The statistics are difficult to swallow: According to the Humane Society of the United States, 3.4 million cats and dogs were euthanized in 2013. Many of those critters were put down for no other reason than overcrowding. It’s a sad, seemingly endless cycle that the animals are powerless to change. However, humans can ameliorate the crisis, and fortunately many do, providing love and care and homes for shelter denizens.
Santa Barbara County has its fair share of success stories where shelter staff and the community come together to give a second life to the incarcerated. It’s a reality that keeps volunteers and animal lovers motivated to continue campaigning and caring for our furry friends. Read on for a handful of happy-ending tales submitted by staff at Santa Barbara shelters.
This is the story of Radar (pictured above with owner David Silverander), a 2-year-old German shepherd/Malinois mix. Radar came from a county shelter up north, where he was out of time on death row. The good people at that shelter contacted DAWG in hopes that we could save him.
Radar was deemed unadoptable due to his severe dog-aggression issues, so our trainer/behaviorist Brian Glen worked with him on dog socialization. Glen’s initial response to Radar was that he was highly trainable. He introduced the big German shepherd to our little dogs and took him on “pack walks” with our big dogs.
Soon, Radar turned the page onto a new life, showing no aggression, just an abundance of energy and over-excitement that would lead to frustration. We sent Radar off to his forever home with an amazing adopter. Radar gets a second chance at life, and his new owner gets a hiking buddy, a running buddy, a biking buddy, and a lifelong companion. This is what we live for here at DAWG.
Moto was brought to the Santa Barbara Humane Society in March 2014 by his owner who couldn’t keep him anymore. Moto is a sensitive dog who had severe separation anxiety, was afraid of loud noises, and would repeatedly injure himself trying to escape from his kennel.
But over time he began to bond with the staff, and his personality started to shine: He loves squeak toys and spending time with people, and he has a goofy sense of humor — he even greeted everyone who came into the shelter office. To help Moto feel more comfortable in his shelter home, we let him hang out in the office, clinic, and administration areas as much as possible during the workday; we also built him a special kennel door that wouldn’t hurt him when he scratched it out of fear.
However, during a loud thunderstorm, Moto tore up his paws on his kennel walls overnight. We knew then that we needed to find him a solution beyond what we could provide — he was not thriving, despite how much we loved him, and we needed to get him into a home. No fosters were able to take him home, though, and we were getting desperate.
But then the stars aligned when a man looking for a dog came to the shelter. Tyler Erman and Moto hit it off immediately; the moment Erman presented Moto with a squeak toy, the two became inseparable. Now Moto spends his days with Tyler, and they could not be happier.
Lucille and Zippo
Lucille came to the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society defeated, shut down, and starving to death. Our staff knew that she would quite literally die without help, so our veterinary staff quickly got to work diagnosing her condition. We soon learned that she had pancreatic enzyme insufficiency, a disease that prevented her from absorbing the calories and nutrients from the food she ate.
After several months of expensive medication, Lucille doubled her weight to a healthy 70 pounds. As she became physically healthy, she also strengthened her social skills, interacting with our kennel staff, but she frequently became overexcited. We weren’t sure if she would get along with other dogs.
We worked with Lucille for more than a year. Then a dog named Zippo was brought to the shelter; Zippo and Lucille were instant best friends. Although we knew it wasn’t likely, we hoped they would be adopted together.
A few months ago, our dreams came true: A woman was looking to adopt a pet to fill the void her precious Charlotte had left in her heart when she passed away, and Lucille fit the bill. Not only did she decide to adopt Lucille, but she also wouldn’t take her without her companion, Zippo. Now the two dogs romp around several acres all day every day, and Lucille, who took a liking to climbing in her water bowl in the shelter, has a pond in which to swim.
Alfalfa is a 6-year-old Brussels griffon mix who was dropped off at Animal Control after being hit by a car. Alfie had suffered from a left pubic-bone fracture, but once he arrived at DAWG, we also realized that he had road rash all over his body, his hair was matted, and he was infested with fleas.
From day one, Alfie was nothing but trusting of us. He knew that he needed some special care and allowed us to provide it for him. Alfie remained on bed rest for about 12 weeks, during which time he received extensive medical care, including initial and follow-up X-rays, medication to alleviate his pain, and lots of love and care from both staff and volunteers. He eventually was neutered, microchipped, and vaccinated and received dental care.
In January 2015, Alfie was released for adoption. He was introduced to our Little Dog Land, where he was able to socialize and play with our other little dogs. His confidence grew and grew, and his bold little personality came out. Alfie was a staff favorite here at DAWG. It took a few months, but Alfie found his forever home with the Phillips family and the love he so much deserves.
One of the Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) Feline Behavior Team’s special cats was a huge, brown tabby named Louie that we rescued from being euthanized at an area shelter. While it’s not ideal, most cats can tolerate the shelter environment without any negative impacts. However, a few, like Louie, experience a higher-than-normal amount of stress and exhibit challenging behavior problems, including aggression.
We channeled Louie’s stress and frustration into stimulating activities; he was featured this summer on KEYT news doing one of his famous “roll over” tricks on command. Because of Louie’s strong personality, we knew that he needed a very special adopter, one that would patiently work with him, continue his training, and then reap the benefits of this exceptional cat.
Louie’s new family was found right next door to ASAP in Mario Gonzales, one of the regular dog volunteers at Santa Barbara County Animal Services. “After being cat-less for about a year, we decided it was time to adopt a cat to join our three dogs,” said Mario. “It took Louie about a week to acclimate to his new friends and surroundings. He is a dedicated companion every morning as I get ready to start the day. And, not wanting to be left out, he sits patiently beside the dogs, waiting for their treats before bedtime. We are not sure Louie knows he’s not a dog!”
Little One and Calypso
Little One has faced double heartbreak. After living her first 10 years with her human companion, Little One was brought to ASAP when her owner passed away. Life at the shelter was exceptionally difficult for this middle-aged tabby cat — she had never lived around other cats, and she experienced a high degree of stress in her new surroundings. Because of this, it was challenging for potential adopters to engage with Little One at the shelter, although we suspected she would be very loving in a home environment. So after six months at the shelter, we found the perfect match for Little One: an older woman with a similar lifestyle and home environment as her original owner.
But after just four short months, her second owner unexpectedly passed away, leaving the petite kitty orphaned and bereft for the second time in her life. We were devastated to find Little One back at ASAP. Her second time around at the shelter was even more difficult for Little One, and having a feisty personality, she often vented her unhappiness with a well-aimed swat. To decrease her stress level, we gave her the coveted living quarters in our front lobby where she could roam freely and have space away from the other cats. It was then that we saw her true personality — a sweet, loving girl who often greeted visitors at the door. But with the heavy 2015 kitten season underway, like most senior cats, she was passed over by potential adopters as they got swept away by adorable kittens.
But, alas, there are indeed third chances. A couple of weeks ago, Little One went to live in foster care, and within days, the foster’s neighbor had fallen in love with this spunky senior kitty! She has now moved into her new home with the Pereverzievs.
Little One joined Calypso, who the Pereverzievs also adopted. Calypso is a three-legged cat who likes to hang out with a turkey. Calypso came to the family via Advanced Veterinary Care and then ASAP. “My daughter’s girlfriend worked for Advanced Veterinary Care at that time, and Calypso had been dropped off,” said Lorraine Pereverziev. Her leg had either been mangled by a dog or a vehicle; they weren’t sure which.” Calypso was then taken to ASAP, and a volunteer fostered her. “Then my daughter Gabi fostered her,” Lorraine said. “I visited my daughter and said, ‘I want her,’ so they gave her to me.” Calypso likes to go outside and hang with her avian pal. “We have a wild turkey, and they are friends. Calypso follows Turkey around.”
Emily was a senior cat living at ASAP. The longhaired beauty was often admired by potential adopters, who then shied away when they found out she was 11 years old. Emily spent almost a year at ASAP and became our official “kitchen kitty.” All cats get time out of their cages, but Emily let it be known right away that she would not tolerate the presence of other cats. So we started putting her in the kitchen, where she supervised the daily chores. Despite her age and being a wee bit plump, she had no trouble jumping up on the counter, where she was discovered numerous times munching on everything from cheese dip to oatmeal-raisin cookies.
Then one day, Emily’s kitty angel arrived: Kathleen Weir attended one of ASAP’s annual free-adoption weekends. She came to the shelter specifically looking for an older, very companionable cat. We immediately took her to the kitchen to meet Emily, and it was love at first sight — Kathleen didn’t even want to meet any of our other cats!
How did Emily adjust to her new home? Very well, according to Kathleen: “When we got Emily home, she calmly walked out of the carrier and, after meeting my husband, immediately started investigating her new surroundings. She has lots of toys and has already chosen her favorites. She has two areas inside to sit and watch the birds. We both love her, and she is quite the little character, clearly demonstrating that she knows what she wants or what she doesn’t want! Thank you for taking me straight to Emily!”