Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why Imperfect Pets Are Perfect

By Marie Matheson, HSSV Volunteer

As a kid I dreamed about the most perfect pets: fluffy kittens and energetic, playful puppies. I was lucky enough to have several kittens, puppies and various other pets growing up, all of whom provided me with many hours of entertainment, companionship and love.

But, similar to humans, pets can experience physical challenges that require special attention. These physical challenges may be caused by an accident or a congenital problem, resulting in a long term disability. I currently have a pet with a physical disability and while it is not what I dreamed of as a child, I find my relationship with my “imperfect” dog particularly rewarding. Jessica, Tara and Anthony echo similar feelings. Jessica adopted Nemo, who gets around just fine on three legs. Tara and Anthony adopted Trooper, who has limited use of his back legs and uses a cart to get around. Following are the stories of how their two imperfect pets, adopted through HSSV, found their way into their families.

Before coming to HSSV, Nemo’s leg was caught in a trap. When HSSV heard of Nemo’s situation from a neighboring shelter, they immediately offered the medical treatment necessary to save Nemo’s life. Sadly, the damage was so severe that the only option was amputation. After surgery, Nemo was diagnosed with ringworm so while recovering from surgery, he also had to undergo daily sulfur baths and six weeks of isolation! His recovery was aided by the TLC he received from several of HSSV’s volunteers, who due to the contagious nature of ringworm, had to wear gowns and booties while spending time with him.

Nemo is now living a wonderful life with Jessica. “Nemo is the most loving and affectionate cat I have ever met,” Jessica says. When Jessica worked at HSSV as an Education Specialist she was able to bring Nemo to work with her where he served as an education ambassador in HSSV’s Education Program. “Nemo shows kids that he can get around just fine on three legs,” Jessica explains. “His courage and loving spirit are powerful learning tools. Nemo shows kids it’s OK to be different.”

Trooper is a 10-year-old Chihuahua mix who has limited use of his back legs due to a back injury that occurred five years ago, leaving him temporarily paralyzed. He also had a broken hip, and these two issues together required two different surgeries. Even with these treatments, Trooper had difficulty walking. When he was brought to HSSV after these surgeries, the staff continued to work with Trooper, providing him with acupuncture and water therapy to help build strength. Trooper was originally named Pico, and staff at HSSV affectionately called him Pico, The Wonder Dog. Check out this YouTube video they made of Pico showing his moves.

Tara and Anthony found Trooper’s spirit engaging and adopted him from HSSV. Trooper now has a cart that he uses to get around. This cart was a life changer for Trooper, building his confidence and increasing his mobility. In fact, he loves his cart so much he “protects” it from the family cat! Trooper’s energy and love for life are the perfect combination not only for Tara and Anthony, but also for others. So today, Trooper is a Therapy Dog. Three days a week he spends time working by “charming the seniors with his inspirational story and his ‘can-do’ spirit.” You can see Trooper at work and read more about his progress in Trooper’s blog.

Both Nemo and Trooper show us how special our relationships are with our pets and how much we can learn from their spirit, perseverance and capabilities to accept life’s challenges. Without the help of HSSV, Nemo and Trooper’s lives may have ended prematurely. I’m so thankful that HSSV recognizes how special each and every animal is that comes through their doors.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Button Helped Me Battle Breast Cancer, Part II

By Melissa Lisbon, HSSV Volunteer

Read Part I in this series.

It was early November. I was about to begin chemotherapy in my battle against breast cancer. It was a difficult time in my life. Then, fate brought me Button. Button was a stray kitten -- too young for HSSV’s adoption program, but a perfect candidate for fostering.

I contacted HSSV’s special needs department and was given permission to foster Button. Our extra bathroom was converted into a kitten nursery equipped with a small litter box, food, water, warm blankets and cat toys. After Button was settled in, I took him to HSSV’s medical center where the veterinarians examined him and put him on a schedule for vaccinations and neutering.

Despite the fatigue I felt from my chemotherapy sessions, the highlights of my days were spent playing and cuddling with Button. Like any kitten, Button was full of energy and always ready to play. I had forgotten how playful six-week-old kittens are. They play with such abandon and are never lacking in creativity. The same old ribbon seemed to get reinvented each time he played with it. Button's energy and enthusiasm was addictive and I found myself totally amused by his antics. His pure joy always put a smile on my face.

In quieter moments, we would often sit together. Sometimes, Button would jump on my shoulder and nuzzle my neck. It was as if he wanted to be close to my face to better express his gratitude and love. He was extremely gentle. It was during these moments of cuddling that I felt totally relaxed and at ease.

I remember a particularly special moment. It had been a tough day for me. As if Button understood exactly what I was going through, he crawled into my lap and settled in. He brought his face very close to mine and peered into my eyes. It was at this moment that I believed this little kitten knew I could use some comforting.

Outside the door of our bathroom-turned-kitten-nursery, I had many more treatments to endure, but the time I spent with Button behind those doors brought me a type of therapy only an animal in need could provide.

Read next week: Button is ready for adoption…

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Disaster Preparedness: Are you and your pet prepared?

By Kelly Grant

The disaster in Japan gave us quite a wake-up call!  Did you, like me, think about how it could so easily have been us? I went home wondering "How prepared are we to help pets in the event of a disaster?"

That was the question seven Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) staff and I were contemplating a few weeks ago with two dozen Santa Clara County animal shelter agency employees at the "Disaster Sheltering for Companion Animals" course.  Led by a seasoned American Humane Association volunteer, we walked through the vital issues that need to be considered when setting up a temporary shelter for pets in the event of a disaster.  Our team mapped out what a "disaster scenario shelter" might look like at HSSV and how it might function.

The reality is there are an estimated 725,000 pets in Silicon Valley and the demand for help with pets will likely outgrow the county resources at the time of a major disaster. Many of us will be on our own for days or weeks, which just goes to show the importance of each of us setting up our own disaster kit, buddy system, and back up plan for ourselves and our pets.

Here are a few things you can do now, before any type of disaster:

1. Identification - Make sure all animals have collars with identification tags. Cats should have breakaway collars. Identification tags should include a cell number, in case you are not reachable at home. Ideally, your pets should also have a microchip in case their collars come off. Remember to keep your contact information for the microchip current.

2. Pet First Aid Consider taking a pet first aid class. In the event of a disaster, emergency services and personnel may be overwhelmed—you may be your pet’s best chance of rescue or medical care. Make sure you know ahead of time where you would take your pets if you need to evacuate. HSSV is offering a Pet First Aid & CPR class Saturday, April 2 at our Animal Community Center.

3. Practice If your dog doesn’t come when called, or if your cat resists going into her carrier, they may need some training too. Familiarize your pets with an evacuation scenario by trying some practice drills—can you get everybody out of the house in less than five minutes?

4. Household Safety – You can protect your pets by making sure your house isn't prone to hazardous conditions during a disaster. Think about your pets’ favorite hangouts or where they hide when they are frightened. Are heavy items like bookcases secured in place? Are hazardous chemicals secured somewhere where they won’t fall or spill? Are aquariums secured?

5. Pet Disaster Kit – You should have a disaster kit with supplies for each animal and it should be stored with your own disaster supplies. The kit should be easy to carry or load in the car, and it should be waterproof. A plastic storage tub or a duffle bag works well. 

6. Buddy System There's no guarantee that you will be at home, or able to get home, when disaster strikes. A buddy system provides a backup plan. Find a trusted friend or neighbor, ideally someone who is typically at home during the hours that you are not. Give them a key to your house, familiarize them with your pets and any medical issues, and make sure they know where your disaster kit is. If your neighborhood is evacuated while you aren't at home, your buddy can make sure your animals get out too.

7. Know Where to Go If you must evacuate your home, think about where to take your animals. Most shelters for families will not take pets. The best option for your animals is for them to stay with a friend or family member outside the disaster area. Decide in advance who will take your animals. Another option is a pet-friendly hotel—make a list of hotels in your area that accept pets.
Be Pet Prepared.  Visit HSSV's Disaster Preparedness for Your Pet page for more detailed information.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pet of the Week

By Amber N. Yoo, HSSV Volunteer

I have someone very special for you to meet. His name is Leonardo. He is a 4-month old Dachshund/Terrier mix and he is very cute and cuddly. Check out this video introduction:

Here's the deal. HSSV needs your help to find Leonardo a home of his own. Look at this face ... how can you say no?

Every week, HSSV asks the community (you!) to help find one animal a home. This week it's Leonardo. So, get those paws ready ...

And Share, Share, Share! See that row of tiny buttons at the bottom of this blog post? Press them to email this post to a friend, blog about Leonardo yourself, Tweet all about him, and post him to your Facebook wall.

Done already? Okay, now go to Leonardo's YouTube video, "Like" it and share it with your friends.

What? Leonardo's puppy eyes made you melt and you want to really go the distance? Here's one idea that will get you a lifetime of thank yous from all the staff at HSSV: print out as many copies of Leonardo's adoption flyer as you want and post them at your local coffee shops, library, work, hangout ... basically anywhere that has a community board or flyers displayed.

With all of us pitching in to help little Leonardo, some deserving family is sure to hear about him. When they do, tell them to head over to Humane Society Silicon Valley in Milpitas or click here to learn about the adoption process.

P.S. Remember Tina? She was the last Pet of the Week and now she's in a home of her own!

How did you help the Pet of the Week? Post a comment and let me know!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Choosing the Best Pet Food for Your Pet

By Valerie K. Kane, HSSV Volunteer

I recently blogged about how much my dog Tosha likes shopping at HSSV’s Whole Pets store. Unfortunately Tosha hasn't been shopping much recently. She had shoulder surgery two months ago and is still recovering. During her recovery, I've had to restrict her exercise. It’s a delicate balance, because less exercise might lead to weight gain, which would put unneeded pressure on her healing shoulder. I worried about whether I should put her on a different, leaner dog food during her recovery. But it had been years since I last changed her food. I wasn’t sure what to look for when choosing a dog food.

I decided to head over to Whole Pets and talk with store manager Robin Poncy. Before joining HSSV, Robin worked for Wellness pet food company, so she has a wealth of knowledge about pet food. She shared the following advice for those of us looking for a new pet food, whether you have a dog or cat.

Look Out for Fillers

Many pet foods contain ingredients like corn meal, wheat or rice hulls, or other grains which act as fillers. Fillers are used to increase the volume of the pet food or to bind the ingredients together, but they have little to no nutritive value. Watch out if these fillers are among the first ingredients listed on the package.

Pay Attention to Possible Allergies or Food Sensitivities

Some pets are allergic or sensitive to these typical fillers, causing problems like itchiness, flatulence and loose stools. Robin noted that whenever a customer comes to the store looking for a flea treatment, she always asks what food the pet is eating and if the customer actually saw any fleas. She’s found that itchiness is often caused by food sensitivities to various ingredients like fillers. So if you try a new pet food and notice some allergic reactions, try a food without fillers.

Check the Source of Protein

Another important factor in choosing a pet food is the kind of meat or protein used. While we might like to think that pet food only contains nice lean cuts of meat or chicken, often meat by products are used. These by products are animal parts that are not fit for human consumption, like various internal organs, connective tissue, bones, feathers, etc. At Whole Pets however Robin only stocks pet foods that use human grade ingredients, or in other words ingredients you and I could eat.

Compare the Costs per Serving

I’ve always assumed that “premium” foods are just going to cost a lot more. But if you only compare the price per bag, you may be fooled. For example, pet foods that contain a lot of filler make it look like you are getting more food for your money. But if you look at the serving sizes for these foods, you’ll find you have to feed much more food per meal than if you use a food that does not contain these fillers. So, Robin suggests comparing the costs per serving or per meal.

Tosha is now eating a weight management pet food, one of the brands that Robin stocks at Whole Pets of course. Her weight is stable and she’s recovering well from her surgery. She has even started physical therapy, which she enjoys partly because of all the yummy treats she gets--which leads me to the subject of my next blog post: selecting pet treats and even making your own treats, so stay tuned!

For more information about Whole Pets, including operating hours, see the Whole Pets homepage.

To keep up-to-date on pet food recalls, bookmark the Pet Food Safety page from the Humane Society of the United States.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Button Helped Me Battle Breast Cancer, Part I

By Melissa Lisbon, HSSV Volunteer

As an animal lover and advocate I understand the importance of fostering. What I wasn’t expecting from the foster experience was how much it would affect me personally.

Late last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer. By the time October came around, I had completed surgery and was about to begin chemotherapy. It was a difficult and stressful time in my life, to say the least. But, a welcome distraction was about to appear.

The day after Halloween, a neighbor called me to share that a tiny stray kitten had appeared on her doorstep the night before. Weaving around a line of trick-or-treaters, this little guy had braved the darkness and noise to come straight to her door for help. She brought him in from the cold, but was not in a position to keep him. So, I asked to see him.

It was love at first sight. He was a medium-hair "tuxedo" with soft hazel eyes and the sweetest, most trusting demeanor. I named him "Button" not only because he was as cute as a "button," but also after "Benjamin Button" – looking into his eyes, I sensed an older soul.

I knew I wasn’t in a position to make a lifelong commitment to Button, but I also knew he was too young to go directly into HSSV’s adoption program. As a volunteer for HSSV, I immediately thought of the feline foster program, which provides cats and kittens in a variety of special situations with the nurturing home environment they need. Some kitties need to heal from an injury. Others, like Button, need to come up to proper weight for spaying/neutering and receive socialization.

I couldn’t resist. I decided to ask HSSV if I could foster him myself.

Read next week: How fostering Button helped me heal

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy Tails: Fenrir and Quark

By Jamie Emming, Satellite Adoption Manager

It was the week of Christmas when I received an early morning phone call from one of our staff members, Linda. Her foster guinea pig, Zelda, who we had all suspected was pregnant when she arrived at HSSV, proved us right with three little babies appearing overnight. The little ones were up and running around right after being born, as guinea pigs, otherwise known as cavies, come out with their eyes open and fully covered in fur. Relieved the birth had gone well, we knew had 4 weeks to wait until they could be placed up for adoption. A month may seem like a short time with Mom, but guinea pigs develop very fast and females can get pregnant at just four weeks of age!

The first few times Irene and Kevin stopped by our Saratoga satellite adoption center in PETCO looking for cavies we didn’t have any available. We knew Zelda’s babies were coming up for adoption soon and set up an appointment for Irene and Kevin to meet the piglets and Mom. The first-time owners purchased a large 2X4 chloroplast enclosure for their new arrivals and began the task of choosing which two would come home with them. They decided on two little girls, which they named Fenrir (Kevin’s choice) and Quark (Irene’s pick). Since their foster Mom happened to be their adoption counselor, Kevin and Irene learned not just about guinea pig care but a full overview of the girls’ upbringing.
A few weeks after the adoption, we received an email from the new pig parents. They are enjoying watching the girls grow up and develop their own personalities. Quark is more friendly but a little slower than her clever sister. Fenrir may be more picky about who she makes friends with but both guineas have begun to bond with their people. And don’t worry about their Mom. Soon after Fenrir and Quark were adopted, Zelda and her last baby Tokyo were placed separately in wonderful homes looking to add a second pig.

Are you are looking to adopt a guinea pig? Get started by submitting an online adoption survey for pocket pets and our Satellite staff will get you started down the right path for pig parenting. For more information on how guinea pigs make great companion animals check out this PDF on guinea pig care.

(Photos provided and taken by Kevin Lee)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pet of the Week

Meet Tina
By Amber N. Yoo, HSSV Volunteer

Another fabulous featured pet for you! This week, meet Tina, a lovable kitty who likes to explore. Here's her description:

"Could Tina, a 3-year-old fluffy kitty, be the friendly feline companion that you've been looking for? Tina is an affectionate social butterfly who is playful with both dogs and other cats. She has a history of exploring and you may even find this silly girl sleeping in your cupboards. If you're interested in meeting Tina and letting her melt into your arms, stop by the Humane Society Silicon Valley in Milpitas!"

If you'd like to learn more about adopting Tina, click here!

Already have a furry family member? Then I'm hoping you can help spread the word about Tina in our community.

How You Can Help
Every week, HSSV asks the community to help find one special pet a loving home. There are three easy ways to help, and you can do them all from the comfort of your home!

1. Click here to see Tina's video, then share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

2. Print out the Tina's profile and post it at your local hangouts.

3. Donate online to help animals like Tina get the care they deserve.

How did you help the Pet of the Week? Post a comment and let me know!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dieting Can Be Deadly For Cats

By Jennifer Bush, HSSV Volunteer 

One of the things I find so impressive about the Humane Society Silicon Valley is how much care and attention is given to each animal who comes through their doors. 

This is Oreo, a cat who came to HSSV last September. Oreo arrived weighing in at a plump 11.2 pounds. She was overweight, but in her first month at HSSV, staff noticed that she wasn’t eating well. Since arriving, she had lost more than 18% of her body weight. It is very dangerous for a cat to stop eating, so the staff admitted her to the HSSV hospital.

HSSV’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Julia Lewis, diagnosed Oreo with a life-threatening metabolic condition called fatty liver syndrome or hepatic lipidosis.  According to Dr. Lewis, fatty liver syndrome occurs when cats, especially ones who are overweight, stop eating or are put on a sudden diet. “Animals who stop eating use their body fat for energy. Fat cats have a lot of fat and this overwhelms their liver’s ability to use that fat effectively.”

When the liver doesn’t do its job, a cat may feel nauseous, which in turn makes her not want to eat, starting a potentially deadly cycle that won’t stop until the body stops metabolizing the cat’s body fat. To combat this life-threatening situation, cats need to get enough energy into their bodies in the form of calories. This often involves placing a feeding tube and an aggressive IV fluid treatment.

Oreo’s life was in serious danger. Fortunately, the HSSV medical staff took great care of Oreo, syringe feeding her and watching her around the clock. It took three months of constant love and attention before Oreo was finally eating on her own.  I’m happy to report that Oreo was just recently adopted and is maintaining a healthy weight of 8.5 pounds!

Remember, the best way to prevent fatty liver syndrome is to make sure your cat is eating an appropriate, nutritionally balanced diet. If you think your cat may be overweight, do not put him on a diet without speaking to a veterinary professional.  Your veterinarian can help you create a healthy plan to get your pet’s weight back on track.

Although it is okay for your cat or dog to skip a meal every so often, no pet should go without food for days. To learn more about feeding your pet, take a look at this information sheet or talk to your veterinarian.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Winter Camp Rocks at HSSV!

HSSV's Amazing Animals Winter Camp just wrapped up and the attending kids looked like they had a blast. All of the camps are designed with one thing in mind: give kids a chance to learn about, interact with, help, and be inspired by animals so they develop the skills to be "Kind Kids," now and in the future.

Check out this video!

If this looks like something your child would enjoy, visit our summer camp page for more information. The week-long camps start June 20th and run through August 5th for children in grades 2nd - 6th. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pet of the Week

Meet Janet
By Amber N. Yoo, HSSV Volunteer

Janet, a 3-month-old Cattle Dog / Terrier mix, is ready to smother you with puppy kisses! This adorable puppy is an affectionate and curious bundle of fun. Janet loves to cuddle, explore and warm the hearts of those around her. If you have a dog who'd like a little sister or if you're looking for your own loyal companion, come meet Janet at Humane Society Silicon Valley in Milpitas!

Learn How to Adopt Janet!

Already have a furry family member? There are other ways you can help...

How You Can Help
Every week, HSSV asks the community to help find one special pet a loving home. There are three easy ways to help, and you can do them all from the comfort of your home!

1. Click here to see Janet's video, then share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

2. Print out the Janet's profile and post it at your local hangouts.

3. Donate online to help animals like Janet get the care they deserve.

How did you help the Pet of the Week? Post a comment and let me know!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Passion for Guinea Pigs

By Linda Ngo, Satellite Adoption Staff

My love for guinea pigs grew after adopting my first group from HSSV shortly after I was hired. My first pigs were three siblings and while I adored them, they didn’t love me. In fact, they were downright frightened of me! They had not had a lot of attention in their last home and needed to rebuild trust with people. When they saw me they would freeze, only moving their tiny chests in and out breathing fast. I knew they just needed some time and someone to show them love to earn their trust. I started by sitting quietly with them reading a book to get them use to me and show them I wasn’t the big scary monster they thought I was. By going slowly and offering yummy treats they only got when they were with me, we made steady progress. A few months later when they were brave enough to eat out of my hands, I felt like such a good piggy Mom!

My latest foster was Zelda, a black and white female who was turned in as a stray at the Hayward shelter with her litter of pups and “boyfriend”. Since guineas are very good at making more guineas, we knew she was probably pregnant again. This hunch was confirmed 62 days later when she gave birth to three little ones right before Christmas. They were the size of a kiwi fruit at birth, and tripled in size 6 weeks later when we they were ready for adoption.

Fostering has been an enriching experience and has taught me so much about guinea pigs that I now can pass on to adopters. No two guinea pigs are alike, and each of my fosters hold a special place in my heart. From the shy ones −to the outgoing Mama’s − they are all special. Sometimes I think my Pomeranian, Puma, believes he’s just one of the pigs. After all, they outnumber him at home!

Join us in two weeks as our Happy Tail features Zelda’s three babies and an update from their new home.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Clicker Training, Not Just for Dogs!

Did you know you can train rats to do all sorts of tricks just like dogs? Watch this video made by one of our rat foster parents featuring her three boys currently available for adoption at our Saratoga Satellite and see what fun you and your rat can have together.

Click here to learn more about clicker training and get started with your little ones today!

With a clicker, treats, and a little patience any animal can learn! Comment with your training story and share your experience with us.