Monday, May 31, 2021

The Best Shelter is a Compassionate Community – and Our Amazing Fosters!

A recent quote from Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, resonated with me. She said, "Best Friends has been championing the belief that the best shelter is a compassionate community."  We agree! Our rescue model works because of the amazing foster families who support our mission.  Please meet one here.  We interviewed Kim Hadley, a kitten foster who has been fostering kittens as part of a healing journey after the loss her cat, Jack.  

Kim Hadley's triplets times two!

How did you become connected with SVPP?
I found SVPP on Facebook when I was looking into adopting a cat in early 2020. I was immediately attracted to this particular rescue group because all of the animals had a story. SVPP did a great job of being transparent and honest about each animal's health history, challenges, triumphs, and a team behind them that cared – a lot.

What inspired you to start fostering?

I became particularly interested in fostering after we lost our 7-year-old cat, Jack, to cancer earlier this year.  He was an exceptional member of our family, and I found joy in the idea of fostering kittens while I was knee-deep in the grief and sadness that followed after losing him. I have four young children, and there is no doubt that they were deeply affected by Jack's passing as well. It is important to me to give them healthy ways to cope with big emotions, and I thought being a part of raising kittens and getting them ready for their forever homes would be a positive and healing experience.

 

What was your first fostering experience like?
We got our first litter of three kittens when they were just 8-days-old. I knew that I would be taking on weeks of bottle feeding, including the middle of the night feeds – and it was both exciting and scary! They were so helpless but adorable, and it didn't take long for my kids and me to fall in love entirely.  I quickly learned that there is much more to fostering than just feeding and cuddling sweet, tiny kittens. You'll be scheduling supply pick-ups, monitoring weight gain, trimming tiny nails, driving to veterinary appointments, doing extra laundry, dishes, and so much more. It is a commitment, but it is so worth it. You not only get to enjoy the babies, but you get to meet wonderful, passionate, kind people. You get to give these kittens a great start to life so that they can become amazing companions – a best friend, a source of joy and happiness to someone, like Jack was to us.

 

What’s been the most challenging and most joyful?
The most challenging part has been seeing how many cats (and other animals) come into our county shelter – how many need foster and forever homes. It's hard not to want to help them all; to want to do more, take in more, make a bigger difference. It's an emotional roller coaster; I think it's important to know the reality, even if it's harsh. At the same time, the most joyful part, besides the kitten cuddles, purrs, and shenanigans, seeing their personalities blossom and become healthy, well-adjusted cats, has been knowing that I am helping in some small way. Even if it's just a few litters or a couple of adults per year, a few weeks of my life can change the course of their entire life.
 

Is fostering something you would recommend to others?
Absolutely, and without hesitation. I truly believe it is one of the greatest experiences you can have. The more people who can show how doable it is, the more foster homes there will be. I'm a mom to 3-year-old triplets and a 6-year-old and have found it to not only be manageable, but a fantastic experience for our whole family.  The people you will meet have big hearts and want you to be successful, so don't be afraid to ask questions or help. There will likely be some difficult losses, but there will be many more big wins. Remember, a few weeks of your life can mean the difference for the rest of theirs.

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

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Could your dog have heartworm?

More than a million pets in the U.S. have heartworms, and their humans don’t know it.*

April is heartworm disease prevention month, so we want to highlight a lovely story of one of our foster dog’s survival from this potentially fatal disease. But first, all of us pet lovers have heard of it, but what exactly is heartworm disease and how do our pets get it? 

Heartworm disease starts with a single mosquito bite and if left untreated, results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death. When a mosquito bites a dog infected with heartworm or drinks water contaminated with infected mosquito larvae, it’s transferred to an uninfected dog when the mosquito bites him a few days later. The worms are called “heartworms” because the adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal. (Heartworms can also affect other pets like cats and ferrets. but they don’t survive for long or cause the damage quite like they do in dogs.) It takes about six months for the infective larvae in the dog to mature into adult heartworms. The adult heartworms mate and the females release their offspring into the dog’s bloodstream, completing the lifecycle. Surprisingly, a heartworm can live in a dog 5-7 years undetected. Adult heartworms range in size from four to 12 inches and look like strands of cooked spaghetti (eeewww!). 

SVPP first time foster mom TzuFang Huang had just volunteered to foster Casper, a Chihuahua mix, when she learned he had heartworms during his initial vet check. “He was such a sweet, loving dog I couldn’t imagine why someone had abandoned him. After we got the diagnosis and the vet described what a costly, lengthy process it would be, I figured out why.” said TzuFang. A second test confirmed that Casper definitely had heartworms.  TzuFang never questioned whether or not she would help Casper through what would be an intense four-month process. And what a Rockstar foster mom she was to have lovingly helped Casper without knowing exactly what to expect! After finding out Casper had heartworm, TzuFang had to then keep him calm for a month prior to getting the first of two shots that would slowly kill the heartworm. Keeping a young dog calm is no easy feat, but it’s meant to teach him to be more sedentary (i.e., no chasing squirrels or running through the dog park!). 

 

The danger comes after the first shot when the worms start to die. They decompose inside the dog’s body, so the concern is that if they’re too active, those worms can get into certain vessels and endanger the pup. As a result, after Casper’s first shot, the doctor observed him onsite for the day then sent him home on a sedative. “I was scared when he came home that first day. He couldn’t walk straight. He’s usually really into eating, but he wouldn’t eat.” Turns out the sedative dose was a bit too strong,” said TzuFang. For the next month, Casper required medicine twice per day, then every other day, then daily plus heartworm medicine. After the second shot, Casper had to rest for another six weeks and follow the same medicine process. It was a long haul for Casper and his foster family!

Finally, after months of treatment, Casper made it! He was healthy, happy, and ready for adoption! But guess what? After caring for Casper through this traumatic experience, the dog mom relationship grew so strong that TzuFang gave him the best gift ever – she decided to keep him and become his new dog family! “We felt a connection and decided to keep him,” TzuFang said.


So, what’s the lesson learned from TzuFang’s experience with Casper? Heartworm disease prevention is key. The American Heartworm Society advocates to “Think 12." Give dogs 12 months of heartworm prevention and get them tested for heartworms every 12 months. It’s the easiest way to avoid heartworm disease. All require a veterinarian’s prescription. Most products are given monthly, either as a topical liquid applied on the skin or as an oral tablet. For more information, check out the American Heartworm Society.  

And if you have a dog mom heart like TzuFang, reach out to us to help foster or adopt a sweet dog like Casper!


Source:

Author bio:
Stacy St. Louis is one of our newest volunteers. With a career history in high tech Communications, she wanted to try her hand at writing for fun about a topic she loves – pets! Stacy is a born-and-raised Bay Area native who lives with her family (including Ruby the Maltese Yorkie) in Los Gatos.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Foster Families Make Rescue a Reality

When I tell friends, family and colleagues about SVPP and all of the pets we rescue, I’m frequently asked one question: “Can we go see them?” I smile and respond, “Absolutely...on our website!”
Cozy in her forever home, Emma is a
healthy 12 pounds today. She was 3 pounds
when SVPP rescued her in December.

The common assumption is that our rescued pets live in cages somewhere, like they do in municipal shelters. When people learn that our pets go straight into foster homes, I see a visible look of relief – even awe.

The truth is that SVPP’s foster families are the heart of the organization.  These dedicated volunteers are impacting life and the rescue landscape on so many levels! For pets, they eliminate the trauma, stress and loneliness of living in cages. These dogs and cats are given the support to rest, get any needed medical or behavioral care, and recover from some of life’s previous and painful harsh realities. They receive love, nutrition, play, and everything else they need to thrive.
  
Because these pets usually spend a few weeks to a few months in foster care, they have time to find the right “happily ever after.” Fosters parents can get to know the pet and understand its needs. Does it do well with other pets or kids? Is it high energy or does it prefer naps? Does the dog or cat respond well to toys or treats? Is he/she shy or gregarious? This experience, information and insight helps us and potential adopters make sure that every match is a love match.
Major and his new foster-to-adopt dad, Michael,
are both thrilled with their love connection!
Shelter to foster is the best possible rescue model for homeless pets. It is an updated approach that provides the best opportunity for a successful adoption and well-deserved quality of life. The challenge is scaling the number of people and homes available, especially during peak periods like kitten season, which will be underway soon. We are constantly recruiting new potential foster candidates to meet the growing need.
  
In the past year, we have experienced some remarkable gains in the number of SVPP foster families caring for cats and dogs, adoptions and pets we have been able to rescue. As COVID restrictions lift and people go back to work and school, our goal is to maintain this momentum and continue getting homeless pets – especially those with special needs – out of shelters, into foster homes and ultimately adopted by loving, forever families.

Interested in fostering? Complete an application here!

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

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.