Saturday, December 26, 2009

How will I remember you, Misty?

The stress of a kennel situation is unbelievable. As a dog you are surrounded by dogs that are scared, confused, angry, frustrated, depressed and trapped. You aren’t allowed toys because you might swallow them and choke or get intestinal problems. If you are lucky, you get out once a day. You never know who will pass you over or decide to notice that you are alive and desperate, that you need someone to see you. And all you can do is sit, wait, and hope.

Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month of this...and no relief in sight. How much faith does a dog have to have before he or she can’t take it any more? How many days and months before a good dog will start to break?

And when is it a mercy to let the dog go?

I am hoping and praying that within the next 2 days, these memories will be experiences someone new will be having with my baby-girl Misty in a safe, healing, loving forever home or foster, and not my eulogy for a dog that broke my heart:

How she was so scared to lie down and enjoy a treat in my car, but trusted me enough to climb in, keeping her eyes on me the whole time. Then, in the middle of smacking down, stopped to give me a lick on the face.

How she didn’t even know what to do with a tennis ball but today, discovered the joy of chasing and catching a bouncing object. And let me take it out of her mouth to throw back in the air and catch again.

How she ran gentle zoomies around the pen, then came to flop over on her back with her head in my lap while the two of us soaked in the rare winter sunshine.

How she became a little Avea copycat during Badrap training. Avea found a stick to chomp on, so Misty found a twig to chew. Avea sat in Aaron’s lap, so Misty climbed into mine. Avea got a treat, so Misty looked to me expectantly.

How quickly she learned new things, sitting at street corners before crossing with me.

How she loved going into George and selecting special treats, sitting for freebies at the counter and snuffling the cat goodies.

How I only had to correct her once, then she immediately knew not to pull while going down stairs - even looking back at me to make sure I was okay.

And how, when I sat down to weep after finding out how little time she has left, she tried to hug me; and licked the tears from my face.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thanks, Nancy and BACS

Berkeley Animal Services is actually really good about showing appreciation for the volunteers here. Still, it was a pleasant surprise to see the delicious spread they put out for their Holiday Party for the volunteers. I'm not sure who Nancy is, but she seemed to be the one who put it all together so beautifully and delectably. So, thanks, Nancy - you went above and beyond, and everyone absolutely loved it!

Avea the Tigger-Poo

I got a chance to take Avea to the dog run today. Actually, I didn't have much choice; she pretty much made it clear that's where she wanted to go. I think it gives her happy memories of play dates with her "boyfriend" Higgins (pictured up top).

Avea is, in a word, happy. She is such a happy little chubba-wubba! She is content to just canter around the run like a little pony, entertaining herself with a tennis ball (but she'll gladly share the fun if you join in). She'll wriggle around with glee, so glad to be out of her kennel. She gives you a sly little grin and invites you to come and play!

Avea's coloring is true brindle. With her stout little body and striped coat she reminds me of a combination of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger (too). But she might also be part duck - she loves flapping through puddles, pushing her snout through the water like a weird little submarine. I wonder if she's remembering her day at the beach.

I hope Avea will soon be able to share her happy outlook in a home that deserves and appreciates such a good-natured, happy girl.

Just noticed I used the word "happy" four times in this post - goes to show you... :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Canine Senior Citizens Club

Milffy, approx. age 7

Babu, approx. age 13

Snap, age 8

Leah and King, approx. age 10 and 8

Jamie, approx. age 6

Shani, approx. age 8

Emma, approx. age 6

Shona, approx. age 8

There is something very heart breaking about the Holiday season. What should be a time of togetherness, peace, friendship, and love (both human and canine, alike!) has become a time of 'out with the old and in with the new'.

I've noticed that many senior dogs are making their way through our shelter. Some in relatively good health and others unfortunately not in good health. Perhaps the owners of these senior pups were going away on vacation and didn't know what to do with their pets while they were they gave them away. Perhaps the owners couldn't afford to buy Christmas presents for their family and keep their family they gave them away. Perhaps their dog was costing them a fortune in vet bills due to their declining they gave them away.

Whatever the case, more and more seniors are making an appearance as I walk through the kennels at the shelter. Looking into their eyes makes me feel sick in the pit of my stomach.

In their eyes is confusion, loneliness, fear, sadness, and sometimes absolutely nothing at all. I can imagine that the dogs are confused to find themselves away from their home...I can imagine that they are lonely because they are separated from their person. I imagine that the environment is terrifying after being used to something else for 6, 8, or 10 plus years.

Some of our current seniors are handling the environment better than others. They're tough cookies, alright. In fact, some members of the Canine Senior Citizens club wouldn't believe you if you TOLD them they were old fogey's!

Take Shona - a happy, happy, happy girl who LOVES to go for walks even though she has a rear leg injury that causes her to swerve from side to side. Or Jamie - a spunky, frisky fella that has come alive! since his arrival in September. Don't forget Shani, a friendly, cuddly, and well behaved dog that prances like a puppy in the play area and walks like a lady down 4th street. Dear sweet Emma may look sad, but she's a firecracker when she's by your side on a walk. Loving Milffy would gladly sit in your lap for the rest of her life if you'd let her. Leah and King, were surrendered together and are at their best when they are walking side by side. Snap, an easy going elderly gentleman who is experiencing what it's like to be cared for and loved. And last, but certainly not least, Mr. Babu - a grouchy, but enjoyable companion none the less, who is happy to not have a giant matted ball of hair and poop hanging off his butt. (Please, don't ask.)

I don't know what kind of life these dogs had before the came to the shelter. But I do know that now that they are here...they are receiving nourishing food, medical care, shelter and most importantly love and attention. These dogs are all desperately awaiting a home to call their own, a home where they can live out the rest of their days cherished, safe, and happy.

Please consider fostering one of these Canine Senior Citizens or better yet, adopting one and giving it a place to call home.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kirby, the Shelter Co-Star!

Since I began volunteering in June (wow, 6 months already?!), I've come to regard myself as the "hard case" worker. For some reason, I am drawn to the dogs that are a huge pain in the butt. Like Higgins, for example - the first time I walked him he hadn't been out in 4 days because he had built up such a bad reputation. It took 2 months of working with him every day, but eventually he became so easy, so well-freakin'-behaved, that other volunteers started to see him the same way that I saw him: a playful, beautiful, happy dog who has so much love to give.

The majority of the time I will work with the more difficult dogs. I don't know what it is about them, but it's almost like I can see something behind their eyes that says, "I need you. Help me." And I do, I do help them. It's exhausting, rewarding, humbling, painful, joyful, fun, and inspiring. But there are days, I won't lie, there are days where I do need a break...

On days like that I look forward to walking Kirby: an easy going, cheerful, super friendly and cuddly kinda guy. I know that my walk with Kirby will be pleasant...I know that I won't have any rips in my jeans and I won't be covered in dirt and slobber when I am done. My right shoulder will not be dislocated (in case you were wondering, that is sarcasm...) and my sanity will be in tact. I know that when Kirby and I go for a walk I will feel relaxed and all is well in the world, even if only for the 30 minutes that we are out together.

Kirby is pleasant to be around, pure and simple. That's a nice change of pace. Being with Kirby gives me the ability and strength to throw myself back into the ring with the "hard cases". Working with him reminds me that with enough work, time, love, and patience that all of the shelter dogs could be "Kirbys". Some faster than others. :)

Going the extra mile

There is nothing more rewarding then working with a dog day in and day out and helping it find it's forever-home. Being a volunteer can at times be very overwhelming and emotionally draining - but knowing that you helped a dog, that you had something to do with it's makes it all worth it.

For 2 long months, a dedicated volunteer named Gail worked long and hard with a shelter dog named Gunther. Every day - every day - Gail came to the shelter to walk Gunther. Some days they would walk around the estuary, other days they would walk to the park, some days they would go to the play area and simply sit together, enjoying one another's company.

When Gunther arrived at the shelter he was aloof, uninterested, stubborn, and what seemed to be a very sad dog. He did not move much in his kennel, choosing instead to lay perfectly still on his bed, avoiding eye contact with any person that came to see him. On walks he was constantly pulling ahead, not paying attention to his person. But with each walk with Gail, Gunther's leash manners and social skills improved, with each walk he became more affectionate, happy, and secure.

In 2 months Gunther became a happy, cuddle bun of a pup who wanted constant love and belly rubs. All it took was one person to take the extra time.Thank you, Gail - for going the extra mile with Gunther. It was your love, patience, guidance, and faith in Gunther that helped him find his forever-home.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Why Pit Bulls?

As an advocate for bully breeds I am often asked the question, “why pit bulls?” Some people come right out and ask if we wouldn’t be better off without these “dangerous” dogs, as if extinguishing all dogs with short haired coats and sturdy muscular bodies would solve some great social ill.

I don’t respond with anger to such questions because I used to be one of those ignorant people. When my cousin announced she was bringing home a baby pit bull from Brooklyn as a gift, I was horrified and dismayed. I prepared for the worst. From what I’d heard, his brain would outgrow his skull; he would go crazy and snatch babies off the street and feed on them with his double-row of shark teeth...

Fast forward eight years as “my little boy,” that former baby pit bull from Brooklyn, lay dying on a table after a botched surgery. I put my cell phone to his ear as I called all of the friends we had made - human and animal - to say goodbye to him. After his passing I received more cards, flowers and letters of condolence for him than I had seen for some people.

That “dangerous, unpredictable” dog opened the doorway to eight years of laughter, friends, fun, hope and a life lived with unbridled gusto. His passing broke me with grief, and his life changed mine for the better. Without him, today I would probably cross a street upon seeing a big, domey head and goofy toothy grin. Because of him, I always return the grin and ask if I can pat the solid head. And if the guardian is clearly kind, I thank them. I thank them for not twisting the best qualities of these incredible, sporty dogs for brutal selfish means. I thank them for giving back the love these dogs so freely dispense when given even half a chance. I thank them for shedding some light on the darkness that preys upon such a maligned “breed.”

Why pit bulls? Because when they are loved and raised as ordinary dogs, they demonstrate extraordinary examples of loyalty, love and sheer living joy. Because even after being burnt, knifed, shot, used as bait, lynched, electrocuted, abused and hated by this world of human beings, most of these dogs come in and still have a lick and a wag left in their giant hearts.

Because when you see someone trying to extinguish the light in a dark tunnel, you want to kick down the walls and let the light shine out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Doc Has Left the Building!

A beautiful thing happened this past weekend at B.A.C.S.: Doc was adopted by Don and Becky! We remembered when about two months ago Doc arrived at B.A.C.S. He was a horrible mess: covered in orange mange from his nose to his tail, open soars on all his feet, skinny and cowering at the approach of others and shaking in his skin by himself.
Something about him made us come over and meet him. Maybe he was so darned cute through all of his physical ailments. As soon as he became available for handling, we started his spa treatments. He became our personal project. We washed, walked, and played with him every weekend. It took him 13 days to stop shaking.
We gave him lots of love and affection and attention.
Many thanks to all of those who have helped Doc along the way. We want to give a special thanks to Suzanne for taking him home and making him happy. It was a privilege being there to show Doc to Don and Becky. And, thank you to Don and Becky for adopting Doc!

Submitted by Mike and Summer Vodnoy

Monday, December 14, 2009

Black Dog Syndrome

When I first heard that black dogs are difficult to adopt out because of their color, I was astounded. I had always found black-colored animals beautiful and never in my dreams would have thought it detrimental to shelter adoption but apparently it's true:

So if you're a black-colored "pit" bull in a shelter, well, you really have life stacked against you. But don't tell that to Misty. She's one of my shelter favorites - with her floppy ears, joyful personality and loving eyes, Misty's cheerful energy is anything but dark.

Sure she looks like a tasmanian blur when she's in the kennel, bouncing off the walls with puppy-impatience. Once you get her out of that environment, though, she is a sweetheart. She walks easily on leash, sits beautifully and absolutely loves to play. I got these shots of her in a few precious moments of freedom where she ran zoomies around the play area and then spent much-needed decompression time cuddling with me, letting me rub her belly and leading me on a gentle chase round the pen.

After spending time with this love-bug I feel anything but gloomy. I wouldn't care if she was purple and green, let alone gorgeous shining black.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Queen for a day

Queenie has become a new favorite of mine. If I can't walk her for some reason or if she was lucky enough to already have been walked - I'll still go in and visit with her for just a few minutes. I don't know what it is - but there is something about this big ass gal that I simply adore!

Perhaps it's how loving she is? She can't resist being close to you - it's like she's a magnet to your side. She'll nuzzle up next to you, give you a gentle nudge with her nose, and snort with glee when you scratch her belly.

Maybe it's because she's so playful? She has a BLAST playing in the dog run at the shelter. It is hilarious to watch this 90lb beauty romp around like a puppy, chasing after tennis balls and rope toys.

I wonder if it's because she's just so friendly? She wants to be friends with every person and every dog she meets. Being in the company of humans and canines is heaven for this angel.

Do you think it's because she's so enthusiastic, but mellow at the same time? She'll play and play and play until the cows come home, then drink a gallon of water to refuel, then gladly come and rest by your feet while you pat her head.

You know - it could be that she just flat out makes me laugh when we're together...

Like the other day -- Queenie and I took a special walk over the pedestrian bridge to a small private beach. We're walking side-by-side in the sand when all of the sudden: WHOOOSH!

A gigantic bird lands in the water not 4 feet away from Queenie when she becomes overcome with excitement and charges right after the bird. She jumped into the high-tide water without a single hesitation. SPLASH!

For a moment it looked as if Queenie had disappeared! She'd fallen to the ocean floor like a 90lb rock before she burst from the surface of the water. She howled the entire time that she came paddling out of the water, swimming for dear life to the shore. She shook off every last drop of water and for the rest of our walk on the beach, she wouldn't go anywhere near it.

Silly Queenie. Take my advice - take Queenie for a walk before she gets adopted. you won't regret it.

What's up, Doc?

Doc is a sensitive, but friendly guy who has had enough of the Berkeley Shelter. He wants a home and he wants it now! He's ready to give and receive love from a caring family who will cherish his company forever. At first glance in his kennel, Doc seems like a rowdy and noisy dog - but once he steps away from our shelter doors he becomes a happy, mellow, groovy kind of dog. The kind of dog that'll go with the flow.

Want to sit on a park bench and watch the sunset? Doc is glad to sit by your side. Go for a jog around the estuary? He can keep up with you! Stroll through the park without a care in the world? Doc is your boy.

Doc is an affectionate young dog who is good with cats, dogs, and children. All he needs is a home to enjoy these things for good...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

We love you, Little

Little, now Carmelita, was recently adopted. Here she is in her new forever home!

This is what her new 'Mom' had to say:

Here are a few photos! She is very photogenic but also doesn't always sit still! She has a funny thing about burying her rawhide bones around the house so we are finding them in odd places - like in my gym bag yesterday! She is a great, great dog! ...

She is so sweet, we are very happy we brought her home with us! She seems happy too! oh yeah and I like the names Carmelita or Little Carmela possibly!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wuchi's first walk!

It's been three and a half long months, but today was the day: Wuchi's first walk!

For the first few moments outside, Wuchi looked so confused.

Why is it so quiet?
Why is there grass?
What is that SMELL?

The majority of Wuchi's walk was spent with her nose on the ground. I'll be the first to admit that if I hadn't been outside in over 3.5 months, I'd probably sniff everything, too. When Wuchi wasn't focused on the new and exciting smells outside of the shelter, she became the fun, playful, affectionate dog that she was when she first walked through the shelter doors.

We played fetch in the play area and took a long, relaxing walk through the park. On our way back we stopped for a rest in the grass where Wuchi rolled to her heart's content.

I'm so glad that I had the chance to share a walk with her.

A Dog Returns to Life

The image is still indeliby etched in my mind: a stunning red brindle dog is curled up into as small a ball as possible, as though she could will herself away from the place she now found herself by making herself as small as possible: in a municipal shelter surrounded by barking, restless dogs and unfamiliar human faces. Maizie clung to the corner walls of the kennel, shivering with fright, leaving the treats pushed into her kennel untouched, and avoiding the attempts by staff and volunteers to unfurl herself and come closer.

But gradually, Maizie did begin to let people in: one staff member in particular, Tim took a special interest in her. He would sit at the other end of her kennel and patiently wait for her to come to him. A volunteer did the same, stroking Maizie tentatively at first, and then shortly thereafter, tenderly and without disruption to soothe her wounded soul. What had happened to Maizie to make her so terrified? With gentleness, Tim and the volunteer were able to win her trust, and she would wag her tail with delight at the sight of them. Progress.

And then a miracle happened, just six days after she had arrived at our shelter: a prospective adopter came in to look at another dog and was instantly smitten with Maizie. Tim brought her to the meet-and-greet area at the back of Kennel A where the prospective adopter and Maizie could take the time to get to know one another. He came every day for a week, still torn between a dog at another shelter and Maizie. By the following Monday, the decision had been made: Maizie would be the one to come home with him.

It was not easy going at first. Maizie had lots of fears-- mostly of certain people. But she bonded with her new human, trusting him quickly and easily. He took her to training classes to help alleviate her fear of new people, and carefully introduced her to new and different experiences. The day she jumped in his car without hesitation was a banner day! Now Maizie goes to dog parks and frolics with other dogs, is comfortable around most people, and in truth acts like the puppy she was probably never permitted to be-- with an adorable and endearing underbite that suggests a Boxer heritage.

How fortunate that Maizie was rescued so quickly; how her life now, filled with good food, access to the best medical care, soft pillows, an array of squeaky toys : ) and lots of t-l-c is so different from what it must have been like before. Would that all our dogs would have such happy endings.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Jeffrey, a happy ending!

A few months ago, a sweet elderly gentleman known as 'Jeffrey' walked through the shelter doors, incredibly underweight and what appeared to be in very poor health. He had bald spots all over his body and the fur that he did have was so matted that nearly all of it had to be shaved off. Within only a few weeks, however, Jeffrey was adopted! And today his new forever guardian came to the shelter for a visit.

Jeffrey, now Pablo, looked wonderful! This hair has completely grown back - his health has returned - he's put on a number of pounds and most importantly, he's happy. Truly happy. Seeing him walk through the doors with a wagging tail was so satisfying.

Happy endings are my hopes for all of the dogs at the Berkeley Shelter. Perhaps there is a dog here that could be your Jeffrey. Come down and see. :)

***We're interested in hearing about your happy ending!***

If you adopted a dog from BACS, we would like to hear how it's going.
Please send any pictures and comments to to be posted on our blog!

A day at the beach

Very rarely do the shelter dogs get an opportunity to be away from the shelter for an afternoon. But when they get the chance their spirits instantly lift and they flourish into the dog that they would be all of the time if they had their forever-home. I simply love watching this transformation and I had a front row seat this afternoon when Avea and Higgins went to the beach.

If you remember Jody's pack walk from a few weeks ago, you'll also remember that dog trainer, Kathy K. , agreed to let me come along. Today was also the case and I am so glad that I did!

Today was not the first pack walk that Avea has attended - in fact, Kathy took her for a walk a few weeks ago and it went SO well that she wanted to take her again. This is what Kathy said about her last walk:

I took Avea out for a pack walk and what a delight! she was on a long lead and I soon let her drag it and she played with every dog she met- small, large, very small, etc. she loved every dog she met and every person she met- she was so full of affection and happiness- that everyone we came across commented on her enthusiasm. and she stayed with the pack the whole time- a perfect off leash girl.

I'm happy to report that today's walk was also a success. Both Avea and Higgins were very well-behaved. They had a blast!! They ran off leash, played fetch with sticks, wrestled, swam, played with other dogs - it was AWESOME to watch these two great dogs have so much fun.

Both Avea and Higgins simply adore humans and canines, alike! And, I'm glad to say that they adored each other as well. Where Avea went, Higgins happily followed. When Higgins fetched a stick, he pranced around Avea trying to impress her. What a cute couple!

Today I was surprised, but happy to learn, that Higgins LOVES playing in the water!! On our field trip last month, Higgins was hesitant to play in the water (I think the waves were just too much for him!), but today he charged for the water without a single hesitation: happy to retrieve a stick and bring it back to me.

In the video below, you get a glimpse of Higgins and his new-found love for the water and you see Avea frolicking along the shore line towards her new doggy friends.

I can't say it enough: these dogs are fantastic.