Category: Rescue Stories

Pet Adoption Tails: Stefanie Gibbons and Kimba

Dog trainer and part-time administrator Stefanie Gibbons didn’t think she’d end up with a pack of Siberian Huskies, but after adopting seven-year-old Kimba from a shelter, she eventually welcomed three other dogs—Ollie, Gamble, and Lyra (ages 5, 7, and 4 respectively)—into her home. This is her amazing pet adoption tail. Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did Read More...

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Dog trainer and part-time administrator Stefanie Gibbons didn’t think she’d end up with a pack of Siberian Huskies, but after adopting seven-year-old Kimba from a shelter, she eventually welcomed three other dogs—Ollie, Gamble, and Lyra (ages 5, 7, and 4 respectively)—into her home. This is her amazing pet adoption tail.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did you and Kimba meet?

Stefanie Gibbons (SG): Five years ago, I was volunteering with Alaskan Malamute Rehoming Aid Australia Inc. (AMRAA) at their kennels on the central coast. It was my first day, and my duties were to socialize with the dogs, in pairs or alone. 

It was nearly the end of the day, and I had met about 10 different dogs. I’d noticed a pattern: some dogs were far more interested in checking out the yard I was in, while others followed me to where I would sit, for affection. 

Kimba was an unclaimed stray who had been at the rescue for about two months. She followed me but sat just out of reach. She would stare at me with these big brown eyes, but would only allow contact for a few seconds before leaping away. My first thought was, “Oh boy, you’re weird.” My second thought was, “You’re coming home with me.”
 
We originally thought she was six years old. She was like a nana (grandma) and the fun police whenever other dogs were playing. When I got her home, it became apparent that she was significantly younger than we first thought. She was offering me toys and engaging in really playful puppy behaviour. We checked her chip and discovered she was barely two years old.

The various faces of Kimba

WF: Were there any issues you had to deal with when you took in Kimba?

SG: My first challenge was that I lived in a studio apartment with my 16-year-old cat Saturn, but we made it work. I made the decision early on to keep them separate as I wasn’t confident in how to manage the prey drive, and had a few close friends who loved taking Saturn for purr therapy. 

Kimba quickly toilet trained herself and had zero issues with being left alone when I worked. It became apparent that she had some pretty major anxiety, but a regular routine and training helped her manage that. A week later, I brought in a 10-year-old Rottweiler-Malamute named Dakota (he passed away last January), and she flourished with the doggy company. We struggled with walking because every time Kimba saw another dog, she’d stand on her back legs and make horrid noises in excitement. Fortunately, Dakota was a steady influence on her. With each dog I’ve added to the household, Kimba has become so much more affectionate and confident. She’s learned to lean right in for cuddles and she loves guests. 

Kimba cuddling her daddy Brenton. This took a long time because she struggles with lying still with someone.

WF: Is there a special bonding activity that only you and Kimba do together?

SG: When I first got her, the only affection she would allow was 15 seconds of ear rubs IF she could lick my chin at the same time! Now we’ve progressed to rubbing her neck and she will face plant into my chest or armpit, and melt down into my arms. It’s the cutest thing you’ll ever see!

WF: Aside from this exchange of affection, does Kimba have any funny or interesting quirks?

SG: When she’s sick, she’s the biggest baby ever. The first time she wasn’t feeling well, I had had her for maybe three months. She wouldn’t go for her walk, so I had to carry her home. She stood and stared at me until I cuddled her. She spent the whole day asleep on my chest in a hammock. 
 
The next time she got sick, she woke me up at 2 am by puking on my head. After I showered and changed the bedding, I had to spoon her all night. Normally, she would sleep totally separate from anyone else and if you woke her, she’d have a lot to say about it.

WF: Why would you personally encourage adopting animals?

SG: Watching Kimba go from a nervous and shy dog to a total queen of the house has been very rewarding. She is so ridiculously affectionate in ways I never thought she would be. It’s also been wonderful to watch her learn from every dog we’ve brought in, either guests or permanent siblings.

WF: Let’s talk about your other dogs. Did you get them partially for Kimba’s sake?

SG: I actually got Ollie as a companion for Kimba. Her energy level outmatched Dakota’s, and Ollie was the first dog she actually played well with. I’d actually seen his photo on our rescue Facebook, with the big scar across his muzzle and my heart just melted. 

A few weeks later, I boarded Kimba and Dakota while I visited family in Perth. The now president of the rescue sent me a video of them playing. Kimba’s play style is rough, but she’s a princess when it comes to returns. Ollie took all of her hits and came back for more. He was this skinny little possum, we called him. He looked like a stretched brushtail possum. When I first met him, he ran to me when I called his name and collapsed at my feet. 
 
Ollie was recovering from malnutrition after being badly neglected and abused, so sometimes his legs would just stop working as he ran and he’d face plant. But he’d get right up again. That first day I went into his kennel, he scrambled awkwardly into my lap as I bent down. I had my hand on his chest and realised his pulse was slowing. He’d just fallen asleep in my arms immediately. 
 
He was and is Kimba’s perfect foil. He is such a gentle boy, but he loves to play. He will adjust how he plays to his partner. He can play a non-scary chase game with a little fluffy, never towering over them or cornering them, or he can play gladiators with another husky. He will be the fun uncle to any puppy—if they squeak, he lets them initiate the next round. 
 
Gamble and Lyra were kind of accidental babies. They came into the house “just for one night” and that became “just another week until she’s got more weight or I train her to do this.” Eventually, my husband would end up falling in love with them and how much they bonded to me and let them stay!

Ollie, Gamble, and Lyra

WF: What’s it like having so many dogs at home? Did you have to undergo any major changes to accommodate all of them?

SG: Once I got Ollie, I knew that studio life was not gonna work! I arranged to move into a family property. About this time, my relationship with my now husband meant that he would move in with me. We eventually moved into a large house (with four bedrooms, so several housemates) with a good sized courtyard. At one point we had five permanent dogs, one husky coming for daily day care, and several puppies! 
 
My dogs, especially Kimba, benefitted from having other people and dogs in the house. It definitely socialised them all to different-sized dogs, and the puppies that I raised are totally bombproof. One dachshund is fairly sure he’s a husky! 
 
Eventually, we moved and we knew a big yard wasn’t a priority. The most important thing was a couch that could fit five to six dogs and two people! My dogs prefer park jaunts over any yard because they like the chance to meet people and dogs.

Lyra and Kimba out and about; Siberian flat tire

WF: How has your life changed after adopting Kimba and your other pets?

SG: I changed my whole life to better accommodate Kimba. I started dog walking full time, I researched dog training, and now I’m on my way to being an accredited dog trainer.

WF: What’s your advice for people thinking of adopting a rescue? And what advice can you give for first-time animal owners?

SG: Be patient and mindful of what’s happening from their perspective. Everything around them is changing and they don’t know what to expect or what to do. Guide them with love and patience to the right choices (like where to potty) and reward them heavily. Building a trust bond with them will take time, but it’s not hard and it’s immediately rewarding.

For first-time dog owners, think about the life you can offer a dog, not what kind of dog suits you because you can change your life far more easily than a dog can.

The destruction planning committee

See what Stefanie and her delightful pets are up to by following her on Instagram.

Do you know of an interesting pet adoption story? Share your suggestion with us by commenting below!

Foster Paw-renting Tails: Cheryl Robinson

A self-confessed crazy cat lady, Cheryl Robinson from Brisbane, Australia started fostering kittens last February 2019. The 38-year-old stay-at-home mum already has three fur kids under her care, but she felt the need to do more for the abandoned animals at her local shelter, Bracken Ridge’s Warra Shelter. Currently caring for her eighth foster kitten, Read More...

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Cheryl with current foster baby Spitfire who loves getting shoulder rides

A self-confessed crazy cat lady, Cheryl Robinson from Brisbane, Australia started fostering kittens last February 2019. The 38-year-old stay-at-home mum already has three fur kids under her care, but she felt the need to do more for the abandoned animals at her local shelter, Bracken Ridge’s Warra Shelter. Currently caring for her eighth foster kitten, Cheryl shares her inspiring fostering story.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did you get into fostering?

Cheryl Robinson (CR): After our darling senior cat passed away in 2018 at the age of 17, we knew the time was right to start fostering. We already had two other cats and a dog, so weren’t ready to adopt, but wanted to help out animals in another way. I looked at volunteering with our local animal shelter, but couldn’t make the hours work with our schedule, so fostering was the next best thing.

We foster through Animal Welfare League Queensland, which is a network of shelters run by the Coty Council. We chose to foster through them as they provide good support for foster carers. Also, it’s the shelter from which we adopted one of our cats and our dog, so we were already familiar with their work.

WF: How did you decide on what kind of animal to foster?

CR: Our family decided that we wanted to foster kittens, mainly because the shelter we foster from usually only sends kittens for foster in pairs or multiples. That was our failsafe, to prevent us from adopting the first animal that came into our care! 

And because we own our own home (or at least our own mortgage), it was easier for us to decide to foster. We had a spare bedroom that we use as an office, and it was the perfect space for foster kittens. So far, the kittens we have fostered have stayed with us on average from three weeks to a month. Our first two foster kittens, Annie and Ernie, were gorgeous little gingers. It was like our old cat had sent us a gift because he too was a beautiful ginger boy.

Annie and Ernie

WF: What was the most number of fosters you’ve taken in at one time and how was that experience for you?

CR: So far, the most we have fostered at once was three kittens—two from one litter and a single. This meant that we had five cats in the house! It was a busy but rewarding time, watching the kittens play and grow together. 

I would be cautious about having more than three at a time though, and normally we only have two—it’s important to know your limits.

WF: What do you love most about fostering kittens?

CR: I really enjoy watching the kittens’ individual personalities develop over the time they spend with us. They also bring a lot of energy and fun to the household.

One of the fun bits of fostering is when you get to name the kittens. Our favourite so far was Professor Meow-Gonagal, so named because he looked just like the Harry Potter character in her cat form.

First day and last day pics of Professor Meowgonagal and Jinx

WF: What are some of the fostering problems that you’ve encountered so far?

CR: The financial costs that can arise can sometimes be challenging. Although the shelter that we foster through technically provides all that we need, there are times when you are caught short or can’t get to the shelter to replenish supplies and end up covering the cost yourself. 

Also, unexpected illness in the foster kittens can mean that you’ll find yourself required to spend more time administering medications for a particular time period. For instance, the kitten we are currently fostering requires syringe feeding due to mouth ulcers. While it’s super cute, it does take an extra chunk out of the day making sure he’s fed and watered throughout the day, gaining weight, and more.

WF: When it’s time to give away the foster, how easy or difficult is it for you?

CR: The first time we had to return our fosters to the shelter was really difficult and there were a few tears all around. To be honest, I always check the shelter’s adoption website to see when they go up for adoption and have seriously considered dashing back to adopt some of our babies! Luckily though, all the kittens we have fostered have been adopted very quickly, so we know that they are in their forever homes, even though we do miss them. Also, we foster quite regularly, so it eases the blow a bit when you’ve got a new set of babies to care for.

WF: Aside from fostering animals, you mentioned that you have your own pets. Could you talk more about them? How do they feel about you bringing in other foster animals?

CR: We have two adult cats and an adult dog. Our first cat is 10 years old. We found her when she was just a kitten, abandoned by the side of the road and riddled with fleas and ringworm.

Our second cat was adopted from the shelter we foster from in 2017. She is an ex-mama cat who had six of her own kittens and fostered three others while in the shelter. She loves having the kittens around and often gets involved in wrestling and chasing games with them, as well as teaching them bite inhibition. 

Meanwhile, our dog—a lab/mastiff cross—ADORES the kittens and wants nothing more than to sniff and snuggle them. The kittens have had varying responses to this giant animal pushing her nose into their faces, but they have all come to an agreement of civility so far.

Our adopted cat Sooty and foster baby JuJuBerry

WF: How has your life changed after fostering animals?

CR: Our lives feel a lot happier since we’ve started fostering. It’s a nice feeling to have kittens around the house, playing and generally being cute.

WF: What’s the best tip you can give for first-time foster parents? 

CR: I’d say prepare yourself for the goodbye, knowing that your time fostering has made this animal infinitely more adoptable and will in turn allow for other animals to have a shot at adoption. Aside from that, I would say to be aware of your limitations, be they emotional, physical, or financial. While it may seem like the right thing to say yes every time you are offered an animal for foster care, consider how that specific foster situation will impact your life and say no if you don’t think you’re the best person for that particular job.

WF: Why would you personally encourage people to foster and adopt animals?

CR: Adopting animals is definitely the way to go! It gives animals who have, through no fault of their own, found themselves without a human to love them, a second (or first!) chance at a loving home. Also, there are some real characters amongst adult animals up for adoption, and you may just find you share a few quirks. If you are able to do it, fostering can be very rewarding and fun. If you are thinking about it, I would encourage you to give it a try, provided you have the means and time to devote to it.

Foster kittens Brian and Bosley. Bosley has this uncanny ability to “smile” almost every time I took his photo.

Follow the adventures of Cheryl and her foster kittens on Instagram.

Do you know of an interesting pet fostering story? Share your suggestion with us by commenting below!

Pet Adoption Tails: Kris Katalbas-Hagamann and Luna Bubbles

Beautiful tabby Luna Bubbles came into Kris Katalbas-Hagamann’s life at the purr-fect time. The 34-year-old market research professional who moved to Sydney, Australia from Manila, Philippines fell in love with the kitten instantly after she and her husband came across Luna’s photo online. Together for over 14 months, Kris shares how adopting the 18-month-old domestic Read More...

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Kris and Luna Bubbles

Beautiful tabby Luna Bubbles came into Kris Katalbas-Hagamann’s life at the purr-fect time. The 34-year-old market research professional who moved to Sydney, Australia from Manila, Philippines fell in love with the kitten instantly after she and her husband came across Luna’s photo online. Together for over 14 months, Kris shares how adopting the 18-month-old domestic short-haired cat has changed her life for the better.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did you come to adopt Luna Bubbles?

Kris Katalbas-Hagamann (KKH): I thought I was a dog person because we had a family dog back in the Philippines. Moving to Sydney and just recently married, I wanted to adopt a pet with my husband. Since we were living in a small apartment and both with full-time jobs, we felt like it was easier to care for cats because they’re low maintenance. 

We decided early on to adopt a rescue instead of buying from a breeder. We looked at pet shelter websites to find a kitten to adopt, but none of them felt right. I told myself that I will know deep in my gut if the kitten I see is right for us. Eventually, my husband Zig came across a post putting up a litter of five newborn kittens and their mum up for adoption. They were abandoned on the side of a road on New Year’s Eve, and the person that found them initially brought them to a pound but was turned them away because it was already at capacity. Thankfully, they knew someone who fosters kittens, and she was the one who posted about it. In the post, I saw a tiny kitten with her grey fur all over the place and the biggest sad eyes. I knew right then and there that I was bringing home that kitten.

We initially planned on calling our future kitten Bubbles because it’s such a cute name. But when we were told that she was named Luna, we felt it was the right fit. So we gave her two names instead.

Luna Bubbles a few days after she was found; all grown up at eight months old

WF: Before Luna Bubbles, did you have any previous experience with adopting animals?

KKH: This is the first pet that I personally adopted, let alone rescued, and this will not be the last. Since adopting Luna, I now have a heightened awareness about rescue animals. It’s so sad to see dog and cat pounds just filled to the rafters that they have to reject more rescues and even put down some of them just to make some room. It’s horrible.

WF: What were the challenges that came with adopting her?

KKH: The only major challenge we had was our apartment. Pets were not allowed in our apartment, which is quite common in Sydney, but we adopted Luna anyway. It was stressful when our property managers would do their monthly inspections because we had to be creative in booking the inspection time, finding a way to sneak Luna out of the apartment, and making sure we hid all her things (including her toys, cat tower, and litter!). That went on for about six months before we had enough. Thankfully we’ve moved out of that flat and into a pet-friendly apartment where Luna is finally a legal resident. 

Another challenge is her bad habit of scratching the furniture with the couch being the worst casualty of them all. It’s all torn and tattered on the sides because Luna decided to use it as a secondary scratching post. As one of my friends and fellow cat mum says, “Cat owners can’t have nice things.”

WF: Now that you’ve been together for over a year, are there any anecdotes you can share about Luna Bubbles?

KKH: One of the first toys we bought for Luna was one of those string on a stick toys which had a blue sparkly rat at the end of it. We called it Mister Ratty. Luna absolutely went bananas for it when she first saw it, and her eyes would go big whenever we brought it out for playtime. Because she likes to grab, pull, or bite it, she would end up damaging the toy in some way. We’ve already went through five of these and we always have to buy a new one because we could tell it’s her favourite. We bought new toys of a similar kind, but we could never get the same level of excitement from her.

Luna Bubbles and her favorite sparkly toy

WF: What are some pet parenting tips you can share with first-time animal owners?

KKH: 1) Do a lot of research and be prepared for this responsibility. You are literally responsible for your pet’s life, so make sure you have the capability to take on a pet. Reach out to other pet owners and do not hesitate to ask questions. I am so lucky that Luna’s foster mum was so patient with all my questions. She even sent me a long document outlining dos and don’ts in taking care of a cat. 

2) Get ready for a long-term commitment. Cats are low maintenance, but we still need to take care of them for the rest of their lives. That includes daily feeding, daily cleaning of the litter, and daily playtime, regular vaccinations, vet trips, etc. You need to have the capacity to do all of these on a regular basis. It seems daunting at first, and will take some adjustment in the first three to six months, but you’ll get used to it. 

3) It’s best to adopt cats when they’re at least 12 weeks old, especially if this is your first time. A responsible shelter would insist on this anyway. By then, they would’ve had their first round of vaccinations, dewormed, desexed, litter trained, and can eat “normal” cat food.

WF: What’s your advice for people thinking of adopting a rescue animal?

KKH: Do it! In Australia, animal shelters are the first place you can look. Ask if the cat you are adopting is vaccinated, dewormed, and desexed, otherwise you will have to get this done yourself.

WF: How has your life changed after adopting a pet?

KKH: I always tell people that Luna saved me in so many ways. Before Luna, I really got into a dark place with a high pressure job, the discomfort of living in a foreign country, and other personal issues. Since Luna entered our lives, my stress and anxiety levels decreased significantly. My husband said my overall disposition changed since we adopted Luna and I’m just a lot happier.

Everyone should absolutely adopt a pet! It will change your life. There are so many pets that need your love and home, and I promise they will give back the love tenfold. These pets will change your life for the better.

Striking a paws with Daddy Zig

Follow the adventures of Luna Bubbles on Instagram.

Do you know of an interesting pet adoption story? Share your suggestion with us by commenting below!

Pet Adoption Tails: Cybele Manlapaz and Kelly

Cybele Manlapaz has a soft spot for senior dogs. When the animal lover and co-owner of Canine Chow PH heard about a full-grown female Golden Retriever needing a new place to call home, she stepped in to help… not knowing her family would be the one to take in this easily excitable creature. Waldo’s Friends Read More...

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Nelson, Alessa, and Cybele take a walk with Tony and Kelly

Cybele Manlapaz has a soft spot for senior dogs. When the animal lover and co-owner of Canine Chow PH heard about a full-grown female Golden Retriever needing a new place to call home, she stepped in to help… not knowing her family would be the one to take in this easily excitable creature.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): Could you tell us the story of how Kelly came into your life?

Cybele Manlapaz (CM): Kelly’s story actually began in 2016. A cousin reached out asking if I knew anyone who would want to adopt an eight- year-old Golden Retriever. I offered to help her find a good match, so she set up a group chat that included the owner. I sent out feelers to different people then no longer heard from the owner. I assumed that he had found Kelly a home.

Two and a half years later , the same group chat became active again. This time, the need was more urgent because her parents were downsizing homes and relocating to a property that didn’t allow dogs. I can’t explain why, but this time around, I was more interested in Kelly. She was 10 years old then. I was so worried that no one would want to take in a senior dog.

I carefully selected personal friends who were responsible dog parents, and thought to myself, “They can’t give Kelly to just anyone because she’s old already.” When a friend asked if Kelly was still up for adoption, I remember feeling angry and jealous. That’s when I knew that I wanted her. I asked my husband, “What do you think? Can we get her?” With a serious face, he said to me, “Are you sure?” He knows my history with dogs; I had grieved for over 15 years over my last one.  

I also consulted with my dog teacher and trainer, Brad Feliciano of BetterDog Canine Behavior Center, to assess if Kelly would be a good fit for our family and our eight-year-old male golden retriever (Tony). During our visit in Kelly’s home, we noticed that her current caregivers were a wee bit too old to run after their feisty pet. Despite her playfulness, Kelly wasn’t in tiptop shape. She had an infected mass on her back that was leaking pus. She also had rashes and crusty wounds on her underside. And looking back, she had a weird gait. Despite my “better” judgment, we brought her home the next day.

WF: What were her first few days with you like?

CM: Boy, what a first day it was! She was terrified of the car and kept trying to escape from the rear compartment. When she got home, she was stress peeing everywhere.  

She and Tony seemed okay at the start, but that slowly went downhill after a day or two. My teacher/trainer rightly noticed during our assessment that she displayed signs of possessiveness. She would grab Tony’s toys from him. If she had a toy and Tony would walk by, she would bark and growl at him. If we tried to take anything from her, she would scurry away to a corner and growl at whoever came near her. After four days of this, my teacher/trainer came over and taught us how to train and manage her.

Then, we attended to her health issues. My daughter and I took her to our trusted veterinary clinic, Mount Sinai. Doc Racky, who has been our vet since 2014, ran almost every test in their clinic. Miraculously, she didn’t test positive for anything despite not being vaccinated or being on any tick and flea preventatives. But he was concerned about the mass on her back; it was about 2” to 3” in diameter, hot to the touch, and oozing pus in three places. He recommended surgery and biopsy.

The surgery was a success and she recovered well. Unfortunately, we received the biopsy results two weeks later: She was positive for squamous cell carcinoma, a malignant skin cancer. We’re hoping that the removal of the tumor will delay recurrence for years to come. For now, we will monitor her blood work and do semi-annual checkups.

Kelly’s progress (from left to right): September when we first got her, October after her surgery, and January after eating her dinner. Tony and Kelly with their vet, Doc Racky.

Nine months later and things are great. She has been to an off-leash dog park, gone hiking, went swimming in a wave pool, and been to the beach. She is fully integrated into our family. It took them a while, but things are great between Tony and Kelly now. She’s the older one but defers to him when we’re out and about, not wanting to be too far from him. She likes to nap beside him, following him around the house. Thankfully, Tony doesn’t mind.

WF: Now that you’ve had Kelly with you for months, what would you say are her funny or interesting quirks?

CM: Kelly is a small Golden Retriever with a big personality. She snores like a bullfrog. She’s very food driven, more so than Tony whom we thought was the “hungriest” of all dogs ever. She thinks that plain lettuce is a treat! She’s also a retriever on land but not in the water, while Tony isn’t on land but definitely one in the water.

Kelly at the beach

WF: Did you have any previous pet adoption experience before Kelly?

CM: Kelly was the first dog I adopted. My inexperience was daunting; it took me two weeks to decide if we would take her or not. I was worried that we weren’t physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally capable of caring for a senior dog. BUT, knowing I had a support system helped. We had our training school and our teacher. I had friends with experience caring for senior dogs. My husband understood and was willing. I had complete trust in our vet. It all came together in the end.

I wasn’t really interested in adopting before. Many have offered but I always declined because I felt that my family and I weren’t ready. Did we really want to change our lifestyle? Will we be able to work with and train two dogs? How will we go on holidays? Can we afford two dogs? Will we be ready to care for an ailing dog who one day will lose control of his bowel movements? Will we be ready to make the ultimate decision when the time comes?

However, I’ve always had a soft spot for senior dogs. When puppies or young juveniles are put up for adoption, everybody steps up to the plate. But when it’s a senior dog, volunteers are scarce.

WF: How has your life changed after adopting Kelly?

CM: It has taught me patience and understanding. Kelly came into our lives with a set personality; we had to make some training and management adjustments to create a lifestyle and environment that worked for all of us in the family. Tony is free roaming around the house, even at night. Kelly, being a bit more curious and excitable, is crated at bedtime.

WF: Why would you personally encourage adopting animals?

CM: I understand that it isn’t for everyone. But if given the chance to care for a dog that needs it, then by all means, do it. Just ensure that aside from love, you have the resources (finances, time, physical space, etc.) to bring a living being into your home. Any animal that you adopt is 100% dependent on you for EVERYTHING.

WF: What’s the best pet parenting tip you can give for first-time animal owners and to pet parents who have multiple pets?

CM: If you can get a professional to help you assess the litter, get one. You’ll need to find the perfect match to your family’s lifestyle, environment, resources, etc. It is heartbreaking to hear of people having their dog adopted because they didn’t realize the amount of work it takes to raise a puppy.

Also, know your pet’s breed. Research, research, research. If you don’t care about the animal’s breed, then consider adopting.

Lastly, when integrating new pets into a multiple pet household, introduce them in a neutral space. Again, this is where a professional trainer and/or behaviorist can help.

WF: What’s your advice for people thinking of adopting a rescue animal? Why should they consider senior dogs?

CM: Senior dogs are often overlooked but they provide a number of benefits: their personalities are more or less set so you can adjust your training and management regimen. They’re already potty trained (hopefully!).

Seniors are perfect for families with a more laid-back lifestyle like ours. We enjoy vegetating in front of the TV while the dogs happily nap on the floor beside us. They’re just as sweet, loving, and fun as puppies.

WF: Was your home-cooked dog food business Canine Chow PH something that was inspired by your pets?

CM: Canine Chow PH is a passion project that became a business. My business partner, Jed Mesina, and I are big advocates of providing fresh food for our pets. Common sense told us that the more fresh and whole food we could provide, the more health benefits there were. True enough, all four of our dogs are doing well with great annual physical exam results despite their ages. (Tuco is the youngest at five while the others are eight years old and older.)

We figured there were like-minded people out there who thought that fresh is better and we thought to ourselves, let’s make it easy for people to give real good food to their dogs (and the occasional cat, haha!).

Tony and Kelly: The photos also show Kelly’s transformation from September 2018 to February 2019 after a cold turkey switch from kibble to 100% homemade diet with almost zero carbs.

Follow the adventures of Kelly and Tony at https://www.instagram.com/tony_kelly_and_alessa/.

Do you know of an interesting pet adoption story? Share your suggestion with us by commenting below!

Pet Adoption Tails: Cheryl Carpio and Saturdae

Cheryl Carpio first came across Saturdae when he still belonged to her neighbours. She felt compelled to foster the Shih Tzu after seeing him living in the garage, contained in a small cage day in and day out. Three years later, the temporary arrangement has become a paw-manent one with seven-year-old Saturdae finding a loving Read More...

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Saturdae with Cheryl

Cheryl Carpio first came across Saturdae when he still belonged to her neighbours. She felt compelled to foster the Shih Tzu after seeing him living in the garage, contained in a small cage day in and day out. Three years later, the temporary arrangement has become a paw-manent one with seven-year-old Saturdae finding a loving home with Cheryl and her other pet, BMO.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): Could you share Saturdae’s adoption story?

Cheryl Carpio (CC): Saturdae is my first pet adoption but my third pet. I used to be afraid of dogs, but since I got a Yorkie 10 years ago, I have been a hopeless dog lover.

Saturdae used to be a neighbour’s pet. Unfortunately, the neighbour experienced difficult times and could not care for their dogs anymore. Saturdae was left alone in a small cage in their garage. The thought of him being in a cage 24/7 exposed to the heat and the rain just didn’t sit well with me. I offered to foster him until his owners could care for him, but after some time, that temporary arrangement turned into permanent placement.

WF: How was Saturdae’s first few weeks at home?

CC: When I first got Saturdae, I wasn’t sure how to bring him to the family home as we already had two dogs. A good friend of mine agreed to foster him for a few weeks to familiarize Saturdae to a home environment.

At first, my two other dogs (both male) didn’t agree to Saturdae’s invasion of their territories. It was a good thing that Saturdae is a naturally relaxed dog, so he would avoid getting into fights. After a few weeks, my dogs learned to tolerate him and I would catch them playing with each other. But they would still have the occasional territorial spat now and then.

I also gave Saturdae his own toys so he would not need to “steal” the others’ toys. He also had his own bed and bowl. I think it helped that Saturdae had his own belongings and space in the house so he wouldn’t feel insecure. I also make sure I allocate the same amount of time for each dog.

WF: Now that Saturdae has been living with you for years, has he exhibited any funny quirks?

CC: Saturdae is protective of my laundry. No one but me is allowed to handle my dirty clothes as he would jump on top of them and growl. He is also addicted to the air conditioner. He refuses to go to sleep and would stare at you for hours until the air conditioner is switched on.

WF: How has your life changed after adopting Saturdae?

CC: As they say, my house would be clean, my wallet would be full, but without pets, my heart would be empty. Animals are some of the purest beings on earth. They don’t really deserve us humans. Sharing our homes with them and giving them the love they deserve make us better people.

WF: What’s your advice for people thinking of adopting a rescue animal?

CC: Just be well informed to manage expectations.

WF: What’s the best tip you can give for first-time animal owners?

CC: In some ways, they are just like human kids, albeit more independent. Make sure to research on what to expect when you take your pet home. There are lots of articles and resources on the Internet that will help you. Canine Chow PH and Dr. Karen Becker helped me with pet nutrition, while Summer & Bailey and Judgejudylim gave me some tips on dog training. A documentary film, Pet Fooled, is a must-see for all pet owners. [You can watch the trailer here.] It made me totally change my pets’ food.

Aside from these, setting up an Instagram account for your pet might also help you meet other people who love animals as well.

Paw siblings Saturdae and BMO

Do you know of an interesting pet adoption story? Share your suggestion with us by commenting below!

Pet Adoption Tails: Luna Valkyrie and Aurora

Twenty-year-old Luna Valkyrie grew up in a home surrounded by cats. Three years ago, the costume design student and nanny babysat Aurora for a friend, fell in love with the kitten, and eventually adopted her for good. This is their story. Waldo’s Friends (WF): Do you remember the first cat you ever owned? Luna Valkyrie Read More...

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Luna and Aurora

Twenty-year-old Luna Valkyrie grew up in a home surrounded by cats. Three years ago, the costume design student and nanny babysat Aurora for a friend, fell in love with the kitten, and eventually adopted her for good. This is their story.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): Do you remember the first cat you ever owned?

Luna Valkyrie (LV): My family has had many cats at a time. Almost 10 years ago, I got Mika who I believe was purchased from a small family breeder. It turned out to be a cat farm with horrific conditions. Mika had bowed legs and was terrified of everything. Now, even though she’s a grumble bum, she is in perfect health and not scared of anything. Since Mika, we have only adopted rescues.
 
I live away from home now but between me and my mom, we currently have six living and breathing cats. Over the years, the only real problem we have ever had with adopting them is that it’s always difficult to introduce someone new since there’s an established hierarchy.

WF: How did Aurora come to live with you?

LV: One of my closest friends got out of a horrible, abusive long-term relationship. The woman had a full psychotic break and said she couldn’t look after Aurora, so he could either pick her up in 24 hours or she would put her on a gum tree. He was unable to take her as he moved back to his parents’ home. Things were also getting aggressive toward Aurora from the other pets, so he called me and I got her immediately.
 
Initially, it was going to be me babysitting Aurora temporarily, but she loved home with me, so we signed over papers. I’m still great friends with her “baby daddy,” as I joke to him.

WF: What do you love most about Aurora?

LV: Aurora is the sweetest thing. She always cuddles and kneads you like she’s making bread. She would do it for hours if you let her! She also must walk over your book, tablet, or phone that you’re using at all times. 
 
But my favourite thing about her is that she’s obsessed with Game of Thrones! Ever since I started watching it, she would look at the screen the whole time. Once or twice when I started an episode without her, she heard the theme song, ran into my room, and yelled until I put it back to the start. Sounds like a lie but it’s true!

Luna striking a paws and watching Game of Thrones

WF: As a long-time cat mom and pet adoption advocate, what’s your advice to people who are adopting animals?

LV: Be patient, don’t panic, do your research, and develop a good relationship with a reputable vet. When arriving in a new home, give your adopted animal some space. Let him come to you. Lastly, definitely consider adopting an adult animal. You will know their temperament and health history much better than that of a kitten’s. Plus, there is a really smaller rate of adult cats being adopted, which is so sad.

WF: Why should people adopt not shop?

LV: Adopting animals and changing their lives for the better changes your life for the better, too. It’s immense love in both directions. Plus, knowing you made a real difference is so good. 

Do you know of an interesting pet adoption story? Share your suggestion with us by commenting below!

Pet Adoption Tails: Pierra Labrador and Dapoleon

Four years ago, writer and stylist Pierra Labrador was already a proud paw-rent of three cats. But when an abandoned black kitten was literally dropped into her home, she couldn’t resist adding him to her fur family. Pierra shares the delightful story of Dapoleon, the youngest of her brood. Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did first Read More...

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Pierra with her cat crew: Floombert, Dapoleon, Tsubasa, and Fredly

Four years ago, writer and stylist Pierra Labrador was already a proud paw-rent of three cats. But when an abandoned black kitten was literally dropped into her home, she couldn’t resist adding him to her fur family. Pierra shares the delightful story of Dapoleon, the youngest of her brood.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did first come across Dapoleon?

Pierra Labrador (PL): You know how they say that street cats nurse their kittens until they’re old enough and then leave them to fend for themselves? I witnessed this firsthand when a stray cat gave birth on our roof! I felt like Cinderella, except instead of birds singing, I would wake up to kitten meowing every morning.

For three months, I watched the Mama Cat clamber onto the roof every day to nurse, groom, snuggle, and play with her three kittens. Then one day (I guess when she figured they were old enough to eat on their own), she dropped them over the side of the roof and into our pocket garden. The thing is, we already had too many cats of our own, so when she dropped the first two into the garden, I took them outside and parked them where Mama Cat usually hung out, with the foolish intention of reuniting them. But before I knew it, a speeding neighbour ran over them. It was heartbreaking.

So when Mama Cat dropped her third and final kitten into our garden, we decided we had to keep him—safe from the hit-and-run fate of his siblings. His Mama disappeared after a while, but I think she is happy knowing her son has a home with us. And that is the story of how Dapoleon came into our lives.

WF: Before Dapoleon, did you have any previous experience with adopting animals?

PL: I come from a family of pusong mamon (soft-hearted people) when it comes to cats. My sister Michelle was so fond of taking home orphaned kitties that our neighbours had started to leave cats by our gate. When we still lived with our parents, we had about 30 cats living with us at one point! It was a mad but glorious time.

WF: What were the challenges that came with adopting Dapoleon?

PL: In my current home with my husband Toto, the first challenge was getting him to accept living with a cat. It took a while, but he’s been converted to the cat side. Next was getting the older “kids” to accept every new arrival. It’s especially tough with the males because they pee all over the house to mark their territory. Oh, and breaking up catfights can get really scary and leave everyone with serious scratches (humans included).

Since Dapoleon was literally raised on the roof, he entered our home riddled with fleas that Toto and I picked off ourselves, lest he contaminate everyone else. (We also took him to the vet for a thorough check-up.) Also, maybe because Dapoleon arrived as a baby, the other cats weren’t threatened by him, so he’s pretty much the mayor of this home and is the only one that gets along with all the other cats in the family.

Dapoleon is playful, friendly, and sweet, but scares off the guests with his claws that he’s never learned to retract. But he also somehow takes care not to scratch anyone with them.

Dapoleon’s first few days at home: the exact moment he was dropped into our pocket garden; his first bath; already feeling at home with older brother Floombert

WF: Why would you personally encourage people to adopt animals?

PL: Because they bring so much joy to a household. It’s extra heartwarming when you know you’re providing a good, loving home for someone in need.

My furballs have taught me how to be a more loving, patient, and kind human. I’ve also learned to let go of my attachment to material things (which will eventually get scratched/knocked over/peed on), but that’s a small price to pay for the joy and wonder they bring to our lives. And on days when I’m particularly tired/upset/miserable, there’s nothing like the feeling of a cat climbing onto my lap to purr my stress away—I swear, they understand us.

WF: What’s the best pet parenting tip you can give for first-time animal owners?

PL: With great paw-wer comes great responsibility. Be ready for it. Haha! Seriously though, the household needs to discuss and agree on who is responsible for your new adoptee—from feeding, grooming, vet visits, and paying for supplies, to scooping up the poop.

Jiji, is that you? (Kiki’s Delivery Service); Dapoleon leading the pack to knock on the paw-rents door for breakfast

Follow the adventures of Dapoleon and his furry family at https://www.instagram.com/floombert_and_friends/.

Do you know of an interesting pet adoption story? Share your suggestion with us by commenting below!

Pet Adoption Tails: Angela Sy and Popo

Shanghai-based Angela Sy always thought she was a dog person until she fostered a bullied cat named Floki. Five years later, she is the proud paw-rent of two cats, Popo (a mixed breed) and Tofu (an American shorthair), and continues to rescue other strays in need of new homes. Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did you Read More...

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Popo

Shanghai-based Angela Sy always thought she was a dog person until she fostered a bullied cat named Floki. Five years later, she is the proud paw-rent of two cats, Popo (a mixed breed) and Tofu (an American shorthair), and continues to rescue other strays in need of new homes.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): How did you first come across Popo?

Angela Sy (AS): Popo was one of the street cats who lived in Longhua Temple in Shanghai. My friend Jasmine rescued him because she thought he was pregnant. Turns out, he was just fat from all the sweets and unhealthy food he was given by temple visitors.
 
Popo was called Floki back then. He stayed at Jasmine’s house, but her other rescues bullied him so he had to stay in a cage all day. He became very depressed. Jasmine brought Floki to adoption days for JAR (an animal rescue organisation I was volunteering for back then) and asked me if I could foster him for a few months, just so he could get out of his cage.
 
I’ve always been a dog person. I didn’t know how to live with cats. I just said yes ‘cause I was too shy to say no. Plus, I was living by myself so I thought, “Why not?” Eventually, I fell in love with him and officially adopted him. I’m basically a foster fail.

WF: Did you experience any problems when you first adopted Popo?

AS: Honestly, none at all. Cats are easy. Popo is a sweetheart and everyone who meets him loves him. Even my mom who said she hates cats now take naps with Popo.

My only hardship was introducing Tofu to Popo. We found Tofu roaming around a friend’s compound. He had been living outside for around three weeks, and was very friendly to people, so obviously he had an owner. We tried looking for his owner, printed posters, talked to building guards. We couldn’t find his owner, so in the end, I took him in.

To this day Popo and Tofu still have the odd scrap, and while they will never be cuddly to each other, I know they miss each other when I take Tofu to the office.

Tofu hard at work

WF: Could you talk more about your unique office set-up?

AS: Our office allows us to bring pets, so sometimes, we all bring our rescues in. It’s a ton of fun, but no one gets any work done. The office has a lot of cat ladies. When we find lost or injured animals, we bring them back to the office and try to find them homes. Eventually, a colleague will come play with the animal and then fall in love and want to adopt it.

We have a new young colleague who recently joined the company, and she and her boyfriend ended up adopting two kittens that we found abandoned by their family. Currently, our meeting room has a total of four kittens, and when we get stressed we just pop in there and get cuddle time with Kimchi, Riceball, Dango, and Nori.

Rescue kittens at the office

WF: Why would you personally encourage adopting animals instead of buying them?

AS: Because most animals sold at pet shops are purposely bred, and their breeding mothers locked up in cages, in pain, ill, malnourished, and forced to give birth over and over again until they die. My friend once rescued a purebred toy poodle who was blind, skin and bones, covered in mange, and staggering under a bridge in the trash. When they found her, she had just given birth a few weeks ago. The vet said she must have given birth several times already at her young age.

Another friend bought a Shiba puppy for 3,500 RMB. Turns out, she had parvo and died within three weeks. Meanwhile, my colleague bought a black kitten from a pet shop which fell sick after a few days and died within a week. I’m not saying all pet stores are fraudulent, but in China, it is a well-known practice to drug sickly animals and sell them off before they die.

WF: Any advice for people thinking of welcoming a rescue animal into their home?

AS: Do it. Rescue pets love you harder because they know what it’s like to be without a home. My adult rescues are so sweet, cuddly, and grateful for having a safe home.

WF: How has adopting your cats changed your life?

AS: I’ve definitely liked staying home more often. Sometimes I’m conscious about how late it is or how long I’ve been out, and want to rush home to feed and cuddle my boys who I know are waiting for me.

Living in China was all the push I needed to start rescuing animals. Popo started me on the path of pet rescue, just because I met so many other rescuers from the organisation. Lots of pets get abandoned for a multitude of reasons (i.e. a family member falls pregnant and they think pets are unhealthy for babies; a dog barks too much; a cat scratches; a cat is in heat) and if they are young, the winter time could be deadly for them. I try not to adopt too many of my rescues. Instead, I make it a point to find them homes because I tell myself I will always need the extra space in my home for the next rescue I find.

Adopted cats Tofu and Pop

Follow the adventures of Floki, Popo, and their other rescue friends at http://www.instagram.com/flokipopo.

Do you know of an interesting pet adoption story? Share your suggestion with us by commenting below!

Pet Adoption Tails: Nina Segarra and James

Twenty-one-year old Nina Segarra, a makeup artist and artistry coach from Australia, shares the touching story of how James came into her family’s life at the right time. The first pet they’ve ever adopted, James is a ginger cat that was dumped and rescued near Blue Mountains, New South Wales more than five years ago. Read More...

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Twenty-one-year old Nina Segarra, a makeup artist and artistry coach from Australia, shares the touching story of how James came into her family’s life at the right time. The first pet they’ve ever adopted, James is a ginger cat that was dumped and rescued near Blue Mountains, New South Wales more than five years ago.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): Can you tell us how you came to adopt James?

Nina Segarra (NS): James’ adoption story is definitely one that represented a new beginning for our family after a period of grief. We had another cat before James—a ragdoll named Rupert. We bought him off a breeder back in 2004, when we first migrated to Australia from the Philippines.

In 2014, at the age of nine, Rupert was in and out of the vet for about six months. He was at the point where he was struggling to do his normal day-to-day activities. Eventually, his health deteriorated to the point where we had to face the choice to keep putting him through treatments to extend his life or peacefully put him to sleep. We came to the conclusion that Rupert would not have the best life as he would be in the hospital having treatments most of the time without us being around him. A day before my 17th birthday, we decided to peacefully euthanize Rupert. To this day, it has been one of the hardest decisions my brothers and I had to make. He was a huge part of our family and I am sure many people would say the same about their beloved pet.  

Our house felt so empty after Rupert passed away. Eventually, after a period of grieving, my brothers and I decided to adopt online instead of going through a breeder. Whilst looking at PetRescue (an adoption website we had been going through for days), we came across James’ profile and his photos. We fell in love with him right there and then, so we contacted the rescue centre. They arranged for him to be brought to our house after we did all the paperwork online and on the phone.

The rescue centre told us that James was the only one out of his litter to survive as he was rescued along with his siblings near the mountains. Turns out, his litter was dumped in the mountains along with their mother. His original name was actually Tangerine, but we ended up naming him James after a band that sang the song, “Moving On.” It was a song that my brothers and I had on repeat after Rupert died since it was about the death of a loved one and celebrating the life they lived. Eventually, James came to our house and he’s been with us ever since!

WF: What made you decide to adopt a pet?

NS: We decided to adopt a pet because we realised there are so many animals that need loving homes in this world. Just like James, a lot of them come from difficult beginnings and they deserve to have a loving home with a family to take care of them for the rest of their lives. Not only that, but thousands of animals are left in pounds or shelters every single year. Many of them are put down without ever having the experience of being loved and cared for.

Personally, I can never go back to purchasing from a breeder. After rescuing James, he has brought so much love and happiness to my life that I cannot imagine my life without him around. The fact that he has been so resilient and is still open to loving a human despite the difficulties he has faced at the beginning of his life is so amazing.

WF: Were there any challenges that came with adopting James?

NS: We had no problems with adopting him, but he did have a hard time adjusting to our tiled floors at home. He wasn’t used to it and kept slipping around, but eventually, he found his grip. The same day he came to us, he spent about an hour or two hiding, but he eventually came out and wanted to know who we were. It probably helped that we lured him out with raw meat though. Haha!

When James first came to us, he actually smelt like a small dog. It turned out he lived with dogs at his rescue centre since he was a kitten. We believe he thinks he’s a dog. He has many characteristics that are exceptionally unusual for a cat, like the fact that he is very forward with his affection and is incredibly needy. He needs to constantly be around people, and if you call him from a distance, he will come running to you. He also doesn’t like to clean himself as much as other cats do and leaves a trail of mess wherever he goes. He also enjoys being cuddled and held like a baby.

WF: What’s the best pet parenting tip you can give for first-time animal owners?

NS: Have a lot of patience. Just like how we cope with change, your pet will also need to learn how to cope with it. It’s not easy getting used to new owners and new surroundings. Surround them with so much love and encouragement.

WF: What’s your advice for people thinking of adopting a rescue animal?

NS: Be aware of your adopted pet’s history as many of them come from difficult and sometimes very sad backgrounds. Some of them come from the streets or have been abused at the hands of their previous owners. Some pets will require more patience and care than others, but ultimately, it is one of the most fulfilling things one can experience.

Rescue pets are the most forgiving, trusting, and loving beings out there! They do not see flaws the way we do and for them to still love you despite everything they may have experienced is honestly unparalleled.

James at play

Do you know of an interesting pet adoption story? Share your suggestion with us by commenting below!

Interview: Steve Veigel from atcharlie

I first came across atcharlie while searching online for animal rescue supporters who aren’t affiliated with any shelter, clinic or hospital – but support the ecosystem through communities and awareness; someone who does it for the love and compassion above and beyond a vocation or business-for-profit. When I found the website, I was excited to Read More...

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Steve with his daughter’s dog: Parker.

I first came across atcharlie while searching online for animal rescue supporters who aren’t affiliated with any shelter, clinic or hospital – but support the ecosystem through communities and awareness; someone who does it for the love and compassion above and beyond a vocation or business-for-profit. When I found the website, I was excited to see that Steve was doing what I planned to do – share resources and profiles of animal shelters doing great work. I wrote to him with information about Waldo’s Friends, and – as any good website content builder would – requested a backlink for a rescue dog adoption guide. Several emails and a wonderful shoutout to Waldo’s Friends later, I realised that I had found a mentor and kindred spirit. I hope this interview gives you a peak into his ideas and work for saving abandoned animals, and spreads his unrelenting message of love at all costs.

Waldo’s Friends (WF): All your articles about rescue shelters are detailed and evocative. They encapsulate each rescue’s specific experiences, while putting things within context of the world at large (such as how BROOD began with the backdrop of tech in 1996). Particularly poignant are your descriptions of the people behind these rescues (like the amazing dog man of Wedowee) and their communities (as in the case of the Lonesome Dove Rescue). Could you tell us about your first article about a rescue, and how it affected your future articles?

Steven Veigel (SV): I always understood people trying to start a business. Like anything else, a rescue is dealing with competition. Competition for donations to survive as an organization. But with a rescue it’s not just about the business end you have to consider. It’s looking at animals, looking back at you, who cannot survive without you. It’s about their food, shelter, and medical care. It’s like caring for little children.

My first attempt at an article was actually “Hope for Life” in 2013. Pauline Cushman ran a rescue for cats and dogs in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The building was divided into two areas. One was Hope Center where she cared for abandoned animals, and Hope’s Garden Resort Boutique where dogs with owners were groomed and kenneled. The Boutique then gave her additional funds for the Hope Center.

I had just started my website with a few listings and Charlie’s story. I think I had about 40 visitors to my site (now over a million per year) and I had no idea how to interview people. But “Hope for Life” is where we got Sammy. Sammy was a dog we knew had cancer (mentioned at the beginning of Charlie’s story), so if you want to get started, go where you know and learn how to ask questions.

Pauline had never met me but knew we adopted Sammy. That at least gave us something in common to talk about. When I arrived, she was cordial but a little suspicious. What I didn’t know was that she previously had some people nosing around. She thought they were there to adopt an animal, but they weren’t. They were just poking around in her business. But despite any concerns about my true intention, she let volunteers give me a tour, spoke with me about the animal control facilities she rescued animals from in different US states, and her efforts to get the animals adopted. I watched her handling day-to-day situations with papers all over her desk. When we finished, I walked away with a few scraps of notes and a new appreciation for the dedication it took to keep operating as a charity.

What impacted me the most was when Pauline said, “It shouldn’t be about the organization. It’s about the animals.” To this day, I continue to echo those words: “It’s about the animals.”

WF: In your articles about personal experiences with rescuing animals, you’ve mentioned adopting Charlie, then fostering and eventually adopting Smoke and Ginnie, and fostering several others. Could you tell us about your decision to foster and adopt “difficult” dogs?


SV: I had grown up around farm animals and pets, but Charlie is the dog that motivated my efforts. If you will for a moment, imagine a dog that’s so quick and agile that it takes two people to corral him in a small backyard. Then, imagine you get him in the house and he leaps on top of a closed wood roll top desk and stands there balancing himself on the curvature of the roll top. He was just confused and fearful of where he was now. He had no idea what a house meant.

Charlie’s story is not just a dog story. It’s about how I had to break down his issues into manageable categories and goals. Charlie gamed me, forced me to learn, tested me, and made me understand his emotional struggle and intellectual nature on a far deeper level than I ever had to think about.

With Charlie, we had four dogs to manage and it became my responsibility. When Charlie passed, we were motivated to foster more dogs. Our experience with fostering, and then adopting our fosters, was wonderful. We had many really sweet dogs. We had a reputation with Basset Rescue of Old Dominion (BROOD) and on our original adoption application, I selected “willing to work with difficult dogs.” So when Lisa at BROOD called asking if we could help with a special case, we did. We knowingly took dogs with aggressive cancers understanding they were only going to live one to three months. That was difficult, but we gained so much from their love it only deepened our commitment. And that brought us to Smoke and Ginnie. Two dogs that no one was going to take in, especially because they were an older bonded pair that had to be adopted together. When they arrived my wife, Jenny remarked, “Oh my, they are Charlie times two. They’re your responsibility.” They weren’t that difficult, but they did have issues.

Before Charlie, we’d have three dogs and a cat. After Charlie, we’d have four to five dogs in the house. My wife then started calling me “the dog herder.” This was not anything official. More of a title of amusement as I walked around the house with all the dogs following me and gathering wherever I was trying to work.

When I had my first knee surgery, I had to do everything with a walker, but that didn’t change the fact that I had four dogs to take care of and I was determined to do everything myself. In the beginning, a therapist would come to the house to get me started on recovery. One day she wanted to see if I could get out the back door and then back into the house properly using my walker. I not only accomplished this with the walker, I did it with the walker, a cup of coffee, and four dogs. Impressed with how I managed it all, the therapist concluded, “Well, I think we have that one covered.”

WF: What is your recommendation for people who want to follow in your steps in adopting “difficult dogs” but are hesitant due to jobs and kids?

SV: I think it’s worth noting that some things we took on did not represent a normal dog adoption. And Charlie did nip my mother-in-law in the butt. In Charlie’s defense, she wasn’t dog friendly and she did surprise us about four o’clock in the morning with a brief visit. The small hallway was dark, the dogs were barking, Charlie didn’t know her, and in our surprise, we were not paying attention to the dogs. Charlie was still new to the house, confused, and thought she might be a threat.

It’s funny now and she did not really get hurt, but it impressed me with the basic rule: Be aware of the situation and don’t put the dog in a position you know will get him in trouble. If we had just turned on the lights and got the dogs under control for a moment, Charlie never would have felt the need.

Steve and Charlie

If you want to help “difficult dogs,” understand that we’re not talking “dangerous dogs.” Difficult dogs are anxious, lacking guidance, and a bit fearful for their situation. They sometimes get labeled “dangerous” because they are unruly, like someone insisted on improperly feeding them a treat by hand and kept getting nipped. Start off by reading Charlie’s and Smoke and Ginnie’s stories. Pay attention to some subtle changes in behaviour I try to bring attention to. Learn some basic dog training, and go in with commitment. Understand you are taking responsibility for a life. They’re not a toaster you return because you don’t like the model. They’re living, feeling, sentient beings. And they are not there to protect you. You’re there to protect them.

There are literally hundreds of sweet dogs who just need a home. Rescues generally do their best to pair you with a dog that will fit your situation. Try to time your adoption when you have a couple days off so the dog can explore the house under supervision and get to know you. Don’t let small children create confusion where the dog is trying to eat. Give them a comfort zone of about six feet (two meters). Your house is already strange to them and even an established pet deserves to eat in peace. Also, don’t let small children walk around with food in their hand. Dogs are opportunistic. If they can take the cookie, depending on their previous living conditions, they might. Don’t put them in that position. And then, don’t blame the dog.

WF: Your animal rescue directory shines the light on rescue shelters. Unlike sponsored and funded organisations in animal rescue who focus almost exclusively on pet adoption listings, you focus on volunteers and organisations that run with low to no funding. Could you tell us about your decision to focus on the rescue shelters and not on animal adoption listings?

SV: I don’t really care if someone is an “established charity.” Established charities had to start somewhere and I try to note that. If someone is doing a good job trying to get pets adopted, I’m in their corner. With our throw-away societies there are just far too many animals who need our help. The only way to make a dent in the problem is to assist, advise, and encourage those who have the motivation and the dedication to take it on.

I try to bring attention to the efforts of animal rescues large and small. My articles serve two purposes. First of all, I try to invite people to learn more about animals, animal care, and the people. Second, if my article draws a reader because they’re searching for “why do dogs eat poop” (for example), maybe they’ll also notice the rescue listings while they’re on my site. Maybe they’ll be encouraged to adopt an animal and/or get involved with people in their area.

WF: You comment on the nature of volunteers, and this sentiment (mentioned in your article about BROOD) stands out: “These people struggling in the animal rescue community to get our attention are among our unsung heroes who represent the best of humanity. It doesn’t take much to help them.” In your experience, what do you consider the most challenging hurdles that a rescue shelter faces, and how best, in your opinion, do you think that regular people like us can empower them?

SV: I think the most challenging hurdles that rescues face are donations and volunteers. You can’t buy food or provide medical care if you can’t get donations. Some rescues are working in economically depressed regions, and not everyone is a master at fundraising. Just getting the donation page of your website noticed is extremely difficult given the nature of search engine rankings. That’s another major reason I do my listings. If someone finds my website, I then increase the odds (just a bit) that one of the rescues I list will also get noticed.

As for the volunteers I mentioned, they’re great people but they’re not employees. They have other employment and families they’re obligated to and they can’t always be there. On that topic, I’d like to mention that volunteering doesn’t have to take all your time. Some rescues just need help from time to time to transport a dog. They develop a list of volunteers and then put out an email to coordinate those available. I recall one time Lisa from BROOD was traveling 176 miles to bring us a foster named Caitlyn. She was also trying to pick up another dog they were rescuing from animal control in Portsmouth, Virginia. To save her time and distance, my wife drove the half hour to Portsmouth and retrieved the dog there. We brought it to our house for a couple of hours and then drove a ways to meet Lisa in a shopping center parking lot to exchange dogs. It was a good experience and we got to finally meet Lisa and chat a bit.

Donations and volunteering help empower rescues. Businesses here often provide a percentage of sales to rescues which is good for them and tax deductible. There’s even a group here in the US called Rescue Bank who developed a warehousing and distribution system for pet food. They get pet food donated (some probably overstocked) from pet food manufacturers, and then provide the food to rescues at a greatly discounted rate. The pet food manufacturers then get a tax deduction and also get to tout how they support animal rescue.

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