Friday, September 25, 2015

Gizmo: Why The Life (And Death) Of An Elderly, Homeless Dog Gives Us Hope.

You wouldn't think it would be possible to say that the passing of a 13 year old dog was sudden but it was. Gizmo had some issues but none of them were life threatening and all of them were under control. Which is why it was a shock when, after seven months in our care, the elderly terrier went into renal failure.

Sunbathing Gizzy.
Gizmo didn't have a home but did have a family of sorts, some houses he loved to visit and a good life. When he passed he was attended by one of his best friends; a staff member that brought him home for sleepovers and had him in her office a lot. The vet that had steadfastly monitored his care was there. He didn't go with strangers and he didn't go because he didn't have a home. He went because he was old and his body couldn't go on anymore.

From the moment we met Gizmo, he was a mess. With only three teeth left in his head, his tongue protruded to one size. His coat was so thick and tangled he looked more like a bathmat then a dog. He wheezed and sneezed. And with his little brown button eyes and low wagging tail, he was irresistible. Found on the streets, his time was running out at a crowded city shelter. When the other shelter let us know he needed help, Transport Coordinator Candy  swooped him up and brought him back to us. 

Glamour Gizzy.
Gizmo spent the majority of the seven months he was with us in foster care. While he came in for doctor visits and adoption fairs, he lived the life of a normal dog. He went for walks. He rode in the car. He slept in a home. Due to his lack of teeth, he had his meals specially prepared. He left a debris field when he ate which no one thought was a big deal. When his wheezing and sneezing proved to be asthma, we got him an inhaler. Meanwhile we looked - and believed in our heart of hearts - that there was a forever home out there for him. We took him to NBC where he did a Perfect Pet segment and stole the hearts of everyone on set.

Celeb Gizzy.
When his foster parent wasn't able to care for him any more, he spent most of the time in Behavior Programs Manager Michelle Suarez's office, waddling after her with gusto as she worked. Due to his mellow nature he was given the run of the joint so he could follow her wherever. Some nights he went home with her, some he went home with volunteer Kelly, who took him on beach outings.....

Beach Blanket Babylon Gizzy. 
and made sure he didn't miss longer walks by finding him a cool ride. Because Gizmo loved walks, even if he couldn't keep up.

Chauffeured Gizzy.
Sure enough he DID steal someone's heart. The potential adopter had to go out of town for a few days so Gizmo hung with Kelly while he waited. During that last weekend, he stopped eating and became lethargic. A blood test confirmed that his kidneys had begun to fail. There was no cure and there was no comfort. Amid tears, the decision was made to put him to sleep. 

While this wasn't a happy ending, the story of the last seven months of Gizmo's life IS a triumph for many reasons. 

Selfie w/friends Gizzy.
Gizmo had a big life. He went on TV. He went to the ocean. He went just about everywhere and hung out with his buddies all the time. Gizmo didn't have a big life because he had a bucket list or because anyone felt sorry for him. He just had a big life because (with the aid of awesome foster parents) that's what we could offer him. Foster parents like Kelly have taken many dogs to the beach and given them islands of normalcy during a transitional point in their lives. He went on TV because our local media supports animals and wants to help them find homes. He had a great life because people cared.

Almost more amazing than the fact he had a normal life was the fact he had a life at all: ten or twenty years ago, the script for an elderly, special needs dog found as a stray would have been very different.  He would have been written off as a hopeless case. Instead, staff at the busy city shelter went out of their way to find a second chance for Gizmo. When their resources were taxed, the city shelter spent time finding a way to get the animals in their care to safety. The staff there were certain that with a more time and more care, a dog like Gizmo would find a home.

That certainty speaks volumes to where we are as a society. 

Another reason Gizmo's life was a triumph? There were options like us available for him. There were arms willing to welcome him. Candy, our medical staff, our receiving staff, our managers - nobody balked at taking on Gizzy and his medical issues. That's what we're here for. 

Us being here - and being so embraced by our community - is a triumph in and of itself. 

No, Gizmo's story doesn't have a textbook happy ending. There's no unicorns, no sunset, nothing to wrap it up in a happy bow.  What it does have, though, is proof that we have come so very far. 

RIP Gizzy. Thanks for everything you taught us. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Five Reasons You Don't Want To Miss Walk 'N Wag This Year.

We're only weeks away from the most dog-tacular, cat-tastic event of the year: Walk 'N Wag. If you haven't signed up yet we have five awesome reasons that you need to right this second. Or the second you finish reading this. 

Affectionate, non-zombie mascot that will not be shooting at you. 
1) We Won't Electrocute You, Shoot Live Ammo At You, Cover You In Foam or Send Zombies After You.

This is kind of a thing now. Ads for 5k's and 10k's now scamper across our Facebook stream with the same frequency as bad cell phone shots of other people's food. Forget horrifying, terrifying obstacles, zombies chasing you or spending weeks washing silly string out of your hair. We're the O.G. of 5K pet friendly walk/run events. This is our 13th year of Walk 'N Wag and we know how to have a good time without having to humiliate you or threaten you with grievous bodily harm.

Plus it's all for a good cause. Did you know the money we raise goes to help the pets in our care find new, loving homes? Not only will you have a good time and get some exercise, you'll be helping little muffins like these find forever homes.

Sleeping muffin. 

Adorable puppy booty muffin. 

2) It's A Good Chance To Actually Like Your Coworkers.

Neither of these folks are awful office mates - we just loved their shirts. 
Sure, Bob makes coffee so weak you might as well be drinking flat Shasta. And Gina in accounting has the annoying whistling thing she does. It might be hard to like your coworkers during work, but Walk 'N Wag has a way of bringing awesome corporate teams together.

Every year companies like SugarCRM, Synaptics and NVIDIA put together teams, raise money and walk together. Youd' be amazed at how much more tolerable Bob's coffee is when you see him fussing over his ancient lab mix. And as for Gina, that adorable Shih-Tzu she's walking with seems to really like that whistling thing she does.

Walking as a team with coworkers is a good chance to chill out and have some fun for a good cause. Plus who knew that your boss looked just like his bulldog? *

3) A Wee Little Chihuahua Dressed As An Airplane. Need We Say More?

Stand clear for take off, people. 
Even if you're not a walker, there's all sorts of crazy fun to be had at Walk 'N Wag. We have a doggy costume contest, raffles, DJ's, vendors, a doggy fun zone, food trucks - the list goes on and on. While everything is awesome, we cannot deny that our favorite extra attraction might be the pet trick and costume contests. Have you ever seen a Pekingese sing country/western songs? You haven't? Ermaghawd. You need to sign up right now. Seriously.

4) You Can Hang With Local Celebs.

We love you guys. 
If you live in the Bay Area and listen to radio, you probably know who Pope and Marla are. What you might not have known, however, is that they're amazing and love pets. Exhibit A:

And we love your dogs.
Aaaaand Exhibit B:

And your dog and your cat. 

We're super lucky that they decided to be our hosts and announcers this year. If you come and don't behave like a super creepy stalker, you can probably go say hi to them. Don't, however, make your dog Pope and Marla costumes under the hopes of meeting them as that would be super creepy stalker behavior.

5) Did We Mention You Can Bring Your Dog?

Which the dog will enjoy. Seriously. 
Not that you would want to bring your dog to one of those live-ammo-shooting, electrocution-chamber races. And just forget the zombie runs - if you're dog barks at the mailman, just imagine what he would do when confronted with the undead.

There are so many things you can't do with your dog these days: most offices don't allow them, nor do most gyms. Taking them to the movies is generally pretty frowned upon, as is bringing them to a massage or a pedicure. Spending quality time with your pet is important. Getting exercise is important. Supporting an organization that helps little nuggets like these:

We can haz forever homes?
find forever homes is also super important. You can do all of these things at once by going to Walk 'N Wag. 

'Nuff said.

*We swear those nice people aren't Bob or Gina, nor are Bob and Gina actual people. The names Bob and Gina are fictional. Unfortunately officemates who whistle and make horrible coffee are all too real for many people. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

There Is A Fungus Among Us - And We Want You To Bring It Home.

We've asked you to adopt the world's worst dog. We've asked you to read a lot of really ridiculous stuff. We've asked you to fall in love with wonderful but disfigured puppies. As if that wasn't bad enough, now we're going to ask you for the impossible:

We want you to bring fungus home.

Okay, not fungus itself. But kittens with fungus. Or fungal infections.

Don't give us that look. We realize this bears a good amount of explanation. So hang in for a bit.

Here's the sitch: Our much beloved Silicon Valley is famous for a lot of things. Great technology. Fantastic work opportunities. World class universities. Beautiful landscapes. People who drive Priuses but practice ridiculous lawn care. Geniuses with really poor social skills (sort of like our blogger, only without the genius bit). We're proud to be in one of the most forward thinking, innovative, best educated communities in the world.

But there's something else it's famous for right now: an epidemic of ringworm.

Which is not, oddly enough, a parasite but a fungus infection. And it usually winds up on kittens.

We like fungus! Who doesn't enjoy a good portabella?
If you catch ringworm, it'll cause some itchy, crusty spots on your skin. It's treated with some ridiculously stinky baths and a lot of waiting. While ringworm isn't fatal, being a kitten with ringworm can be deadly. Why? Because very few shelters are equipped to handle ringworm kittens. They need to be kept separately and staff has to gown and glove up to handle them. Otherwise it can wind up everywhere.

FYI - Protective gear can be cool. Exhibit A:

Forget the moon, I just want to hang in your spare bathroom. 

Luckily we can handle ringworm. We have a few dedicated rooms for it. All of which are currently bursting at the seams full of fungus kittens as we've been taking them in from other shelters who can't handle it.

In-law visits and fungus kittens: there's only so much you can take.

The problem is our ringworm rooms are packed and the requests keep pouring in from other shelters who have ringworm kittens but don't have the facilities to separate them.

So we had this brilliant idea. You know what else is brilliant? Cats and protective gear:

photo: copyright © 2014, A Tonk's Tail. Used with permission 
You probably should have figured out by now we're buttering you up for the big ask.

We're going to ask nice people with spare bathrooms and bedrooms to give us a hand. If you've started giving us that skeptical look, we're going to take an adorable kitten photo break to try and reel you back in. Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

You can haz fungus kittens? Please?
Yes. We are asking you to take home fungus kittens. Why? Because we're crazy like that. Because we know how awesome you guys have been. And because all the cool kids like wearing protective gear. 

I am the One Who Saves Kittens.
Here's how it works: we give you some adorable, playful, fun, fungus kitties and all the trappings you need to take care of them. The gowns, the gloves, the booties - we joke about the respirators but they're not necessary - we supply all of that. We also give you all the food and any necessary medicine.  Heck, we even throw in toys that can be disposed of after the kittens are better. You install the fungus kittens in your spare bathroom or bedroom, away from resident pets.

A few times a day you don the gown, gloves and super-hip booties and go in and play with them. Treat them like normal kittens. Love on them. Once a week you give them a medicated bath. We won't pretend the bath stuff doesn't smell like Satan's own gym socks, but we will try to placate you with pictures of how cute kitten baths can be. 

It's like a spa day. With Satan's gym socks. 
You can do this. And to be honest, we really need you to. We're the last option for shelters contacting us and we don't want to turn these guys away.

We might be the first shelter to ever ask for foster homes for ringworm babies. If you call, you might be the first person whose ever been awesome enough to do it. Let's go out on a limb together. Rescue is hard work, but together we can make it easier. This is a chance to save a life in a very, very real way. If people commit to fostering these kittens, we can commit to taking them in. 

Plus it gives you an excuse to turn away annoying houseguests. "We have fungus kittens in the spare room" pretty much trumps all other excuses for telling Aunt Myrtle she can't come scatter her weird doilies all over your house.

We'll even give you some extra booties in case you want to just wear them for fashion purposes after you're done being a kitten hero. And a hug.

To get your fungus kitten starter pack, call long-suffering Animal Care Manager Laura Birdsall at 408.262.2133 ext 166. Or email her at We'll be hanging out with our fingers crossed hoping you'll call. 

What are you waiting for?