Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Celebrate "Walk Your Pet Month" and Keep Your New Years Resolutions While Supporting SVPP!

Alandea Muñoz and Teddy
Did you know that January is National Walk Your Pet Month? It couldn’t come at a better time, as we continue to navigate the impacts of the ongoing global pandemic while trying to stay physically and mentally active — and also keep our pets healthy and happy.

Walking with your dog or cat can be a fun and rewarding way to fulfill any intentions or resolutions you may have set for the New Year, whether that’s to spend more time outdoors, to exercise your body or mind (podcasts, audiobooks and walking meditations are great walking companions). Best of all, you can also support SVPP while you stroll, speed walk or hike. 

For an easy way to give back to SVPP while logging your steps (whether you have a pet or not), download ResQWalk, a free mobile app for iOS and Android that lets you raise money for animal welfare organizations like SVPP, through its partnership with Best Friends Animal Society.Once you’re in the app, select Silicon Valley Pet Project as the organization you’d like to support. Throughout the year, Best Friends will distribute cash and other resources – provided by their corporate sponsors – toSVPP, proportionate to the total miles that the app’s users log in support of our organization. For more information on ResQWalk, visit the FAQs page.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your pet’s leash and take your pet for a walk around the neighborhood, or if you’re feeling adventurous, check out one of these dog-friendly trails in the Bay Area. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water for yourself and your pet to stay hydrated, as well as hand sanitizer and a mask to protect yourself and others. Happy walking!

Here are a few tips for walking your pet from Jessica Char, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and cat behavior consultant:

    Jessica Char
  • Choose your equipment wisely: Not all collars, harnesses and leashes are created equal. Make sure equipment fits securely, but comfortably. Avoid anything designed to use pain, pressure, or startle (like prong collars, choke chains, or electronic collars) to change your pet’s behavior. These tools can have serious, unintended consequences and there are safer alternatives.
  • Make your walk fun for everyone: Your dog wants to sniff, so give them the opportunity. Your cat wants to explore, so be ready to follow. While walking for exercise and “getting your steps” is a great goal, make sure you are considering and including your pet’s goals, too. Take lots of breaks to stop and smell the roses!
  • The right location matters: Don’t make life harder than it needs to be. Choose places to walk that are relaxing for both you and your pet. This might mean skipping the local park or crossing the street before passing that one neighbor’s house where their dog always barks at you. Consider driving to quieter areas or even just getting permission to explore your neighbor’s backyard.
  • Ask for help: If your pet’s behavior is taking the fun out of your walks, consult with a professional who can teach you to use positive reinforcement to improve the situation.

Love walking, but don’t have a pet and want a furry companion to join you? Visit our site to learn more about our adoptable dogs and cats. One of them could be your perfect match!

Alandea Muñoz is an SVPP volunteer and guest blogger who enjoys long walks with her dog.

Jessica Char is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer, and founder of Feline Engineering and Canine Engineering. She provides training and education for cat and dog owners and is an instructor for SVPP classes/webinars.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Rising to the Task: SVPP CEO Describes Rescue in the Midst of a Pandemic

By all accounts, 2020 was an unprecedented year.  To find out how SVPP managed, against all odds, to rescue more pets than ever, we talked with SVPP Co-Founder and CEO Melissa Lisbon.

SVPP CEO Melissa Lisbon with Greta at a pre-pandemic fundraiser.

What was 2020 like for rescue and SVPP during the pandemic?
I think we will look back on 2020 and reflect on the incredible challenges we faced in animal rescue. The normal framework in which we operate was literally upside down! The shelters were closed so we could not assess the animals in person that needed rescue, vet clinics were having to reinvent their operations to keep the public safe and their services for rescues were limited. Both of these issues created complexity to our programs and greatly extended our timelines in providing necessary care for our rescued pets. In addition, we were inundated with inquiries about fostering pets in need and adoption applications were through the roof! It was exhausting!

With new protocols in place, the Wyrick family
adopted Raja (who is the only one without a mask!).
What were some of the big pivots you had to make?
We made a huge pivot from in person adoption events for dogs and kittens, to virtual meet and greets using Zoom or Google Meet. Initially, we thought this would be a really hard change, but fortunately it has worked out surprisingly well. We likely will
incorporate this option even when we can have in-person adoption events. Some of our felines and scared or shy dogs actually do better in Zoom meet and greets than in person! They can feel more at ease in their foster environment and not be expected to “turn it on” at an adoption event!

We had to make some other big pivots “behind the scenes.”  For example,  we had to create a foster-to-adopt program for our kittens, since we could not get our kittens spayed and neutered in the normal time frame we were used to before the pandemic. We had to modify our process and provide additional kitten care education to prospective adopters.


Wendi, at VCA Blossom Hill, took special care
 of (and fostered!) Xena, a kitten who had injuries
from being hit by a car.A work colleague of
Wendi's adopted this special rescue!
We also shifted resources in an attempt to respond to the large volume of applicants who wanted to foster a pet in need. We were grateful for the uptick in interest, however, it was challenging to deal with this volume and to educate applicants that fostering a pet in need is more than playing with a puppy. Many of our pets require a lot of medical care and close supervision. Ultimately, we feel like this opportunity to educate people about the realities of fostering was a benefit and we did onboard some great new foster parents!

What were some of the "ah ha" moments?
For me personally, one of the “ah ha” moments during the initial phases of the pandemic was the realization that people wanted and needed pets during this time more than ever. As a result, it was a great time for shelters and rescue organizations to demonstrate how they work together and a prime opportunity to involve the community in a process that often is misunderstood or "behind the scenes." 

What were a few of the major milestones accomplished this year?
I’m proud to say that we rescued more animals this year than in years past despite the obstacles we faced. This is a tribute to the compassion and power of our community, especially our talented volunteers who found the time to support our rescue efforts in a tremendous way throughout the pandemic and California’s fire season. 

What do you expect will be different in 2021?
I'm hoping that we will eventually get back to some normalcy where we can personally evaluate the pets we rescue at the shelter, vet clinics will return to having their normal capacity for medical services, and we can come together as a community in person at adoption and other events where the pet-loving community can celebrate the bond we have with our pets again! At the very least, I think everyone will have a greater appreciation for our essential workers and a renewed sense of the importance of a kind and compassionate community.



Monday, November 23, 2020

Foster Extraordinaire, Laura Brown, Shares Her Story of Love, Loss and King Pete

SVPP volunteer, Laura Brown, is fostering kittens for the third season this year.  It’s been a life-affirming experience for her and she has been kind enough to share her story with us.  


Laura has a long history of loving and caring for animals and had her own

Laura and Trouble
first rescue when she was an undergrad at UC San Diego — a ginger cat named “Trouble.”  Laura and Trouble moved many times together over the years and finally ended up in San Jose in 2016.  Then, Trouble’s health began to decline and she was diagnosed with diabetes.

“By 2018, I realized we were living on borrowed time, and I wanted to foster kittens to keep my spirits up. Luckily, I have a spare bedroom that became the Kitten Room though, because Trouble was a terrible hostess and I had to keep the kittens out of her sight to keep the peace in the house!” 


Laura and King Pete
Laura fostered weaned kittens for her first two years with SVPP and had a great experience. When COVID-19 hit, Laura began working from home and she decided to take on some bottle babies.

“I was excited, but nervous, too. I thought I could ease my way into the world of neonates with a mom and babies, since the mom would help me do most of the work,” Laura said. 


Unfortunately, the normally simple situation turned out to be a serious and heartbreaking experience, as the young mother became very ill and most of the neonates did not survive.


“Any loss in rescue work is sad. It happens and we know it’s a possibility when we sign up, but when you put so much love and effort into these tiny creatures…it breaks your heart to hold them in your hands and lose them.”


After a few of her most challenging weeks as a foster, and while managing Trouble’s declining health, Laura felt the need to take back some control. She purchased an incubator and rearranged the Kitten Room to be a more functional rescue space.  King Pete, the sole survivor neonate, took residence in the cozy new incubator and  became Laura’s first foster fail near the end of June. 


“Watching Pete grow and thrive after losing his siblings felt like such an accomplishment. He stole a huge piece of my heart despite my best efforts not to get attached. And Trouble was always there to snuggle me for as long as I needed when I was physically and emotionally exhausted from dealing with sick kittens. Things really came around full circle when it was Pete left here to comfort me when I lost her in August,” Laura said.



It was a record season for SVPP, with many successful adoptions and Laura added to her running tally of 49 total fosters since 2018.

The season ended just as dramatically as it started.  In August, three kittens (out of ten in Laura’s care at the time) were diagnosed with Panleukopenia. After a few more intense weeks of critical care, two of the three infected kittens survived and they were Laura’s last two adoptions of the season.


“I’m so proud of these survivors. It’s been a crazy year in all respects and I’m sad for each life lost, but I’m happy we saved so many more. The experience I gained, even though it was hard, was invaluable and will surely help me save more little lives in the future.”


Laura will be moving back to San Diego next year with King Pete, but she plans to continue her work in rescue as soon as she settles in.


We are grateful to Laura for everything she has done for SVPP — and for helping us save so many fragile, vulnerable and amazing lives.



Monday, October 19, 2020

We are Strutting for Sage! Strut Your Mutt Continues Until October 24!

SVPP has rescued 173 kittens so far this year and many were orphaned, neonates or had other special needs.  But read on.  You’ll see why Sage — and her foster family — are so incredibly special.

SVPP rescued Sage and her litter mates when they were a week old.  At four weeks old, Sage became very ill.  Although initial symptoms subsided with fluids and antibiotics, her foster mom (a vet!) noticed that she wasn’t as playful as her litter mates and a disparity in growth was becoming painfully apparent.

Sage early on.
After extensive testing, Sage was diagnosed with megaesophagus, a congenital condition where a cat’s esophagus does not contract and allow it to swallow food normally.  To save her life, Sage had to be fed at an upright angle so she could properly swallow and digest her food.  Her foster family wrapped her up like a burrito to aid the digestion process!  The incredible extra care helped Sage get the nutrition she needed to survive and thrive.

At about four months old now, Sage has gained weight and strength.  She is happy and growing!  She loves playtime (especially with her own tail), people and other pets. While she doesn’t need the burrito treatment any more, Sage will likely always have to eat at an angle (with her head higher than her stomach) and will likely require her daily medication for a lifetime.  She is available for adoption and this joyful, mischievous kitty will always need a little extra TLC.

Strut Your Mutt is our biggest fundraiser of the year and continues through October 24, 2020.  With your help, we can continue to rescue kittens like Sage and dogs like Star who need rescue, medical attention and foster care for a second chance and a “happily ever after” ending.

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Strut for Tenure, Jolly and Local Homeless Pets Who Need Forever Families


Welcome to Strut Your Mutt, a fun and inspiring fundraiser for SVPP! We kicked it off on September 11 — and it will continue through October 24.  We hope you can join our team and help us continue to save lives. Like other rescue groups around the country, we are partnering with Best Friends Animal Society for this national event.  We hope to raise $20,000 to provide medical, behavioral and foster care for homeless pets we rescue from local shelters.  
Strut Mascot, Tenure

Instead of strutting at the Presidio this year (as in past years), our
event will be virtual. The great news is that no matter where you are, you can participate! You can join our team, sign up sponsors and create and share a page about your rescue pet — or, you can simply donate to SVPP. Every dollar matters!

Although Strut Your Mutt has a canine theme, funds raised will also benefit our feline friends. In fact, 2020 has been the year of the cat.  With shelters closed to the public and kitten programs severely limited or eliminated all together, SVPP has literally and figuratively come to the rescue.  This year, we have saved more than 165 orphaned or abandoned kittens and their mothers.  We rescued more felines by the end of July 2020 than we had in all of 2019.

Jolly

Meet one of our beneficiaries, Jolly.  He came to SVPP from the shelter and shortly thereafter tested positive for a potentially deadly virus, Panleukopenia, or "panleuk".  With an amazing foster mom and incredible and intensive support from our friends at VCA Blossom Hill and Medvet in Campbell, Jolly is recovering and has a chance at a healthy, happy life.  Our Strut Your Mutt poster cat, Tenure, was  rescued as an orphan kitten in 2017 from the San Jose Animal Care Center. She thrived in foster care with one of our experienced kitten fosters, and was adopted that same year. 
You can read about our Strut poster pup, Bowie, here.

Even in a virtual format, Strut provides a great opportunity to connect, have some fun and showcase your rescue pet with our peeps!  We will have a raffle for team members, along with educational sessions and other activities.  And, we want to hear from you!  We will showcase your pets and their stories on social media.  Please submit photos, videos and information about your rescue pet to strut@svpetproject.org.  

On behalf of Jolly, Tenure, Bowie, and SVPP, THANK YOU for being part of our community!

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


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.