Friday, June 29, 2012

Adopt One, Save Two!

Animal Friends is seeking pet adopters in advance of their July 9 Liberation Day Rescue.

Every year, Animal Friends visits local animal control facilities to rescue pets that have been lost over the 4th of July. Because of loud noises and outdoor activities, more pets are startled and lost around July 4th than any other time of year. Lost pets who are unclaimed at animal control are euthanized. Animal Friends’ annual “Liberation Day Rescue” offers those doomed pets a second chance.

The number of pets’ lives saved depends on the number of empty kennels at Animal Friends.

By adopting from Animal Friends this week, you can “adopt one and save two!”  Every empty cage offers a lifeline to another pet in need.

Save a life! Adopt from Animal Friends!


Visit Animal Friends at 562 Camp Horne Road, Pittsburgh PA 15237. View adoptable animals at Call Animal Friends at 412.847.7000.

Volunteer Nancy Barylak: A Friend to Feral Cats

By Siri Espy 

Many busy people manage to squeeze in some time to volunteer. But talking to Nancy Barylak, it’s hard to imagine how she fits the rest of her life around her volunteering.  

Nancy has an unparalleled passion for stray and feral cats. Her work takes place outside the walls of Animal Friends. She can most often be found, traps in hand, rounding up the next batch of homeless cats for the TNR (trap, neuter and release) program in conjunction with Animal Friends’ Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Program.

Growing up in a family of animal people, Nancy found her way into the cause in Atlanta in 1985, where she worked with noted writer and animal activist Cleveland Amory. Nancy carried her involvement back to Pittsburgh with her.  

By 1996, Nancy hit full stride when she first visited a colony of 300 cats living along the Ohio River. Then funding her efforts out of her own pocket, Nancy initially trapped 40 cats for spay and neuter surgeries.  She’s been known to stay out trapping all night.

She also became a colony caretaker, feeding and caring for the cats in all kinds of weather.  Today, Nancy sees the results of ending the reproduction of unwanted cats.  “That colony is down to six – four of the original cats, and two who were dumped there.”  She currently feeds and cares for several colonies seven days a week, and shares responsibility for still others.
Over the years and thanks to Animal Friends’ resources, Nancy has found homes for countless strays that were able to be socialized.  Her own home includes both permanent feline residents and a rotating group of foster cats. Her supportive husband pitches in.

As the Manager of Public Relations for Alcosan for 22 years, Nancy works with local officials and residents, skills she puts to good use in persuading others to support her cause. She’s always pleased to teach others about TNR, and will even share her secret recipe for trapping (courtesy of the Colonel) – KFC.  The aroma of the fresh, warm chicken seems to attract cats into the traps every time.

Nancy guesses that she has trapped over 1,000 cats.  “When I hear the trap go off, I know there’s one down” in the battle to curb overpopulation, she explains. Add to this her position as vice president of a South Hills volunteer fire company, and it’s hard to imagine how it all fits into a 24-hour day.

Despite her successes, Nancy knows there is a great deal more to be done, and is proud to be part of an effort that includes many unsung heroes.  “Sponsor a spay or neuter surgery at Animal Friends,” she encourages.  “It’s a great feeling to know you’ve made a difference in a cat’s life and well-being.”

Thursday, June 28, 2012

From Shelter Dog to Theater Star

Guest Blogger: Kathy Morrow, Animal Friends Volunteer

Benji isn’t the only former shelter dog to become an adored actor.  Topper, a dashing black and white Chihuahua adopted from Animal Friends a little over a year ago, landed a role in The Last Romance this June at the South Park Theater! 

Tiny Topper’s life wasn’t always so glamorous.  Before arriving at Animal Friends, this adorable little dog was homeless and wandering the streets of Greene County.  Animal Friends fortunately works with the shelter there and brought this scared, trembling little guy to their shelter on Camp Horne Road

When Topper arrived at Animal Friends, he was no less than terrified.  Luck was on Topper’s side.  A volunteer well-known for her love of Pit Bulls was uncharacteristically drawn to Topper one night.  When Lisa first met Topper, he would not eat and he peed submissively out of fear in the kennel.  Lisa took him outside, sat under a tree, hand fed him, talked soothingly to him, and fell in love with the little dog.  Then, she did the most loving thing she could think of and gave him his forever home. 

So, how did Topper go from being a fearful little fellow to the confident, calm star of the stage?  Love, patience, and training – the three ingredients that every dog requires.  Lisa devoted herself to her new family member.  She took the necessary time to potty train, crate train, and socialize her dog. 

Lisa whole heartedly made the commitment to Topper.  She brings him to tea cup dog socials at Animal Friends where he is adored by both the dogs and the people.  She also frequently takes him to area dog events for more socialization.  Although she is an extremely knowledgeable dog handler at Animal Friends, Lisa enrolled Toppie in a Companion Dog Manners class at Animal Friends.  She would also eventually like to train Topper to be a certified therapy dog. 

Lisa’s father, who’s very active in the local theater scene, mentioned that he knew of a Chihuahua who might be able to handle the role in a play, and the rest is history. 

On opening night, a group of Animal Friends volunteers were there to support Topper in his new venture.  They were filled with pride over the little shelter dog who had come so far.  They heard whispers of excitement in the audience that there would be a dog in the play!  Topper’s performance was flawless, and at the end, he was presented with a bouquet of roses made of Milk Bones and red foil.  He also received a standing ovation! 

We volunteers at Animal Friends can’t comprehend people’s surprise when they learn that such a wonderful, adorable, talented dog came from a shelter.  Animal Friends is full of magnificent dogs just waiting to be discovered!  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Life as an Animal Friends Humane Investigations Officer: Abandoned Pets

Photo by: Harry Giglio
It is a sad situation when owners move away and cannot take their pets with them.  Most responsible pet owners will leave their pets with a family member or friend or even take them to a local animal shelter.  Unfortunately, there are cases of owners abandoning their animals to fend for themselves.

This is where Animal Friends’ Humane Investigation Officers step in and take charge.  Our Humane Investigations Coordinator, Valerie Polka recaps just some of the abandonment cases Animal Friends’ Humane Officers have had to tackle in the past.

We hear about this kind of thing happening all over the county.  Frequently, the animals are simply left behind in a rental property, which may not sound as extreme as leaving a dog out in the woods or to fend for itself on the street, but it is just as dangerous.  Death by dehydration and/or starvation is a horrible death and can happen to any animal left anywhere without proper care.

Since some rentals do not accept pets or charge extra for them, not all tenants admit to having a pet.  So when they leave a property, it may not be checked on immediately, leaving the abandoned animal in a very dangerous predicament.  Also we seem to get many animals abandoned in basements and it can be hard to tell if there is an animal in there.  Because many basements either have no windows or have glass-block windows, visual confirmation that there is a pet inside is not always possible.  If the dog doesn’t bark or it is an animal that doesn’t bark, sadly, the abandoned animal could go unnoticed for quite a while.

As a prime example of animals left in a basement, Officer Kathy Hecker had a big case in 2009 where cats were abandoned in a locked basement by the owners.  It was a gruesome discovery for the officers. None of the cats from that case survived.

Although being left without food and water is extremely dangerous for any type of animal, cats and rabbits may succumb more readily because of their anatomy. Cats who are not eating can develop fatal liver issues (“fatty liver” or hepatic lipidosis).  Rabbits need a constant source of food to keep their digestive system functioning properly.  That system can shut down when they cannot eat and the rabbit can die.  Animals that are very young, older, or medically compromised are also at a greater risk when they are abandoned.

Cats, dogs, and rabbits are not the only victims of abandonment.  Humane Investigation Officers have also found fish, snakes, turtles, and hamsters left behind without provisions.

In addition to tenants who purposefully leave their animals behind, Animal Friends’ Humane Investigations also gets complaints of animals that were left without care when an owner was arrested or hospitalized.  Although it may not have been the owner’s desire to leave abruptly, they still have a duty of care for the animals and should let someone know that they have pets if they can.  Unfortunately, some people never mention their pets and the animals suffer.

It seems like there was a spike in abandonments when many people began struggling with foreclosures.  Even though they may not want to, landlords do have a duty to care for animals left behind on their property. They cannot ignore the situation and simply releasing the animals outside is not a legal option.

Regardless of why the pet was abandoned, it’s simply unacceptable (and illegal) to leave an animal without food or water, especially with the many shelters and rescues in the area who are available and willing to help.

If you see or suspect animal abandonment, call Animal Friends’ Humane Investigations office at 412.847.7066. Please leave a voice mail with a complete address and description of the situation so that we can respond immediately.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Trap, Neuter and Release: Swissvale Update

Animal Friends' Low-Cost Spay and Neuter staff and volunteer trappers met in Swissvale to begin the first night of TNR trapping.

Volunteer trappers met to pick up supplies for our mass trapping in Swissvale.

The project, which continues throughout the summer, netted 17 cats in 2 ½ hours during our first evening of trapping. 

All cats were spayed/neutered, rabies vaccinated, treated for fleas and ear mites and ear tipped (for identification).

They are being returned to Swissvale today.

Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) is the most humane way to manage the feral cat population.

TNR is far more successful than trap-and-kill programs for many reasons:
  • It immediately halts the population growth in the colony that has formed around the food source.
  • The population of that colony stabilizes, as the sterilized animals prevent the addition of new animals and eventually the colony size decreases over time as the cats die off naturally.
  • The nuisance behaviors commonly exhibited by animals that haven’t been spayed or neutered are eliminated when the animals are sterilized.
  • Since the end result of TNR programs is not the death of the cats, they are usually carried out by unpaid volunteers, often the cats’ caretakers, and the surgeries are most often performed at no expense to taxpayers.
With some patience and persistence, you can safely trap, sterilize and prevent two cats from becoming 25.

Projects like the Swissvale TNR would not be possible without your support.  You can help us humanely manage the feral cat population by sponsoring a spay!  Click here to underwrite a spay surgery for a feral cat.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Animal Friends Investigating Possible Dog Poisonings in McKeesport Area

Animal Friends’ Humane Officers are investigating the possible poisonings of dogs in the McKeesport area. As of June 20, 2012, five dogs are showing signs of potential poisoning and are in critical condition. One dog has passed away.

Officers are on the road following every lead in an effort to protect pets in our area.

How you can help:

1. Call with information. Animal Friends is offering a $1,500 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction for this case. Call 412.847.7066 with information.

2. Donate now in support of the Gluck Humane Investigations Fund at Animal Friends. This fund enables Animal Friends to investigate and prosecute of abuse and neglect of animals. Click here to donate now.

3. Keep your pets safe! Keep your pets indoors or under your supervision at all times. 

Heart Songs: A Snapshot In Time

By Beth Mauder, Adoption Counselor

There was a rainbow over Pittsburgh yesterday. I saw it on the news.  I wish I had been able to see it in person. 

There are some things that cause us to stop and smile in this chaos commonly known as life. I call them Heart Songs because they make my heart smile. I am fortunate enough to spend a lot of my life in a place that gives me lots of opportunities to stop and smile. 

Twice last week I came across cats, Zoey and Zebedee in our meet and greet rooms cuddling with their new families. Each cat had been with us for a very long time and it made my heart sing to see both cats sleeping calmly in their new owners' arms while their adoption papers were being processed. 

I also watched 6 cats, crouched attentively on every available corner of a cat tree watching a squirrel valiantly trying to squeeze his body into the bottom of the bird feeder so he could grab  the last bit of sunflower seeds. 

When our Pittie, Jeannie, finally found her forever home after two years you could hear the clapping and cheers all the way to Camp Horne Rd.  She knew she had found someone to love her and pranced out the front door confidently.  

Stopping on the way out of work to listen to the birds singing in the trees. Watching the volunteers sitting on the benches cuddling their new favorite dogs or trying to coax a shy dog out of their shell.  These are the things that get me through the traffic jams on the Parkway and the trips to the dentist. They are not hard to find. 

For others, it could be the sound of their children playing in the yard. For some, a free concert on a warm summers night. For me, it's the sights and sounds I encounter every day when I walk in the front door at Animal Friends.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Animal Friends to hold annual Liberation Day Rescue on July 9th

The Fourth of July is coming soon and for many that means picnics, outdoor barbeques and family get-togethers.  Another big part of the Fourth celebrations are fireworks.  For many dogs, the Fourth of July is a frightening day.  Because of loud noises and outdoor activities, more dogs are lost around the Fourth of July than any other time of year.  Those who are not lucky enough to be claimed from animal control facilities are euthanized.

On Monday, July 9, Animal Friends will hold the 5th annual Liberation Day Rescue to offer a second chance to lost and unclaimed dogs that are slated to be euthanized at animal control facilities around the city.  


Rescued dogs will get the full Animal Friends treatment once they arrive at the shelter.  They will get new names, be vaccinated and bathed and groomed. Pending any necessary evaluation, the dogs will be spayed or neutered and readied for adoption into loving families beginning July 11.

Animal Friends’ goals are to rescue lost pets and bring attention to the fact that simple measures can help keep your dog safe this Fourth of July:

  •  If possible, keep your dog inside and secured.  A frightened dog will try to find any route of escape, whether it be an open door or a cracked window.  If possible, offer your dog a “safe spot” in your home to hide until the fireworks have subsided.  Some dogs like bathtubs, some like basements, whatever works for your pooch.
  • If your dog must be outside, keep a close eye on them.  Make sure they are on leash or in a secure fenced-in area.  Make sure others know that your dog is present and to make sure that fence gates are closed.  

  • Never take your pet to see fireworks. Many pets become startled and bolt.
Following these simple tips will help keep your four-legged family member safe and where they belong this holiday, with you and your family.

Smitten Season: Retail Specials

Smitten Season is well underway here at Animal Friends. There are priceless adoptions, $10 neuter surgeries, a kitten baby shower, and of course, steals and deals in our retail shop.

To help us celebrate Smitten Season, our retail store has gone cat crazy!  First, you can become smitten with one of our shelter residents (or your own cat) and for $5, hang a pair of paper lips in our retail store, professing your love for that certain special kitty.

The main attraction is an art sale that runs the entire month of June.  One of the “greenest” items on sale this month are one-of-a-kind, handmade felted cat doorstops, crafted lovingly by an Animal Friends volunteer from up-cycled wool sweaters.  

Illustrated art prints of current and former shelter residents, drawn by Retail Coordinator April Minech, will also be on sale.  All the proceeds from these prints are going directly to the resident cats currently living at Animal Friends in the form of new beds, litter and fun new toys.  Canvas paintings donated by local artists are also available, as well as metal cat garden decorations.  And as always, unique boutique items such as painted wine glasses and cardboard cat shacks are available to purchase.

Are you bringing home a new kitten this month? Maybe you already have a cat that needs a few new toys and treats?  Either way, you might want to take a look at our Kit-n-Caboodle.  This Kit is a basket filled to the brim with all the goodies a kitten could need.  Five bags of dry food, cat dishes, a box of litter, cardboard scratching pad, cat treats, assorted toys and more are included in this basket.  Buy the bundle and save 20% the everyday price!  It’s a true steal at $50!

Last but not least, we are raffling off 3 cat trees built by our friends at IBACOS.  These wonderful creations were built in a 24-hour contest and donated to Animal Friends.  Take a look here and here for photos and a video on the making of these great cat trees.  Tickets are $2 each and the winner will be announced July 1st

So whatever your needs, our retail store has something for you this month at Animal Friends.  Come in and have a look!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Journey Through the Animal Friends' Animal Wellness Department

Part 1: Admissions

By: Rudy with help from Suzanne Denk, Behavior Wellness Liaison

Stray dog is what they called me. Stray? I had excellent manners, was affectionate, handsome, and had been neutered. Someone had loved me.  I was wearing a brightly colored collar but my collar had no identification tags and no one had come looking for me.  My legally required holding time at the animal control facility was at an end and there was no place left for me to go. I had heard rumors about what this meant.  

I sat quietly in my kennel when suddenly all the dogs started barking and I heard voices.   An admissions counselor and vet tech from Animal Friends were entering the kennel.  They said they were looking for some friendly dogs to take with them to Animal Friends for a second chance.  Pick me! I thought. 

Animal Friends Admissions Department receives animals in a variety of ways: owner surrenders, Humane Investigations confiscations, strays, transfers from another shelter and, fortunately for me, transfers from the animal control facilities.  Each week the admissions counselor and vet tech came to the animal control facility to medically and behaviorally evaluate the stray dogs that no one had claimed.

Suddenly, they were standing at the front of my kennel looking at me.  Wiggle. Look cute. The admissions counselor reached down and lifted the latch on my kennel door.  I was so excited I burst out of the kennel and ran up and down the aisles.  I did love to run but then realized there were people to greet and that this was probably not the best way to show them my good behavior. 

I greeted the visitors who put me on a leash and we went for a walk outside.  The admissions counselor was petting me, touching my ears, stroking my back, and hey!, touching my paws.  That made me think about getting my nails trimmed which I hate.  Don’t touch my paws!  She hugged me but I was squirmy and really just wanted to play. 

I heard them say that it was time for a Parvo test.  The vet tech then stuck a q-tip in my back end. I found this to be a little brazen (after all we had just met).  Turns out she was testing for the Parvo virus which is highly contagious and can be deadly to dogs who are not vaccinated or to puppies that do not have sufficient immune systems to fight this deadly disease. 

Click!  My ears perked up.  The admissions counselor was opening a can of dog food.  She was scooping the delicious smelling food into a bowl and yes, the bowl was going to be for me!  The bowl was placed on the floor and I began to eat.  I could tell that someone was touching me but I didn’t care.  Next, a hand was in my bowl and trying to take it from me.  I still didn’t care but clearly my two new friends, between the Parvo test and sticking a hand in my food, were a little bad mannered. This new theory of mine was proven further when I was offered a pig’s ear and then it was taken away.  I heard them say I was a good dog and didn’t guard my food.  I was starting to like them despite their rudeness. 

Now, I was simply enjoying some affection from the admissions counselor while the vet tech was drawing up vaccines.  I hadn’t realized this involved a needle but I took it like a man and they gave me treats.  They liked me. What were we waiting for now?  Soon, the vet tech declared that my Parvo test was negative.

Did I want to ride in the car? Yes, I love a car ride and wanted to get out of here.  I followed them out to the parking lot and jumped right in the Animal Friends van.  I didn’t know what was next in my journey but I was starting to get a very good feeling.

Coming soon: A Journey through the Animal Friends’ Animal Wellness Department
Part 2: Rudy visits the Medical Department

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Eyes Have It: Special Needs Animals are Special Indeed

By Jill Harlan, Adoption Counselor

When I started working at Animal Friends, I confess that I didn’t immediately seek out the animals that are harder to adopt because of their age, or physical or medical challenges. I enjoyed spending time with all animals, but like most people, I was attracted to the young, healthy and energetic animals. This was fine for my first week as I acclimated to the shelter environment. As I started to work more with the public, though, I learned that I had to be able to provide more options, as young, healthy, exuberant animals are not always abundant, nor are they right for everyone.

While watching the other Adoption Counselors and volunteers develop bonds with their favorite animals, I patiently and methodically read through the medical and behavioral background of each animal, stumbling through the files while presenting to potential adopters.  I really could not include any personal opinions or thoughts on an animal because I just had not taken the time to get to know them.

That’s when I decided that I would begin each day by visiting with a new animal. I started with the cats.

Our cat condos are listed numerically, so in my mind starting with number one was the most logical. There was a cat named Bumblebee who I passed by many times because he had only one eye, which made me feel uncomfortable. I’m not sure why. Maybe I thought he was more fragile than a “normal” cat. Or maybe the one eye just bugged me out. 

I opened his condo and gently, slowly placed my hand out for Bumblebee to sniff. Immediately, he rubbed against my hand and jumped into my arms.  I cradled him into my shoulder as he purred and rubbed his face all over mine.  After a few minutes of cuddling, a volunteer suggested I play with Bumblebee. I was surprised that he liked to play; after all, didn’t he have severely diminished eyesight? It turned out that he not only likes to play, but is awesome at chasing a cat teaser, batting a ball around a room or pouncing on a dangling feather.

Today, the other employees and volunteers know that Bumblebee is my buddy. He eases my stress when I have a bad day and makes me laugh when I’m in the mood for a clown.  I hope that he finds his forever home soon, since he has been here since October. I think his minor long-term medical concern is a deterrent for most, like me before interacting with him, but I’m sure that if you give him a chance, he’ll steal your heart, like he did mine.  He’s truly an amazing boy!

Check out his profile on our website here!

You can also see information about any other adoptable dog, cat or rabbit on our website.  Better yet, come in to visit us and we can introduce the pet that best fits your lifestyle. Who knows? Maybe it is an animal you would have never considered before.

A Celebration of Noses!

Photos and blog by Jeff Geissler, Communications Assistant

Black or brown, up or down. 
Pink and freckled, gray and speckled.
A cat’s nose knows no normality.







Cat or Kitten? Things to consider before adopting this "Smitten Season".

By Terry Kuehner

So you're thinking about adopting a cat?  Wonderful! Now it's time to ask yourself what type of cat would fit your lifestyle.  Do you want a kitten or an adult?  Do you prefer long-hair or short-hair?   Are you looking for a specific breed or have no preference?   A lot of people think "I'll know him when I see him".  Some think the cat will choose them.  Sometimes these things happen, but more often than not, people have preferences.

The first thing to know is that yes, there is a 'kitten season'.  It's Mother Nature's way to make sure kittens survive.  If kittens were born in November, they wouldn't survive the winter!   Shelters are usually overloaded with kittens starting late spring and into the summer. Kittens need to be old enough to be spayed or neutered to be available for adoption & that's at approximately 3 months of age.  So if you're looking for a kitten, summer is the time to visit your local shelters.

But is a kitten what you really want?  Sure, kittens are cute.  All baby animals are cute!  But just like a human toddler, they are curious 24 hours per day and can get into everything, including trouble.  Kittens like to climb drapes.  Kittens knock everything off your dresser at 3 a.m.  Kittens run down the steps between your legs trying to trip you.  (Yes, I'm convinced they do that on purpose to entertain themselves.)  Kittens can get bored easily and the best friend for a kitten is another kitten or one of those 2-legged youngsters.    But, if you're a little long in the tooth, like this writer, do you have the energy for a kitten?  I know I don't.

Perhaps then an adult cat might be the best for you.  If you live a quiet life and enjoy peace and quiet, adopting an adult cat might be the way to go.  I remember being 25 years old and all I wanted was a cat who would sit on my lap and purr and love me.  A slightly older cat, or a young adult, was what I was really looking for.  I wanted to come home from a long day at work, put up my feet and hold a purring cat. Now, at the end of my day, I still want to come in from a long day of playing in my garden, put up my feet and hold a purring cat.     

Maybe you’re one of the people whose middle name is ‘nurture’.  We have cats who, sadly, have physical disadvantages, whether it is FIV or just a sensitive stomach.  Some cats, like the ones with FIV, need some extra attention.  Some cats are on special diets.  If you’ve got the heart for one of those cats, please come in to meet them.  They’re the cats who live in cages the longest.  Each and every one of them will love you unconditionally. 

The rest is all dressing.   Long hair vs short hair?  The both make great companions.  Orange vs black?  They both make great terrific lap sitters.  Male vs female? They both make wonderful friends.

It's summertime and Animal Friends has a shelter full of kittens and adult cats waiting for homes.  Think about what is best for your lifestyle before you make the decision.  We have all colors, hair lengths, sexes, ages & sizes  (ladies, think "shoe store'!) .  Come and walk around.  Look at all the cats.  They’ll be looking back.  Maybe you’ll know her when you see her or maybe he’ll pick you.  

During the entire month of June, Animal Friends is celebrating "Smitten Season".  Take advantage of $10 neuter surgeries, shopping for you and your cat and most importantly, priceless cat adoptions!  Animal Friends is waiving the $75 adoption donation for all cats ages 2 and up! Come in and get smitten with our kittens!

Animal Friends' Home-To-Home Adoption Program Presents...Dorado!

Since I will be moving to the Central African Republic, Dorado is looking for a new home:
He’s a very cute, affectionate 5-year old, charcoal gray cat.  He adopted me a several years ago and now I am looking for someone to adopt him.  He comes will all shots and extra cat food I have.  He is neutered as well. His name, Dorado, is for hisvery golden eyes. Looking for a good home for him!
If you can help Dorado, please send Susan an e-mail – or give her a call at 412-441-5861.  Dorado needs your help!

Friday, June 8, 2012

School's Out for Summer. Adopt from Animal Friends!

Calling all teachers, students and school faculty! Animal Friends presents: School’s out for Summer! from Sunday-Saturday, June 10-16.

Our shelter animals have enjoyed their training at Animal Friends, but summer’s here and they want to go home!

From June 10-16, come to Animal Friends and view our pets’ report cards, each proudly (or not so proudly!) displayed on their kennels.

Whether you’re looking for a bookworm, class clown or student athlete, we have someone for you!
Show a valid teacher, school faculty or student ID to receive a $20.12 credit toward your adoption.
Special for Smitten Season: Cats age 2+ are completely priceless!

For many households, summertime means that families are home together and have a great opportunity to introduce a new pet to the home!

All household members must be present. Standard adoption application policies apply!

Visit Animal Friends at 562 Camp Horne Road, Pittsburgh PA 15237 or call 412.847.7000 for more information.  You can also visit

Always Carry a Spare Cat and Other Important Lessons in Public Relations

By Jolene Miklas, Director of Communications

I have one of the best jobs in town. As the Communications Director for Animal Friends, I have the fun --and sometimes hilarious-- task of taking shelter animals on radio and TV appearances.

As result, I have learned several very important lessons over the years.

Like this one:

1. No food after midnight.

My first radio appearance was a half-hour segment on the Lynn Cullen radio show. All I had to do was bring an adoptable dog to the studio, introduce her to the listeners, and spend the next 20 minutes chatting with Lynn about Animal Friends. I jump at the chance to do that sort of thing now, but at that time, I was a ball of nerves.

So that morning, I put Ginger, a big white Shepherd, into my car and we drove to the studio. I thought potty breaks sounded like a good idea, so after she took hers, I tried to get the big, beautiful Shepherd to follow me into the tiny stall in the ladies' room. After a few forlorn tries, we gave up, so Ginger followed me onto the elevator and up three stories to the station.

Soon, we were inside the broadcast booth with our host, Lynn. I took a seat on a stool, placed a pair of oversized headphones onto my head, and leaned into the microphone. I was nervous but ready. I remember the very moment we went live on the airwaves, and I thought, "This is it!"

Then I looked at Ginger. And I blurted out across the radio waves: "This doesn't look good."

Ginger's expression was unmistakable. That beautiful dog opened her mouth and got sick all over the floor.

Back at the shelter and glued to the radio, my friends tell me that they heard my mortified gasp and the sound of a door slamming. I yanked the headphones off my head, gathered the dog, summoned the elevator, waited for it, rode three stories back down, and burst outside with Ginger, who, by then, felt perfectly refreshed.

After a few minutes, Ginger and I rode the elevator back up to Lynn, who was calmly describing the dog to her listeners to the best of her recollection. The rest of the interview went fine, and I took care of the clean-up.

That's the day I learned that otherwise healthy pets can get quite carsick. Now, every night before their media appearances, my animals go on a "No food after midnight" diet. They eat breakfast after they get back.

Lesson #2. Always bring a spare cat.

Our animals are fortunate to go on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live every few weeks. I get to introduce adoptable animals to the live TV audience and talk about our latest news.

One day, I was invited to bring an adoptable cat onto the show to talk about how to give a cat a massage. I let Beth, our resident expert, select the cat with care. We needed just the right easy-going cat who would not only stay calm on live TV, but allow himself to be massaged in a rather chaotic environment. Beth at Animal Friends picked Nathan, the sweetest cat, and he really was.

He just didn't travel well.

Once again, I strapped my furry co-star into my Subaru and chatted to him the whole way to the station. I didn't notice that anything was awry until we were riding the elevator in the parking garage. I thought I smelled something, but I didn't want to believe it. Instead, I proceeded confidently to the station.

I checked in with the producer and opened the cat carrier. And that's when I saw it. The poor cat had had diarrhea. Nathan was covered, from head to toe, in diarrhea.

I made a quick call to Animal Friends. I knew it was the height of rush hour, but I begged for someone to bring me a clean cat. In the mean time, I got to work. The ladies' room was occupied, so I charged into the nearest men's room and eased my dirty cat into the sink. He had somehow even gotten it in his ears! While the producer poked her head into the men's room and asked me for updates, I rolled up my sleeves and swiftly but gently bathed the sad cat. I was still holding out hope that I might be able to demonstrate a cat massage on Nathan.

Thankfully, while I was wiping down the cat with paper towels and stalling for time from the producer, Jack from Animal Friends made it downtown in record time. I packed up Nathan (who, rest assured, suffered only from nerves), ran outside and scurried to the Animal Friends van, which was pulled over on Fort Duquesne Boulevard. Jack passed a carrier with a clean cat through the van window while I traded over the smelly cat. I then dashed and skidded onto the TV set, presented the clean cat, and introduced the viewers to the benefits of cat massage.

That was the last time I ever left Animal Friends without an understudy. Now I always, always carry a spare cat. Whether the cats got sick or just a case of cold feet, this trick has saved me many times.

Lesson #3: Keep calm and carry on.

Sometimes, it just all goes to heck.

Like the time Erica and I took two cats and a dog on WTAE's live afternoon news. Sally Wiggin and I were telling viewers why we needed them to tune into Animal Friends' Telethon, when Raindrop, the (shaved) shelter cat in Sally Wiggin's arms, decided that she didn't want to be on TV anymore. Thankfully, Sally never dropped that cat. Sally twisted and twirled around in a frantic balancing act, and Raindrop took a walk across Sally's back, firmly clinging to Sally's leather blazer by her claws.

The inelegant scramble concluded with me lamenting "Oh Raindrop," and, for good measure, a near-fight breaking out between our other cat and the dog.

As always, everything worked out and all of the animals were fine, and adopted shortly after. (And that little Telethon spot was the #1 most viewed segment on WTAE's website for quite a few days.)

Every day on the job is an adventure, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm ready to take this show on the road again!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Summer is Heating Up…Keep Your Pets Cool and Safe!

Guest Bloggers: The staff at Petagogy

Summer is here, which means tons of summer fun for humans and pets alike. But with the hot weather comes several safety issues that we want you to keep in mind.

Noise anxiety
Thunderstorms and fireworks can be heard on many hot summer nights. These events can be exciting for us, but our pets may not understand what is happening and can be overtaken by anxiety and fear. If you know a storm is coming or that there will be fireworks nearby, it is best to try to prevent the anxiety before it occurs. The Thundershirt is a great non-medicinal product that uses gentle pressure to ease a dog’s anxiety. There are also several treats and supplements available to help calm an anxious dog or cat; two of our favorites, which we’ve used on our own pets, is Rescue Remedy herbal calming drops and Pet Naturals of Vermont Calming treats.

If you do have an anxious dog, be wary of his or her ability to run away during a bout of anxiety. Make sure all doors and gates are closed. If your dog is on a leash or harness, make sure you are holding the leash tight and that he or she can’t slip their collar (if they can, it may be time to try a martingale-style collar, which has an extra non-slip loop). Even if you have a dog that would not normally run away, if their anxiety takes over they may act on their instinct to run for safety.

When the temperature creeps up, time walks and outside play carefully. Some dogs can handle the heat, but many can’t. Certain dogs are more susceptible to overheating than others, particularly short nosed dogs, otherwise known as brachycephalic dogs. These types of breeds include bulldogs, pugs, mastiffs and Pekingese. Dogs can overheat pretty quickly and heat exhaustion can be fatal. 

If you do take your dog out in the heat, make sure that while your dog is exercising, he or she has a clean, readily available water source. If you are walking your dog and/or are going to a park where you are unsure if there will be water available, remember to bring your own. Gulpys are a great option to carry water––they can clip right onto your pants or a carabineer on your leash and have a water bowl built right in. 

Also, never leave your dog in the car during the summer. Even on mildly sunny days, cars can heat up to lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes; simply cracking the windows does not prevent cars from getting too hot. Err on the side of caution and avoid leaving pets in cars during the warmer months. 

Nighttime walks
On really hot days, sometimes it is better to wait until the sun goes down to take your dog on his or her walk. Just like with dark wintertime walks, special safety precautions should be taken: never assume a car sees you, always wear light-colored clothing, and try to wear at least one reflective item. Your pup should also be seen. Reflective leashes and blinking lights that hang on collars are both excellent ways to make your pup visible during nighttime strolls. 

Yard maintenance is often a forgotten area of danger for dogs and cats. There are many pesticides and chemicals that are used to make grass greener and flowers brighter. If you have an outdoor cat that explores the neighborhood or your dog walks through yards while on walks, be sure to clean off his or her paws so that when your cat or dog grooms themselves they aren’t ingesting any traces of lawn chemicals they may have stepped on. A great way to quickly and thoroughly clean those paws is to use the PawPlunger, a handy, portable tool that you fill with water and use to squeegee your pet’s paws.

Another paw malady comes from hot, summertime pavement and asphalt. Never forget that your dog doesn’t have the protection of shoes or socks and the afternoon sun can heat up the ground enough to burn their paws. Be careful where you walk your dog during hot afternoons and use a paw protector like Mushers Secret, a wax that can be rubbed onto paws to create a strong barrier between paws and the ground.

With a few simple precautions, you and your pets can safely enjoy the long, sunny days of summer!

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

Friday, June 1, 2012

Animal Friends' Home-To-Home Adoption Program Presents...Sylvester!

Sylvester is a gray, striped, male tabby cat who is very friendly and loving.  Sylvester, or Syl, is about 2 years old..  He was a stray and showed up on my property with his brother about a year ago.  Syl needs a good home.
Syl is neutered, has all his claws, and has passed his annual vet check-up with flying colors on May 18, 2012.  Syl has been tested for Feline Leukemia and is negative.  He also is current on all his shots and vaccines including FeLV.  He is litter box trained.  Syl is extremely friendly with people.  He might take short time to get used to a stranger but he usually warms right up to a person.  He is a sucker for a good petting and will purr very loudly and rub up against you.  I have seen him with other cats and he gets along well with them.  Anyone who adopts Sylvester will be very pleased. 

If you can help, please contact Mike at 412.882.9392 or email him at