Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saying our goodbyes...

Submitted by EARS Regional Director Karla Schulte

Well I'm back in Cedar Rapids. I intended to update the blog sooner, but things have been very busy here. Why would I expect any different? It is 6 a.m. on Saturday. Today is our last day. At least I think it is Saturday ... it's funny how you lose track of all sense of time when you are deployed.

I got back to Cedar Rapids on Monday. Terri Atwater came with me from Kansas. We were shocked at what we found. Walking through the Equine Building (where the owned and rescued animals had been kept) were row after row of empty stalls. Apparently the day before we got there, two shelters came and took several of the remaining dogs. It is mostly kitty city now.

It is amazing that almost 1,200 animals were processed through Cedar Rapids in just over a month. Anyone who was here in the beginning would be astonished at the difference. It is like a different deployment. By the way, several people who were here at the beginning have been here this week. In addition to Terri, Janet Hoover, Cynthia Brandes, Paige Grossman and Amy Greene have all returned. It's like a reunion!

On Wednesday, we began adoptions with the remaining animals. What an experience! We had approximately 19 adoptions each day on Wednesday and Thursday. All the dogs were adopted by the end of the day on Thursday. This was quite a feat because most of the remaining dogs were big dogs.

The last dog to go was the black cocker spaniel that several of the EARS volunteers had gotten attached to. Some of you may remember him. He has a growth on his left eye and when he came in he was so matted he had to be shaved. He is such a sweet boy that you could not help but fall in love with him if you spent any time with him at all. Unfortunately no one was willing to that. They would look at him and walk away. It seemed like his heart would break a little more each time that happened, but I know it was really my own heart that was breaking. Finally, toward the end of the day on Thursday, a mother came in with her two little boys, ages 11 and 7. It was love at first sight for dog and boys. It's funny how the kids looked past his growth and warts and only saw a wonderful loving pet. There were more than a few tears in the eyes of all when the family left the shelter.

Yesterday the Equine Building was shut down. All animals are now in the Tippie Building or Animal Health Technology. EARS volunteers are now the cat ladies in Tippie. At the beginning of the day we were caring for about 65 cats. By the end of the day I'm estimating that number was down to approximately 35. I didn't get final numbers, but I'm guessing we had about 10 adoptions and then a transport from DeKalb, Illinois that took 20 cats at the end of the day.

Today is the final day of our deployment. We've come a long way since the beginning. We are all tired, but there is definitely a sense of satisfaction knowing we helped get almost 1,200 animals return home or get into new homes and shelters.

Adoptions galore!

Submitted by EARS Regional Director Karla Schulte

On Wednesday, the animals who were remaining at the temporary shelter in Cedar Rapids were made available for adoption. We did a brisk business all day!

Here are some photos and their descriptions, from top to bottom:

This little kitty is hilarious to watch. He can fall asleep anywhere, even in his litter box. At least this time he is lying down. Yesterday he was sleeping sitting straight up in his litter box.

Gray kitty was a favorite of the volunteers. He has a lot of energy and personality. He wasn't available for adoption on day one because he was recovering from some health issues. The first day he was adoptable, he was quickly whisked away by the happy woman.

This is a local volunteer who worked with EARS volunteers a couple of days. She said that after working with us, she "grew a bigger heart" and had to come back and adopt a cat. She picked out this black kitten but he was not available for adoption right away. The day he became available, she was at the shelter first thing in the morning to pick him up.

This was a wonderful match! The young lady in this picture was in a wheelchair. Her family had other animals, but none really took to her so she was looking for one to call her own. This little kitty fell asleep right away as she held him. The two of them were very happy to find each other.

This was the last dog to be adopted. He is a black cocker spaniel, approximately 10 years old. He is a wonderfully sweet dog. He would get so excited whenever anyone came to visit his kennel. The problem is that he has a large growth on his lower left eyelid and no one was willing to take a chance on him. It was very sad to see people walk away from him time after time. Finally a family came in with two little boys, ages 11 and 7. The boys loved the dog and were able to look past his ugly eye. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure they even saw the growth. After the adoption was final and they were walking away from the shelter everyone was is tears. It was definitely the highlight of our day...maybe even our week. This is why we do what we do. It doesn't get any better than this!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It takes a city

Submitted by EARS volunteer Suzy Hiskey of Littleton, Colorado (pictured)

The people in Cedar Rapids are amazing. I find it interesting how I am such great friends with people whose names I don’t know. I am thankful for the droves of community members who come in every day to help care for the pets. Some come in because they are lucky and want to do something to help. Some come in because they lost something and are thankful for the shelter. All come in because they care about the animals.

The visiting families are so grateful for the care we give the dogs and cats, and we are thrilled when a pet gets a visitor or gets to go home. One EARS volunteer told me, “You get choked up over the interaction between the pets and their families. For instance, one woman came in with her three kids to see their St. Bernard. It’s great to see the family interact, and the pets love it. A few dogs are so withdrawn, but come alive when they see the owners. It takes a volunteer 10 minutes to get the leash on, but then the owner comes in and dog is jumping up on her - the personality switches. It’s too bad they can’t be with their owners.”

I work side by side with the local volunteers. One man volunteering at the shelter said he lost everything in the flood except his cat. Despite his loss, he took time to come help others. They are so thankful for everything the shelter does for the community, and they only see part of it.

The EARS volunteers work from 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. every day regardless of the day of the week. They take 15 minute lunch breaks, handle fearful and enthusiastic animals, search carefully for any sign of illness, feed hundreds of animals, cry over the sadness of a pet whose owner is still not found, and cry with joy over the reunion of a dog or cat with his family. And they take vacation or unpaid leave from work and ask their families to make sacrifices to do all of this.

Even the community members who do not come into the shelter are gracious and caring. An EARS volunteer named Ellen told me about a man she met out in a neighborhood. During the flooding, he met up with another man who had a boat parked in his garage. They found fishing nets and went up and down the flooded streets to save everything that was alive. The two men pulled two cats, dogs, a ferret, raccoons, possums, squirrels and two people out of the water. He said “everything has a right to have a chance to live.” He released the wild animals and brought the others to animal control. Ellen was struck by how matter-of-fact and humble this man was about his deeds. She was also amazed at how happy he was that only the first floor of his home was destroyed. Even during clean up, this man was concerned about his neighbor’s cat, which they’ve been unable to catch so far. Ellen, who also volunteered during Hurricane Katrina, lamented, “It’s common that pets are hard to catch after a disaster.”

You meet amazing animals too. I met the cutest dog who loves to jump up on people. I greeted her and did a 30-second “off,” "sit" and "shake" lesson. She was all over "shake" since all she wanted was for her front feet to be up on me! About 15 minutes later, here she comes again dragging a different volunteer. When she arrived the volunteer said, "She wanted to come up and greet you." It was almost like she was saying, "Come on, meet my new friend!" The dog started to jump up, but remembered that she needed to sit to get my attention. She sat immediately and offered her paw. How smart!

Now that I am home, a snippet of a conversation, a familiar-looking face, or a news story on TV reminds me of the friends I made and things I experienced. I plan to share the stories and remember the charity and resilience of the pets and people of Cedar Rapids!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

EARS goes prime time!

Today Fox 7 News in Austin, Texas, aired an amazing segment on EARS Regional Director Stacey Harris and her recent deployment to Cedar Rapids. The piece featured an extensive interview with Stacey, footage and photos taken at the shelter, and images of the flooding and devastation in Cedar Rapids.

Please take a moment to watch this touching news segment on the Fox 7 News Web site.

Rascal and Koda: Iowa's Mutt and Jeff

Yesterday we received the great news from Cedar Rapids that EARS volunteer favorites Rascal and Koda -- a rambunctious but lovable pair of dogs -- went home with their owner! Many volunteers grew attached to this unlikely duo, and hardly an eye was dry in the shelter when they said their final goodbyes.

Koda the Saint Bernard was known for howling every time Rascal was out of his sight, and Rascal the Shih Tzu always seemed to be full of energy.

EARS volunteer Carl Gerlach of Wisconsin reported the following true story that epitomizes Koda and Rascal and their endearing relationship:

"One afternoon I used Koda and Rascal as my training pups, all to the chagrin of an older gentlemen named Bob. Bob agreed to go into the stall and leash them. He successfully entered the stall only to be greeted by Koda with his paws on Bob's shoulders. At the same time Rascal was jumping up and down wanting attention from Bob. (The two guys are very jealous of each other when it comes to human attention.) All the while Bob is trying to get a leash on Koda, Rascal is biting at Koda's privates. Koda swats Rascal out of the way and rolls on his back giving Bob kisses. At this point Bob is tied up in leashes and looks slightly bewildered. Six of us watching him outside the stall holler: 'Hey Bob, do you need any help?' He very quickly replies, 'Nope, I have this under control.' We all couldn't help but laugh at the site of this gentleman wrestling with these two sweet pups."

Thank you Carl, Bob and all the EARS volunteers for taking such great care of Koda and Rascal until they could return home!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Homeward bound

Yesterday was the first Cedar Rapids Animal Control Adoption Day since the flood. Only cats and kittens were available for adoption. These were cats picked up as strays or surrendered by owners to the shelter. There was a line out the door and down the sidewalk for most of the day. People stood in the sun holding empty carriers for as long as an hour waiting their turn to go in and see if there was a special cat that they could give a home. In one day, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the shelter was able to find homes for 72 cats and kittens! After the doors closed, several people had to be turned away. Those cats who remain at the shelter are mainly sick or too young to be on their own. Animal Control was so impressed with how things are running at the shelter they have decided to have more adoption days.

During all of the visiting of families with cats and consulting with adoption counselors and vets regarding health matters, one very pregnant tortoiseshell stray was secretly giving birth to five kittens. In all the excitement no one even noticed until it was time to clean up and go home. So we lost 72 but gained 5! Also 13 owned animals were able to go home with their humans, leaving around 280 flood displaced animals still to be cared for.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Cover your EARS

What's louder? Fourth of July fireworks or a shelter full of 300+ dogs? It's a question only the EARS volunteers in Cedar Rapids can answer! We were all a little worried when the Cedar Rapids Independence Day fireworks display was moved to the Kirkwood Community College campus this year, within easy earshot of the temporary shelter. Turns out we shouldn't have been concerned. The dogs were all so tuckered out after their walks and socializing with the the EARS volunteers that they were fast asleep by the time the first rocket was launched. And ten more lucky pets even got to go home with their families on the Fourth. Now that's cause for a celebration!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Meet our fearless leader!

All of our work for the animals and pet owners in Cedar Rapids would not be possible without the leadership of EARS Regional Director Diann Wellman. Check out the great article about Diann published in her local paper, the Marion, Indiana, Chronicle-Tribune!

Local woman helps flood-stranded animals
Rescuer Diann Wellman leads team in Iowa

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Grant County resident Diann Wellman planned to spend a weekend helping stranded animals in flooded parts of Iowa.Seventeen days later, she said she can’t stay past Thursday or she’ll miss her son’s wedding.

“If it wasn’t for that I would stay because it’s very difficult to leave these (efforts) before they’re done,” Wellman said on a phone call from Cedar Rapids.

Read the complete article >>