Friday, April 29, 2011

A typical day for our alum, Atticus...

Atticus, a blind cat adopted from Animal Friends, has turned out to be quite the writer! Our faithful correspondent has given us the latest news on his new life (in between catnaps) with just a little assistance from mom Katie Tontala.

A typical day in my new forever home…

6am: Wake up with a kiss from mom: "Hey Sleepy Head-time to eat!” Run downstairs and gobble up a dish of wet food. Sit right in the middle of the newspaper while mom is drinking her coffee and trying to read. (If she tries to ignore me, I bump her with my head until she gives in and gives me lots of rubs behind my ears.) Follow mom up to the bathroom and help her get ready for work. After she leaves, find the 3 wastebaskets upstairs and knock them over. Back to sleep on my favorite chair.

5:30 pm: Run downstairs to greet mom. Follow her around, chatting all the time, while she changes her clothes and “unwinds for 5 minutes.” (I don’t know why she has to unwind – doesn’t she sleep all day like I do??) Race her downstairs and wait for my dinner in the kitchen. Visit all my siblings while they are eating and nudge them away from their bowls so I can smell their food. (I certainly don’t want to miss anything!) Time to scratch and stretch out a bit on the scratching post and then it’s up on the cat tree to digest my dinner.

7 pm: Do a cursory check of the waste baskets to make sure they are still tipped over, make rounds in all the closets to make sure there is nothing new in there, and then help mom check her e-mail. I know she just loves it when I walk across her keyboard while she is typing, so I try to make her extra happy and sit smack dab on top of it (I am doing it right now while she is typing this for me).

8pm: The elusive, squeaky, black, furry mouse rears its ugly head and I kill it by tossing it all over the place. My courage does not go unnoticed. Mom says, “what a brave boy!”, and I am rewarded with lots of kisses and treats. I perch myself on the arm of the couch and relax by mom and my furry siblings until it is time to go upstairs.

9:30pm: Jump up on the bed with mom and my sisters and find my spot at the foot of the bed. Since the bed is high, mom put this little set of steps by the bed and we can all climb up the steps to reach our spots. The lights go out, mom gives us all a kiss and says-“Have happy dreams”… And I always do….I dream that every cat at the shelter will soon have a life like this! zzzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pen Pal Mail from our Alum, Maisie

Maisie, an FIV+ cat, was a long-time resident at Animal Friends, and was adopted on her two-year anniversary with us. We’re delighted that she took the time out of her busy schedule to drop us a note about her new life.

Guest Blogger: Maisie, with a little help from her forever mom, Laurie Sabolsky

I love my forever home! Is this what all the volunteers at Animal Friends were talking about all that time? It's like they built their home for me! I wonder if they did?

I spend my days in my quiet home while Mom and Dad are at work. I don't like to see them go, but Mom always tells me she loves me and that I'm the prettiest cat in the world before she leaves, so I can't say it's the worst! During the day I like to lounge around, play with my toys and sit in the big windows, watching the city birds!

I love when Mom gets home. I always run to the door to greet her, but between you and me, I'm also happy because that means dinner time! I sure do love food! Sometimes if I've been especially good Mom gives me some yummy treats and tells me what a good girl I am! That really makes me feel special.

I like to sit next to Mom and Dad because they're so nice and I know they love me a lot. I like to lay on my fluffy blanket, and I LOVE to sleep with Mom and Dad at night.

I miss my friends at Animal Friends, but I know how happy they must be for me. Please tell everyone how great I'm doing. Off to take another cat nap, love you!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Canines in the Classroom: Reading With Rover

Guest Blogger: Siri Espy, Animal Friends' Communications Team

For a child who finds reading difficult, reading aloud can be a painful and embarrassing experience. Standing in front of the classroom with fears of being made fun of, or fear of pressure or criticism from teachers and peers can lead to a downward spiral. What a child in that situation needs most is unconditional acceptance in a safe setting to practice reading skills without anxiety. What that child needs is a dog.

The nationally-renowned Reading with Rover program is specially designed for kids who need a boost in reading skills. Who could be more accepting and non-judgmental than a dog? And the listener is not just any dog, but one who is temperament tested and selected for its calm, kid-friendly demeanor. There’s nothing like a little tail-wagging encouragement to boost self-esteem and help a child reach the next level.

At Animal Friends, Reading with Rover sessions involve a dog, a child and the dog’s owner. The trio sits on a blanket on the floor of Animal Friends’ classroom, creating their own cozy nest for reading without distractions. Parents are welcome to relax in our library or lobby and enjoy a much-needed break in their day. Often, the books are selected by the child’s teacher, while Animal Friends also has a good selection of canine-related books the dogs seem to especially enjoy.

Volunteers attend a special orientation, then sign up to work with their dogs in the program. Wheatie, a wheaten terrier, is one such dog; he brings his human Dawn Marcus to Animal Friends for Reading with Rover sessions. A patient, calm fellow, Wheatie enjoys being read to while Dawn explains to kids that sometimes Wheatie needs a little help, too. Knowing that he also doesn’t know a difficult word will encourage the child to try again, without embarrassment. Wheatie doesn’t mind.

Reading with Rover participants have the privilege of meeting, and reading to, a variety of furry friends, rotating through canines of different sizes and breeds. Kids respond to the program with improvement in skills and greater enthusiasm for reading, which becomes less a chore and more an adventure. Teachers report their students’ excitement, as the students return to class with pictures of their new friend and glowing reports about the experience.

One young lady tells us of the ultimate Reading with Rover experience: her reading skills improved so much from her involvement in the program that her family adopted a dog from Animal Friends. “I can read to my own dog now,” she reported with excitement. Another family benefited doubly, with a child who boosted his reading ability while overcoming a fear of dogs that resulted from an earlier bite.

For more information about volunteering with Animal Friends' Reading With Rover program, click here!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spay Today! Animal Friends Urges Use of Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Services

Animal Friends is proud to offer low-cost spay/neuter services so that local pet owners can afford to provide their pets with this important surgery. But, this spring, Animal Friends is seeing a decline in applications for spay/neuter surgeries.

Animal Friends urges all pet owners to take advantage of low-cost spay/neuter services. Call 1.800.SPAY.PGH to apply today.

Spaying (for females) and neutering (for males) prevents dogs, cats and rabbits from breeding and producing litters. Both are surgical procedures, performed by a licensed veterinarian while the animal is under anesthesia. In addition to preventing the births of unwanted litters, spaying and neutering:

  • reduces the pet’s risk of cancer and infection, such as prostate, testicular and mammary cancers and uterine infections

  • eliminates the mating drive, making pets more relaxed companions
    makes pets less likely to run away

  • helps curb unwanted behaviors such as aggression, urine marking territories, roaming, fighting, mounting and howling

Animal Friends offers subsidized spay and neuter services for low-income pet owners, plus special pricing for Pit Bulls and feral cats.

Spaying and neutering is also critical to ending pet overpopulation. Over 20,000 unwanted pets are euthanized every year in Allegheny County alone. A single spay surgery can save 55 unwanted animals from being born. The only proactive way to reduce and eliminate pet overpopulation is through spay and neuter.

Make plans to spay or neuter your pet as soon as you adopt. Call Animal Friends at 1.800.SPAY.PGH.

If you have already spayed or neutered your pet, spay it forward! Sponsor a spay for a local pet by visiting

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lives Six to Nine - Tips for Keeping the Maturing Cat Active

Guest Blogger: Kate Tontala

As your cat ages, he will most likely devote more time to finding snuggly warm places to nap and less time chasing fuzzy balls across the floor. Although it can sometimes be a challenge, it is essential for your cat’s physical health and mental well being to keep active. Making small changes in your cat’s daily routine or environment can make the difference!

Your older cat will look forward to playtime if the sessions are divided up into shorter sessions and spread out over the course of the day. High-speed acrobatics will be a thing of the past, so choose toys or activities that will still provide mental stimulation, but not require the stamina or agility of an Olympic athlete. Control how high the feather “bird” flies or how fast the laser light “mouse” scampers across the floor so that your kitty can still delight in the thrill of the chase and the glory of the capture-without injuring himself.

If your kitty’s vision isn’t as sharp as it used to be, toys that have a little a bell will help him follow them across the carpet and encourage him to chase after them. Catnip is a great way to get your kitty to “kick up his heels.” One little pinch rubbed on a soft toy and your cat will be so delighted, he won’t even notice he is exercising his legs!

Place your kitty’s favorite treats across the room or at the top of the steps. Most cats won’t even think about those few extra steps if it means a tasty reward at the end!

On days when your kitty is not up to frolicking across the room, a well placed bird feeder outside the window can provide enough interest to keep him from sleeping the day away.

Encourage your kitty to explore his favorite spots or reach that special patch of sunlight by providing stairs or ramps as a stepping stones.

With a little understanding and love, the golden years can be rewarding for both you and your cat.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Join our Drive - and Help Us Drive Pet Overpopulation Out of Our Region

Guest Blogger: Siri Espy, Animal Friends' Communications Team

If you’re reading this, you’ll surely agree with Animal Friends’ goal of reducing, and ultimately eliminating, the region’s population of unwanted and homeless animals. Litters are born into tragic lives, and local shelters will soon be overflowing with kittens, many of whom will be euthanized for lack of cage space. Sadly, this happens every Spring.

Animal Friends has led the way in tackling this tragedy through our mobile spay and neuter clinic. Last year, we provided over 9,000 spay and neuter surgeries, altering as many as 60 cats in a single visit, and making a significant impact:

  • A shelter in Clarion County that operates on a shoestring budget can ensure that its animals are spayed or neutered prior to adoption

  • A well-meaning but low-income woman who feeds stray cats in her neighborhood will stop future generations of stray and unwanted offspring

  • Families who have beloved pets but are unable to afford costly surgeries can prevent unintended births...and give their pets the health benefits that accompany spaying and neutering.
The double whammy of an economic recession and rapidly rising gas prices has hit Animal Friends hard. The need for the mobile clinic's services has increased dramatically as the costs related to its operation have skyrocketed.

We’re asking for your support to help us keep moving ahead. Please send Animal Friends a donation of a gasoline gift card. Mail or bring your gift to Animal Friends, 562 Camp Horne Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237.

Or, to keep your own gas costs down, just click here to chip in and support our efforts or call 412.847.7052. Every gallon of gas takes us closer to our goal - staying on the road to ending pet overpopulation in our region.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Get Fit - Walk a Dog!

Guest Blogger: Siri Espy, Communications Team

If the recent weekend is any indication, spring is here! This is the perfect time of year to spend time with a canine companion – it will do you both a world of good!

According to a recent medical research and as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week, people who own and walk dogs are 34% more likely to meet federal standards for physical activity. People who walked their dogs had higher levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity. And senior citizens walk longer and faster when they walk with dogs rather than humans.

Don’t have a dog? Stop by to find a new walking buddy who will also give you a lifetime of love. If your current life is not dog-friendly, we can always use volunteer dog walkers. Either way, we guarantee that spending time with a precious pup will be good for your heart. So put on your walking shoes and make the trip to Animal Friends!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rabbit Volunteers at Animal Friends

Guest Blogger Laureen Dzadovsky, Animal Friends' Rabbit Volunteer

When I started volunteering with Animal Friends' rabbits, I had not just one, but two mentors! I knew nothing about rabbits when I first arrived. But, as soon as I saw them at a Bun Run, I was in love.

Everything else was a learning experience for me, and without having mentors to guide me through it all, I might not have stuck with the program. Animal Friends' rabbit mentors are knowledgeable and friendly and can help out with any questions you might have.

There is a lot to know about rabbits, their behaviors, their care and even how to pick them up. The rabbit volunteer program that Animal Friends has in place now (it’s even more evolved than when I first started) is a great way to introduce volunteers to rabbits if they aren’t already familiar with them. As for those who already know about rabbits, they can learn about rabbit handling specific to Animal Friends since shelter life for a bunny is different than being at home.

The rabbit volunteers have an important job of getting word out to the community about bunnies. For instance, how to handle basic care for a bunny, grooming, exercise needs, bunny-proofing a home and many of the other things that people might not be aware of. And by volunteering at our Bun Runs, there are plenty of opportunities to address these things with people who have questions or who just might be interested in learning more about bunnies.

Rabbit volunteers have the option to do many things at Animal Friends. There is always a need for volunteers at our Bun Runs, but we also do off-site activities where you can take a bunny to a place like PetSmart and talk to people about the bunnies at Animal Friends. Volunteers are also needed to write bunny biographies for our website, socialize the bunnies, foster bunnies, or groom them. There is something for everyone with bunny volunteering.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to see the rabbits in action, you should really check out one of the Bun Runs at Animal Friends. (Click here for dates!) It’s such a joy to watch them run and play and see how much personality they have. It’s how they first got my attention (what personalities they have!) and I’ve enjoyed being a part of their lives (rabbits and people alike) since then. Won’t you be the next one to join us here with the bunnies?

Friday, April 8, 2011

We're Not an Ordinary Shelter...

Guest Blogger: Christine Line, Communications Team

Happy Friday! We invite you to take a few minutes and watch this awesome video about how Animal Friends readies pets for adoption. From our work with animal behavior specialists to creative kenneling and free-roaming cat rooms, from our hardworking veterinary staff to extensive outreach efforts, we are proud of our tradition and passion for caring for each and every one of our they can find their forever homes with people like you!

If you can't adopt a cat, dog, or rabbit right now, you can still help by making a donation.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

After two years, Maisie met her match!

By Siri Espy, Animal Friends' Communications Team

At most shelters, Maisie wouldn’t have stood a chance. A 4-year-old cat who tested positive for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) would almost certainly have been put down. But at Animal Friends, Maisie found a place to give her the love and shelter she needed, for as long as she needed it.

When Maisie arrived, she was terrified and withdrawn. She huddled in a corner until a kind volunteer fostered her to help bring her along. In her temporary home, she blossomed, sleeping and cuddling with her foster mom. She came back to Animal Friends, where she waited – and waited - for her forever home. She became sad and depressed as many cats came and went, leaving Maisie behind.

Last week, a young woman visited the Animal Friends web site looking for a new companion, and Maisie’s gorgeous eyes and sleek black fur caught her eye. She called and spoke to a knowledgeable volunteer, who explained that most cats live long and healthy lives with FIV. She came by the next day to visit with Maisie.

Friday, on Maisie’s second anniversary at Animal Friends, she finally met someone who will provide the love and attention she needs and deserves. She climbed onto the young woman’s lap, curled up, and found her forever home. Staff and volunteers were overcome with happy tears as they said goodbye to their longtime friend.

The Cat Cottage, which provides special quarters for FIV+ cats, still houses two year-old Alice and three year-old Patches, who are hoping for a shorter stay than Maisie’s. Check them out on our web site ( or stop by to meet them and give them the happy endings they deserve.