Finding a new home can be difficult. It doesn't have to be.

[Facilitating Safe & Successful Dog-to-Dog Intros]

Written by Ioana Busuioc, March 2019

As of January this year, we’ve had the wonderful Sammy join the AARCS team as a Behaviour Coordinator. She has already demonstrated an amazing attitude and willingness to offer her knowledge, insight, and support for all things dog related, from fostering, to ownership, to care, and beyond! She has her own blog, from which she has graciously agreed to let me use posts and photos. This will be the first post from her own blog, which can be found at Bear and Foster Friends. Enjoy!

Will sweet Hannah win you over?! AARCS ID# A40716766

Will sweet Hannah win you over?! AARCS ID# A40716766

Written by Sammy Musgrave

Congratulations on making the best decision ever to adopt a dog into your family! How are you feeling? Over the moon happy? Nervous? Overwhelmed? A little bit of all of the above? Let me help you dispel some of those worries with a concrete Fido-Proof plan so we can focus on all the good feels that come with bringing home your new-to-the-family sweet and furry companion.

Gather Supplies and Prepare your Home

Before you bring home Fido home for the first time, make sure you’ve already done your supply run for a leash, collar, harness, food, etc. Once you have the basics, here are some less obvious preparations that I recommend in order to make your life that much easier in the long run:

  • If you will be using a crate, make sure it’s already set up before you bring your new dog home. Witnessing the set-up could make Fido even more hesitant to trust the dog-eating contraption that you are asking him to get into.

  • Designate and prepare a dog-proof space. I can’t stress how important this step is! I bring 10-15 new foster dogs into my home per year, and this was a rule I had to learn the hard way… (a few times). Save yourself from the potential destruction, accidents, and stress that can result from not having a dog-proof space. In many homes, this looks like a gated off area in the kitchen, mudroom, or other non-carpeted space, using baby-gates, x-pens, crates, turned over coffee tables, and creatively placed chairs. This area should include Fido’s water and food dishes, a dog bed, a crate (if you’ve decided to use one), and a few chew toys (bully sticks, frozen stuffed kongs, etc).

Vida plotting her escape from her dog-proof space.

Vida plotting her escape from her dog-proof space.

  • If you have children, now is a good time to teach them how to interact with their new furry friend. It’s also crucial that they not approach your new family member while he is eating or sleeping during the first few weeks.

  • If you have other pets in the home, be prepared to separate them for the first three days. Yes, your home is safe, and your family is likely the best thing to ever happen to Fido, but here’s the catch – he doesn’t know that yet. Something called a ‘stress event’ triggers when a dog’s schedule and environment changes. This means a whole lot of stress hormones flood Fido’s system, and continue to increase over a 3 day period before stabilizing to normal levels. It is a best practice to separate your new canine from the rest of the pack until he has had some time to decompress in his new environment. Even after 3 days, they should not be left together unsupervised during the first few weeks or perhaps months. It can take a long time for dogs to acclimate to one another in a new home, and spats over jealousy, territory, and miscommunication are to be expected.

  • Find out what food he is currently eating so that you can keep him on it to avoid any tummy troubles. You can gradually transition him to a food of your choice over a 1-2 week period. Adding flora Fiora or pumpkin can assist with this transition but isn’t necessary.

  • Stock up on some training treats. Kibble can be used for a lot of training, but I recommend high value treats for anything that may be particularly challenging for your new dog (keeping in mind, that for some dogs, something as ‘easy’ as stairs might constitute a challenge that requires payment in a much higher currency).

  • Kongs and bully sticks! Give Fido something appropriate to chew on so that he isn’t tempted by your delicious looking baseboards.

Be Prepared for the Drive Home

Crate your new canine companion for the first ride home, or if he isn’t crate trained, have a second person with you to hold onto his leash during the drive. As much as you might want to show him off or introduce him to fun new experiences, avoid making any stops on the way home. Your first stop should be the area where you want him to do his business. Once he has done his business outside, you are ready to introduce him to his new home.

Who could say no to this face!? Jally is up for adoption, AARCS ID# A40332781

Who could say no to this face!? Jally is up for adoption, AARCS ID# A40332781

Create an Effortless Schedule for the First Week

It’s a good idea to keep a 10-15 feet lead on him as he explores the house. After he has had a chance to explore, help him get acquainted with the area that you’ve prepared for him. You can spend some time hand feeding him, and petting him while he gets adjusted to his designated space, but do make sure to leave him for an hour or two, preferably with a stuffed chew, to allow him some time to rest.

This is a general outline of what his routine should look for the first few days. When Fido isn’t in his designated area, it is a good practice to keep him on a 10-15 foot lead at all times during the first few days.

  • Wake up and let Fido out for a bathroom break
  • Feed breakfast
  • Bathroom break
  • Exercise, play, and/or family time
  • Bathroom break
  • Fido’s designated area
  • Repeat bathroom break-exercise, play and/or family time-bathroom break-Fido’s designated area circuit until it’s dinner time
  • Feed dinner
  • Bathroom break
  • Exercise, play, and/or family time
  • Bathroom break
  • Bedtime in Fido’s designated area

Note that there are tons of bathroom breaks to remove any room for error. You might be wondering why all the extra precautions? Perhaps your dog has already been housetrained and has never gotten into anything he wasn’t supposed to in his foster home. Here’s the thing- dogs are terrible at generalizing. Just because he knew the rules in one household doesn’t necessarily mean he is going to realize those same rules apply to your household. That, coupled with the stress and anxiety of moving into a new household makes an accident that much more likely to occur.

Make the First Week Utterly Unspectacular

The first week should be relatively quiet and stress-free. This week is all about bonding with Fido and teaching him his new routine. Avoid introducing him to all kinds of new people, places, and animals. He needs time to feel safe, and to adjust to his new environment, people, and routine. This is also a good week to practice a few short departures to prepare your new dog for the first time you have to leave him for an extended period of time.

Bear makes boring look cute!

Bear makes boring look cute!

Thanks for reading everyone!

Love, Sammy & Bear

AARCS_adopt_canine

Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this was helpful and informative!

Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

Coping with the Loss of a Pet

[ Coping with the Loss of a Pet ]

 

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Written by Ioana Busuioc, February 2019

Losing a pet is never easy, particularly around the holidays. Pets become members of our family, and their support and comfort can brighten the darkest of days. There’s something inherently different about losing a pet, perhaps because much like children, they are completely innocent beings. To this day I have yet to come across a bad animal, the same way I have never come across a bad child. In a loving home, a pet can flourish and offer a special kind of support that cannot be obtained from friends or family. In protecting your pet and giving them a good quality of life, there is an unspoken agreement through which they commit to giving you the same type love you give them, but tenfold.

The loss of a pet can leave an irreparable rift in not only your home, but your soul. When my family lost our beloved Mitmit two weeks before Christmas, I thought my world was ending. It came so suddenly, and the feeling of hopelessness we all felt over not being able to cure her of her sickness put a stop to a lot of day to day activities. Mitmit was my soulmate, and beyond being a family pet, she was essentially a lifeboat for the turbulent seas of mental health I had learned to navigate throughout my teens and young adult life. She was my best friend, and despite the constant changes in life I went through, she was a constant and consistent source of laughter, care, and support. It’s hard to put into words just how special a pet can end up being, but ultimately they become the glue that holds a family together. Pets are there for us throughout hardships and sadness, but they are also there with us to celebrate the happy moments. Every pet has their own unique quirks, and the realization that you will have to face a home devoid of those quirks that had become part of your routine can be beyond disheartening. Whenever anyone came home, Mitmit always ran up to the door, like a dog, to offer a friendly meow and to immediately ask for pets. The first day without her, I realized I wouldn’t have her greeting me anymore, and I wouldn’t be able to call out to her and have her jump on my lap for a cuddle. I felt like our house was simply no longer a home without her presence, and all the things that once brought me joy felt dull and unnecessary without my dear companion by my side. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I didn’t want to eat, or even move from my bed. As a matter of fact, I took a whole week off of work because I physically was unable to function, and I was in tears permanently, to the point where my eyes swelled so much that I couldn’t keep them open. The only periods of respite were when I was asleep, but even then, my dreams were plagued by vivid nightmares and upon waking, I had to again face the reality that my best friend was gone. As the days passed, I felt like there were so many moments I had taken for granted; I wish I had known that Christmas 2017 would be her last Christmas, or that my birthday that year would be the last one celebrated with her, or that I’d never see her roll around in the grass as she did in the summertime. The lesson she taught me is that we really do not know what life holds in store for our loved ones, ultimately we have to be thankful for the time we’ve had with them, and to be able to continue honoring their memories.

As I mentioned, it was quite hard for me to ground myself into reality after Mitmit’s passing. Life felt so surreal, and it felt like time was passing me by in slow-mo, without me being able to move on with my day, or even care for myself. I secluded myself from my loved ones and wanted to skip to the part where I would feel okay. I think deep down I knew that day would never come, not in the way I would want it to. I knew I would mourn for my furry friend endlessly, but I so badly wanted the pain in my heart to stop. I feel very fortunate to have had the support group I had, understanding coworkers, and to have had my family exercise patience and care between the three of us so that we could start to heal. I may not have had the best coping, but I know I did my best, and ultimately taking a week off to mope and sulk ended up helping me, though this may not be the case for everybody. We all cope differently, and it’s important to listen to yourself and take the appropriate measures to begin the healing process after losing a pet. What worked for me, might not work for everybody, but I’ve compiled a list of things to do to at least try to ease the suffering after the death of a pet.Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

1. It’s absolutely necessary to just sit and have a good cry. I personally am a big crier, whether it’s from actually being sad, or from watching cute animal videos on YouTube, I wholeheartedly have embraced that I am a crier. Crying is uncomfortable but I really do believe when something seriously devastating happens to a person, they can benefit from the unleashing of emotions that is crying. If that means just one good cry, that’s okay, if it means a week of crying uninterrupted, that’s okay too. Nobody can tell anyone how they should or should not cope! Also, it will take way more than a week to heal after such a devastating loss. I’m not ashamed to admit this week, a month and a half after Mitmit’s passing, I cried and held on to her ashes late one night. There is no expiry date on grieving.

2. One of the hardest things to do was take care of myself; like I mentioned, I couldn’t bother drinking water, feeding myself, showering, leaving my bed, etc. There is nothing glamorous about suffering and grieving, and it certainly can take time to regain a routine, but it’s important to recognize that it will get better. My boss called me to remind me to drink water and go for a walk, my mom made me get out of the house to eat some soup, my coworker and friend came to drop off a care package for me, and I had numerous offers from close friends wanting to keep me company. Though I was reluctant to accept help, knowing that I had people there for me pushed me to try to take better care of myself, one day at a time. It started off really slowly, with me only managing to drink water and juice and eat some fruit, but gradually I got out of bed for longer periods of time and started making myself soups and teas, cleaning, doing face masks, and so on. I got back into my normal routine about a week later, but I am very glad I took my time so that it wouldn’t have led to me crashing and burning too early on. Naturally not everyone has the ability to take time off of work or school or their other responsibilities, and in those cases I think it’s very important to at least drink water frequently. Dehydration can lead to migraines and overall grogginess, and that’s the last thing anybody needs when they already feel like they’ve hit rock bottom.

3. Looking at pictures of Mitmit was initially really hard, but after a few days I started compiling photos and videos of her and would look at them whenever I’d get sad again. Mementos are great for keeping a pet’s memory alive, but also to turn to for comfort. We got two paw print prints to frame, a ceramic paw print with her name, her ashes in a beautiful box, and a pillow in her shape with her picture on it. It’s important to take the necessary steps to do whatever it is that will bring you the slightest bit of relief, and for me personally, it was surrounding myself with reminders of her bright spirit and kind soul.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

4. Take time for your loved ones, especially family members if they had also experienced the loss of the pet. My mom and I had spent a lot of time together, and still do, and we feel that her memory is preserved in us getting along and spending time with each other. As much as I didn’t want to socialize, I made myself go out for dinners and short activities with my friends and loved ones as much as I could. I knew Mitmit would not want me sulking in the darkness of my room all day, so I made a conscious effort to surround myself with positive people who I knew would be patient with me.

5. Doing some soul-searching was something that I knew I would benefit from when a few weeks had passed. I really felt like a part of my identity was now gone; I was always a “crazy cat lady” among my friends, and now I felt like being cat-less made me less of the person I knew I was. A lot of doubt can cloud your judgment when a pet passes away, but it is important to remember your pet would not be treating you like this or talking to you so negatively, so you shouldn’t do it to yourself. When some time has passed, it would be beneficial to remember the special bond with a pet and know that it could never duplicated. I initially thought I could never own another cat again, and we definitely are not ready yet, but ultimately having rescued Mitmit from a shelter, I know the best way to honour her legacy would be to continue giving other shelter pets a chance to thrive in a loving home.

I would also like to say that while it was incredibly hard to see her last moments, she died in the comfort of her home, on my dad’s lap, with my mom and I petting her. We had called Vets to Go since Mitmit was never very good with car rides and we did not want to stress her out further. The vet that came was beyond patient, her professionalism was evident from the start, and she never made us feel rushed. Thanks to her, we were able to have our beloved Mitmit pass over the rainbow bridge as peacefully as possible, and she herself had stated that there truly would not have been an easier or better way for her to pass away. In her saying this, I found solace, because to me, ultimately, the best gift you can give to a pet, other than a loving home of course, is to be there for them and to make sure they know they are loved when it is their time to go. Comfort in a loved one’s passing is truly the most selfless gift one can give, in my opinion, and my family and I are very blessed to have been able to give that to our dear Mitmit.

It’s never easy losing a pet, especially because for the most part, our pets will not live for the entire duration of our own lives. Most people have many pets throughout their lifetimes, but for those pets, their person or people become their whole lives. It is so important to honor that time spent together, but to also be aware that there is life after loss, and I know in my heart that all departed pets are waiting for us and the day we meet again will be so pure and joyous that it will truly transcend time and space. As Anatole France once said: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened”, and so to lose is to have loved and lived. If you are dealing with the loss of a pet, please be gentle, kind, and patient with yourself above all else, and hug your loved ones a little tighter; we don’t know when anyone’s time, human or animal, will come, so we must make the most out of every single moment while we can. I know I will miss my kitty until the day I die. She was so special, as I know each pet is to their own owners, but I know she is here in spirit, and I will continue to live in a manner that honours her, today and always.

 

Rest in Peace my dearest friend. We will see each other over the Rainbow Bridge one day.

 

Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this was helpful and informative!

Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

Winter Precautions

[Winter Precautions]

Cutie pie Jimmy Anderson doesn’t have to worry about a cozy bed, now the only thing missing is his furrrrever companion! AARCS ID # A40115097

Written by Ioana Busuioc, December 2018

As the weather continues to get colder and colder, we have to consider that not all animals have a home with a warm bed to sleep in this winter. It is our job to make sure that when the temperature drops we remain vigilant with the outdoor animal population because just like humans, they too can get frostbite, suffer from hypothermia, and even die of extreme cold.

Some animals may be used to the outdoors, but that doesn’t mean they are equipped for some of the freezing temperature drops Alberta experiences in the wintertime. Kitten Lady on YouTube has an amazing tutorial on how to build winter shelters for cats that I highly recommend watching. These are quick and easy to make, and can provide shelter from the cold to a cat in need. All it takes is a medium sized Rubbermaid container with straw for insulation and warmth and a small opening size; the smaller the size, the better, as it will help retain an animal’s body heat. Towels and blankets can get wet and freeze, and thus they are not recommended. Keeping food and water available on a set schedule (morning and night) will also prevent the animal wandering out for sustenance, thus defeating the purpose of the shelter. Though there are not typically many feral or outdoor cats in the suburbs or inner city areas in the city, Alberta has many small communities spread out in the province, many of which may not have easy accessibility to shelters or organizations that can readily come pick up an animal. Winter shelters are crucial to the survival of feral and stray cats living in these freezing conditions. Ideally if someone sees an animal out in the cold, it is best to call it in and notify authorities, but if the animal cannot be recuperated, a winter shelter will at least protect it from the cold.

Something else to be aware of is antifreeze. Antifreeze is poisonous to animals, and though it is very common to in the wintertime, along with other ice-melting chemicals it can pose a serious threat to your pet’s safety. Pet-safe antifreeze is available for purchase, and for dogs in particular, it is important to wipe their paws after walking them outside or investing in winter boots to avoid certain chemicals burning your beloved pooch’s pads.

Additionally, cats in particular can seek out the warmth and protection of car hoods. A light slap to the hood or simply a quick look around can avoid any surprises for both you and the cold animal trying to warm itself up.

It only takes a moment of your time to check your surroundings and ensure no animal is left behind in the cold this winter. A few minutes of your day could make the difference for their entire lives!

"Stay safe and stay warm over the cold winter months", says Gunther!

“Stay safe and stay warm over the cold winter months”, says Gunther!

Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this was helpful and informative!

 

Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

Canine Trivia

[Fascinating Canine Trivia and Other Fun Facts]

Handsome Samson, available for adoption! ID# A39834814

Handsome Samson, available for adoption! ID# A39834814


Written by Ioana Busuioc, November 2018

We could all learn a little something from our canine companions, like the great Nora Roberts said: “Everything I know I learned from dogs”. But before learning something from our dogs, why not learn a little something about them?!

Dogs are aware of the passing of time! That means they miss you when you’re gone, and they know when it’s time to eat or go for a walk. They are intuitive enough to pick up up on our routines and habits. Dogs also have a very precise sense of hearing, and though they are born deaf, they grow to be able to detect a frequency range of 67 to 45,000 hertz; much like us however, their hearing can deteriorate. Dogs can also smell certain human states and feelings, for example nervousness through our perspiration, or even pregnancy! Their sense of smell overall can be up to 10 million times better than ours too, and depending on the breed, dogs have between 125 million to 300 million scent glands.

With how many dog breeds exist in the world (approximately 344), it’s no wonder that there are so many fun facts and quirks to many of them. For instance, the Newfoundland dog has a water resistant coat and webbed feet! Dalmatians are born white and develop their distinct spots as they age. The Basenji dog makes yodel-like noises in lieu of barks, making it a fun surprise to hear for the first time! As cute as Dachshunds are, they were actually originally bred to fight badgers. Sharp-Pei’s have a purple tinted tongue!

Sweet Mya waiting patiently for her furrrever home! ID# A39806725

Sweet Mya waiting patiently for her furrrever home! ID# A39806725

Most dog lovers will agree that dogs are cooler than people any day of any week, but here are some extra cool pups:

Bill Irwin was a blind medical technologist and corporate manager who traversed the 2100 mile long journey along the Appalachian trail. He was celebrated as an inspiration to hikers and disabled people when he became the first blind man to undertake such a feat. He could not have accomplished this without his trusty German Shepherd guide dog, Orient. The pair were lovingly referred to as “the Orient Express”.

Bretagne was “a whip-smart golden retriever with feathery fur and a sunny smile“, who had lived a life more full than most of us can say ever will. The adventure-loving pup, along with her owner Denise Corliss, had their first assignment together searching for survivors at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. Later on, she participated in rescue efforts after Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan, and even even made an appearance at the Winter Olympic Games. After retiring, she began volunteering as a reading assistance dog at an elementary school.

Rin Tin Tin was another famous German Shepherd who starred in the film that is “often credited with bringing Warner Bros. back from bankruptcy”. He was rescued from a French battlefield by American soldier Lee Duncan, who brought him to the US and got him his role in “Where the North Begins”.

Hachiko was an Akita dog best known for his loyalty and dedication to his owner even after his death. He would meet his owner at Shibuya Station in Japan every day until his owner died of a cerebral hemorrhage; even after this, every day for nine years Hachiko would return to the station at the time his owner used to arrive at.

The first animal to orbit earth was a dog named Laika. She was a stray dog found on the streets of Moscow who was trained for the Soviet space program in 1957, eventually being selected as the occupant of Sputnik. A statue was erected in the pioneering pooch’s honor in 2008.

The evolution of dogs can be traced back to 50 million years ago, with many scientists believing the grey wolf or jackal are the dog’s ancestors. The Saluki, from Saluk, Yemen, is the earliest identifiable purebred dog; excavations have revealed carvings of dogs closely resembling the Saluki. The domestication of dogs began with prehistoric men who, having realized they had nothing to fear from the animals, started throwing them scraps of food. This led to the dogs feeling safe around the humans and developed a long lasting bond between the two. The Ancient Greeks are said to have developed lap dogs, and they were meant to keep a woman’s stomach warm. Bulldogs were bread originally with their large jaws and short noses so that they could “hang onto the throat of a bull and still be able to breathe”. Though Egyptians were famously known for revering cats, they also deeply respected dogs, burying faithful dogs alongside their owners. Henry III of France allegedly had such a fondness for dogs that he had amassed at least 2000 dogs spread across his palaces. Currently, Queen Elizabeth II is an avid dog lover, having owned 14 generations of corgis dating back 8 decades; she has owned more than 30 corgis, with many of them descending from her very first dog, Susan, who she had received as an 18th birthday present.

Smiley Iris gazing into the distance (or on the lookout for her forever family!) ID# A39020998

Smiley Iris gazing into the distance (or on the lookout for her forever family!) ID# A39020998

Some other pup aficionados? Alexander the Great had a beloved dog named Peritas, and when he died, Greek historian Plutarch wrote that Alexander founded an entire city and gave it his dog’s name. Fur real! Catherine the Great of Russia had a portrait of herself commissioned with her favorite Italian greyhound, Zemira. Leona Helmsley’s death meant that her beloved pooch Trouble inherited $2 million, not a ruff life at all! Cinema beauty Elizabeth Taylor once famously said that “some of [her] best leading men have been dogs and horses”; the actress treasured many dogs throughout her life, favoring Maltese terriers. Some famous Presidential doggo lovers include George Washington, who had 10 hounds, Calvin Coolidge, who owned at least 12 dogs during his lifetime, and Barack Obama, who owns Bo and Sunny, two Portuguese WaterDogs.

Lastly, to quote the author of the biggest tearjerker of all time, Marley & Me: “Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day” – John Grogan

Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this was helpful and informative!

AARCS_adopt_canine
AARCS Dogs 4Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

Rescue Pet Mythbusting Pt. 3

[Rescue Pet Mythbusting Pt. 3]

 

Kodiak (1)

Beautiful floof Kodiak, up for adoption through AARCS, ID # A37928147!

Written by Ioana Busuioc, October 2018

Special thanks to our fabulous Animal Behavior Coordinator Natasha Pupulin for her help on behavioral and temperament-related content!

The third and final part of the three part series. Enjoy!

Myth #7

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Reality: The beauty with animals is that, much like people, they all have their own unique ways of learning. If something doesn’t stick, there are many resources at one’s disposal to try and explore alternative ways of approaching training differently. Similarly to humans, dogs go through a series of development stages as they grow; just like babies, puppies are naturally curious and learn from experiencing the world, but as they grow, they require more structured learning in order to acquire and retain new information. For example, a dog who has grown up in the absence of sidewalks may find it hard to walk so close to strangers and moving cars. This could cause them to experience discomfort, or potentially feel unsafe for them. By using targeted techniques that address the underlying fears that the dog has about this activity, we can teach the dog that the whole experience of being on a sidewalk is safe and fun! If we break this challenge down into manageable pieces for the dog, reinforce choices and experiences with high value reinforcement, we can affect change, promote a feeling of safety for the dog, and thus successfully overcome this obstacle! Having a fully stocked toolbox of techniques and knowledge that are specific to your adult dog, adolescent, or puppy, will make sure you are successful in whatever you set out to accomplish. The behaviour team is well versed in the next steps for your foster, and will often share recommendations on your dog’s file that you may find helpful in selecting a dog that you will enjoy working with, as well as the techniques that the dog requires for success.

Snuggly gal Posie, up for adoption! ID # A39891939

Snuggly gal Posie, up for adoption! ID # A39891939

Myth #8

The age of the dog will determine the activity level, and therefore it is an important factor to consider when adopting a dog.

Reality: Not at all! As Natasha, our Animal Behaviour Coordinator, states, she can “think of tons of cases where 4 month old puppies, teenagers, and young adults, have arrived at AARCS and in foster homes and act nothing like their age”. Energy and playfulness are primarily determined by the dog’s perception of safety in their environment and their level of socialization. Where there is a lack of perceived safety, or socialization, the dog may choose to suppress otherwise normal play or movement in favour of drawing as little attention to themselves as possible. Although age may be important to families considering the amount of time they will spend with their new furry family member, it should not be used as an indicator of activity alone. Talking to our knowledgeable adoption counselors and/or foster parents will give a much clearer understanding on whether the dog’s energy fits with your family’s expectations and lifestyle.

 

Myth #9

The adoption process takes too much time, or it is too difficult.

Reality: The adoption process through a rescue is comprised of several steps, but it is only because we are dedicated to ensuring that the animal is placed in its forever home with the right family, home, lifestyle, and so forth. The procedure is there to make your life (and the animal’s!) easier, since it goes beyond simply giving a pet a home, but more so giving a pet the RIGHT home, their forever home, and of course, so that the new owner(s) know more accurately what the animal will be like. AARCS’ adoption procedures are as follows:

Step 1. Completing the appropriate adoption application form, all of which are located online at http://aarcs.ca/application-forms

Step 2. The Adoptions Coordinator will review the application and email the applicant typically between 24 and 48 hours

Step 3. Upon the approval of the application, if there is a foster family, they will contact the applicant within 48 hours to arrange a “meet and greet”, which all family members must attend

Note: If you have cats and/or dogs, all family dogs must be present for the “meet and greet” for adoptable dogs. Cats do not need to attend these meetings and dogs do not need to attend them for adoptable cats, only dogs. Slow introductions with cats are always strongly encouraged!

Step 4. For a dog adoption, we request that applicants take a day to think about your decision, and to discuss the potential adoption openly and fully with all members of the household. If the applicant makes a decision, they are to contact the Adoption Coordinator with their decision at adoptions@aarcs.ca no later than 24 hours after the meeting.

How has this cutie not been snagged up yet?! Neon is available for adoption, ID # A39230855

How has this cutie not been snagged up yet?! Neon is available for adoption, ID # A39230855

For a cat adoption, the same guidelines apply, however we do permit same day adoptions. Should the applicant decide on a same day adoption, they must come prepared with a pet carrier. Applicants must pay the adoption fee and provide proof of payment to the foster home before the cat can be released. Adoption fees can be paid online on our website, by calling or visiting our shelter during business hours, or in some cases we can accept e-transfers as well, and we encourage applicants to talk to the Adoptions Coordinator for more information! For kittens under the age of 6 months, we prefer homes with existing feline companions, as kittens require significant stimulation and interaction with other cats/kittens for healthy social development, as well as taking into consideration that kittens with litter-mates or cat companions tend to be happier and healthier.

Step 5. If all parties are in favor of the adoption (adoption committee, foster family, and prospective adoptive family), and it is not a same day cat adoption, applicants can pick up their new family member the following day or arrange for a mutually beneficial time with the foster home. Please be prepared for your new pet, with food, bed, toys, and bowls before he or she comes home!

Note: AARCS provides vaccinations for all animals while in our care, however the adoptive family is responsible for vaccinations and continued deworming that come due after the adoption is completed. All AARCS animals are spayed or neutered prior to adoption, and this cost is included in the adoption fee.

Myth #10

Shelter dogs will have more health problems that I will end up having to pay for.

Reality: One of the best things about AARCS as a shelter in particular is that we have a vet clinic on site through which all animals get treated, vaccinated, and operated upon! By adoption from a shelter, potential adopters can more easily ensure that the animal they are interested in has already been seen by a veterinarian and all health concerns are transparent and well documented. Again, we want to ensure the best possible match for adopter and pet alike, and this certainly includes a level of health that is appropriate for the adopter’s capabilities. Yes, there are some animals that will end up requiring treatment for either short term periods of time or for long term periods of time, but we do not want to hide this for the sake of an adoption. Some individuals are better suited and in positions in which they can more readily take care of animals with various health conditions, the same way certain individuals may not be ready for a special needs animal. It’s also worth keeping in mind that shelter dogs come in many breeds and sizes, but because many of them are mixed-breed, this gives them better genetic variety, which can ultimately lead to healthier lives!

Note: If an applicant is interested in a special needs pet or one that will require more careful medical attention, AARCS is well equipped to ensure the applicant has all the necessary information and support moving forward!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article, and keep in mind that any questions regarding adoption can be sent to adoptions@aarcs.ca for dogs, or catadoptions@aarcs.ca for cats! Our dedicated staff is always ready to make sure potential applicants get the information they need to ensure a match made in heaven!


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Campbell Thornton, K. (March 7th, 2007). The ABCs of Adopting a Purebred Dog from an Animal Shelter, retrieved from http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/the-abcs-of-adopting-a-purebred-dog-from-an-animal-shelter
Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

October 20, 2018

 

 

Cat Trivia

[Record Breaking Cats and Other Fun Feline Trivia]

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Written by Ioana Busuioc, September 2018

Cats sleep for 70% of their lives, or approximately 12-16 hours a day, which is something we all might find ourselves wishing for as the days get shorter and the air gets colder! Much like us humans, they also dream and can also snore.

They can’t taste sweetness, but they do have something called “taste-scenting”. Though they have few taste receptors on their tongue, they do have a heightened sense of smell which acts as a stimulant for hunger. As a matter of fact, cats have 200 million scent receptors in their nasal cavity! Another fun nasal fact: cat nose prints are as unique as our thumb prints, as no two cats’ nose prints are the same. In addition to their olfactory quirks and contrary to popular beliefs, most cats are actually lactose intolerant, and milk can actually cause them serious health problems.

When it comes to communication, cats have a natural vocal range that is inaudible to us, but some research shows that they have evolved their communication to certain meows that are only meant for making their feelings and desires known to us humans! Cats are extremely talkative animals and can make over 100 vocal sounds, which is no small feat when considering dogs only make 10! What’s even more impressive? According to a Buzzfeed article, they purr at the same frequency as an idling diesel engine! Cats are also smart enough to know you are calling out to them, but simply choose to ignore you (as a cat owner, I can attest to this).

Some interesting cat-related records? Creme Puff was a domestic cat from Texas who is the oldest cat ever recorded at 3 days past her 38th birthday. Some other super-seniors include Rubble, a 30 year old UK kitty, the late Scooter, another Texan feline, and Tiffany Two, a Californian tortie who lived to be 27. In 2012, an Italian heiress passed away and left her beloved cat Tommaso all $13 million dollars of her fortune, making him the world’s richest cat. Previously, a UK man named Ben Rea left his $12.5 million fortune to Blackie, the last surviving of the 15 cats he shared his mansion with. According to the Guinness World Records book, the heaviest cat title went to an Australian cat named Himmy  who weighed a whopping 46lbs and 15 oz and had to be transported in a wheelbarrow (thankfully this category was discontinued to deter individuals from overfeeding their pets – an overweight cat is NOT a healthy cat!). Whoever said you can’t teach a cat tricks? An Aussie kitty has broken records by performing 24 tricks in one minute. Talk about commitment!

Just for fun – the most expensive wedding for two pets was between Phet and Ploy, two cats that got married in 1996. As per the Guinness World Book of records, Phet, the groom, arrived to the ceremony by helicopter, and Ploy, his bride, arrived by Rolls-Royce.

Some famous individuals who love cats? Ernest Hemingway, who loved polydactyl cats so much so that they are often referred to as “Hemingway cats”. Abraham Lincoln kept four cats in the White House, and when his wife Mary Todd Lincoln was asked if her husband had a hobby, she simply replied with: “Cats”. When the former president found out that the mother of three kittens he found was dead, he made sure they were taken care of and found good homes for them. Isaac Newton famously known for discoveries such as the laws of gravity, calculus and the reflecting telescope, is also responsible for the invention of the cat door. Having noticed that his cats would disrupt his studies by wanting in and out (not much has changed since then!), he decided to cut two holes in the door. Other famous cat lovers include Pablo Picasso, Mark Twain, Florence Nightingale, and Marie Antoinette.

Lastly, to quote Victor Hugo, famous French writer and dramatist who wrote Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, “God made the cat so that man might have the pleasure of caressing the tiger”.

Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this was helpful and informative!

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Genie, our cat of the week! Just look at those eyes! This sweetheart is available for a reduced adoption fee.

Genie, our cat of the week! Just look at those eyes! This sweetheart is available for a reduced adoption fee.

Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

Rescue Pet Mythbusting(Part 2)

[Rescue Pet Mythbusting Part. 2]

Photo courtesy of Alexei Chernenkoff Photography

Written by Ioana Busuioc, August 2018

Special thanks to our fabulous Animal Behavior Coordinator Natasha Pupulin for her help on behavioral and temperament-related content!

The second part of this three part myth busting series! Read on for some more fast facts and informative debunking!

Myth #4

Adoption fees are too expensive.

Reality: Adoption fees may seem daunting, but keep in mind that shelters provide care and medical assistance for the animals present and these adoption fees, alongside donations, are what help shelters stay afloat and continue caring for thousands of animals each year. AARCS spays and neuters all animals prior to adoptions, and we provide vaccinations for all animals while in our care, this is included in the adoption fee. Adoptive families are however responsible for vaccinations and continued treatments after the adoption process. AARCS’ adoption fees are as follows:

  • $375 for dogs 7 months and older
  • $495 for dogs 6 months and under
  • $200 for senior dogs 8 years and older
  • $150 for cats 7 months and older
  • $225 for two cats 7 months and older (bonded pair)
  • $200 for a single kitten 6 months and under
  • $400 for two kittens 6 months and under
  • $60 for senior cats over 9 years

Myth #5

Knowing the breed or the mix will help you to understand temperament.

Reality: This is incorrect! If we know what a dog’s parental lineage was, such as a german shepard mother and a husky father, there is no way to know which genes have been passed down to the pup. This is especially relevant for temperament, intelligence, social skills, etc. The best way to get a genuine feel for a dog’s temperament is not to go by breed, but by getting to know the individual, read body language daily, and provide training support as needed. This is facilitated through AARCS with the intake assessment and our foster program, which helps us successfully match potential adopters with the right dog, not the right breed.  As a matter of fact, many shelters have moved from a specified breed to a “mixed breed” designation, unless that dog’s lineage is known and many find this helps improve the chances of finding the perfect match – without breed bias.

Myth #6

Getting a puppy is the best option because you know what you’re getting.

Reality: Not necessarily true. There is the appealing prospect of being able to shape the puppy as it grows, however puppies do not reach emotional and behavioural maturity until about 3 years of age. During this time, puppies go through a series of experiences, development stages, and fear imprinting periods that will shape their behaviours into adulthood. Adult dogs older than 3 years old will afford you more reliability in assessing behaviours long term. If there are ever any traits that may seem undesirable to you as a potential pet owner, adult dogs typically already have their own characteristics and behaviours set out, so it is much easier to know what you are getting. Additionally, puppies require A LOT of work, attention, and training, whereas adult dogs may already have some training!

It is fair to state though, that based on experience, any adult, puppy, or adolescent may experience behaviour changes throughout their lifetimes, however the variation is greater in puppies when compared to adults after a period of assessment in foster care or in your home.

Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this was helpful and informative!


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Photo credits to Alexei Chernenkoff

Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

August 25, 2018
Unwanted Cat Urination 101

[ Unwanted Cat Urination 101 ]

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With a look that could only say: “I swear I didn’t pee on your shoes!”

Written by Ioana Busuioc, August 2018

All photos thanks to the very talented Debby Herold at Debby Herold Photography! Special thanks to our kind Cat Program Manager Kelsey Scoular for her help with illnesses that could cause this issue as well as helpful tips and solutions!

A common behavior problem found in cats is inappropriate urination. Because cats cannot communicate with us the same way we do with our human peers, it is important for us to pay attention to other signals that something may be wrong. Sudden or frequent cat urination outside the litter box is not a sign that your cat hates you and wants to ruin your life (and floors or carpets), on the contrary, it means that something is wrong!

Bladder stones or crystals are a very common cause for this sort gof problem in cats, or inflammatory diseases. Unwanted cat urination can be also a sign that something is wrong with a cat’s kidneys, a potential bladder infection, or a diabetes related issue, especially if a cat is also suddenly drinking a lot more water. When it comes to kidney related issues, their kidneys might not be able to properly break down the protein, which can cause a buildup that would ultimately lead to crystals building up in the urethra. Additionally, if there are stones in the bladder, depending on factors such as their size, surgery may be needed. These sorts of illnesses could also make it difficult for a cat to reach its litter box as well, which means that they might be trying to do their business where they should, but simply cannot make it there on time. All in all, these are serious issues that mean your beloved furry friend may be acting out of character and needs medical attention as soon as possible. Keeping in mind that if it is a serious issue that would require surgery, there are options to help ease the financial strain of committing to treatment and potential surgery, such as pet insurance. These are very treatable issues, and even in the case of surgery, cats recover relatively quickly with the help of a special diet post surgery. A sign to watch out for that may indicate a medical concern is if a cat is howling while they try to pee, and if that is happening it is crucial to get the cat to a vet for an assessment as soon as possible, as the discomfort is extremely painful for our feline friends!

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Betsy, a sweet senior lady who is still looking for her forever home! Clicking the photo will take you right to her profile, and maybe to your future best friend!

If the issue is not medical, it could be due to any changes in the house, perhaps even something as simple as furniture being moved around, or maybe a family member moving out/in, and especially moving to a new home altogether. If a cat is peeing on a specific family member’s clothing, keeping those hidden away and out of reach might be the solution. If a cat is peeing in multiple places, considering how many litter boxes there are in the home and where they are located might be the key! When it comes to multiple cats, AARCS Cat Program Manager Kelsey recommends ensuring there are as many litter boxes as there are cats, plus one! So if there are 3 cats, there should be 4 litter boxes in relatively different areas. Cats are resistant to change, and bringing a new feline family member into the house might spark up this resistance as well as territorial issues, which is why it is important to make sure litter boxes are separated. Something Kelsey swears by and that vets use in their own clinics is Feliway, which is a product bought at vet clinics and is a diffuser with synthetic pheromones that humans can’t smell, which is designed to  help cats feel more secure and calm. It gives them the impression that they might have already marked their territory, so that they are less inclined to urinate in unwanted areas. Pet owners should also be aware that sometimes the resolution is as simple as changing the location of they litter box, as it could be in a place in which the cat feels too stressed to do its business (ex. maybe close to a window from which they can hear a lot of car traffic). Cats might have a preference as to the substrate they urinate on as well, with options ranging from clay litter to wood shavings. Another simple solution could be simply cleaning the litter box more.

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Jumping for joy over how easy it is to stop unwanted cat urination! Eclipse, another darling adoptable kitty photographed by Debby Herold for AARCS. Follow the link in the image for his profile!

In my own experience, our cat started doing her business outside of the litter box as she grew older. She started going in the basement quite frequently, but we had noticed that this was more significant when we had guests over. Her litter upstairs is close to the back door, and beside the kitchen area, which is where most house guests would hang out. Since she does not immediately take to strangers, we thought she might be relieving herself in the basement to avoid the commotion upstairs. We ended up leaving her litter there, and putting a tray downstairs with her litter as well, and she immediately took to it. Now she only goes there once or twice a week, so we have to make sure to remember to clean her area there as well, but there are no more issues with her relieving herself where she shouldn’t anymore. What also helped was taking the cover off of her litter box upstairs, when she had a brief stint relieving herself on my father’s shoes! In the end, there was an easy solution that didn’t require a lot of change for anybody, and our cat had the option to go downstairs and relieve herself in peace without the stress of people around her, as well as with us not having to clean up behind her anymore.

Thank you so much for reading, and as always, I hope you found this informative!

Check out more of Debby Herold’s work and all the AARCS animals she photographs at www.debbyherold.com/rescue-me!

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Oliver, one of Debby’s two AARCS kitties, enjoying a cozy cat nap!

Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

August 1, 2018

 

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[ Rescue Pet Mythbusting ]

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Written by Ioana Busuioc, July 2018

Special thanks to our fabulous Animal Behavior Coordinator Natasha Pupulin for her help on behavioral and temperament-related content!

When considering adopting a pet, many people wonder where the best place to get their new furry companion will be. There are numerous options, such as pet stores, breeders, even online on websites such as Kijiji, but the best option by far is through a rescue organization. That being said, rescue pets can often be at the center of misunderstandings due to various myths and misconceptions. Read on for some informative debunking!

Myth #1

One of the most common misconception about shelter pets is that they have behavioral issues that cannot be fixed.

Reality: It’s important to know that rescued animals come from all sorts of backgrounds, and yes, some of those backgrounds might be rooted in an undesirable or harmful situation for an animal, but the majority are happy-go-lucky pets who are ready for their forever home. Some animals end up in a shelter because they grew up without a family, their family can no longer care for them, their owners have passed away, from being lost and unable to reunite with their owners. Beyond this, there are animals who are rescued from hoarding situations, abusive situations. Naturally, animals who come from the aforementioned situations might experience cautiousness, fear, shyness, and so on. The most important thing to remember is that many of these  issues are resolved with time, love, patience, and training from their fosters and adopters.At AARCS, it is why fostering and daily interaction with animals is crucial in order to help rescues come out of their shells and feel safe and secure so that their personalities may shine through for their future families. If there are ever issues related to the training of an animal, more commonly dogs, they are also addressed within shelter, and  they continue into foster care to increase the animal’s adoptability. A reputable rescue will always disclose any existing concerns for your consideration prior to adopting, and will advise you about the prognosis for resolving those issues so you and your family can make a choice that is right for you.

 

An example of behavior we deal with that can be a concern to prospective pet owners is resource guarding. Contrary to popular belief, resource guarding behaviours do not originate from dogs raised in free-roaming environments or a history of scavenging behaviour. In fact, we see this behaviour reported in less than 1% of our dogs when observed in shelter and in home environments. Resource guarding can happen to any breed and at an age, and studies show that there is no clear correlation between genetics and this type of behavior. It is considered a fear-based behavior, and it is more often seen in dogs who are stressed and lack confidence. There are various ways of approaching this type of behavior, but ultimately there is a solution through consistency, patience, and care. Resource guarding is highly manageable, and in many cases, can be resolved quickly and easily using desensitization and counterconditioning techniques.

Myth #2

I don’t know what I’m getting with a rescue pet.

Reality: While it is true that shelters may not have significant information on various animals as they get taken in, organizations aim to put in the time and effort to get to know the animal before putting it up for adoption. AARCS is fortunate enough to have an Animal Behavior Coordinator. Natasha, and more than 600 dedicated caregivers and foster homes  who take it upon themselves to improve adoptability rates, enrich the shelter environment, and deliver effective, kind and entertaining training activities to improve the quality of life for the animals in AARCS’ care as well as for their post-adoption lives! While breeders and retail stores might concern themselves more with quick turnovers, shelters like AARCS aim towards making great matches! It’s important to know that many of the animals taken in benefit from staying with a foster family prior to adoption. This is helpful for a few reasons, but most importantly it gets an animal the chance to get socialized with people, as well as potentially children or other animals, so that their personality can shine through and they can ultimately get adopted into the perfect family. All in all, animals that come through shelters get a lot of time and attention given to them so that rescue workers can be able to pinpoint any issues, address them, and cultivate positive traits and behaviors.

Myth #3

Getting a puppy is the best option because you know what you’re getting.

Reality: Not necessarily true. There is the appealing prospect of being able to shape the puppy as it grows, however puppies do not reach emotional and behavioural maturity until about 3 years of age. During this time, puppies go through a series of experiences, development stages, and fear imprinting periods that will shape their behaviours into adulthood. Adult dogs older than 3 years old will afford you more reliability in assessing behaviours long term. If there are ever any traits that may seem undesirable to you as a potential pet owner, adult dogs typically already have their own characteristics and behaviours set out, so it is much easier to know what you are getting. Additionally, puppies require A LOT of work, attention, and training, whereas adult dogs may already have some training!

It is fair to state tough, that based on experience, any adult, puppy, or adolescent may experience behaviour changes throughout their lifetimes, however the variation is greater in puppies when compared to adults after a period of assessment in foster care or in your home.

Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this was helpful and informative!


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Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

July 5, 2018
Blog_aarcs

[ Give Your Heart to AARCS ]

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Written by Ioana Busuioc, May 2018

There is a place for everyone within the volunteers of AARCS! Whether you want to dedicate your time solely to kitties, or dogs, or both,there will never be a shortage of volunteer opportunities (and fun)! Through AARCS, there is also the opportunity to work at various events around the city, should an individual be unable to commit their time to helping out hands on with the animals. These can typically consist of auctions and raffle events, adoption events or representing AARCS at booths during various shows, such as the Calgary Woman’s Show at the BMO. No matter your schedule, every hour and every individual can make a positive difference in the life of the hundreds of animals that come through AARCS every month. Check out AARCS.ca/volunteer/ for volunteer needs, requirements, and applications!

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Dog Caregiver

The dog caregiver shifts at AARCS run three times a day, with the first time being 8:00AM, followed by noon, and lastly 7:00PM, to make sure all the dogs get fed, walked, that their living quarters are nice and clean for them, and of course that they are given lots of attention! Upon completing the online module for general volunteer introductions, as well as the dog caregiver training module, there will be a second shift to complete, one which will be entirely hands on. After completing the training, volunteers are able to go ahead and start choosing shifts according to their schedule as well as AARCS’ volunteer shift needs. Typically, a shift runs for a couple of hours, and includes taking the time to wash the dish bowls and toys, as well as disinfecting them so that there are always enough resources for all the dogs. Volunteers are also responsible for making sure there are updated notes for the next volunteers or shift leads, in order to make sure that if there are any medical concerns that come up, such as a dog not eating or urinating for example, that they get looked at immediately through our Veterinary Hospital. And sure, there is the occasional “poopsplosion” to clean up, but at the end of the day, seeing the difference proper care and attention makes in the dog residents of AARCS makes it all worth it. Many of the dogs that come in have not benefited from being socialized by loving folks or come from situations in which they wouldn’t have had the chance to feel comfortable and cared for, and being a part of a team that helps these dogs grow and prosper in order to be quickly adopted into their forever homes is truly magical a tremendously rewarding experience!

Cat Caregiver

Unlike the dog caregiver shifts, the cat shifts run only twice a day, once at 9:00AM, and again at 6:00PM everyday, but ultimately the shift serves the same purpose as a dog caregiver shift: to make sure all the kitties have been fed, their litters changed, and of course socialized with. There are different rooms for AARCS’ cat residents according to their needs, including Barn Buddies and the quarantine room, as well as the free roam kitty room. Once the general volunteer introduction and cat caregiver online modules have been completed, volunteers must also partake in a hands-on cat caregiver training shift, after which they will be able to volunteer according to their schedules and AARCS’ needs. Upon arriving at AARCS for a cat caregiver shift, there will always be a “team meeting” in which the shift leader for that shift will chat with the volunteers about what needs to be done based on priorities. Volunteers are also able to voice whether they feel uncomfortable with certain cats, and a shift lead will be able to take over. Ultimately, we want volunteers to feel safe and to continue contributing towards making a difference in the lives of cats without fear or reservations! After getting a room assigned, volunteers must take the time to mix the appropriate foods for the cats (wet and dry), as well as cleaning their litters and any potential debris in the enclosures (yes, this could mean the occasional hairball!). There will sometimes be a need for medication for some of the cats who might have been sick or ones who have had surgery, but there will always be a shift lead or staff member to take care of medications. Though most of the cats that come through AARCS are there to ultimately get adopted, the population of the Barn Buddy room consists of slightly more feral cats, and typically those who will be returned to farms to be mousers or where they were originally found once they have been spayed or neutered. If a feral cat is seen as having the potential to grow friendly towards humans, it will continue to get socialized in order to be adopted as well. As is with the dogs, volunteers must be sure to take note of any change in behavior to ensure the appropriate care is given to all the kitties. Various kitties can be more weary of people, and some will be ready to cuddle right on the spot, volunteers must be aware of these different behaviors and ultimately make sure the cats feel cared for and that their space is respected. It might not always be glitzy and glamorous in terms of clean up especially, but you can always feel a deep appreciation from the wonderful kitties that come through the shelter. Also, should you ever want to spend some time with the cats, there are typically a few roaming in the Meow-Town room for volunteers to stop by to pet and play with!

All in all, there is always something to do, and speaking from experience there are so many wonderful cats to interact with and get to know. It truly pays off to see some of the shier kitties grow comfortable and end up getting adopted into loving homes. One of our volunteers, Leslie, has been volunteering with AARCS for 3 years now, and she says she always leaves feeling like she’s done something good after volunteering with the kitties. She always leaves feeling really happy, and she really likes the people she works with here. Coming from the corporate world, it’s nice to volunteer somewhere where people from all walks of life can get together. As she put it: “It’s a great spot to meet people from everywhere!”. Another volunteer, Emily, has been with AARCS for a year now. For her, with a family member being highly allergic to cats, she is able to come in for kitty cuddles whenever she wants to or can, and that’s what makes it so worth it to her!

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(Pictured: Leslie, Emily and Jean, three of the many wonderful cat caregiver volunteers)

Please note that AARCS recommends and encourages individuals volunteering in the shelter, who have pets at home to have “shelter only” clothing and shoes, or to toss everything into the washing machine upon coming back home. We never want to put your own pets at risk, and for this reason we encourage showering upon arrival, or at the very least washing your hands before handling your own pets after volunteering!

Fostering

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(Pictured on the left and right: Misty and Chloe, two adorable fosters)

There are always loads of fostering opportunities through AARCS as well, and as a matter of fact, fostering plays a huge part in enabling us to rescue and rehome so many animals in need without getting overcrowded and subsequently avoiding the difficult decision of euthanasia due to overcrowding. Fostering is an integral part of our operations, and as with the cat and dog caregiver opportunities, it is also tremendously rewarding! Fosters provide a temporary, safe and loving space for an animal in need, and even if you have children, roommates, other animals, a small living space, etc. – there is ALWAYS an animal that will fit right in and benefit from some one-on-one attention. Typically fostering requires a 3 month commitment, and the animal must remain in the foster’s care until it is adopted. Essentially, a foster would be able to provide a safe space for the animal(s), and also assist with basic training, transportation to vet appointments, and of course socializing so that the animal(s) can find their forever home quickly. The added human interaction in foster helps animals grow more comfortable around various types of people, build their confidence, and give them to chance to know what it’IMG_2270s like to be a beloved family member, all of which enables them to get adopted into their forever homes way faster! Not to mention positive animal interactions greatly help us too, with animal companionship lowering many effects of stress, anxiety, depression, and more, as well as providing us with unconditional love and appreciation from these sweet souls. It’s also worth mentioning that many people can’t always guarantee they will be able to commit to owning a pet for life, whether this is because of health reasons, living situations, moving homes, and so on, and fostering is a great way to have that animal companionship without the lifetime commitment. Additionally, there are foster opportunities for all sorts of dogs, puppies, cats and kittens in Calgary, and Edmonton also has a dog foster program. For more information on fostering opportunities, conditions/requirements, as well as application forms, check out AARCS.ca/foster/. In terms of finances, it’s worth mentioning that AARCS pays all reasonable expenses, which includes veterinary care, food, and other items such as toys, treats, kennels and more, when available! Fostering is a selfless opportunity that helps us continue taking in hundreds of animals in need of care, and the benefits are not only noticeable in the animals saved, but in our fosters’ lives as well!

As with the cat caregiver side, AARCS recommends having shelter only clothing when volunteering with the animals directly if you have pets at home!

Veterinary Hospital

AARCS is fortunate enough to have an in-house Veterinary Hospital which is designed specifically for the homeless animals in AARCS’ care! This fully operational clinic allows AARCS to keep up with spays and neuters, but also more severe medical emergencies without having to transport animals to any other location. The facility can always benefit from extra hands on help, and volunteering with the Veterinary Hospital is a unique way to help out animals, while also gaining some handy knowledge along the way! Having personally volunteered there myself, I can attest to how interesting it is to work so closely with veterinarians who’ve studied animal biology and know so much about various conditions and treatments. At the Veterinary Hospital, volunteers typically help the vet technicians by holding animals for check ups and calming them down, cleaning up to ensure a sanitary space for procedures, helping directly during surgeries once the animal has been anesthetized, bathing animals who’ve had fleas or worms, sitting with animals to ensure they have a comfortable wake up and that they don’t regurgitate post surgery and anesthesia, and so much more. There is always something to do, and day to day things are always changing based on animal needs! As mentioned previously, there is always something unique to witness or partake in, such as amputations in extreme cases, but keep in mind if you’d like to volunteer at the Veterinary Hospital, that there is always the potential to deal with blood, various graphic injuries, and seeing pets go under.

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(Pictured: All in a day’s work at the Veterinary Hospital!)

Thanks to the clinic’s staff, including the wonderful Dr. Thusari, the atmosphere is always surprisingly calm, and volunteers can always inquire freely when they have any questions or need help. Dr. Thusari herself has said how everything is always so interesting, and how she very much enjoys seeing these great animals recover and being a part of that process. When I volunteered for the first time at the clinic, there was a tooth extraction going on for one of the cats, and that was the first time I saw a cat go under for surgery and get operated on. I would not say that if you’re incredibly squeamish this is not for you, but it is definitely an entirely different volunteer opportunity, with a fair amount of shock factors! The most common procedures are spays and neuters, but oftentimes animals will come in with various infections, viruses and parasites. Volunteers do not have to administer medication unless it has been okayed by the vet techs first! By far my personal favorite aspect of the Veterinary Hospital is being able to be a friendly, comforting face for animals who are no doubt scared, confused, and uncomfortable due to illness. One of the first shifts I worked, I was asked to sit with one of the dogs that was coming out from surgery after a neuter. Being a larger dog, it took more time for the anesthesia to wear off, and I was instructed to stimulate the dog (aka lots of petting!) and watch for signs that she was waking up, as well as making sure she was laying comfortably and safely so that in the event of regurgitation, she would not choke. In times like these, you definitely develop a bond with the animal, and it is so rewarding to be that person to be there for them throughout a scary ordeal. Helen, one of the Veterinary Hospital Tech Assistants who has been here since the clinic opened a year ago, mentioned how there are so many cool opportunities to learn, and that there is a great chance for individuals to get some hands on experience for the animal care/vet industry. That being said, you definitely don’t have to have any sort of background in animal education, biology, or medicine to be able to volunteer, just come ready to learn a ton, comfort lots of animals, and possibly have to bathe very grump wormed cats! According to Jessica, one of the vet techs that has been with AARCS for a year now, “[the best part of working with AARCS is] to be able to help so many animals that would never receive any medical help otherwise, and to be the first step into getting them healthy and into their new homes”. I can personally attest to how amazing it is to be able to help animals hands on with various procedures even as volunteers, and to be able to learn from people who are entirely dedicated to animal health, recovery, and wellbeing.

Why Volunteer?

Most, if not all volunteers, find that volunteering through AARCS allows them to give back and fulfill their desire to help out animals in need. AARCS volunteers have a passion for animals and feel emotionally rewarded for playing a role in helping them find safe and loving homes. I could go on and on about the benefits of volunteering, but the best way to showcase just how amazing spending time with an organization like AARCS is to go right to the source: the volunteers themselves!

Commitment

image3Many volunteers enjoy AARCS because of how flexible it is with their own schedules, and because of how many opportunities there are. As one volunteer put it: “There are lots of volunteer opportunities, which lets [her] pick the days and times that [she’s] available. There are no issues with balancing responsibilities”. Another volunteer has stated that with her hectic schedule, she image2appreciates the flexibility at AARCS and that she can choose her own times and dates, including many evenings and weekend opportunities. Once they have start volunteering with AARCS, many volunteers have said they find themselves wishing they could be there every day, or that they could commit more of their time there if it wasn’t for other responsibilities. That being said, with fostering there may be additional responsibilities that require more time and attention. One volunteer stated that depending on a dog’s needs, there could be a need for some rearranging in one’s life, but it’s worth it every time, and once your foster gets adopted, you don’t have to get another one until you’re ready again.

Kimberley B. one foster who has been fostering for 4 years with approximately 10 dogs, had even said that “fostering allows you to integrate your volunteering into your family time”, which is safe to assume can be an amazing way to bond with other family members and teach responsibility to children! Though some animals may require more attention as fosters, such as those with medical conditions or behavioural issues, but once they get settled in and they’ve adjusted to a routine, as one volunteer put it: “It’s actually no more than having one dog, they play a lot, so they both enjoy the exercise and interaction”.  Additionally, many volunteers, like Sue and Heather, have retired, and this gives them the opportunity to busy themselves and help out with a great cause!

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(Pictured above: Three sweet medical fosters courtesy of one of our fosters, Jeanette)

Benefits

One of the best aspects of volunteering with AARCS was beautifully put by one of our volunteers, Tami, as “the love animals have to give can only enhance your life. And the love you give back to them enhances theirs. Just the knowledge that I have helped a fellow creature live a better life makes me a happier person”. image2 (1)This is a sentiment shared by all AARCS volunteers, as many enjoy helping out and feeling that their work with the organization matters. You get to actually see animal lives getting transformed for the better through wonderful care each day. One volunteer has even stated that fostering through AARCS has allowed her to be more understanding and patient with other dogs, as they all have their own little quirks, especially rescues, who are going through a lot initially. Another volunteer, Victoria, had mentioned how her heart had grown in ways she didn’t know it could thanks to fostering. Kelly had also stated how her life has grown in so many ways. With fostering in particular, Kelly says she’s had many of their adoptive families continue to stay in touch and send updates and photos. Her and her daughter’s contribution to their “happy-ever-after life” has brought them tremendous joy. She continues to say: “There are so many proud moments, like when you bring home a mama-dog that you have to carry outside to the bathroom because she is so afraid and a few days later, she puts her head on your lap and starts to run around more freely in the yard. Or when a puppy that is just a rack of bones turns into a fluffy-bum in your care. Or when their forever family meets them and they are so in love with this dog that has flourished in your care.”. While in this type of work you do get to see a lot of bad sides to humanity that can be heart wrenching, as Annik puts it, the good side is always so much more uplifting and wonderful to see, and being a part of it and knowing what we do is really making a difference helps happiness grow.

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(Pictured: Another adorable foster, Calla, doing what she does best: playing and looking cute!)

Volunteering with AARCS also provides volunteers with refuge from daily stressors; one volunteer started with us to help with her PTSD, and has found that time with the cats has helped her through her health issues, and she even ended up adopting her first foster because of how positive her impact was with her health. For families that foster, this opportunity has given them a chance to take it on as a family and help foster empathy and responsibility in children. Fostering also gives volunteers the chance to benefit from animal companionship without necessarily committing to being a full time pet owner. For many volunteers, permanent pet ownership can be costly or not possible due to living situations. According to one volunteer, fostering has kept her healthy thanks to daily walks, has given her something to care for, and something to bring her laughter, AARCS is a community that really supports its members, which is a definite benefit for her. Beyond helping animals, many volunteers also find that they’ve struck up strong friendships over the years and that volunteering through AARCS feels like one big family through which they can grow in so many ways. Overall, when asked, the majority of AARCS volunteers had stated that through AARCS they are much happier, that they feel as though they have a purpose and that they can meet amazing new friends, all the while devoting their time to helping animals find loving homes and feel cared for. What’s worth mentioning too is the fact that an organization like AARCS works tirelessly to help animals and humans come together, instead of being two separate entities. Amy, the Animal Health Coordinator, goes on to say that AARCS’ efforts are a testament to a wonderful collaboration with both animals and humans. In helping animals, we are able to help First Nation communities by taking in and spaying or neutering as much of the animal population as we can, with any programs that require human intervention, such as the SNAP program, we contribute to animal wellbeing as well as to human wellbeing; keeping the animal population in control greatly helps with sanitation for all!

Advice

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(Pictured: A lapful of the most precious kittens ever, courtesy of Charlotte, another fantastic foster mom!)

When considering what advice they’d have to give to individuals considering volunteering their time at AARCS, every volunteer asked was beyond enthusiastic. Many volunteers spoke of how amazing it is to have the support of AARCS and to feel like you’re apart of such a great community is really reassuring. It’s a very fun, supportive network and it’s a great way to help animals and spend time with like-minded people! Fostering especially can seem daunting if you’ve never done something like it before, but there are so many volunteers ready to help out and advise you as you go along, and it is so rewarding to see animals that have been helped through their transitions. If you struggle with stress, anxiety, PTSD, depression, and more, it is such a great way to relieve those types of pains and fears and to really feel like you have a purpose. I know personally when I go in, I can always tell the animals are so thankful and happy to see you, and that can make such a huge difference with mental and emotional health! As many volunteers had said, you’ll never leave AARCS feeling like it wasn’t worth it, or with a frown, and yes sometimes it can seem sad to be around so many animals without homes, but it makes all the difference knowing that they are loved and cared for, and will soon find their forever homes thanks to our help. One volunteer had even said that her only regret was not starting sooner because she was afraid of the responsibility, but thanks to the amazing support at AARCS, fostering has brought her so much joy. No matter what your role is, or to what capacity you are able to help, there is always a positive impact. One volunteer stated that many of the animals that come in have never known a loving home, and they aren’t fully aware that they are in good hands and are safe at this point, so especially with fostering, there are some tough times to be expected. What matters most is being open-hearted, patient, and loving, and the rewards you will reap from seeing these animals transform and come out of their shells will always outweigh the downsides. With fostering as well, “always remember that the more you adopt out, the more you can save”, as Charlotte stated, who has been fostering for 8 years now and is continuing to help out animals in need.

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(Pictured: Two of Sue’s snuggly foster pups!)

If you can’t volunteer with animals, there are also many other various ways to help out! Donations are always appreciated and very helpful, as well as support with inventory, and tons of event opportunities around the city. Our wonderful Behaviour Coordinator Natasha has spoken out about how it’s so exciting to see so many new faces come in, and ultimately it’s wonderful to see the legacy for AARCS keep going. She believes we’re doing really great work, and the best part is seeing where AARCS will go in the future. In the end, the only way you’ll find out if you like it or not is if you try it out, you’ve got nothing to lose, and you’ll be part of a long-lasting legacy, and you’ll make a difference no matter what!


Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this was helpful and informative!

[Give Your heart to aarcs]
Ioana Busuioc
Blog and Website Content Creator

Got ideas for our next blog? Email me at blog@aarcs.ca!

May 16, 2018