WPHS Celebrates Senior Pet Month

With striking green eyes, long whiskers and a soft coat, Nico is obviously a good-looking kitty.  But this handsome feline has been waiting for his forever home for almost a month now.  Honestly, we cannot figure out why.  To be fair, Nico did come to us with a vision impairment (he is essentially blind).  But other than that, he is a normal kitty who wants someone to love him, and to love someone in return.

So why is Nico still here?  Our best guess is that it may have something to do with the age on the kennel card that hangs from his cage.  Since Nico was abandoned at the shelter, we had to estimate his age.  After taking a look, our veterinarians estimated this darling boy to be around 10 years old.  While kittens and young cats are quick to be adopted, often our animals in their senior years end up being in a shelter longer than their younger counterparts – simply for their age.

If you did not already know, November is “Adopt a Senior Pet” month.  If you have never thought about adopting an older pet – now is the time!  Nico is just one of the many animals at the WPHS who are in their “golden years.”

Like Sissy…

                                                       …. or Ram

… and Scamp!

With senior pets, there is no guess work that comes with these animals.  What you see is what you get.  The personality, health issues, quirks,  and behavior of each older animal is well documented and understood.  The truth is senior animals are who they are, and you know what you are walking into when you adopt one.  But they are just as loving and in need of a great home as younger animals. You just have to be willing to open your heart. Visit www.wpahumane.org  to see all of our senior pets waiting for their retirement home!

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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 www.wpahumane.org/waystogive.html.

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 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