Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Summer Camp Counselors seeing education at work

by Bridget Keenan, Director of Development

When I give tours of our new Animal Community Center, I love to spend time in our Education Center, explaining to our “tourists” that Education is a powerful way to really make a difference regarding pet homelessness in the future of Santa Clara County. Teach a child why a dog barks or why a cat scratches, and they will bring this information home to their families and help their parents understand why the puppy needs training, or why the cat needs a scratching post, so mom and dad don’t get so frustrated with the pet that they are surrendered to a shelter. Teach children that animals are individual beings — that they can make the animal feel loved or feel hurt, happy or sad, safe or scared — and you are teaching children how to be responsible pet owners, and ultimately responsible members of society.

For four weeks this summer at our “Amazing Animals Summer Camp”, we enjoyed a flow of about 75 children between the ages of 6 and 12, who each for one week came to our Animal Community Center and learned about dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes, tarantulas, frogs, and more. There were nearly 20 teenage camp counselors who worked with the children; these counselors may have learned more about animals and children than even their younger charges did! After their summer here, our counselors shared their favorite experiences.

Adam Donald reported: “Another activity was about the overpopulation of cats. During this activity, the campers were able to discover why there were so many cats in Santa Clara County and learned ways to prevent this….the campers [learned] about a variety of different animals and that all animals are valuable.”

Sarah De Vargas shared, “The children were also focused on how to take care of animals because they wanted to make sure that they were treating pets right and that they were being great caretakers of their animals.”

And Sammi Mielke wrote, “My favorite activity that we did was making habitat boxes and it seemed like the kids liked it, too…Although this was a fun activity, it also taught all the kids what animals needed to survive. A lot of the necessities for the animals turned out to be the same for us.”

Our campers and counselors learned important lessons that will stay with them their entire lives. I like to think that, because of our incredible Education Programs, we are much closer than ever toward ending pet homelessness in our community.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Moreland Bunny Rescue a Success!

By James Farris – Manager of Online Marketing Programs

I recently volunteered for The Rabbit Haven, an organization that my wife supports by fostering rabbits, for the major rescue effort at the Easterbrook Discovery School in the Moreland area of San Jose. Neighborhood residents were outraged when they realized that there were rabbits that had been dumped at the school and that those poor helpless creatures were getting attacked by dogs (while humans stood by and watched), were being shot with pellet guns and were being hunted by hawks. Some of the rabbits were just left where they had been attacked and ultimately died. It was a heartbreaking sight.

It is likely that the rabbits ended up in the school yard because people would drop them off there when they no longer wanted to take care of their “pet” rabbits. Neighbors only became aware of the issue when the extremely prolific 90 or so rabbits began to migrate into peoples’ yards! Now that all of the bunnies have been successfully rescued from this horrific situation, I have had time to rest and reflect on the experience. I have never seen anything like it and hope that I never will again.

Because I work at Humane Society Silicon Valley, I was able to offer my time with the rescue efforts and I was also able to help with the removal and cremation of the dead rabbits by having them cremated through HSSV’s cremation services, which is typically available to those people who have had to say goodbye to their elderly or very sick pets. I was so grateful these bunnies finally had a proper “goodbye” and that we were able to care for their bodies, even though we hadn’t been able to protect them in life. Thankfully, none of the rescued rabbits were euthanized and all are in the process of finding forever homes.

A group of 15 rescuers including my wife and me, started setting up traps (not actual traps, but x-pens to corral rabbits so we can catch them.) When I arrived on the first day at 7pm, I saw my first stray rabbit, then 2, then 3, until it was overwhelming. Knowing what people had done to these rabbits, I was determined to do whatever I could to get these rabbits into a safe place. Whether that meant crawling on the ground under bushes, chasing rabbits in a field into an x-pen where they can be corralled and caught, or staying till four in the morning to try to catch as many as I could. I should also mention that most of the rescue efforts took place at night with flashlights.

A lot of the times, it was a waiting game. They would hide under storage containers and buildings near the field in the school and we would setup x-pens and nets and camp out and wait.

I did stay until the late night hours many nights. I was indeed tired at work the next day a couple of times, but I went out anyways to try and rescue more rabbits. My wife and I did this for two weeks, everyday, until we did not see any more rabbits.

We ended up adopting one of those bunnies and she is one of the best pets I have ever had – and that’s saying a lot because we currently have 2 dogs, 2 cats, 6 rabbits, a horse, and a chinchilla. It took us five attempts on five different days, staying sometimes until two in the morning, watching and waiting. Now she has a forever home with us and she is happy and healthy. Her name is Spirit (pictured right) and she loves to cuddle. She is still understandably a little shy and is slowly learning that she can trust people.

Because I experienced first-hand how sad this situation was, I want to remind anyone who is thinking of getting a rabbit that spaying and neutering is a simple step to preventing situations like the one at Easterbrook Discovery School. And also, if you end up not wanting your rabbit anymore or can’t keep your rabbit, surrender him or her to a rescue organization or animal shelter, so a home can be found for them. Dumping should never be an option. The bunnies will thank you!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

UPDATE: Teeka and Canelita Adopted!

Just thought our readers might like to know that Teeka and Canelita got adopted this past weekend! They were adopted by a great family with older children who say that it was, "love at first sight"! The girls were here at HSSV for 164 days!

Among others adopted this weekend who have been at Humane Society Silicon Valley for 100 days or more:
Alex and Rocky - bonded kitty pair at HSSV for 135 days
Roxy - longest doggie resident - been with us since before we moved into the new facility - a whopping 243 days!!!
Mika - 8 year old fabulous cat, at HSSV 114 days
Vigo - our resident white deaf cat who we were ALL in love with (his video was on HSSV's site for a little bit)
Bagheera - Great cat who was here for 128 days
Cindy - gorgeous older longhaired black kitty - 198 days!

Congratulations to HSSV's stellar adoptions team and of course, to all those wonderful adopters and the donors who make this work possible!

An Event for Everyone – HSSV’s First Annual Summer Music, Wine & Adoption Festival

By Lauren Gallagher, Controller & Event attendee

When I heard that HSSV was going to host its First Annual Summer Music, Wine & Adoption Festival on August 22nd, I knew that is was going to be my kind of event - dog friendly, outdoor, sunshine, live music, appetizers, and wine tasting, all to support HSSV. What more could a girl ask for! I was so excited to attend the event. Later on I realized that I had promised to baby-sit my niece, Riley, that weekend. I asked her if she wanted to attend the event, and of course, she was so thrilled and eager to go.

Just like her mom and me, Riley is a big animal lover. She LOVES
coming to HSSV’s Animal Community Center, and likes to visit each
cat, dog and bunny in the animal habitats, to pick out her favorites.
She was asking me all morning how much longer until we go to the
Humane Society. When she arrived, she immediately wanted to look for her favorite cat from her last visit. She kept loudly repeating, “Where’s that cute fat cat?” which resulted in giggles from those around us. Did I mention that she is five? That handsome plus-sized cat, Binky (see picture), had happily been adopted, so Riley looked for a new favorite.

We wandered into the Education Classrooms,
and Riley (see picture on left) participated in all the activities that
were set up, at no cost, for the children (see picture on right). She made toys for my two cats, and for the HSSV cats, got her face painted, and played games where she learned about supplies needed for each type of pet. She loved it, and as her babysitter, I really appreciated the organized activities.

We wandered outside, and Riley joined the small crowd of people and dogs dancing to the live band, Ruthie and the Gents.

Many of the adults were tasting the local wines, and sampling beer from Los Gatos Brewing Company while enjoying the music and the appetizers. We saw people lounging with their dogs in the dog parks. In Riley’s words, “This is the best party!”

As we walked around inside, we noticed that the Animal Community Center was packed, and we could feel that magical energy in the air, as there were many families that were going through the adoption interviews, and hopefully meeting their 4-legged match.

Riley noticed that the type of dog that she longs to adopt, a small poodle mix, was adopted earlier in the week, because we saw his picture on the adoption board.

She has been trying to persuade her parents to adopt a second dog; therefore she closely studied each of the dogs in the canine habitats. During the event weekend, there were 20 adoptions of dogs, puppies, cats, kittens and rabbits.

The purpose of the event was to bring more people to the ACC, show them some fun, and to hopefully find new homes for our adoptable dogs, cats, and rabbits. The event was definitely a success for HSSV, for the hundreds of attendees, including Riley and me, and most important, for the animals that went home with their new families to their forever homes.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Animal Welfare and Boys

I’m always amazed at the ratio of girls to boys in Educational programs at Humane Society Silicon Valley. It’s not a problem, just an interesting factoid of note. Many more girls than boys volunteer and get involved with animals, but when the boys are impacted by what they learn and connect it with compassion, I’m always very impressed. I love that boys learn to be more nurturing and gentle when they come to our programs – and I just know that translates to a kinder and gentler world.

Adam, who was a camp counselor at HSSV’s summer camp stood out to me this year. The summer camp program was a joyful thing to see here on the HSSV campus – kids running around in bright orange camp t-shirts, learning, having a ton of fun, playing games and creating different projects

(see Jesse and his artwork) – and most important, becoming compassionate future community members who connect with something larger than themselves.

We asked Adam to share what was special to him at summer camp this year. When I found out that he had originally been required to complete community service through his high school, I was especially excited about what he ultimately shared about his experience during the summer. He wanted to come back to be a counselor again – and not as a requirement for school – he was inspired! I’ll share a few paragraphs of his letter, but highlights for me were that he most valued forming a bond with the campers and that camp gave him an opportunity to be a role model for other boys in the program.

This is from Adam:

While volunteering, the funniest moments were those that happened when the kids were in the opening circle. The kids were so involved and excited about the songs, and that involvement always brought a smile to my face. There was such creativity in those songs – one camper performed it “Valley Girl” style and another performed it astronaut style. Those versions made me laugh the hardest.

As a camp counselor, the most important thing for me is forming a bond with the campers. This happened for me within a matter of hours! My most memorable camper was Josiah. He absolutely adored me from the minute I sat down to color a picture with him. He had so much energy while jumping around on me and playing with a beach ball. He was always in good spirits. He loved to introduce new games for the other campers. I will always remember him and the relationship we formed during those five days.

The camp involved a lot of fun activities that taught the kids about animals while still keeping it interesting. We made dog food and had a competition to see whose dog food was the best (Buster was our taste-tester and admittedly, he seemed to pretty much like ALL food). It taught the kids what type of food is good for animals and highlighted which foods are bad, especially in large quantities.

The kids also learned to train with the Director of Education's dog, Buzz, a CGC certified pitbull adopted from Bad Rap. They also learned to always ask the pet owner before petting an animal. They learned about cats and why there are so many in Santa Clara County and how to help. They also got to see presentations by the Youth Science Institute and Happy Hollow Zoo so that they could, learn which animals actually make appropriate pets.