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do the ASPCA commercials make you want to hang yourself?

My friend, April, recently posted on Facebook that she always mutes the TV when the ASPCA commercial comes on because it brings her to tears. She asked if anyone else mutes the TV. She got an overwhelming response, and no one said “I always watch them and then call in to donate money.” Responses ranged from “I turn the TV off,” to “I change the channel,” to “I fast forward on my DVR.” I explained that I shut my eyes, plug my ears, and sing “la la la, la la la, la la la…” My conclusion was that not too many people are watching these commercials, and my friend who started the post asked how effective the commercials could be if everyone was turning away.

That got me thinking. Us die-hard animal lovers probably already donate to some sort of animal-saving organization, perhaps local or, in all likelihood, the ASPCA. We know the horrors because we probably think about all the animals we can’t save on a daily basis. We volunteer hours and we open our pocketbooks. We even write blog posts. Most of us can’t bear to watch, and certainly can’t keep the tears at bay when Willie Nelson sings to us about love as the pitiful, sad faces in cages stream across our TVs.

I found the ASPCA commercial that is currently airing with Willie Nelson and Kim Rhodes on iSpot.tv:

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When I pulled up the commercial on the computer for the purpose of this post, the littles even had a strong reaction. Campbell, my 4-year-old daughter, said “awww” every time the picture changed, and then declared “we have to save all those animals. I want to get them all.” Yeah, Cam. Me, too.

Porter, my six-year-old son, said “those animals all need our help? When can we get a cat?” Once again, I explained to him why we don’t have a cat.

And, of course, I was crying. These commercials are depressing. Does anyone actually watch them?

iSpot.tv is pretty cool because you can track the statistics on the commercials. Like when it last aired and how many times it’s aired and which programs it interrupts. What you can’t track is how effective it is. In a 2010 blog post, writer Franny Syufy reported that she asked the ASPCA directly about just that and they responded that “the ASPCA measures our success by the number of animals we are able to help and by how efficient we are at raising the money that allows us to help those animals.” They went on to say that they see significant revenue growth surrounding these ad campaigns. Yes, the same ones that are making most people I talk to turn away. So it appears that they do produce enough revenue to justify the cost of advertising. I won’t get into the debate about whether or not the ASPCA is a good organization to donate to because we all have our opinions about whether we should donate to national or local organizations. Suffice it to say that the ASPCA is a highly rated charity. Donating to a legitimate charity is a wonderful thing to do and a personal choice.

So I’m thinking these commercials can’t be targeting people like April and I (and all of her Facebook friends), because we’re just turning them off. We already understand the atrocities and don’t wish to be saddened further. So who do these commercials target? Who knows? But somebody is watching and donating because of them, or the ASPCA wouldn’t keep airing them, right? For those of us who don’t turn away, pulling at our heartstrings is effective.

But why not add a bit of positive into this advertising campaign? April put it perfectly:

I would much rather them show heart-warming stories of animals that have been impacted by the support. Showing them in loving homes, etc. I think that would have a much better impact than sad music, injured animals and stories of them being tortured.

She makes a great point, doesn’t she? I would totally watch a commercial like that!

Whether you’re turning away or opening your pockets, both, or neither, find a cause that you can support wholeheartedly and go for it! Helping animals in need, or anyone or anything in need just makes you feel good, even if the commercials make you want to hang yourself.


older and wiser: considering the senior pet

Blog Paws has designated August as senior pet month and has provided this informative graphic to illustrate the importance of senior pet care and some interesting statistics about our aging animals.

Whenever you are considering adopting a pet, it is just as important to consider their life span and care they will possibly need as they age. Knowing your pet’s life expectancy and common health issues for the type or breed is key in determining if the pet is a good fit for your family. It is important to remember that your pet won’t be that cute little baby for long!

There are many senior pets available for adoption, and they can make excellent additions to your family! Although you miss out on the baby book photos, there are definite advantages to a senior pet. The shelter or foster family can often provide you valuable information about temperament and behavior, so you’ll know if the pet gets along well with other animals or with children. Senior pets are usually not as active as younger animals, so exercise requirements and energy levels may be a great match for some families. And, best of all, your adopted senior may already be potty trained or know some fun tricks. Older and wiser is a great thing.

There are organizations nationwide that specialize in the care and adoption of senior pets, so consider that option if you’re looking to grow your family!


photos giving shelter dogs a second chance

You know that photographer who does the awesome photos of dogs underwater? You’ve likely seen them and shared them…

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photo source: littlefriendsphoto.com, Seth Casteel

photo source: littlefriendsphoto.com, Seth Casteel

photo source: littlefriendsphoto.com, Seth Casteel

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photo source: littlefriendsphoto.com, Seth Casteel

That photographer is Seth Casteel, and he does more than just take groundbreaking photos of pets. He does groundbreaking work for pets.

In addition to his life as a world-renowned photographer and New York Times Best Selling Author, in 2007, he started volunteer work to help homeless pets find loving families. Through photography, he showcases these animals-in-need in a positive light that captures their true personalities. Casteel created a Web site, Second Chance Photos, that is dedicated to this quest. The Web site explains

When a dog or cat arrives at an animal shelter, it often is scared, dirty and disoriented. As part of the intake process, the animal has their photo taken, and this untimely photo is the face that people see when looking to potentially adopt a pet. An inaccurate headshot can hurt its chances of adoption, but an uplifting, hopeful portrait can save its life.

Check out this before & after:

photo credit: secondchancephotos.com

photo credit: secondchancephotos.com

AMAZING, right? Which dog would you be more likely to adopt? Wait–it’s the same dog!

The Second Chance Photos Web site aims to educate shelter photographers, offering technical guidance and even a free pdf of shelter pet photography tips. Another goal of the organization is to increase awareness about rescue and adoption. Second Chance Photos also orchestrates fundraisers so shelters can purchase better photography equipment. Casteel and Second Chance Photos also conduct workshops for shelters.

The work they do is amazing, and something that often gets overlooked. But, oh, what a difference it makes! Connect with Second Chance Photos on Twitter and Facebook.


why i don’t have a cat

ImageConfession. Scandal. Intrigue. Suspense. Terror.

I am a professional pet sitter with no cat.

Almost every new client asks me what type of pets I have. When I rattle off the list, which does not include a feline, I get:

“No cats?”

“You forgot to mention your cat.”

“And how many cats do you have?”

“No cats? Don’t you like cats?”

And by the die-hard cat people, I am often looked upon with slight suspicion, at which time I begin making out with their cat, just to prove my devotion. I also love hippos, but one does not reside with me.

So how do I feel about cats? Cats are awesome. They are so individual. One might wind between your legs and magnetize to you the second you walk in the door, and another might hide in the closet, never to emerge when humans are present. Some purr and meow, some hiss and yowl. Personality is a great thing to have.

I have cared for a pair of shy cats for nearly eight years now, yet I’ve never touched them. I know they are alive because their food is consumed, their litter box is used, and their eyes glimmer and move under the bed. I don’t push them to be friends, and their family is well-aware of their aloofness. I talk to them as I go about my business of feeding and litter-box scooping, just so they know someone is there who cares. But they don’t care. They just want to be fed. That’s okay.

I care for several cats who require insulin injections. They are all rock stars about it. And thank goodness those aren’t the ones who hide under the bed.

One cat that I care for melts my heart every time. She lives in a house with two rambunctious food-stealing Jack Russells who have not been trained, so she dines on the kitchen island. Every time I visit, she guides me to the island, jumps up on it, then puts her paws on my shoulders and nuzzles into my neck. What better love is there?

So why don’t I have a cat? (drumroll)

The litter box. 

That’s it. I can’t stand litter boxes. And I don’t wish to send my kitty outside among the coyotes and javelinas just to potty. So I choose not to have a cat. My husband is totally a cat person, too. I’ve thought many times about surprising him by adopting a cat and have browsed the cats available and in need on a regular basis because even though I’m more of a “dog person,” I adore cats. But then I remember the litter box and the litter. It’s a no-go.

Part of my job is to scoop litter boxes, so I’m pretty sure I’ve seen ’em all, and I have yet to meet one that I would have in my home. There are the filter ones, the ones with tops, the sifters, the ones that rotate, the ones hidden in the pot of a house plant…and then you have the litter. No matter what kind, it’s just bad. The ones that try to mask the poop smell are the worst. They literally make me feel ill. I most commonly run across the scoopable ones with odor control, so that’s chemical and dust combined. Awesome. The natural ones, like the pellets, are better, but they still get tracked all around the litter box. They all get tracked. That’s gross and a major pain. I’m fine with cleaning all that and dealing with it when I’m being paid, but no one in my home is going to give me a paycheck for cleaning the cat box and surrounding areas, and certainly no one in my home will do the chore. So, no cats. Sorry.

I am thankful that I get to interact with my clients’ cats regularly. They are delightful, and they satisfy my feline needs. So until we find the cat who is already trained to go on the toilet AND flush, we’re going to be happy with the rest of our herd. If we find that cat, there will finally be a reason for my boys to leave the lid up on the toilet.


a day at the Phoenix Pet Expo

The aroma of churros and dog poop guided us to the family fun at  the Phoenix Pet Expo at the University of Phoenix Stadium. The littles were impressed with the scale of the building and number of well-behaved pets before we even entered the gates. Once we did, we were corralled down a long winding ramp, since no dogs were allowed on the escalators, naturally. My dog, N.A.S.H.A., is a bit of a nut case, so I borrowed a better-behaved client’s dog, instead.

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Our borrowed pooch was a bit of a snob about the other “lesser” pets, but she had fun and was very well behaved.

Parking and admission were free. Sweet! Once inside, we were overwhelmed by the scale of the event. There were over 200 vendors and rescue groups in attendance.

Over 200 vendors and rescue groups attended the Phoenix Pet Expo.

Our borrowed pooch was a bit of a snob about the drooly community water bowls and wading pools, but it was nice that these things were provided. They even had several designated potty areas, complete with real grass, waste bags, and trash cans.

This is where serious business went down.

We made some new friends.

Cam and I were too frightened to be in the picture.

Move over, Clifford.

The littles had the opportunity to meet some exotic pets, too, including a boa constrictor, which they weren’t shy at all about petting. When your mom is a pet sitter and you get to take care of all sorts of animals, you get pretty brave at a young age.

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“He feels so smooth, Mommy…he’s cute!”

The booths had a lot going on to attract us to their wares and causes. We learned about some new and amazing products that I’ll share with you soon. Po, my six-year-old son, brought one dollar from his piggy bank and agonized about what to spend it on. He finally decided that he and his sister would donate it for a chance to spin the Pet Club wheel of fortune to win some treats for the pooches in their lives.

Cam anxiously awaits her turn while Po puts some muscle into it.

Porter won some Nylabone NutriDent dental chews, and Cam won some Natural Balance Tillman’s Treats.

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The littles were proud to have donated to Pet Club charities and to win some prizes.

The littles’ favorite activity was the “For the Love of My Pet” booth, which had many free activities for them to participate in. The kids each created their own dog puppets with help from Owen Burgess, author of For the Love of My Pet.

Cam and Po showing off their new friends.

We all enjoyed watching demonstrations in agility, flyball, and dock diving.

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Agility demonstration.

There was just so much to do at the Phoenix Pet Expo! Though we resisted adopting a new family member, the event would have been a wonderful setting in which to do so, with so many animals in need of homes. If you are an animal lover or are looking for a free day of fun for your kids, I would highly recommend attending next year’s Phoenix Pet Expo.  Just watching the pets in attendance stroll by was a treat in itself!


Blog the Change for Animals: Lost Our Home Pet Foundation

Phoenix is one of the cities hit hardest by the real estate and economic crisis. The many who have lost their homes here can’t always bring their animals with them, wherever they are going. Pet owners may be unable to support their animals, financially, and are at risk of surrendering them or abandoning them. Lost Our Home Pet Foundation has come to the rescue.

“Our mission is to be a resource for real estate professionals and other members of the community who discover an abandoned pet, and to provide options for pet owners faced with difficult economic circumstances while promoting the spaying and neutering of pets,” stated Jodi Polanski, founder of Lost Our Home (LOH) Pet Foundation. The organization was founded in 2008 “as a grassroots response to the thousands of pets in need as a result of the economic downturn in general, and the Phoenix-area foreclosure crisis in particular.” Thousands of dogs and cats have been abandoned in yards and homes, surrendered, or underfed. Lost Our Home is the only organization in the Valley of it’s kind. Not only do they focus on the animals they rescue from foreclosed homes or after evictions, but on the owners and the human-animal bond, as well.

LOH’s programs include:

Food Bank: In these difficult economic times, sometimes even providing food for your pet can seem impossible. LOH understands the trouble pet owners are going through and takes pet food donations to individuals in need of assistance.

Temp Foster Program: Foreclosure or a forced move can prevent people from keeping their pets. The LOH Temporary Foster Program provides care for pets whose owners need to stay somewhere temporarily so that they can be reunited.

Pet Friendly Rental Program: LOH’s realtor-volunteers help pet owners find pet-friendly rentals so they can keep their pets when they need to move. 100% of the commission earned (usually $200-$300) is donated to cover pet deposit fees.

Rescue Assistance: If pets are in need of immediate assistance, LOH helps to place pets whose owners are in crises up for adoptions or consider them for other programs.

To keep these programs up and running, LOH relies on the help of incredible volunteers and and donations of money and supplies for their shelter or food bank. The foster volunteers are one of their most valuable resources. The more foster families the organization can rely upon, the more animals they can save.

I asked founder, Jodi Polanski, to tell me about one of her most memorable adoption success stories. Though she had many tales to draw from, one recent adoption, in particular, was very dear to her: Shea.

Shea is a gorgeous male cat who has been through a lot. He was found as a newborn cowering under an oleander bush in Phoenix. Jodi explained, “his eyes and body were infested with fleas, and he was extremely ill. He was so young that he had to be syringe-fed, and it was not certain that his eyes–or life–could be saved.”

babyShea

Shea, just found.

Shea pulled through, but his chances of being adopted seemed slight. One of his eyes had to be removed, and he had limited vision in the other. “And he is black,” said Jodi. “Black cats and dogs are often the last to be adopted and, if they are not adopted, they are often euthanized for space.”

Shea beat the odds.

Shea2

Rehabilitated and ready for a forever home.

Shea’s strong will to survive and loving personality won over everyone around him, and, finally, won over Travis and Michelle, who adopted him two years after he was brought to Lost Our Home. “I dreamt about him after we visited the shelter,” said Travis, “so we knew we had to adopt him.”

SheaFetch

Taking up hobbies.

Shea is now happy and healthy, loving life in his new home with Travis and Michelle. But if not for the tireless volunteers, vets, and supporters of LOH, Shea may never have made it out of that oleander bush.

It’s about compassion for animals, first and foremost, which is sometimes difficult and contested in such a time and place of economic crisis. When a family is struggling to feed themselves, and survival is the stress they hold every minute of every day, tough choices have to be made. Some families give up satellite TV. Some don’t have electricity. Some are so desperate that they surrender or abandon their pets–their family members. Lost Our Home Pet Foundation has recognized a desperate need in our community and has taken action to help furry family members stay with their pack. And when that just isn’t possible, they help the animals find new forever homes. The organization is an advocate and miraculous resource for so many animals and people.

LOH needs your help, and there are many ways do donate. Please consider helping. And if you’re looking for a new addition to your family, consider pets who, through no fault of their own, are tragic victims of this crisis in our economy. Think about adopting a Lost Our Home pet.

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