Saturday, March 30, 2013

March's Volunteer of the Month


Yujin is one of our volunteers from the Paws and Claws program at UC Berkeley. College students have always been a great source of volunteers for the shelter. No dogs or cats in the dorms, so students can head over the shelter to get their pet fix. Paws and Claws has taken it a step further by setting up an organized program for UC Berkeley students. Thanks for helping lead the way, Yujin.

What do you do when you're not at the shelter?

Well first and foremost, I'm a student. I'm currently a second year at Cal studying economics and that takes up quite a bit of my time! Other than that, I work for the academic personnel department of UC Berkeley and and involved in a couple of clubs. I'm currently the president of Paws and Claws so managing that can be a handful, but super fun and so rewarding when I see other members get to connect with animals. I also am a member of Cal Habitat for Humanity and try to participate in their events as well.
If I ever find some free time I also like to run and hang out with my friends!

Why did you initially decide to volunteer at BACS?

Well, initially, I didn't even know that Berkeley had an aminal shelter, much less a volunteer program. It was my first year here, so I just knew that I really missed my dog at home and it was hard being away from her! One day one of my friends told me about Paws and Claws and how they volunteer with animals! I was so excited and I signed right on up for the orientations and got started then and there! I'm so glad I did, it's been an amazing experience so far! I love it.
What are your favorite things about volunteering?

Well being able to get to know these dogs and to walk them has been just so awesome but my favorite, favorite memory was only about a couple weeks ago. I went to the shelter and saw a dog who was just available for adoption that day and already getting adopted. I believe the dog's name was Mugsy and as the new owner was signing papers, I took the liberty of playing with Mugsy in his kennel. Mugsy was such a sweet dog and super affectionate. Definitely a keeper.
A few days ago, while I was on the bus to go to the shelter, I saw Mugsy on a walk with his new owner! It seems silly now but it just made me feel so good inside and it was so nice to see him happy with his new owner. :)

Who are your favorite dogs and cats, past and present?

There just so many wonderful dogs at the shelter and I absolutely love every one of them. But some really memorable dogs were Kauz, Cosmo, Adobe, Phillip, Danny, those two adorable puppies Miso and Tofu, and of course Chloe! But all in all, my favorite dog is the one I left back in Michigan - Coco. I love cats as well but having a cat allergy really limits the amount of time I can spend with them.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Visit to the San Francisco SPCA

Volunteers Rachel (the other Rachel), Michelle and I recently took a trip to the San Francisco SPCA to check out their doggie play program.  A volunteer there named Steve had read about our trip to Oakland Animal Services and very kindly invited us to check out the SPCA's program too.  He runs the playgroups there.

As pictures below will attest, it is a beautiful facility.   It was quite busy on a Saturday with lots of visitors, volunteers and dogs moving about the Adoption Center.   There is also a veterinary hospital on the premises.   Outside, there are multiple dog runs which volunteers were making use of with some happy dogs.    The SF Animal Control is right next door and the SPCA does pull dogs from there into their program regularly.   However, a greater percentage of the dogs are rescued from large central valley shelters.   The SPCA may load up a dozen dogs at a time and bring them back to SF!

The doggie play sessions are held at the "Green Triangle" which is aptly named.  It is a very large fenced in triangular space with a green tarmac.   In addition to Steve, there were two other volunteers on hand to help out.  One of them mentioned he had adopted a dog, "Aldo",  from BACS a couple of years ago.  It was a nice connection.   We hung out and talked shop for a bit, comparing notes on play session setup and the different play style of dogs.   They had a kiddie pool which Steve filled up with water as we talked.   The dogs love to drink, play and pee in it.  What fun!
After touring the adoption center to see which dogs were available for some play we headed over to the run with two dogs Therese and Mikey.  The playgroups at SFSPCA are usually 2-4 dogs.  Often staff ask Steve and others to include a dog so they can further assess the dog.  He reports they have had very few incidents of note though the "interrupt tools" are always at the ready including:   heavy leather gloves to wear when pulling dogs off each other,  a water hose which is a big step up from our own water bottle device.  They also use squeaky toys to distract the dogs when they feel like play could escalate.  It seemed to work well with the dogs we saw.   There is a real art to watching dog body language and determining when it's time to intervene!

Walking up to the entrance.  The lovely red awning suggests an upscale bistro.

Such a lovely entry.  Adoption center is upstairs.

Yay for spay and neuter!
Adoption  Center frontdesk.
The dog "kennels" are quite large and often house two dog buddies.

The lovely Therese is the goto dog for doggie play.
Our host, Steve, commenting on a dog interaction (or lack thereof in this picture)

Steve wanted to assess Mikey so he introduced him to Therese who is happy to provide proper corrections for any obnoxious behavior

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Little Dog Hangout

This past Friday we held a little dog meetup!  We first introduced Freud and Milo.  They sniffed each other but Freud wasn't too interested in playing really so there wasn't a lot of actionIt was great to see that Freud is okay around other dogs as he can sometimes be barky on leash when he sees another dog.

Freud (left) and Milo check each other out

We then brought Floyd over to survey the scene.  He's a tiny little guy but he can hold his own!

It's a doggie train with Floyd in the lead

Floyd is on the scent as his new pals look on
Milo looking relaxed which we love to see
Floyd looking suave in dots

At the end of the play session, we brought Zuma into the mix and the little dogs chased him around. 

Here's Zuma closing his eyes  thinking hopefully if he can't see them maybe they're not really there

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Red Chair Dawgs

One of my favorite places to stop by when walking a shelter pooch is Waterside Cafe at Aquatic Park.  It's an outdoor cafe with chairs and picnic benches.  I usually just meander through with the dog, giving them a chance to do some sniffing (and maybe grab a doggie treat from the cafe).   There is one particular red adirondack chair which is perched at the waterside looking out over Aquatic Park.  

Last year when walking Eagle I decided to see if he would climb up and model for me.  Indeed, it was the inaugural sit and it inspired the rest which you will see below with varying degrees of success.

Eagle with ears at attention

Cream Cheese -- doesn't get much cuter

Julep was all smiles -- good girl!

Jojo's tongue is almost a perfect match for the chair red

Rosie -- You want me to get in that thing, seriously?

 Note:  Eagle, Cream Cheese and Julep have left the shelter and chair behind them.   Jojo & Rosie are current residents, hoping a comfy couch is in their future.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Visit to Oakland Animal Services for doggie playgroup

Last December a number of BACS volunteers attended a training session about conducting dog playgroups in the shelter environment.   It was led by Aimee Sadler who has created a program called "Playing for Life" which she teaches around the country to eager shelter staff and volunteers.  It is a dog-enrichment program which can have a profound impact.  Read more about it in this article.   I encourage you to google "Aimee Salder playgroup videos" to find some amazing footage of 20+ shelter dogs playing together at a time.

This month, several of us took a trip to Oakland Animal Services (OAS) to watch the dog playgroups they are conducting there.  We've done are own small playgroups at BACS and we were keen to see how the groups at Oakland were going.  Animal Control Officers Jackie and Nicole very kindly agreed to show us a large dog playgroup.  They gave us some great tips on reading dog body language and best practices that they've adopted.   

It was fun to hear that with the little dogs they simply open the cages and let them all go dashing out into the dog yard.  There could be as many as 30 little guys running around!   It's a bit  more involved with the larger dogs and it's necessary to be more cautious about introductions and have the proper safety tools at hand (air horn, water bottle, etc.)

It was great to hear that the OAS groups have been quite successful in that the doggies have a fun social time (with no major incidents!)  and the staff learn more about how the dogs interact with other dogs.  They currently have 200+ dogs (BACS has maybe a tenth that many) so they have lots of pooches to choose from.   It was lovely to meet the ones that we did though in playgroup humans are secondary and we're not supposed to interact with the dogs much.  This is all for the dogs!

We're hoping that the next knowledge share will be here in Berkeley at our facility.  Can't wait!

Jackie (left) and Nicole (right), ACO's at OAS

A Doberman invites the gorgeous Mastiff to play with the classic play bow
The two shepherds in the back were quite shy when they first joined the group but they loosened up over time

Jackie very adroitly manages the gates as a new dog enters the yard

OAS has several adjoining yards.  We started out in the larger backspace but moved the gang into the smaller yard to get a sense of playgroup in a smaller space

This grey girl was the first dog we met and she was a lovely player, running around making sure everyone was behaving

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Liz's First Dates

Our go-go girl Liz had a couple of first dates today and she did great!   

Bachelor #1 goofy guy Zuma
Bachelor #2 smooth operator Jojo

The pictures tell it all...  Guess who was in charge?

Zuma, you're looking so lonely all the way over there... come say "hi."

Be still my heart -- that Jojo is a looker!

Come here often?

All this play is making me soooo thirsty, time to suck up some water.
Whee, Liz in repose, finally just a little bit tired.

In the end, Jojo was the bachelor of choice as he had some impressive Jagger moves which appeared to woo our Liz.  Their energy level and play styles were quite complementary.   Go doggies!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cali's Big Play Day

Yay!  Happy day for our girl Cali who just can't get enough of pooch play.  First it was some run around and laughs with Jojo

Okay, Jojo is great but I'm ready for someone new.

Taking a break with a bully stick to build up strength for the next play session.

 Hark, I hear another dog approaching... who might it be?

 Oh my, it's time for wrestle-mania with Liz who likes to go, go, go.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Puppy Play

I wholly admit I have a penchant for larger dogs.  In all my years of volunteering at shelters I've probably walked a small dog only a dozen times!    And then there are puppies.... oh my.   Several years ago I fostered two  puppies for four days at the request of the local humane society.   Those were the longest days of my life.  It didn't help that I have a very small house and I had to keep them in a x-pen in the kitchen through which I had to walk to get to the bathroom and bedroom.

The two little black cuties  (mother was a chow, father a purebred black lab -- all puppies were black lab looking though a couple had a giveaway chow curl in their tail) were beyond active.   My own dog  was in shock that these intruders had arrived.  She shot through the kitchen and yard as quickly as she could whenever the puppies were about.   The neighborhood kids, however, were enthralled.  My puppied backyard became the focus of attention and energy for all who knew.   It was a good match:  puppies and kids to tire them out.

All that said, when I was at the shelter recently I noticed new puppy Scottie looking a little forlorn in his kennel with lots of toys but no one to wield them for him.  I couldn't not go in and give him some love and attention.   He's a bit of a rascal but with proper training, care and love he's going to be someone's lifelong best friend.   I'd pay good money to know what my silly pooch Jelly looked like when she was his age.  Scottie's adopter will have coveted baby pictures!