Last weekend I stopped by the Fairmont Animal Shelter in Castro Valley to visit some of my friends from my dogwalking days there. I volunteered there when I was living in San Leandro prior to my move back to Berkeley. I was part of a quite small but very dedicated group of dog walkers. We showed up weekend, after weekend and even holiday mornings. It was a special pleasure to start off my Christmas day by getting several dogs out for a quick jaunt! The shelter is located in a fairly remote location above 580 near Lake Chabot. There is lots of open space and very little foot traffic (runners only really).
Re-visiting the Fairmont was a keen reminder of just how different municipal animal shelters can be. The shelter there is much smaller with only 30 kennels. The kennels fill up regularly and dogs are euthanized solely due to lack of kennel space. The day I was there five dogs had been ptd the day before. As with most shelters, pit bulls make up a large percentage of the animal intake and a large percentage of the animals that are euthanized. Sigh. Here's a quick list of some interesting differences between BACS and the Fairmont
- Dogs are walked on slip leashes (no prongs/chokes etc). I suppose the remote location and minimal interaction with others makes this possible
- A dog that is there for over a month is considered a "long-termer." I think 2 months was the longest I remember a dog being there before adoption/ptd.
- Volunteers attend one orientation/tour and are then free to walk dogs. No special handling instructions is given
- There is a volunteer office which usually has around 20 cats running around free in it (Friends of the Fairmont)
- There are usually several chickens roaming around outside the shelter.
- Volunteers do all the animal feeding. Friends of the Fairmont manage the feeding schedule. There are volunteers who have been a regular feeder for years!
- For some reason they have a large number of people who do obligatory community service there each weekend. I'm sure the staff love not having to clean the kennels!
Finally, during my recent visit there was one rather unusual incident. I was sitting in the dog run and I noticed a policeman was leaving the shelter with a young female pit bull. I thought that odd, wondering why he'd have the dog. I noticed that he brought the pooch over to his squad car and opened the door. After that I stopped paying attention. Ten minutes later as I was walking back to the shelter I saw that the police car now had both doors open and the policeman was standing there with the dog looking very frustrated. I walked into the shelter to return the dog I was walking and asked the staff what the deal was with the cop. "Oh, he's just pissed off because he doesn't want to take what he called a vicious dog in his car." Apparently, the dog was from a district which the Fairmont doesn't serve. The cop was told to pick up the dog because the shelter was full and the kennel space was needed.
Curious, I walked outside and went over to the car. I asked if needed any help. He said "yes." I took the dog's leash, pet her and told her was a good dog she is. She was a young, sweet little dog who was simply nervous about jumping into the back of an unknown car. She was showing no signs of aggression. To the contrary. I reached down, picked her up and put her in the back of the car with no problem whatsoever. It initially made me quite sad to think that this young cop was *afraid* of this dog simply because of its breed. He probably would have just shoved a nippy shepherd in the back of his car without much thought. Whatever the case, he did express appreciation for my assistance (which he was no doubt too embarrassed to ask for) and I can only hope that the sweetness of this particular pittie pooch will make him re-think his assumptions.
BTW, my friends from the Fairmont started their own rescue organization "Four Paws" which specializes in small dog rescue. They have had many great successes in only two years as a group. Check out their website (which I manage ;-): Four Paws.