Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Looking For A Home: Rickon




Guest Blogger: Lisa Bartel

All of the adoptable animals at Animal Friends are wonderful, potential pets for the right family. One of those dogs is Rickon: a dog who stole my heart. 

He came to Animal Friends as a puppy with two of his litter mates. They were each adopted, but Rickon was brought back due to his high energy. His family was growing and didn’t have the time to give Rickon the adequate amount of exercise he needed. Although not much is known about Rickon’s background, we can see that something has made him fearful.



You will fall in love with Rickon at first sight, but it may take a few slow meetings for him to fall in love with you. Once he does, he will love you forever. I am lucky to have the opportunity to spend time with Rickon each week as I volunteer at Animal Friends. I love to play with him in the play yards, do mental enrichment activities, walk around the campus and just snuggle and nap with him in his room or the backseat of my car. Oh, did I mention he loves car rides?!



After a year of being around Rickon, I knew that I – along with my husband and our dog – wanted to explore the option of fostering Rickon with the hopes of adopting. With the help of his other volunteer friends, we did meet-and-greets and walks together until everyone was comfortable. We brought Rickon home.



Upon bringing Rickon into our home, we learned very quickly that our dog needs to be the only dog in our home. Unfortunately, there was no way for us to adopt Rickon despite him being a wonderful dog in the home. He is very inquisitive and explorative. He also likes most other dogs. He enjoys one-on-one play and is a part of the weekly play groups at Animal Friends. He is smart and responsive to training with positive reinforcement.  Rickon is housebroken and will lead you to the door when he needs to go outside. Rickon has a healthy chewing habit but knows what and what not to chew. In my home, he only chewed the toys we gave him and never on anything else. He respected the boundaries we set up for him with baby gates and never tried to jump over them. Rickon really seemed to love my husband and this demonstrates his potential for making new friends. 



Rickon responded well to a daily schedule that included a walk, outside time, mental enrichment, training, naptime, and just being around us when we watched TV – Rickon snores when he sleeps and it’s adorable!

We know that Rickon will need to be in an adult-only home, possibly with another dog. This home must be patient and provide the mental and physical exercise and positive reinforcement that he requires. Rickon has some fear issues but once you get to know him you will be able to read his body language to know when he is feeling stressed and can help him to remain calm. 



The volunteers at Animal Friends have been worked tirelessly with Rickon on coping mechanisms to help with his anxiety and fear, loose-leash walking and how to go to his mat. All of these activities, as well as the mental enrichment games Rickon enjoys, can be shown to you when you meet Rickon.  We encourage you to continue these activities at home. 


If you have a patient, loving, adult-only home with time to give, please come meet Rickon. If you are looking for a companion that will love you unconditionally, consider making Rickon a part of your family. 

I look forward to each and every time that I see him. I wish I could have adopted him because he holds a special place in my heart.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Animal Friends Home-to-Home Adoption Program presents: Abby!



Abby is a beautiful one-year-old Tortie who had a rough start in life.  She was found as a stray, emaciated and with an enormous gaping wound on her side.  She has recovered well and turned into a friendly, playful cat. 

 She loves the cat teaser and to look out the window and cuddle in bed.  She tolerates my friendly dog. However she does not like other cats and would need a home where she would be the only feline.  She would probably do best in a home with older children.  

Abby is spayed, FIV and feline leukemia negative, and up-to-date on all of her shots.  Please contact Meg at Megaen@yahoo.com for more information.  

Animal Friends' Home-to-Home Adoption Program presents: Cooper



Cooper is a wonderful, 4 year old Beagle who is looking for a forever home. He would prefer to be with older children and adults

Somewhere with lots of room to run and just be a Beagle would be awesome!
As you can see from his photo he loves to ride in the car!  He is also a bit of a lap dog and loves to be with his "person". 


I will miss him terribly, but our home is just not the best place right now with small children.  He does socialize well with other dogs and likes to go to the dog park, but will most likely chase your cat if you have one.  

He really is a sweetheart and I know whomever ends up adopting him will love him just as much as I do.


If you can help Cooper find a forever home, please contact Jennifer at jenj8866@gmail.com.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Animal Friends Offers Free Straw for Outdoor Pets and Feral Cats



To prepare for falling temperatures, Animal Friends is hosting its annual Straw Drop; during which free bags of straw are offered to anyone who owns or cares for outdoor animals – including feral cats.

While Animal Friends encourages pet owners to make pets part of the family and keep them inside the home, we recognize that in reality many animals live outside. Animal Friends urges those caretakers to obey the law by ensuring that outdoor animals have access to proper food and warm, dry shelters. Blankets, towels and pillows can retain moisture and freeze, which is why straw is the best insulation against the cold and wet weather conditions.


In addition to keeping outdoor animals’ living spaces insulated, there are other best practices pet owners should abide by, including:


• Using a car mat or rug as a flap over a doghouse door to keep the inside free of wind, snow and rain.
• Examining shelters carefully – and often – to ensure that there are no cracks or holes that will prevent the structure from keeping the animal safe.
• Taking extra care to provide adequate amounts of drinkable water and food at all times during freezing temperatures.
• Inspecting your pet's paws, ears and tail frequently for signs of frostbite – a very common occurrence. If you suspect frostbite, your pet will need to see a veterinarian immediately.
• Monitoring your dog's tether to ensure it is not frozen to the ground or tangled. A tangled, too-short chain can cost your pet his or her life in bad weather.


Animal Friends is located at 562 Camp Horne Rd. in the North Hills – just a half of a mile west of Exit 8 off of Interstate 279. Free bags of straw can be picked up at Animal Friends seven days a week. On a limited basis, straw delivery may be available for those without transportation. For more information, call Animal Friends at 412.847.7000 or visit www.ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Animal Friends Home-To-Home Adoptions Program presents: Brenckles!





We met Brenckles at an area business.  

She had actually been dumped at a farm during the winter (she was found in a snow drift and lost half her tail to frostbite) but hitched a ride on a delivery truck, hopping off at the area business.  

Shortly after arriving, she gave birth to kittens – kittens she adores.  Brenckles is incredibly loving and affectionate with her two kittens and with people but… She is an alpha cat and doesn’t deal well with other adult cats.

Brenckles is about 18 months old, has a medium length coat, and her coloring is light brown and white.  Her eyes are golden and she has a wonderful, outgoing personality!

If you can help Brenckles find a forever home, please contact Belinda at bshlapak@me.com.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Animal Friends' Home-to-Home Adoption Program presents: Sidney



Unfortunately, we need to re-home this beautiful cat, Sidney. He cam to our family when my Mother-in-Law passed away suddenly in September 2013.  She raised him as an only cat with a Golden Retriever mix so he is too rough for our kitties.  He gets along great with our 3-year-old daughter, (who can also be a little rough sometimes!)

Sidney is 5-years-old, neutered, has perfect litter box manners and is in good health. We flea treated him and gave him a "lion" haircut for his comfort.

We tried to wait so the kitties could work out their differences, but they cannot.  He deserves to be happy again. We will wait for his perfect family as an only kitty with an indoor only situation.

If you can help Sidney find a forever home, please contact Danielle at danicat602@msn.com.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Animal Friends' Home-to-Home Adoptions Program presents: Olivia and Tucker!



Olivia is 9-10 years old, weighs 70 lbs and is a Rhodesian Ridgeback Mix. Olivia is spayed.




Tucker is 6 years old, weighs 70 lbs and is a Shepherd/Boxer mix. Tucker is neutered.

Olivia has had quite the troubled past, but as we say "has nine lives." By the time she came into the home at the age of 2, she had been adopted and surrendered back to the shelter twice. We believe that she was abused by an older gentleman and those memories still haunt her today. She still cowers when a hand is lifted and still is leery of older men. It was decided she needed a friend, so Tucker was adopted. She still holds on to her submissive personality. As if her puppyhood wasn't traumatic enough, she started suffering with anal gland problems. The vet had tried everything he could think of, medicine, injections and exhausted all treatments. The only option left was to put Olivia down. The papers were signed and goodbyes said... then the vet offered one last experimental option. He offered no promises and had no experience with the surgery, but offered to try to remove her anal glands. There was nothing to lose, so the go-ahead was given. She has since recovered and is no longer under treatment. She licks obsessively, your hand, a part of your back exposed from a lifted shirt, the air, anything and everything. Olivia is happy to go for a ride in the car, doesn't have the energy of her brother, but keeps up on walks, loves to chew a good bone or lounge in the shade.  She doesn't pay too much attention to toys unless she is trying to steal it from her brother and taunt him with it. She will do anything for food, but knows better than to beg for food from us. She has struggled to contain her excitement and often jumps on us and guests. While she is 9-10 and has slowed down, she is absolutely determined and can keep up when she wants to.




Tucker was added to the house to keep Olivia company. He was adopted as a puppy. His pretty eyes and big ears made it impossible to leave him at the shelter. Tucker is the energizer bunny, you can walk him for 4 miles, bring him home and he still wants to run and play. This energy hasn't always been his friend... while wrestling with his new sister, she jumped on him and he broke his leg. He didn't let the huge cast slow him down. Six years later, he still is as active as ever...clumsy too. Somehow he cut his tail and he couldn't stop wagging it long enough for it to heal. As soon as it looked like it was improving, he would whack it off of something else and split it back open. It got to the point where he needed surgery to cut a few inches off. Still to this day, he can't seem to stop his tail from wagging uncontrollably. Tucker is very high energy and very anxious. It takes awhile to convince him to sit still or relax and he is always worried that he might miss out on some of the action. He always has a toy hanging from his mouth... it seems to serve as his security blanket. He loves catching ball, but struggles with the concept of bringing it back.  He is happiest riding in the car, chewing on bones, running around and playing. He is quite known to pick on his sister and will whack her in the face when she is minding her own business... no worries, she always retaliates. He is less motivated by food and easily distracted. While it is very rare to hear him bark, he is very well known for talking. He whines and huffs and puffs and grumbles like an old man when he doesn't get his way or wants your attention. He also suffers from "selective hearing" even with his enormous ears. 


We are looking to find a new home where they can stay together. They both take Prozac daily to help with their anxiety and high energy. In the right home, with room to run/play and enough exercise, we believe they could be taken off of Prozac. 


So why do they need a new home? Up until recently, the dogs were able to go to a relative’s house during the day, but that relative is no longer physically able to watch them anymore. My allergies prevent them from having access to the majority of the house.  They have limited access to the game room which has to be vacuumed daily to keep the allergens at a minimum.  With the loss of day time care and my inability to be around them, my boyfriend has ended up being their sole caregiver.  The dogs end up spending the majority of their days in "their room" aka part of the garage. Their lifestyle has changed drastically and it is to the point where it isn't really fair to anybody to keep them. They don't get the time, exercise or attention that they need and we haven’t been able to find a way to make my allergies tolerable with them in the house. 


If you can help Olivia and Tucker find a new home, please contact Katie at katiescheuring@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Volunteering at Animal Friends: Rebecca



Guest Blogger: Rebecca Torchia

When I was 13, the only present I wanted for my birthday was to volunteer at Animal Friends.  By the time I was 17, I was only signing up to volunteer because I needed hours for National Honors Society.  Once I finished training and started to collect my desperately needed hours, I began to remember why I’d wanted to volunteer so badly as a 13 year old. You get to sit in a room full of cats and call it community service. To me, it’s more like therapy.

Many people today live very stress-filled lives.  There is a lot of pressure to do many different things, and be successful at all of them. We have different stressors in our lives.  They may come from school, work or even our personal lives.  The stress itself is not always the problem, but rather the way in which we handle it.  While some people spend hours staring at a computer or television screen to forget their stress, it is not always the healthiest coping method.  Some people go to the gym. Some people go to a therapist.  I play with cats.

Animals are renowned for being therapeutic.  For many years, dogs and cats have been taken to hospitals in order to help patients relax and recover.  The good news is that you don’t need to be hospitalized in order to receive a little TLC from a furry friend.  By volunteering at Animal Friends, you can find all the relaxation you need.  

Now that I’m in college, I no longer need to do community service.  No one is keeping track of how many hours I spend petting cats, however I still find myself making the trip down to Camp Horne Road whenever I have the time.  Volunteering with the cats there – petting them, playing with them, even cleaning up after them – allows me to relax and helps me deal with whatever may be stressing me out.  My 17 year old self may be shocked at my willingness to volunteer so often, but 13 year old me would be proud. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Many Wonders of Coconut Oil




By the staff at Petagogy

Coconut oil has many uses—as a cooking oil, skin moisturizer, hair conditioner, the list goes on and on—but did you know that it can also be beneficial for your pets? 

Most people know that adding fish oils, like salmon, sardine and Pollock, to your pet’s food is beneficial for your pet’s coat, skin and joints. However, incorporating coconut oil, both topically and orally, can offer even more health benefits ranging from skin and coat health to preventing yeast infections to boosting your pet’s immune system. 

Coconut oil is comprised of mostly saturated fats, specifically Medium Chain Triglycerides.  The fats in coconut oil are easily used by your pet’s body for fuel and energy, so ingesting these beneficial fats can boost performance and help promote weight loss. In dogs, coconut oil helps balance the thyroid, which can help overweight dogs lose weight and help sedentary dogs feel energetic. Coconut oil also has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. If that’s not enough, coconut oil improves skin and coat, improves digestion and nutrient absorption and reduces allergic reactions.

The wonders of coconut oil are many:

Healthy Skin
•    Helps soothe itchy skin
•    Promotes a shiny, smooth coat
•    Can prevent matting by combing it through fur
•    Treats and prevents yeast infections
•    Disinfects and promotes quick healing with cuts, hot spots, bites and stings

Healthy Belly
•    Helps alleviate bad breath
•    Helps prevent hairballs
•    Aids in overall digestive health

Healthy body
•    Anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties help prevent infections and illness
•    Increases energy and aids in weight loss
•    Promotes healthy thyroid function
•    Lessens inflammation from arthritis and similar ailments
•    Helps control diabetes

With so many potential benefits, try incorporating coconut oil into your pet’s health and food regimen. You can simply add virgin coconut oil to your pet’s meals. The recommended amount to give your pets is 1 teaspoon per 10 lbs of body weight, or 1 tablespoon per 30 lbs of body weight. Too much coconut oil can actually damage your pet’s pancreas, so it’s best to give it in small doses (about a quarter of the recommended amount), gradually building up your pet’s tolerance overtime.

Any virgin coconut oil from a health food store can be fed to pets, but we love Organic Virgin Coconut Oil by both CocoTherapy and K9 Granola Factory. Both also have chips that can be given to pets as treats or sprinkled over food. Additionally, Cocolicious by Party Animal is a wet canned dog food that features coconut oil as a main ingredient, making it easy to incorporate into your dog’s diet. 



Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies. Petagogy is located at 5880 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Learn more at www.petagogypgh.com.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Service, Comfort or Therapy: What's The Difference?




By: Kaitlin Hilinski, Therapeutic Services Program Assistant

You’ve probably seen a dog at work out in the world – the grocery store, library, or maybe in an office building or school.  These dogs provide vital assistance to the humans around them, but how can you tell what kind of work the dog is doing?  The truth is, there’s no easy answer.  There are dozens of jobs that a dog may be doing.  For the purpose of this blog post, let’s focus on the three most common;

Service Dogs
A service dog has been trained to perform at least one major task for people with physical disabilities or psychiatric diagnosis.  There are a wide variety of service dogs, including but not limited to; seeing-eye dogs, hearing assistance, seizure alert, insulin or allergy detection, autism spectrum support, and balance or mobility aid.  When a service dog is with his or her person, the dog is working and should not be interrupted.  Many of them will wear a vest or harness that says something along the lines of “Please don’t pet me, I am working.”

These dogs are entitled to accompany their human anywhere that a non-disabled person can go.  They are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The dogs are essential for their person’s safety and wellbeing, just like a wheelchair or hearing aid. Currently, only dogs are covered by the ADA’s legal protections.

Emotional Support or Comfort Animals
A doctor may prescribe an animal for an individual who suffers from conditions such as depression or anxiety.  Sometimes these animals are helpful only in certain triggering situations, like travel or in crowds.  In other cases, the animals are simply pets in the home who help their owners cope with the stressors of life. It’s important to note that a comfort animal does not have to be a dog.  Cats, rabbits, birds, and even pigs have been recorded as comfort animals.  

It is also important to note that comfort animals do not have the same legal protections as service animals.  Restaurants and public buildings are not required to allow a comfort animal onto the premises.  However, under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, a rental property can be required to lift a “no pets” policy in the cases of comfort animals (and service animals too, of course).  Usually, all it takes is a letter from a doctor stating that the human has a medical condition for which the animal is a prescription aide.

Comfort animals are rarely trained as a service animal. However, they may be considered to be “working” when in public with their owner.   As with any unknown animal, the best course of action is to ask the owner for permission before petting or interacting with the animal in any way.

Therapy Animals
A therapy animal has been assessed and deemed to be exceptionally friendly, engaging, and tolerant.  They have been trained to have excellent obedience skills, and are almost always accompanied by a handler who facilitates their work with the public.  There are several different ways that therapy animals work, but most visits places like hospitals, nursing homes, college campuses, schools, and other facilities to lift spirits and help humans de-stress.  Occasionally an animal may live in a facility to provide comfort to the patients and staff or volunteers.

While these animals also fulfill an important and heart-warming role in the community, they are offered no legal protections.  Your therapy dog may not be allowed into the post office or bank with you, despite their training and certification. 





Here at Animal Friends, we offer the Therapets certification program to identify, train, and certify therapy dogs, cats, and rabbits.  We’re working on expanding to other animals in the future too!

If you think your pet has the potential to be a therapy animal, please contact us at 412.847.7081 or fill out this questionnaire: Pre-Interview Questionnaire
Our next round of dog classes begins at the end of August, but cat and rabbit assessments can be scheduled individually.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post – please consider sharing it so more people can learn the difference between service, comfort, and therapy animals.
More information about these distinctions can be found online at the National Service Animal Registry http://www.nsarco.com/ 


I’d also like to thank one of our fabulous trainers and volunteers, Anita DeBiase for doing the initial research that inspired this writing! 

Do you have experience with a service, comfort, or therapy animal?  Please tell us about it in the comments!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Petagogy Blog: Pet Foods for All Ages and Stages



By the Staff at Petagogy

 I have a 10-pound miniature poodle puppy and a 60-pound lab that’s 5 years old. Can I feed them the same food?

My cat just turned 9. Do I need to switch him to a senior food?

My dog is overweight. Should she eat a “diet” food?

We get questions like these every day! There are so many pet food choices out there and the differences are not just the types of protein used. Some foods are good for puppies, some for seniors, so what is the difference between puppy or kitten, adult, senior, small or large breed, weight control, etc. pet foods? 

Let’s start by looking at foods labeled puppy or kitten, adult and “all life stages.” These foods labels are determined by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), a private advisory board made up of representatives from state, federal and foreign government agencies who regulate animal feeds in the US and develop uniform definitions for pet food ingredients and labeling. Pet foods that follow AAFCO guidelines can call their foods “complete and balanced.” There are currently only two standard nutrition profiles AAFCO uses to label pet food: (1) “Growth and Reproduction,” for puppies/kittens and pregnant or nursing females; and (2) “Adult Maintenance,” for adult, or fully grown, animals. On each bag or can of food there is an AAFCO statement that tells consumers which profile the food meets. If the food is labeled “All Life Stages” it means it meets the stricter guidelines for “Growth and Reproduction” and can be fed to pets of any age. 

How Does AAFCO Determine Food Ratings?
There are two ways pet foods can get their AAFCO rating: (1) a food analysis, which is a lab test to ensure the food contains the 36 essential nutrients that AAFCO considers to be essential for “complete and balanced” nutrition (although these tests do not evaluate the quality of the nutrients); and (2) a food trial, which consists of feeding the food to a certain number of animals (sometimes as few as eight animals) for 26 weeks and monitoring the animals’ health before, during and after the trial. Foods that do not meet AAFCO requirements are labeled “supplemental” or for “intermittent feeding.” 

What about the Other Categories?

There are no regulations or guidelines for large breed, small breed, senior or weight control foods. Large breed foods tend to have less protein and fat to help balance the calcium to phosphorus levels. The correct ratio will help with proper bone growth and body weight, because if a large breed puppy grows to fast it may result in abnormal joint development, which can lead to arthritis. Small breed dogs have a high metabolic rate and burn through food rather quickly. Couple that with their tiny little bellies, they tend to need a calorie-dense food to get the fuel their bodies need.

Senior dogs tend to be less active so their foods are often lower in calories and higher in fiber than the adult varieties. However, if your senior dog or cat still loves his walks or playtime, there is no need to switch to a food labeled for “senior” animals. Some brands also advertise glucosamine, Omega 3s, probiotics or other supplements to boost the food’s nutrients--just be aware that the amount added is usually too minimal to do any good, so additional supplementation is needed for joint, skin and digestive health. 

So What Does this All Mean?
“The food says it’s ‘complete and balanced’ for my pet, so that’s all I need to know, right?” Unfortunately no. The AAFCO statement that the food is “complete and balanced” has led some pet owners to believe that they can feed the same food for the lifetime of their pet. Unfortunately, this is a common way some animals develop food allergies. Ideally, pet owners should rotate both proteins and brands in order to give their pets a fuller nutritional experience.

More importantly, not all nutrients are created equal. A food that is labeled “complete and balanced” by AAFCO may meet the protein standard for Adult Maintenance foods by filling the food with proteins from cheaper plant sources, which are not as biologically appropriate for carnivorous animals like cats and dogs.

So What Should I Do?
You need to look at more than just the AAFCO statement, or the fact that the food is for puppies, seniors, etc., when choosing a pet food. Look at the ingredients list and the guaranteed analysis to make sure the food contains appropriate levels of animal proteins and no cheap filler ingredients (like corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or flavors, preservatives and byproducts). It’s also important to know where the pet food company manufactures its food and sources its ingredients from. Independent pet stores (like Petagogy) usually know a lot about the foods they carry and can help you choose a food that best suits your pet’s needs.




Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies. Petagogy is located at 5880 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Learn more at www.petagogypgh.com.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reunited: Rusty and Julia

Guest Blogger: Julia S.

This was my dog, Rusty.



In November 2010, I was in Florida with my mom when my dad took Rusty to the Indiana County Animal Shelter and didn't tell me for almost a week. I visited him twice. Being a minor at the time, I couldn't save him.

Almost 4 years later, after endlessly searching Petfinder, I put an ad in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette saying that I lost my dog and that I knew he had been adopted from Animal Friends (thanks to Petfinder). 

Animal Friends called me and in two weeks it was confirmed that we knew where Rusty was! I was put in touch with his new mommy, Barb, and we decided to meet.


1,317 days after he was given away and 1,303 days since I last laid eyes on him, I got to meet him again. Rusty was always super hyper when he met new people. But when I fell on my knees after seeing him, he came up to me, sat down, and gently kissed my nose. He knew my voice. We all had a great day together. 


I just want to say thank you for helping me become a part of his life again. Rusty (now Quincy) means everything to me and I can never thank you and his new family enough.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Black Cats ARE Lucky: Zelda



By: Jeff Geissler

It was supposed to be a lighthearted story about black cats and why they're such a part of Halloween folklore. But the story soon grew serious, and I ended up writing the article more as a warning than entertainment.

I was working for a newspaper in Myrtle Beach S.C. We had a special Halloween section planned for the October 31st edition, including information on neighborhood gatherings, shopping specials, bar celebrations and a few stories about the history of the holiday. Even though I wasn't a cat lover at the time, I decided to take the black cat assignment. I thought it'd be easy, but it ended up changing my life.

For my first interview, I headed to the local Humane Society. I had a good relationship with them because I frequently photographed the weekly POWs (Pets of the Week) for the paper. Plus, I was a volunteer dog walker on my days off.

"Black cats? This time of year? No way," I remember the manager saying. 


"To be honest, we don't adopt them out all in October. And sadly, that's when people ask for them," she said slightly choked up. "Unfortunately, we have a hard time adopting them out any other time of the year. It's that bad luck stigma they carry."

When I asked why she didn't adopt them out in October, she said the police might have a better answer. I headed to the station and talked with a few officers who told me stories of the horrific scenes they had worked in the past. On more than a few occasions, they were called to spots in the woods where evidence of rituals, or other sick types of gatherings, had taken place. Sadly, the evidence usually included the remains of one or more black cats.

I even found some locals who had concerns about the holiday. I talked to a family who had 3 black cats that were very protective of their home and pets around Halloween.

So, I wrote the story, mostly as a warning to all who have black cats but also as encouragement to all who love cats to adopt a black cat.
 

Coincidentally, this came at a time when I was feeling rather lonely in my bachelor life. Being a news photographer provided hectic and unpredictable hours - no time for a dog. But my friends suggested that perhaps a cat might fit into my schedule a little better. 

So I went back to the Humane Society and asked for a black cat. They took me into the cat room and pointed into a kennel where a tiny black ball with large glowing yellow/green eyes was cowering in the corner. I reached in, pulled her out, and was promptly swatted in the face.

I immediately adopted her.

I rarely saw her for the first couple weeks as she hid under my couch. She soon warmed to me and began to venture out from the couch. Finally, one night while I was lying in bed, she jumped to my pillow and gave me The Head Butt. Any cat owner knows that's the ultimate gesture of friendship and love.

A year later, Zelda and I left Myrtle Beach for New York City. A few years after that, we traveled across country to live in San Francisco, then we trekked to live in Santa Fe. About three years ago, we moved back to my home town of Pittsburgh.

And after 17 years together, I had to say goodbye to my sweet pea a couple winters ago.

She was my best friend, my confidant, and a constant in my life. I could write a book about our adventures together. She was the perfect creature who brought me nothing but happiness and joy.

Was I lucky that I adopted a black cat? Absolutely, unequivocal, and with-out-a-doubt YES!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Rabbit Care Workshop: Testimonial



We've had rabbits for ten years and thought we knew almost everything about their behaviors and how to care for them. The rabbit care workshop at Animal Friends proved us very wrong. We have a finicky little mini lop named Gabriella whose behavior had us seeking help. Mary, Tammy, and Nathan taught us new ways to train her and referred us to an excellent veterinarian. We even got some tips on how to repair chewed carpeting! 

They told us stories about rabbits they've lived with that made us realize rabbits are so much smarter than most people think. Bunnies are unique and sometimes difficult to understand, but with the right knowledge owners can see how intelligent and affectionate they really are. I think all rabbit owners should attend this workshop. You will definitely learn something new and your bunny will thank you!

- Doug & Julie

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Animal Friends' Home-To-Home adoption program presents: Rocko!





Rocko has been with us since he was an adopted puppy. He's 5 years old, born 4th of July! He is a good, loyal, family dog. We believe he is a plott hound with possibly some lab in him. He loves to run and be on the outskirts of any park. He loves people and exercise. We used to ride bikes with him at our side. We now have a newborn and cannot regretfully give him the attention and exercise he needs. 

Rocko would be great with an outdoorsy family and/or one with lots of land for him to run freely on. He is good with kids after warming up and great with cats--has always lived with one.  Rocko would like to be the only dog in the home, however. Rocko also has Separation Anxiety Disorder. 

We hope we can find him an even better home for his temperament and one where he can get lots of attention!

If you can help Rocko find a home, please contact


Elisa Akpo-Esambe