Thursday, 29 September 2016

Building Hope for Struggling Pet Owners

 By David Swisher, President & CEO, Animal Friends

If you’ve been to the Animal Friends campus lately, you have undoubtedly noticed there is something new and exciting going on. (Perhaps the cranes, dump trucks and bulldozers gave it away!) Construction on our new Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center has been underway since February – and is nearly complete. 

The Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center, with a grand opening of July 15, is designed to become a life-changing and life-saving destination for hundreds of thousands of animals – and the people who love them. It is the embodiment of our commitment to do better for the pets who are struggling most in our region. 

All too often we see pets relinquished to Animal Friends simply because their owners couldn’t afford basic vet care or food. We receive call after call about stray and feral cats who are relegated to a life on the streets fending for themselves and continually adding to the pet overpopulation problem. Or sadly, our Humane Police Officers are called to rescue pets who have become victims of neglect and abandonment because the pet’s owner didn’t know where to turn for help.

We believe affordable and accessible resources are the solution. And, that’s just what our new Animal Wellness Center will provide. 

With this progressive 18,400 sq. ft. facility, we will be able to increase our commitment to affordable spay/neuter from 10,000 surgeries each year to 15,000 surgeries. We will reach into underserved communities to provide spay/neuter and wellness services along with education and, when needed, transport to our clinic. Our heavily demanded Chow Wagon Pet Food Bank will benefit from a storage and drop-off/pick-up area to ensure donated food is quickly distributed to the regional food pantries where it is needed most. And our Humane Investigations Department will have the space they so desperately need for evidence storage, case management and review and animal holding spaces.  

The discounted services we will offer, targeting those with greatest financial need, are not intended to undercut private veterinary business in our region. Rather it is our intent to complement private clinics supporting those who may not be able to afford care any other way and referring clients to full service veterinary clinics for a proper continuum of care.

The grand opening of our Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center is fast approaching!

Every day brings more progress and the realization that in just a few short days we will be affecting the lives of so many more pets and pet owners in this region. The services and resources of the Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center will certainly allow us to deliver on our commitment to keep pets in their homes – healthy and supported – where they belong.

Visit ThinkingOutsideTheCage.orgor call us at 412.847.7000 to learn more about the Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center or to find out how you can get involved.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Andy Warhol Inspired Enrichment Trail

This month, our shelter residents unleashed their inner art enthusiasts with an Andy Warhol inspired enrichment trail. Not everyone had an eye (or nose) for the fine art on the trail, but the enrichment activities were a great way to expose our shelter pets to new experiences and to help them get some much-needed exercise for their brains!

The enrichment trail’s pop art flowers, based on the famous and playful Warhol silk screens, were scented with a variety of fresh herbs. Amber (left) and Gobi (right) got right to work sniffing the new scents.

First exhibited over 50 years ago, Warhol’s Brillo Soap Box sculpture was puzzling to those in the art world. Tatum checked out the mystery sniffing boxes filled with unique scents.

The Triple Elvis is a visual stimulation in the museum or on the enrichment trail!  Famous for turning celebrities into art, Warhol’s Triple Elvis sold for $80 million. Leiland did not find this Triple Elvis to be quite as valuable!

As Andy Warhol said, "art is anything you can get away with." Since the highlight of our monthly enrichment trail is always the famous cheese tree, we decided to take this advice to heart. Needless to say, Tatum was very appreciative!
The original Silver Clouds installation was an interactive collaboration between Andy Warhol and engineer Billy KlΓΌver. For Amber, the silver balloons were a visually stimulating and unexpected sight on a familiar trail.
Enrichment is much more than fun and games, it's the perfect opportunity to help stimulate your pet's brain and a great way to help reduce undesirable behaviors. By giving them some exercise for their body and mind, your dog, cat or rabbit will have less stress and more fun. Click here for some great enrichment ideas you can try at home!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Baskerville's Second Chance

"It's okay, sweetheart. You're safe now." A kind face peered into the carrier of a wide-eyed, steel-coated rabbit. Baskerville (as she'd soon be named) had just been found with more than a dozen other pet rabbits abandoned in a neighborhood. In the dead of winter, their former owner had released them into the the wild without food, water or shelter. If we didn't act fast these bunnies wouldn't make it ...

While it’s hard to imagine, Animal Friends receives more than 800 calls, just like this one, each year regarding abandoned and mistreated animals. Baskerville and the others got their second chance but, there are still so many more dogs, cats and rabbits that need our help.

These animals need you to ensure this lifesaving program continues.

And, there is no better time to give than right now! Your donation will be matched 50 cents on the dollar up to $100,000 now through Sept. 24.

Please, click here to give them a second chance.

And, if you’ve already given to the Second Chance Challenge, we can’t thank you enough for your support.

Thank you to our sponsors:

Thursday, 15 September 2016

"Why I Keep Coming Back to Animal Friends University"

By Kathy Morrow
As a volunteer dog walker at Animal Friends, I have walked quite a few dogs over the years. Last summer, my friend Sue asked me to walk one dog in particular. All of the others had already been walked and she said he was too strong for her. In large block letters next to his name, it said “very nervous.” I told her I wasn’t comfortable walking scared dogs because they might bolt and my biggest fear is losing a dog. She persisted and eventually we agreed to walk him together.

When we went to leash up the dog, he backed up against the wall with his tail tucked between his legs. He was so scared. While on our walk, he didn’t potty at all … he only did that in his kennel. I felt so bad for the poor boy. This dog had come in through the Humane Investigations Department. I don’t know what he had seen or experienced, but it was obvious he was terrified of people. When we got back from the walk, I stepped into the kennel with him as he retreated to the back corner once again. I sat down on his bed and all of a sudden, he jumped in my lap and covered me with kisses!

I adopted the dog I didn’t even want to walk. Sometimes they choose us.

Immediately, I signed up for obedience class at Animal Friends. Yes, I’ve spent years volunteering at Animal Friends and I’ve had dogs my entire life. I know how to teach a dog to sit, lie down, watch me and a plethora of other commands. Still, I strongly believe taking a dog to class is extremely beneficial. It’s a great bonding experience, the dog and the human have to work as a team.

One of my foremost goals for Angelo (named for the angel wings my friend Lisa said he has on his back) was to develop his confidence. Everything was scary to him. The microwave would ding and he’d jump. I’d put on a Sarah McLachlan CD and he’d run from the room. At first, he couldn’t be left alone in the house for even five minutes because he’d rip down curtains and run frantically from room to room looking for me. He would tear apart anything he could get a hold of. He panicked when he was left alone.

Most of all, Angelo was afraid of people – he still is. He’s better if other dogs are around, but he needs to learn that people are kind and not scary. Classes are the perfect setting for this lesson because he can see people treating their dogs lovingly. Angelo has so much fun in classes with dogs and their people. Doing fun activities around people and dogs helps build positive associations for him. At his first obedience class at Animal Friends, Angelo shook almost the entire time. After a few classes he began to warm up and actually started to like some of the people that were there each week!

I remember one session in particular that the instructor had to stop class because “Angelo was having a moment.” He had actually jumped into the arms of one of the men and covered his face with kisses. This was a dog who would pull me up our driveway and shake uncontrollably when he’s see a man approaching. That moment I realized that Angelo was making progress! The other people in the class were so supportive and understanding of Angelo. All of the instructors have been phenomenal – they’re all so kind and knowledgeable. When something isn’t working, they always have great input and suggestions. I’ve learned so much from them.

After our first obedience class had concluded, I wanted to continue Angelo’s education. We signed up for “The Nose Knows.” I really didn’t know much about the class, but it sounded like fun. Your dog has the opportunity to use his nose to find a hidden scent, similar to training a bomb or drug sniffing dog. The activity gets their nose and brain working. As Angelo worked to find the scents, it was clear he had a knack for it … he found it in the correct box, in between the pages of a book in the library, he was on a roll. At first I think he did this because he was rewarded with food, but eventually he really didn’t need the food. His reward was finding the scent!

All of this continued to help build Angelo’s confidence. He was good at something and he enjoyed seeing his doggy friends and, more impressively, his human friends each week. After we finished “The Nose Knows,” we moved on to “The Nose Knows Level Two” and Angelo got to have even more fun, searching outdoors and in vehicles.

What we learned in these classes is also great fun as a rainy day activity at home. Believe it or not, these fun searches are a great way to tire your dog out. As they say, a tired dog is a good dog! We would do a few quick nose games and some obedience before I’d go to the grocery store and when I returned there was no destruction to the house … it was almost a miracle!

Most recently, we finished taking an agility class at Animal Friends. On the last day of our obedience class at Animal Friends, the instructors brought out the agility equipment for fun. I couldn’t believe that my shy, fearful dog had such a blast running through the tunnel, jumping through the tire and climbing up the ramp. I’m certain he had never done any of these things before, but he was obviously a natural so we signed up for agility class.

We will shortly be taking another class at Animal Friends. Angelo and I both enjoy these classes so much. We’ve met so many nice dogs and great people. When I think of all the classes we’ve taken through Animal Friends University, I think to myself that I’m giving Angelo a pretty fun life. Now all we need is for Animal Friends to add more offerings to their class selections!
Photo credits: Debbie Thomas and Angela Pulice

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Home-to-Home Adoption Program: Chet and Ringo

Meet Chet, a male tabby and Ringo, a male with a gorgeous black coat. These brothers are both just over a year old and would love to be adopted together. They were born as strays but were taken in and cared for by a foster mother.

Both Chet and Ringo are neutered, microchipped and have received all of their vaccinations. They are proper gentlemen who are fantastic with a litter box and do very well in a carrier and in the car, though they are still getting used to having their nails trimmed.

Chet and Ringo currently live in a home with two other cats and they all get along extremely well. They have not had experience with dogs or small children, so their current family is not sure how they would handle a home with either.

Chet is a sweet and loving boy, but can be a bit shy especially around new people. The quickest way to this kitty's heart is by playing with him and his feather toys or giving him a nice head scratch!

Ringo has a very calm temperament and prefers sunbathing and napping on his cat tree. When he's not lounging around the house, Ringo loves to play with his brother. Since these two are still young and love to play together, they would prefer to find a home together.

If you're interested in adopting Chet, Ringo or both please contact their foster mom, Samantha at

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Animal Friends presents Ringo

This 2-year-old German Shepherd mix is Ringo. This sweet boy loves to give kisses and cuddle with his favorite Animal Friends staff and volunteers. But it took quite a bit of time to get this spunky pup to come of out his shell.
Along with more than two dozen other dogs, Ringo was found living in deplorable conditions as part of a hoarding situation. Some of the dogs had been tied up, others were left in a small fenced-in area and the rest were living in a rundown trailer. Another shelter in the region had found the dogs but they needed help. So they turned to Animal Friends ...
Eight dogs, including Ringo, were transferred to Animal Friends last fall. Because he received little to no human socialization at his former residence, Ringo had a long road ahead of him. He needed to learn how to walk on a leash, be handled and, most importantly, learn what it was like to be loved.
At first, he would retreat to the back of his kennel when approached. But as time went on, there was a tail wag here and a little nuzzle there. We could see that Ringo was starting to trust people.
Nearly a year later, Ringo can be found soliciting attention and taking in as many belly rubs as he can get from his favorite people. He loves going on long walks and has even picked up a few tricks – he can sit, lay down and hand target (shows an approaching hand is not a threat which is especially beneficial for shy dogs). And, this goofy pup can frequently be found playing with his favorite stuffed chipmunk toy!
While Ringo has made a lot of progress, we know he’s still going to need a special family that’s patient and understanding. Which is why Ringo is a Mission: Adoptable pet. This program gives special attention to match suitable adopters with our special, and sometimes quirky, animals.
Ringo will require additional care and because of that, his family will receive special counseling prior to adoption. They’ll also get a package specifically tailored to Ringo to help to make a smooth transition into a loving home. We know it’s not impossible to adopt Mission: Adoptable animals into homes. It’s just that their families may take a bit longer to find them and we want to do everything we can to ensure the pet-adopter matches are as successful as possible. Animal Friends’ commitment to helping animals is a daily and ongoing effort.
Now, you can help to find loving homes for each and every one of our homeless residents just like Ringo by purchasing Sarris Candy. Click here and use Group ID# 10-0375 and designate Animal Friends as your organization when placing your candy order and you'll be supporting Animal Friends in the sweetest way possible!