For the Love of Shelter Dogs*

Yard Sale and Adoption Fair
June 8, 2009, 3:00 am
Filed under: Adoption Fair

This weekend was the shelter’s second yard sale. For a couple weeks we’d been asking for donations from the public of items we could sell, so that all the money we raised could be donated to the shelter. We got a lot of donations, from clothes to CDs to sheets to various household items.

On Friday night, the day before the yard sale, Mariamme and I went over to help organize all the donations and get everything ready to set out. Right off the bat I was assigned the task of examining and “sniffing” the sheets, blankets, towels, and other made-out-of-fabric donations. I wasn’t too thrilled about this, but I did it anyway. Most things didn’t smell worse than would be expected for a yard sale. Occasionally I came across something horrendous, usually smelling of cat pee or sweat or feet, but most of the donations were great. There was one blanket that will haunt my dreams, though. It was at the very bottom of an otherwise clean and stink-free bag. I pulled it out by the corner, just in case. It unfolded to reveal dried vomit, probably from a cat. I threw it and squealed the very stereotypical “girly scream” and backed up against the wall. The woman, Carolyn, who donated her yard for the sale and Mariamme both looked over, saw the vomit, and squealed along with me. Now, we’re not a very squealy bunch, unless there’s something with thousands of legs skittering around our feet. Carolyn said “Yeah, we’re throwing that one away.” I squished myself to the wall more and said “I don’t want to touch it again!” She came over and wrapped it in the plastic garbage bag and carried it over to her trash can. We had to ask, though, who would donate something covered in vomit (pet vomit or otherwise) to a fund-raising yard sale? I can only hope they didn’t know it was there, though I’m not sure how they could have missed it.

That was the most disgusting find of the night, but there were a couple of interesting ones. Someone donated a green leather jacket that looked like either a bad biker’s jacket with a weird dye-job or something from a Michael Jackson music video. Of course, I couldn’t resist trying it on. It looked pretty unworn, so I figured it was probably safe. It fit me pretty well, but I don’t think I’d have any use for a green leather biker-meets-Michael-Jackson jacket.

Someone donated a pair of silver-sequined shorts that, I’ll admit, I was very tempted to buy. I resisted, though. The last thing I need is silver-sequined shorts. For one, I don’t wear shorts, and for two, I don’t think I’d ever wear any pants or shorts that were covered in sequins. But then again, styles do change. They could come in handy some day in the hopefully very distant future.

Mariamme and I left Carolyn’s house around 10:00. We got to her house around 7:30 the next morning to help set up all the stuff. The yard sale wasn’t supposed to start until 8:00, but when we got there her driveway and garage were packed with yard-salers. We asked her and one of TPTB from the shelter how early people started coming, and they told us the first person showed up around 6:45.

Mariamme and I got to work unloading items from the shelter van. Apparently someone who works with Pier 1, maybe at a warehouse or something, donated a whole bunch of stuff. We had one of those mini-storage-places full of donated Pier 1 goodies. Mariamme and I unloaded the truck and watched the stuff get snatched up within a few minutes. We thought that was the end of it and whoever came later was just out of luck and missed the really great stuff, but another van-load came that we unpacked and set out. The second batch disappeared really quickly as well. Unfortunately we had to leave before the third truck load arrived. We had signed up to lead an adoption fair and had to grab a quick lunch and head over to pick up the dogs.

We ended up bringing Zed, a lab/retriever/pit mix, and Tess, a shepherd mix. They were great dogs to have. Zed is a little shy, so he likes to sit quietly near you or flop himself across your lap. Tess was happy to be sitting next to you, greeting the people, barking at the dogs, or laying in the shade. She tended to get worked up when a dog walked by that didn’t come close enough for her to sniff, but she was easily calmed down.

Tess is a smart girl. She already knew how to sit for a treat. I managed to teach her “lay down” and “shake” within a three hour period. Mariamme managed to teach Zed “lay down” and he could’ve learned shake if he hadn’t been startled by every car that passed.

We didn’t get many donations and no one got adopted. Tess got seriously considered, but the woman decided to go home and think it over for a day or so. Hopefully she’ll decide that she really loves Tess and wants to adopt her.

Overall the day went pretty well. We gave attention to needy dogs, taught them some tricks that may help them get adopted, and spread the word about the shelter. We corrected a lot of misconceptions. Everyone always asks us how long we keep the dogs at the shelter, and they’re always surprised when we say “We try to keep them as long as it takes to find them homes.” We always hear “Oh, so you don’t just keep them three days and then euthanize them?” That’s the popular stereotype. True, a lot of county shelter are horrible places for dogs and cats to end up, but our shelter isn’t like that. I wish more people knew that not all shelters are the same. I want people to realize this. A lot of people are afraid to go to animal shelters because they think they’ll be dark and dirty places, filled with suffering and death. If we can just teach more people that not all shelters will be depressing or frightening I’m positive we’ll be able to find more homes for pets.

Zed, cautiously accepting a treat

Zed, cautiously accepting a treat

Sweet sad Tess, patiently awaiting her new family to come and find her

Sweet sad Tess, patiently awaiting her new family to come and find her


6 Hours, and an Adoption Fair!
March 23, 2009, 12:44 pm
Filed under: Adoption Fair, Adoptions, General

Well, it was a very packed weekend! On Saturday, Caroline, her mom, and I were at the shelter volunteering for 6 hours straight – the max we could possibly get in one day! It’s been almost a year since we’ve been able to pull off being there 6 hours; usually one or more of us has a prior commitment and we can’t stay longer than 4 hours. But this time everything worked out and we were able to be there to walk dogs and help people.

We took out a shepherd mix named Tammy as soon as we got there. I’d met her Thursday and worked with her Friday, and was anxious for Caroline to meet her too. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. She just came up to adoptions and she was so cute I couldn’t resist walking her, but when I took her out she started screeching and screaming like something was wrong with her. I did a once-over on her to see if she hurt something or had a cut or injury or something, but nothing was wrong. I tried to comfort her, thinking maybe she was just panicky from being at the shelter, but that didn’t work. I tried correcting her to tell her that screeching was bad (no one is likely to adopt a screeching dog) but that made her worse. Caroline couldn’t figure anything out either. We asked one of the shelter’s managers and a vet tech, and they watched her for a little bit and then tried petting her and calming her. Apparently she didn’t act so panicked back in intake, but she was very vocal about everything. They decided to take her out of the adoption rooms and try to find out if something is wrong with her. Hopefully they’ll find something that they can fix, and then she can come back! She’s a really sweet little girl, if she stays still long enough!

After Tammy went back to intake, we helped take pictures for the shelter’s website. The photographer always needs people to hold the dogs still for her. We helped her take pictures for half an hour, then she had to leave and we went back to helping people and walking dogs.

We had out one dog (I don’t remember exactly who!) when a woman came up to the gate and looked at us like she needed to ask us something. We went over and asked if she needed help.
“Well, my daughter told me not to come here,” she said. “I have a depression problem, and she told me I wouldn’t be able to handle it, but I just lost my pound puppy and I want to give another one a home.”
“Well, if you tell us what you’re looking for,” I said, “We can find a dog that fits your description and bring it out here to you.”
“Okay, I’m looking for a big dog, because I hear that big dogs don’t get adopted as quickly or as often as little dogs. I also really love boxers.” Caroline and I thought for a minute, then remembered the Akita mix named Zeus. He’s 7 months old and already the size of a German Shepherd.We suggested him, and she wanted us to go get him. We didn’t know he was only 7 months old, though, and the 7 month old pups aren’t allowed on the grass, so we couldn’t bring him out. We went  out and told her, and she said she’d just come in. Caroline and I waited while she signed into the visitor book in the lobby, and we could tell she was nervous. She told us (jokingly, of course) to drag her outside and call her daughter if she started crying or she fainted, and this put Caroline and I on edge. We’d never had to help someone who wasn’t sure they’d make it out and still be conscious.

We walked her back to the middle row of Dog Adoption 2 to see Sandy, a little Boxer mix. We took Sandy out and she completely ignored the woman, for the most part. We put Sandy back in and walked the woman all throughout both Adoption rooms. We watched her closely to make sure she wasn’t breaking down. She stopped quite a few cages and talked to the dogs inside, but she didn’t want to take anyone else out. She thanked us and left. Helping her was surprisingly nerve-racking, but I’m glad we were able to walk her through the rooms and help her be able to handle it.

Towards the end of the day, around 5:30, Caroline and I took Zeus the huge Akita mix puppy out back. No one was out there, so we closed one of the back gates and let him loose. He had more room to run, but he still made his way back to the smaller exercise pen. We called him out and grabbed a tennis ball and played monkey-in-the-middle with him. It was really cute, and he got a lot of exercise!

On Sunday, Caroline’s mom led the adoption fair at PetSmart. We helped, of course. There was another volunteer there too, to give us a total of four people to hold dogs. We brought three dogs so one person would be free to clean up messes and hand out donation slips. We brought Max, an Australian Cattle Dog/Boxer mix who is still 8 months old and has been at the shelter since November; Pup-Pup, a sweet Corgi mix with bright blue eyes, 4 years old, and was surrendered to the shelter because her owners were allergic to he; and Spud, a Border Collie mix, a little over 1 year old, and has been at the shelter since August. No one got adopted, but we got a bunch of donations.

Caroline and I spent the entire adoption fair with a dog in our laps. And I mean the entire dog. Pup-Pup really liked sitting in Caroline’s lap, and Max enjoyed mine. Max is pretty big for a lap dog, so it wasn’t the most comfortable situation, but he was just too cute to move! One family seemed really interested in Pup-Pup, but they couldn’t adopt her that day. They took her I.D. number, so hopefully they’ll come back to get her!

A few dogs were adopted over the weekend, including little Lulla Belle. She’s a sweet shepherd mix who had Heartworms when she came to the shelter. She was treated, and that increased her adoption fee from $95 to over $100. It’s not too big of an increase, but it’s enough to put people off. She finally found a home with a nice family, where she’ll be loved!

Adoption Fair, January 31
February 2, 2009, 1:54 pm
Filed under: Adoption Fair

Saturday (January 31) was an adoption fair day! We volunteered to lead it and brought 6 dogs up to PetSmart to show off. We had trouble deciding who to bring, but we ended up deciding on Jordan (border collie/terrier mix), Titus (shepherd mix), Gilbert (Shih-Tzu mix), Gregors (lab mix), Chun Lee (Papillon mix) and Queen Latifah (lab mix). It was a pretty decent mix of mutts.

Usually adoption fair days are slow and relatively boring. The people who shop at PetSmart already have a dog, or many, and aren’t in the market for more. We usually spend the whole 4 hours sitting in chairs, petting dogs, and begging the public for donations.

This adoption fair started much the same. We picked up the dogs from the shelter and drove them across the street and through a shopping center to PetSmart. Gilbert yapped and whined the whole way over – apparently he’s afraid of being crated in the car (but we had no choice: shelter policy). We arrived, set up, and unloaded. All of our volunteers were waiting for us. This almost never happens! Usually we wait on them to show up, and they’re usually pretty late.

The dogs all seemed to get along with each other. There were no immediate snarling-growling-lunging outbursts, and this is always encouraging! I held Titus (my baby!) and we divvied up the remaining dogs among the other volunteers: the younger volunteers get the smaller dogs, and the older, stronger, or more competent get the bigger, stronger, more temperamental dogs.

We all got settled in and started greeting the public. “Please donate to the animal shelter!” “These dogs are all up for adoption from the animal shelter!” These friendly greetings turn into desperate pleas: “Please, donate to the animal shelter!” or “These dogs all need to be adopted to good homes!” And the desperate pleas eventually turn into silence.

A couple of little old ladies that were headed inside stopped to talk to us. We talked for a while, then they went in and came out half an hour later with two carts full of dog food. They picked up two small bags and left the rest with us. We weren’t sure at first that it was all donations, but when one of them turned around, held up a small bag, and said “I only have little dogs at home, that’s all for you!” we all called out “Thank you!” simultaneously.

At that point it seemed like this was going to be an all-donation-no-adoption day. We’ve noticed that we either get tons of donations and no adoptions, or a couple adoptions and no donations (or no adoptions or donations but that’s rare and usually on holidays).

So we were extremely surprised when a family with a little kid came by and seemed interested in Queen (we started calling Queen Latifah just “Queen” – shorter and less of a mouthfull). They looked at her for a while, then said they’d go talk about it over lunch and walked away. Usually people never come back. But about three minutes later I looked up and they’re headed back to Queen. The father said “I couldn’t even make it out of the parkinglot with these two. So we’re adopting her.”

The adoption went through and we were able to return to the shelter with one less dog. It’s always nice going back with one less dog than you left with. When none get adopted and we have to bring all of them back we feel like we failed. It’s disheartening.

The dogs were doing really well until someone left his German Shepherd in the car with the windows cracked. Once he realized there were dogs, the German Shepherd started barking and barking and just wouldn’t quit until his owner came back. This stirred up the Gilbert, Gregors (we started calling him Marley because of his resemlence to the famous dog – in both appearance and personality), and Chun Lee. After the German Shepherd incident, Chun Lee and Gilbert were eager to bark and growl and start fights with any dog that passed.

Titus spent the entire adoption fair curled up in my lap, or next to my lap, or sitting patiently by my side while I talked to people. He’s such a wonderful dog. A couple people seemed interested in him, but no one wanted to adopt him. Maybe next time.

On Sunday we volunteered at the shelter. No adoption fairs or events. Just plain old dog walking and training. Most of the dogs we took out were good – Titus and Priss, Missy Lou and Jordan, Max and Betty, Bunker, and Adam. The rest had behavioral issues – one dog, Lorenzo, likes to gnaw on hands and arms (not aggressively, but it sure is annoying). Another, Jazzmine, doesn’t like other dogs. None of our favorites or old-timers were adopted, but a bunch of puppies found new homes.