By Katie Vecchi, Director of Care & Placement Services
Homeless pets come to Animal Friends for many reasons and from all different backgrounds. Each one has a story to tell of their own unique journey. Sometimes, these animals arrive with behavioral or medical challenges and need some help to become the best they can be. No matter what, our staff and volunteers are committed to every resident and will work through these challenges as long as it takes.
Many animals who come through our doors may be confused and unsure of their new surroundings. For some, this may manifest as a shy personality, and these animals benefit from the slow and patient dedication of our staff and volunteers. Like Norma, who came to Animal Friends with her baby and initially had no interest in people. Norma spent over a year in our care as she waited patiently for a new family. During this time, staff and volunteers worked at her pace and found what worked best for her. This included finding her a feline best friend named Gwen to live with! By the time these two gals were ready for adoption, they were playing with toys, taking treats from staff and volunteers and enjoying each other’s company.
Other animals come to us with an over-the-top personality and may need a way to positively release their energy. Routine and consistency are key to helping these energetic animal companions. Our Behavior team creates a unique plan for each animal that is closely followed by staff and volunteers. Capone, a dog who was recently adopted from Animal Friends, is a great example of this program. When Capone first came to Animal Friends he was nervous with some handling, reacted to other dogs and would get overly aroused very easily. Our staff and volunteers were able to teach Capone that seeing other dogs could be a positive experience and if he was getting too excited, how to properly communicate it to his handler. They also introduced him to the world of enrichment to help him release some of his energy and lower his stress level. We worked diligently with Capone for over three years until he finally found his new family.
But the behavior modification work does not stop there! Every animal, no matter how long they are with us, is given the opportunity to learn from trained staff and volunteers to help them along on their journey. For example, all of our rabbit residents are taught to voluntarily enter their carriers. This not only makes transportation easier for their caretakers, but it also creates a stress-free environment for the rabbits, focused around choice and comfort. Our dogs are taught proper leash manners and how to take treats nicely from a person’s hand. These simple behaviors allow them to start a new life with their family on the right foot. Cats waiting for adoption are given various activities to allow them to use their species-typical behaviors. This is accomplished using teaser toys during socialization sessions throughout the day. Giving the cats a way to be mentally and physically stimulated is crucial for their behavioral health.
It is incredible to see the transformations each animal undergoes, before finding a home. No matter if a homeless pet’s stay with us is a few days, weeks or even years, we are dedicated to the well-being of each and every one of them.