not in a forever home? Well, he's 11-years-old. And, while 11 is quite young in people years (only fourth or fifth grade, not old enough to drive or vote), 11 is middle-aged for a cat, and most adopters are looking for a younger cat. Too bad -- because they are missing out on a real sweetheart. A middle-aged cat does not mean a sick or sedentary cat. Eleven is just a number -- and in cat years it means not a youngster, but not a geezer either.
The holidays are a hectic time. Lots of folks who are thinking about welcoming a cat or dog into their homes, choose to wait until all of the travel and celebrations are over. Maybe Cassius Clay's new person is planning right now, he or she just hasn't met this handsome hunk yet. My favorite kitty could easily undergo a name change -- I vote Romeo!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

17 Inches of Snow in My Front Yard!!!!

This was a record breaking snow storm. The most ever recorded in the D.C. area in December. It's going to be awhile before it's all gone. Snow will be on the ground through the end of the year and well into 2010.

Snow plows and salt trucks are making their way through the neighborhoods. Be sure to wash your dog's feet off every time he goes outside. The salt can be painful. It gets in between his toes; ice balls form and stay there, too. They hurt. You wear snow boots, dogs don't.

Remember to report animals outside. No cat or dog should be left out in the snow and cold. A fun romp with your dog is fine, but he should stay outside only as long as you are out there, too. Max, Nigel and I went to the park this morning. Check out the pictures of Nigel and one of his friends chatting about the snow.
But now, we are in for the night. The temperatures are going down quickly. There are lots and lots of icy patches. Be safe and help keep everyone safe and warm.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Wow, it's really a blizzard out there. The forecasters were right. It's piling up and FAST.

When we took Nigel to the park two hours ago, the snow was was already so high that he couldn't walk; he leaped. Like the children on their sleds, the dogs had a great time playing. They jumped, tumbled and fell. Nigel had a blast, but when play time was over, he was happy to come home, get dried off ,and snooze in his bed.

I don't think I'll go out again until April!!!

I know that while I am enjoying the beauty of the rapidly falling snow from the safety of inside my warm house, animals (and people) are outside, ast risk of suffering from hypothermia (frost bite) and/or other injuries -- even death.

Things we can do --

  • Have the number of the local animal control agency handy. Officers are working around the clock. If you see an animal who is outside unattended, call. In the District of Columbia that number is 202 -576-6664 -- 24/7.

  • If you see a neighbor's dog or cat outside call them (or get an adult to call). Make sure that your neighbor is okay. Remind them that their animals should be indoors. It's not safe to be outside for extended periods of time for animals or people.

  • When your dog goes outside, be sure to wash and dry his paws when he comes in -- especially the pads between his toes. Those little ice balls hurt!

  • If you are venturing outside in the car, be on the lookout for animals that need help as you are driving around. Have the animal control number handy and report all animals in danger. Give as much information as possible -- where is the animal, what does the animal look like, is it contained (can it leave that location) or is it running loose, what is the exact address, what are the landmarks (is there gas station on the corner, or is it a blue house with black shutters). To report homeless people who are out in this weather in Washington call the Hypothermia Hotline at 1 (800) 535-7252.

  • Before the car is started, bang on the hood and/or honk the horn -- that way, if a cat who was looking for a warm spot has crawled under the hood she'll take those loud noises as a sign to get out and go elsewhere.
This is going to be a whopper of a storm. Looks like the DC area will have a white Christmas for sure. Have fun sledding, building snow people and making snow angels; and be on the lookout for those who are outside and need help. Speak for those can't.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Very Best of Friends

My cat Merl loves my dog Nigel. At least I think he does. When Nigel is hanging out, Merl is often close by. Sometimes Merl rubs up against Nigel's face. I don't think Nigel loves Merl, but he tolerates him just fine.

Cats and dogs are often friends. But what about elephants and dogs? Most definitely. I was given the book Tarra & Bella, a truly beautiful story about Tarra, an elephant who had been forced to perform in circuses and movies for more than 20 years. She now lives on 2700 acres at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee with many other elephants and her best friend, Bella. Bella is a medium-sized mixed breed dog who picked Tarra as her friend, and the two have been inseparable ever since. Text accompanies magnificent pictures illustrating the friends' day-to-day interactions and chronicling their painful separation when Bella gets hurt. The photos also show Bella's amazing recovery that was centered on the best medicine -- friendship. Read the book for more information about Tarra and Bella's friendship; and to learn about all of the elephants living at the sanctuary, check our www.elephants.com.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle

Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle by Major Brian Dennis, Mary Nethery and Kirby Larson is one of those books that makes you laugh, cry, cheer and scream. The book, detailed in photographs and emails from Iraq, offers a hard look at some of the unforgotten victims of war. It's the story of a stray dog in the middle of war-torn Iraq who, not only fights to survive, but chooses the person he decides he is going to survive with. Major Brian Dennis names the pitiful leader of the pack of wild dogs Nubs, because obviously someone has butchered the starving dog's ears -- and that's just the beginning. From the time the Major meets the young adult dog in October 2007, until the time the dog boards a plane in early 2008 from Jordan to San Diego by way of Chicago, the reader keeps wondering "How can this dog survive?"

Read this book! Tell your teachers and librarians to get this book and read it to students and classes. Share it with friends and siblings. I got this book six hours ago -- I've read it twice, once by myself and once with my son, Max. I plan on reading it tomorrow in class at Takoma Education Center, and then, again and again. This is a BIG story told sparingly in a little book -- it's about a man and a dog, but it is also about friendship, compassion, camaraderie and will. The war in Iraq is now in its 9th year; when reading The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle you will cheer wildly for Nubs and Major Dennis, but you'll also wonder when will the suffering end.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Washington Animal Rescue League's Food Bank -- A Community Necessity

Times are tough. People are having to make choices. Sadly, some folks have had to surrender their beloved animal friends to the League and other shelters because they can no longer afford to care for them.

If you, your family, or someone you know has been affected by the current economic down turn, please contact the League (202 -726-2556, ext. 342) to find out about qualifying for assistance from our Food Bank. The Food Bank, supported entirely through private donations, is there to help low-income people care for their animal companions.

Donations to the Food Bank are greatly appreciated. If you are able to help the League stock the Food Bank, consider collecting good, quality food and treats and toys. A Food Bank Drive makes a great service project that helps people and animals in the community. It's an easy project that takes little more than spreading the word, setting up easy-to-find collection bins and then transporting the donations to the League. Pick-ups for extremely large donations can be arranged, too.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Maybe Now Happy Can Truly Be Happy

An article in today's Washington Post's metro section details the move of Happy the Hippo from the National Zoo in D.C. to the Milwaukee County Zoo in Minnesota. The National Zoo is making room for an expanded elephant exhibit. Lucky for Happy. Happy, who was born in 1981, has lived his entire life alone. In the wild hippos, who live an average of 40 years, live in social groups of 10 to 30 animals or more. In Milwaukee Happy will be introduced to and live with two other hippos. Three is a definite improvement over one, but still along way from 30.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

If Only They Could Talk

If our companion animal friends spoke the same language we speak, they might ask why we are always patting them on the head, telling them to shake, and screaming "NO". They might also ask us to spend more time with them and give them more treats. If our companion animal friends spoke the same language that we speak they could tell us important things like when the TV is turned up so loud it hurts their ears or when their stomach hurts or when something is stuck in their paw.

Actually, our animal friends DO communicate with us -- especially when something is wrong. If the TV is too loud a dog might howl, a cat might run into another room; if their stomach hurts cats and dogs usually won't eat; and if something is stuck in their paw oftentimes they limp, hold their paw off the ground or lick the sore spot. It's important for us to watch our animals so when something is wrong we notice. If your cat skips dinner one day it may be that he is not hungry, but if he skips dinner a second day he may be telling you something hurts and should be examined by the veterinarian . If your dog won't put his foot down something may be stuck in his pad, he may pulled a muscle in his leg or he may have hurt his toe. But he can't tell you which of those things is wrong, so it's best to have your veterinarian look at your dog as soon as possible.

This is Briscoe. Doesn't he look happy? You can even see his tail wagging in this picture. Briscoewas not feeling so happy this morning. He was limping; he wouldn't put any weight on his leg. His guardian noticed that Briscoe was walking on three legs instead of four. When she brought him to the Washington Animal Rescue League's Medical Center this morning, the veterinarian discovered a long, sharp splinter stuck in Briscoe's pad. The veterinarian removed the splinter, and within minutes Briscoe was back to walking on all four feet.

Our animals many not speak our language, but they are great communicators. It's important that we, as their care-givers, pay attention to what they are saying.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Max won his elementary school's presidential election last year
with this picture of him and Gladys

Gladys came to live with me in 1992. She was a young adult black cat with a scarred eye who was only going to stay until a permanent home could be found. She moved in and immediately told the five other cats that she was in charge, she let Ruth -- my old dog-- know the same. Gladys found her forever home -- mine. She lived in three different houses with me, and welcomed two kids into the family by sleeping with each one. She out lived Ruth and the other cats, and tolerated the cats who came to live with us after her. She totally ignored Nigel four years ago when we brought him home.

A couple of years ago arthritis set in, and Gladys couldn't jump on the counter any longer to get to her food bowl. It didn't matter -- she was still able to eat when she wanted. She yowled to be lifted up, which someone always did, and then she climbed down a scratching post positioned nearby. If she absolutely had to, she could climb up the scratching post to get to the counter, but she preferred the faster human lift-me-up NOW method. She liked to sleep on Max's bed, so he left his saxophone case next to the bed, Gladys used it as a step stool.
This past year Gladys' kidneys began to fail -- she was put on a special diet, which she hated, and she started drinking a lot more water. She stopped bathing herself and her hair matted. She lost a lot of weight and almost all muscle tone. Sometimes when we petted her, her skin jumped like she was uncomfortable. Last week I made the decision that Gladys' quality of life had deteriorated to the point where there was more bad than good. I decided that after more than 17 years of being a part of my family, it was time to let go.
Gladys was humanely euthanized yesterday morning. We woke up early, fed Gladys kitten food, and took her outside. Gladys was an indoor-only cat who spent many of her younger years trying to run out the front door. We walked with her in the backyard, she sniffed several blades of grass, contemplated sneaking under the shed, and then Gladys did something quite unusual for her -- she turned and asked to be let in the house. It was time.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tragic Story with a Happy Ending

I often save newspaper articles so I can read them later. That's what happened in July, while on vacation; I got a copy of USA Today, and noticed the headline Blinded by Nazis, guided by dog by Sharon Peters. I tore the page from the rest of the paper and stuck it in my suitcase. I am really glad that I did; it is an inspiring story about survival, courage, friendship and unconditional love.

Max Edelman, now 86, was only 17-years-old when he was sent to a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Max survived five years of torture, including horrible beatings, starvation and watching others die including a man who was killed when the commandant ordered a large German Shepherd dog to attack. From that day forward Max was deathly afraid of dogs. Who could blame him?

Conquering fear is never easy. But, when he was nearly 70-years-old, Max was determined to overcome his fear of dogs because he wanted a dog's help. Max is blind, and has been so for decades since he was viciously beaten by guards in the camp. Max knew that a seeing eye dog could help him become far more independent. So, he summoned up all of his courage and contacted Guiding Eyes (
http://www.guiding-eyes.org/), a seeing-eye dog training and placement organization.

He did it! Or, so he thought. Max completed a 26-day Guiding Eyes training, but that wasn't enough to allow him to bond -- really bond -- with Calvin, Max's assigned dog. Calvin, a very smart and social chocolate Labrador retriever, who successfully completed two years of intense training knew that something was not right between him and Max. They were not a team. No matter how hard he worked, Calvin had not won Max's trust. Calvin began to lose weight. The veterinarian could find nothing physically wrong with him. Calvin was depressed.

Then everything changed -- tragedy nearly struck. The two were waiting at a crosswalk when Max heard the traffic stop. He gave Calvin the "forward" command. According to the article, "A driver made a sudden, sharp right turn and was upon the two without warning. Watchful Calvin stopped instantly, and the two returned to the sidewalk. 'He had saves both of us from serious injury,' [Max] hugged Calvin, and the barrier dissolved." Best friends, Calvin and Max, were together for nine years.

Earlier this summer Max was paired with Tobin, his third dog. To see a picture of Max and Tobin check out the USA Today article at
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-07-28-guide-dog-holocaust_N.htm. Max and Tobin are still getting to know each other. But one thing is for certain, as far as Tobin is concerned, Max is not afraid of dogs!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dr. Dog to the Rescue!

You've heard about dogs rushing into burning buildings to save people trapped inside or barking incessantly to alert their sleeping companions that a fire is near, but have you ever heard of a dog performing a heroic rescue by detecting cancer? In the August 24th issue of People magazine three different dogs found their human companions' cancer before any of the people or their doctors. Two of the dogs sniffed the area nonstop while the third indicated his diagnosis through licking the area repeatedly. All three people were treated and are alive today because of their dogs!

Michael McCulloch, the director of research conducted in San Anselmo California's Pine Street Foundation, has enlisted the help of several dogs to use their powerful sense of smell to detect cancer. The dogs, all pets volunteered by their guardians are "detecting a metabolic waste from the tumor cells, which is chemically different from the normal cells," says McCulloch.

Animals do amazing things that help people. Sometimes, they do some not so amazing things but are helpful all the same. Send me your examples of animals who have assisted people.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Well, kind of.

The Washington Animal Rescue League's re-designed, greatly improved cat room provides cats waiting for their forever homes with multi-level perches and a winding cat walk close to the ceiling. Sure, the cats would much rather be snoozing on beds and cuddling on couches during tv time, but until they are adopted, the cats at the League are having fun in the new play area. Stop by and visit.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oh, Deer!

Bow Hunt for Deer Debated in Leesburg screamed the headline on the Metro section of today's Washington Post. The article described how the deer population is "exploding" and that "the vast majority of Beacon Hill homeowners [neighborhood in question] support bow hunting of deer." A couple of years ago we rarely saw a deer; today they wander our neighborhood on a regular basis. Deer ate my neighbor's tomato plants. Three deer were hanging out in another neighbor's front yard, my son, Max, and I marveled at them from our window. If there's a deer standing on the side of the road, I slow down and watch it until it has moved on. There are a lot more deer these days, and it seems like folks throughout the DC Metro region want them gone.

Two hours after reading that the people in a Leesburg neighborhood have "have long complained of deer trampling manicured lawns, eating flowers and ruining community landscaping," I heard a radio report regarding the best way to control the deer population in Rock Creek Park. The spokesperson mentioned four possible means of control including doing nothing, fencing particular plants, adopting birth control measures and killing by sharp-shooting and/or trapping and humanely euthanizing them.

As a means of deer population control In Defense of Animals (IDA) suggests--
  • Remove vegetation from roadsides to reduce the attractiveness of roadside areas to deer.
  • Prevent deer from eating yard plants and trees by installing fencing.
  • Protect individual trees with mesh and netting.
  • Contact a nursery to find out what types of netting are effective.P
  • Plant native plants tolerant of deer browsing.
  • Plant plants that repel deer through smell and taste.
  • Use flashing lights or loud noises to startle deer away.

These seem like good ideas to me. Killing the deer, especially in a cruel, barbaric manner like bow-hunting, is not a long-term solution, in fact, it's not even a temporary solution. IDA points out that:

allowing hunters to kill more does, however, does not resolve population problems. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the open hunting of does left fawns without mothers, and removed too many females from the breeding population. Sport hunting decimated deer populations in many states. As a result, states passed laws restricting the hunting of does. These policies have contributed to the overpopulation of deer.

Hunting does remove some animals from the population, but it does not keep deer populations at a continually reduced level. Immediately after a hunt, the remaining animals flourish because less competition for food exists, allowing the remaining animals to live healthier lives, and resulting in a higher reproductive rate.

Fact is, there are a lot of people and a lot of deer. Somehow, the people must figure out how to live with the deer. We might lose a few plants in the process, but we will lose deer -- and much more -- if our way of dealing with the problem depends on bows, arrows and guns.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to School -- Already?

Wow, where did the summer go? Today's the first day of school for many kids. It's my first day back at the League -- I took some time off -- and, when I got back today, I discovered many new faces. While I was away construction on our cat room was finished -- the cats have their own playground (pictures coming later in the week) -- and lots of new arrivals, dogs and cats, are waiting for forever homes. Two teeny-tiny dogs, rescued by someone who found them running around in a busy intersection nearby, have settled into one staff member's office.

Leash laws protect dogs and people. A scared dog may not only run into traffic and get injured or even killed, but a scared dog may react out of fear when someone tries to help, and hurt the helper. Dogs can't use language to say, "Help me, I'm scared out here!" A frightened dog may bite the hand of someone trying to do good. The person who was able to capture and bring the two dogs to the League was an adult who took a BIG chance. Luckily, for the dogs and the person no one was hurt.

On your way to school, I'm sure you obey all traffic rules including cross only in crosswalks and cross with green or walk lights. Dogs (and cats, too) are oblivious to such rules. If on your way to school you see an animal running in the street or without a guardian, get adult help. Don't try to physically rescue the animal -- You could get hurt. Get a parent or teacher or crossing guard. Or, if you have a phone, plug in the number of the animal control agency in your area. In Washington, D.C. Animal Control is the proper agency to call, 202-576-6664. Be sure to give as much information as you can. For instance,

  • what color is the dog?
  • Do you know the breed?
  • Where is it?
  • Is it in the intersection of Blair Road and Kansas Avenue, N.W.?
  • Or is it sitting in front of the 7-11 store on Kansas Avenue?
The more information you can give to the dispatcher, the better for a fast and safe rescue. Let's make the 2009-2010 school year safe for everyone.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Caring Campers Encourage League Visitors to Adopt Dogs

The League's first-ever Caring Kids Camp concluded last Friday with certificates of completion, media interviews (WUSA-channel 9 interviewed Carolos, Delicia, and Tselote), hugs and promises to keep in touch. Evidence of the 14 campers commitment to making the world a better place for the animals continues to be displayed in the shelter. On Tuesday of last week the campers created adoption posters highlighting many of the dogs' best qualities. Artist Carol Hilliard, who illustrated the book I Like Dogs, conducted a workshop focusing mostly on drawing dogs, but demonstrated with a cat drawing, too. The campers applied those techniques when designing their adoption posters. A couple of the dogs have already gone home; their new families got to keep the camper-created posters. We're looking forward to Bogey, Keiffer, and Thunder heading out to their forever homes soon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Caring Kids Camp in Full Swing

Fourteen D.C. kids are participating in the first-ever Caring Kids Camp held at the Washington Animal Rescue League. The League and the Metropolitan Police Department joined forces to host the week-long camp that promotes kindness, compassion, responsibility and lots of puppy time.

Caring Kids Camp is truly a community effort. The camp was made possible because of the generosity of Whole Foods Market in Silver Spring, Papa John's of the National Capital Region, Safeway, Council member Bowser and community supporter Keith Jarrell.

More on the camp and the week's many activities including a field trip to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary and interesting speakers including Fire Investigators and their four-legged partners in a later post. In the meantime, check out the expressions on our happy campers' faces and their cute photo buddies.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Alana Leaves Mom & Dad in Charge

Bashert is doing great, last night we were doing some commands with her and she sat all by herself. Of course she wouldn't do it again, but it's still a big step up.

Also yesterday she met one of our bunnies Thumper and our guineapig Cuitea. For Cuitea we kept Bashert on a leash and let her follow Cuitea but with Thumper we held them both tight and
let Bashert sniff Thumper. She gave him a lick bath ( he was soaked literally) and Thumper didn't mind at all. (Great photo to the left by Jesse Rowton, photographer and League volunteer) We also discovered that she does not like rain when we let her out side she went straight under the canopy and would not come out. Then this morning we discovered she went to the bathroom inside.

She's learning a lot and so are we.

Sadly this will be my last entry (I am going to camp for a month). I will miss Bashert very much but my mom promised to send me pictures.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

At the Beach

We arrived at Hilton Head, South Carolina on Saturday afternoon and immediately headed onto the beach. It was low tide and my daughter, Natalie, and I were walking long after the life guards put away the beach chairs and umbrellas and after most people had headed off to dinner. We were enjoying the saltwater lapping at our ankles, the end of the day sun, and the solitude of the near empty beach when we saw a flapping sea creature washed ashore. I thought it looked like a shark, Natalie said it WAS a shark. The thing is, there are many kinds of sharks; this little guy was definitely not a great white, he was a juvenile to be sure, and he was stuck in the sand. There was nothing around for me to pick up to use to push him back into the ocean. We saw a family up on the beach, closer to the dunes, they had a net. Perfect. I ran up there and asked if I could borrow the net to help the shark. The mom said it wasn't uncommon for the young sharks to be washed up and that her son would come with us. He did. He grabbed the shark by the tail and set him free in the water.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Author and illustrator Carla Golembe shares her home with two cats, Zippy and Zoe. When Zippy was a year and half, Carla realized, that as much as he loved Carla, Zippy would be happier if he had a cat friend, too. So, in 1999 Carla visited the Washington Animal Rescue League, and that's where she fell in love with Zoe.

Carla recently shared their story with me and I am happy to share it with you.

Marq in the cat room introduced us to several kittens who were cute and nice but they didn't really connect with us. Then he told us he had a kitten who was a little bit older but a real sweetheart. He brought Zoe over...she was named "Sink" at the time. She was 6 months old and had been left at WARL at the age of 3 months. I took her in my arms and she looked right into my eyes and reached her paw out and stroked my face! We fell in love.

When we brought her home Zippy took one look at her and ran to his litter box and threw himself on top of it spreading all 4 legs out as if to say "I'm not sharing with you". But within a month they became great pals.Zoe has lived with us for 10 years.

Five years ago we all moved to Florida, Zippy and Zoe didn't like their ride from DC to Florida in the car and they meowed and howled the whole 1000 mile ride. But they love living here. They are indoor cats but spend time on our screen porch where they see lots of birds and lizards and enjoy the fresh air. They have been featured in a lot of my artwork including the "Zippy and Zoe" series...a group of 6 picture books published in Taiwan.
Best Budies -- Zoe (Black and White) and Zippy (Brown Tabby)

When my daughter, Natalie was younger (she's now 16), I often read Dog Magic and Annabelle's Big Move to her. Carla wrote and illustrated those books and has written and illustrated many other books, too. To learn more about Carla and her many roles as artist, illustrator, writer and teacher visit http://www.carlagolembe.com/

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

30 Chickens For Every Person

Chew on This, a book discussed in today's KidsPost section of the Washington Post, is filled with all sorts of food facts including, About 9 billion chickens are killed for food each year in the United States. That's almost 30 chickens for every person. 9 billion chickens.

Nine billion chickens trapped, wing to wing, toe to toe, in small cages prior to being killed for human consumption. I could rant on and on about how wrong it is that we treat animals like commodities and that, despite all we know about a vegetarian diet, we continue to not only eat animals but to keep them in overcrowded conditions, pump them full of hormones so they will grow faster, and kill them in loud, noxious, and dirty slaughterhouses. But I won't.

9 billion chickens

Monday, July 20, 2009

Feral Cats: A Fight to Survive

Gladys bathing in her younger days

My cat Gladys is moving very slowly these days. She is at least 18-years-old. She came to live with me the year before my daughter, Natalie, was born -- and Natalie is 16. Gladys was a young adult cat at the time of her rescue by a District of Columbia Animal Control Officer. She had been chased up a utility pole. According to witnesses, some kids sicked their pit bull on Gladys and she ran for her life. A couple of days after the chase she was still trying to figure out how to safely get down.
No one came to the shelter to claim her. Like so many animals in a city shelter, Gladys would have been euthanized (humanely killed with an injection of a drug sodium phenobarbital) -- simply put, there are way too many animals and not enough homes. Skinny little Gladys with the loud purr spoke to me. I decided to foster her. Gladys was spayed (operation so she can't have kittens and given all of her vaccinations) Obviously, my home became hers -- permanently. She's lived inside three houses with me over the last 17 years.
What if Gladys had not been rescued? What if she had been left on the streets? An un-spayed cat can have up to three litters of kittens a year. What happens to those kittens? Without human handling they become wild, or feral. A feral cat is a domestic cat who is abandoned and left to fend for itself -- eventaully, feral cats become fearful of all humans. Kittens born to feral mothers , essentially born in the wild, may never be socialized; feral cats lead very hard lives -- they must find food on their own; un-neutered, they get into many fights and are often injured; their illnesses and wounds go untreated; and their life expectancy is quite short compared to a well-cared-for, domestic house cat. Some times people will adopt a a colony (a large group) of feral cats. They will put out food for the cats at "feeding stations", trap them and have the cats spayed or neutered and then return them to the colony. Trap and release programs help to reduce the number of reproducing feral cats.

The Washington Animal Medical Center works with volunteer groups to reduce the feral cat population. We offer a feral cat spay/neuter clinic once a month. I've been at the League more than a year and so I've seen more than 12 feral cat spay/neuter days. Every time the volunteers bring in 25-50 feral cats. Since feral cats are weary of humans, the volunteers catch the cats in humane traps and bring them to the Medical Center in the traps. The veterinarians spay or neuter each cat, check them for diseases like feline leukemia, vaccinate them, and notch their ears -- the notched ear identifies the cats as those being looked after in the colony.

Old, creaky-bones Gladys spends her days sleeping on a chair or sunning in the window. She could have been killed by that dog more than 17-years ago, or she could have escaped and been left to fend for herself giving birth to litter after litter of unwanted kittens.
Feral cats are a problem. I'm glad that the League's Medical Center is helping to control the feral cat crisis. But, there is still so much more to be done. What do you think should be done to reduce the number of feral cats who are left on own to survive?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bashert Settling In

Alana's updates

Bashert before and after bath and haircut

July 15th -- Since I last wrote not much has changed , except Bashert did go to the groomer on Tuesday. She looks like a new dog -- they cut her very short and puffed up her fro. She really looks like a poodle -- she is so soft.
July 13th -- Since we got Bashert, she has become much more active, outgoing and a lot more fun to be with.

She did have a rough day on Friday, but she’s fine now. She’s adjusting to us giving her the ear medicine every day. At first she really didn't like it; after we were done she was pretty scared for awhile. But now she knows that we’re not trying to hurt her….now she stands still (it’s a spray medicine.)

July 10th -- The last couple of days have been pretty eventful. First of all she went outside (fenced in backyard) without her leash - that's pretty impressive - most puppy mill dogs have to wear a training leash for a couple weeks. Second, she's getting used to going on long walks.
Today wasn't the best day for her. My dad took her to the vet (she seemed lethargic) and it turns out she was dehydrated , had an ear infection and an eye infection and she was constipated poor thing!!!!!!!!But all in all it's been pretty cool having a new dog.

Sweet dreams Bashert!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

City Green -- An All Time Favorite Book

Across the street from the Washington Animal Rescue League is a community garden. In the winter it looks like a huge vacant lot. But, come spring, little by little the lot is no longer vacant. People start weeding their plots wearing heavy winter coats. Planting begins right after the last frost. And then -- like magic -- the vacant lot is transformed into a burgeoning, bountiful garden right off of Blair Road, a busy street connecting the District of Columbia to Maryland.

By this time of year sun flowers are tall and in full bloom; gardeners harvest an assortment of vegetables for their dinner tables; and Roberta, a League volunteer, cuts flowers from her garden plot and decorates the shelter and medical center's lobby and waiting room with bouquets of color.

The c
ity garden across from the League reminds me of one of my favorite books, City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. It's the story of how an abandoned lot smack in the middle of a city block. is transformed into a place of beauty and purpose. It also tells how the newly created garden brings neighbors together. When Roberta recently took me to see her plot in the garden across from the League, she introduced me to a fellow gardener, a woman whose thriving plants gave the appearance of a small farm. She and Roberta talked plants and swapped stories about other gardens.

Truth by told, I am not a gardener. I plant a few tomato plants each year, some years I'm successful, some years not. You don't have to be a gardener to be inspired by the Oglethorpe Street community garden across the street from the League. However, reading City Green, and the plans for starting a community garden listed at the back of the book, just may give you an inkling to try your luck at planting. If I remember correctly, I planted one of my very first tomato plants shortly after reading City Green.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Nine Lives of Travis Keating -- Read it and Cheer!

The odds are definitely against Travis Keating. His mother recently died of cancer, his father (a doctor) couldn't save her; instead, Dr. Keating uproots Travis for a year long experiment living far from the home Travis knew, far from where he lived happily with his parents, his best friend Grady, and his winning hockey team. In Fiddler's Cove, a tiny coastal community in Newfoundland, Travis is bullied by, if not the world's meanest bully, then at least the meanest bully in all of Cananda. Everyone is afraid of Hud Quinn -- so afraid that when he instructs the entire school not to befriend Travis, they obey. The story has so many twists and turns the reader will be gasping for breath with Travis one minute and then crying tears of joy the next. You'll root for Travis, his friends Prinny -- a neglected waif whose alcoholic mother is known as the town drunk-- and Hector, the third of the invisible kids on the bus, and Abe, a crotchety old fellow who not only befriends Travis, but who helps Travis rescue the cats.

The cats, a feral colony, becomes Travis' project. He feels personally responsible for them. Travis is determined to save them from starvation, disease and Hud. There is no sugar coated story here -- our hero does not save them all and we are told just how horrible life is for the abandoned lot of cats. If you loved Because of Winn Dixie or Shiloh, you must read The Nine Lives of Travis Keating.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Interns Gain Experience While Helping the Animals in the Medical Center

Jasmine with a dog recovering from spay surgery.

Charlotte holding a dog who will be spayed next.

Interns are trainees who obtain experience through temporary assignments. The Washington Animal Rescue League Medical Center is fortunate to have interns year-round. Not only do the interns gain valuable experience, but the hospital benefits from the additional help. Some interns are veterinary students gaining practical experience in shelter medicine, others are high school students completing student service learning hours requirements while checking out possible career choices. Hospital interns are responsible for a wide range of jobs. Two of our summer interns, Charlotte, a rising high school senior, and Jasmine a veterinary student will share their experiences in this space in the coming days. Check back soon to read what Charlotte and Jasmine have to say about their work in the hospital.

What do you think it would be like to work in an animal hospital? I've never worked in a hospital, but as a casual observer, I think it is safe to say that no two days are ever the same!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

UPDATE from Alana & Bashert

On the first day we had a schedule taking Bashert out every hour. Now, she is almost completely house trained, and we are on a schedule taking her outside every 4 or 5 hours. Even though we have only had her for only four days, she knows not to disturb us while we are eating and she knows what couch to sit on and what couch not to sit on.

Also we have learned stuff about her -- she likes hot dogs and meat balls, but not peanut butter. She likes bones, but not kongs. We’ve also figured out that after every big walk she needs a 3 hour nap (minimum).

She is also learning to trust us more and more.

*Bashert chews on a bone in the privacy of her crate.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Meet Guest Blogger Alana and the Newest Member of her Family!

I am very happy to share this space today with Alana, WARLKIDS' very first guest blogger.

Even though we have only had our dog for 48 hours it seems like she already owns the place. Her name is Bashert which in Yiddish means meant to be, soul mate…. She is a standard poodle who is apricot colored and a little bit white. She is 3, almost four and she weighs 60 pounds.

We adopted her from WARL and they got her from a puppy mill but she is nothing like [a puppy mill dog] -- she is very social and relaxed in her new home.

The first day she would not pee outside, she went 2 times inside but on the newspaper. And the next day she went outside almost all the times we took her out, and she has not had an accident inside yet.

We even got her to respond to a command (come). She did chew on her harness but we fixed it. All in all it is pretty good and the best part we have a new family member.

(Pictured above is Alana, her brother Aaron, and Bashert preparing to sleep on the kitchen floor on Bashert's first night in her forever home. Also pictured is Bashert checking out the sofa.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fabulous Fireworks and Frightened Furry Friends

The band plays America the beautiful, neighbors eat corn on the cob and slurp watermelon, and fireworks light up the sky with a
boom, Boom, BOOM.
And, dogs and cats throughout the community are scared! Really Scared. Really, Really scared!!
Make sure that your animal friend is secure inside your home. Cats shouldn't be outside anyway, but especially tonight. The loud sounds may make them run so fast and so far that they become disoriented and can't find their way home. Even a leash cannot keep a dog close with those 4th of July firework blasts. It's not unusual for a dog to be so frightened that he bolts trailing the leash behind him. In Washington D.C., thousands and thousands of people gather on the National Mall to see the light show. Leave your dog at home. Very few dogs are comfortable in an overcrowded setting -- add loud noises and you've got a disaster.
Enjoy Independence day, but be sure to keep cats safe inside and leave your dogs at home. On July 5th animal shelters throughout the United States receive numerous phone calls inquiring about lost pets that got away during the fireworks celebrations. To ensure that you aren't one of those callers, check to make sure that your home is secure,;nbe sure that there are not any open windows that a frightened cat or dog could bolt through trying to escape the deafening explosions; leave your dog with something fun to do -- give him a stuffed kong or other long-lasting treat; and as an extra precaution, double check to make sure that your furry friend is wearing a collar with current identification information.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Puppy Mill Dogs & Those Animals Left Behind

Yesterday the puppy mill puppies and dogs, confiscated during the execution of a search warrant of the Almost Heaven Kennels and brought the Washington Animal Rescue League, were made available for adoption. You would have thought that we were giving away 100 dollar bills. Prospective adopters started lining up outside our doors before 9:00 a.m. -- the League opens at 11:00 a.m. People were nice. They talked about how excited they were, they asked about the conditions of the dogs and, then when we opened, they visited with the dogs and made their selections. It is WONDERFUL to see animals, former cast-offs, adopted into loving, permanent homes.

I wish we had people lining up at our doors every day to consider adopting the many wonderful dogs and cats who are patiently waiting for their forever homes. We NEVER have empty dog dens or cat condos. There are always animals who have been given up for one reason or another -- she's too big, he's not big enough, we don't have time for a dog, the dog isn't playful enough, the dog plays too much, the cat scratches the furniture, my child doesn't take care of the cat, I just don't want him anymore -- Imagine, someone saying that they just don't want the dog or cat any more like an old pair of jeans or a broken toy.

I hope that all of our puppy mill dogs are loved and cared for by their new families forever. They deserve it. They've lived in horrible conditions. But Irina, Knox, Tomtom, Angel, Peeko and Saraya deserve good homes, too. And, they are still here.
(Pictured above is Knox, a basset hound mix, who looks like he could be on a greeting card and has the a very sweet disposition.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

RESCUED!!! Puppy Mill Dogs Saved from Deplorable Conditions

[Click Here to Watch the Fox 5 Video] Check out the puppy mill puppies arriving at the League.

The Washington Animal Rescue League is providing refuge to 100 of 300 puppies and adult adogs seized from a Lehigh County, Pennsylvania puppy mill. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement to obtain custody of the dogs. The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement investigated the Almost Heaven kennels, and took permanent custody of all of the dogs. Rescuers found typical puppy mill conditions; many of the dogs were suffering from skin and eye infections as well as other medical ailments. It is likely that many of these animals had never known life outside their cramped enclosures.

Imagine spending your entire life in a cage? The dogs brought to the League have been examined by veterinarians and will be spayed or neutered. They will be made available for adoption later this week. Adopters will need to understand that puppy mill dogs can be harder to house train than other dogs since most have had to eliminate where they eat and sleep. The League offers special classes to help adopters deal with issues that are common to puppy mill dogs and we recommend that potential adopters check out the Mission Dog (http://www.missiondog.com/) video on understanding and addressing common puppy mill problems.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It is Easy to Do the Right Thing

This adorable puppy's guardian brought him to the Washington Animal Medical Center today for a free health screening, plus free vaccinations and neutering.

The Washington Animal Rescue League's Free Pit Bull Health Screening and Spay Neuter Day is today. Fifteen responsible guardians were at the Medical Center early this morning to admit their dogs to the hospital. The dogs will be checked by our veterinarians, given all of their vaccines and spayed or neutered. Those responsible guardians are taking action to ensure that their dogs are not only healthy, but are not contributing to the dog and cat overpopulation crisis.
Throughout the United States animal shelters continue to take in hundreds of thousands of surplus animals. In addition to overcrowded animal shelters, thousands more animals are left on the streets; they suffer and die from disease, starvation, abuse or accidents. Animal overpopulation is a tragedy that people can control. All animal guardians should make the responsible decision to spay or neuter their dogs and cats.
The League's June Free Pit Bull Healthy Screening and Spay/Neuter Day was a HUGE success. Help end the dog and cat overpopulation crisis. If you have a pit bull that is not yet spayed or neutered please call 202-726-2273 to get the date for the next Free Pit Bull Healthy Screening and Spay/Neuter Day . People needing to get other breeds of dogs, and cats, spayed or neutered for a nominal charge, can schedule an appointment by calling the Washington Animal Medical Center at 202 726-2273.
Email me pictures of your happy, healthy spayed or neutered cat or dog. Send the photos to debbie@warl.org.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Serendipitous Adoption discovery

I was on a power walk with friends the other day when we ran into other friends who were walking an extremely cute and energetic dog. I didn't know that they lived with a dog, but I knew that the family -- four people and two cats -- had been thinking about adopting a dog for a long time. They were waiting for just the right time and just the right dog. And, they found her at the Washington Animal Rescue League.

I asked what it was about the dog (formerly Blossom, now Leah) that made them choose her; it was love at first sight.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Update from a Happy Home

There are never enough happy adoption stories. We love it when an adopter sends a note, an email or pictures. Recently we got an update from Jenn who adopted Venture. Venture was one of those dogs who needed a little extra work, he had had a hard life prior to coming to the League. It was important that his new person understood that it might take some time before Venture was totally at home. Lucky for Venture, he got that person. (Venture is safe and secure snoozing in bed)

...Venture had made himself at home now and is finally settled into the family. He loves to play outside and to go for walks in the neighborhood. I have introduced him to my aunt's white german shepherd, Sitka , and they both seemed to get along/play/interact rather well. Venture still has a tendency to bark at people when they walk past the house or come to the door, but he isnt not as bad as he used to be. He is learning to accept guests when they visit and wants to interact with them, but I am still working with him on that. I am also still working on nail trimming with him....he is a great dog and I am glad that I adopted him! :) I really couldn't ask for a better dog!
Thanks, Jenn, for adopting Venture and letting us at the League know that all is well.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Parked Car Can Be Deadly for a Dog

A ride to the grocery store can be fatal. Most dogs love to ride in the car with their guardians. A ride is good, but being left in the car when people get out to run errands can be deadly. With the summer temperatures rising, even a few minutes in a locked car can be dangerous.
Cars heat up like ovens, even with the windows down part way. To find out just how hot a car will get, go to http://www.mydogiscool.com/. This web site will show you the temperature in your zip code in real time and let you know if it is safe for Rover to relax in the back seat when the human occupants run into the store.
My dog, Nigel, loves to ride in the car. He rides often in the early spring, late fall, and winter months, However, this time of year he stays home. When I leave the house I give him one of his favorite treats -- a bully stick or a stuffed kong -- to let him know that staying home can be just as good as going for a ride.
If you see a dog in a parked car during a warm summer day, call 911. A dog baking in a parked car is a definite emergency!