I'm sure most of you have heard about the Pit Bull who killed the woman in Philadelphia over the weekend. It's very scary and tragic. Without a doubt, this breed of dog with its large jaws and true personality of a relentless, prey-driven terrier can be dangerous if the owners don't know how to train them, or worse, train them to be aggressive. It's a bad combination.
However, have you ever seen the sweet side of many Pit Bulls? I was sitting in one of the cat colonies at the shelter on Tuesday, getting to know some of the kitties and giving them some love. One of the staff members walked in with Angel, a happy female Pit Bull. She had the typical looks of a Pit - large jaws, short ears - and the happy, wagging whip of a tail! With her were two women who were interested in adopting her, but they needed to see how she acted around cats. The staff member brought Angel over to the colony where I was sitting and a couple of brave cats came over to the the fence. Angel took one look at them, wagged her tail, dipped her head down in a submissive posture and turned away. Good sign! Then they went over to another cat colony. One cat wasn't too happy about a dog's face coming near so she reached out and swatted Angel on the nose. I heard the yipping and saw Angel sprawled onto the ground with a look saying, "what did I do to deserve that?!" We laughed so hard at the sight of this "tough" Pit Bull turning into a wimp with just the slightest smack of a cat's paw.
The Pit Bull sadly can have these two sides to its personality. But so can all other breeds! Can you say Chihuahua?!
I worked in a corporate environment for many years with pretty stringent rules. One of them was about the greeting on our voice mailboxes. It was important to say your name, the department where you work and, if you were going to be out of the office, when you will return. This provides the best example of good customer service so that anyone calling has the proper information and expectations. I continue this practice at the ARL, especially since I work part time and am not always there.
Despite the fact that I say in my message, “please listen carefully” that I don’t work in the kennel and cannot answer questions pertaining to the animals, I still get a lot of inquiries about the animals and some are quite puzzling! A few weeks ago, I was out on Friday and changed my message Thursday afternoon before I left, and said I would not be back in until Monday. As I checked my messages that Monday, I was amazed to hear a woman had left me a message on Thursday night that her cat was having kittens. What should she do? And she didn’t leave a return phone number. My next message was the same woman, asking why I hadn’t called her back! Oh dear… This is so frustrating on several levels. First, how did this woman miss my message not just once but twice?? And why would she call the ARL if her cat was having kittens? I felt very helpless that I had no way of getting back to her and now she probably thinks that I’m terribly rude for not helping her! (And I still can't understand why she would call the ARL about this. Call your vet, for goodness sake!)
Other messages I’ve received were inquiries about how someone’s dog was doing while in boarding, did the cats that a woman dropped off get adopted, and why did I cash the check for her cat’s neutering when she said not to cash it for 2 weeks. I didn’t do it! Honest!
Just a little bit of listening goes a long way and saves time in the long-run.
I’ve never heard anyone sing, “I’m dreaming of a white Valentine’s Day,” have you? But here we are! Historically, we get more snow in February than December in our area. So someone needs to write a song about romantic, candlelit dinners by the fire with the snow whipping around on Valentine’s Day.
And speaking of Valentine’s Day, I read a survey of over 24,000 people. One in five said that they’d prefer to spend Valentine’s Day with their pets instead of their human companions. Hmmmm, what does that tell us? Could it be that many of us get more love and fulfillment from our pets? Maybe. Or is it that our relationships with our pets are less complicated and easier than with humans? Sometimes, but not always. Unconditional acceptance? You bet!
However, the truth is, we need both human and animal relationships. Cherish and nuture them all.
The big snow on Saturday may have closed the ARL to the public but there were many, many animals here who still depended on people to feed them and clean their cages. The animals don’t understand “my road hasn’t been plowed yet” when they’re hungry! So special thanks go out to Harry, Alison, Beaver, Michelle, Nicole and Jamie who braved the weather and came in to help the animals and clear the snow.
One more thing about the bad weather – it hit on our busiest day, Saturday. As a result, fewer animals were adopted. And guess what? The weather forecast is for more snow this Wednesday, our second-busiest day! Let’s hope that this storm will not be as bad and won’t prohibit people from coming in to adopt. We depend on regular adoptions to make room for more animals coming in which, by the way, doesn’t seem to stop when it snows.
The ARL is available day and night to help homeless, stray and abandoned animals. When we are not open, we have one on-call person available by pager. But do you know what it’s like to be an on-call person working for the ARL? I had no idea what they go through, so now I’m here to inform everyone! I believe that the public needs to know what typically happens when a staff member is on call. Honestly, it’s not a job I would want but someone needs to do it.
The ARL only has a few people rotating the on-call shift. That means they are often on-call twice a week. That’s a lot. Keep in mind that when they are on-call, they have already worked an exhausting eight-hour day. Frequently, they get several calls each night, so they will not get any sleep and they are expected to be at work for the next eight-hour day! I could not handle this because I am unbearable if I can’t sleep!
Many people do not realize this but the on-call person is not sitting at the ARL waiting for phone calls. They are at home. And if you know the ARL staff, they have lots of their own animals to care for at home. Or they could be out for dinner. Staff members live as far away as Sinking Springs and even Douglassville. And, of course, they are covering all of Berks County. So if someone calls for assistance with an animal, it may take them quite a while to get there.
Why does the ARL have someone on-call after hours? One purpose and only one: to help stray or injured animals that cannot wait until the ARL opens for business the next day. On-call is not to be used to surrender owned animals and not for veterinary emergencies. Many people abuse the on-call number for these purposes and that’s simply not fair to the staff members.
If you must call the ARL after-hours, all strays must be contained when we arrive; we cannot and do not trap animals. If you trapped an animal yourself, it is your responsibility to bring it to the ARL.
The ARL is non-profit and operating on a shoestring so whenever an on-call staff member goes out on a call, it costs money to pay the person overtime, uses gas money plus wear and tear on the ARL vehicle. Please, spread the word – the after-hours on-call number should not be abused and only used in a true emergency.
Do you brush your pet’s teeth regularly? No? Well, I have to admit that I’m not as diligent as I should be. But it’s very important to keep your pets’ teeth clean. When the teeth become covered in plaque, inflammation sets in and then periodontal disease follows. The infections from rotting teeth can spread to the pet’s heart, cause diabetes, kidney problems and other disorders. Not to mention the pain from the infected teeth! We see quite a few dogs and cats coming into the shelter with terrible teeth and are a major expense to the ARL to have their teeth treated.
How can you prevent periodontal disease in pets? First, of course, brush their teeth regularly. The recommendation is for daily brushing but try for weekly if you can’t do it every day. Have your pet’s teeth cleaned by your veterinarian per the vet’s instructions. Next, avoid people food and soft pet food. Soft foods collect at the gum line and encourage tartar build up. It’s best to feed your pet dry food. Finally, look for chew toys and treats designed to help keep the teeth clean.
When brushing your pet’s teeth, NEVER use human toothpaste. It’s not meant to be ingested and can poison your pet. Buy specially formulated toothpaste for dogs and cats, available at your pet store. It tastes good (I use chicken flavor) and your pet will enjoy the brushing process more!