Thursday, March 31, 2011

What a birthday!

Guest Bloggers Christine Line and Maria Briski, Animal Friends' Communications Team

Birthdays just don’t get any better than this!

We know it’s been a few days, but we just can’t get over the success of the annual telethon and 5th birthday celebration hosted this past Saturday at our home at the Caryl Gates Gluck Resource Center. It was a day filled with cupcakes, TV stars and enough free Pup-Peroni to feed an army of St. Bernards!

We also had games, children’s activities and prizes galore. In addition to being a fantastically fun time, the telethon successfully raised nearly $200,000 and found homes for 43 of our adoptable residents, making it one of our most successful telethons ever! Thanks to everyone who tuned in and donated and visited us to share in the celebration. Your donations and support are instrumental in furthering our mission of ensuring the well being of companion animals, while ending overpopulation and abuse.

Believe it or not, the celebration keeps on going through this weekend. Through April 3rd our requested adoption donation for all pets age 2 and up is just $5! Click here to check out some of our eligible birthday adoptees by clicking here! These delicious cupcakes, provided by Dozen Bake Shop, were a perfect way to start off the day.

Our residents were so excited for their TV appearances and chance to meet local celebrities. But most of all, they anxiously waited to see if they'd find a family to call their own.

Thankfully, many of our residents didn't have to wait long! Here's just one of our pups who was adopted this weekend.

Ron and Cappy hung out for a bit, waiting for Cappy's big debut. Look at that face!

Our adoptions desk was hoppin' (literally) on Saturday and Sunday. Kudos to our hardworking staff on an especially busy weekend!

A special thank you as well to all our volunteers who took donation phone calls all afternoon.

Andrew Stockey, one of the media personalities who joined us for the telethon, interviews Toni from Healthy Pet Products.

An adopter steals a kiss from a beagle pup.

Getting up close and personal with some of our furry friends in the Outreach Center...

O'Fallon, our beloved alum, came back for a visit!

Some of our best donors are the youngest ones! These Girl Scouts dropped by and made a donation during the telethon.

And last but certainly not least, it's always wonderful to see the beginning of a new generation of animal lovers. Here's Loveinapuff with her new little girl!

You can view more pictures on our Facebook page. Once again, a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped make our telethon a huge success!

Volunteering is (much!) more than just dog walking!



By Christine Line, Animal Friends' Communications Team

Have a little spare time and need something to do? Most people don't realize the wide range of volunteer activities that exist at Animal Friends. Volunteers support every facet of what we do!

Do you enjoy reading to kids or just like talking to people? Consider becoming a Reading with Rover volunteer, or a greeter at our reception desk!



As a non-profit animal shelter, we rely on hundreds of volunteers every year to make what we do possible. We have tons of options for every interest:

  • Dog walking and training
  • Cat feeding and socializing
  • Rabbit wrangling
  • Fostering a pet or litter who needs extra help
  • Classroom presentations
  • Reading with Rover reading teams
  • Pet-Assisted Therapy visits to local hospitals and nursing homes
  • Caring for our facility and trails
  • Manning booths at off-site adoption events
  • Greeting potential adopters
  • Clerical support or data entry
  • Working at special events
  • And lots more!

The hours are flexible, training is provided, and volunteers enjoy rewards and benefits like lunch at our volunteer appreciation banquet. But most of all, you'll have the knowledge that you're helping to give thousands of animals the opportunity to find their forever home. All you need is some enthusiasm and a love for animals.

Our cats, dogs, and rabbits are waiting! You can learn more about volunteering on our website, or call 412.847.7037 for more info. Ready to get started? Fill out our quick and easy volunteer application here!

Hope to hear from you soon!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

This place is abuzz with Telethon excitement!



By Siri Espy, Animal Friends' Communications Team

Who doesn’t love a birthday party? We do, and we’re very proud of turning five – five years in our new, wonderful facility. And what better way to share it with you than to put it on TV so everyone can participate!

From noon – 4 pm on Saturday, tune into WTAE to join us in celebrating our work with animals in the community, and learn more about our programs. Animal Friends may be known for adoptions, but we’re so much more. From cat massage classes to obedience training to summer camps for kids, and a spay and neuter program that’s reducing overpopulation, we’d love to celebrate all we do – with you!

If you’re more of a live party animal, come and join in the fun! With cupcakes, special adoption fees, and a chance to see live TV cameras in action, it will be a festive atmosphere. Local radio and TV personalities Jimmy Krenn, Andrew Stockey, Sally Wiggin, Ari Hait, Cris Winter, PJ Maloney and Monty and Zeke will be joining in the party by broadcasting from Animal Friends.

So party on, Pittsburgh! Call in or come visit to help support our work – and have a tail-wagging good time!

Learn more by clicking here!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Doberman and a Tabby cat walked into a TV studio...

By Siri Espy, Animal Friends' Communications Team

On a recent Saturday, fellow volunteer Alda Walker and I were asked to make an appearance on a local TV show that was spotlighting nonprofit organizations. This being Animal Friends, our first step was to recruit furry co-stars – a cat and a dog – to take with us.

It’s a challenge to find two animals of different species who will ride together, wait 30 minutes, then sit quietly for half an hour on live TV, where there are no do-overs. Knowing that we humans would need to keep smiling for the cameras regardless of the animal’s behavior, there’s only one chance to get it right.

I’m pleased to report that Molly (the dog) and Reagan (the cat) were ideal television personalities, and to put in a good word for both of these wonderful animals who are still waiting for homes.

Molly, a nine year-old Doberman with beautiful brown eyes, is a big dog with a big heart. She was not in the least bothered sharing the car and the spotlight with a cat, and sat peacefully looking in Alda’s eyes while we were on the air. The only problem with transporting her was that I hated to interrupt her snoring as she napped on my backseat on the return trip.



Reagan, age five, is a gorgeous cat who looks like she’s been splattered with black and white paint. She’s not fond of other cats, but is great with dogs. She sat quietly in her carrier during the ride and the wait for air time, then snuggled into my lap for half an hour of blissful petting, occasionally looking into the camera with a highly photogenic expression.




It struck me that these two great animals would be a wonderful pair – or that each of them would be ideal additions to a home with furry residents of the other species. Their 15 minutes (actually 30) of fame hasn’t gone to their heads, and they’re waiting to be the special stars in loving forever homes. Maybe your home could be the perfect place for them to shine!

Check out Molly and Reagan on our website: http://www.ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org, or stop in and visit them at Animal Friends!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pen Pal Mail from our Alum, Atticus the Cat



Here’s the next chapter in the continuing saga of Atticus, a blind cat, who’s settling into his new home with his mom, Katie Tontala, as well as some furry siblings. We’re delighted to learn that he is not only an awesome cat, but a great writer as well!

The weather has been getting really nice and I have been itching to go outside. I figured if I sit by the door and purr my little heart out, Mom will feel sorry for me and let me out. So for several days in a row, every time she opened the door, I ran over to the screen door and meowed and meowed...but she just ignored me. Since that didn’t work, I decided I to bang on the door as hard as I could to see if that would work - and guess what? It did!!

Since then, Mom said “Attticus, I will make a deal with you. I will let you go out when pigs fly!” I am not exactly sure when that will happen, but surely it will be soon!

In the meantime, Mom said she would compromise and introduced me to a cat tree in the dining room. If I climb up the tree I can sit at the top or jump onto the window sill. It is almost as good as being outside because I can sit in the sun and when the window is open, I can feel the breeze coming through. I had no trouble climbing up, but at first wasn’t sure how to get down.

Mom took a little ball with a bell in it, and then shook it on the steps she wanted me to climb down on. I just followed the sound of the bell and worked my way down. She only had to do it a few times, and now I know all the steps! Sometimes I don’t even use the steps and jump down right from the middle. It has become my new favorite spot to hang out! Mom just laughs and says I give her 10 new gray hairs every day.

I discovered another neat spot in the house. It’s called the bathtub. I decided to play a trick on Mom the other day. I could hear her looking for me so I decided to hide in the tub. She kept calling my name and I could hear her going from room to room. When she came into the bathroom, I jumped out from behind the curtains and surprised her! She said she found 20 gray hairs that day. Hey – what’s a “little imp?”

Tune in to our Telethon!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Day in the Life of Cauliflower the Rabbit



By Cauliflower, with help from Laureen Dzadovsky, Animal Friends' Rabbit Volunteer

8:00 am: I woke up this morning to someone giving me food and hay and cleaning out my cage – what a great way to wake up! I just love hay, and having someone clean up after me is pretty nice too. I have heard some bunnies mention that they don’t like having their cages cleaned out while they are in them, but I’m pretty easygoing so I don’t mind that at all.

I would prefer to start out the day with some sprints and binkys but since no one is here yet to let me out to play, I’ll just settle for some stretches and breakfast for now. I’ll hop up on my hideaway hut and check out what the cats across the hall are up to. Usually they’re asleep at this hour, but some of them are so silly when they start chasing their tails. It’s a can’t-miss show – I’m still not sure why they do that!

10:00 am: Ahhhh, nap time. After breakfast, I like to take my nap before people start coming in to check us out. I really love to roll over on my side and some of the volunteers swear I’m smiling when I roll over (they’re right – I do smile when I’m on my side since it’s so comfy and relaxing!). It’s rare that anyone sees me sleep on my side though, because I’m a pretty shy guy. (If you ever see a bunny sleeping on his side, his body language is telling you that he feels safe, secure and relaxed!)

11:00 am: Once everyone starts rolling in, things get pretty active around here. People are in and out, talking to us (which I love, especially when they tell me I’m handsome!) and reading up about what each of us bunnies are like. Remember that I’m shy, so I don’t typically come to the front of the cage right away. I take my time but I do enjoy seeing everyone. It’s great to have visitors!

6:00 pm: The volunteers arrive to let us out to play! Woohoo!! I love playtime! I get to run and play and spend time with my best bunny friend Donegal. We like cuddling together. She’s my sweetie. And playtime gives us a chance to stretch and exercise our minds – we need a break from the cage for sure! Not only that, but the volunteers give us lots of attention too.

10:00 pm: Well, that’s it for now. That’s a regular day here at Animal Friends for me. As nice as I have it here, it could be better if I had my forever home with someone to love me and play with me every day. It is my dream and I hope it comes true soon! For now, I’ll say goodnight and start a new day over tomorrow with hopes that it will be the day I find my forever home.


Learn more about me by watching my video!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The passing of a friend: Mr. Lloyd Gluck



Dear Friends,

It is with a heavy heart that we share with you the passing of a dear friend to Animal Friends, Mr. Lloyd Gluck.

Lloyd was a staunch supporter of Animal Friends and instrumental in the creation of the Caryl Gates Gluck Resource Center at Animal Friends. Named for his first wife Caryl, Lloyd was determined to make possible a place of hope, of action, and of utmost commitment for unwanted animals. Inspired by the tenacity and unwavering spirit of Caryl, Lloyd believed that we, as a community, could do better for our four-legged friends. And, through his support of our community resource center concept, he proved to be right.

On March 15, Lloyd passed away. Lloyd Gluck was a Board member, ambassador, donor and, most importantly, a friend. As an accomplished attorney, he saw the world as his courtroom. Always ready to right the wrongs that he saw around him, he would debate anyone who believed otherwise. Lloyd lived an amazing life – traveling to every continent in the world except one, working for the government, meeting prominent world leaders, and having a bird’s eye view of some of the world’s most important events. But at the core, Lloyd was most passionate and most proud about his love for Caryl, Virginia, his daschund Hilda, and all his beloved pets.

While losing a dear friend is always difficult, I know Lloyd would want us all to use his life, his tenacity and his example as inspiration for all that we do today, tomorrow and into the future. Lloyd believed in us to continue to fight the good fight for the animals.

As a tribute to all he made possible for Animal Friends, we hope you will make a donation in support of Animal Friends' mission. A donation in Lloyd's memory would be the most fitting tribute, as we carry his work forward.

Click here to donate now.

Godspeed, Lloyd.

With heartfelt regards,

Marleen Ashton, Esq.
Board Chair, Animal Friends

David J. Swisher
President & CEO, Animal Friends

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Waneta's Progress


By Guest Blogger Siri Espy, Animal Friends' Communications Team

Walking into Animal Friends’ cat condos, I’m always greeted with a chorus of meows. There are so many kitties to visit with that it’s hard to choose. This Saturday, I spent some time with sweet little Waneta.

Less than a year old, Waneta has been at Animal Friends far too long. Brought to us by our Humane Officers as a result of abandonment and neglect, this beautiful, petite calico came in as a terrified kitten. She spent some time in a foster home, where she began the process of learning about people and overcoming her fears.

As I picked up this brave little girl and she snuggled against me, I reflected on what a long way she has come. She strolled around the room, and stopped to visit some cat friends in a nearby cage. She’s become a friendly, beautiful girl who’s ready to become part of a quiet, loving home where she can blossom into a sweetheart of a companion.

One of the temptations Animal Friends volunteers face is ending up with a houseful of animals, and I must admit that it was difficult to put her back in her cage and look over to see her watching me. I can say with some certainty that both Waneta and I would love to see her wait for the perfect family come to an end. Help us out, won’t you?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Home Makeover, Cat Edition



By Guest Blogger Siri Espy, Animal Friends' Communications Team

At Animal Friends, all of our residents are special. But one group of cats not only captured our hearts but inspired our artistry to create them a cozy and welcoming temporary home. The “H cats” are finding that, at Animal Friends, life’s a beach.

These cats, stunning with their beautiful markings, arrived at Animal Friends terrified and badly in need of extra TLC. Rescued from a situation where there were too many cats to receive the care they deserved, we knew they were going to be a project.

Several of the kittens were adopted quickly, and kind volunteers were willing to take the scared and shy adults into their homes, providing foster care and a chance to relax and begin to trust people. They’ve now returned to Animal Friends to find their forever homes.

A group of volunteers transformed a bland, uninviting space into a beach-themed room, cozy and warm for the cats and visitors alike. From the artwork on the walls to the netting and colorful cushions, the room is a relaxing oasis for the H cats while they await their new families.

Ranging in age from one to nine years, these cats adore other cats. They would make ideal companions for a lonely kitty, or two (or three?) would make a great ready-made family. They remain frightened in the busy, noisy environment of the shelter, and we can’t rely on them to show off their true potential. A slow approach, lots of play time and cat treats will help these shy felines blossom in a loving home.

We hope you’ll come by to visit Animal Friends and meet our special friends: Hampton, Hamster, Helix, Henry, and Hyena. Visit our web site for pictures and additional information.

Rest assured that these kitties are more than ready to vacate their beachfront vacation property in favor of homes of their own, no matter how humble. Could you be the one to provide them with a special place in the sun and the warmth of a loving family?





Friday, March 11, 2011

Every Dog Deserves to Have His Day

By Guest Blogger: Christine Line, Animal Friends Communications Team

Happy Friday! Many of you animal lovers out there have probably read the story this week about Wall-e, a stray dog who was euthanized... and survived.

The story is incredible. A little dog from Sulphur, Oklahoma - injected with lethal doses of a sedative twice? The picture of this little guy is enough to capture your heart, let alone his amazing tale of survival.

But what's even more heartwarming is the number of people who want to adopt him. Repordedly HUNDREDS are emailing and calling, wanting to give this unique canine a forever home.

At Animal Friends, we are so happy that Wall-e's story has touched thousands of people's hearts. We know he will find a wonderful home. But we also hope that this pup's survival inspires others to stop by our shelter to meet other equally amazing and unique dogs.

Every homeless animal has a story, just like Wall-e. Some of our animals have seen parts of Pittsburgh undiscovered by most. Some have lived through unbelievable tragedies. Some were rescued on New Year's Eve and given a second chance at life. Many have never experienced a loving family.

We're sure of one thing - all of our residents deserve the chance to share with you what makes them special. We invite you to stop in this weekend and meet your very own Wall-e.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Courtesy Marcia Machtiger, WTAE-TV, Channel 4

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Partner Profile: Clarion Paws



By Guest Blogger Carol Whaley, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Coordinator

How does one organization launch an all-out assault on pet overpopulation? Strategic partnerships are the key.

As part of a mass effort to reach deep into underserved pockets of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Animal Friends has forged alliances with animal welfare organizations across the region.

These alliances expand our reach into communities that have no other low-income spay/neuter resources. Our affordable spay and neuter surgeries are a vital service that often means the difference between a pet being altered or a pet producing litter after unwanted litter.

Since April 2009, Animal Friends has partnered with 11 animal welfare organizations to bring spay/neuter services to 10 different counties. Clarion PAWS, a smaller organization that serves Clarion, Forest and Jefferson Counties, welcomed Animal Friends’ spay/neuter program with open arms. Thanks to the committed support of their volunteers and our mobile surgical team, 517 companion animals have been spayed and neutered at the Clarion PAWS clinic events this year.

According to Jan Ochs, Clarion PAWS President, many people assume that those who don’t spay or neuter are irresponsible pet owners. However, the success of our low-cost clinics in Clarion County prove that it’s the lack of affordable spaying and neutering services—not irresponsibility—that prevents pet owners from spaying and neutering their pets.

“They love their pets and provide them with the best care that they can afford,” Ochs explains. “They cannot go without food for their family for a week in order to pay for a spay/neuter surgery and associated costs,” In her rural community, there are a limited number of veterinarians and a spay/neuter surgery can run as high as $300.

“Many of the personal stories accompanied by tears of joy from grateful pet owners prove that low-income pet owners want to give their companion animals the best care within their means,” states Ochs. “With reasonably-priced surgical resources available to them, they can do just that.”

Animal Friends’ Low-Cost Spay/Neuter mobile surgical team also helps Clarion PAWS by spaying and neutering their adoptable companion animals. By helping Clarion PAWS keep spay/neuter costs down, we are enabling them to save the lives of more companion animals in their communities.

To learn more about low-cost spay/neuter options, call 1.800.SPAY.PGH.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What's not to love about a Beagle?

Meet our lovable, adoptable Cleo!

Furry Friend Fact Friday

Guest Blogger: Christine Line, Animal Friends Communications Team

Did you know that some of the cats we take in have more than the usual number of toes on one or more of their paws? That means they're 'polydactyl cats.' Felines normally have a total of 18 toes, with five toes on each front paw and four on each back paw. But polydactyl cats can have six, seven, or even more!

The fact that a cat has too many toes is not life-threatening, and it normally doesn't affect their mobility at all. It just means you'll own a kitty that is unique! Extra digits? Just one more reason to stop in at Animal Friends today and find an adoptable feline to call your own.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How to Trim Your Cat's Claws


By Guest Blogger Katie Tontala

You're watching tv and relaxing...and then your beloved feline jumps up for some snuggle time (how cute!). But then it happens. Your adorable ball of fur instinctively starts kneading your lap, and you regretfully think, "Why oh why didn't I trim his nails?" Nothing can ruin a pleasant moment like the feel of tiny needles in your leg!

Since declawing can bring even more challenges for you and your cat, it would benefit both you and your kitty to incorporate nail trimming into your grooming routine. So take a deep breath, grab a pair of nail trimmers and get started! It's easier than you might think.
  1. Your cat usually feels more secure when you hold him against you. As you support him with one arm, hold his paw and extend the nail with one hand while you work the trimmers with the other. (Having issues? Try wrapping your kitty in a towel and only extend one paw at a time.)

  2. Hold his paw with your thumb on top and your fingers supporting his paw underneath. As you gently press on his paw, his nail will naturally extend.

  3. Clip only the very tip of the nail. If your cat has light-colored nails, you'll be able to see where the pink color starts. That is the vein and you want to make sure you don't accidently cut it. If your cat has dark nails and you can't see the vein, you'll be fine if you just trim only the tip.

  4. If you do accidently cause the nail to bleed, just apply some styptic powder, which is available in any pet supply shop, to the end of the nail.

  5. Remember that you don't have to cut all of his nails in one session. Do a few nails at a time and stop if things get too stressful.

  6. Afterwards, give your cat a tasty treat to reward him for his patience and good behavior!

Some additional tips to make things easier for you and your feline...

If your cat isn't used to having his paws touched, try massaging his paws as you pet him so he gets more used to the idea. Better yet, if you have a kitten, start trimming his nails while he's young so he won't have time to build up a negative response.

Your vet will be happy to show you how to trim your cat's nails.

Is your cat a furniture scratcher? Make sure he has a scratching post or carpet so he doesn't turn to your favorite reading chair.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Rewards of Fostering a Shelter Pet



Guest Blogger Terry Kuehner, Animal Friends' Cat Behavior Team

The first time I saw the little cat Marie, she was terrified.

The last time I saw Marie, she was going home with a young couple who were grinning from ear to ear.

Marie came to the animal shelter as a stray. When we brought her off the streets and put her into one of our condos, everything was new to her and she was petrified. She was approximately 8 months old, and her short life had already been filled with turmoil.

When I met Marie, she melted my heart. I peered into her cage and a little black ball of fur peered back at me. Her face was round and her eyes were so huge and yellow that she looked like she should hoot instead of meow. Her ears were pressed flat to her head and she took one look at me...and hissed. If she was ever going to learn how to become a loving companion, someone had to help sweet Marie. I agreed to take her to my home for foster care.

I began to socialize her. I bribed her with treats, spoke softly, pleaded, begged and cajoled. On her tenth day with me we had "the breakthrough." I sat on the bed in my spare room, patted the space beside me and Marie jumped up for some attention. From that moment on we were pals.

After that, I found that Marie loved to have her fur stroked. She wanted to be petted from top to bottom, back to front, anywhere and everywhere. She played endlessly, like the Energizer Bunny. We had a great time! I introduced her to my cats and she liked them. I introduced her to my dogs and she loved them! About a month later, I knew it was time for Marie to return to the shelter to await her people.

They arrived only four days later. Sweet Marie flirted shamelessly and they fell in love.

So often, it’s the “difficult” cats who offer the most rewarding foster experiences. Before Marie there was Ziggy, pictured above. He was so stressed in the shelter that he would hide behind his litterbox and soil himself rather than expose himself anybody. Ziggy came home to live with me for approximately 6 weeks, so he could feel safe and gather his courage to face the world again. When he returned to Animal Friends, he went into the free roam cat room and did so well that he was adopted very quickly. His new Mom and Dad say he's the silliest, funniest, most playful and lovable little guy they've ever had.

Then there was Moonlight. She was so depressed in the shelter setting that all she did was sleep and eat. She wouldn't groom herself and her long, beautiful hair became very matted. That was painful for her and she began to nip at anybody who tried to pet her.

It turned out that all she needed was a break away from the shelter. In my spare room, she could move around, look out windows to watch birds and squirrels and just relax in the sun. Moonie began to groom and I began to brush her. Three weeks later, she came back as a beautiful, relaxed girl who was adopted in just a few weeks.

Cats, dogs and bunnies need to be fostered for many different reasons, but it all leads to helping the animal find his forever home. People always ask foster parents if it’s hard to return the pets we’ve come to love. Sure, I cry when "my" cats leave me, but rest assured they are happy tears! There is nothing more rewarding that watching your foster pet find a permanent, loving home.

I like to think about sweet Marie and her new Mom and Dad. She also has a dog and another cat to play with. She's where she belongs. I'll never forget Marie, but I've got work to do. There are three unsocialized kittens in my spare room. Just one hiss and my heart melted....

Animal Friends seeks and trains foster families for a broad range of needs. Click here to learn more about becoming a foster parent for Animal Friends!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lucy on the Bench: A Chihuahua Mix Brings Order and Understanding to the Courtroom


By Jolene Miklas. Animal Friends

As more people recognize the benefits of animal interaction, the popular “Take Your Pet to Work Day” is turning into “Take Your Pet to Work Every Day.” Many of Animal Friends’ alums go on to happily “assist” their adopters in their offices, shops and businesses all over Pittsburgh.

In many cases, when pets show up at work, they help people do their jobs better.

District Judge Gene Ricciardi takes his dog Lucy to work in the courthouse, and describes Lucy as “a blessing to our family and an asset to my courtroom.” Lucy joins him on the bench and, he finds, helps people calm down, relax and give him the information he needs in order to make a fair verdict.

Judge Ricciardi wasn’t looking for Lucy, a brown Chihuahua mix, when he found her. He was on his way to a meeting on the South Side when he wondered why cars were stopped on South 18th Street. He got out of his car when he realized there was an animal laying in the middle of the road...a dog he would soon come to know as Lucy.

Lucy was in such bad shape that he didn’t think she was a dog. Her long fur was so filthy and matted, he thought the small, malnourished animal was a cat, and he didn't think she had survived. When he laid her down at the side of the road, she let out a tiny noise, and it was then that he realized that Lucy was alive after all.

Judge Ricciardi tried to track down Lucy’s owners. Perhaps it’s just as well that he never found them. It was obvious that Lucy hadn’t received the love she deserved. Her tail was broken in five places, her teeth had been kicked out and she showed other signs of terrible abuse. Any noise made her run and hide in fear. Judge Ricciardi, his wife and their daughter took Lucy into their home, where they worked hard to nurture Lucy’s broken body and spirit.

“She was such a sad, sad dog,” Judge Ricciardi remembers of their first six months together. “It seemed like there was so much going on in her head.”

Thanks to lots of love and care, Lucy recovered, and today, Judge Ricciardi describes her as a “lady.” He says, “She carries herself with such delicate class and dignity.” Lucy lives with the Ricciardis and their other dog, a Malti-poo named Tank, and has become a loving, laid-back member of their family.

She has also become an unofficial member of Judge Ricciardi’s courtroom. Lucy goes to work with him four days a week. Judge Ricciardi reports that Lucy an uncanny ability for knowing when it’s Thursday—her day off.

Lucy, with her loving nature, also has uncanny ability to bring order to a courtroom.

Judge Ricciardi remembers a trial involving a 13-year-old girl who had been bullied by three boys. “The girl was hysterical, and could not gather her thoughts. It was the saddest situation,” he explains. Neither the girl’s mother nor her lawyer could help the girl calm down enough to give her testimony. Finally, Judge Ricciardi introduced the distraught young girl to Lucy and instructed her to hold Lucy, “like a baby.”

Lucy happily surrendered in the girl’s arms, revealing her belly and tossing her head back. And, after rubbing Lucy’s belly for several minutes, the girl was ready to proceed.

Judge Ricciardi explains, “Somehow, that connection of unconditional love that pets give helped the girl gather the strength she needed to continue.”

Lucy never sticks around if she isn’t welcome, as Judge Ricciardi always makes sure that no one in the courtroom has pet allergies or an aversion to dogs before Lucy takes her post. But once she goes to work, Lucy takes her job seriously.

Once, a boy ended up in Judge Ricciardi’s courtroom due to truancy. He refused to speak during his hearing, and no one could get him to explain why he wasn’t going to school. Judge Ricciardi asked the boy whether he liked dogs, and finally, the boy spoke. He responded, “Yes.”

Judge Ricciardi placed Lucy in the boy’s arms, and slowly, as he pet her, the boy opened up. Judge Ricciardi reports, “While the young man gave us the information we needed, he never looked at me. He just kept looking at Lucy. There was a trust that he shared with that animal.”

Lucy also helps calm adults, including an elderly woman who was so distraught, she had trouble delivering her testimony. Taking a moment to hold Lucy—like a baby, of course—gave her a moment to clear her thoughts and proceed.

But Lucy also helps Judge Ricciardi do his job well.

“I have to be very fair and impartial and a good listener. I have to be very calm at work. Sometimes I’ll pick her up and pet her,” he reports. “I had read about pet therapy before. But now I experience it.”

Surely, that day she was lying in the middle of the road, Lucy couldn’t have imagined that she would come to be so loved, let alone rise to serve on the bench alongside a district judge. Thankfully, Judge Ricciardi and her family gave her the chance to live, and love–and share that love with others in a time of great need.

“All people should consider adopting some pet,” Judge Ricciardi says. “They give unconditional love and give us an opportunity to love back. They give us an opportunity to slow down. They comfort us. Animals have a way of bringing us together.”