Bill Burr…Dog Whisperer

You gotta love Bill Burr’s observations. His bits on his dog Cleo are always hilarious. Just love that he adopted a pittie.

San Francisco: Free of Charge

San Francisco is a city of experiences. Armed with only our bus passes, Ms. Kluender and I had a weekend free of any real expense thanks to The City’s busy event schedule.

Free Museum Day

Throughout the country yesterday museums welcomed patrons free of charge as part of Smithsonian Magazine’s Annual Free Museum Day. After a bite to eat with our friend, Ms. Hatje, we headed over to the Cartoon Art Museum to stare at the artwork from their Avengers Assemble exhibit. Check out the slideshow below for some of the occasionally blurry camera phone pics I took.

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Dogma Adoptions

Orion was available for adoption from the Northern California Family Dog Rescue.

This afternoon we headed out to Dogma, a street fair put on by the San Francisco SPCA and 7×7 Magazine. There were many dogs in need of homes and on-site adoptions through the SFSPCA were at no cost. Regardless of any charges, if you are looking for a sloppy kissing companion, take a peek at the canines in need of some love.

Blues on Polk

Heading home we thought we did pretty well this weekend, racking up new experiences without lightening our wallets too much. That’s when we stepped out in Russian Hill to enjoy a little more sun only to encounter The Polk Street Blues Festival. Again, free of charge (except that bucket of garlic fries I had to have) the street was filled with vendors and music from dueling concert stages set up several blocks apart.

San Francisco continues to keep us entertained and we can’t wait to see more.

From Flippers to Foster: Part 2

SPCA foster care comes with the benefit of seeing faces like this every day. (Photo courtesy of the SF SPCA)

After winding my way back from the morning volunteer orientation at The Marine Mammal Center, I pick up Ms. Kluender for the short drive to the San Francisco SPCA. We are scheduled for the foster parent orientation that afternoon.

As veterans of foster care for kittens, Ms. Kluender and I have helped close to 100 fur balls over about five years. They came to us when I was working at the Massachusetts SPCA and were afflicted from nearly every malady imaginable including under socialization, extreme illness, severe malnourishment, and contagious diseases. During some months I would have contagious kittens crawling around my office while we cared for older ferals at home.

Our volunteer group, as earlier in the day, spans across race and includes students, teachers, young professionals, and retirees. The most noticeable trait is that I am joined by only one other man in the group of about a dozen future foster parents.

Most of us are here to care for underweight kittens and the occasional puppy, however we are soon told by the orientation leader that there is another group of animals in dire need of help – single feline mothers and their litters.

Alison Lane, the head of the SF SPCA’s foster program leads us through every detail of fostering from whether or not we are suited for the foster parent life, to creating kitten safe spaces and emergency procedures.

Alison’s years of experience in the foster care field shows, statistics are within easy reach and her demeanor brings a much needed light heartedness to each new step including those kittens that regardless of intervention will not thrive – the victims of natural selection and poor genetics. In stark terms, Alison lets the newbies know, “Saving lives is not easy.”

Baby Blue found a foster parent moments after this photo was taken.

As we wrap up, Alison disappears for a few moments to quickly return with Baby Blue, a tiny foster kitten in need of a few good meals. The group oohs and ahhs over the chirpy bundle of grey fuzz, cameras click away. I never tire of these moments, no matter how many kittens come into our care.

As Ms. Kluender and I discuss a start date for taking home our first foster with Alison her earlier request for assistance ring home.

“The more people we have to help, the more animals we can save.”

Find out more about the SF SPCA’s foster program and other volunteer opportunities.

Cleavage and Tattoos at the SPCA

My friend Laura Gretch is, as they say back in Boston, a wicked pissah. By her own admission, she is mostly cleavage and tattoos. Surrounded by cats and dogs of all shapes an sizes in her role as Community Cares Manager at the San Francisco SPCA, she has the unique ability to attribute doe-eyed cuteness to a kitten in the descriptive nature of sailor, smoothed over with the energy of a six-year-old clenching a fistful of Pixie Sticks.

Visiting Laura at the SF SPCA today, I am reminded of my former life as the head of communications at the Massachusetts SPCA, where we worked alongside each other years ago. The sites, the sounds, and especially the smells come rushing back, but here it is different. The hallways are empty of overflowing donations of blankets and kennels, the crush of adopters has been replaced with families strolling by visiting rooms as if they are enjoying a sun-kissed day in the park, the veterinarians are quietly focused as they perform one in a never ending stream of sterilizations, and now I hear it – quiet. The rooms are quiet.

As Laura takes me down the hallway to the holding rooms for recently received animals I better understand the serenity. Rather than large rooms of kennels and cages, animals are housed in small rooms with only a handful of enclosures. Laura explains that this keeps contagions from spreading as well as preserves order in a chaotic system turnover.

The Numbers

Every SPCA, Humane Society, or rescue group has numbers. They survive based on their numbers. After a time the numbers become the mission if they are not careful. Laura explains the balance that they strike between the statistics and the lives that could become hidden if they were not careful. In Laura’s area, population control and education, the focus is on spay/neuter and community education. Each year the SF SPCA spays and neuters roughly 10,000 cats and dogs. Laura tells me that they are already close to that number and will “smash” it come the end of the fiscal year this month.

For some, 10,000 “fixed” animals would be an accomplishment; for Laura and her colleagues, it is just a beginning. By studying the numbers and pushing aside decades of misinformation and stereotypes, they have identified populations of pet owners in San Francisco that some thought were unreachable. Persistence and an openness to new ideas has helped the department to sterilize animals in entire communities and significantly reduce the numbers of unwanted pets. As Laura explains this news to me, I see her light up with the knowledge that the story is changing and they are rewriting the rules here at the SF SPCA. Numbers will only be a part of that story.

Speedy

When I ask Laura if there is a dog that needs a little bit of help being adopted a chorus of names is shouted from the staff behind the nearest counter. Common to many adoption centers, the dog population is named by a favored trait – in Speedy’s case it may be the opposite.

Laura shows me an ancient Chihuahua, ribs straining against his thin skin. Not currently available for adoption and still under medical evaluation, Speedy is a ball of contradiction according to one staff member. His gaunt appearance is mainly due to his being “cut” and “ripped” she says. As we visit with him and his roommate, a small Spaniel named Darla, Speedy’s name proves incredibly accurate as he zigs and zags between our ankles. Where his mouth curls in a twisted smile, I see teeth where I supposed were only tired gums. His energy is vibrant, coming off in waves.

After a few minutes of playing and trying to get Speedy to pose for a photo, we squeeze through a doorway, cracked slightly to keep the newly energized Darla and Speedy from wandering the hallways. Laura and I leave the adoption center and head out to the courtyard to part ways.

As I walk through the parking lot, weaving between cars, I think back to my time of working among thousands of animals. I remember most of all the lives that were not just saved but made better by people like Laura, her staff, and the hundreds of former colleagues back in Boston. It’s simply nice to know that Speedy got a chance and someone saw a little spark in his step.

Learn more about how the SF SPCA is spreading the word about the evils of puppy mills.

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