Peanut & His Favorite Toy

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Peanut really knows how to lay it on thick.

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The $400 Carrot

Butter & His Emergency Room Visit

Working at an animal shelter I know a thing or two about pet health.

By no means an expert, coordinating a foster program and working closely with our vet team has definitely taught me a thing or two about animal physiology and veterinary medicine. So when I came home on a recent Saturday night and didn’t find Butter sitting at the door waiting to lick me to pieces, I knew something was wrong.

Stepping into our apartment I found Peanut running around in his typical “you’re here – you’re here” frenzy, Tomato sitting aloof in his bed, and Rocket sitting and watching Peanut in action. But where was Butter?

I had a sinking feeling as I turned on the apartment lights. My little Butterball was sitting on the couch with his head bowed and his body shaking. I called him over and he slowly crept up to me – his body wobbling as he shuffled. He resembled the St. Patrick’s Day revelers that were wandering the neighborhood. I knew Butter hadn’t been partying – so what was wrong? Continue reading

Brotherly Love

Out of all of our pets, Butter has had the hardest time adjusting to life with a bunny. Maybe it’s because of Rocket’s silent approach, or his lack of sounds in general, or maybe he’s also overdosing on the bun’s cute face. Whatever the case,  Butter has found it difficult looking over and finding the bunny suddenly at his heels. So we’ve been really great at praising and treating him whenever the bunny’s in close proximity – and it seems to be working!

Walking through the apartment I squinted when I saw two incongruous shapes in the sun room. To my surprise – it was Butter and Rocket! The two were sprawled out, face to face, sharing a sunbeam. I couldn’t believe it!

So there you have it – proof that brotherly love – even cross-species amore – knows no bounds.

Butter and Rocket (2)Butter and RocketButter and Rocket (1)

 

News & Views: Banning Puppy Mill Sales

Two rescued Cavalier King Charles Spaniels at the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago in 2011. (Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune / June 12, 2011)

Two rescued Cavalier King Charles Spaniels at the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago in 2011. (Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune / June 12, 2011)

The Chicago Tribune reports that local city clerk, Susan Mendoza, has brought up a proposal to ban retail sales of dogs who are from purported puppy mills. Would it work?

As my friend and colleague Trisha Teckenbrock is quoted as saying in the article:

“If people are not able to buy a dog at a store they will most likely find a loophole, such as turning to the Internet to buy animals — which is completely unregulated.”

So what to do? Would a ban on selling puppy mill procured dogs make a real impact? Continue reading

Making Friends: Rocket the Rex Rabbit

In early November my husband was heading down Chicago’s lakefront bike path, on his way to work, when something caught his eye.

Rocket the Rescued RabbitOut to the side of the path on the grass was a bright white bunny grazing. He did a double take, hopped off his bike, and ran over to get a closer look. This was no wild rabbit. With clean paws, carrot-colored spots, and a friendly demeanor, it quickly became clear that this was a domestic bun. Probably a victim of abandonment. Most likely having been purchased the previous Easter for a family with kids – this little guy was just steps away from one of Chicago’s busiest thoroughfares: Lake Shore Drive. My husband knew that he had to do something.

In the true spirit of an animal lover David approached the bunny, reached out to make his acquaintance, and gently scooped him up. Here was a man who saw an opportunity to help an animal in need and hopped to it (couldn’t resist the pun!). He couldn’t bring the bun to work (he works at a private school in the west loop) but didn’t have time to go back home. Carefully remounting his bike with the bunny in hand, David slowly starting to make his way downtown. His planned destination: my work.

Since 2008 I have been on the team at The Anti-Cruelty Society. First as a volunteer, and currently as a full-time staff member. Coordinating a team of over six hundred volunteers and fosters, I’m in a unique position to do what I love most: help animals and connect with people. On that cool November day it was a good thing that I worked for Chicago’s oldest and largest humane society – the bunny would have a whole legion of people available to help him out.

And that’s how the story begins.

A month later our dear bunny friend could be found at The Anti-Cruelty Society awaiting transfer to a local group that would help him find his forever home. Getting neutered, microchipped, and vetted, the little guy was waiting for the next step in his journey. In the meantime, David had been coming in almost daily to socialize with his new-found friend.

Another couple of weeks went by and David and I began to discuss the possibility of fostering our little friend.

With two rambunctious bostons at home, and a fairly feisty cat, we weren’t sure if bringing an animal of prey into our home was the best move. So we sat down, did tons of research, prayed, and waited for clarity. And then it dawned on us! David would be home on winter break for a couple of weeks – which would give us plenty of time to see how things would go.

Bringing Rocket homeSo we set the date to bring our fluffy friend home as a foster. We had baby gates, a kennel, lots of rabbit supplies and a plan of attack. We had lots of treats ready for our three goblins, made sure that their energy was burned out earlier in the day, and set up synthetic pheromone diffusers throughout the apartment to help put them at ease.  We wanted everything to be just right. We set up our kitchen to be bunny ground zero. There we would have his kennel set up and allow him supervised access to the room. The gate would be up – separating our clan from the rabbit – keeping him safe while giving them a chance to acclimate to the new house guest. Draping fabric over the gate, as well as over part of the kennel, the stage was set. All that was left was bringing the bunny home.

Picking up the bun in a tiny rented I-Go car – David and I had the best Friday night plans I could imagine: bringing home a foster. And not just a new animal – a whole new species to boot!

Once we arrived at our place the bunny was quickly whisked into the kitchen where we spent the first hour letting him explore his kennel and the room. Understandably our boys were worked up and curious – so from time to time David or I would hop out of the kitchen for some snuggles and treat training. Nothing raucous – just an extra bit of attention so they wouldn’t feel left out. After about an hour we left the kitchen and snuggled onto the couch with Peanut, Butter, and Tomato to watch some Doctor Who. This hiatus from his space would allow the bunny some time to relax or explore without invasion of his privacy. So we gave him some space, occupied our pets, and let him settle in.

And so went our first few days together. A little bit of time with the bunny – a little bit of time with the boys.

Rocket's First DaysIt seems this gradual introduction process was doing the trick. The bunny felt confident and the dogs and cat weren’t fussing to get into the kitchen. Brilliant! Now the time was right for first peeks and careful observation. This was the moment that would reveal how the next couple of weeks would pan out. Either our boys would see the bun and go nuts, or they’d display a healthy, yet respectful curiosity.

So we drew back part of the curtain and let Tomato, our handsome senior kitty, go first.

Tomato has a history of being a little bit temperamental. He was our first pet, being adopted at a very young 6 weeks of age when we were living in New York City. Years later we would introduce him to a neighbor’s foster dog and discover he was completely tolerant of canines. Great! Soon after that we adopted Peanut, and a couple of years later, Butter. More on their stories another time.

The thing that worried us about Tomato’s reaction to the bunny was a) the potential for his prey drive to kick in and b) the revelation of his grouchy “who is this new foster animal” behaviors. While Tomato has never acted aggressively towards any of our fosters, he’s shown a kitten or two, and puppies, that he rules the roost and isn’t afraid to spit, hiss, growl or smack them into submission. So here we were. Tomato and a rabbit. Which way would this go?

Continue reading