Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Volunteer Therapy Dog Birdie Speaks about Animal Friends' Cancer Caring Center

Hi there! My name is Kaitlin Hilinski.  I am the Therapeutic Services Program Assistant here at Animal Friends.  One of the many programs I manage is our monthly visits with The Cancer Caring Center. Each month (when the weather’s nice!) we welcome families whose lives have been affected by cancer.  Children of all ages are invited to join our Therapets team and an art therapist.  We talk about feelings and share struggles that many of us face when dealing with a family illness or loss.  While we gather for a sad purpose, we often leave feeling refreshed and relaxed, or at the very least that our feelings are valid and shared. 

This month, I had the pleasure of interviewing one of our regular therapy dogs; Birdie Salvador.  Birdie is an 11 year old Border Collie.  She and her mom Ruth visit nursing homes, elementary schools, and of course, Animal Friends.

Kaitlin: Hi there Birdie, good to see you as always. *editor’s note: there was a pause here for the required petting.  Birdie patiently demands to be petted by almost every human she meets.* Now then, would you please introduce yourself for our readers?

Birdie: Yes, I’m a therapy dog named Birdie and one Saturday a month I volunteer at Animal Friends with the Cancer Caring Center’s free program for children coping with cancer in the family.

K: Perfect! Can you tell us a little bit about how your day at Animal Friends gets started?

B: Sure! I greet the children and their families as they arrive. While the adults speak with the Cancer Caring Center’s therapist, the children and I spend time together.

K: I think I’ve seen you playing games with some of the boys – It’s my understanding that you’ll do tricks for ice cubes?

B: OH man.  You bet I will.  They’re my favorite treat.  Well, besides cherry tomatoes.  My mom says ice is great because it doesn’t have any calories.  I don’t know what a calorie is, but I think it’s fine that they’re not in ice cubes.

K: So what else do you do after you play with the kids for a while?

B: Playtime is followed by lunch prepared by an Animal Friends volunteer. Dessert is usually homemade cookies or brownies. I can’t have most of the people food, but boy does it smell good. Yum!

K: We’ve talked about food a lot here, Birdie.  Let’s discuss the session a little more, huh?

B: Oh, okay. Right, well after lunch I join the families as they meet with the therapist.  I try to help everyone feel comfortable enough to share during the session.  I sit or lie nearby ready if anyone needs a warm and furry friend.

K: That’s really great of you, Birdie.  I know the kids, and their families, really enjoy your company.

B: Well, when we say good-bye I always hope the children will be better able to cope after their Saturday afternoon with the therapist and me.

K: I’m sure they will, Birdie.  There’s nothing like the unconditional love of an animal to help us feel better when we’re sad or scared. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today, and thank you to your mom, Ruth, for translating!

Birdie and Ruth: You’re welcome!

If you’d like more information about The Cancer Caring Center, or their therapy sessions at Animal Friends, please contact Stephanie at 412-622-1212 or  

Our next session is scheduled for April 26th at 1:00pm. Advanced registration is required so we know how much food to make – and ask Birdie, it’s a great lunch!

Animal Friends' Home-to-Home Adoption Program presents: Sam and Doug!

Sam is a curious, playful 5 year old domestic short hair. He is almost entirely orange, with a patch of white on his chest. He has one eye since birth -- it looks like he is winking all of the time (see his pictures, he is pretty adorable). He is very cute. He is small, healthy, has never been to the vet other than for routine vaccinations. He loves company and to sit with you while watching television, etc. He comes with his brother Doug.

Doug is also 5 years-old, a domestic short hair, and is a mixture of orange and white. While he and Sam are not biological brothers, I have had them both since they were very little, and they are very close. Doug is shy at first, but once he gets to know you, he loves all affection and is just a very, very sweet animal. Like Sam, Doug is also healthy and has only been to the vet for his routine vaccinations. 

If you can help Doug and Sam, please contact Lucas Heller at 724-664-6240 or

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Animal Friends presents Happy Tails: Layla

Guest Blogger: Patricia A

My 11-year-old son, Robert, and I have wanted a dog for years.  I grew up with dogs, but worked such long chaotic hours as a hospital nurse that it didn't seem fair to adopt.  Now that I have a more regular work schedule, I decided it was time to expand our small family to include a canine companion.  

We met with four amazing dogs and spent time with each of them.  It was a tough decision, but Layla, with her sweet demeanor and playful nature, seemed to be the best fit for our family.  Layla is an 8-year-old brindle Boxer.  She is loving and spends quite a bit of time snuggling or lying on our feet.  She loves to explore the neighborhood on our rambling walks and I think she has sniffed everything at least twice! 

She is an older adult dog and that has unique benefits.  Layla is very well-behaved and seems to understand what objects belong to her and which are ours. She came to us knowing some basic commands and we did not have to worry about housebreaking her. Layla still has enough energy for our walks and play sessions, but also requires lots of down time.  Our household is a calm one and she fits right in.  We could not have picked a better furry friend than Layla.  This sweet girl is much loved!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Animal Friends presents Happy Tail: Karma

Guest Blogger: Patty Gongaware

It was a cold dark night in January 2012. Potty breaks were all done, so I decided to treat myself to some "puppy cuddling". A litter of three-month-old collie-husky mix puppies had come in that day, and they were such sad, scared, unsocialized little ones. I got comfortable on the Karunda bed with three of them on my lap, but struggled to get the fourth, a fuzzy gold and white girl, to come to me. Finally, reluctantly, she settled in with her siblings as I held them and told them stories of the loving families that they would soon be part of. This is my first memory of the puppy named Karma.

A few days later, an email went out asking for a foster home for the little gold and white puppy. The other pups were coming around thanks to the attention volunteers were giving them, but Karma was still very scared and shutting down. I immediately said that we'd take her for a few weeks. One of our Labs had been a very shy puppy, so we had experience with that. And I knew that being around our two gentle, older Labs would help her too.

The first few weeks with Karma were alternately challenging and rewarding.
She always tried to run and hide when we approached, ears down and fluffy tail tucked, never making eye contact. We hand-fed her each morning and evening. She'd come to our outstretched hand, grab one piece of kibble, then run away to eat it...feeding often took almost an hour! (However she had no problem chewing our shoes and socks when they were left in her reach.) As the weeks passed Karma remained wary of us, but eventually trusted us enough to pick her up, and hug and pet her. She relaxed and fell asleep when we rubbed her belly. We could tell that she was very smart. Karma quickly learned basic commands, enjoyed being in a crate, and house-trained easily. I even taught her to ring a bell on the door when she had to go out. She enjoyed playing in the snow and learned how to retrieve a stick, although she preferred playing keep-away from the Labs.

After a month with us, Karma had made lots of progress. She was still cautious around people but was acting like a happy puppy - curious, playful, and sometimes even soliciting attention from us. She became very vocal, almost like she was talking, a collie trait called "singing." Scott tapped into her husky side and taught her to howl, too! And she had stolen my heart. When the email came asking if she was ready to come back and find her forever home, I knew that she already had. On February 29, 2012 (Leap Day) we became "foster failures" and adopted our Karma; and we even kept the name she had been given at Animal Friends because it just seemed perfect for her.

Karma became more confident and outgoing with time. Like all collies, she is very intelligent and observant. And like most collies, she needed a "job."

We got in the habit of taking her to visit my father-in-law at his assisted living facility. We noticed that she was very comfortable in that atmosphere. I decided to take her to training classes with a goal of taking the Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog International tests. We started with basic obedience (sit, down, stay, heel, come, leave it, etc.) and also worked on how to approach people in wheel chairs, walk calmly through a crowd, and not startle if something was dropped. Karma learned quickly and in August 2013 she passed her tests! I was so proud of her!

Now Karma and I are a therapy team. We visit a local nursing home several times each month, and it's always a rewarding experience. The residents really look forward to seeing Karma, petting her soft fur, shaking her gently offered paw, and getting kisses. They marvel at how friendly and calm she is, and how sweet. They tell me stories about the dogs that they've had and how much our visits mean to them. Karma is very empathetic and always knows which person to go to, who will enjoy her the most at that time. Some of the residents can't speak, but their smiles say it all. Karma has also provided some much needed stress relief to college students during finals week! A totally different atmosphere and age group than the nursing home, but the comfort of petting a dog is something that benefits people of any age.

Karma has come so far....from a scared, shy puppy to a friendly, playful, outgoing dog who loves adults and children. She enjoys making new doggie friends at the park; going on hikes and swimming; and she's the official greeter for our Christmas tree farm each December. She gives comfort to her senior friends at the nursing home; to her Lab "sisters" when they are afraid of thunderstorms; to me and Scott when we've had a bad day. She's grown from a dog that ran from human contact to one that insistently pushes her nose under a hand for even more petting. With lots of patience, understanding and love, her personality has truly blossomed. She's such a special girl and we're so glad that she's part of our family! Her story is unique but not unusual. There are many dogs out there just waiting for the right family to bring out their best qualities if you're willing to give them a chance.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Is Your Bunny a Bully? - Spaying and Neutering Can Help!

Guest Blogger: Cortney Ressler

If you’ve been following Animal Friends for the last month you probably know February is National Adopt a Shelter Rabbit Month. Did you know that February 25th is the 20th anniversary of World Spay Day? There will be events happening internationally to celebrate the life saving efforts put forth through organizations to spay and neuter companion animals as well as street cats and dogs. This month Animal Friends wants to point out the importance of spaying and neutering your pet rabbit.

I recently worked with a potential adopter that mentioned she had resorted to leaving her pet rabbits outside in partitioned hutches all year round. She had gotten three sister bunnies from a local farm. Although her intentions were altruistic, she became frustrated when the three growing, female rabbits started having problems. She explained her efforts of trying to keep them inside, but the fighting and territorial urinating was too much to handle. Not to mention they were biting and boxing her. None of them were spayed. As we know, living outside in a hutch is no place for a rabbit. I informed her about local low cost options to spay her rabbits that would help get them back on track to living safe and comfortable inside the home.

The solution to most behavior problems with rabbits starts with spaying and neutering. We will never know for certain if altering her rabbits earlier on would have prevented every problem she encountered, after all raising three rabbits is no easy task! But what we do know is that unaltered rabbits, whether they’re male or female, have a very difficult time keeping companions due to sexual frustration and aggression triggered by hormones. Rabbits are extremely social pets and will crave the companionship, but left unaltered, they will become aggressive not only towards other bunnies but towards other pets and humans as well.

Aggression and territorial problems are just two of many reasons to have your pet rabbit fixed. Rabbits are dying in overwhelmed shelters everyday, just like cats and dogs. Left in the wrong hands many unwanted rabbits are turned loose outside to fend for their lives, where they quickly perish. When faced with the staggering figures of how many wonderful, healthy rabbits are waiting to find a home in animal shelters and rescues, it is looked down upon to keep your rabbit intact for breeding purposes. A baby rabbit will reach sexual maturity within the first few months of their life. An experienced rabbit veterinarian will perform surgery on a female around 6 months and on a male as young as 3 ½ months. If left unaltered, your rabbit can have a litter every 30 days, even if they're only a few months old!

Getting your rabbit fixed will be sure to prolong their life and your relationship. You will eliminate any chance of reproductive cancers or infections that may arise and your bunny will care less about reproducing and territory and more about cuddling and bonding!

Please make the best decision for your pet rabbit and contact Animal Friends’ Low Cost Spay and Neuter Department at 412-847-7004 to schedule an affordable surgery today.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dental Health Contributes to Overall Health in Our Pets

By the staff at Petagogy

February is pet dental health month! Good dental health is an important part of your pet’s overall health and well-being. Too much plaque and tarter can erode your pet’s gums, creating pockets for bacterial infections. These infections can cause tooth and bone decay, sometimes leading to more serious health issues. Many times, bad breath is a sign of too much plaque and tarter. It’s best to help control plaque and tarter before it builds up. Contrary to popular belief, kibble does not clean teeth; that’s like humans eating crackers to clean our teeth instead of brushing. Chewing a protein-based kibble may help remove some plaque near the tops of the teeth, but it is not very effective along the gumline where plaque and tarter do the most damage. Plus, poorer quality kibbles containing lots of carbohydrates and fillers can actually contribute to plaque buildup.

Brushing your pet’s teeth with a special pet toothpaste and toothbrush is great; unfortunately, squirming dogs and cats can make it difficult to effectively brush their teeth. There are several non-invasive, toothbrush-free dental products that can help prevent plaque buildup, as well as remove any existing plaque and tarter:

Raw Bones and Chews – One of the best ways to keep your dog’s teeth healthy is by regularly giving him things to chew on like raw meaty bones, rawhide, bully sticks or sweet potato chews made by reputable companies like Primal, Vital Essentials, Wholesome Hide, Barkworthies, Sam’s Yams and Snook’s. Regular chewing helps polish and scrape teeth as the dog crunches and gnaws.

Ark Naturals’ Brushless Toothpaste – Brushless Toothpaste is a highly digestible dental chew with clinically proven, all natural ingredients. On the outside are breath-freshening ingredients like chlorophyll, cinnamon, vanilla and clove, with ridges that provide effective teeth scrubbing and support healthy gums. On the inside is a patented toothpaste center that provides three bacteriostats to inhibit the growth of plaque-forming bacteria and assist with bad breath, tartar and plaque build-up.

Earthbath Tooth & Gum Wipes –Tooth & Gum Wipes from Earthbath are the easy and convenient solution for keeping your pet's mouth clean from plaque, tartar and odor-causing bacteria. The totally natural formula, made with peppermint oil and baking soda, is free of parabens, alcohol and other nasties that don't belong in your pet's mouth. Use daily for best results.

Grin Daily Treats – These easy-to-digest treats contain premium natural ingredients–– chlorophyll, anise, green tea and FOS––to improve your dog’s health by supporting fresher breath, tartar control and healthy digestion.

PetzLife – When used daily, the all-natural ingredients in PetzLife Oral Care Gel or Spray safely remove plaque and tartar, promote healthy gums, brighten teeth and kill the bacteria that causes bad breath.

PlaqueOff – PlaqueOff’s seaweed formula is clinically proven to reduce, help control and prevent plaque, tarter and bad breath in dogs and cats. The granulated formula can be easily added to your pet’s food daily.

Tropiclean – Tropiclean gel, dental chews and water additive help give dogs and cats fresh breath and clean teeth without the hassle of brushing.

Wysong DentaTreat
– DentaTreat is an alternative, natural approach to maintaining pet oral health using cheeses, probiotics, minerals and other natural ingredients. DentaTreat can be sprinkled directly onto food, or it can also be used with a toothbrush as a tooth cleaning powder.

Maintaining your pet’s oral health can help prevent more serious health issues down the road. It’s never too early to start cleaning you pet’s teeth, but it is especially important for older animals who may already have plaque and tarter buildup. So, use pet dental health month as encouragement to start caring for your pets’ teeth––you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the difference it makes!

Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies for dogs, cats and small mammals. 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. Visit their website at

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Run For A Reason: Join Team Animal Friends!

Help support the animals in our community when you run in the 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon! If you’re already running for the race or are planning on signing up, consider fundraising for Animal Friends. Your fundraising efforts will help fund the care of our homeless animals, low-cost spay and neuter programming, and important outreach work like Pet Therapy and Chow Wagon that help animals and people not only at our shelter but out in the community. Last year, our runners raised over $5,500. This year, we want to raise even more!

Signing up to be a part of Team Animal Friends is easy.

1.    First, go to  Choose which race you’d like to run (marathon, half marathon, 5k, dog walk) and register. Sign up quickly – spots fill up fast!
2.    Next, register with Team Animal Friends to start fundraising on CrowdRise. Here’s the link: Click on the “Fundraise for this Campaign” button on the left hand side and make a profile.
3.    Start fundraising! Share your page with family and friends and ask them to donate to your cause. Don’t worry: there are NO fundraising minimums when you run for Team Animal Friends. Just choose a goal that means something to you.

If you are unable or don’t want to run but still want to help our cause, you can always skip registering for the marathon and just fundraise with us on CrowdRise! Or you can donate to our animals by visiting our marathon page.

As a thank you for their generosity, we are offering our fundraisers the chance to win an Animal Friends prize pack! Each time someone donates to your page, your name will be entered into a raffle to win Animal Friends prizes. The more donations made to your page, the more chances you have to win!

All gifts made to CrowdRise are tax-deductible and go directly towards helping homeless animals in need.

Here’s an idea of what your fundraising will help fund:

$50 – Underwrites one spay surgery and keeps 55 unwanted animals from being born.
$ 100 – Provides vaccines, a medical exam and microchip for a shelter animal.
$150 – Provides critical care to a rescued animal

Do something you love while helping animals in need – run for Team Animal Friends in the 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Animal Friends' Straw Drop Program Comes to an End

This winter has certainly provided many challenges to safely caring for animals living outside.  During these difficult times, Animal Friends’ Straw Drop provided over 500 bags of free bedding straw to animals in need, breaking all previous records for the program!  

With this year’s supply of Straw Drop straw depleted, those who need more straw can contact area feed and tractor supply type stores for availability and pricing information. An example is Best Feeds Garden Center on Babcock Blvd.  Their number is 412.822.7777.  Caregivers are reminded to remain vigilant during extreme weather conditions to ensure that their animals are safe and their living conditions are legal.  

Although current PA law does not list specific temperatures at which an animal must be brought inside, if weather conditions are such that the legal requirements of animal care cannot be maintained outside, then animals can be ordered inside or seized by an officer and charges for animal cruelty could be filed.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Animal Friends' Home-To-Home program presents: Tucker!

Tucker is a 3 year old male Presa Canario, attached are some pictures of him. He is about 160 pounds and a very good watch/guard dog. He listens very well and is house/kennel trained. We have had Tucker since he was about 5 weeks old. 

He has a history of not getting a long with other dogs which is the main reason we are looking for a new home for him as we have another dog which we have to keep separate at all times. This with 3 young children is a very difficult task to make sure of. 

Tucker has all his shots and is neutered, he is a beautiful dog its unfortunate we have to do this but hoping to find a home where he can be more free and have a better life.

If you can help Tucker, please contact Mike at

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Animal Friends' Home-to-Home Adoption program presents: Cesar!

Adopt Cesar!  Cesar is a 2 1/2 year old male Boxer/Pitbull mix who is looking for his forever home.  He was an abandoned/neglected dog, who was skin and bones when I found him.  He is neutered, up-to-date on vaccinations and heartworm negative.  

He is super cuddly and affectionate (he loves sleeping completely underneath a blanket!).  He is an athletic dog who loves to go for walks and runs on a leash.  He is also super content lounging around the house and following you everywhere (although, he will need at least 2, fifteen minute walks a day to exert some energy).  He loves to play with toys, and loves a peanut butter filled Kong!  Cesar will be your best buddy, and forever loyal companion.  He wants and deserves a loving home.  

Cesar is well behaved and housebroken (I have not witnessed him around small children in the home).  He gets along fine with other dogs; he has been to doggy daycare at a few facilities, and did well.  However, Cesar will thrive in an environment where is the one and only dog (if there is another dog, do be aware that he may "mark" his territory in your home).  NO cats!  He is not an apartment dog, you must live in a house. 

 If you have a fenced in yard, it must be 6+ feet tall, because this athletic guy loves to demonstrate his fence jumping skills.  He does fine being tied to a leash outside.  Two things Cesar needs to work on:  his leash walking skills (pulls very hard), and he is very cautious/protective around strangers coming into the home.  Please contact me to arrange a meeting with wonderful Cesar!  Call Anna:  (412)551-3169,   

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

University of Pittsburgh's Pitt's People for Pets Donate to Animal Friends' Chow Wagon

When families fall on hard financial times, finding the means to provide for every family member, two- and four-legged, can be difficult.  Many times, pets are returned to shelters or cannot stay with their families because of financial difficulties.  Since 2007, Animal Friends’ Chow Wagon program has delivered almost 175,000 pounds of food to families in need. The Chow Wagon program currently partners with 23 food banks and a Meals on Wheels group.  Of course, all of this would not be possible if not for the generosity of our community.

Recently, the University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt’s People for Pets group held a pet food drive.  Twelve bins were placed around the Pitt campus to collect food and donations, along with information explaining the need and how Animal Friends’ Chow Wagon program works.  Overall, an amazing 2,090 pounds of food were collected along with a monetary donation of $2014.

But collecting goods is not the only benefit that Pitt's People for Pets provides, says Kannu Sahni, Director of Community Relations.

"It's important to make people aware of this need," Sahni explained. "Some of these families already have trauma, then they lose a pet."

"Pets are another component of the family," John Wilds, PhD, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Community Relations said. "They are companions."

Sahni further explained that educating the community about this need will increase interest, and that is an opportunity to do even more next year.

"We have high expectations," Sahni smiled.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Easy Scent Games for Dogs

Guest Blogger: Suzanne Denk, Animal Enrichment Specialist

Dogs are great at detecting smells!  They can find lost people, locate land mines, diagnose cancer, admire your new perfume, and find suspicious luggage content.  Those superior sniffing noses should have some fun! 

Scent games allow a dog to use instinctive skills.  Using the nose lets the dog think and requires the dog to concentrate.  Scent games are fun for a dog but do not over stimulate him and that can be essential when it is too cold to play outside!  A few minutes of a calming scent game can help a dog relax.  Each game only takes a few minutes and can be played in your living room.   

Bottles in a Box: Drop treats into a large box filled with empty water bottles.  The dog must search in the box to recover the treats.  Because the bottles move and make noise, the game can help build confidence.  For a fearful dog, try crumbled newspaper in the box instead of bottles.  Leave some treats visible on the top of the newspapers to encourage the dog to search.  

Seek and Find: Randomly toss treats or kibble into grass, snow, leaves, around a room or on a blanket on the dog’s bed and let the dog sniff and search.  The challenge is greater when the treats are not easily visible requiring him to use his nose. 

Scent Trail: Lay out a trail of tiny treats, Hansel and Gretel style.  This game may be played inside or outside and in any size space.  Some treats may be placed on a bench, around a tree, up on a branch, on the bumper of your car, up the stairs, around the perimeter of a room, or under a couch cushion.  Use your imagination.  A jackpot (a small pile of treats) should be placed at the end of the trail.   

Twisted Towel Treat Puzzle: Place treats on a towel, roll the towel up, and twist.  Let the dog work the towel open to find the food.  Too easy?  Place the treats in a Kong and roll up the Kong in the towel. 

Snack Time Tubes: Gather 6-12 Pringles potato chip tubes.  Drop treats into one tube.  Pile the tubes together.  The dog must sniff to locate the tube with the treats.  The long tube provides a little more challenge to the dog in removing the treat and provides some salty potato chip flavor!  

Cereal boxes and egg cartons: Dogs enjoy tearing up cereal boxes and egg cartons to find hidden treats. 

After a game that requires thinking and sniffing, you and your dog can snuggle up and relax on a cold winter day!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Animal Friends' Home-to-Home program presents: Marley!

I am trying to find a home for my cat Marley because my son is allergic to cats, something we only discovered recently after he underwent allergy testing.

Marley is about 2.5 years old and is a neutered, male cat with all four paws declawed. He has always been a 100% indoor cat. He is very friendly - almost dog-like - and has been very healthy throughout his life. He has no bad habits since being declawed. He is accustomed to living with a dog. In fact, his "best friend" was a Labrador Retriever until she died last summer. He would often sleep with her in her crate. He has also co-habited for periods with other dogs (a beagle, a pointer).

He eats dried food exclusively (Orijen/Acana). He loves to eat! He is still very playful and enjoys watching birds and bugs. He is very sociable with people and spends most of his time following me around, kind of like a dog. He greets me at the door when I get home. He also "talks" a lot, like really a lot. He would make a great companion for someone looking for a friendly pet.

You can contact me through email at, or call me at 412-327-2462.

Monday, January 6, 2014

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, My Cats Gave to Me...

Guest Blogger: Diane Friske

Please do not let the following stop you from adopting a cat or a kitten or several cats or kittens.  You must have a sense of humor and not expect to keep a “Martha Stewart” tree.

Warning: The names contained in this story have not been changed, as they are not innocent.

The culprits:    

        Sally and Bowie – two 10-year-old tuxedo cats
        Athena and Apollo – two 4-and-a-half-year-old, part Siamese cats. Animal Friends alumni.
        Bobette – 3-year-old gray cat. Animal Friends alum and foster fail.
        Cocoa Puff – 5-month-old chocolate kitten. Animal Friends Alumni and foster failure.

The tree is being decorated. All six Friske cats and two of the foster kittens are all lined up, eying which lights to lower to the floor and deciding who gets to bat which ornaments off the tree.  They can hardly wait until we turned the lights out and went to bed.

Day 1: One string of lights and five ornaments down!  One sea gull ornament, kill and dissected by the most beautiful cat in the world, Athena.

Day 2: Three ornaments down. One wise man down. One cat sleeping on the tree skirt. One cat sleeping under the tree skirt.

Day 3: Lower string of lights even lower to the floor.  One wise man down. Tree skirt is a mess, all crumpled up.

Day 3 ½: Went to dinner last night. Returned to all 3 wise men and a shepherd boy down for the count.

Day 4: 3 ornaments down. Tree skirt situation worsening.

Day 5: Five (isn’t it cute how they match the number of ornaments with the day?) ornaments down, one never to return. One wise man down. Same wise man as always. They must not like him.

Day 6: One shepherd boy down. Tree skirt a mess again. Rubber lizard placed under the tree. Hairball also placed under the tree. If you have Christmas table runners with tassels on the ends and 6 cats, do not let the tassels hang over the edge of the table.  You will be sorry. Gifts have been placed under the tree and cats are currently chasing each other over the gifts and around the tree.  We may not have to unwrap any gifts come Christmas.

Day 7: Only one shepherd boy down today. However, someone either chewed, jumped on or ran over a gift. Wrapping paper torn in two places. Fixed with masking tape. Recipient has cats and will understand.

Christmas Day: Found one ornament under the pie safe. White cat (aka: The Most Beautiful Cat in the World) found chewing the wires of the tree lights just like the white cat in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. One bow chewed. Rubber lizard placed carefully in the water bowl.  White cat’s brother (also an Animal Friends’ alum) chewed open a box of cookies and threw one he didn’t like on the floor.  He also took a bite of the coffee cake. Can’t believe Santa left them treats and toys!

The day after Christmas: All is calm with the cats. Excitement is over and they are recovering from a catnip hangover. It’s been fun.

Turn Your Pooch Into a Super Dog with Superfoods

Guest Blogger: The staff at Petagogy

It’s a new year, which always comes with new resolutions to eat healthier! One way to eat better is to incorporate superfoods into our diets, which can lead to healthier immune and digestive systems, as well as make us look and feel better. Our pets can also benefit from superfoods, and it’s a great time to start incorporating superfoods into their diets as well. Many of these foods can be found in high quality commercial pet foods and treats, or can be added as supplements to your furkids’ diets. For 2014, resolve to add these superfoods to your pup’s meals and snacks and you just might turn your regular dog into a super dog!

Chia Seeds
Chia seeds contain B vitamins, antioxidants, fatty acids, protein and fiber. The nutrients in chia seeds support your dog's skin, joints, vision, immune system, brain development, blood sugar levels, healthy digestion and weight maintenance. Try sprinkling a small amount of seeds onto your dog’s food or switching to a kibble that contains chia seeds, such as Solid Gold Sun Dancer. 

Eggs are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals for both humans and dogs. The extra protein will keep your pup feeling full longer and will help maintain joint and muscle health. Many high quality dog foods, such as Fromm, Now Fresh and Holistic Blend, include eggs as an extra source of protein on top of high amounts of animal protein. 

Fish that is rich in Omega-3 fats is just as beneficial for your pup as it is for you. From joint health to skin and coat conditioning to fighting cancer, adding fish and fish oil to your dog’s diet can only benefit his or her health. Try switching to a dog food that features fish as the main protein, such as Acana Pacifica, Orijen Six Fish or Zignature Trout & Salmon, let your pup snack on fish skin treats like Beams from The Honest Kitchen or add a few squirts of salmon oil to your pup’s breakfast or dinner.

Tripe is a delicacy for both humans and dogs! Green unbleached tripe contains a plethora of digestive enzymes that both aid in digestion and purify and cleanse the blood and remove toxins, parasites and fungus. The digestive enzymes found in tripe also improve metabolism, hormone function and boost the immune system. Tripett is a great canned green tripe that is available in a variety of different proteins, including beef, duck, salmon, bison, venison and lamb, that can be added as a supplement to you dog’s kibble. 

The prebiotics in yogurt help our digestive systems produce friendly bacteria, which aids in digestion and helps ward off a multitude of problems ranging from constipation to other more serious conditions. Try adding a dollop of plain yogurt (with no sugar added) to your dog’s meal or give your dog a yogurt-based treat like YoPup’s probiotic blend cookies. 

Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is about 50% lauric acid, of which the only other abundant source found in nature is in human breast milk. The fats in coconut oil are similar to fats in mother's milk and have similar nutritional effects. When ingested, coconut oil has been known to improve digestion and nutrient absorption, as well as alleviate digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers and colitis. The bonus: it’s also great for skin and coat and immune health.

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 health food stores can be fed to pets, but we love CocoTherapy’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil and Chips.

Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin
Not only are they loaded with antioxidents, but sweet potatoes and pumpkin also help improve your dog’s digestive system. The high amount of beta-carotene that gives both vegetables their orange color is greatly beneficial for helping to stabilize a dog’s blood sugar. Sweet potatoes and pumpkin also contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps eliminate waste from the body and absorbs water to slow digestion and aid in nutrient absorption. Insoluble fiber is considered a gut-healthy fiber that adds bulk to your pet’s diet, helping to eliminate or reduce constipation. Try giving your dog a Sam’s Yams chew made only of dehydrated sweet potatoes or simply add a tablespoon of pumpkin to your pup’s meal (the suggested serving size is 1 tablespoon per 10 lbs of weight as a daily food supplement).  

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

Thursday, January 2, 2014

How to Build a Feral Cat House

Materials needed are: a large Styrofoam cooler or sheets of one-inch thick hard Styrofoam, a large box or Rubbermaid storage bin, a box cutter or utility knife, black plastic sheeting, Gorilla tape and straw. Then assemble as follows:

Place the large Styrofoam cooler in a box that is about the same size and tape closed or line the box with sheets of Styrofoam cut to fit.

Cut a round doorway about six inches in diameter in one of the long sides of the box, cutting through the box and Styrofoam (Do not cut the hole in the center as the wind will blow straight in).  Make sure to cut the circle towards the side and high enough so that the bottom of the doorway is several inches above the ground. 


Cut a piece of the plastic sheeting to completely cover the box.  Wrap the box as tight as possible and secure all loose ends with Gorilla tape.  Make sure to cover all openings with tape to make the house as water tight as possible.

Cut the plastic sheeting that is covering the opening like you would cut a pie.  Use small pieces of Gorilla tape to secure the plastic and make a nice smooth opening.

Stuff the bottom of the box with straw.

When placing the shelter face the opening away from the prevailing wind direction.  The shelter is fairly lightweight and may need to be weighed down.   Catnip can be sprinkled inside at first to attract the cats.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Animal Friends Tops 10,000 Spay/Neuter Surgeries in 2013!

 We did it!

As part of an aggressive program to end pet overpopulation in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Animal Friends reached their goal to spay or neuter 10,000 pets in 2013.

On Thursday, December 19 – just 11 days shy of the end of the year – Animal Friends’ Low-Cost Spay/Neuter team completed the 10,000th surgery of the year! The lucky cat was Jackie, a young black female, brought in to be spayed by her caregiver Rebecca Lafferty. Lafferty found Jackie as a pregnant stray and brought her into her home so she could have a safe place to nurse and care for her kittens.

Jackie (black cat) and her kitten relaxing after their surgeries
Animal Friends knows that spay and neuter programs are the only way to proactively relieve the pet overpopulation problem in our region. In Allegheny County alone, conservative estimates show that 20,000 homeless animals are euthanized every year. The problem is simple: there are too many pets and not enough homes.

Rebecca gets a basket of cat treat and toys from our  
Low Cost Spay/Neuter Coordinator Carol Whaley

Early this year, the organization set a goal: To alter 10,000 pets in 2013. An unprecedented number for Animal Friends, but one that is made possible through an aggressive low-cost spay/neuter program which includes in-house clinics, a mobile surgical unit and strong partnerships with outside organizations and the city of Pittsburgh.

While Animal Friends is proud of its achievement, there’s still much more work to be done. The organization dreams of a day when pets are no longer needlessly euthanized in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

So Animal Friends will continue to bring affordable, high-quality surgeries to the pets in our region. And we’re prepared to step up our efforts even more.

Please join Animal Friends in celebrating this achievement. Sponsor a spay today! Visit to make a donation now! And together, our community can drive pet overpopulation out of Southwestern Pennsylvania…for good.

Animal Friends and Big Science Music present: The Healing Power of Pets

The healing power of the human-animal bond is nothing short of astounding.  Pet owners tend to have better psychological wellbeing and fewer minor health problems.  From lowering our blood pressure and reducing stress to enhancing self-esteem and empathy in our children, pets seem to carry that holiday spirit of compassion with them all year round.  There is so much we can learn from them and so much we can enjoy by allowing them to be a part of our lives!

One of the simplest ways animals enhance our lives is through the power of smiles.  Have you ever noticed how a child’s face immediately lights up at the sight of an adorable kitten?  What about a bed-ridden hospital patient who gets a visit from a therapy dog?  A simple smile changes your brain chemistry to put you in a better mood.  What better to make you smile after a long day at work than a wiggly-butt waiting for you when you arrive home?

If you’ve already got an animal companion, consider spreading some smiles.  Invite your neighbors over for coffee so they can receive some loving purrs from your cat.  Stop and visit with folks along the way next time you take your dog for a walk.  Share a silly video of your bunny getting into trouble with friends online.  The benefits of interacting with an animal are many, but just making us smile is one of the greatest gifts they give.

Part of our vision here at Animal Friends is to promote the human-animal bond and we hope you’ll ring in the New Year with as many smiles as possible.  We guarantee that bringing a new furry friend into your family will give you plenty of reasons to smile!


Click here to watch a great video by Big Science Music!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Animal Friends Shares the Love with Day Apollo Subaru and the ASPCA

Animal Friends recently hosted a two-day, multi-location event on December 13th and 14th through the ASPCA/Subaru Share the Love program.  This adoption extravaganza was successful in part due to additional shelters coming to Animal Friends including Greene County Humane Society and Four Footed Friends.  Animal Friends also had adoptable animals offsite at Day Apollo Subaru in Moon Township. 

Greene County Humane Society and Animal Friends have a strong relationship, as they often transfer many of their animals to us.  On average, Greene County brings hundreds of adoptable animals to our shelter.  For this event, they chose to highlight cats and brought 40 of them to showcase in our Outreach Center.  Throughout the event, Greene County successfully adopted four cats into forever homes.  At the conclusion of the weekend, Animal Friends was able to admit 31 of the cats brought in from Green County.  That means Green County Humane Society left with only eight cats!

Four Footed Friends also joined Animal Friends and Green County Humane Society on Saturday, December 14th.  They brought along four dogs and found a forever home for one!  For increased exposure and a better chance of adoption, Four Footed Friends transferred ownership of three dogs to Animal Friends at the conclusion of the event.

Interactive enrichment displays dotted the halls at Animal Friends and the retail store offered special incentives for event attendees’ donations.  Rabbit handlers mingled in the lobby with bunnies in slings, and dog handlers brought various shelter residents to greet visitors.  We also had adoptable foster dogs come to the shelter for public interaction. 

Animal Friends had successful adoptions onsite as well as offsite at Day Subaru in Moon Township.  We were able to have our Mobile Resource Center at Day Subaru which helped us show-off several of our adoptable cats and rabbits.  Many volunteers greeted car shoppers with available dogs and Day Subaru encouraged customers to come with their animals for photos with Santa.  Because of this we had one cat adoption offsite and brought potential adopters to the shelter.  Visitors to both Animal Friends and Day Subaru were challenged to “Stuff-a-Subaru” with donated supplies for Animal Friends residents and the Animal Friends’ Chow Wagon program.  

Through the combined efforts of Animal Friends, Day Apollo Subaru, Greene County Humane Society, and Four Footed Friends, 21 animals found their forever homes through the Share the Love Adoption Extravaganza.  Photos with Santa generated $95 for Animal Friends and an additional $82 was raised through general donations.

We can’t wait to have more events like this in the future! What a great way to help homeless pets in our region. Thanks to everyone who attended, donated and volunteered! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Animal Friends presents: Hellmuth: Special Working Cat for a Barn or Warehouse

EDIT: Hellmuth has found a home!  Thank you!

Hellmuth is a muscular, handsome cat who was rescued from life as a stray when he was a kitten. Now, he is a strapping young tomcat who has proven to be a friendly, loyal companion, but has never quite adapted to his current apartment life. 

He is a playful, adventurous spirit who would best succeed as a Working Cat. Click here for more information about working cats.   While he enjoys being petted, picked up and even cuddled, he is, first and foremost a bold and territorial soul. He would do well in a heated barn or warehouse, chasing off rodents. 

His owner loves him very much but knows that Hellmuth is very unhappy and unsuited for his current home in an apartment. He makes this known by spraying.

 Hellmuth is a healthy, neutered 7-year-old cat who, after he gets to know you, will greet you with enthusiasm and head butts. He does not want to live with dogs or cats.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Baby Ready Pets Class Review

Hello! My husband and I participated in the Baby Ready Pets class back in July, and I just wanted to say thanks again for all the great info. We definitely felt like we had a good plan for introducing our newborn to our dog, Winston, and our two cats. 

Willow is 2 weeks old now and all the pets are doing great with her. The cats actually don't seem to notice her most of the time. Winston, on the other hand, is definitely curious, especially when Willow has a meltdown. :) 

We are continuing to stick to the information we learned in class - particularly the rule of never leaving our daughter unattended around the animals. We have also made a point to keep her elevated, which seems to encourage a lot more respect from Winston. We challenged him today by placing her on the floor for some supervised "tummy time." Winston did great - he sat and watched but made no attempt to interact with her. So proud of him!

Again, thanks so much for all of the info! We will definitely recommend the class to others in the area! 


Rachel & Alex

Monday, December 9, 2013

Holiday Pet Hazards: Keep Your Pets Safe This Season

By the staff at Petagogy
‘Tis the season for decorations, parties and food galore! It is a festive time with lots to smile about, but as you prepare your home for your holiday festivities keep in mind some simple safety measures to help keep your four-legged family members safe.

Christmas Trees and Holiday Plants
Cats and dogs may be (very) interested in the tree, and why not—it’s a little bit of the outdoors inside on those cold winter days. If your furry family member is interested in the pine tree in the corner make sure it is secured. A hefty cat on a branch or an excited jump by a pooch could topple the tree on to more than just the neatly wrapped boxes underneath. Also keep holiday plants off the ground as many seasonal plants, including holly, mistletoe, poinsettia, lilies, as well as Christmas tree water, can be toxic if ingested by your pets.

Be mindful of low hanging decorations. Jingle bells, tinsel, lights and ribbon might look like toys to your pets. A gentle swat with a paw could lead to chewing and swallowing, which could lead to an emergency trip to the vet.

Holiday Feasts
A highlight of the holiday season is the food. Serving sweets to your guests? Keep them up high out of your pooch’s reach. Chocolate and artificial sweetener (xylitol) are very bad for your pet. Although a few bites of plain turkey or vegetables are fine, the spices, sauces and butter used to make the turkey and sides delicious for your guests are not, so keep leftovers out of the dog bowl and encourage guests not to feed pets from their plate. No turkey or ham bones either—once the bones have been cooked they pose a serious hazard for your pets. Raw, uncooked bones are often safe, but when they are cooked they become hard and can crack, splinter or be come lodged in the throat. Still want to give your pet a holiday treat? Some high-quality food companies make special foods that you can give your pets around the holidays—try Merrick’s Venison Holiday Stew or Christmas Day Dinner for your pup. 

Holiday Guests
Family and friends may be coming to visit over the holidays or perhaps you are planning a holiday party. Guests may enjoy a holiday libation and can become lax about making sure doors and gates are closed, or may leave their adult beverage within your pet’s reach--both can be dangerous to your furry friends. In situations where your guests may not be pet savvy or they may not make the “best” decisions, it might be best to board your pet, or keep them separated in another room for the evening. Also make sure they are wearing current ID tags and are micro-chipped in case they escape during the flow of guests in and out of your house.

Gifts for Your Pet
People love to spoil other people’s pets and may want to buy something tasty for your furkids. Be cautious; not everyone reads FDA warnings and may be unaware that certain chicken jerky and other treats made in China have been making pets sick. If you don’t trust the brand or know where the ingredients are sourced from, be gracious but don’t risk giving it to your pet just to be polite to the gift-giver. I promise your pet won’t rat you out.

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

Animal Friends presents: Santa's Little Helpers

Animal Friends had a recent visit from Santa who stopped by for our annual pet photos.  During a break, Santa walked through the adoption floor and saw several wonderful dogs who have not yet found their forever homes.  

Mistletoe (Glenda)

Santa proclaimed, “How could this be?  None of us are perfect, human and animal alike. We all have our little quirks and challenges.  But everyone deserves to be loved, safe and cherished in a forever home for the holidays!”.  

Christmas and Jingle Bell (Gia Marie and Gulliver)
He talked to these long term residents, cuddled with them, cried with them and found them to be wonderful companions who want nothing more than to be home for the holidays.  With a wink of his eye and a cheery “HO HO HO”, he declared that these special dogs should be honorary Christmas Elves. He also decreed that their names should be worthy of the holiday celebration of priceless pets and so Santa suggested Christmas, Jingle Bell and Mistletoe.
Please look for these special “Elves” throughout the kennel and ask to visit with them, or any of their furry friends, to make their dreams come true. Could your home be their forever home?  We will be glad to introduce you to these wonderful, truly “priceless pets”!  

Priceless Pet Adoptions for all pets over the age of 1 continue until December 31st.  Come and meet Christmas, Jingle Bell and Mistletoe today.