Friday, January 17, 2020

Happy "Change a Pet's Life Day" on January 24!

January 24 is “Change a Pet’s Life” day.  This “holiday” inspires me because it’s a fundamental part of SVPP's mission — to change pets' lives. We do it by rescuing at-risk cats, dogs and kittens from the municipal shelter, providing the medical and emotional care they need and finding the best possible forever home where they can thrive. At last count, SVPP had rescued 1,190 pets since the organization's founding in 2015. How amazing is that?

The good news is that it’s a two-way street.  While we work to change the lives of at risk pets, they are also changing ours.  It’s empirical for me, but also scientific. According to many sources, including  Fetch by WebMD, there are multiple health benefits to pet ownership.  Pets can help lower blood pressure, improve mood, reduce depression, improve fitness level, assist with heart health, strengthen the
immune system and provide support in coping with various medical conditions. How's that for a good start?

In my own experience, pet fostering and adoption has provided some of those benefits and more… a profound sense of purpose, heart-warming satisfaction for improving an at-risk pet’s circumstance and a heap of gratitude that we are able to make a difference.  For me, this adds up to a more meaningful life. 

As we begin 2020, consider making an impact on a pet's life by volunteering, fostering a pet in need, donating to organizations that do this important work, or by sharing the joys of adoption with your friends and family. Let’s do this with a renewed sense of wonder at the impact we are having on pets' lives...and the impact they are having on ours.

Visit for information on fostering, adopting and related resources.

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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Feline Engineering Joins the SVPP Team

“Cat behavior can change!” asserts Jessica Char, cat behavior expert
and founder of Feline Engineering.

Jessica Char, Feline Engineering Founder and
Cat Behavior Expert 
That’s music to my ears.

As the owner of three feline frenemies — two of whom can barely co-exist — it’s amazing and hopeful to know that these three might be able to achieve d├ętente.

Jessica is working with SVPP to expand its cat- and kitten-related programs and support. She is providing educational material and handouts, redesigning and enhancing educational resources the SVPP website — both cat and dog topics. She has launched a cat-focused educational series at Pup Plaza, talking about cat happiness and answering community questions. The first session held last month, “Cat Lovers Chat,” was a resounding success for cat owners wanting to improve pet quality of life.

Feline Engineering's Jessica Char teaches
Sandy how to high-five as part of her
behavior-based training.
“People think that if cats are a certain way, that’s it and they’re stuck. Dog owners know they can work on their dog’s behavior through training, but most cat owners don’t,” Jessica says. “There is help, and people have options to address the challenges they are facing."

Jessica comes to SVPP with great experience and perspective. She first became interested in cat behavior after serving as a volunteer and then employee of the Humane Society Silicon Valley. She started with a focus on dogs and then, because of staffing challenges, expanded to kittens and cats. Discovery inspired her.

“Knowing a little about what a cat needs – play, height…a cat that’s ready
to attack you through the cage, with a few modifications, is completely
social. People have choices and options and can embrace cats the same
way they embrace dogs.”

Cat Lovers Chat was the first of a feline-based educational
series held at Pup Plaza recently.
After leaving the Humane Society, Jessica started her business, Feline Engineering. She provides education and private consultations, and applies a pragmatic approach: “real-life solutions that people can embrace.” These solutions can include environmental assessment, enrichment recommendations, guidance on how to work through conflict, and more.

In addition to private practice, Jessica wanted to be part of a rescue non-
profit that actively engaged with and supported its community. Enter SVPP and a community that is invited to embrace these new resources.

What's next for SVPP and Feline Engineering?

“In the longer term, we want to look at the possibility of helping adult cats in the community,” Jessica says. “Kittens are adopted very quickly, but adult cats don’t have that luxury. They are often in limbo with long foster or shelter stays. The goal is to get them into a different model — and into their forever homes faster.”

Questions for Jessica? You can email her — — or visit the Feline Engineering website.

Our blog author, Karen Zamel, is a long-time volunteer for SVPP and now a member of the communications team.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Puppies with A Purpose: Guide Dogs for the Blind

By Amy Yasukawa
I have always had a love and passion for dogs and community service, and knew that one day I would love to merge the two together. I was very excited when I discovered the organization, Guide Dogs for the Blind.

When I was in preschool, only big enough to sing the alphabet, my teacher was diagnosed with a rare disorder, causing her to become blind. It was devastating, but she wanted to remain independent, so she eventually received a dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind, in San Rafael, CA. Attending her graduation and seeing her guide dog made me realize how rewarding it would be if I could raise a guide dog for a blind person.

When I was a freshman in high school, I eagerly contacted a local puppy raising club and attended its bi-monthly meetings. Never owning a dog, I was extremely excited and could not wipe away the gigantic smile from my face with the thought of receiving a dog to train.

For about a year and a half, it would be up to us to help a puppy learn the necessary basic skills to then go back to Guide Dogs for the Blind for formal training. There, the dog would have further schooling and would be paired with a blind companion who will put his or her trust with a new guide.

The time finally came when I would receive my first puppy. Riding through the streets of San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge, my mom and I finally reached our destination. I saw a big, bold, shiny sign that read, “Guide Dogs for the Blind National Headquarters.”  It was an image that will forever be in my mind. There, I was presented with a playful eight-week-old Labrador retriever puppy. It was love at first sight for both my puppy and me as we both eager for the journey ahead!

Raising a guide dog is a lot of work, but also full of joy. Even with all of the hardships, I found myself proud of what my puppy and I had achieved. We went on many exciting adventures like out to restaurants, stores, movies, beaches, and rides on buses, trains and planes. That way, the puppy is exposed to a multitude of sights, sounds, and smells.

When it’s time to part, although a tearful goodbye, there will always be many fond memories I will cherish, watching our adorable eight-week old fluffy puppy to a mature and confident dog who will improve the quality of someone’s life. Knowing the wonderful service the dog will provide is the most rewarding and fulfilling feeling a person can experience. The sense of pure confidence, appreciation, and peace when a blind companion grasps the harness of the guide dog is something I will never forget.

Editor's Note: Amy was SVPP's summer intern who amazingly and at a young age — discovered a passion for animals and the value of fostering a service pet who would support and love someone in need. Amy has returned to class this month at Seattle University in Washington and plans to graduate next year.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Picture This...SVPP's Dynamic Mother and Son Duo!

Nancy Hong and her son, Ryan, are the talented team and dynamic duo who are shooting heartwarming photos for SVPP.  These sweet and compelling images of our rescue pets are helping us find their forever homes. We interviewed Nancy about how she and Ryan became photographers and how they became part of SVPP's life-saving efforts.

When and why did you start photography?  
In 2003, I got my first camera.  I started taking pictures of everything and signed up for a photography class a few months after that.  The instructor allowed me to join despite not having a film camera! I joined a local photography club and also volunteered as a photographer for an animal rescue. When friends started growing their families, I got my feet wet in newborn photography.  Then, because of work life and family balance, photography then took a back seat for a while.

How and when did Ryan become interested in photography?  
In January of this year.  We were at the Oakland Zoo. I had my DSLR camera with me and he asked if he could take pictures, too.  Taking his first pictures of the giraffes got him excited, and he ended up taking pictures of almost every animal he saw at there. After that, he started taking pictures of our friend's two cats whenever we visited. We visited a friend who has 12 pets, including rabbits and parrots and we had fun photographing them together.  That friend suggested that we volunteer for a rescue organization as photographers.

How did you and Ryan join up with SVPP?
The suggestion of volunteering as photographers sounded like a great idea.  It was a way for me to get back into photography and contribute to a good cause at the same time. Ryan could take as many or as few pictures as he wanted and I would fill in the rest. He was happy at the thought of getting to see dogs and cats, since we don't have pets of our own.  I searched around and found SVPP. Working with SVPP has helped further Ryan's interest in photography. We started volunteering for SVPP in March. Since then, the quality of his photos has really grown. He's excited each time we go to an event.

What do you strive for when photographing rescue animals?
I think ultimately to show what beautiful animals they are. 

How do you think this has positively impacted your relationship with him?
It's been wonderful to be able to share something I enjoy with my son.  We spend a lot of time together outside of work and school, but it's great for both of us to do something we enjoy together and knowing we're also helping a good cause.

6. Do the two of you have one favorite SVPP photograph? 
We both like this one: Kitten Photo.  Ryan took this.  He says it's his favorite because it shows how cute and cuddly the kitten was and both the person and kitten are so relaxed and comfortable.  I love the lighting, the angle and the colors. 

Want to see more of Nancy and Ryan's beautiful photography? Follow them on Instagram: nancy.hong11 and ryan_loi_photography.

You can find more information about joining our amazing team of volunteers here.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Enjoy the Summer Safely with Your Pup

By Ayako Lainez

Summer is in full gear and it’s time to have some outdoor fun!  To keep our pup friends safe, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Hydration — Just as we humans need water, our pup friends do too.  Make sure your pet has access to clean, fresh drinking water, and carry a collapsible bowl and water if you are taking a longer walk or traveling.  At home, adding an ice cube to their water is a good way to keep it cool.

Heat —Dogs do not sweat as much as humans do and rely on panting to cool down.
If you have a flat-faced animal such as a pug or bulldog, be aware that they may be more susceptible to heat stroke because they do not pant as well. Some signs your pet may be having a heat stroke are: heavy panting, body feels warm, dehydration, red gums, seizures, unconsciousness. If they are showing any signs that arise concern, consult with your veterinarian immediately.

Exercise — Dogs need exercise as we all know, but on hot days, it may not be the best idea to take a walk outside.  Asphalt soaks up the sun and becomes very hot, and may burn your pet’s paws as they walk. One way to check if you should consider walking is to place your hand on the
asphalt for 7 seconds.  If it is too hot for you to keep your hand down, it is too hot for your dog. If walking, try to stick to early morning or evening times when it is cooler. Natural grass is a better place to walk than asphalt or artificial grass.  You could also look into boots as a way to protect their sensitive paws.

Cars and Swimming Pools — Never leave your pup unsupervised!  Leaving your pet in a car in the parking lot can lead to heat stroke and other problems that can be fatal.  If you have a swimming pool, be aware that all pups do not know how to swim. In addition, try to keep them from drinking pool water as it may contain chlorine.

BBQ’s —It’s grilling season! Human food may not be the best choice for your pup.  It is tempting to give a bone to your furry friend, but bones may break and become a choking hazard.  Keep trash containers and leftovers out of reach to prevent pets from getting into the foil, chewing on a kebab skewer or getting sick or injured.  Also keep insect repellant and citronella candles out of reach as they can be toxic.

Hiking — Keep your pup on the trail to keep them away from dangers such as snakes and plants that, if eaten, may be toxic. Also be sure to bring enough water with you to keep the both of you hydrated. 

ID tags/microchips — In all circumstances, be sure that your pup has an ID tag and your microchip information is up to date in case of emergency or if they get lost. SVPP is offering a low-cost microchip clinic at Pup Plaza on August 24 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. No appointment needed.  

Stay safe, happy summer adventures!

Friday, May 31, 2019

A Leap of Faith

My husband, Jeff, and I adopted Frankie in July 2012.  It was a leap of faith that changed our lives.

We weren't looking for another cat. In fact, we already had three older tuxedos in our small Redwood City home. Rather, we were staffing a fundraiser for San Jose Animal Advocate — a "yard sale" in a public school parking lot. Event staffers chatted near us and I overheard a conversation that was meant for me.

“I’m worried about Frank,” said a San Jose shelter volunteer. Frank was a middle-aged and somewhat scruffy tabby that had been adopted twice from the shelter but returned both times.  The volunteer was not sure he would find another home; he was “at risk” in the shelter. “We are returning him because he doesn’t get along with other cats,” his previous owner noted on Frank’s surrender card.

Frank tugged at my heart.  For a week, the worried voice inside me would not subside and I we knew we had to rescue him.  We didn’t meet him; we had SJAA pull him from the shelter and took him home site unseen. Literally, a leap of faith.

Given Frank’s surrender card, we didn’t know what to expect.  We didn’t want to create chaos in our home or upend relationships our tuxedos had created with each other and us. We gave Frank lots of time and space to feel safe, and gave everyone the room to get acclimated.

It turned out to be the perfect fit.

Frankie is one cool cat. For the seven years we’ve had him, he’s been amazingly content. He's perfectly happy to observe feline drama from afar and let others hash it out.  He’s friendly with the other cats, but is not interested in a joust. He’s easy going and follows us around the house like a dog. He rouses a crazy loud purr for an ear rub or a treat.  He bathes in the sun, lays up against any warm body part and lets us know when it’s time for bed. He’s dogged (pun intended!) when it comes to meals and is adamant about breakfast time. Even at 5:30 a.m., I still find the soft wake-up tap on my nose disarming.

Frank’s intense and beautiful almond-shaped eyes become almost round when he wants something. His ears attest to his past. One clipped ear shows a shelter neuter when he was a stray; another soft, jagged edge recounts time in a feral colony where he was dumped by a previous owner. You would never know he has physical or emotional scars. Even through his recent and serious medical problems – diabetes and chronic kidney disease, and a slower pace hampered by arthritis – our Frankie boy is always ready for a Greenie and a hug.  

Early on, Frank did have a behavioral issue with which we had some expert (and celebrity) help.  He could be quick to bite, for example, when hands were unexpectedly too close to his face.
“He was probably tormented or hurt by someone’s hands when he was young,“ Jackson Galaxy told us at a Best Friends Conference.  “The biting is a defense mechanism. Don’t ever tease him with your hands and don’t use your hands as something he should play with. Most importantly, always let him know that he’s safe.”
We did exactly as Jackson recommended and Frank’s behavior issue softened over years filled with love, affection and security.  

Our experience with Frank has inspired us to love and adopt other homeless and unwanted at-risk pets.  It’s the new norm in our home and a practice we advocate broadly. For information on adopting at-risk pets from the San Jose shelter, please go to the San Jose Animal Care Center’s website at Click on Adoptable Pets, and when you are on the cat or dog page, click on Special Needs animals.

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

Thursday, April 18, 2019

That One’s Mine!

Okay, so who hasn’t had that reaction at least once when seeing a newborn kitten?

That one's mine!

I’ve been having that reaction pretty frequently lately.
We are in the midst of kitten season and SVPP is taking in more kittens than ever.  I’m copied on “intake” emails and see photos of every adorable, helpless, barely out-of-the-womb felines that SVPP rescues for foster care.
Kitten season — traditionally spring and summer — is the when animal welfare facilities are flooded with newborns who need rescue. SVPP has helped with kitten season since its inception in 2015.  But, this year is different. The San Jose Animal Care Center has discontinued its kitten care program, so SVPP and other local rescues are expecting to tend to up to 1,000 additional kittens in the next three to four months.
While the shear numbers are overwhelming, the kittens with the greatest need – bottle babies – are at the greatest risk.  These neonatal kittens, often separated from a nursing mom too soon, require skill and resources to just survive. SVPP is beginning to collaborate with other local rescue organizations to help address this tremendous need, but we need your help.

Please consider one of these many ways to help save a life!
o   Attend one of our fun adoption events or fundraisers.
o   Donate to SVPP directly.
o   Purchase something on our wish list from Amazon.
o   Complete a foster application.
o   Adopt!
o   Spread the word!
o   Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Maybe, before it’s all over, you’ll say, “That one’s mine!”

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