Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Animal Friends presents: Mick!

Meet Mick…He’s affectionate, calm, loves attention and…he’s overweight.

This handsome 10-year-old cat was surrendered to another shelter in November. He was scanned for a microchip, and the shelter workers realized that Mick had been adopted from Animal Friends. We always welcome our alums back with open arms, so they gave us a call and we quickly responded.

We were happy to see Mick but realized right away he needed help. At almost 23 pounds, he was dangerously overweight. He is also borderline diabetic and has trouble reaching his chubbier areas to groom.

 Mick is now a member of our foster program. His foster mom has placed Mick on a healthy diet. She works in the administrative offices here at Animal Friends, so Mick spends his days in the office too, usually trying to go to meetings.

(He's been late a few times. Too many cat naps!)

He likes spending time with people and he believes in Animal Friends’ mission, so we imagine he wants to share his input! 

Slowly but surely, Mick is losing the extra weight. His foster mom continues to work with him on diet and careful exercise. Since his arrival, he is once again interested in playing with toys. He will stay in our care until he is healthy enough to be adopted. 

We would like to thank Mick’s foster parent for taking such good care of Mick and the other 124 foster parents who care for Animal Friends animals each day. We’d also like to thank our donors for making this important work possible.

Click here to make a donation to help pets like Mick.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Adventures of a Foster Mom

Guest Blogger: Susan Gottfried

This update is part of an ongoing series. 

I haven't written much about Geronimo since he's been here with us – and he's still here! – because of two reasons. One is that I've been crazy busy with work and kids. The other is directly related to the boy himself.

I have been worried sick about his bladder stones. If the special food Geronimo's on doesn't do the trick, he'll have to have surgery. I didn't worry this much when my son had to have his tonsils out when he was four. 

The reason, of course, is rooted in the fact that Geronimo's a cool cat. He's got an earthiness, a way about him that suggests he gets what this is all about. I think he genuinely knows this isn't his forever home, and if so, he'll be the first cat who has understood that. That doesn't mean this intuitive boy will intuit  surgery, though, and I don't want to put him through something as scary as an operation if we can avoid it.

Right now, signs are positive and the stones are slowly dissolving. So long as I'm careful with his food and make sure Geronimo only eats his special food, the hope is that his stones will keep shrinking. My hope after that is that the stones don't recur. 

Now, Geronimo's not quite as much fun as Zenji had been. He doesn't have crazy adventures, he doesn't steal toys, and he doesn't drink from anyone's water but his own. But he does one thing no other cat has done: he crawls under the covers and sleeps with my son.

Back before my Animal Friends days, one of my two original cats used to sleep under the covers with me. Cooper was only allowed between the sheet and the comforter because his toenails would scratch me up pretty good. A few fosters since then have crawled in with me, but none have joined my son – who was pretty jealous of my continued good fortune.

 Geronimo doesn't do it often, and when he does, it's not a night-long commitment, but every now and then, he'll burrow under the covers and come morning, instead of a sulky pre-teen, I'll have a child who's all but glowing and definitely feeling the love. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Love at First Wag: Milo

It's not often you find love at first sight but when you do, you know its true.

Such was the case for adopter Connie M. and her kitten, Milo.  Connie lost her long-time feline companion, Duchess, in September 2012, after 16 years. Connie and her family grieved but soon realized they had a lot of love that they wanted to give to another cat.  They came to Animal Friends in December and fell head over tails in love with Milo, a 5-week old kitten.  

Milo has fit right into his new home and Connie loves when he greets her after a long day at work.

"We are so happy that we found him! He has really filled our hearts after losing our dear Duchess after 16 years," Connie said.

Connie recently entered Milo in Pet Food Direct's "Love at First Wag" contest, where he won 2nd Runner Up!  Great job, Milo!

In addition to a tasty bag of cat food, Milo (and his forever family) have decided to gift their $100 prize to Animal Friends.  Thank you so very much! Your donation is much appreciated.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lizzie Lou: One Bunny's Journey from Pet Shop to Forever Home

Guest Blogger: Mary Moyle

Lizzie's journey began as the result of a pet store buy gone wrong.  The shoppers were told they were getting two female bunnies.  But of course, it is very difficult to tell the sex of young rabbits so shortly there were four more bunnies.  These youngsters were brought to Animal Friends as an unwanted litter.  

By luck, my husband was at the shelter that day and since there really was no room available, he brought two of the litter, Jane and Lizzie to our home to foster.  We were cared for them until they were old enough to be spayed.  During the night of Feb 11, Lizzie was very agitated and running around her x-pen collecting hay and ripping paper to put in her litter box.  Early on Sunday morning, Feb 12, 2012 she began to pull fur from herself and lining the box which we now know was a nest. 

Later in the evening, while we were out, Lizzie gave birth to four little bunnies!  Imagine our surprise when we came home to four tiny pink bodies with no fur and closed eyes.  What a joy!  Being part of this event was so special. Lizzie was a perfect Mommy and took wonderful care of her babies, even though she was hardly more than a baby herself at six months.  She fed and cleaned her babies.  It was amazing to see her with them.  

We recorded their progress and realized that  baby bunnies do not stay babies very long.  In three weeks, they doubled their weight and were climbing out of the nest.  We enjoyed watching the babies explore and try their first binkys. Although a little unsteady at first, they were soon running like lightning.  Since there were four babies, we named them Eenie, Meenie, Miney and Mo. 

As it turned out, Meenie was the only male.  We fostered them until it was their turn to be spayed and neutered and ready for adoption into their forever homes.  They were able to attend bun runs and show off for prospective adopters.  Each has their own personality and soon captured the hearts of bunny lovers.  Mo was always the most adventuresome, first out of the nest and first to explore new areas.  Eenie, Meenie and Mo have found their forever homes.  Only Miney still waits to meet her caring family.  Miney was always the most quiet and reserved, so she is waiting patiently for the perfect family.  

Since we shared this journey with Lizzie, we felt we had to keep her as part of our family.  We adopted Lizzie and love spending time with this exceptional lady who has already given us so many precious memories.

Miney celebrated her first birthday on Tuesday, February 12!  Help us give Miney the best birthday gift of all, a forever home!  Check out her bio and a video here and then come meet Miney.  She's waiting for you.

Always On Duty: Animal Friends’ Caring Volunteers

Guest Blogger: Ann Cadman, Health & Wellness Coordinator

Each one of our Animal Friends’ volunteers is a caring and compassionate person. Volunteer Dave Mitchell is no exception. 

After dropping his wife off at the airport at 4:30 am one snowy morning, he was forced to change his normal route home.  As he turned from Babcock Blvd. on to Thompson Run Rd., he saw a car flashing its lights at him.  Around the next bend, there was what he described as a “fur ball” walking up the middle of the road in a snow squall. It seemed to be limping. 

Dave pulled up in the middle of the road, got out, and helped a three-legged dog into his car.  At home, he fixed up a side of the kitchen where the dog could rest, away from his three Labs. Before Dave could close the small dog gate, the little fellow was over greeting and befriending his dogs Ricky, Lucy, and Macy. 

Later that same day, Dave located the dog’s distraught owner. She had been out looking for him for hours. She told Dave that the little dog’s name was Ziggi and that he was a rescued Pomeranian. 

We are always been proud of Dave and the work that he does with Animal Friends’ Humane Education and Pet Assisted Therapy programs.  But knowing that his concern for an animal in distress makes us prouder still!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Diary of an Adoptions Counselor

Capone and Gotti

By Kaitlin Hilinski, Community Adoptions Counselor
No two days are quite alike when you work with people and pets. Here are some gems from my career at Animal Friends:

I came in to work the day after I had to put down my Golden Retriever, Sadie.  She’d been a dear friend and foot-warmer for over 12 years. That morning I was depressed, as you can imagine, until someone brought Tito the Bulldog mix behind the adoption desk.  Tito threw all 80+ pounds of himself in to my lap and licked my face with wild abandon.  I was laughing and crying all at once.  Tito found his forever home shortly after that, but I will never forget his role as unofficial therapy dog for me on one of my worst days. I still have a picture of him – smiling a sleepy smile – above my computer, where I can see it everyday.

One day an announcement summoned the entire staff to the lobby for an important meeting. My coworkers and I rushed down the hall to see what the commotion was, but not before grabbing a puppy to take with us… Because we could, that’s why!

Once, I was walking dogs with a co-worker for a long while on a cold day. When we finished, we decided to spend a moment cuddling with Gotti and Capone, the two largest dogs in the shelter.  We went in to their room and were immediately covered in wet kisses and lots of hair.  We were laughing like fools when I looked up through window of the dogs’ room. I saw our Director of Communications standing there with two major donors, one of whom is a local celebrity… My co-worker and I finished our play session and politely excused ourselves from the Gotti and Capone’s room, despite their protests.  We passed the important people in the hallway with an embarrassed smile, dusting dog hair from our winter coats, but they were thrilled to see us enjoying the dogs!

One day, I was working with the cats at our satellite adoption location in the Bethel Park Petco. Simba, a beautiful and vocal long haired orange male was enjoying the attention of the public, so I thought we’d try something new. I slipped a bright blue harness around his little legs and we went for a walk!  He kept trying to explore the dog food and fish gravel. Next time I’ll be sure to take him through the cat section!

Another day, I was just starting a presentation to a group of technical school student who had been kind enough to gather supplies for the shelter and our Chow Wagon pet food bank. No sooner did I start talking than Sophie, my visiting dog, had to pee.  She proceeded to do so… in a circle… directly around my feet.  Old Sophie felt a lot better, and it was the perfect segue to a conversation about housebreaking tips!

Sometimes, I head over to our Resource Library when I need a bigger space than my crowded desk allows. I’ve often taken cats in to the Library to give them a break from their cages while I do paperwork.  Multiple times they’ve ended up on the table, on top of my binders, despite having a whole room to explore! I should know better than to try to get work done with cats...

I found a home for a long-term resident, Phil. Phil is claustrophobic (yes, animals can be claustrophobic) so he can not be crated like most dogs. He went home with a woman who works from home, so he’ll never have to be alone.  As she was leaving, she said, “I’m never getting married again, so Phil will be the only man in my life!”

I’ve also met not one but 2 couples who’ve purchased a larger bed so their animals can sleep with them at night. That’s my kind of crazy!

I’ve even seen miracles happen for elderly, blind, and deaf animals when they got adopted!  Like Bogart, my favorite ancient arthritic Lab.  Or Jewel, the little girl whose hair was so thin we sent her home in a pink and silver sweater.  Or Dawn, the Shih Tzu with two teeth who probably came from a puppy mill.  She’s now called Cinderella – what a perfect rags to riches story!

I’ve heard of adopters running in to folks who knew their pets from their lives before Animal Friends.  My favorite dog, Bogart, is now called “Chance” ‘cause that’s the name he knew for 12 years before coming to Animal Friends!

I’ve seen a dog get returned to the shelter, only to be adopted less than 3 hours later.  He’s the perfect “Grandma’s dog” and the whole family loves him.  Thank goodness he got back to us in time to find his *real* forever family!

These are just some of the great memories I have from my time as an adoption counselor.  I can’t wait to see what wonderful things are in store for us and our animals!

Monday, February 4, 2013

February is Adopt a Shelter Rabbit Month at Animal Friends

Animal Friends is home to lots of lonely hearts this February. And, since February is Adopt a Shelter Rabbit Month, we’re lining up lots of hopportunities for rabbit enthusiasts—or just the rabbit-curious—to get involved.

First of all, if you’ve never loved anybun before, come meet some of our favorite residents, like Freddie. Freddie was found, feeling quite bewildered, on the mean streets of Oakland. Domesticated rabbits can’t survive on their own, so our friend Fred was brought to Animal Friends and now awaits adoption. Freddie likes to be gently petted and hang out with people. He’s not keen on loud noises so he’s looking for a family who’s quiet and low-key, like him.

You can come meet Freddie and other adoptable rabbits by visiting a Bun Run, which is a rabbit recess that takes place every weekend in February and March. Join us on February 9, 17 or 23 or March 2, 9 or 23 from 2:30 – 4:00pm to frolic with free-roaming rabbits and talk to our experts about rabbit care.

New to bunny companionship? Visit our Bunny Expo, Saturday, February 9 2:00 - 4:00pm. The Animal Friends' Bunny Expo will include rabbit information as well as a Bun Run for our shelter residents. Our bunnies have been asking for a day on the beach (they're tired of the cold weather too!). We did the best we could and provided a sandbox for them to play in! Also included in the days activities are demonstrations on how to deal with challenging behavior, information about proper rabbit diets, how to setup a perfect rabbit habitat, DIY toy making and more!  You might even find a new best friend that day. Please, leave your bun at home for this event. Thank you!

If you’re already owned by a bunny, then B that B to BYOBunny on Sunday, February 17 from 2:00 – 4:00pm. You’ll find a fancy photo station for fabulous rabbits, bunny superlative contest with prizes for the fluffiest bunny, cotton-iest tail and others, grooming (for a $5 donation) and more. Please bring an exercise pen for your bunnies and let us know who is coming - floor space runs out quickly! Email Tammy with your name and how many bunnies are coming:

Parents of brainy bunnies can join us again on Saturday, February 23 from 2:00 – 4:00pm for Bunny Clicker Training. Rabbits are smart creatures who, with the help of clicker training, can learn amazing things! Who knew? (We did.) We’re hosting two one-hour clicker training classes (for people only) followed by a Bun Run. Spots are limited, so write to to secure yours, and please bring a $5 donation to Animal Friends.

Animal Friends has beautiful bunnies, not to mention adorable dogs and cats, every day of the year. Come see us today!

Visit for more info or call 412.847.7000.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

Guest Blogger: Kelley Mallick, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Program Assistant 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"  Each year, Americans answer that question by coming together on the MLK Holiday to serve their neighbors and communities. 

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 88 North Allegheny High School students, including members of the Key Club and the National Honor Society, embraced this initiative on Monday, January 21, 2013 at the school’s Second Annual MLK Day of Service.  The students decided to partner with Animal Friends for this important day of service.  The slogan for the day was “Turn your day OFF into a day ON!”  

One pressing problem in western Pennsylvania is the care of feral and stray cats.  Feral cats are descendants of domestic cats.  They live outside as wild animals and can no longer be handled by humans.  Stray cats are typically cats that once had homes and have been abandoned .  

To address the need for care of these animals  while living outside during our cold winter months, one of the Day of Service projects this year was to build winter housing  for feral and stray cats living in our community.   Each house was constructed by lining a sturdy box with thick styrofoam for insulation.  The boxes were then wrapped with tough plastic sheeting, and taped with Gorilla tape to make them as water tight as possible.   The houses, once filled with a bedding layer of straw (provided by Animal Friends) provide a warm, dry place for these cats to take refuge from the cold.   

Thank you North Allegheny students!  Thanks to you 50 cat homes were built and Animal Friends was able to distribute them and collect $250 in donations!

Friday, February 1, 2013

What’s a Community Adoption Counselor?

By Kaitlin Hiliniski, Community Adoptions Counselor

My job isn’t like other jobs. 

Sure, some people work with the public; they have to smile, shake hands, and be “on” for hours at a time. Some people work with animals; they have to clean up potty messes, soothe nervous or excitable critters and be ever-vigilant to potential stressors in the environment. Some people work with corporations; they have to have a professional phone voice, lighting fast email responses, and a respectable social media demeanor.

As Animal Friends’ Community Adoption Counselor, I do all of these things and more. I work with local business owners and community leaders to get adoptable animals to their events. I select animals from our shelter who have to be able to handle, kids, other animals, hectic environments, and the occasional firework. No, really.  Fireworks are not just for the Fourth of July! Just ask Stash, the bunny.

I teach people about positive reinforcement training that encourages a dog to work with you as opposed to learning to fear you. I have to know how to properly fit a Sensi-Harness or Gentle Leader, because when someone is willing to give up a painful prong or pinch collar for a gentler option, I want the transition to be as smooth as possible.

I show children the proper way to approach a dog they do not know. Our Education Coordinator taught me this valuable skill over a year ago and I pass it on as often as possible. Few things make me smile brighter than seeing a child offer a dog a sniff before gently petting it on the shoulder. I love to pass out Animal Friends stickers to kids and adults alike. Everyone loves stickers!

I explain to people how spaying and neutering helps make their pets healthier, happier and safer.  I teach folks the difference between stray and feral cats, and about what a difference Trap-Neuter-Release programs can make in their communities. 

I educate the public about and fight prejudice towards misunderstood breeds like Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds, not to mention Daschunds, Chihuahuas and Jack Russell Terriers.  I share the sad realities of commercial breeding facilities. I offer suggestions on how to rescue any breed of any companion animal – from pot bellied pigs, to fancy rats, to ball pythons, and everything in between – they all need to be rescued.

Not to mention I load and unload vans packed with donations from the generous community that supports our work. I bleach kennels and hold frightened kittens. I lay down newspaper and put out hay for the bunnies. I cut toenails and brush out mats (only on the animals!).

I train volunteers and direct questions to other departments. I provide a sounding board for ideas, and plan my calendars months in advance with other folks doing just as much as I am. 

I feed my fish, check my email and get ready to do it all again.

This is my job.

I come home at the end of the day exhausted, sore and smelly.  Some days I’m more tired than others and I consider if it’s really worth the aching muscles, sore feet and bruised ego. Then, my own rescued cat gives me a dusty and incredibly loud meow.  She’s deaf, so she shouts everything she says… Everything.

When that old lady cat shrieks her appreciation for a bowl of food and a scratch on the cheek, she reminds me of all the animals I have helped to save over the past year. I may not be pulling strays off the streets, but I am telling the public where they can go to get their animal spayed or neutered affordably, and therefore reducing pet overpopulation. 

I’m teaching people to bring their dogs inside in cold weather, and that there are better options for pullers than shock or choke collars. I’m finding homes for dogs that are fearful, demanding or have special needs. I help our PETCO volunteers with our satellite adoption center in Bethel Park. I’m educating people about just now smart bunnies are, and that they need so much more than a pet store cage or an outdoor hutch.  I’m helping people solve litter box issues and therefore giving pet owners the keys to a happier, healthier cat.

So yes, my job is not like other jobs. It’s demanding, tiring, and emotionally draining. It’s also uplifting, inspiring and the most rewarding thing I can think of to do with my career. I’m so proud to work for Animal Friends and help carry out our mission: To ensure the well being of companion animals, while ending overpopulation, abuse and unwarranted euthanasia.

Keep an eye out for me at your local pet supply store or community event. I’ll be the one passing out Animal Friends stickers with a smile!