Category: “Uncategorized”

Are You a Do-it-yourselfer?

Are You a Do-it-yourselfer?

Are you a do-it-your-selfer?  You can Google just about anything on YouTube and find instructions on how to fix things.  They make everything look so easy that it’s actually surprising that more people aren’t getting into it.  Even down to vaccinating your own animals – seems like an easy way to save some money doesn’t it?  Why pay a vet to just give a simple shot?

I recently posed that question to our vet tech and she responded with so many reasons that I walked away shaking my head wondering why I would have ever thought that doing it myself was a good idea.  Realize that I have vaccinated, or assisted with vaccinating hundreds of animals in the shelter so it wasn’t a technical ability question.  I will share the reasons that it’s not recommended you do it yourself.

First question is what brand and type of vaccine will you use?  Part of what you are paying your vet for is the research he or she puts into the type and brand of vaccines they carry.  Since their name and clinic reputation is on the line, they are going to make sure it’s one that they feel is effective and presents the fewest risks and adverse effects for their clients.  The store that you buy vaccines at hasn’t necessarily done that type of research.

Then there’s the question about how long the vaccine has been sitting on the shelf at the store, how has it been kept (did it accidentally sit out on the loading dock for a couple of hours before it was unpacked?), and how much  does the staff know about the product to answer questions? Vaccine manufacturers will back their product in case of failure or severe adverse reactions, but they want to know that it was appropriately handled all the way from manufacturing to injection.  They will not question it if the vaccine was given at a vet clinic.  If it’s done at home, there is always the question of how the vaccine was kept until it was administered, if it was drawn up properly, if the needle was compromised, how it was injected, etc.  If you’ve had no formal training the company will reject your claims.

My sister’s dog had a severe reaction a couple of year’s ago to the rattlesnake vaccine.  Poor Basmati needed hospitalization for how sick he became and surgery to fix the ulcerated area at the injection site.  Fortunately, the vaccine was given at a reputable vet clinic and the veterinarian worked with the vaccine manufacturer to ensure that treatment was fully covered.  No online store selling vaccines can offer that!

The other important part of going to a veterinarian for vaccines is that for most animals, unless they become seriously ill or injured, they never get an examination.  Since vaccines now are recommended only every 3 years, it is well worth the exam fee to have an experienced pair of hands and eyes going over your pets thoroughly.  The vet should open your pets’ mouths and look down their throats, feel their bladder and kidneys to make sure they are normal size and shape, listen to their hearts and lungs and more.  It can save you lots of money in the long-term if you can discover a fixable problem early!

Go ahead and fix your leaky faucet or try replacing your fence on your own; but leave the health care of your beloved pets to the professionals!

100 years of kindness

100 years of kindness

By Mickey Zeldes  May 7, 2015

This year marks the 100 year anniversary of National “Be Kind to Animals” Week sponsored by the American Humane Association.  Of course the thought isn’t that we should only be kind to animals one week a year but this week gives a focal point to highlight, cajole, educate, promote, urge, publicize, network, communicate, advertise, and otherwise reach out to our community to support the idea of kindness to animals.  Be Kind to Animals Week (BKTAW) is always the first full week of May so this really should have been my column last Friday but the week’s not over!  So here’s my plug.

There is a fascinating overview of a hundred years of celebrating BKTAW at the kindness100.org website.  It highlights the celebrities that have been chairpersons for this event over the years including Shirley Temple (1936), Betty White (1971), John Wayne (1973), Doris Day (1975), Clint Eastwood (1982), and Richard Dreyfuss (1991) among others.  Many of these stars have continued on in animal welfare for their entire careers.  It also includes some of the achievements this movement has garnered over the years. Interesting to see how far we’ve come and what issues are still the same after all these years.

It wasn’t until 1990 that congress passed the resolution officially recognizing the first week of May as National “Be Kind to Animals” Week.  It was California Senator, Pete Wilson, which introduced the bill in which he stated “The people of the United States are indebted to animal protection organizations, state humane organizations, and local animal care and control agencies for promoting respect for animals and pets, educating children about humane attitudes, and caring for lost, unwanted, abused, and abandoned animals.”

There are many ways to show kindness to animals; of course top of the list is to be a responsible pet owner.  Other things include buying humanely raised products, protecting wildlife, adopting shelter animals, protesting and reporting animal abuse, boycotting cruel entertainment, promoting spaying and neutering, role-modeling and teaching humane attitudes and more.  There are classroom lesson plans available for pre-school through grades 5 at the kindness100 site, and we have docents available for classroom presentations or tours of the shelter for both schools and other youth groups.  Call the shelter to arrange a program at 584-1582.

Show your pets you care about them by stopping by the shelter for a pet ID tag and microchip – they are both free to Rohnert Park and Cotati residents (only $5 for a tag and $10 for a chip to non-residents).  We’ll be holding a mini open house over the weekend to promote a couple of renovation projects that we are planning and holding a 50% off adoption special so it’s the perfect time to stop by!

A Day in the Shelter

A Day in the Shelter

By Mickey Zeldes  April 30, 2015

I’m sure people wonder what it’s like running an animal shelter, and I’m often asked what I like best about this job.  The truth is, besides the animals of course, is the variety of things that I get to do.  No two days are the same!  Even volunteers that are here often don’t see the whole of what goes on here.

One day may be spent on cleaning and organizing – during our low animal months we spend a lot of time deep cleaning and sprucing up the facility.  Things we don’t have time to get to when we are packed with kittens in the summertime finally get dealt with.  Often I have meetings to attend, as part of the Dept. of Public Safety; I’m regularly meeting with my supervisors to keep them abreast of the happenings over here.  I like to stay connected with the other shelters in the area so periodically there are meetings with the other managers.  Of course there are employee meetings as well to help our staff of part-timers stay in touch with each other and to discuss problems and brainstorm solutions.

Lots of time gets spent on the animals – deciding when an animal is ready to move up for adoption, approving medical care, temperament testing and evaluating animals, working with the shy ones to see if they can warm up, and otherwise making sure that everyone is getting what they need.  I buy supplies and make sure we have the things we need to get the work done – cleaning supplies, collars and leashes, paperwork, etc.  Troubleshooting when things break is one of my least favorite parts of the job – it’s always unexpected and needs to be dealt with immediately.  The urgency and the fact that it’s not budgeted for (who can predict what, and when, things will break?) always makes it a stressful event.

PR and promoting the shelter is one of my main jobs.  Posting on our Facebook page, keeping our website updated, sending out email announcements and putting ads in the paper helps keep us connected with our community.  We strive to make the shelter your go-to place for pet care questions and adoptions.

A lot of time is spent dealing with the public.  I like helping out in the office and do that when we are short-handed.  Answering questions, showing adoption animals, receiving owner surrender animals and strays, taking lost pet reports – one never knows what might come in through the door or what question someone will call with.  It’s actually quite fascinating and a real lesson on our society.  We field a lot of questions from people concerned about strays or their neighbor’s pet that isn’t getting adequate care.  These are tough calls because we all want every animal to be well cared for, but the laws are pretty minimal and enforcing them is difficult and time-consuming.  We do what we can and hope that some education might be enough to cause change.

Just when we start to get jaded by some of the things that we see and hear, someone will come along and adopt a senior or disabled pet and restore your faith in people.  Or a young girl will come in with an envelope of money that she got for her birthday and donate it to help the animals.  Or an adoption alumnus will stop by with his family to show off how well he is doing in his new home – these things just make our day and keep us going!

Animal neglect rare locally, but sadly still it happens

Animal neglect rare locally, but sadly still it happens
By Mickey Zeldes  March 6, 2015 12:00 am
Fortunately, we don’t see much serious animal neglect in Rohnert Park. Nothing like what they see in some of the other parts of the country or even in more rural parts of California. We are lucky in that. When we do see an animal in need of attention it’s usually just a poodle type of dog or a longhaired cat with matted fur. Granted that is a very uncomfortable condition and can cause skin issues but it’s not life threatening.When an animal like that comes into the shelter as a stray, we can help directly by cleaning her up and giving her the grooming needed or if reclaimed by an owner we can require them to remedy the situation. If someone calls in concerned about an animal in their neighborhood, we can have an officer go out and do a welfare check to see if the complaint is warranted. If so, we can, again, require the owner to take care of the animal. The tricky ones are when an animal comes in with their owner for some other reason, perhaps for a free microchip or to buy a license and we notice signs of neglect.

We certainly don’t want to discourage people from coming to the shelter or from taking advantage of our services when we are out in the community by being heavy handed. Usually, we hope that it’s just from a lack of knowledge or awareness and try the gentle education approach first. Some people don’t really know about the health concerns that come with a heavy flea infestation or with severe dental disease. They think it’s just a cosmetic nuisance and keep putting off dealing with it. Usually, just having the discussion with people about what the problem is and how important it is to deal with it sooner rather than later is enough to resolve the situation.

This topic came to mind as we had two such situations just this week – a Persian cat came in for a microchip (yay!) and had mats all over the belly (not visible to the eye – and the fur on the top of the cat was OK so you wouldn’t know about the problem unless you reached under her belly for some reason) and the poor dear was crawling with fleas. When the owner was shown the condition of the fur on the cat’s underside she was shocked and embarrassed and agreed to have it taken care of. The second animal was a miniature poodle that came in stray. He also had lots of mats. It’s amazing how many owners don’t groom their pets during the winter thinking they need their coat for warmth during the cool weather and then strip them in the spring. Grooming has to be done regularly for the animal’s comfort and health. Letting them get completely matted to the point that their legs are hobbled together and then stripping them down completely should not be the norm. Take a moment to run your hands over your pet – I mean really go through the fur everywhere, under the arms, in the groin area, under the ears (if they are the droopy kind) and see if you feel any mats or see any fleas. Now would be a great time to take care of them!

Wishing for a Home for the Holidays

Wishing for a Home for the Holidays

By Mickey Zeldes  December 12, 2014

We’re always working hard to find homes for our animals but there’s something about the holidays that makes us want to push harder.  There’s just something right about having an animal in the home at this time of year. Maybe it’s all the cards with photos of dogs in front of the fireplace and cats cozy in a pile of blankets.  Or maybe, there’s just something so wrong about animals sitting in cages and kennels at this time of year.  I wonder at those that surrender their pets right before the holidays.  I think it would make the season just that much less jolly.  But then I think about how our animals are at least in a warm, dry place with lots of good food to eat and all our wonderful staff and volunteers to love and play with them and that, compared to those that are banished to a solitary life outdoors, or a feral cat surviving on his own, these animals have it made!

Regardless, the push is on to help our critters find a loving home in time for the holidays!  We have a few animals that have been here for way too long and it’s time to help them find their next abode. You can help – if you are in the market for a new best friend (who couldn’t use one more of those?) consider adopting from your local shelter!  But even if you are not personally ready for that commitment you can help spread the word about our animals.  Are you on Facebook?  Like us and share when we post our adoptable animals – surely you know someone, who knows someone, who is looking for exactly that kind of pet!  We also put up photos of the stray animals that come through our doors with the hope that someone out there will recognize him/her and notify their parents.  This has worked so many times!  It’s really gratifying to see the community rally together to help these animals get back home safely and quickly.

Here’s the story of just a few of our long-timers for your consideration and help.  Diego is a little wire-hair terrier and was just about a year old when he first came into the shelter back in June. Hard to believe the bad luck this little guy has had. He was first surrendered because his family hit hard times and just couldn’t keep him. No problem, he was adopted fairly quickly and was settling into his new home when the adopter found out she had cancer. Needless to say with something like that on her mind she found she couldn’t cope with the demands of a new dog so Diego came back to us.  We know going in and out of homes can be hard on the animals but he is young and adaptable. He was adopted again, but this time, after just a couple of weeks, back he came. Seems like he found the cat just too much fun to chase and bark at. Poor cat. Now we know to find him a home without a feline.  Not too much of a wait for a cat-less home to come around and Diego once again went out our door with all the fanfare and excitement we shower on our departing residents. What are the odds of the adopter deciding they have to move after just a couple weeks and that taking a new dog was not in the script? Usually 3 strikes and you’re out, but not little Diego! We believe that 3 down and the right one to go! So we’re back to looking for a cat-less home that’s willing to really make a commitment to this little guy. Can you help this cutie out?

Vincent and Vanille are two kittens that have been growing up in the shelter. They were rescued as tiny kittens from a field and sent into a foster home to be tamed down. That was back in MAY! Because of recurring upper respiratory colds they have been in and out of our sick bay. They probably have herpes,  (not uncommon in cats) which is very manageable with good care and would most likely improve quickly once they got out of the stressful shelter environment. They are sweet, playful (but still a tad shy) teenagers now and it’s sad to see them here day after day. They are beautiful short-hair brown tabby and Vincent is polydactyl (with extra toes) which makes him even more special. They would love to find a home together if possible, so that is what we are looking for.

To help these animals (and all our other residents) find the homes they are dreaming about, we are running a holiday special.  During the month of December you can name your own adoption fee!  Stop on by and meet Diego, Vincent and Vanille or any of their many friends here at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter and make an offer.  You may have a new BFF for the holidays!

What happens to the injured stray pets?

What happens to the injured stray pets?

By Mickey Zeldes  December 5, 2014

Ever wondered what happens to injured strays?  What care would be given to your Fluffy or Rover if he or she slipped out the door and got hit by a car or attacked by another animal? Depending on who finds the animal and the time of the day or night that he or she is found, the answer can differ. Often, the animal is brought to the shelter first, as we are the place people think of when they find a stray – which is wonderful.  And if we’re able to take care of the animal ourselves, we will. But our contract vets are here for only a few hours each week.

If we are open, we will do our best to assess the damage; but if our vet isn’t here and the injuries seem significant, the City of Rohnert Park has an agreement with the local emergency hospital – VCA Animal Care Center, 6470 Redwood Drive – to see the stray.  The state requires each municipality to have a fund to cover some basic medical expenses for strays (comes out of our animal license fees – another good reason to keep your dogs and cats licensed). Our goal, of course, is to try and have the animal reclaimed by the owner as soon as possible so they can take over the expenses and decision-making.  The Animal Care Center has a small blanket amount pre-approved so they can get started on trying to stabilize the animal, but then they have to call either the shelter supervisor or the shift sergeant to get approval for further treatment.  That’s where hard decisions and the Animal Shelter League comes in – this local non-profit often funds the extra medical care of needy animals.

This just happened over the holiday weekend.  An older black lab was seen being hit by a car on East Cotati Avenue, and a Cotati Police Officer took the injured dog to the emergency hospital.  Although wearing a collar, she had no tags, license or microchip.  Her leg was badly broken in multiple places and she had a large gash on her side that needed to be closed up.  Without knowing the dog’s age, overall health condition, temperament or anything useful, we had to decide how far to proceed immediately and what could wait to see if an owner was found.  The decision would need to be made whether to attempt to repair the leg or just amputate (a very traumatic surgery), or not go forward at all because either choice was expensive and without guarantees.

A shelter staff person went over to scan again for a microchip (wishful thinking) and to take a picture so she could be posted on our Facebook page.  Then we had to cross our fingers that her family was not away for the holiday weekend.  Once posted, we were gratified to see a swirl of comments and “shares” until finally one that said “I think this is my dog!”  How gratifying is that? Social media to the rescue!

Pets also give thanks

Pets also give thanks

By Mickey Zeldes  November 28, 2014

As you were sitting around your holiday table and felt those brown eyes looking up adoringly (begging?) at you, were you wondering what your pet was thinking (besides trying to telepathically get the turkey to fall to the floor)? Let me interpret for them if I may, because you will like what you hear.

The fact your pet is in the house speaks volumes for your relationship. Your pet knows you consider him one of the family and is very appreciative of that fact. He knows too many dogs and cats live lonely, sad lives outside – sometimes in cold or inclement weather. He knows he’s a little spoiled, but he cherishes being able to snuggle with you and having a cushy bed to sleep on.

She also thanks you for not always giving in to her begging because human food is often not the best choice for her, and she needs to watch her waistline. The fact you are willing to go to the store and buy special food just for her makes her heart go pitter-patter. The fact you can recognize when they aren’t feeling well, even when the symptoms are subtle, shows how in tune you are with your best friends. They feel cherished when you take them to the veterinarian to make sure everything is OK.

Although your cat might act like an aloof snob, she is secretly pleased you go to all the effort you do to keep her litter box clean and ready. She hates being itchy from fleas and ticks and loves how you brush and comb her and keep her pest-free. And despite all of the struggling as well as the pathetic look on her face, she actually really likes when she gets a bath and smells so much better for it (we’re talking dog here, cats usually take a while to forgive that indignity).

Your pets recognize the love you show when you put a microchip in them and a license and ID tag on their fashionable collars. How thrilling to know you are doing what you can to keep them safe and to get them back in the off chance they ever become lost.

Your dog loves nothing better than going for walks with you, and when appropriate, being included on the day’s outings. Of course, your cats also appreciate the time you spend playing with them – actually any time spent with you is your pet’s favorite time in the whole world! And that’s what having a pet is really all about – sharing time and that special bond. Please know your pet trusts and loves you unconditionally. And thanks you for returning it.

Pt. Isabelle – best dog park ever!

Pt. Isabelle – best dog park ever!
By Mickey Zeldes July 25, 2014
It’s kind of frustrating to be living near so much water and have so few options of places to take a water-loving dog to swim. What fun is it to have a Golden Retriever and not be able to take him swimming? Actually, I know about a couple of great places that I’ll share with you, and then hope you can expand my horizons by sharing back.

Have you been to Pt. Isabelle? It’s across the bridge in Richmond but well worth the drive. This 23-acre regional shoreline park is a treasure. It’s unlike any other dog park in that it’s not just a fenced area where owners sit around talking and ignoring their dogs while the dogs engage with each other or get in trouble. It’s a walking park, big enough that a hundred or more dogs can be there at one time, and it doesn’t seem crowded.

There is water access in one of the inlets and on the bay side if you and your dog are brave enough to deal with the waves. There are picnic tables here and there, but the crown jewel of this place is the Sit and Stay Café, featuring delectable treats for both you and your pup. Enjoy an espresso drink, smoothie or a full lunch on their dog-friendly patio (vegetarian options available).

Believe it or not, next to the café is a self-serve/or by appointment dog wash and tiny pet store. So after your dog gets filthy swimming and playing in the park you can bathe him or pay to have him bathed (while you enjoy a latte?) before putting him back in the car. Nice, huh? How many other dog parks can boast these kind of amenities?

Ft. Funston in San Francisco and Dillon are two more favorite dog places. In both, dogs are legally able to be off-leash as long as they are under voice command. They have large beach areas where you can walk for a long ways, and both have bathrooms near the parking area (Ft. Funston has Portapotties), which is a nice amenity when you drive so far to get there. Ft. Funston is free, but Dillon beach charges $7 for parking. The drawback to these two locations is the swimming is in the ocean, and I’m a chicken with the risk of riptides. People drown every year on our coast – some because they are trying to save their dog. So we stay splashing in the shallow areas and although Brandy has a great time, it’s not really swimming.

September is our favorite month, as Spring Lake opens to dogs every weekend in September with their Bark Swim. This is a small lake but is deep enough for a dog to really have to paddle if they go out any distance. They charge $5 per dog on top of the parking fee, unless you are a regional park member (free parking and just $3 per dog) and it’s very popular. If you come out there, you’ll see Brandy out in the center of the lake just swimming in joyous circles.

Do you know a good dog swimming location? We’re always looking for new experiences and love hiking and exploring our beautiful county. Let me know (mzeldes@rpcity.org) and I’ll share what you send in a future article.

Dogs Can Bake in Hot Cars!

Dogs Can Bake in Hot Cars!
By Mickey Zeldes July 11, 2014
It’s time to start leaving your dogs at home. I know that’s a radical concept to some.

We’ve become a society that more and more brings our dogs with us everywhere we go. The problem is they are still not welcome everywhere, and it’s too hot to leave them in the car.

It’s amazing how many people need their dogs with them to go shopping, to the bank and just to run errands. Everyone now has a “service” dog, because, unfortunately, getting those tags is all too easy. People think they should be entitled to bring little Foofy with them into grocery stores or restaurants, and it’s causing some awkward scenes and ruffling more than a few feathers. The problem is if you are unable to bring your dog inside with you, or the dog causes a disturbance and you are asked to leave, is it safe to leave him in the car?

Some people don’t realize how quickly the interior of a car, even with the windows cracked, heats up to an unbearable degree. If you’ve ever gotten into a car that’s been left sitting in the sun, you know how uncomfortable it is until you cranked up the air conditioner and cool it off. Imagine having to sit in there for a half-hour or more? Every year we hear about dogs and, sadly children, who die from the heat when left in a car.

Humans, at least, can sweat and try to cool their body that way. Dogs cool themselves by panting, but that only works if the air they are breathing in is cooler than their body temperature. Add to that the fact they are wearing a fur coat (imagine sitting in that hot car with a winter coat on) and you can see it wouldn’t take long for a dog to be in trouble.

Exercising during the heat of the day is also a danger for our dogs (and ourselves). Bottom line is to avoid things that can cause heatstroke and to make sure everyone drinks plenty of water.

What to do if you see dog in a hot car? Call the police immediately and see if you can locate the owner to get the dog out as soon as possible. Don’t offer too much water right away, as that can cause vomiting (and further dehydration). Sponge the dog down with cool (not cold – don’t want to cause shock) water and bring inside or into shade. Lightly fan the dog to promote cooling and try to take their temperature so you can assess the risk. If the temperature is over 103 degrees, a veterinarian should see the dog, as damage could have been done to internal organs.

Play it safe during the hot months and leave your pets comfortably at home. Leave the radio on and give them stuffed kongs, and they won’t even know you’ve been gone. Then you can enjoy a day of worry-free shopping and a happy greeting when you get home. I know you feel good when your dog is with you, but wouldn’t you feel better knowing that your dog is safe?

We LOVE our volunteers

We LOVE our volunteers

We love our volunteers and hope they know it!  We try to express appreciation throughout the year but one time annually we gather together to acknowledge all that these wonderful people have done for us and the animals.  This past Sunday was our yearly Volunteer Appreciation Party and although all 165 of our active volunteers couldn’t be with us that evening, we celebrated with those that could attend.

Our volunteers do a million things for us – everything from clean the kennels and cages; assist the veterinarian and vet tech with health exams and surgeries; fold laundry, answer phones, facilitate adoptions, wash dishes, update our website, hang pictures, build shelves, pull weeds, walk dogs, staff outreach events, stuff envelopes, cuddle cats, host monthly bunny days, input data, wash out litterpans, greet the public, bunny socialize, make copies, foster kittens, paint our walls, fundraise, file paperwork, post fliers, take photos, temperament test our dogs, foster special need animals – I’ll stop here but you get the point.  Volunteers are people that keep us organized, keep us sparkling clean, and keep us moving forward!  We absolutely couldn’t do all that we do for the animals and people in our community without all this help.

This year we recognized the contributions of 34 special volunteers based on their hours of service.  Please congratulate (and thank) the following people:

1500+ hours – Amy Isquith, Suzy Melvin, Lara Shearer, Casey Watts

1000 hours – Todd Coleman

500 hours – Debbie Ecklehoff, Diane Baglion, Nancy Gillett, Erin Thompson, Victoria Thomas, Tina Hrebick

100 hours-Katt Hess, Mayher Ratra, Nicholas Allen, Cari Most, Tamy Chichkanoff, Alisha Parkinson, Nathalie Rossi, Paula Flores, Judi Nelson, Christina Parsley, Megan Rosenberger, Amber Sharp

Junior Volunteer with 500+ hours –Sophie Spencer

Junior Volunteer with 100+ hours – Kacey Herrell, Sarah Ramos, Alex Palmigiano, Sarah Wood

Foster Parents – over 10 Animals last year – Kayte Taylor, Helen Crosby, Cheryl Vargas, Naomi Garland, Jill Zschach, Pauline Tong

We added up the number of hours (of those who remembered to record them and it doesn’t include the foster parents) of all the volunteers who helped us and in 2013 they racked up an impressive 11,571 hours which is the equivalent of having 5.5 full-time employees every week! For a small staff that is a huge boost in (wo)manpower!

Would you like to see your name on this list?  We are ever growing our volunteer corps, and could always use a few more committed, good people!  We ask our volunteers to make pick one job and make a solid weekly commitment.  There is more information and brief job descriptions as well as application forms available at our website, rpanimalshelter.org and at the shelter.  We will be holding our next adult volunteer orientation on Saturday, June 7, at 10:00a.m.  Join us in helping the animals in our community.  We’d love to be honoring you next year!