For the first time in the Bay area, more than 20 adoption and rescue organizations came together at Humane Society Silicon Valley's new animal community center to find homes for orphaned animals. Many of the participating organizations are volunteer run, and I was fortunate enough to be able to roam the grounds, taking photos and talking with my community's fellow animal lovers. I started in HSSV's dog park, which was lined with tents, each housing a different organization. Families were mingling about, and dogs and humans were lounging on the park's gorgeous, artificial, green turf. At one of the tents, children played with puppies from Silicon Valley Animal Control, experiencing first hand the event's theme, "Renewable Source of Happiness."
The sun was shining and everyone was in a great mood. I slowly made my way over to NorCal Golden Retreiver Rescue, where I met Robbie (short for Christopher Robin), a handsome Golden Retriever who is a shining example of why it is so important to give animals a second chance. Robbie was picked up as a stray by a local animal control agency. Staff there found him difficult to manage, mainly because of his very high energy level. As so often happens, the agency deemed him "not adoptable" and scheduled him for euthanasia. Enter NorCal Golden Retreiver Rescue, who saw not an unmanageable dog, but a high energy "working" breed stuck in a small cage with no outlet for his energy. The rescue group saved Robbie's life by placing him into a foster home where he received lots of love and training. Now, Robbie is a very obedient and happy dog who does agility and tracking. He also volunteers for a "Read to Me" program, where he "helps" children learn to read.
Just next door at Golden State Greyhound Adoption's tent, I found several calm Greyhounds sprawled out on the ground, basking in the attention of a visiting young boy and his mother. Angelo, who volunteers for the agency, explained that only ten states still allow dog racing. This translates to upwards of 40,000 Greyhounds a year who are "farmed" for the racing industry. In the old days, the industry "destroyed" about 80% of the dogs because either they didn't turn out to be fast enough, or they were past their racing prime. Now, thanks to rescue agencies like Golden State Greyhound Adoption, 70-80% of the dogs are saved and placed into loving homes.
At the Our Pack, Inc. tent, I met little Gracie, a 7-month-old Pit Bull puppy who was saved from a puppy mill bust in Oakland. Gracie was the rescue group's "official greeter" for the event. She greeted visitors with a wagging tail and adorable puppy waddle. The group's volunteers say they are looking for a family to adopt Gracie. Our Pack, Inc. works closely with HSSV to rehabilitate the public image of Pit Bulls. Every week, they bring friendly, but shy rescued Pit Bulls to HSSV to interact and play with the shelter dogs. It's called "Pitty Playgroup" and it not only helps build the social skills of the rescued pits, but it also gives the shelter dogs a chance to play and interact with other friendly dogs. Our Pack, Inc. also hosts regular "Pitbull Basics" at HSSV, where community members can come and learn more about the Pit Bull breed.
I then wandered in to HSSV's education center, where I met Thumper at the booth of Bulldog Club of America Rescue Network, Inc. Thumper was rescued Easter weekend (hence the clever name) at the tender age of one. She had been abandoned by a river. She could barely walk due to irresponsible breeding and she was suffering from a very painful and severe skin infection. Now, volunteer Mary Aiken is fostering Thumper. Her skin infection is slowly healing and in a couple of months, the rescue group will spay her and begin searching for a family to adopt her. I have a feeling Thumper will have no problem finding a home. She was drawing quite the crowd as she sat regally in her doggy stroller. No yard? No problem, Mary says. Thumper just needs a home where she can cuddle on the couch and be loved.
As I walked the halls of HSSV, the happy energy in the air was nearly palpable. The expansive cat condos were filled with families as they played with HSSV's kitties, looking for the one who would fill that special place in their hearts. The adoption counter was packed, and that made me very happy. I talked with one family and their two young boys who were signing on the dotted line for Athena, a dog who had been saved by HSSV. I also met a young woman named Lisa, who was filling out an application to meet Daniel, a 1-year-old Pit Bull. Daniel is currently in one of HSSV's foster homes, and Lisa was excited that he might be the perfect companion for her and Lacey, her 9-month-old Pit Bull mix.
My favorite part of the event was the "critter" room. It is usually HSSV's conference room, but today it was taken over by birds, rabbits and chinchillas of all shapes, ages and colors. At the Chinchilla Rescue corner, many people were holding chinchillas and learning about them for the first time. I met Boo Boo, an adorable 3-year-old boy who is looking for a family to adopt him. A young woman was holding him as a volunteer from the rescue group sadly explained that the fur industry electrocutes these loving creatures until they die, because when chinchillas are afraid, they shed their fur. It's a cost saving mechanism for the fur industry to both get the fur and dispose of the animal. Chinchilla Rescue saves as many of the chinchillas as they can and is dedicated to teaching the community what great pets they make. Like rabbits, they adore human interaction and enjoy being petted. Unlike rabbits, they enjoy dust baths and here is where we come to my favorite part of the event. One of the volunteers placed Sammy Davis Jr, a 2-year-old Chinchilla, into a small bowl of dust and Sammy began doing flips in the bowl, completely enjoying himself. It was so much fun to watch.
As I left the building, I ran into Stuart Hecht, an animal lover who has been volunteering for HSSV for over ten years. It was hard not to notice Stuart because in his arms he carried a very confident and charming-looking cat, 5-year-old Zach who was sporting a snazzy halter and leash. Zach and Stuart volunteer for the education department, helping teach children who take field trips to HSSV how to understand cat body language. Zach goes with Stuart lots of places on his harness and leash, and I hope that by doing so, he shows people how much fun having a kitty in your life can be!
Overall, I left feeling very fortunate to be involved with an organization like HSSV. It's not often that such a large gathering of adoption and rescue organizations come together for a united cause. Every organization has its own heartbreaking--and uplifting--stories. Each holds a valuable place in working to make the world better for the animals who depend on us so much for their happiness and survival. The event also showed me that if you love animals, there are many ways for you to help. Whether it is adopting, donating, volunteering, or fostering animals to help them regain their health and confidence before they are adopted. I wish I could do more. But, if we each did just a little, can you imagine the possibilities?
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