Thursday, August 29, 2013

4-foot Ball Python Finds a Foster Home with Animal Friends

By Amy Green, Interim Adoptions Team Leader

“Let me know when it’s out of the bag!” 

My name is Amy Green and I have a snake in my house. My roommates are less than thrilled. 
Over the past year that I have been with Animal Friends, I have seen an abundance of strange things: dogs from house fires, cats abandoned on our walking trails and even 60 chickens showing up at once. Never did I think that a 4-foot Ball Python would come through our doors. 

After many names were thrown around, Ryback the snake has found a foster home in my living room until he is adopted.  I have grown quite fond of Ryback. He has already started to go for a swim, bask under his heat lap, molt and eat a thawed mouse.  Ryback weighs under two pounds.  His diet consists of two small frozen mice once a week.  He is very sweet and easy to handle. And, he has an incredible story. 

Ryback was brought to us through our Humane Investigation Department. One of our Officers came to the Adoption Desk and asked if any of us had experience handling snakes. We all looked at him as if we were being told to drink spoiled milk.  When we were told the snake would be coming in the shelter, it was a mix of fear and excitement.  The Officer and an adoption counselor went out on their adventure with a slip cover off of a dog bed – we made sure there was a zipper involved! Once they arrived at the scene of the case, Ryback was found curled up behind a couch, cold and alone.  He has been left behind after the previous owner was evicted from the home. It had taken three weeks to get into the house for his rescue.

Here at Animal Friends, we see a lot of sad stories and we try to be the voice for those who cannot speak. When Ryback came through the doors, many ran away and others came to see.  We instantly placed a rice bag into the microwave so Ryback could lay with it and regain a healthy body temperature.  There isn’t much else we could do for him at the shelter, so I decided to offer him a foster home.  I have had small snakes before, however not anything large enough to eat mice.  I rushed to buy supplies and to get him into a warm, safe place – my living room.

On the way home I had made the call to my roommates. As I said, they were less than pleased.  I quickly assembled his new home and turned on the heat lamps. Then the time came to take him out of the cover to go into the habitat.  Before I started unzipping the cover, both my roommates ran upstairs and yelled, “Let me know when it’s out of the bag!”  Ryback now rests happily and safely in a 40 gallon habitat, with a pool and personal sun. By that evening, Ryback had traveled 74 miles in a dog bed slip cover, listened to Christina Aguilera and sat in front of the television during a new episode of House Hunters. 

I want to tell the Animal Friends community how lucky I am to have such a wonderful opportunity to provide a second chance for animals and reptiles alike.  We love all animals and make sure who ever and whatever come into our doors we are there for them until death do us part!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How Glitch Became the Bark in the Dark Mascot...and Helped Homeless Pets!

By Christy Bostardi, Special Events Coordinator 

Every summer, our city of Pittsburgh brings beautiful scenery and abundant activities for its residents to enjoy. From concerts and festivals to Kennywood and Pirates’ games, there is never a shortage of things to do. A new favorite pastime – one that is growing each year – is the pledge walk. Pledge walks (sometimes known as “walkathons”) are fundraisers that rely on attendees to collect donations and pledges in support of their participation in the event. In 2012 alone there were more than 20 pledge walks in and around the ‘Burgh, each supporting a great cause. It makes you wonder – with so many to choose from, how do you pick one? For Janel Burkhart, it was easy. She found the walk that benefits homeless animals.

During the summer of 2012, Janel and a loyal group of 7 teammates – Jonathan, Lucas, Cameron, Michael, Alexis, Evelyn and Bob - trekked the streets of Pittsburgh in search of sponsorships for Bark in the Park. She had set a goal of $3,000 and was determined to meet it. The biggest motivation in her quest: the furry residents waiting for homes at Animal Friends. Each day, Janel and her group knocked on doors, talked to neighbors and even strangers on the street. In fact, they did so much walking, Janel lost nearly 25 pounds! “I wanted to raise the money for the animals,” Janel said. “But, it was for me too. I felt good because I was getting out of the house, working for a good cause and feeling healthier.” 

Glitch, Janel’s beloved dog, also kept her moving. If she collected enough money to place 1st in the top fundraisers for the event, Glitch would become the next “face” of Bark in the Park.

After 6 long weeks, Janel and her posse hit their goal of $3,000 and then some! The grand total? $3,104. Janel and her team not only came in 1st place, but they raised more money than any other team (or individual) for Bark in the Park in over 3 years. Their efforts paid off – Glitch secured his place as the 2013 mascot and the homeless residents at Animal Friends could sleep easy!

Glitch was featured on our brochure, t-shirt, website and more!

It’s people like Janel that make all of Animal Friends’ efforts possible. With $3,000 we could purchase 2,500 pounds of food for the Chow Wagon, perform more than 80 spay and neuter surgeries or provide medical care for sick animals. Every dollar counts when it comes to caring for our residents.

So, do you have what it takes to beat the 2012 top fundraiser? There is still time to collect your pledges and register for the event! For more information, visit

Friday, August 16, 2013

Angels and our Animal Cops

By Jeff Geissler, Communications Assistant

As I write this, two small Yorkies in the Pittsburgh area are living in an empty house, not sure when their caregivers will show up again.

Neighbors say the owners occasionally stop by - maybe once a day, or once every three days

A very concerned neighbor called our Humane Investigation department, prompting Officer Hecker and Officer Fredley to investigate the scene

"Dogs shouldn't  be living like that," the neighbor said with a puff of smoke underneath a green hat with MARINES written across the top. "They need to go for walks. They need to socialize. They need to play. They need to go to the bathroom," he said, concerned.

As per the law, the officers could not confiscate the home-alone dogs immediately. But, the next steps in their landlord/tenant dispute are already in motion with the courts. The investigation continues, with check-backs planned. Those dogs will not suffer.

Angels in the mix?

This neighbor acted when he saw injustice. 

Let’s face it. Too many of us sit back and turn a blind eye when we see wrong doing.

However, some take action.

A normal everyday guy with oversized khakis and worn out sneakers decided to make the world a little bit better. Maybe not for all of us, but at least for those helpless little dogs.

So I go to bed tonight knowing that this angel, and many like him, are out there. None of us are perfect, and we live in a very imperfect world.

But some are making our community a little less imperfect.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Adventures of a Foster Furmom: Constance and Claire

Guest Blogger: Susan Helene Gottfried

The past few months have been a whirlwind over at Casa Foster Furmom's. After we lost Pete, we raised Clarabelle and Pluto to adoption age. They found homes after a great kitten shower, and my kids and I cheered. By then, our foster room was full of three brothers who were the goofiest little guys we've hosted in a long time.

    After them, we had two of the world's sweetest little girls, Constance and Claire. Even my sister, the vet, met them on one of her rare trips to this side of the country. She, who works with animals, saw how super they were. 

This is Claire.

    There have been two sets of fosters since then – a single girl named Tefta who was non-stop action, and now three siblings who I'll tell you about another day. It's Claire and Constance I need to bring to your attention.

This is Constance.

    You see, when I was at the shelter yesterday with my latest set of foster babies, Claire and Constance were still there, in one of the playpens that sit outside the cat condos. I sat down on the floor with them, my laser pointer, and a shoelace, and we played. They came over to me for pets and love; I think they remember me. 

    It broke my heart to see these two sweeties still there. I know people have come in to visit them and consider taking them home, but so far, no one has done more than meet them. People, you're missing out!

    Worst of all, they are spending their kittenhoods, that rare time of rambunctious play and contagious goodwill and constant optimism, in a cage. They can't run and tussle, and – more to the point for these two – they can't snuggle up with a human who loves them. 

    Claire and Constance would do just that while they were our foster friends. We'd bring a book or an iPod and the girls would take over our laps, purring. Over the summer, as the kittens have come and gone, we've had a good number who like to purr, but none of them have been like these two. They aren't just telling you they are happy with their purrs. There's a trust happening here, a sweetness to them that is truly rare. 

    So what's the problem, you're asking yourself. Well, Claire and Constance are those least-wanted of cats: their coats are almost all black. Constance has some salt-and-pepper action going, and Claire has a little spot of white on her chest. That's enough white for me to say there's no way these girls can bring anyone bad luck. In fact, I'd say it's the opposite – there will be good luck for them when they find their forever home, and good luck for the adoptive family who is smart enough to bring these two into their lives. 

    Since I got my first pair of rescue cats, I've been an advocate for the companionship two cats offer each other – as well as the way they are able to diffuse the jealousy when a cat chooses one lap over another. Because they are quieter and a bit less naturally rambunctious, Claire and Constance would make a great pair for a family who's not so sure about bringing two cats home at once.

    Hopefully, when I bring my current trio in for their next appointment, that playpen will have new inhabitants, and the adoption staff will tell me the tale of the great family who took Claire and Constance into their homes. And my heart can stop breaking for two of my favorites from my whirlwind summer.
Claire and Constance are still looking for their forever homes! Check out Claire here and read more about Constance's nap and lap preferences here.  Then, come visit them at Animal Friends!

Happy Tails: Freestyling Disc-Jockey Salvador!

Guest Blogger: Shawn Schrag

I just wanted to send out another update about our Animal Friends alum, Salvador!

So far, we have competed in 4 disc dog competitions through the Mid Atlantic Disc Dogs and Appalachian Air Canines and have done very well for just starting out. We have 2 second place finishes in the beginner division in spot landing and dartboard and have a best score of 26 points in freestyle placing 4th out of 8 teams. 

We will be attending disc dog training at Pawsitive Vybe in upstate New York to hone our freestyle routines so that we can reach more people during next season to show them the positive aspects of pit bulls.  

Outside of competing, Salvador is still a complete ball of energy and has so much fun playing ball, Frisbee and swimming. He has made many new friends both big and small, with both 2-legs and 4-legs. He has even had the opportunity to visit our grandfather while he was staying in the nursing home. Salvador was a rockstar with every person that wanted to see him. 

If anybody is interested, I have all of our freestyle competitions on YouTube under Salvador the pit bull and he also has his own Facebook page under Salvador the pit bull. He currently has 88 followers as far away as the Philippines and Australia that track his progress through training and everyday life. Again, I cannot thank all the hard work of Sal’s foster family, the Papiks and Animal Friends.

Friday, August 9, 2013

For the Love of all Animals: Anna and Sydni

Sixth graders Anna Yaksich and Sydni Henley of Colfax Upper Elementary have set a lofty goal for themselves: to raise $25,000 for Animal Friends.  So far, they have raised over $15,000! Recently, they were awarded first place in the national Youth Jefferson Award in the “Animal Rights” category for their ongoing fundraising work for Animal Friends.

In the summer of 2008, then seven-year old Anna Yaksich watched an episode of Oprah on the cruelty and mistreatment of dogs at puppy mills. She was shocked and saddened but the episode inspired her to act. She decided then that she had to do something to help. She called her best friend Sydni Henley, and the two of them got to work raising money to help the animals. They started off with a lemonade stand and raised $200 that summer for Animal Friends.

They set a goal of $400 in 2009 and far exceeded that by hosting several events with their friends and neighbors, including game nights, an ice cream social, and raffling off a handmade quilt. They raised $1,250 that year. They purchased a brick in Animal Friends' patio inscribed with the words “For the Love of All Animals.” “For the Love of All Animals” has been their inspirational phrase ever since.

In 2010 they held their biggest and most creative fundraiser, a dog wedding. Anna’s goldendoodle, Toby, married his puppy pal, Sadie, in front of 100+ friends and family members and raised over $4,000!  Last year’s event “Polish Your Paws” brought in over $2,700.

Their donations and creative fundraising has grabbed the attention of local media, netting the girls featured articles in newspapers and appearances on Animal Friends’ Annual telethon. They also were honored with Allegheny Valley School District’s “Extra Mile Award” and won Animal Friends’ Humane Helper Award for 2011.

So far, the total amount raised by this dynamic duo is over $15,000 and they show no signs of stopping! Anna and Sydni want to make a difference in the lives of helpless animals by supporting Animal Friends. The two hope to raise $25,000 by the time they graduate high school.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ruby's Story

Guest Blogger: Sharon Mariani

Ruby's story is filled with as much concern as it is human kindness.

An American Diplomat was in a small village in Suriname, formerly known as Dutch Guiana.  It's on the northeastern coast of South America. She noticed a thin and frail dog living on the streets. Her little body was covered with mange and her ears covered with fly strikes. The dog, now known as Ruby, was in desperate need of help so the Diplomat became her rescuer. She gathered the dog up, knowing that she needed serious medical treatment and took her back to the U.S. Embassy where she got her the attention she needed. After Ruby's health improved and her conditions healed, she was given a home at the Embassy. However, the current canine resident Ed (short for embassy dog) wasn't happy with the new addition and did not welcome Ruby. So the Diplomat, still wanting to find Ruby a loving home, contacted us and ask us to help. We agreed and so she made all of the arrangements and had Ruby flown here to Pittsburgh.

Ruby's journey has been long but it won't be complete until we find her the loving forever home she deserves.

Ruby is shy and timid and is sensitive to quick movements & sounds. We don't know what all she may have experienced on the streets but we can be certain it was scary. Therefore, we prefer that she be adopted into an quiet, adult only home where she can learn life at her own pace.

Ruby recently had her photo taken at Linda Mitzel's Studio. She needed to be coaxed into the car with a few treats but rode beautifully and adjusted well to all of the new experiences of the outing.

The staff immediately fell in love with Ruby...and we know that you will too.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Animal Friends' Home-To-Home Adoptions presents: Grams!

Grams showed up on my door step in September 2012. She was a soaked, malnourished kitten. I quickly noticed she was having trouble using her back legs; so I rushed her to the vet. A x-ray revealed nothing wrong with her skeletal system. Grams was fine and I was relieved.  I brought her home, fed her, and cleaned her. She has grown to be a happy cat that loves to climb the cat castle and play with her feather mice.

Because of her back legs, she walks with a waddle and she cannot jump. I would guess her age to be around 1 1/2 years. She does okay around other cats, but I think she would be better in a single cat home. She is an indoor cat with long hair and a bushy tail. She has no problems going to the litter box. She is spayed, micro-chipped, and is up to date on her shots. Grams loves her under-the-chin scratches. She loves being around people; especially her caregiver….maybe that can be you! 

If you are interested, please contact Mary at Thanks!