Monday, August 31, 2020

Heading Back to the Office? Address Your Pet’s Separation Issues Now

After months of shelter in place and/or work from home, you may be contemplating a return back to the office.  The question is: how do we make this change without adversely affecting our pets, some of whom experience separation anxiety?  It’s an issue more severe than loneliness (which we will address in a future blog) and to understand it better, we talked with Jessica Char, founder of
Canine Engineering and Feline Engineering.


Do pets experience separation anxiety?

Our pets can feel negative emotions like stress, fear, and panic like we can. Put simply, pets with separation anxiety don’t feel safe when they are alone. It's important to understand that this is an anxiety disorder, not a training or leadership problem.


How can I tell if my pet has separation anxiety?

Many dog guardians are familiar with the common signs of separation anxiety in dogs —

vocalizing (barking, whining, howling), destruction (chewing or digging, especially around doors), and eliminating in the house. There may be other signs, like refusing to eat, pacing, heavy panting or drooling, and more dramatic signs, like injuring themselves or escaping. Importantly, these signs only appear when the dog is alone. A young dog who isn't fully house-trained and is teething might have accidents and chew the coffee table, but it isn’t specifically tied to being alone. 

In cats, lack of normal movement or behavior (shutting down or freezing), litter box issues, and refusal to eat may be signs of anxiety when alone.


I highly recommend setting up a camera to watch your pet when you leave the house. You don’t need fancy equipment; you can set up a laptop or tablet and use a free video conferencing tool (we’re all much more familiar with them now!) to watch from your smartphone. If you are unsure or concerned about how they will behave, stay close by and be ready to return quickly. 

As we plan for a return to the office, what can we do to help acclimate our pets?

If your pet was previously left alone without issues, but hasn’t been alone in a few months, start doing some practice runs. Pretend you’re going to work, go through your routine, and then leave for a short time. Again, this is a good time to watch your pet to check for signs of stress. Even if you only stay away for 10 to 20 minutes, it’s good practice. If all goes well, make sure you leave your pet alone for at least a little while a few times a week.


If your pet is new to your family and has never been alone, do the same thing, but start small. Leave for only a few minutes at first and see how your pet handles that. If there are no issues, build up to longer periods of time as practice. 


Finally, if your pet has a history of being stressed when alone or if you discover they are having issues when you start trying your practice sessions, now is the time to work on it. Resolving separation anxiety can be a long, slow process; in most cases, it’s best to reach out to a professional who can help. Your vet may recommend medications to help your pet feel safe when alone. A Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (like myself) can guide you through the process of desensitizing your pet to being alone. 

Jessica Char is a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer and founder of Feline Engineering and Canine Engineering. She provides training and education and is an instructor for SVPP classes/webinars, including "More than Surviving, Thriving - Practical Advice for Living the Best Life with Your Pet." The next session will be conducted on September 9, 2020.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Rescue in the Age of a Pandemic: The Glass is at Least Half Full!

It’s hard to believe that in February, a mere five months ago, we expected a budget surplus in California to help fund the no-kill movement here.  Governor Gavin Newsom had proposed $50 million be provided over five years to the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program.  This money would have been allocated to under-resourced shelters — for training and support — with the ultimate goal of eliminating (especially space-based) euthanasia.  We outlined the effort in that month’s blog.

Fast forward to today.  Although we have no state budget surplus to help accelerate the shelter-focused no-kill movement, at least two positive turns have come from the pandemic.  The first is that fostering and adoption rates have skyrocketed.  As work from home has become the norm, individuals and families have discovered physical and emotional space for homeless pets. 

Secondly, it’s even more crystal clear that community-based rescue and community-focused life-saving is the future of animal welfare.  SVPP, with its Pup Plaza community center, is helping enable that future.  State budget cycles come and go but animal rescue needs the local pillars of support, stability and predictability.  Best Friends’ CEO Julie Castle agrees that community-based efforts are key to saving lives.

Pup Plaza opened at the end of 2018.  Its mission has been to provide community-based outreach, education, resources, and support.  It has been the heart of adoption events, educational and fun classes, fundraisers, and respite for shelter dogs.  It has been the home to Doga, training meetups, paint your pet, cat- and dog-related workshops and instruction, a kitten shower, private pet birthday parties, numerous cat and dog adoption events, weekly shelter dog day out events, and more.  All, pre-pandemic of course.

While we expect these activities to re-emerge when it’s safe,
Pup Plaza has continued to play a pivotal role for SVPP.  Although adoption meet and greets tend to take place virtually, we have had — by single appointment only and with social distancing! — many adoption pick-ups take place there.  We use Pup Plaza as a hub to store supplies and also provide them to our 40-plus foster families.  It is even a place that foster families (again by appointment!) can pick up their pets.  It is still a work space for planning, creating web and video content and ultimately determining how to thrive and save lives in this climate and beyond.  

After all, saving lives is the bottom line!

For more information about fostering, volunteering, donating, and becoming part of our community-based, life-saving effort, click here

Karen Zamel is a long-time SVPP volunteer and is now a member of the communications team.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Don't Be Afraid to Foster Bottle Babies, Says New Foster Mom

In honor of National Foster A Pet Month, we interviewed a new and dedicated foster mom, who is caring for kittens in between graduating from MIT and starting medical school at Harvard this fall.  Meet Julia Cho!

How long have you been fostering and how many kittens have you fostered so far?  
I started fostering for SVPP on April 1, when I was a relief-foster for two critical care kitties, whose foster mama needed a quick break. I had them for five days, but then got my own litter of three soon after! Two of them, Einstein and Lovelace, just went to their forever home with a fantastic family recently. The third, Newton, I've admittedly foster-failed and decided to adopt for life.
What inspired you to foster for SVPP?
I’ve wanted to raise and/or foster kittens my whole life! In eighth grade, I adopted my first kitten, but it turned out that my little brother was super allergic (we didn’t know!). We had to return him to his foster mom, which was super sad, but we heard he went to a great home soon after. Fast forward to 2020, when my senior year at MIT was cut short due to COVID-19 and I was sent home. I figured I would apply to foster pre-weaned kittens, since they could be confined to my room where my brother’s allergies wouldn’t bother him and I’d never have enough free time to foster bottle babies once medical school started. This has been the biggest silver lining of quarantine/missing senior year/losing my graduation ceremony. 

What's been challenging and rewarding?
The most challenging thing so far, even more than waking up for three hourly meals in the middle of the night, was saying goodbye to Einstein and Lovelace. That being said, it was also extremely difficult working with the two critical care kittens in April. It was my first time ever syringe-feeding, and they were so weak that they usually didn’t drink as much as they should have. It was hard to wake up at 4:00 a.m. only for them to refuse the food. I was constantly obsessing over every gram that they gained or lost as if their life was on the line, and that stress could build up over time. We ended up losing one of them, Dizzy, which was super tough. Luckily, my litter of three were big eaters and they grew up super strong! The most rewarding thing has been just watching them grow into fully-fledged kittens with their own unique personalities and interests. I still find it funny that Lovelace was the smallest of the three but she learned how to walk, run, jump, and climb weeks ahead of Newton!

Any quick words of wisdom for potential foster parents? 
Don’t be afraid to foster bottle babies! Sacrificing just a couple hours of my sleep each night saved three beautiful lives that will go on to give happiness to their adopted families for years. For me, the experience was entirely worth it and very important, as pre-weaned kittens are often likely to be put down in shelters! 

Karen Zamel is a long-time SVPP volunteer and is now a member of the communications team.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

How Koda, Our Rottweiler Rescue, Survived Canine Parvovirus

We’ve been hearing a lot about viruses these days, but Parvo (canine parvovirus) is one that threatens dogs — especially puppies. Underdeveloped immune systems and lack of vaccine in young dogs make them especially vulnerable to this life-threatening disease.  

It is highly contagious and spreads through direct contact with an infected dog or by indirect contact with a contaminated object. It’s classified as an intestinal disease, but can also affect bone marrow, lymphopoietic tissues and potentially the heart. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), certain breeds including the Rottweiler are more susceptible to the disease.  

The good news is that parvo is preventable with vaccination and can be treatable in many cases, but only with intensive and immediate medical care.  It’s a cautionary tale (or tail)...not every puppy survives the ordeal.  

Meet Koda, a four-month-old Rottweiler puppy who was surrendered to MedVet Silicon Valley after she was diagnosed with parvo and related complications.  MedVet contacted SVPP to rescue her and, with heartfelt commitment, SVPP did.  

Medical care is required around the clock for parvo puppies who have to be quarantined with the highly contagious condition. In isolation, Koda received IV fluids and oral medication and was fed through a nasogastric tube since she couldn’t keep down any food.  She didn’t have the energy to stand or play, definitely not the sign of a healthy happy puppy.  

After six days of constant care by the dedicated MedVet staff, Koda began a steady and welcomed recovery, eating on her own, gaining strength and showing the clear signs of a puppy on the mend!  Today, Koda is in foster care and getting ready to find her forever family.  She will live happily ever after! So, how do we eliminate this threat so other puppies are not at risk?  

Fully vaccinate your puppy.  According to SVPP board member and vet, Dr. Stacy Hare, this is typically a series of at least three vaccines, and sometimes more in breeds particularly vulnerable to parvo. Until your puppy is fully protected, limit exposure to public places and don’t visit areas where lots of dogs have congregated or walked.  Don’t take your puppy to a dog park or pet supply store until immunization if fully complete. 

Additionally, adopt your puppy from a reputable source so that you know about the puppy’s health and history.  If your puppy shows any suspect symptoms, like lack of appetite, vomiting, lethargy or diarrhea, seeing your vet immediately could be a life-saving act!

Karen Zamel is a long-time SVPP volunteer and is now a member of the communications team.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Celebrating Canine Fitness Month During COVID-19

By Alandea Muñoz

To help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Bay Area residents have been ordered to
stay home and avoid all non-essential outings until at least May 3rd. Fortunately, stepping out for fresh air and exercise is not only permitted, but encouraged, as long as we practice social distancing. Lucky for us dog lovers and our furry best friends, this means extra opportunities to enjoy our natural surroundings while staying healthy and fit together. It also creates a great and simple opportunity to support SVPP!

In celebration of April being Canine Fitness Month, here are five scenic dog-friendly trails that are open during the Bay Area’s shelter in place mandate.

  • Los Gatos Creek Trail: This 9.7 mile recreational trail can be accessed by you and your on-leash canine companion via many different starting points in Los Gatos, Campbell, Willow Glen or San Jose. Enjoy a leisurely stroll, brisk walk, or jog with your dog along the tranquil Los Gatos Creek, one of Santa Clara Valley’s last remaining urban streams that serves as flood protection and an important water resource for the area’s plants and wildlife. The trail connects to Vasona Lake County Park, where you can take in the beauty of the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains and the colorful wildflowers in bloom.
  • Santa Teresa County Park: Tucked away just ten miles south of downtown San Jose, this park offers 15 different trails for all fitness levels, ranging from 2.4 to 8.3 miles for you and your on-leash pup to enjoy. It’s the perfect way to experience some peace and quiet away from city life without leaving Silicon Valley. You’ll likely even see some wildflowers and grazing cows to complete the experience!
  • Almaden Quicksilver County Park: The former home to more than 1,800 quicksilver (better known as mercury) miners and their families for 135 years, this South San Jose park is rich in history and also offers more than 34 miles of on-leash dog-friendly trails ranging from 2.6 to 16.1 miles.
  • Pearson Arastradero Preserve: On-leash dogs are welcome at this open space in the heart of Palo Alto, which offers more than 10 panoramic miles of trails, ranging from 1.5 to 5.2 miles each, for you to explore. Note that the Arastradero Preserve parking lot is currently closed, and there is no parking allowed along Arastradero Road or Page Mill Road, but trails remain open, making this a perfect getaway for Palo Alto residents with dogs.
  • Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve: A hidden gem in Redwood City, this preserve is currently open on weekdays only, with on-leash dogs permitted on all trails, including the area’s typically off-leash dog area. Take your pick from six miles of trails offering stunning views of the San Francisco Peninsula and the surrounding hillside.

No matter where you choose to get fit with your dog, remember to follow the proper protocols to keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe. Walk solo or hike with members of your household, maintain a six-feet distance from people you don’t live with, wash your hands before and after your outing, and bring hand sanitizer if possible. Take advantage of the natural environment near your home without venturing too far away, and avoid peak times and crowded areas. Bring plenty of water for you and your pup so everyone stays hydrated. And, double check that the trail you want to visit is open that day, as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve daily. 

Whether you opt for two blocks or two miles, be sure to log every walk on WoofTrax, the free iOS and Android app that makes it easier than ever for you to support SVPP while staying fit with your dog! Simply download the app, select SVPP as your charity of choice, and track every walk to collect points and automatically fundraise. The more “active walkers” (users who log their walks at least once a week) there are walking as part of the SVPP community, the greater the donation! Even if you aren't currently a dog parent, you can still participate!

Thanks for doing your part to flatten the curve in the Bay Area, while keeping your canine fit and supporting SVPP. Happy Canine Fitness Month! 

Alandea Muñoz is an SVPP volunteer, content contributor and devoted dog mom.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

We Can All Save Pets in this Difficult Time

At SVPP, we are rescuing an extraordinary number of pets from the San Jose shelter right now. In fact, we've rescued 25 dogs, cats and kittens since March 1. But, the strain on the
system is immense. Due to Covid-19-related public health mandates, the municipal shelter is closed to the public. Pets that normally would have exposure, human interaction and adoption opportunities are now hunkered down in shelter facilities while humans work to flatten the coronavirus curve. So, we are rescuing en masse.

A good chance for these pets to have a loving forever after is to get them out of the shelter and into foster care. A better chance is to keep them out of shelters all together.  

Here are some steps we can take to make sure we don't increase shelter intake at this difficult time.
  • Make sure your pet is chipped.  This is the best way to insure that a lost pet can be reunited with its owner. Most vets and many local low-cost vaccination clinics provide this life-saving service. A microchip is painlessly inserted in your pet and the its unique ID number, along with your contact information, is registered with a national pet database. Check to see if your vet or clinic can provide the service at this time.
  • Consider fostering, especially if you are working from home.  The need is immediate and the options are great — dogs, cats, kittens — whatever pet best works for you, your family and your space.  You can even foster to adopt. Think of it as a heart-felt test drive! 
  • Life plan for your pet. Determine, in advance, who can step in to care for your cat or dog in the case of illness or some other circumstance that renders your normal care unavailable. Ensure that the person of your choice is comfortable — and committed — to following through if needed.
  • If you have to rehome your pet, use the many resources available to get your pet situated with another loving family vs. surrendering it to a shelter and putting it at risk.  SVPP has a page of information and resources on its website.  It turns out that one of the best opportunities to rehome a pet is with, a website and mobile application that allows you to connect and communicate with neighbors in your local community.  You can post photos, have on-line discussions, meet potential adopters, and maybe even rehome your pet with someone in the hood. Another great rehoming resource also listed on the SVPP website is  The experts at Adopt-A-Pet and the Petco Foundation provide a process that can help owners rehome their pets.  Adopt-A-Pet is the country’s largest non-profit adoption website.

Most importantly, in this stressful and challenging time, be there for your pets and each other.  We can save more lives together.

Karen Zamel is a long-time SVPP volunteer and is now a member of the communications team.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Governor's Proposed Budget Can Help Make California a No-Kill State

Last month, pets and politics made the news. In January, Governor Gavin Newsom rolled out his fiscal budget for 2020-2021 and as part of it, proposed $50 million to make California a no-kill state.  The money would be awarded to the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program over a five-year period and would provide shelters – across the state – the training and resources needed to transform their organizations to no-kill.
The need is greater and more urgent than most of us realize. Best Friends Animal Society is carefully and publically tracking euthanasia rates across the country in its effort and mission to “Save Them All.”  It turns out that California still euthanizes more than 100,000 pets per year, second only in the nation to Texas.  Importantly, the governor’s proposed effort focuses on underserved and under-resourced shelters in the state.
We, in the Bay Area, will certainly benefit from this effort.  We all win when pets are rescued and lives are saved. But how do rescues who have had to be highly reactive — pulling pets with time running out — evolve to remain relevant and stay involved in the process of eliminating pet homelessness?  
SVPP was started in 2015 with that context in mind.  Since the bay area culture believes in, supports and works toward no-kill, we’ve worked to envision and develop an organization that interactively involves the community – in saving lives, making sure adoptions are a good fit, and building the relationship with owners and their pets after adoption occurs.  We focus on education, outreach, providing accessible resources, and pet/people involvement. Pup Plaza and our roster of activities there is our flagship example of enabling community engagement.  All of these activities, in the end, support our mission of saving lives and ending homelessness.
But, not every community is as far along on the no-kill continuum and the governor’s budget proposal — if enacted — can help change our state-wide statistics. The budget will be revised in May, the legislature has until June 15 to approve it, and the Governor has until July 1 to sign it into law. Once that happens, the money will be available to make a difference to shelter pets – who don’t need to be at risk.  
So, what’s the call to action here?  Call or email the Governor, your state assembly member and senator today.  Tell them that you support the proposed funds to make California a no-kill state!
Blogger Karen Zamel is a long-time SVPP volunteer and is now a member of the communications team.