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    October is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month!

    adopt a shelter dog And what would this have to do with wild birds? Absolutely nothing, but our own dogs and cats have always been – and will always be rescues… because they make for the best pets ever! And yes, there are purebreds of every kind waiting and hoping for their own family.

    It’s an alarming statistic: over 7.6 million animals enter animal shelters every year, yet only 29% of cats and dogs are adopted nationwide.

    In honor of October’s National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, those considering adoption can look to rescues for their new family member. Most shelters house a wide array of animals, including purebreds, and will work with you to find the best pet for your family.

    Adoption can be seen as a two-way street, as a rescue can benefit not only the animal they are taking in, but also the new owners as well. Heidi Ganahl, CEO of Camp Bow Wow, North America’s largest and fastest growing pet care franchise has offered her insight regarding the benefits of pet adoption and important factors to consider.

    Benefits of Pet Adoption and Factors to Consider:

    • General Benefits There’s a reason that they say dog is man’s best friend. Having a pet, not limited to dogs, is something that everyone should experience at some point in their life. Pets can be calming, mood lifting, empathetic, and so much more. They teach you how to be selfless and responsible as you are caring over another life (for those of you without children).  Generally speaking, they make you happy.
    • Save the Life of a Shelter Pet – Only 29% of cats and dogs are adopted from shelters; the rest are left to live in the rescue centers or, worse – euthanized. Bottom line: Adopting a pet saves their life. Give a dog or cat a home they wouldn’t have otherwise.
    • Stress Reduction – Some studies show that people begin to feel less anxious after spending less than an hour with an animal. There are endless benefits from lowering your stress level and while the things that we find stressful in our lives are often hard to cut out, including an animal in your life can help.
    • Helps with Depression – In some cases, therapists suggest to patients suffering from depression that they adopt a pet. An animal will love you unconditionally and also be a great friend and listener. People with depression often benefit from having a pet, as the animal can help them get out of the house and out of their own head.
    • Engaged Mind – A key to a healthy mind, especially for those who are elderly, is staying engaged with others. A pet is often a conversation starter and being out with a pet often warrants questions or comments from passersby. Bringing your dog to a dog park is a great way to meet other people with similar interests.

      Factors to Consider:

    • What breed are you looking to adopt? Different breeds have different characteristics and you will want to understand the types of behaviors that may be displayed by your new family member. You need to understand the energy of your household, the size of dog that you can handle, how much exercise you are able to provide and more. If your family tends to be very low key, you do not want to choose a high energy dog that needs tons of energy. If you live in a small space, a very large dog may not be the best for your family. Think about all of these variables before choosing your new pup.
    • Who will care for the new pet? Be sure your new pet correlates with the ages of those in the household. A good rule of thumb: the new pet should fit the current physical capabilities of the caretakers with a perspective for what the next 10-15 years will bring.

    If you have children in your household, enrolling your new pup and family members into an obedience class should be high on your priority list. Children need to learn how to safely interact with the dogs so that accidents don’t happen. An experienced trainer will help the whole family understand how to safely interact with your new family member.

    • If there are elderly members in a household, a strong vigorous adolescent pet is not advised. Large breeds also demand more physical upkeep, something that an older person may have trouble performing.
    • Does your family have an opinion on their newest member of the family? Although it is exciting to surprise the family with a new pet, do some research and poll each family member to find out what they are looking for in a new pet so that the pet you choose aligns with the household. Once your family has chosen a breed that suits the family’s requirements, the best approach is to bring the whole family to meet the potential new family member and gauge how they all interact.
    • Are you financially ready for this responsibility? A new pet can go for “free-to-a-good-home” to several thousand dollars. A budget must be set not only for the upfront cost of taking the pet home, but also for immediate follow-up costs like veterinary check-ups, a training crate and pet obedience classes. Also keep in mind that your pet will need to be fed and groomed and will also need chew toys and additional supplies like food bowls, a dog bed, brushes, leashes, etc.  Also keep in mind the necessary chunk of money needed for veterinary emergencies. You might also think about getting pet insurance for your new family member to help keep the cost of veterinary bills more affordable.
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    Stalking the Dreaded Dirty Garden Glove

    A pretty good read if you like cats and ever rescued one yourself.

    Years ago, when I still lived in Atlanta, I was a regular at the Farmers’ Market where I bought most of my groceries and took advantage of the recycling center adjacent to the market.  One Saturday morning, as I was being a responsible citizen and recycling my cans, glass, cardboard, plastics, and printer paper, a scrawny black kitten wandered out of the underbrush on the far side of the parking lot and made her way to me.  Now mind you, there were easily two dozen other people she could have chosen, but it was my feet she flopped down on.

    I picked her up to get a better look at her.  Her eyes were a gummy mess.  Her fur was muddy and matted.  Every bone poked out every which way.  Her abdomen was sunken in and she was too weak to even mew.

    Some guy “helpfully” suggested I take her to the vet clinic over near Emory University where he said they’d <his words> “put her down for free.”  (Note to self:  not everyone who recycles holds the same views as I do on matters other than recycling, but I digress.)

    I didn’t take her to the clinic near Emory.  I brought her home with me.  I confess, I tried for days to find someone —- anyone —- who would take her and make her their own, but no dice.  I already had two cats, and what sane person would ever have as many as THREE???  Surely I couldn’t keep this kitten.  But the Divine Universe had spoken.  This little ragamuffin had elected me to be her person.  Who was I to argue with destiny?

    So Jackie Mew-vee-ay (I was a big fan of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis) joined Butch and Bruce, and mine became a three cat household.  Little by little, the waif put on some weight.  Her bones protruded less and her lackluster coat took on a healthy shine.  In a few months, she morphed from a scraggly, homeless urchin into a sleek, gorgeous goddess who ruled the house.

    Butch and Bruce were still youngsters — wild guys who played with total abandon.  Jack, on the other hand, had no interest whatsoever in any cat toy of any sort.  It was as if all of her energy in her early months had gone to staying alive on the mean streets and the idea of exerting yourself just for fun was a completely alien notion.

    One day after Jack had been with me a while, I’d been out working in the yard, and I forgot to take off my garden gloves before going into the house to get some lunch.  I dropped the dirty gloves near the back door where I could grab them on my way back out after I’d eaten.

    A few minutes later, I heard the unmistakable sounds of a cat trumpeting —- the sound they make when they’ve made a kill.  And there came Jack, parading through the house carrying one of my gloves.  She was so proud.  She marched around as though she’d slain the biggest, baddest mouse in the history of the world.  Then like every cat who wants to prove to her person how very useful she is, she laid her trophy (the glove) at my feet and trumpeted once more just for good measure.
    I praised that girl for all I was worth.  I told her she was my heroine and that I knew I’d be safe from evil garden gloves for all time and eternity.  In typical cat fashion, she ignored me, flicked her tail, and went on her way.

    Thus began Jack’s love affair with garden gloves.  Since it was the only thing that came close to passing as a toy or recreation for her, I took to leaving gloves around the house.  She didn’t like clean ones, only those that had been used.  Maybe it was the smell of the earth on them.  Maybe she liked that they had the scent of my perspiration on them.  Who knows what goes on in a cat’s head?

    Circumstances changed, and in August of 2001, I left Decatur to move to the mountains.  Butch, Bruce, and Jack came, too.  Cleo joined the family in early 2002, just a short time before Butch’s kidneys failed him at the tender age of five-and-a-half.  That loss cracked open the gate, and I found myself drawn to giving cats that were out of options a place to call home.  As the cat population grew (and grew), through it all, Bruce and Jack were my constants —- my “original” kids.

    Bruce was granted 15 years.  He left me in late March of 2011.

    Only Jack, my slayer of the deadly garden glove, remained from my original trio.

    Night before last, around 10:00, Jack had a serious stroke that left her partially paralyzed.  I called the nearest emergency vet facility and described what was happening.  The vet assured me that if Jack wasn’t crying out in pain, laboring to breathe, or having repeated seizures/convulsions, if I wished to, I could keep her comfortable at home until my regular vet’s office opened in the morning.  My other choice was to bring her in and have her euthanized.

    Jack and I talked it over and she made it clear she wanted to stay at home.

    My first female feline, my first rescue from the streets and I spent one final night together side by side.  We remembered all the good times and tried very hard not to think about the fact that the time had come for goodbye.

    The next morning, Dr. Worthy gave Jack a tiny assist and my darling Jack was gone.  As is my custom, I put Jack in a burial box with spices and flowers and wrote her name and the dates of her time with me on the box.  I picked a spot right next to Butch and Bruce’s graves for Jack’s resting place.

    I dug the grave, laid her burial box in the hole, and tossed in the first shovelful of dirt. As I did so, I noticed the garden gloves I was wearing.

    I laid the shovel aside, brushed the dirt off the box, and pulled it back out.  I opened the lid, stripped off my gloves, kissed Jack’s head one more time, and tucked my gloves in beside her.

    I simply couldn’t run the risk that kitty heaven wouldn’t have the only thing that ever made my Jack Cat play.

    When my time comes to join Jack (and all the other fur kids I’m counting on being there to greet me), I’ll be listening for the unmistakable sound of my Jack announcing she’s once again triumphed over the sinister garden glove.

    Until then, my beloved Jack, happy hunting.  Happy hunting.

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    Dear Irresponsible Pet Owner

    Dear Irresponsible Pet Owner,

    I buried your cat today.

    No, I didn’t find her dead at the side of the road, although that is the final sad (and unnecessary) fate of far too many animals in White County.

    This was the cat that you put in a laundry basket with her four kittens and dumped in the woods outside Helen.  I doubt that you could have been any crueler.  You left a nursing cat and her six-week-old kittens without food or shelter in a harsh, unforgiving environment where their only options were starving to death, freezing to death, drowning, being terrorized and killed by roaming dogs or wild predators, or finding their way to a busy highway where they could become road kill.

    There simply is no excuse for what you did.  Whether financial hardships or divorce or family illness or forced relocation or some other extenuating circumstance prompted you to do this, abandoning helpless animals is never the right solution.

    This story doesn’t end with your intentional mistreatment of this cat and her babies.  A kind and caring person found the “garbage” you’d tossed in the woods and brought them to the Charles Smithgall Humane Society.  Even though the shelter was stuffed to the point of bursting, they took in your throw-away cat and her kittens.

    The staff and volunteers at the shelter did their best for all of them, but it was obvious that the mother cat was not doing well.  A simple blood test revealed that she had the feline leukemia virus, an insidious illness that severely cripples the cat’s immune system — and one that is almost always transmitted to kittens through the mother’s milk. Yes, all four of her kittens also have feline leukemia.  There is no treatment or cure.

    Because you failed to have your cat tested for this virus and to have her spayed, it is a virtual certainty that every kitten she bore is infected with feline leukemia.  Given her age, it is not likely that this was her first litter.  Bad enough that you chose to cast these five specific animals aside like rubbish, but your irresponsibility has guaranteed that many, many more cats in this vicinity are carriers of this incurable feline disease.

    When their leukemia positive status became known, I brought all five of the cats to my house.  The mother had one last night in a warm, safe, quiet home.  She was too weak to walk, too weak to eat, too weak to even make a sound.  This morning, I took her to my vet’s office where she was compassionately, humanely euthanized.  She slept away peacefully in my arms. Your piece of trash became my beloved pet, even if only for a few hours, and I wept bitter tears for the horrors she was forced to bear because of your thoughtlessness.

    Then I wept again with tears of joy as I witnessed a sweet, sentient creature transformed from a pain-riddled relic of her former self (she weighed under five pounds — less than half of what the vet estimated her healthy body weight should be) into a blissful angel, released from suffering and free from the hell on earth you forced her to endure.

    I brought her body home from the vet’s office and dug a grave for her near those of my other pets.  As I tossed each shovelful of dirt in the hole, I made a conscious effort to bury my anger towards you.  It’s certainly too late for that anger to do any good for her, and I know it is only a corrosive acid that would eat away at me if I chose to hold on to it.

    So, I forgive you.  Not because you deserve forgiveness for the unconscionable thing you did, but because I’d rather use my energies for good and positive things.  You see, I have these four kittens who need someone to love them and play with them and take care of them, and their time on earth is likely to be quite short.

    I just wanted you to know I buried your cat today.


    Jane Vollbrecht
    Cleveland, GA 30528