Category: “Community Voice Column”

Thank You to Our Residents

Thank You to Our Residents

When the COVID-19 pandemic first began in March, the shelter, like all businesses in the County shut down.  Our volunteers, who we already knew were wonderful, really stepped up and within 2 days took all our adoptable animals home to foster so they could get the attention they needed and not have to just sit in a kennel or cage.  For the animals, that was huge!  But we worried about our community and the people and animals we serve.

Typically spring is a busy time at the shelter.  Kitten season is beginning and calls start coming in about pregnant cats or unexpected kittens popping up.  Days get longer so kids, and dogs, are outside more – hence more lost pets.  Sadly, we also tend to get in more owner surrenders as pets sometimes conflict with the summer travel plans.  With the shelter closed, except for emergencies, what would happen to all those animals?

Well, our residents really stepped up.  People who found strays did what they could to return the animal home with just some support (scanning for a microchip, taking lost reports) and suggestions from us.  Posting pictures on Craigslist, Facebook (yours and ours), Josie’s Lost Pets Facebook page and are just a few ways that individuals took it on themselves to help reunite families with their lost pets.  Awesome!  Why bring it to the shelter if you can do this from home?  And usually the animal belongs to a neighbor anyway so it’s easier for everyone if the animal is close to home – not to mention the favor you are doing by saving the owner the City fees required to redeem a pet from the shelter.

We’re also hearing about kind people who have taken in orphan kittens or moms and babies and are doing what they can to nurse them along until the shelter can reopen.  Double wow!!!  You don’t want to pull kittens from the mom too young.  Their best chance of survival is for the kittens to remain with the mom until they are at least 5 weeks old then pull them to make sure they are tame and socialized with people.  If you don’t know how to age kittens, we have posted a chart on our Facebook page, but basically if they are walking and playing (and look coordinated doing so) then they are old enough to pull.  By keeping the kittens out of the shelter until they are old enough to spay/neuter and put up for adoption you reduce the strain on our budget and our limited staff.  We are happy to help you get the kittens (and mom!) fixed, vaccinated and microchipped, and take the hassle out of finding the right home for them, especially if you did the hard work of raising them.  This makes for a great partnership with our community.

In fact, you did such a good job that we only took in 35% compared to what we received last year during March and April!  This is the beginning of Rohnert Park becoming a model of a humane society where everyone does their part to help out the animals.  Imagine if all the dogs and cats (and rabbits) in Rohnert Park and Cotati were microchipped and currently registered – we offer chips for free to our residents – the shelter could function as just a temporary lost and found and not have to house animals long-term.  What a concept!  What if everyone worked with trainers or behaviorists to resolve behavior issues before surrendering their pets?  Amazing idea!

The silver lining to this COVID virus is that it got our community going on the path of being proactive and involved in helping animals.  As we slowly start to reopen let’s work on keeping this momentum going.  Go to our website for the link to apply to be a foster parent or shelter volunteers.  Together we can save them all!!

When the Heat is On

When the Heat is On

Nothing like a couple days in the triple digits to remind you how dangerous the heat can be – to both humans and animals!  These suggestions may be too late for the heat wave last week, but something tells me we will see more hot days ahead.  I was wondering with everyone working from home, most without air conditioning, and movie theatres closed, how people were handling the heat?  Now you know what it was like for your pet during the day when you were away at work!

There’s things you can do, of course, to reduce the heat in your home.  Closing windows and shutting all blinds and curtains to keep the sun out can make a huge difference.  If you have ceiling fans they can move enough air to make a cooling breeze which is nice.  You probably notice your pets congregating in the kitchen – it’s not that they are hungry but often that is the only room with non-carpeted floors.  Linoleum and vinyl is much cooler to lay on than carpeting for sure!  If your house gets very hot inside, you might consider freezing some water bottles and leaving them out for your pets to lay against.

Frozen water is absolutely essential for any caged pet that is outdoors (really bringing them inside is best!).  If you have an indoor caged pet bring the cage down to the floor level if it’s normally up on a dresser or such.  Hot air rises so the higher in the room the hotter it is.  A single frozen water bottle can cool the temperature in a cage considerably.  Too many rabbits and guinea pigs don’t make it through a heat wave because their options, in a cage, are limited.  We have to help them out!

Some people shave their pets during the summer to help them keep cool but be aware that the long-hair of some breeds actually protects the skin against sunburn and traps air close to the body to keep them cool.  Only shave a pet that lives indoors – outdoor pets need this protection.  Shaving the belly though can help them stay cooler without the sun risk.

Having plenty of water available to drink is very important and if you have multiple pets, be sure to have multiple water dishes.  Pets know when a resource is valuable and some might guard it from the other animals.  Have plenty of dishes around so everyone can get their fair share without worry.  Some cats will drink more out of the fountains and especially during heat waves you want to encourage water intake.  If you feed canned food you might mix an extra teaspoon or two of water in it to increase their water consumption.

Do I even need to say how dangerous it is to leave a pet in a car on a warm day?  The metal of the vehicle turns it into an oven and the temperature can get fatally hot in just a few minutes, even with the windows open a bit.  Be smart and leave your pets comfortably at home when you go out to run errands.  Everyone will be safer if check-out lines are longer than anticipated or you bump into a friend and get into a conversation.

And last but not least, only exercise your dog in the cool of the morning or after the sun has set.  You may not mind coming home from a run dripping with sweat but they can’t cool themselves the same as we can.  Heat stroke and exhaustion can kill so don’t test your dog’s limit by pushing him to run or walk during the heat of the day.

It’s finally feeling like summer around here – hot and dry.  Let’s help our pets weather through it by seeing to their needs!


Survive a Dog Attack

Survive a Dog Attack

Recently an acquaintance was attacked by a dog.  Fortunately for her, the dog was not an angry, aggressive dog but rather a 100+ lb. adolescent with a strong play drive – and she was the toy!  The other fortunate part is that she is very level headed and strong, so she stayed calm and was finally able to physically control the dog long enough to get away.  She suffered several bite wounds and her clothes got very torn but she survived.  Would you?  Do you know what to do, and equally important, what not to do, if a dog attacked you?

The first thing all the videos and articles on the subject talk about is how to deescalate the situation to try and avoid the attack if confronted by an angry dog.  Do not look the dog directly in the eyes, raise your voice or hands, or otherwise look challenging to the dog.  Never run – I guarantee you can never outrun a dog and you will stimulate a chase reflex, otherwise known as a prey drive, in the dog.  If the dog is just being defensive, of their territory, puppies, or just themselves, you can usually get away by just being non-threatening and slowly backing away, perhaps telling them to “go home”.  Do not ever turn your back on a threatening dog, you want to know where they are and what they are doing at all times.

If the dog proceeds to come towards you, your next step is to be as boring as possible in the hope that the dog will just sniff you and wander off to find something more interesting.  Stand still and think about becoming like a tree.  You might take off your jacket or purse so you have something you can hold between you and the dog, and make a quick scan of the area to see if there is something you can use as a barrier (a bench, a car you can get on top of, even your purse or backpack).  Make your hands into fists (to protect your fingers), cross your arms (slowly) across your chest, tuck your chin (to protect your throat) and just freeze.  Sometimes just tossing an object (or part of your lunch) will distract the dog long enough for you to back away and get to safety.

If the dog does bite you, don’t pull away – yes, that will be your natural reaction, but that will just cause further damage.  Do what you can to cover the dog’s head with something or use your purse strap or belt to slip around his neck and lift them up off the ground.  Sure, that might seem mean but you want to cut off their air so they release you!  The next best thing, especially if you have a friend with you to help, is to pick up the dog’s back legs so they are completely off balance – that works well if the dog is attacking your dog and not you. If there are people around, call for help in a low voice – again, high squeaky voices sound like prey and can excite the dog.

The best place (if there is such a thing) to get bitten, is in the shins or forearms.  There is less chance of a fatal bite in those areas.  At all cost you want to protect your throat and face.  If the dog knocks you down or is leaping up on you, curl up in a ball with your knees drawn to your chest and your face tucked.  Put your hands, curled into fists over your neck to protect it. Without anything flailing around to grab onto (your arms and legs) you make a pretty boring target and the hope is the dog will lose interest and go away.

It’s so important to teach our children safety around dogs and to never put their face near theirs (no kissing! Or hugs!).  At our camps, when we held them, we would teach the children to “act like a tree” or “become a rock” so they could practice these poses.  Perhaps it would help for adults to practice too!  The most important thing, of course, is to keep a cool head and not get angry back.  At a certain point you might have to hit the dog – a sharp fist to the top of the nose will usually startle them – but it actually should be done quietly and firmly and not like you are engaging the animal into a fight.

Fortunately, actual dog attacks are rare and hopefully you will never need these tactics but, like any defensive training, you want to know what to do before you need it.  Have you ever been faced with an aggressive dog?  Please share how you handled it!  And what, if anything, you might have done differently.  Experience is a great teacher!

Fostering is Fun!

Fostering is Fun!

What’s even better than watching the telly at night? What provides laughing-out-loud non-stop entertainment? Guaranteed to amuse everyone from your kindergartner to your grandmother? A litter of kittens at play! And the best part is that when they finally get tired you get some cuddle time in too. The best of both worlds! I’m not suggesting that you adopt a whole litter – but you could foster a pair or more and have kittens (the politically correct way) to entertain you!

Fostering can be lots of fun. Watching little furballs play fight and wrestle, zoom around the room, explore new territory – it’s better than anything on the TV! As the days go by it’s fascinating to see them grow and develop little personalities. It’s a project the whole family can get involved in – no reason the children can’t help scooping the litterboxes or fill the kibble. And it’s an opportunity to teach appropriate handling, respect for when the animals are sleeping, important priorities (who gets to eat first?) and compassion to your children.

Kitten season is in full swing and we are seeing a second wave of litters now. With school and other life changes, we have lost a few of our foster families so we need to replenish our roster. If you think you are up for fostering (whether that be just a pair of kittens or a litter of 4-6 babies) –please sign up now to become a foster parent. It’s usually a commitment of usually just 2-3 weeks depending on the age and size of the kittens you take, and no experience is required – we provide all the food and supplies you need and are available for any questions. You just have to give them a safe small area in your house (a bathroom is perfect, or we can provide a cage), some time and love! More details are available on our website,

All applications to volunteer, for any position, are now done on-line. There is a link to the application on our website at We have streamlined our process to onboard new volunteers and more of it is done digitally. There is still a personal interview (for adults) and training, of course, but there is no longer a long wait for the next general orientation. If you have applied in the past and become frustrated with the delays, try again and submit an application online. If you don’t have a computer there are free ones available to use at the public library or you can stop by the shelter and one of our friendly staff will assist you with the application process.

In addition to foster parents, we need help in our front office, people willing to do some of the cleaning in the morning and closing in the evening, adoption outreach assistants and bunny huggers! Interested in fundraising? Our non-profit, the Animal Shelter League, can use a few helping hands for our upcoming fundraiser, Bark after Dark. When you apply on-line there is a spot to indicate your interests and skills, so we can match you up with the most appropriate position.

Come join our life-saving team – either by directly taking in and raising some kittens or by helping the shelter overall. We have a great group of animal lovers so you will have lots of good company! We know we couldn’t possibly do all that we do without the help of every single volunteer and we appreciate their energy and time. Come make a difference – apply today!