Monday, July 19, 2010

Breaking down and tearing up

Submitted by EARS volunteer Kim Diloreto of Neenah, Wisconsin

On Wednesday, July 14, the news came that the animals removed from the shelter in Baker, Montana, had been surrendered and could be moved to out-of-state shelters where they would have a chance to find forever homes.

Bright and early Thursday morning the shelter was bustling. Sorting dogs, arranging travel crates for cats, checking and rechecking paperwork. The dogs barked a loud chorus, with the coon hound singing lead. The cats paced and rubbed against the sides of their crates. They all sensed something special about this morning.

By nine o’clock The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) transport truck had been backed into the middle of the shelter building. It waited with ramp down, anxious to begin it’s long journey.

UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers gathered the animals one by one. They formed a loose line behind the truck. One at a time the cats, and then the dogs, were carried or led up the ramp for the long ride.  It was a kind of modern day Noah’s ark -- the animals all in a row waiting for their turn to be saved.

By eleven o’clock the truck was gone. The chorus of barks was replaced by conversations that carried softly as volunteers broke down kennels, stacked crates, cleaned, scrubbed and packed things up.

They discussed the animals. Were they comfortable in the transport truck? How long a ride did they have? Would they find good homes?

Off and on, there were tears. “Don’t cry,” they told each other. “If you cry, you’ll make me cry.”

Some of them hugged. Some avoided eye contact, deep in their own private thoughts. Some lingered in front of the empty crate or kennel that had held their favorite cat or dog.

Why do the EARS volunteers do this? Why do they burn their vacation hours, spend their saved dollars, drive hundreds of miles to spend long days washing bowls, cleaning cages and scooping poop?

There are as many answers to that question as there are volunteers. But it’s fair to say they all realize that while nobody can give these animals a guarantee to a happy life, what they can give them -- and what they did give them -- was a chance.

Photos: EARS volunteer Coke Conrad of West Fargo, North Dakota loads cats onto the HSUS rig; Coke and EARS volunteer Marcia Hale of Boise, Idaho say goodbye; Marcia says goodbye to a favorite dog; the UAN team on the last day of the response (clockwise from top left: Debra Hutcherson of LaRue, Texas; Frank Mallon of Cody, Wyoming; Coke Conrad; Kim Diloreto; Marcia Hale; Barb McGonigal of Bloomington, Minnesota with Sugar; Janel Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager. Photos courtesy Kim Diloreto

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happy (re)birthday, Sugar!

Submitted by EARS volunteer Kim Diloreto of Neenah, Wisconsin

Among the 62 dogs rescued Tuesday from the Eastern Montana Humane Society was a thin, gray, matted dog found in a dirty broken crate in a dark room. Her fur was so long and tangled, when it came to filling out her intake paperwork, no one could hazard a guess as to what breed she truly was. In the end, they put down “mutt-mix.”

As they cleaned crates and filled water bowls, the UAN and HSUS volunteers at the Fallon County fairgrounds temporary shelter had something special on their minds: “Did they take the gray dog yet?”

“Is she next?” “Which one are they clipping now?”

Finally, around 10 a.m., it was her turn. As she was lifted onto the grooming table, the volunteers gathered to watch and smile. The clippers buzzed as clumps of soiled fur fell from the skinny dog’s back and legs.

“What breed do you think she is?” “She could be a sheep dog cross.” “On the intake papers they just put ‘mutt.’”

As the last of the filthy, matted fur fell away, the volunteers smiled and clapped.

“Oh, my gosh” someone said, “She’s a SCHNAUZER!”

Photos: Sugar in her kennel at the temporary shelter; Sugar gets seen by the vet; Sugar, reborn.

Photos courtesy EARS volunteer Kim Diloreto.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A red-letter day for animals in Montana

Submitted by EARS volunteer Kim Diloreto of Neenah, Wisconsin 

For 62 dogs and 25 cats from the Eastern Montana Humane Society, today was a red letter day (or should I say red shirt day).

Around mid-morning, the rumble of a diesel semi-trailer belonging to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) broke the silence of the eastern Montana prairie just outside the town of Baker. As the semi idled on the country road, three of UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers stood among their HSUS teammates and were sworn in as temporary local deputies of Fallon County. The group, joined by Fallon County law enforcement and local animal control agents, then spent the morning gathering animals from the humane society property---tagging, photographing, comforting and loading---in preparation for a five mile trip to their start on a better life.

The animals were removed from the shelter due to violations of the Montana animal cruelty code. Large numbers of dogs and cats had been found living in filthy, cramped pens and crates. Many of the animals were housed for long periods of time in unsafe and unsanitary enclosures, and some were suffering from skin and parasite infections.

At the Fallon County Fairgrounds in Baker, more EARS volunteers waited for the animals to arrive. A huddle of red shirts, they glanced at their watches and paced like expectant parents. A day and a half of their hard work had turned an empty indoor arena into a temporary shelter complete with a cozy cat room, indoor runs for the bigger dogs and a medical area staffed with three veterinarians. Along the length of the arena, two rows of shiny kennels (courtesy of the PetSmart Charities Emergency Relief Waggin' program) waited with fresh bedding and bowls of clean water.

By mid-afternoon, the waiting was replaced by a flurry of unloading and sorting. Big dogs in big runs. Small dogs in kennels. Each cat in his or her own cage. Through the afternoon the animals each had their turn to be seen by a veterinarian as the red-shirted EARS crew filled water bowls and kept kennels and crates clean.

In one of the large runs, a skinny black collie mix was lavished with constant attention by the EARS and HSUS volunteers. They nicknamed her Spinner because she frantically chased her tail in circles. Her poor ragged tail had been worn to a skinny soggy rope of fur. When they figured out calm words and attention would stop her from spinning, the volunteers moved Spinner to the large run and rounded up rawhide toys and peanut butter to keep her occupied. They took turns rubbing her belly and taking her for walks around the arena. At day’s end, she was still out and about, laid out on her side at the end of her leash, half-asleep, half in someone’s lap, looking content.

In the cat room, an uber-affectionate feline (nicknamed Van Gogh) was capturing hearts. The poor sweetie had lost the tips of both ears---something the veterinarian said was all too common for cats forced to live outdoors in cold climates. The smallest bit of attention would send the pretty cat into a series of wriggles and flips. Clearly she was savoring her clean, soft bedding and the dozens of friendly faces she saw around her.

Read more about this situation in the Billings Gazette.

Photos: EARS volunteer Debra Hutcherson of Larue, Texas  photographs a dog during intake at the Eastern Montana Humane Society seizure; staff and volunteers from UAN and HSUS wait to unload animals at the temporary shelter; EARS volunteer Barb McGonigal of Bloomington, Minnesota with Spinner; Van Gogh says hello.

Mission accomplished!

Today, UAN's Emergency Animal Rescue Service are wrapping up their deployment at the temporary shelter in Kern County, California. Most of the Chihuahuas and other animals relinquished by an overwhelmed animal rescuer last week have been transported to other rescue groups and shelters in California, where they will be made available for adoption.

Only seven dogs remain at the temporary shelter, and they are getting top-notch care and attention from the remaining EARS volunteers today. Thanks to all of the EARS volunteers who gave up their time to take care of these dogs!

Below are some highlights of the response from EARS volunteer Heidi Ziegler of Los Angeles.

On Friday morning, vet checks for all animals were the priority for the day. Two veterinarians and a number of assistants worked throughout the day and volunteers lined up with animals outside the exam room. Notable cases included animals with untreated cataracts, mange and ear infections. One beautiful dog had an ear infection so advanced that it damaged his inner ear. In addition, his feet had urine burns and his nails were in need of a major trimming.

The Kern County Fairgrounds provided an air-conditioned building for the temporary shelter, so humans and animals stayed cool inside while the temperature outside reached 107 at noon.

Volunteers cleaned kennels, provided food and water, and assisted with grooming and exercise. Some dogs' coats were so matted that volunteers spent several hours cutting and shaving. At times, the situation was comical and provided the volunteers a chance to laugh with each other.

Many of the dogs had never been on a leash before -- so we followed the protocol of walking them on a double leash.

Some of the early volunteer favorites were a black-and-white spotted dog, a poodle, a timid Russian blue and regal grey-and-white cat, the Great Pyrenees and the small dogs with so much personality!

Photos: One of the nearly 200 animals rescued in Kern County last week; EARS volunteer Ida Noack of Burbank, California waits for vet care with a patient; EARS volunteers give a friendly dog some much-needed grooming, and get a few laughs in the process; EARS volunteer Sharon Covington of Sacramento and Lynn Frischmann of Santa Cruz, a UAN and HSUS volunteer) practice the two-leash protocol; this dog is ready for playtime.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Teaming up to help animals in Southern California

Submitted by EARS volunteer Heidi Ziegler of Los Angeles, California

Unlike natural disasters, in seizure cases, there is typically more time to plan and set up the shelter. On Wednesday and Thursday, July 7 and 8, volunteers with United Animal Nations' Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) arrived in Kern County, California from points north and south to do just that.

UAN was asked to provide critical temporary sheltering support for nearly 200 animals removed from Chihuahua Rescue in Tehachapi on Thursday after the organization’s director was evicted from the property and no longer had a facility to house the animals. (Read more in this Bakersfield Californian article.)

With excellent reports from the field on the different types of animals that were being found, EARS volunteers prepared for dogs from teacup Chihuahuas to Great Pyrenees, domesticated cats, chickens, doves, rabbits and mice.

In the late afternoon, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) pulled up with the first truckload of 99 dogs, 24 chickens and 7 cats. The careful process of unloading the animals and placing them in their assigned locations -- general dog population, isolation (for dogs with mange), medical, cat room, small animal corner, chicken wall, or the special handling (e.g., go slow or extra caution) -- continued until 7 p.m. About an hour later, the second truck with 30 or so large dogs and the remaining small animals arrived.

The majority of the animals were in good shape while some needed immediate medical care. Two local veterinarians volunteered their time at both the seizure site and the temporary shelter to see that the animals' immediate needs were met. It was gratifying to see representatives from multiple agencies, paid and volunteer, work together so seamlessly.

Food and supplies were donated to the effort by PetSmart Charities® through its Emergency Relief Waggin' program. Many of supplies were previously donated to Kern County Animal Control back in May in support of a similar case in which UAN sheltered more than 100 cats removed from an overrun property. The current response in Tehachapi is similar in that the owner had started a sanctuary and eventually became overwhelmed by the number of animals she had collected.

Volunteers rested comfortably overnight at a nearby hotel. Today the team will continue to evaluate the animals in preparation for transporting them to partner shelters and rescue groups later this weekend.

Here are more highlights from the day the animals arrived at the temporary shelter, from EARS volunteer Norma Rodriguez of Bellflower, California.

Eyes welled with tears of joy and hearts raced when following a day of waiting, the big rig from HSUS rolled in with “our” dogs! Such an awesome sight! We clapped, we waved, and we yelled and cheered for the dogs arriving on their first step on their journey to new homes. EARS and HSUS volunteers stood side by side in a collaborative effort to help animals in crisis. Soon we formed a “receiving” line to transfer the dogs from the HSUS rig to their clean, spacious kennels.

Janell Matthies (UAN Emergency Services Manager) and I stood inside the truck, she calling out “party for three,” meaning three dogs need three volunteers to carry them and one volunteer to carry the paperwork! Leashes changed hands as “red shirts” and “yellow shirts” raced up and down the ramp into and out of the truck. Faster than you can imagine, dogs were settled into their kennels and having a cool, refreshing drink of water. By the way, did I mention that the temperature outside the truck and building was 105?

It was getting late in the day, so after settling the dogs, chickens, cats, doves, mice and rats in their designated areas we went about the business of feeding and getting to know them. Land sharks? A few. Shy ones? A few. BIG ones? Oh yes. Chihuahuas? By the dozen! Crowing roosters? Music to the ears. Clucking hens? For sure! Cooing doves? I think those were Janell’s favorite as she made each one a little nest out of newspaper creatively fashioned. (By the way Janell, we learned to do that in a high school home nursing class only we called them “bedpans!”)

Over the next few days the response proceeded normally, with animals receiving “vet checks,” treatments, grooming and lots of loving from some very special volunteers. We had first-timers, and old-timers. (Me?) And, of course, the dedicated ones who have responded a number of times. An amazing bunch of people, each with a special talent or gift for the animals. One “newbie,” Elaine Hendricks, stands out for her excellent skill as a veterinary nurse as well as her kind and gentle way with the animals. Jody Kruger made me smile every time I saw her red EARS t-shirt covered with de-worming meds. I’m always inspired by tiny, petite Lynn Frischmann’s ability to handle the big dogs. Did I mention that some of the Great Pyrenees weighed in at well over 150 lbs?

Another volunteer, Diane Cunningham, traveled to Bakersfield from San Jose via train, bus and hotel shuttle to be able to help the animals. Such a hard worker! Karen Leyva and Barbara Forte developed skills in bathing and “comb outs” when tagged to pretty up our doggie guests. We chose the right people for that job as the results were wonderful. I could go on and on about our amazing red shirts, naming names, and about the amazing HSUS volunteers who all made this a truly successful and joyful deployment, but then I would still be writing this tomorrow! One thing is for sure, for the “newbies” this was a life-altering experience in that they all want to deploy again to help more animals. For us “old timers,” well, as always, we’re ready. Just call.

Photos: A rescued dog enjoys the safety and comfort of the temporary shelter; 24 chickens were among the animals removed from the Tehachapi property on July 8; EARS volunteers unload animals upon their arrival at the temporary shelter; EARS volunteer Brenda Kaplan of Novato, California, performs quality control on a newly erected kennel; the HSUS and UAN team; EARS volunteer Karen Leyva of Torrance, California grooms one of the rescued dogs; EARS volunteer Jody Kruger (right) of San Jose models her t-shirt adorned with de-worming meds; EARS volunteer Elaine Hendricks of Whittier, California gets a dog settled into the temporary shelter.

Photos courtesy Heidi Ziegler and Norma Rodriguez.

Friday, July 2, 2010

An amazing journey

Submitted by UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies

As of Monday, the last of the horses rescued in Wayne County, West Virginia were on their way to the beginning of their new lives. More than half of the horses were adopted out locally to beautiful, lush, huge farms right in the area of the temporary shelter. The remaining 21 horses were transported to Paradise Stables in Maryland. This is an amazing boarding facility, and the owners have agreed to care for the horses until they are adopted. Many of them were already spoken for even prior to transport, and upon unloading, many of the staff fell hard for some of our gorgeous friends. (Watch a video of the horses' arrival in Maryland from The Humane Society of the United States.)

Three of our lucky girls (Eve aka Cemetery Girl, a tall, gorgeous, black mare in the back pasture; Spinner, an Appaloosa who was videotaped going stir crazy and spinning in her stall on the property; and Karla aka Joan) got to go to Black Beauty Rescue in Texas, one of the nation’s best sanctuaries.

This was an amazing journey. Starting even before the horses got there, honing our shelter remodeling skills to a science; to seizure day and seeing the horribly depressed states they were in; to watching their bodies and personalities blossom was something I will never forget. With continuous hay, fresh water, shade, loving attention and even sawdust to roll in, they probably thought they were in heaven. The hard work, sweat, tears, bruises and aching muscles were worth every minute to see these shiny, happy beauties get loaded up to go home with their new, adoring families.

I, of course, was smitten with quite a few of them. Marlie Girl, in sick bay (one of the most emaciated who came to us after a week of intensive care at the emergency clinic) really stole my heart. Everyday when I mucked her stall she would follow me around thinking I must be hiding treats in one of my pockets (OK, most of the time I was). She would then stand behind me and put the full weight of her head on my shoulder as I cleaned her stalls. Apparently I needed a little more resistance in my daily workout to get the full effect. I couldn’t complain, it was such sweet and trusting behavior. After all she’d been through, she still just loved everybody. If only horses could be considered carry-on luggage….

I thank each and every Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteer from the bottom of my heart for all of their grueling hard work and compassion for these horses. When they left our shelter, they were completely different animals. They were always beautiful, but now it shines through in their coats, their stride and most of all, their eyes.

Again thank you, thank you all for your work, your kind words, your donations and your support. You make it possible for all of us to continue on caring for all of the animals in crisis out there who need us. I’ll leave you with one final sentiment, as a volunteer recently wrote: "May you never see the Mothman on a bridge."