Angus’ Journey at the Shelter Continued

Some of our readers may remember a pup named Angus, whose story was told in a recent WPHS blog post.  It documented his journey from a frightened feral puppy who arrived at the shelter in January 2013, to an adoptable dog (the previous post can be read here).  We have been hoping to update his story since that post, and today we are proud to say there is a happy ending to Angus’ story.Angus and His New Parents

After our blog post, Angus traveled to Misty Pines to spend time with owner Jeff Woods and his amazing team of trainers.  Over the years, Misty Pines has hosted several WPHS dogs, training them while they are kenneled there and promoting their adoption.  Angus was a special case though, because he was the least trained dog that they have worked with.  Even though his progress was slow, it allowed Angus to experience things he hadn’t before, such as using agility equipment.

Angus and Joy Saying GoodbyeDuring his stay at Misty Pines, Angus was made available for adoption on our website.  Potential adopters were encouraged to visit him at Misty Pines, where they could see him outside of a kennel environment.  Angus, according to Jeff Woods, was very popular and his adorable face on the website and blog post generated a lot of interest. After several interviews and meet and greets, Angus found his forever home! His new mom and dad are excited to see him come out of his shell, and he even has a new doggie-brother named Hunter! The Western PA Humane Society staff and volunteers are so grateful to Angus’ new family, and he left with some hugs and a few tears of joy!

If you would like to make a contribution to the Western PA Humane Society to support pets like Angus, please visit

Making the Commitment to Our Pets in Need: Angus’ Story

In the middle of January 2013, a litter of feral puppies were surrendered to the Western PA Humane Society. The person who brought them said they had found them under their porch.  The puppies were approximately 5 months old, and were lab and shepherd mixes.  The staff at WPHS decided to invest in these puppies’ futures, and find the right training and foster homes to make them “adoptable.”  This was not a very easy task, since the puppies feared eye contact from people and were by no means house trained.  Staff even reached out to several trainers, who said that feral puppies that old were a lost cause. The staff made a commitment that it would exhaust all options to ensure that these puppies would have the best outcome possible.  It took several weeks in foster homes before they could be brought back to the shelter to then be assessed.  There have been some amazing breakthroughs, but also some heart breaks.

Angus, the only chocolate-colored pup, has been one of our successes thus far, and the pup who has spent the most time interacting with shelter staff.  He spends most of his time in offices, where the staff can get him acclimated to things that he will be encountering on the outside, and forming bonds with him that we didn’t think were possible.  Most recently, Angus went home for the weekend with our Lost and Found Manager, Joy Kealey. Joy has dogs and a cat of her own, and a nice big fenced in yard- Angus’ dream home!

Angus Share with Skyler

Angus Share with Skyler

Joy was so excited about the progress that she saw with Angus in her home, and documented all of Angus’ experiences and his reactions to the home environment.  He made claim to a spot on the couch, but made sure to leave plenty of room for the owner of that couch- Joy’s pup Skyler.  He also met Joy’s husband for the first time, and allowed him to gently rub his neck and chest.  This was a huge step for Angus, who just weeks before would shy away from someone reaching out their hand. Angus also got to experience being in a fenced in yard off-leash.  His nose was going the whole time and he played and frolicked with the other dogs.  He seemed to enjoy himself immensely, but still came to Joy when she called to him and always kept her in his sight.  This is very important, since we originally thought he was only social around other dogs; not trusting the humans in the room.

Angus in the Yard

Angus in the Yard

We can only hope that Angus’ progress continues exponentially.  His future adoption will be a much celebrated feet, since so much time and effort has been put into his growth in the past 4 months.  It is quite amazing to look into his eyes now and to see a questioning look back, not a quick run back to a corner to hide.  Angus will be lucky to count himself as another success of the Western PA Humane Society’s staff and volunteers.  If you wish to donate to support the care of Angus and other pets in need like him, please  visit

Changing Lives!


Hello Friends…

As the sun rises, I wake on my soft blanket to a smiling face, gentle head pets and a “Good Morning, Gretta!”. After my morning stretches and a tasty breakfast, I venture outside into the crisp morning air. A kind human enjoys some snuggles, pets and a nice walk with me before returning me to my room at the shelter and taking the next dog out. This has been my daily schedule since February 13th when I was found wandering alone in New Castle and brought to the Western PA Humane Society.

I am quite the popular girl here at WPHS, and my friends think I’m a perfect reminder of why even more people should give us a hand (or a paw.) In just 4 days, my human friends will join together and run in the 2013 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. They have worked so incredibly hard to raise money for the animals here at the Western PA Humane Society who are waiting for their forever homes.

Many of our runners are the same people I count on every day, from the staff who dedicate their lives to find loving homes for animals like me, to the volunteers who always make sure we have daily walks and extra snuggles.

These people are truly amazing- they save lives like mine every day. Now they need your help! Please visit our Pittsburgh Marathon fundraising page and consider donating, whether it be to a specific runner or the WPHS team! If you can’t spare any money right now, you can help by passing my plea to anyone that you think is able.

The 2012 Pittsburgh Marathon raised over $56,000 for the homeless animals here at WPHS. Lets work together to help them raise even more in 2013! 


Let’s help them to help us!

Love & Snuggles,

Gretta Beans 



WPHS a Recipient of New Direct Energy Program Promoting Volunteerism

Direct Energy and Pittsburgh Magazine Launch Small Business Community Heroes
Program to recognize a small business owner in Southwestern Pennsylvania who exemplifies the volunteer spirit

̶ By Andrea Romo, External Relations Specialist, Direct Energy

Direct Energy is committed to Southwestern Pennsylvania and continues to recognize the region’s unsung heroes who go above and beyond in the community. With that commitment in mind, Direct Energy and Pittsburgh Magazine recently introduced the Small Business Community Heroes award program. The program will recognize a small business owner who exemplifies the volunteer spirit in the community. Please take a few minutes to nominate that individual by Sunday, May 19, 2013 by 11:59 p.m. at

For purposes of this program, a small business is defined by having less than 100 employees. The award is open to all residents of communities in the Pittsburgh Magazine market area (i.e. Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties). Nominations should be no longer than 500 words and must detail the specific contributions the small business owner has made to improve the community through volunteerism.

The winner of the award will receive a $500 cash prize, a $2,000 donation to the winner’s community charity of choice and a full page in the July issue of Pittsburgh Magazine.

“We couldn’t be happier to be working with Pittsburgh Magazine to recognize the region’s business community,” said Todd Sandford, head of small business for Direct Energy. “Direct Energy has a major presence in Pittsburgh and we are dedicated to investing in the communities in which we live, work and serve our customers. We applaud all of the wonderful volunteers and look forward to recognizing those small business owners who devote their time for the greater good of the community.”

A selection committee from Direct Energy and Pittsburgh Magazine will review the submissions, and the winner will be announced in June. Complete rules, the official nomination form and all other information are available online at

Who Rescued Whom?

You would think that after working in a shelter environment for 10 years, Assistant Director of Animal Services Jamie Wilson would have tough skin after seeing so many animals come through our doors with sad stories.  But Jamie is still able to open her heart to the more “challenging” pets that we have, and she was inspired to tell her story about a recent experience with a dog named Gabby.

Gabby, and her pals Jamie Wilson and Tammy Link

Gabby, and her pals Jamie Wilson and Tammy Link

At first glance, Gabby looked like your average Siberian Husky when she arrived at the Western PA Humane Society in February 2012, but she was extremely scared and a bit aloof.  The person that surrendered her explained that he had gone to a breeder for a puppy, but felt bad that she was being used just for breeding so he took her home instead.  Once he had her home, he realized that she was not used to human interaction and that she needed much more help than he could handle himself, so he brought her to us.  While at the shelter, Gabby shied away from most of our shelter staff; however, she immediately took to Jamie, living and sleeping under her desk.Thinking that going through a rescue would give her the best chance of finding an appropriate family, Gabby was matched with a very promising home.  Jamie had to coax a hesitant Gabby into their car, saying her final goodbye; or so she thought.

One year later on January 2013, Jamie arrived at work for a staff meeting.  There, she was told that Gabby was returned to the shelter. It seemed that in the year the family had her, Gabby was still uncomfortable around them and was not able to relax. After hearing the news, Jamie said her heart broke for Gabby and that in her ten years she had never felt so attached to a dog.  She immediately went to Gabby’s kennel and broke down, sorry for Gabby that she was having such a hard time finding her perfect match.

Gabby loves Jamie!It was then that Jamie made it her mission to make sure that Gabby’s next home would be her last.  She devoted her time at the shelter to socializing with Gabby (Gabby seemed to definitely miss her on her days off!).  Gabby, shy dog that she was, even helped socialize a litter of feral puppies that were brought to the shelter. Gabby was made available for adoption once again, but with an application only so that Jamie and other staff could make sure that it was a true fit.  Later in January, a woman filled out an application after meeting Gabby. Sitting next to Gabby, Jamie read the application, and at the bottom read, “Gabby gave me kisses.”  Jamie read it out loud to Gabby, who immediately showed her approval with a tail wag! The woman brought her own dog in for an official meet and greet which went spectacularly. Gabby was adopted again on January 27, 2013.  All it took was the right person (and pet sibling) for Gabby to blossom.  She no longer hides in corners or under furniture.  She loves to play and just be a dog!

At the shelter, we always talk about having moments of “Who rescued whom?” Even though we as staff do not always adopt our favorite pets ourselves, they still leave lasting impressions on us.  Some of us, like Jamie, have a wall of photos of our success stories.  Others might just be able to tell you every detail of a particular pet.  Our feeling of success comes from knowing that when the next “Gabby” comes through our doors that we will be prepared to help them in their time of need.

An Easter Bunny Blunder


As the Easter season approaches, animal shelters must brace themselves for the inevitable wave of rabbit surrenders. For decades, parents and grandparents have been buying bunnies for kids simply because they are a symbol of the holiday. Unfortunately, these rabbits are often surrendered months later when their owners lose interest or realize that they lack the necessary time or funds to care for them.

Contrary to common thought, rabbits are not necessarily the “kid friendliest” of pets. They are sensitive to noise, are very fragile and hate to be picked up. Much like cats, bunnies want attention at their convenience and can become aggravated if their humans don’t respect that. Like anything with teeth, bunnies may bite if they’re scared badly enough. A panicked rabbit can also do serious damage with their nails, which require routine trimming.

Rabbits are much more complex and expensive to care for than most people think. They have sensitive digestive systems and very fragile bones that can be broken by an accidental drop. A healthy rabbit requires pellets, plenty of veggies and unlimited access to timothy hay and water each day. Bunnies will also need to be spayed or neutered once they reach adulthood in order to prevent behavioral and medical issues.

Bunnies are fantastic pets for anyone who is willing to be patient and understanding of their needs. Aside from being adorable, they’re smart, affectionate and comical to watch. If you’ve done your research and are willing to commit a decade or more to these lovable critters, Easter just may be the perfect time to bring a rabbit home. Dozens of bunnies in all shapes and sizes are waiting for loving homes at the Western PA Humane Society.

Our rabbits are spayed or neutered, socialized, and often litter box trained. We encourage families interested in adopting to attend our weekly Bunny Romps, where they can learn about rabbit care and meet some adoptable pets. There are phenomenal web resources like the House Rabbit Society website and the Pittsburgh House Rabbit Club Facebook page for new and potential owners.

Get The Facts – Don’t Hop Into An Impulsive Purchase This Easter

By Larissa Gula

Two of the many baby bunnies that come to our shelter.

Two of the many baby bunnies that come to our shelter.

With Easter just around the corner, shoppers are starting to stock up on Easter necessities in preparation for the annual arrival of the Easter bunny. Among all of the Easter-day hype, there is also an undercurrent of baby bunny fever, often encouraged by pet stores or backyard breeders. While we always encourage adopting rabbits at an area shelter year round, sadly many people buy into the perpetuated idea that buying or adopting a rabbit for their family will be the perfect holiday gift. As a result, animal shelters see an increase in the number of rabbit surrenders in the months after Easter weekend. Unfortunately, many other rabbits are simply let loose into the outdoors by their owners, which gives them little chance of survival (especially fluffy white bunnies).

Impulse adopters and buyers often don’t realize these general facts about pet rabbits:

  • Despite appearances to the contrary, rabbits are not low-maintenance pets; they are very social animals that can live up to ten years and require attention and stimulation, vet care, a litter box, hay, toys, special food and other basics; put simply, they require preparation and commitment like any other animal one might bring into their home.
  • Vet care for rabbits, unlike care for cats and dogs, is not always easy to find nearby, as not every vet can treat rabbits.
  • Rabbits  are ground loving creatures; young children in particular may want to pick them up and cuddle with them, when in reality this action is frightening and unnatural..
  • Families who adopt a young rabbit may soon find that as it grows, it will begin to spray, chew, bite, and claw at furniture, especially if it was never spayed or neutered. Exercise pens are the best way to keep bunnies in the appropriate space but still being able to roam.
  • Like kittens, cute little bunnies don’t come litter trained, and can be messier with more active digestive systems.
  • Families will need to “bunny proof” their house to make sure electric wires and furniture aren’t chewed.

As a result of people not understanding these basic facts about rabbit care, the Western PA Humane Society alone took in more than 500 bunnies during the year of 2012. Bunnies tend to take longer to adopt out than cats and dogs, with the average stay of 94 days at the shelter.  This past year, WPHS adopted out a bonded pair that had been here for 2 whole years!

To avoid the unfortunate result of an impulsive pet purchase, it’s important for anyone interest in adopting or purchasing a rabbit to educate themselves about these creatures and what to expect – and if you know someone who is thinking about doing so, now is the time to speak up and tell them why they should not adopt or buy a rabbit just because they are cute for the spring. Instead, encourage them to do more research about bunnies, and to visit their local shelters often to learn about the personalities of the bunnies available.

You Gave For Them – Now They’re Giving Back: Western PA Humane Society Therapy Dogs

By Larissa Gula

We ask so often for our amazing community of supporters to give to the Western PA Humane Society, and we are always amazed and thankful each time you come forward to help us continue with our mission each day.

Now, we want to talk about how the same animals – specifically, canines – you once supported are giving directly back to your community at large.

As you may know, the Western PA Humane Society offers obedience classes for dog owners; during these classes, our amazing educators have the chance to work directly with a number of dogs, many of who were rescued from local shelters. If our educators see signs of a promising therapy dog, they talk to that dog’s owner about Therapy Dog International testing, which is held periodically at our North Shore shelter.

Once certified, TDI dogs are able to work almost anywhere in the community. Ask around our shelter, and you’ll find that a number of our volunteers with therapy dogs work in community homes, libraries, schools, and more on a regular basis. It’s absolutely a beautiful sight to behold, seeing so many of our rescued and adopted dogs interacting with people who need a dose of puppy kisses in their life.

And by the way, puppy love is a legitimate part of a healthy lifestyle (unless, of course, you’re allergic to puppies). There really are massive benefits to being around any animal. At a basic level, any pet, therapy dogs included, create a feeling of relaxation in the people they interact with – their presence contributes to the creation of the hormones that calm people and combat stress by lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Being around animals has also been shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness. In plain English: animals make you healthier. Medical professionals know this; some use therapy dogs on a regular basis to help with interact with patients.

TDI Pups visiting Pitt Students

TDI Pups visiting Pitt Students

One of the best benefits from being around animals is increased socialization, which is why therapy dogs can be so useful when interacting with patients with depression or anxiety. Here in Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh students get their own chance to socialize with new people every week, when our shelter’s volunteers go to the school for one hour each Tuesday to talk to students. Friendships have definitely formed at this program. I should know; many of the relationships I hold dear started at that program when I was a student, and eventually led to a number of employment and volunteer opportunities. Now THAT’S a benefit of therapy dogs you don’t hear about very often!

How many of you have worked or met with a therapy dog from our shelter? Which one was it?

A Challenge From Our Executive Director!


Spring is inching closer by the day, which means it’s time to get serious about this year’s Pittsburgh Marathon! As a team, we exceeded the goal for 2012, and I’m ready to set the bar even higher in 2013. As the new Executive Director of WPHS last year, I was motivated to prove my dedication to the organization. This year, I’ve got a new motivation, in the form of my newly adopted WPHS puppy, Astro.

In order to make an even greater impact on WPHS animals this year, I’ve decided to make a pledge to my supporters. Here it goes: If I am able to meet my personal fundraising goal of $10,000, I will go bald(yes, completely bald)- and the top WPHS marathon fundraiser, with help from a WPHS staff member of their choice, will have the honor of shaving it off for me!

Fundraising from last year’s marathon helped us buy new kennels and hire additional staff, ultimately expanding our offsite adoption efforts and allowing us to assist more animals than ever before. We are looking to save even more lives in 2013, so please donate what you can and spread the word!

To help me reach my goal, just stop into the shelter with your donation or visit by March 1st, 2013.

Remember, every penny counts and all donations are tax deductible!

An Update from Two Unexpected Friends!

Chloe  Rooney

In October 2011, I adopted a 6-year old Mini Rex rabbit named Chloe. Chloe was already litter box trained and free roaming, and essentially the perfect pet for a college student with no space. There was just one problem; While rabbits tend to thrive in pairs, Chloe’s bossy nature kept shelter staff from successfully matching her to anyone else. Just one year later, I was able to find the perfect, but quite unlikely, match for my little furball– a Doberman Pinscher.

I found Rooney (then named Ivy) at the Western PA Humane Society last November at about 8 months old. I’d always adored dobermans, but upon my first interaction with the awkward pup, I knew she had to be mine! Within a week or so, this dog (surrendered for being “untrainable”) had settled into our home perfectly. She was already fantastic with potty and leash manners and had mastered about 10 commands. Most important to me, however, was Rooney’s total lack of reaction to cats, birds or small animals we encountered on walks and pet store trips.

I eventually felt comfortable enough to introduce my girls, first through a gate, then with Rooney on leash.  From the day they were allowed free roam together, Rooney and Chloe were great pals. Although I was surprised at how  quickly Rooney gained Chloe’s trust, I was not at all shocked to see all 6 lbs. of Chloe bossing around her new  friend with grunts and nudges. Luckily for us, Rooney responds well to Chloe’s “herding” and respects that the bunny is boss!!

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have such success introducing a dog to my Chloe, especially so quickly! I certainly don’t believe that there is a more perfect canine match for me and my family. Rooney and I are starting our first round of obedience classes at WPHS in order to earn a therapy dog certification. We hope to not only touch the lives of others through our therapy visits, but also to change negative misconceptions about shelter dogs and the doberman breed as a whole.

Thank you WPHS!

Author: Jamie Rempel