General Interest

Animal Rescue Transports Give Hope One Leg At A Time

posted November 15th, 2011 by
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By Anna Holton-Dean

In 2010, over 11,000 animals were processed through the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter. Of those animals, 2,222 were adopted, and 1,205 went to rescue groups. With just one shelter’s sobering numbers in mind – let alone national statistics – it’s obvious to see why volunteers like Tanya Kittrell and Neil Golden are willing to dedicate countless hours of their time, coordinating pet rescue transports.

Freedomtraintransports.com best describes the process of pet rescue transports: free, volunteer based transportation designed to rescue animals from high-kill shelters and abusive/neglectful situations. Animals (usually dogs and cats, but possibly other pets) are transported to screened and approved rescues or forever homes.
The transportation is provided by a large network of volunteers, donating their time, money and hearts in order to see the animals survive and thrive.

Several years ago, Golden became co-moderator for On the Road Again (OTRA) transport, which was founded in 2004, and is one of the many transport groups within Yahoo! Groups. Transport groups like OTRA provide a forum for communicating transport needs and connecting people who want to help. Each coordinator can post requests for drivers to fill relay legs along a particular route. Today, OTRA has over 2,000 members across the country.

Rescue transports, like those provided by OTRA, are necessary for two primary reasons. First, shelters and rescue organizations do not have the money budgeted for transportation, so transporters fill in the gap, Golden says. Secondly, Kittrell, an independent volunteer, adds there is an estimated 80 percent of transports coming from the South and going to rescues and homes in the North and Northeast. “Because of the sheer number of puppy mills, the local Southern rescues simply don’t have the room to accommodate the need,” she says. “With the economy the way it is, many have had to close their doors.

The Northern rescues are these animals’ only hope, and it takes an organized transport to get them there. “Some rescue/adopters opt for a paid transport to escape the extra work involved with volunteer transports, but most rescues can’t afford to pay $100 to $150 per animal. These volunteer transports are their only option. There is a tremendous need for responsible coordinators, and I felt this was the best way I could give,” she says. Golden also saw the tremendous benefit of rescue transports after his initial run. A lifelong rescuer always looking for a way to help, he quickly discovered transporting would become a permanent part of his life.

“Several years ago, I received an e-mail from a young lady in Texas who was coordinating a transport for some homeless Pit Bull dogs to Minneapolis,” he says. “The dogs were otherwise going to be destroyed, but they had a rescue offer in an area of the country where they would be easily adopted. I volunteered to drive a relay leg from Perry, Okla., to Wichita, Kan., and afterward was hooked on the idea of saving the lives of innocent animals simply by changing their geographic locations.” Golden reiterates Kittrell’s sentiments that many animals can be rescued by finding homes in the Northern states.

Transports in which he coordinates/ volunteers usually originate in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina with destination points in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.

For coordinators, like Golden and Kittrell, there is significant commitment involved. Kittrell says first the coordinator must gather all necessary information from both the sending and receiving parties, map out the route and calculate each leg (an average of 75 to 80 miles in length) from point A to point B, input all of the information in a self-formatted “run sheet,” e-mail the sheet to all various contacts and networking media (Yahoo! Groups, Facebook, etc.) in order to recruit volunteer drivers for each leg (including overnight legs). And that’s only the beginning.

Next, she gathers all the volunteers’ information (name, e-mail, phone number, vehicle description) and inputs it into a separate working copy of the run sheet that will be sent only to the involved parties once all legs are filled. Then, she must monitor the transport once it is in progress. Each driver calls in after hand-off to the next driver.

“Most transports take place on the weekends, so many a Friday night ends up sleepless and spent begging for people to volunteer,” Kittrell says. “On rare occasions, I may have to make some phone calls to find a volunteer for one pesky leg that’s holding up the entire transport.

When it comes down to it, there are really only two kinds of coordinators – those who are responsible and do it right and those who do not. After some hard lessons, I’m proud to say that I am one of the responsible ones.” Despite the time commitment and responsibility of coordinating runs, Kittrell says she felt the need to fill the role which is greatly lacking in volunteers compared to the number willing to serve as drivers. “I seemed to fall into the role pretty naturally,” she says, “and I was good at it so I kept at it, slowly improving with each new transport. The problem is there’s an overwhelming number of rescued animals in need of transport yet very few coordinators to assist.”

For those interested in volunteering as a coordinator, there is much to consider, and Kittrell cautions it isn’t for the faint of heart. “Other than the reward of knowing the animals made it safely to their destination and will live much better lives, there are few positives,” she says. “It’s extremely time consuming, highly stressful and intense, and it’s very easy to become overwhelmed with the load because of the high demand. Burn out is very common, especially if they consistently take on too many runs each weekend. I eventually had to limit myself to two.

“A good coordinator needs to be organized, somewhat anal retentive with perhaps a touch of OCD, driven, and have the ability to take charge and make quick decisions. If they’ve ever been labeled a control freak, they’d likely make an excellent coordinator.” Also, Kittrell says potential coordinators, after knowing the pros and cons, would need to be mentored for several weeks before being released to coordinate runs. Once the coordinator has been trained, one small, motivating factor he or she can look forward to is earning the respect and trust of those who volunteer for transports. “Once you have that and word spreads, volunteers seem to come out of the woodwork,” she says.

Because there are those with impure motives, rather than the animals’ best interest, most transport groups screen and check references of all potential members before allowing them to join.
If someone is not able to assist homeless pets in other ways, such as fostering, donating money or coordinating, then driving transport legs is a good option, requiring a typical time commitment of three hours during a given weekend.

The only expense involved is gas money. “The nice thing about it is that it’s selfregulating, and you have the pleasure of meeting a lot of like-minded volunteers and all different kinds of dogs, ” Kittrell says. “It’s highly rewarding because without them, these transports would not be possible and more shelter animals would lose their lives.” The first step toward volunteering is getting connected to a Yahoo! Internet Group, such as OTRA (groups.yahoo.
com/group/OnTheRoadAgain/). Golden encourages animal lovers and potential volunteers to get involved for one simple reason – the animals. “When humans domesticated animals thousands of years ago, we made a deal with them,” he says. “We wanted them to be a part of our lives as companions and servants.

Animals have kept their promise, but for the most part, people have not lived up to their responsibility. Assisting animals in need is a way for me to make good on the human side of the deal.”

How to Help Prevent Homeless Pets

posted November 15th, 2011 by
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By Kiley Roberson

Everyone loves a puppy or kitten. They’re cute, cuddly and absolutely adorable. Born in litters of five to 10, that just means more fluff and more fun, right? Unfortunately, for millions of homeless dogs and cats, that’s not the case. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that there are 375 million homeless dogs worldwide.

That’s approximately 75 percent of all dogs born. The number of homeless felines is very high as well, but one Oklahoma group says these sad statistics can be a thing of the past. “It’s math; it’s common sense,” says Ruth Steinberger. “We can spay our way out of these problems.” Steinberger is the founder of Oklahoma’s Spay FIRST!, an organization aimed at education and prevention of pet overpopulation. She says the answer is simple; it’s all about getting the information out there. “We’ve seen the commercials about drinking and driving, even about animal abuse,” she explains. “Those things are terrible, but the issue of unwanted litters is far less dramatic, so it often gets passed over as unimportant.

That has to change.” Spay FIRST! hopes to be that change agent. In September, the organization launched its brand new website, designed to offer ideas and information on how to start or expand spay neuter programs in your community.

Rural and poverty stricken areas are often the hardest hit with homeless pets. Conditions for dogs and cats are reflective of the communities in which they live. Where people are suffering, so are the animals. In Oklahoma, more than a third of the state is considered rural. That typically means no animal clinics or shelters. When you compound that with a lack of basic prevention services and spay neuter education, the result is a giant crack for dogs and cats to fall through.

It’s up to the communities to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“When people think of helping homeless pets, they think about adoption, which is great,” Steinberger says. “But what they don’t realize is that you don’t have to rescue what you prevent; you don’t have to shelter what you prevent. You’ve already prevented it.” Spay FIRST! is all about prevention in Oklahoma and nationwide. It focuses on helping people create or improve first-time animal welfare efforts. Many have little or no money, no animal shelter and simply don’t know where to start. The Spay FIRST! website offers information on several different ways spay neuter programs can be launched including:
organized transport to spay neuter clinics, private practice partnerships and even mobile spay neuter programs.

The website is still growing and will eventually include videos detailing each program. Within the site, there is a sharing space where organizations and individuals can share tips on programs, outreach, ideas, education and more.

Also, Spay FIRST! has a social media presence on Twitter and Facebook, so followers and fans can find out the latest information and post their own spay neuter success stories in their communities.
Steinberger says she sees Spay FIRST! as more than an organization. She calls it a movement – a movement to end pet overpopulation with prevention being key. “Animals do not have to have the heartbreaking experience of being unwanted,” she says. “Spay neuter is simple, cost effective, and, most of all, it is humane. It is a path that’s easier and cheaper to walk than building shelters and addressing the tragedies one by one.

” For more information on Spay FIRST!, visit www.SpayFirst.org

Something to Consider Before Giving a Living Gift

posted November 11th, 2011 by
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Christmas present with dog

by Anna Holton-Dean

As Christmas approaches, thoughts turn to gift giving. What special gift would light up her eyes? What would knock his socks off? Sometimes the answer is a puppy or a kitty. Before committing to such a demanding, yet loving gift, consider this list found on Pinterest, the online pin board. It’s important to look past the moment of jubilation, to the point when responsibility trumps cuteness. Can she or he handle this new responsibility? 

 I’m not sure where the following list originated, but it’s truthful, moving and definitely something to consider if a living, breathing gift might cross your mind. Gifts aside, it’s applicable all year long for anyone who is contemplating bringing a pet into his or her home.

Imagine your future best friend saying these words to you.

1. My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years. Any separation from you will be painful; remember that before you get me.

2. Give me time to understand what you want of me.

3. Place your trust in me; it is crucial to my well being.

4. Do not be angry at me for long, and do not lock me up as punishment.

5. You have your work, your entertainment, and your friends. I only have you.

6. Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don’t understand your words, I understand your voice when it is speaking to me.

 7. Be aware that how ever you treat me, I will never forget.

8. Remember before you hit me that I have teeth that could easily hurt you, but I choose not to bite you because I love you.

9. Before you scold me for being uncooperative, obstinate, or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I might not be getting the right food, or I have been out to long, or my heart is getting too old and weak.

10. Take care of me when I get old; you too will grow old. Go with me on difficult journeys. Never say, “I cannot bear to watch,” or “Let it happen in my absence.”  Everything is easier for me if you are there, even my death. Remember that I love you.

If after reading this, you still feel your gift recipient is up for the responsibility, go for it! So many animals need a forever home right here in our area, and they have so much love they are ready to give. I guarantee they will make it worth your while. And don’t forget the big red bow!

Flash Gordon Designs Announces New Website

posted November 2nd, 2011 by
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Flash Gordon 2

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – October 5, 2011:  Flash Gordon Designs, LLC announces the launch of a new website focused on the sale of custom, 3D-printed pet ID tags: www.flashgordondesigns.com.

3D-printing is a manufacturing method where layers of material are laid down one at a time to create the final form. Jason Gordon, one of the founders of Flash Gordon Designs, expressed it this way: “I like to think of it as Star Trek technology. We are printing 3D-objects out of steel, which is really extraordinary when you think of it.”

When asked “why pet tags?” Jason replied, “I love it that this allows me to combine my passion for technology with my love of animals. Pets have always been a part of my life and I know first-hand how much love and joy comes from being a cat or dog owner.”

Jeff Gordon, another Flash Gordon Designs founder, has been impressed with the early feedback. “Wow! Definitely the prettiest tags I have ever seen!” was the response received from an initial customer.

 Pet owners now have the option to protect their pet with stylish, durable stainless steel ID tags. “There’s a lot of interest in our tags,” said Jeff. “We are looking forward to working with pet bloggers and retailers to engage more potential customers.”

Flash Gordon Pet ID Tag Features

Flash Gordon Pet ID Tags feature durable, stainless steel construction; 3D custom designs; standard bronze, antique bronze and gold-plated finishes; a lifetime guarantee; and the ability to personalize with the pet’s name and phone number.

Flashgordondesigns.com

Flashgordondesigns.com includes a blog, a pet tag shop with over 12 custom designs and secure checkout through Paypal. Visitors can also find a gallery of customers showing off their Flash Gordon Pet Tags.

Web: http://www.flashgordondesigns.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/flashgordondesigns

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/flashgordontags

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/flashgordondesigns

 Flash Gordon Designs, LLC uses 3D-printing technology to create revolutionary, stainless steel pet id tags and charms that are both unique and durable.

20 Things to do with spot this fall

posted September 15th, 2011 by
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by Stacy Pettit

Fall is finally here! Who better to enjoy the cooler temperatures with than your best, furriest friend? Below you’ll find a few ideas for the two of you to enjoy together.

1 After such a brutally hot summer, enjoy the cooler temperatures with a stroll along the river. You and Fido can admire the colorful leaves along the way.
2 Go to a TU tailgate party and, if Spot is a good sport about being a mascot for the day, dress him up in TU gear.
3 Check out Tulsa’s new 50-acre off-leash dog park. The Golden Valley Off Leash Area, located at the Golden Valley Stormwater Detention Facility on 61st Street just east of US-169, is a great place for your furry pal to make some new friends.
4 Share your dog’s unconditional love with others. Call around to see what nursing homes in the area allow dogs to visit residents. Not only will your furry friend get tons of hugs and back scratches, but his wagging tail will bring joy to so many others.
5 Rake the leaves in your yard so that you and your pup can jump in and destroy the pile. Repeat.
6 Go on a shopping spree at the Animal Aid of Tulsa Thrift Store at 15th and Harvard. Proceeds help support the Animal Aid of Tulsa organization, plus you can score a lot of neat thrift store finds.
7 If you and your furry friend are looking for more to do together, check out the calendar at tulsapetsmagazine.com for all the cool, local outdoor pet events happening this fall.
8 Take Fido to join you for a cold brew at Elwood’s by the river. This outdoor cafe has a good supply of dog treats on hand to bring a wiggle to almost any canine’s tail and a good supply of beer on tap to bring a smile to almost any human’s face.
9 Head to Biscuit Acres Dog Park in South Tulsa for you and your pup’s fair share of sloppy kisses while enjoying the crispness of the autumn air.
10 Enjoy a nice, warm latté on the patio at Starbucks in Utica Square with Fido by your side.
11 Explore Turkey Mountain with Fido – lots to sniff and smell up there!
12 Get a block of wet cement or plaster of Paris to make paw prints of your dog’s paws. It might begin with a bit of a mess, but it will end as a lovely keepsake and memorial of your pet.
13 Pamper Fido for a day and head to one of the many dog spas around town. Have them throw in a dog massage, so Spot will trot out of there with some extra pep in his step.
14 Go on a road trip – cooler weather means a chance to get out and get moving. Many hotels now accommodate customers’ pets, so there won’t be any stress if you get swept away in the fun and end up turning your day trip into a weekend getaway.
15 Teach your pal a new trick- even if he is an old dog! Whether you are training him to sit or teaching him to read Shakespeare aloud without any trace of a dog accent, your pup will love the challenge and the extra treats.
16 Playing catch shouldn’t be left specifically to the Cowboys and Sooners on the football field! Throwing a ball for Fido will keep him busy and allow you to enjoy the weather while getting a little exercise.
17 Schedule a puppy play date with your friends’ pups. Plan on meeting at Joe Station Bark Park, located one mile west of downtown, so all your furry friends can have room to run and play.
18 If your four-legged friend is a registered therapy dog, sign him up for PAWS for Reading at your nearest public library. Through this program, kids get a chance to practice reading out loud to their new furry pal. Children improve their reading skills while your pup gets to listen in on story time.
19 Has Spot been extra good lately? Show him your appreciation by making homemade treats! There are tons of recipe books and instructions online for anything from peanut butter treats to low-fat carrot treats. Bon appétit!

20 Try playing hide and seek with your pup if the temperatures get a bit too chilly outside. Remember those homemade treats you baked together? Let your dog smell a treat in your hand and have him stay in one room while you go and hide the delicious tidbit in another.
Then let him seek out the treat! It’s a fun challenge for your pet and entertaining for you as well.

To all the black cats that I have loved before

posted September 15th, 2011 by
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by Camille Hulen

As Halloween app roaches, it would seem appropriate to pay tribute to black cats and their various “purrsonalities.” Perhaps you, the reader, will recognize your cat here.

Shy
First there was Tarby, whom I adopted from a co-worker. I was 21 years old then, and no one had ever given me any reason to be superstitious of black cats. Tarby was a scared little kitten, and we had to retrieve her from under the bed to take her home.
Throughout her life, Tarby remained a “scaredy cat.” When friends came to visit, they didn’t even know I had a cat because she ran and hid the moment the doorbell rang. As she grew, Tarby proved to be very smart, even learning dog tricks like sitting to beg, lying down and rolling over upon command. Tarby lived to the ripe old age of 21.

Demanding
Then there was Darth, whom I saved from the darkness of night. A neighbor had moved away and abandoned mama cat and four kittens. I thought they were being cared for, but one night my husband spotted them darting in the street, raiding garbage cans. Although I had never done “rescue” before, this called for immediate action. So there I was, tempting them with food and carrier at 11 pm. Darth was the most difficult to capture as he darted behind every rock and bush. In fact, at the time, we were not sure if there was more than one black kitten because he was everywhere! As he grew, Darth became the loner cat, preferring to stay outside during the day, then demanding (very vociferously, I might add) one-on-one attention every evening. He feels it is his responsibility to help my husband on the computer, and then insistently tells him when it is time to go to bed.

Active
Kat Mandu was given to me by a neighbor who said he would
“dump” him if I didn’t take him. From day one, Mandu has been hyperactive. He just has to go outside and climb trees and dash and run. He can often be found on the roof, chasing squirrels.
If something crashes in the house, you can be sure Kat Mandu is involved. Kat Mandu took charge of training new puppies, daring them to come near, then swatting them so that they might learn proper respect for the superior feline species. On the other hand, there are times when he can be a real lap cat.

Sweet
Pooh Bear was one of my “bottle babies.” She came to me, abandoned as a kitten, with the most notable feature – hair that looked like Don King’s. She grew to be a beautiful chubby girl, and is by far our most social cat, extremely loving. She greets everyone who visits and can’t get enough petting from everyone. Whenever a new kitten shows up, she is the first to “mother” it.

Docile
Pantera is also calm and gentle. She came to me very pregnant after the Coffeyville floods a few years ago. She nursed four sweet babies who were adopted easily, but she is still waiting for her forever home – simple evidence that everyone wants a kitten, and no one wants a black cat! Why? Pantera is a peacemaker and currently offers solace and companionship to a young feral cat, also black and needing a home.

Outgoing
Sassy came to me after her human mom died. The son wanted to kill the cat and bury her with mom until a friend intervened.
Sassy was aptly named as she was extremely outgoing. She went to visit an adult daycare center and loved everybody.
The feeling was mutual, but the center directors were afraid of allergies, so she couldn’t stay. However, Sassy had already won the heart of the director, who took her home to her two young daughters where she blended into the family immediately.

Devoted
April was also orphaned when her human mom died. She has an attitude that only a “mother” could love. April demands to be petted but will then turn and bite you if you do not do it to her liking. Apparently, I have learned the acceptable method because she sits in my desk chair as I write this, purring constantly.
There are others: Sami, so relaxed; Myrtle, so loving; Monte, very flexible; Modelo and Johnny, who softened a man’s heart;
and Charlie, the beautiful baby who sucks his “thumb.” The list goes on… However, superstition still exists. Black cats are associated with bad luck, and there are still some evil people who will torture them at Halloween. For this reason, most shelters will not adopt out black cats at that time. During the rest of the year however, if you are looking for a pet, I would encourage you to consider a black cat, so often overlooked. One will most certainly have a “purrsonality” to fit you.

By Camille Hulen
Camille Hulen is the owner of Camille’s Cathouse, a bed & breakfast exclusively for cats.