Happy Saturday - it’s time for another Adoption Spotlight! Little Askit’s story is a wonderful example of the transformation that rescue, love, and adoption can bring.
Back in July of last year, we were asked to help with a heartbreaking case. A mama dog and her babies had been left alone, shut in an apartment. Filthy, starving, and depressed, mama Bella was desperately trying to care for her pups, with no-one to look after her. The puppies had not been handled and at eight weeks old were terrified of human touch. Huge, frightened eyes stared out of pinched little faces, as their skinny bodies and bloated, wormy bellies broke our hearts. They were filthy, covered in poop, and smelled horrific. The first order of business was to get everyone a bath and the vaccines, dewormer, and veterinary care they needed, and then began the long process of feeding everyone up and teaching them to trust. Mama Bella was a darling - despite her awful plight, she held no grudge against humans and soaked up all the attention we gave her. She was so tired of trying to care for her babies though, and while they still needed her some we gave her lots of time alone, plenty of food, and a whole lot of TLC.
The shelter environment, however hard we tried, was overwhelming for the pups. Each time a visitor walked by they would crawl under their cots and hide. The saddest pup of all was the little boy we named Zorro. He was so tiny, and weighed half as much as his larger, braver siblings. Whilst they were all scared, Zorro was by far the worst. Gentle coaxing (and food!) would slowly tempt Zing, Zahara, and Zane out of hiding, but little Zorro was too scared even to eat unless he was left alone with his food. And that’s where an amazing foster stepped in. She took on the huge responsibility of FOUR rambunctious, scared, very much NOT housetrained puppies at once, and we may have cried when she said she would take them home! We loaded her up with puppy pads, high quality food, a whole lot of towels, and all the other supplies needed. As much as Bella loved her pups, she seemed to heave a sigh of relief when she realised her mothering days were over!
Zorro and his siblings spent the next two weeks in foster care, and they progressed in leaps and bounds! They gained weight so fast they had DOUBLED their intake weight in just one week. They learned to play, and explored new things. Their foster called to fill us in on all that was happening, including their amazement the first time they enjoyed playtime in her large yard.
When they arrived back at the shelter, they were so, so different to the puppies who had left. Bigger, stronger, with gleaming coats, shiny eyes, and plump bodies. All the medicine, high-quality food, and loving care had made an unbelievable difference, and it was finally time for these darlings to find their forever homes.
Remember Fonzie from last week’s Spotlight post? Well, little Zorro was at the shelter at the same time as him. When a wonderful, kind hearted lady came to visit, she had originally been interested in Fonzie, but something about the scared, shy little Zorro (he still had a LONG way to go) just stole her heart. She spent ages cuddling with him, gently coaxing the nervous puppy out of his shell. That was the beginning of a whole new life for Zorro. When he visited us a few weeks later, the transformation was even more incredible. Now named Askit, this little pup was for the first time in his life a spoiled ‘only’ pet. It wasn’t an easy road, as his lack of socialization early on had lasting effects. Askit was a shy boy for a long time, and might never be the most outgoing dog in the world, but his confidence has grown and grown...and so has he! We cried happy tears over the photos of this beautiful, grown up boy now - a whole year old, and a world away from the sick, scared pup who arrived with us last July. Here is what his adopter had to say - “He's still a bit of a skittish adult doggy but he loves his people! His new favorite thing is just laying out in the sun and watching the kids of the neighborhood. He also has no concept of personal space! We may spoil him with cooking him his special dinners and he also gets a burger every once in a while…”
Friends - rescue saves lives. Fostering saves lives. Adoption saves lives. Without the person who intervened to get these dogs out of a horrible situation, or the shelter to take them in (and the SUPPORTERS who make our work possible), or the foster who opened their home, or the adopter who saw the potential in a little puppy who had a rough start in life, little Askit probably wouldn't have survived. And look at him now. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and we think his before-and-after photos certainly fall in that category. There’s a saying quoted often in the rescue world, and it applies here - “Adopt. If you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t foster, sponsor. If you can’t sponsor, volunteer. If you can’t volunteer, donate. If you can’t donate, educate.”
It truly takes all of us pulling together to save and change the lives of the pets of Madison county, but it is so, so worth it. A million times over. So to everyone who makes stories like Askit’s possible, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
It has been a while since we shared an adoption spotlight, but we recently had an update on a littlepup that pulled all of our heartstrings. We cried happy tears to see him today and his story is one you might remember....
In early July last year, a tiny, scrawny pup arrived at the shelter. He was a stray from Madison County, brought in by a kind member of the public. We were horrified at his condition. Emaciated, with a swollen belly, his coat was patchy and his skin covered in ticks. He was lethargic and miserable, and severely dehydrated.
Under the care of the vet clinic, we poured hours into caring for this little guy - he received fluids, was hand-fed tiny meals of soft food (he had no appetite), held and comforted, and of course we bathed him and spent ages removing all the ticks buried into his skin.
I remember sitting on the floor holding him as the fluids flowed into his limp body without a single protest or wriggle from this young puppy, and being sure, even while whispering comforting words in his ear, that he wasn’t going to make it.
And yet, we were to discover just how much spunk and fight was in that skinny little pup! Somehow, against all odds, Fonize, (as we had named him) hung in there. Slowly, hour by hour, he improved. It took several days for Fonzie to start eating by himself, but once he caught on, he was determined to make up for lost time and became the hungriest pup around! He LOVED his food - wet food, dry food, treats and snacks - he’d scarf it all right up!
Fonzie was the cutest fella, with his short, stumpy legs, square face, brindle coat, and funny manners. It was, however, extremely hard to figure out what breed mix he might be, as his looks were constantly changing as he grew and filled out. He had floppy ears for the first few weeks, and I remember so clearly walking into the kennels one morning to greet him and being shocked to see he suddenly had upright, ‘donkey’ ears...literally overnight! For a few days they wavered between standing straight and folding over, until they eventually stood up like antenna all the time.
Most people like to know what breeds are mixed in a puppy they are looking to adopt, and a bit of uncertainty on this point coupled with the fact that she shelter was full of younger, smaller pups, meant our no-longer-so-little guy was getting passed over. Six weeks after his arrival, we held an adoption event at the Tractor Supply store and took along a number of puppies and dogs. Fonzie was so cute, we were sure he’d be the star of the show! He did ham it right up, playing with and kissing everyone, dancing around with the other dogs, and generally being charming, but we were so disappointed when the day came to a close and Fonzie had to return to the shelter with us.
But this cloud had a silver lining...in fact, it was meant to be. We walked back into the shelter to several missed calls, Facebook messages, and emails from a young couple who were desperate to meet our Fonzie. They had been following his story online and had fallen in love, but when they arrived at the shelter that morning to meet him, he was at the adoption event. They turned around and drove back to Springdale...only to find we had left Tractor Supply less than half an hour before their arrival! After all that craziness, we were able to arrange for them to come and finally meet Fonzie, and it was love at first sight!
Eight months later, they can’t imagine life without this special guy. Here’s what they have to say about him; “Fonzie received his new name Joey in remembrance of his big sister Zoey, who had recently crossed the rainbow bridge. Boy, does that name fit him well! We all recently relocated to Kentucky where Joey & his sister Stella have a big back yard to play in & bake in the sun. He’s the best little companion, loves to cuddle, is obsessed with his sister, will literally lick your face off if you let him & can definitely be a little trouble maker. We wouldn’t trade him for the world!! His ears are as big as his personality!”
Fonzie stole all of our hearts, and seeing his happy photos made our week! He’s the perfect example of why we do this job...a life saved and a lonely, sick stray puppy now a treasured member of a wonderful family. As the saying goes; “Saving one dog will not change the world, but for that one dog, the world will surely change.”.
Happy Saturday, folks! Our 'Friday' posts have been a bit off-schedule lately, but never fear, we aren't forgetting to share our happy 'tails'! This week's Adoption Spotlight takes us back to a crazy, crazy morning in early October.
Mornings are always full of hard work for our shelter staff, who arrive early and are greeted by a building full of animals desperate for attention, potty breaks, food, and cleaning! Puppies and kittens especially make an enormous mess overnight, and we hit the ground running.
First thing is a quick check to be sure everyone is ok, then it's a juggle of tending to small or unwell pets first, while not cross-contaminating anything, getting each dog a turn in one of the three play yards ASAP, and then settling into the fast-paced routine of clean the kennel, give fresh blankets and toys, fresh water in new bowls, and prep and serve breakfast (along with any medications) for each of our occupants - which typically includes 8-12 dogs (when we have puppies this number can go REALLY high!) and 10-30 cats (again, litters of kittens push those numbers up). It's high-paced and everyone is begging "See me! See me! I want snuggles!"
To anyone who has wanted to visit the shelter early in the morning we extend our apologies - we hate that we can't answer the door or phone earlier in the day, but of course we must look after all the pets in our care first. They are always extremely excited to see us and very needy. We generally then take a quick stop for a fortifying coffee before plunging into the day!
This particular morning, however, was crazier than normal! City Animal Control arrived early with two dogs who were so shy and scared it took two of us a good half hour to unload them and get them safely inside. Back to work we went, but half an hour later Animal Control was back with a third dog! This one was settled in our outside kennel to await check-in, and it was back to cleaning.
When our second staff member of the day, Vanessa, arrived, she stuck her head in the door and called to Jasmine - "Where did this puppy come from?" "Animal Control, he's waiting in the kennel a minute." came the reply. "No, not the one in the kennel, THIS one!" And in came Vanessa carrying a FOURTH new dog - an utterly precious Catahoula pup wearing a pink collar. To this day, we have no idea where that puppy came from. It's like she dropped from the sky. She had either been hiding when Jasmine was outdoors bringing in the Animal Control dogs, or had been dropped off in the short space of time before Vanessa arrived, when she was sat quietly next to the Animal Control kennel making friends with the pup inside.
She was so cute and looked like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth...until she was left alone. Even for a second. She wanted to be sat on your feet at all times and if you had to leave her to go care for another animal she would yelp, bark, and howl until your ears rang!
When Michelle, our wonderful weekend kennel tech, met this new pup, she offered to take her home to foster. Puppy was just as naughty at home as at the shelter. If left alone outdoors for even a minute she'd climb the fence. If left downstairs she would squeal and howl. Michelle had to rig a puppy crate next to her own bed and settle puppy inside at night to even get any sleep.
We had christened the pup 'Sidda', but Michelle, to all our confusion, named her 'Angel'. She was cute as a button, but certainly a stinker!
Within just a few days, it became clear that this little one was NEVER going to come back to the shelter. Despite her wily ways, she had totally stolen Michelle's heart - and couch! Now, four months later, she's still growing like crazy and is firmly and very happily home! Angel loves her family and her big sister Xena, and we don't think she could be happier!
Happy tails Angel! We may not know how you came to us, but you ended up right where you were meant to be!
Today’s adoption spotlight story takes us back to April of last year. We see many strange things in the shelter world, and many times our hearts are broken by awful stories of neglect, abuse, or cruelty in the lives of the pets that come to us. But while Thistle and her siblings have a happy ending, their introduction to us ranks as one of the most bizarre stories we have come across.
We first met these big-eared, speckled cuties when a kind gentleman stopped by the shelter with a very strange tale to tell. He owns property way out in the country, and a few miles from his home he has cattle pastures. On the way to feed the cows early one morning, something out of place caught his eye. “There’s an old house beside that dirt road that’s been abandoned for at least ten years,” he told us, “It’s empty and falling down, you’d never see anyone there. But on my way by this morning I saw a plastic bucket setting in the yard, and thought I’d pick it up and use it to carry feed.”
When he made his way over to pick up the bucket, however, he was utterly stunned. Playing around it were three little speckled puppies with big, pointy ears and even bigger, scared eyes! Taped to the side of the bucket was a cryptic note scribbled on an old brown envelope:
Here are those pups. I hope you keep one of them, because you know how the Asians like to fatten them and eat them. These pups were born on January 27, 2018. I wish I could keep the small mail that has spots and some white on him, he is so smart!
I will see you at work Tuesday!”
We were utterly baffled. What possible meaning could we attach to this note that made any sense whatsoever? If the pups were meant to be found, why were they left in such an abandoned location? If someone wanted to dump puppies in secret, why did they leave their name?
It’s likely we will never know the truth behind the appearance of these three sweet puppies at that abandoned house way out in the country, but we will forever be grateful that they were found by a kind person who, rather than just passing on by as many would do, took the time to stop and pick up these helpless little ones. He took them back to his home and fed them, and boy were they hungry! And then, because he wasn’t in a position to keep three hungry little pups, he brought them to us. Our Facebook followers were riveted by the story of the strange note (which really seemed like something out of a mystery novel!), and it wasn’t long before the trio of sisters - now named Tandy, Thistle, and Tawny - each found a wonderful forever home!
Thistle, our star for this week, got really lucky - she has a home way out in the beautiful countryside of Madison County, where wildflowers grow and a bubbling stream flows by the old cabin. She gets to run and play in the grass with her buddies - Delilah the grumpy grandma dog (who was quick to teach Thistle the rules but secretly seems to enjoy her little shadow!), Willie the fat old Basset hound, and clan of adventurous cats, but best of all, her spunky little doggy friend Butterbean - also a Paws and Claws Adoptee!
Thistle has grown up into such a beautiful girl, speckled and spotted like a Catahoula, but with the foxy face and pointy ears of a heeler or Shepherd. She’s unbelievably smart and learned so many tricks just in her first few weeks home. Her human is always ready to tell stories of just how smart and spunky little Thistle is as she blazes trails and chases butterflies with her crew of friends!
Happy Friday! Weekend, here we come! Let's celebrate with an adoption spotlight.
In March of last year, a big, fluffy bear of a dog arrived at the shelter, and we promptly christened him 'Goliath'. He was the essential gentle giant of a dog - we all fell in love with him!
We don't know anything about Goliath's history, and we wish we could hear his background story. How did this sweetheart come to be wandering around the county, lost and alone? It just doesn’t make sense - he’s such a wonderful dog! Sadly, he wasn’t microchipped, and we may never know his background story.
We knew he might be a tougher dog to place, as not nearly as many folks have room for a fluffball this big. Goliath was with us for almost a month, and he was starting to feel very blue.
And then his lucky day arrived! A wonderful family came to visit Goliath, but they wanted to be sure he'd fit in perfectly, so they took the time to make a second visit with their dog Skuder for a meet-and-greet, and it went fantastic! We were so excited when Goliath went to his new home!
Our big boy is now named Fenway - a distinguished name for a very handsome doggo! His new brother Skuder is his best friend, and those are two SPOILED boys! A BIG thank you to Amber and Jackie for seeing the heart of gold under the shaggy coat.
But Goliath’s happy ending might not have happened. Amber and Jackie didn’t know for sure whether their dog Skuder would take well to a new arrival, and although Goliath liked most dogs he met it’s always nerve-wracking to introduce a new dog to your home, especially a big one. Amber and Jackie are very responsible, careful owners, and they took great care to do proper introductions.
On the first visit, they came alone and spent lots of time with the dogs, making sure Fenway was the perfect match they thought he would be. Then they made a second appointment to come back with Skuder. We loaded up Fenway and met at the local park for the two dogs to meet and enjoy a good walk together. They even got to play just a little! After this, they were able to take Fenway home and continue slowly and carefully introducing the two dogs, who today are the very best of friends.
If you aren’t sure how your dog would get along with a buddy, always feel free to take things slowly with an adoption. We are happy to do meet-and-greets, multiple times if needed. Slow, careful introductions in a neutral setting can make all the difference to starting a new friendship off on the right paw! We are so glad that Fenway's family took the time to bring Skuder over and arrange a meet-up between the two dogs. They weren't sure if it would work out, but they took the opportunity to give a very deserving dog a chance...and they couldn't imagine life without him now!
Happy Tails, Fenway! We are very proud of you!
Happy Friday dear friends! It’s time for an Adoption Spotlight!
So, who remembers Cricket?! This adorable little fluffball came into our shelter as a county stray. We don’t know her history, but she broke all of our hearts when she arrived one cold November day. Cricket had severe mange and was missing more than half of her thick black fur. She was covered in sores from scratching her itchy skin incessantly, and she was freezing! Despite already having a full shelter, this little one had nowhere to go and we couldn’t turn her away. She was brought in before open hours whilst we were still cleaning the shelter and we scooped her up in a towel and settled in a kitty kennel whilst we finished feeding and caring for the shelter pets, then it was straight into a medicated bath for our newest little girl! She was so pitiful but loved to be held. Before we were able to get a skin test to be sure whether or not her mange was contagious we would suit up in gloves, an overshirt, and an apron to snuggle her and put soothing ointment on her skin.
Over her first week at the shelter Cricket was of course on special medications from the vet for her skin but she also got lots of soothing baths and ointment applied several times a day. She was missing so much fur that she wore a little sweater 24/7 to keep her warm!
Cricket was only in the shelter for ten days...some of our wonderful supporters came in and simply fell in love! They couldn’t resist the sweet little pup who followed everyone around and sat on your feet the moment you stood still, who loved to be held and would go limp in your arms like a contented baby.
Cricket (now Maxi!) went home with Josh and Brianne in her little plaid coat, and she’s been spoiled rotten ever since! She has the sweetest doggie sister who she adores and gets to go on lots of adventures with her family. This is how they describe her - “She is the sweetest, funniest girl you’ll ever meet. She loves to nap and give you the best hugs! She still thinks she’s the size of a puppy, even though she’s 77 pounds. Her and her sister Bella love to play, especially in the mud. She also LOVES car rides and running with me! We couldn’t imagine our life without our baby girl and we are so thankful for you guys and all that you do for the animals in Madison County!”
However, it wasn’t just her name and her home that changed for this sweet girl. After a few weeks at home she started to grow her lovely thick black fur in and stopped itching altogether, and was so much happier. But the first time she came back for a visit, none of the staff recognized her. She had grown, yes, but it wasn’t just the 5 ½ months of growth that confused us. It wasn’t even her healthy, soft fur, so different from when she arrived at the shelter. You see, when Cricket came to us, we were SURE she was a little Newfoundland mix puppy. Positive. She had the great big paws, the droopy face, the teddy bear coat, and it sure looked like she would grow to be the enormous size of a Newfie!
But the ‘teenaged’ dog that visited our shelter fundraiser looked nothing like a Newfoundland! Maxi was tall, sleek, long-legged, with a short coat and lab ears. We were baffled! Now, Maxi’s family adore her just how she is, and they wouldn’t love her any less whatever her breed mix may be, but each time we meet we all laugh over how much a puppy can change on the journey to adulthood, and we share her story with many prospective adopters.
You see, often times adopters want to know the exact breed of a puppy they are interested in, and that’s ok. But whilst we understand their curiosity, the struggle for shelters and rescuers is that we often receive dogs and pups with no information as to their backgrounds, and in the case of puppies we don’t always get to meet mama, and seldom dad. We do our best to guess breed mixes based on size, behavioural traits, and physical clues such as coat, ears, and the general shape of the dog, but oftentimes our shelter dogs are mixed from so many sources that we can’t really tell what went into them! We can give a rough estimate as to how big we think they will get, but even that’s not certain.
So whenever you adopt, we will be honest and upfront. We will let you know what breeds we THINK you new dog has in their DNA, but we won’t make promises. We will encourage adopters to be open-minded, and to consider carefully the choice of puppy. If you need to know for sure that a dog won’t get over a certain size, we often encourage the choice of a full-grown, adult dog rather than a pup. And we will often tell you the story of the ‘Newfoundland mix’ pup who was nothing but!
We were right about one thing, though. That dog’s heart is 100% gold. And that’s what really matters.
Today’s Adoption Spotlight focuses on a very special girl who many of you will recognize - Sweetie! We know many of our supporters followed her story with sympathy and interest, and we are thrilled and proud to share her happy ending with you all!
Sweetie arrived at our shelter via City Animal Control, after being picked up running in the city. We don’t know how she got there, but we were horrified to see the shape she was in. Sweetie was utterly filthy, covered in ticks, exhausted, miserable, painfully thin...and worst of all, she was full of milk and evidently had puppies needing her. We put an appeal out on Facebook, and thanks to someone who has spotted her previously we were able to go on a rescue mission - several staff members came into the shelter on a Sunday night to team up and find those babies!
We took Sweetie (who by now was clean, de-ticked, and had a full belly and a chance to rest) along with us, with baskets and kennels to carry the puppies, blankets, and other supplies. We didn’t know for sure what we would find - how old would the pups be? How many were there? How long had they been alone (from mama, we guessed a day at the most) and would they still be safe - or alive?
We had hoped Sweetie might be able to guide us to her pups once we were in the general location, but once we arrived the poor girl withdrew into herself. She was terrified and did not want to be there, and simply lay down in the grass and refused to move. One person stayed with her while the rest of us searched possible hiding places by flashlight. Mosquitoes buzzed, odd cars sped by on the highway, and the coyotes howled in the surrounding woodland. An old vehicle stood in the grass, covered by a tarp...and a glance at the right moment showed a little flash of white fur! Scrambling over, we found a pile of squirmy, hungry pups, who quickly started to squeal when moved! Pulling them out and counting, we found nine babies, about ten days old, alive, and safe! Everyone was quickly loaded into the safety of the car, and we headed back to the shelter.
There, in a warm, safe place, we slowly reintroduced Sweetie to her pups. She was incredibly stressed and unsure, but gradually settled down and was able to finally feed her babies. Our staff spent several hours gently cleaning the babies, who were filthy and covered in fleas, but by the end of the night we had three exhausted but very happy staff members (and one super volunteer who was a STAR all evening!) and a comfortable, contented mama dog nestled in warm, soft blankets, with food and water to hand, curled around nine little fat-bellied and sleeping pups.
Over the following weeks and days, we relieved an overworked Sweetie whenever we could - being sure she had plenty of high-quality, nutrient rich food as she gradually gained weight, giving her time to rest and relax away from the pups, and getting to know her. The pups doubled in weight with amazing rapidity - they were growing like weeds! Sweetie was very stressed at first, and it wasn’t until the pups got a little older and began the gradual weaning process that we got to see more of her personality emerge. She was a careful and protective mama bear who watched over her babies with an eagle eye, but we could see her profound relief when finally the babies were fully weaned and ready to go!
The babies (cute little heeler mixes), were named after vehicles in honor of their first ‘home’ under the old truck - Mazda, Mercedes, Honda, Bentley, BroncoBear, Ferrari, Ford, Lexus, and Nissan. Nissan, however, was given the honorary nickname of ‘Beacon’ - as it was his white coat (with just one black spot on his side) that shone in the flashlight’s beam and helped us to find them!
One of our amazing partner rescues took in the nine puppies and they quickly found amazing forever homes. Sweetie was enjoying some well-earned rest, and loving every minute of it! She finally relaxed completely, job done, and got to be the goofy, happy girl that had been waiting to shine all along. Sweetie loved treats (peanut butter was a huge hit!) playtime, and belly rubs, and received her spay surgery to be sure she wouldn’t have to ever be a mama again! After recovery, microchipping, and finishing up all her vaccines, miss Sweetie was ready to find her very own forever home.
Lots of people were passing by the unassuming little dog with the big, goofy ears, but when Santana saw our video of Sweetie daintily licking peanut butter from a spoon, she HAD to meet her! It was love at first sight - on both sides! We couldn’t be more thrilled - Sweetie got to go to a home with previous heeler experience (they are a VERY special breed and super smart!), lots of land to run and play on, and plenty of adventure! She loves to go for rides with her new mom and enjoys her life as a spoiled princess! She hasn’t lost her love of food and is perhaps a little chunky, but we say she’s earned it! Way to go, Sweetie! We are so proud of you!
We have recently begun posting weekly 'Adoption Spotlight' stories on our shelter Facebook page, sharing the ongoing 'happily ever after' tales of our shelter adoptees with you all. Due to the difficulty of fitting the entirety of these detailed stories into a simple Facebook post, we plan to start sharing longer versions here on our blog! So if you've seen an adoption spotlight and want to know a little more of what went on behind the scenes...this is the place to come!
On January second of 2018, we took a call from the local electric department. One of their technicians had been working at a property out in Madison County and had seen a burned-out trailer home, and scuttling around the house was a skinny, scared dog and her young puppies. He wasn’t sure how to help but contacted the shelter to see if there was anything we could do. While we were working to obtain the address and get permission from law enforcement to be on the property, we received several phone calls from concerned neighbors. It became apparent that these dogs had been alone for at least two weeks, and while neighbors had taken turns dropping off food no-one had been able to take the dogs in, so they were in urgent need of care. They had been all alone for some time before neighbors even spotted them, and were already extremely skinny. The January weather was brutal with overnight temperatures dropping well below zero - barely creeping above freezing even in the daytime. We were scared this rescue mission might prove futile - would the puppies even be alive? Hanging a ‘closed for emergency’ sign on the shelter door, our little team loaded up the old van with supplies (crates, dog food, treats, blankets, and leashes) and headed out into the country. The scene that greeted us was bleak. There were no dogs visible upon arrival, and the only shelter available was an old chicken house, which they had clearly been squeezing into at night.
To our relief and amazement, the mama dog - a beautiful red and tan Doberman, old, skinny, and exhausted - finally came into view, trailed by two of her pups. Our hearts sank for the missing third puppy, as we searched every available hiding place to no avail. You can imagine our relief when, as we loaded the rest of the family into the van, a little brown female came running out of the woods, ears flapping. “Wait for me!” she seemed to say! On the way back to the shelter the pups snuggled down into the puppy pads lining their crate as though they were the warmest, softest thing in the world and fell straight asleep. Grateful mama Blaisey put her head into my hand for the whole ride back to the shelter, with ''Thank you, human.'' shining from her tired eyes.
This crazy rescue mission was followed up by hours of bathing, washing black soot from the dogs’s coats - they had evidently been snuggling in the smouldering remains of the house seeking some warmth, and maybe looking for traces of food.
Mama dog and pups also received a full check-in, including an exam, vaccines, dewormer, flea and tick prevention, and over the next few days we gradually increased their food intake to get them back up to a healthy weight. They had huge appetites and were thrilled with their cozy beds (we let the puppies share a kennel and gave mama a well-earned break with a kennel of her own). In a nod to the tragedy that they had survived, we named mama dog ‘Blaisey’ (Blaze for short!), the two black males ‘Sooty’ and ‘Charcoal’, and the little brown female ‘Ember’.
Blaisey was older and had some ongoing health concerns, and our wonderful friends at Doberman rescue took her in, but her pups stayed with us and after check-ups and lots of TLC became available for adoption!
Sweet Ember was the first to leave, and when she visited us a couple of months ago we were stunned by what a beautiful girl she had grown into! Ember’s family knew she wanted a buddy to play with and now that she was well and truly settled in they were looking to add a doggy sibling to their family. They didn’t find the right match that day, but we were all impressed by how well Ember played with the other dogs at the shelter. She was a little nervous to be back in that environment - did she remember being there before? - but greeted us shyly. We were thrilled for the opportunity to visit with Ember and her family and see just how healthy and happy she looked. Ember’s shining coat and bright eyes were such a change from the scared, filthy little pup that ran from the woods that freezing January day.
We wanted to share our latest Ember update with you all - she now has a doggy sibling whom she adores! She loves her human kiddos too and is so gentle and kind to them all. She's a spoiled girl who loves the couch and knows just how pretty she is!
Ember's life started out really badly, and were it not for several good Samaritans who dropped off food for her and came to us for help, she would never have made it. We are so grateful we were able to help this family and that we made it there in time, and we are thrilled to see the updates from Ember's new, spoiled life! What a contrast between her first Christmas; abandoned, alone, slowly starving, and her second; loved, warm, snuggling on the couch with her forever family and a full belly. Way to go, Ember!!!
It's only thanks to you, our supporters, that this kind of lifesaving work can happen. We want to thank you for your love for the animals of Madison county, and we appreciate your continued help as we move into a new year! Each rescue mission comes with a cost - the cost of food, supplies, medical necessities, veterinary care, staff to do this work, and when the pets are ready, spay or neuter surgery to prevent more unwanted pups - these are just a few of the things your donations provide. Electricity to keep the shelter cozy in winter and cool in summer. Cots to give our cats and dogs comfortable sleeping places off the floor - for many of them, this is a brand-new luxury. Blankets, toys, treats...and lots of disinfectant and cleaning supplies to keep everything squeaky clean! There’s no way any of this would be possible without you. Thank you, dear supporters, from the bottom of our hearts!
And a huge thank you goes out to sweet Ember’s family for choosing to adopt and save a life!
The phone rings. Someone says, “Hi! What kind of dog is the brown dog that you just posted on Facebook?”
And naturally, we respond, “We think it’s a Labrador or Catahoula or….?”
We have this conversation or at least one along the same lines over and over. In most cases, it really doesn’t matter; people are just curious. But in other circumstances, the answer can be the difference between the life and death for a dog.
A study from the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida has shown that expert assessments are unreliable. We already knew this to be true, but findings are far reaching and affect everything from apartments to insurance companies. We know visual breed identification is unreliable at best, what can we do about it?
We take measures to try to identify dogs by methods other than breed identification. We typically agree on a couple things like calling the dog a brown dog or it’s a small dog. It’s an American Shelter Dog.
Looks can be deceiving.
What do you think? Here is the link to the DNA Survey.
Thank you for reading.
Shonna Harvey, Director
Although this is a few days late for National Cat Health Month, we wanted to spotlight a growing concern for cats in our area, and what we can do to help.
Our Director, Shonna was speaking to Dr. Chris at the Huntsville Vet Clinic this week, and learned that they have already seen two cats suffering from Cytauxzoonosis, more commonly known as ‘Bobcat Fever’, which makes this the earliest in the year they have dealt with this problem.
Cytaux is a tick-borne illness affecting felines, spread primarily by Lone Star Ticks. Bobcats are the ‘host’ animal, and carry the disease. A tick will bite the affected Bobcat, and then carry the infection to domestic cats. Cytauxzoonosis is a horrible, painful disease with a sudden onset, and a cat can go from seemingly healthy to death’s door within 24 hours. Until very recently there were almost no survivors amongst domestic cats infected with the disease. Recent strides in veterinary medicine have pushed the survival rates up, and now, if the illness is caught early enough and treatment commenced immediately, a healthy cat can have an almost 60% chance of pulling through.
Bobcat Fever is present throughout a number of states with high tick populations but is on the rise at an alarming rate here in our own Madison County. The last two or three years have seen a steady increase of cases, while numbers remain low in nearby areas, such as Fayetteville and Rogers. Heavily wooded, rural areas see the most cases, where wild animals carry large numbers of ticks.
The first signs of illness are typically extreme lethargy and a disinterest in eating and drinking. The cat’s temperature will soar, sometimes as high as 106f, and often the cat will hide away. Another sign that we have personally noticed in affected cats is that their eyes will seem half-closed, slanted, and slightly puffy.
If you think your cat may have contracted Bobcat Fever, it is imperative to get them to a vet as quickly as possible so that treatment (which usually consists of strong antibiotics, pain management, and fluid administration) can begin immediately. If a cat is too sick to pull through they deserve a chance to be humanely euthanized, as death from Bobcat Fever is extremely painful.
All this can be very scary, and the obvious question is - how can I keep this from happening to my cat? The best answer is to avoid exposure to tick bites as much as possible. Indoor cats are obviously much less likely to contract the disease (although they can be brought into contact with ticks by another pet), and outdoor cats in wooded or rural areas are most at risk.
It is ESSENTIAL to use a good, high-quality tick prevention, especially throughout months when ticks are active. Frontline Plus and PetArmor Plus are two options, but our personal favourite is a 30-day topical product named ‘Catego’, which is new to the market but seems very effective in not only killing ticks AFTER they bite the pet but in REPELLING ticks to stop bites before they happen. This is the only product that repels ticks.
It is also helpful to treat yards and, if possible, surrounding areas with a pet-safe tick prevention product, and of course it is important to treat all other pets.
As a shelter we want to help by educating local cat owners about the disease, providing flea and tick medications to those in need whenever we are able, and by taking stray cats in need of care into our shelter and helping to spay and neuter. It takes a village to save our pets, and we are deeply grateful to all the donors, sponsors, rescuers, and volunteers that enable us to move forward with this work. If you see a cat in need, don’t hesitate to contact us, and if you would like advice or more information please feel free to call us.
Though unsigned, this blog reflects the beliefs and stories of everyone associated with the Shelter, and may be written at various times by staff, volunteers or board members.