Rob and Raquel adopted Nova (previously Hilda) in May of 2016. During the past eight months Nova has made friends with her two feline housemates while settling in to her forever home. They have already gone on many adventures together, and buried a few bones along the way.
What made you decide to adopt from a shelter? We really liked the idea of rescuing rather than going to a breeder. It just seemed like a more responsible action.
What brought you to PAWS? Two reasons. First, Rob used to volunteer there in the cat room, so he knew the approach PAWS takes to making sure the right pet gets the right owner, and the excellent care they receive up until that point. Second, adopting from them creates space for other animals in need to find their new home. It’s a win-win really.
How did you first find out about Nova? We really lucked out, honestly. We were interested in a German Shepherd and had only recently seriously discussed adopting a dog. We had seen some postings of other dogs on the PAWS website and decided to stop by and see if any would be a good match with us.
There were several dogs we had some possible interest in, but we were still on the fence. As we were walking out of the kennel area we saw Nova walk past with someone. We followed them back to her kennel and staked it out until we were able to get some time to play with her. She had just arrived so she didn’t even have her papers up yet. Talk about perfect timing!
Nova and Zoey cuddling
What led to her name change? Haha well, I'd like to call my girlfriend, Raquel, and myself avid gamers. But I would be wrong if I did that—it’s definitely just me. However she likes to watch this one game that I play—Heroes of the Storm. One of my favorite characters within that game is called Nova. The name just fit her well, so we went with it.
What was it that most attracted you to her? We loved her mix of German Shepherd and Siberian Husky. Her gorgeous coat, pointy ears, crazy curly tail, and different colored eyes are absolutely beautiful.
Once we had some play time with her, we also fell in love with her behavior. She wasn’t loud or defensive about food when we were interacting with her. She also wasn’t too high energy, which was important based on our housing.
Nova and Raquel taking a nap
How would you describe her personality? She’s a gentle princess. Doesn’t bark much, plays nicely with her sisters (two tortoiseshell cats). She hates getting her paws wet in the rain and will protest when we take her out to potty in the wet.
How was your adoption experience with PAWS? About as great as one would expect. They were very honest and upfront about anything. So good, in fact, that Rob did a 24 hour video game marathon (did we mention he likes to play video games?) on twitch to raise money for PAWS. We were able to raise $125 which we were thrilled about! Stay tuned as we may be doing this again in March of 2017!
Briefly talk us through your first journey home and how the “settling in” period went. It was a transition at home for sure. Rob was definitely over-protective of the cats when they would interact (which didn’t happen for quite some time after getting her). It took a little bit for things to settle, and a lot of hard work. But now there is definitely a “pack” mentality in the home that all creatures understand.
Rob and Nova on a camping trip
What have you experienced together since Nova came into your life? We love to camp—a lot. In fact, the day after we got her we took her on a Memorial Day camping trip with us (up near Skykomish). She loved it! But the story gets better. Among the many toys we brought with us for her that trip was a bone (we weren’t sure what she liked yet, so we gave her plenty of variety). When we gave the bone to her in the campsite, she promptly buried it.
Fast-forward about two months, and we were up camping at the same campground again. We brought her to the site where she had buried the bone. Not only was it still there; she walked right up to the spot and dug it up. She carried it around proudly for everyone to see before burying it, yet again, in a different site. I’ll have to get back to you next summer to see if she digs it up again!
We also took her out in the recent snow, and she had the time of her life!
Zeke and Shanna adopted Scout and Bebo from PAWS in 2013. Recently they took some time to talk about the lives of their lucky PAWS kitties.
Bebo (left) and Scout
What made you decide to adopt from a shelter? Both Shanna and I have volunteered at various shelters over the years, and we’ve always wanted to do what we can to help find home for animals in need. We’ve also both previously adopted animals from shelters and had great experiences.
What brought you to PAWS? Before Bebo and Scout, I had another cat, Gato, for 18 years. I adopted her as a stray when she was very young, and when she passed away I felt that I wanted to honor her by helping other cats find the same kind of happiness I had with her. Shanna had previously volunteered at PAWS and we had both participated in events like PAWSwalk. I began volunteering at PAWS, too, and first met Scout while I was working as a cat room cleaner.
What was it that most attracted you to Scout and Bebo? Scout was very affectionate, and friendly. When I first walked past her kennel, she gave me a little chirp and rubbed her face on the cage. Shanna and I took a vacation the week after I met Scout, and I thought about her the whole time we were gone. I decided that if she was still at PAWS when we returned, I would adopt her. Sure enough, when we came back there she was.
I crouched down to her, and she jumped up on my leg and licked me on the nose, purred, and head-butted me. When Shanna joined us, Bebo was sitting in a bed near the window; he looked up at her and belted out a great big meow as if to indicate it was his turn to get attention. As soon as this happened, I knew we were bringing him home with us, too.
Scout's favorite sleeping position
How was your journey home and settling in together? We already had a dog, so we made sure to introduce the cats to him very slowly. We kept them completely separated at first and gradually let them spend more and more time around each other until we found they could all behave together. It took about six weeks. Eventually, they would all sleep together on the couch.
How would you describe Scout’s and Bebo’s personalities? Scout is pretty much a diva; she likes to be the center of attention. She has a very sweet affectionate side, but she can be grumpy sometimes and she likes to tease the dog. She is very intelligent and inquisitive, and loves to play with her toy mice.
Bebo was a cat who acted like royalty. We would joke that he must have been an emperor in a previous life. He had a way of demanding to be petted that was impossible to resist. When we would pet him, he would purr in an almost musical tone, and meow loudly with approval. He was everyone’s friend, and wasn’t shy at all.
How have Scout and Bebo changed your life? They came into our family at a time when we were just getting over the loss of our beloved Gato. Oscar, our dog, was very attached to Shanna, but I’m more of a cat person and I really felt like something was missing. Bringing Scout and Bebo into our home allowed me to feel that connection with a pet again and made us feel good about giving two older cats a great place to live out their lives.
How old were Scout and Bebo when you adopted them? What do you think is the best thing about adopting cats of that age? When we adopted Scout, they guessed her age to be about nine years old, and Bebo was estimated to be 11. We adopted senior cats because we know they can have a harder time finding new homes and we wanted to give them the best lives we could imagine.
Scout is good friends with Zeke and Shanna's dog, Oscar
What advice do you have for people considering adopting a cat? Take your time and find the cat that is right for you. If you have existing pets, introduce everyone slowly, as the more careful you are with their introductions, the better the relationship between your established pets and the newcomers will likely be. Be sure you will be able to give your cat the time, attention and care that he needs to be healthy and happy.
Even though our time with Bebo was short, he was an unforgettable companion, and left an indelible mark on our lives. Scout has also captured our hearts very strongly. It’s a rewarding feeling to know that we have opened our home to two cats in need and given them some of the best years of their lives.
While Zeke and Shanna were responding to our questions for this blog, Bebo sadly passed away, on April 12, 2016. We extend our deep compassion and condolences to Zeke, Shanna and their furry family, and thank them for answering our questions during this difficult time.
June is Adopt-a-Cat Month, and for good reason: It’s “kitten season,” and those little cuties are overrunning shelters all across the country. Unfortunately, although it’s a great time for kittens to find their forever homes, it’s not so good for adult and senior cats, who are often overlooked in the face of all that cuteness.
However, there are plenty of reasons to consider walking past all those squeaking, pouncing fuzzballs and finding a furry friend among the more mature cats in a shelter.
Senior cat Frenchy, now named Mlle. la Chatte, was adopted four years ago. She's still happy and healthy.
First, “senior” really isn’t that old. Here at PAWS we consider cats to be seniors at age 7, but a well-cared-for indoor cat can live into her late teens. PAWS alumna Frenchy, now named Mademoiselle la Chatte, was adopted in 2012 at the age of 10. The latest reports from her adopter indicate that she’s still in great health and enjoying her life in her new home. There’s no reason to fear that a senior cat is too old to enjoy years of happiness with you.
Senior cats are well past the “adorably cute tornado” stage of development, in which kittens learn about their environment by climbing, scratching, chewing and getting into things they shouldn’t. If you’re looking for a mellow companion to sit with you while you read, watch TV or meditate, a senior could be just the cat for you.
Ten-year-old Dr. Dre is looking for his forever home.
Older cats have generally known a life in a home and they’re familiar with having doting humans and warm beds all to themselves, so the shelter can be kind of a shock to them. Senior kitties will be especially glad to have a family of their own again, and they’ll show it with cuddles and purrs.
Senior cats’ personalities are fully formed, so you know what you’re getting before you adopt. It’s hard to know whether that tiny kitten is going to turn into a calm and quiet “lap fungus” or an extroverted, active and independent cat who needs to play for hours on end. With older cats, shelter staff can confidently guide you toward feline friends that are a good match for your family and lifestyle.
Fourteen-year-old Gig was adopted last week.
If you adopt an older cat and sometime in the future you do decide that you’d like to adopt a kitten, an older cat who’s already a member of your household can offer feline-style guidance on how to behave and respond to life in your home.
Older adult cats may be a better choice for families with children because they tend to be more patient with grabby little hands – although you should still supervise your children when they’re playing with the cat to make sure there are no unfortunate accidents.
Softy, age 11, is looking for a lap to call her own.
We’re delighted when any cat, no matter their age, finds a forever home, but the next time you want to adopt a cat, please consider visiting with the older cats, too. You may just find a feline friend who will be your loving companion for many years to come.
Pets can be great for children: Not only do they help kids to learn about empathy and compassion, but they teach responsibility as well. Studies have even shown that pets can help children to be healthier by strengthening the immune system.
April 26 is National Kids and Pets Day, which makes it a great time to share some tips to help kids live together happily with dogs and cats.
PAWS cats Fuji and Gala went to a forever home with a small child.
Children under the age of five should never be left alone with a dog or cat. At this young age, they are still learning how to interact properly with pets, and they need your attention and guidance to do so.
Teach your children about cats’ and dogs’ body language. This will help them to understand your dog or cat and avoid accidents or injuries. There are some great pictorial guides available on the internet so kids who are still learning to read can get to know things like the signs of stress or relaxation.
Teach your children to “be gentle with the dog” or “be gentle with the kitty.” That is, no tail-pulling, no chasing or grabbing.
Don’t allow your child to grab a dog’s or cat’s toys away or disturb him while he’s asleep.
Use a baby gate to separate your dog and your young children when your dog is eating. A baby gate can also give your cat a “safe room” if she wants to get away from the kids for a while.
Make sure your cat has plenty of high places where she can observe children without being in their immediate reach.
PAWS dog Goose went to a forever family with a number of kids.
Our animal behavior lead at PAWS, Rachel Bird, offers this advice on how to get kids involved with caring for their animal companions.
Let them help with feeding your dog or cat. “Feeding animals helps in the ‘bonding’ process,” Rachel says. “Animals really respond to the person giving them food! I like to mix it up at home, and I will rotate between my children to give them all a chance to feed everyone or hand out treats.”
Let children play with cats using a laser pointer or wand toys. This allows the child to be a safe distance from the cat in order to avoid accidental scratches or bites, and both are having fun.
Children benefit from getting involved in obedience classes for dogs. “Usually, kids love to learn how to teach a dog new tricks,” Rachel says, “so it’s just a matter of teaching him how to teach them.”
Older children can take your dog for walks or clean litter boxes. These chores teach children about some of the responsibilities involved in having an animal companion, and will make them better pet guardians when they become adults.
How have you helped your children learn how to care for your dog or cat? Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments.
Find out more about companion animal behavior and welfare in our online resource library.
Dylan adopted Will from PAWS a few months ago, but in the short time the two have been together, Will has already made a huge difference in Dylan’s life—and Dylan in his. When we saw that Dylan had written a blog post about his experience with Will, we asked him if he would answer a few questions for us.
What made you decide to adopt from a shelter? One of the first dogs I remember from my childhood was a rescue Rottweiler. I’m also a crybaby for videos online of abused animals and animals that were adopted by someone who wasn't quite ready for the commitment. All things considered, I knew there was a loving animal in need somewhere waiting to meet their new best friend.
What brought you to PAWS? PAWS has a reputation that I can stand by. It was the first name that came to mind when discussing where to go find my puppy, and obviously that turned out great!
What was it that most attracted you to Will? When I met Will at the shelter, his charm just made me want to play with him. My partner and I had a contagious smile the entire time we were visiting with him. He also has this adorable head tilt when he is listening to you.
How was your journey home and settling in together? Will did a great job in the car! I remember having this feeling that I was having my first parenting experience: All I wanted for Will was for him to feel safe and trust me as his new friend.
How would you describe Will’s personality? Will is silly, charming and a great cuddler. Between playing and learning new tricks—quickly, might I add—he chases his tail until he gets dizzy and you can see his head spinning when he stops to rest. He has a smile and demeanor about him that makes people on the street smile when he is on walks.
How has Will changed your life? As I struggled with depression and some anxiety about job changes, schooling and being in a new city, I did a lot of research about how dogs can be both a great responsibility and an excellent source of therapy. Will makes me smile every day, from first thing in the morning until the end of the night when he curls up in a ball and gives a sigh of accomplishment after his long day. He has given me a sense of routine, purpose and companionship that I didn't have before.
How old was Will when you adopted him? What do you think is the best thing about adopting an adult dog? Will was just over two years old. The best thing about an adult dog is that I don't have to take him out to do his business every hour and worry about every little thing like I would a puppy, but I do know that I have at least a good 10 years of friendship with Will. For someone who wants to invest time into training and developing a relationship with a dog but can't be on watch 24/7, I think the best thing a person can do is adopt a young adult dog.
What advice do you have for people considering adopting a dog? It’s important to understand the responsibilities of being a dog guardian. I wanted a dog for years—I grew up with them and knew that dogs were going to continue to be a part of my life. That being said, I’m just now at the point where I’m ready to accept that responsibility. The time and attention a dog needs to feel loved, mentally challenged, and physically exercised is just as important as the financial impact of medication, vet visits, toys, treats, and food.
Is there anything else you’d like to say? You can teach an old dog new tricks. Even a dog who was mistreated or who received no socialization or training in his early life can become a really wonderful and well-behaved companion. At first, Will wasn't house trained, he didn't sit on command, and he barked at every single person he saw. Since then, he has learned a dozen tricks, tells me when he needs to go outside, and is getting so much closer to being a little lover to everyone. If you're willing to put in the work for your little friend, he’s willing to give back.
Do you want to spend your Friday or Saturday evenings volunteering with animals?
Wait, before you click away, let us tell you a bit about the importance of volunteers—who we rely on seven days a week, 365 days a year—and share with you some stories of PAWS volunteers who take those weekend night shifts.
Photo by Benjamin Fry
Last year at PAWS, more than 8,200 cats, dogs and wild animals were brought to us in need of help. We couldn’t have assisted these animals in finding homes or returning to the wild without the help of our volunteers.
More than 800 volunteers contributed a staggering 63,176 hours (the equivalent of 7.2 years!) to helping us in 2015.
You might be surprised to know that even with all this volunteer support, we still need more. This is particularly true for our weekend shifts. While walking dogs and tending to wildlife might not seem like the perfect way to start the weekend, Tom, who has been serving as a Friday-night dog walker for a year now, would like to tell you otherwise.
“I really do enjoy the shift and find it a convenient, satisfying way to cap off the traditional work week,” Tom says. “I like to think of the Friday shift as ‘PAWS Happy Hour’ since not only does it coincide with human Happy Hour, it's busy and fun and the doggies are very happy to have their dinner and go for an evening stroll in the woods.”
If you’d like to spend your happy hour with our companion animals we desperately need more Friday night dog walkers, and also kennel attendants, who deal with every aspect of a dog’s life at PAWS. Which is one of the really rewarding aspects of volunteering out of hours. It’s just you and them, and you’re making a very real impact on a dog’s life. That can be a special experience.
Helping dogs on the night shift still leaves plenty of time to connect with friends and family. Most volunteers at our shelter leave by 6 or 7 p.m. “That’s still pretty early in the scheme of a weekend,” Tom says, “so people have plenty of time to head out for a movie or dinner.”
If you’re more interested in taking a weekend walk on the wild side, we are always looking for more volunteer wildlife care assistants to fill Friday and Saturday night shifts during our busy season (6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m., April through September). Crucial to maintaining continuity of care for our patients, wildlife care assistants get involved with feeding and final checks on patients.
Randi has been volunteering with PAWS for more than 12 years and always takes an evening shift at our wildlife center in the summer. “I like the late shift because there’s a smaller team and you get to interact more closely with your shift mates and the rehabbers,” she says, adding that even though there’s a lot to do, it’s a great shift because time moves quickly when you’re busy and enjoying your fellow volunteers’ company.
Jennifer, another volunteer at our wildlife center, says that the evening shift allows her to fit her volunteer interests into her regular work schedule. “For me the volunteer tasks are a welcome break from my regular desk job and I am given the opportunity to learn and experience things I would not in my day to day life,” she says. “There is a good energy to the evening shift despite how busy it often is, the feel is very laid back; you are winding the shelter down for the night and preparing for the next morning.”
Why not join “PAWS Happy Hour” and volunteer with us on a Friday or Saturday night? By the time you are finished with your shift, there will still be plenty of time to enjoy a night out with friends or spend a relaxing evening at home. And, as Tom says, “It sends you off into the weekend feeling good.”
Why do we talk so much about spaying and neutering? Quite simply put, it saves lives.
When you put it into numbers, the case for spaying and neutering our pets is extremely compelling. A dog can have two litters per year, with an average of six to 10 puppies per litter. That’s 12 to 20 puppies a year for every intact female dog.
Photo CC-BY hurricanemaine
A cat can have two to three litters per year with an average of four to six kittens per litter. That’s between eight and 18 kittens a year for every intact female cat.
A rabbit can have up to 14 babies per litter and can become pregnant again within minutes of giving birth. With the average rabbit pregnancy lasting between 28 and 31 days, one rabbit could become mom to 168 babies in a single year!
Add to these numbers the knock-on effect if all these babies aren’t spayed or neutered when they reach reproductive age, and you start to see how over-population occurs and why shelters like PAWS are full of unwanted, abandoned animals.
Photo CC-BY Danielle Bourgeois
A cat, dog or rabbit who is spayed or neutered not only saves lives. There are many health benefits for the animals too.
Spaying and neutering eliminates the risk of certain cancers. Since the uterus and ovaries are removed during a spay and the testicles are removed during a neuter, by getting your dog, cat or rabbit “fixed,” you’re also making sure your beloved furry friend will be protected from cancer of the reproductive organs.
Photo CC-BY normanack
Spaying also dramatically reduces the risk of breast tumors in female animals. These are the most common types of tumors in dogs and the third most common in cats. Approximately 50 percent of breast tumors in dogs and 90 percent of breast tumors in cats are malignant.
Neutering reduces a male dog or cat’s desire to roam in search of females ready to mate, which also reduces the risk of becoming separated from their loving homes, being hit by a vehicle, getting into fights with other animals or encountering larger predators.
And timing is everything.
It used to be thought that cats and dogs should be spayed after 6 months of age. However, they can get pregnant as early as 5 months of age. Now we know that kittens and puppies can be altered as early as 2 months of age (or 2 pounds in weight), and that they actually recover more quickly from surgery at this young age than they do as they get older.
It’s for these reasons and many more that PAWS spays and neuters every cat and dog, kitten and puppy in our care before they get adopted. PAWS also operates a spay/neuter clinic for low-income residents of the area and participates in World Spay Day every year.
In 2015, PAWS spayed and neutered 2,173 shelter dogs and cats and performed a total of 502 low-cost spay-neuter surgeries on privately owned dogs, cats and rabbits of low-income families. And thanks to a grant from the Hazel Miller Foundation, we are poised to help even more low-income families get their furry friends spayed and neutered through 2016. This grant provides free spay or neuter surgeries for cats of qualified low-income residents from the city of Edmonds, as well as clients who reside in many areas of Brier, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Woodway and parts of Unincorporated Snohomish County.
Adrianna and Aleksandra adopted Abby from PAWS Cat City in 2011. She was seven years old at the time, a shy cat who had been in PAWS’ care for long enough to feign a lack of interest in people who came to visit. But the couple saw through Abby’s shyness to her mellow temperament, which they thought would be a great match for first-time cat parent Aleksandra. I recently sat down with Adrianna to talk about Abby’s life since her adoption.
What made you decide to adopt from a shelter? I am very passionate about no-kill shelters, and I would never purchase a pet—another living being; there are so many cats that need homes.
What brought you to PAWS? PAWS does a really good job with the adoption process in terms of caring for the cats, helping people find the right cat and making sure that the cats are adoptable. I also liked all the information on their website about the adoption process and finding the right cat.
What was it that most attracted you to Abby? True love? Love at first sight? I specifically wanted to adopt a black cat and an adult cat, because black cats are more likely to stay in shelters longer simply because they don’t stand out as much as other colors. When I saw Abby in the shelter I noticed that she was kind of hanging off to the side and she wasn’t very visible, but since I was looking for a black cat I noticed her.
How was your journey home and settling in together? She was amazing! She went into her carrier with absolutely no problem, and the staff at PAWS were very nice and helpful. When she got home she came out with her tail up, all curious and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. My sister was there to help me with the introduction to her feline housemate, Pedro, and separating them into two rooms at the beginning. I think being well educated about how to properly introduce cats helped a lot.
How would you describe Abby’s personality? She is a fluffy marshmallow of love. She’s given me so much happiness and she has the most wonderful purr. She’s just a mellow cat and likes hanging out, sitting in her cat tree and watching the birds. She’s very gentle and sweet, and she’s definitely smarter than Pedro. I’ve trained her to sit up and beg for treats.
How has Abby changed your life? She’s made me a more loving and contented person. She reminds me about what’s important in life and how to be open-hearted ... and of the importance of taking naps. The companionship she gives me is so deeply wonderful because I have a chronic illness that sometimes makes it difficult to even get out of bed. She’s like a little medicine cat. She can make me smile no matter what’s going on.
A lot of people worry about adopting older cats because of a concern about health problems or that they won’t have much time together. Has Abby faced any major health issues? She did have a bout of pancreatitis, but that resolved quickly. She has arthritis, but that’s well managed. As far as adopting an older cat, indoor cats can live to be 20 or older, so if you’re adopting a 10-year-old cat, you’ve got 10 years together.
What advice do you have for people considering adopting a cat? Be aware that it is a long-term commitment. It’s like having a child: You need to make sure you can afford it and that you’re willing to go the extra mile to get cat-friendly housing, and that you have time to spend with your cat. People have the misconception that cats are aloof, but they really do need a lot of companionship. I also think it’s important to consider a cat-only vet because cats are much calmer in this environment and the staff are experts in feline medicine.
If you’ve ever succumbed to the persuasive powers of an adoptable cat (or two, or more!), chances are Amanda’s experience with PAWS alumnus Malcolm will resonate with you. For those of you thinking about adding a feline friend to your family, her moving story of life with a senior cat may open up a whole new world of potentially perfect companions.
This is a letter to anyone considering the adoption of a senior cat, and to the people at PAWS who made this all possible.
When I adopted Malcolm he was seven and a half years old, with an arrhythmia of the heart and severe allergies to just about anything. However, to know Malcolm was to love Malcolm. This test has been proven several times, and he has a reputation for turning the most allergy ridden, insecure and unconfident human into a cat person.
He was amazing.
I was young when Malcolm chose me. I was 21, with only a part time job and a part time fiancé. I was two states away from my family, friends and the home I knew. I couldn’t afford his many ailments and I had every reason to say no. I even tried once. But in the end, there was no ‘saying no’ to Malcolm.
The day I brought him home was terrifying. I wondered if he would adapt well enough, if I was enough, if he could thrive in this home that I had built. Naturally, he walked in like he owned the place. In so many ways, he made me feel more at home there then I would have felt on my own. Every bit of love I gave to him, he returned ten times over. It was as though he knew that I would be his ‘forever home’.
Malcolm was work. As I mentioned, he was allergic to everything; laundry detergents, fleas, flea medication, pain medication, grains, and scented litter. And then there was his heart murmur to keep an eye on. Some days, it was more than I could handle. But Malcolm acted every day as though he was worth it, and by the end of even the hardest day, he proved he was right.
I’m not going to go into detail of the years of loss, change and growth that we went through together; but I will say that he was by my side every second. Making him my first priority always resulted in the best solution. I couldn’t go wrong.
Malcolm died of a heart attack last week. He was mine for only five years. Five years is a very short relationship to have with a pet, but for me and for us, it was five years of love and adoration.
A senior cat can have a lot of love to give. They can lend you the experience you lack, and they can be the most confident partners. Senior cats know more about themselves than we, as humans, know of ourselves. All you have to do is listen with your heart and trust that your best will be enough.
My senior cat was a success story. And though it breaks my heart to be without him, he has taught me a valuable lesson: never dismiss a life because of age or ailments. When I am ready to adopt again, I hope to find another senior. I hope that anyone reading this message will take my advice to heart.
Dogs have always been part of Janiece’s life so, when her beloved Dozer passed away in 2012, it was somewhat inevitable that life soon began to feel empty and the pull to get another dog became stronger. Little did she know the amazing and life-changing adventure that awaited her with Roxy, adopted in January 2013 and now about to become a fully-fledged Search and Rescue dog!
How did you find Roxy? I love telling this story! In November of 2012, my old dog Dozer passed away and I soon started feeling the pull to get another dog. Of course, everyone loves to help you find a new dog, so my friends at work were scanning all the adoption sites for me. A good friend at work (and prior PAWS volunteer) found a shepherd mix she thought would be perfect. I raced to PAWS after work to meet her.
Just talking to her through the kennel door I could tell she wasn’t the dog for me, but as I walked by Roxy something made me stop. I’d seen her previously on the website but she hadn’t triggered anything with me, until I saw her. I instantly knew she was supposed to be in my life.
It was too late to do a meet and greet that day, so I planned to come back the next day. When I got there another family was visiting with her. I was crushed and hoped they wouldn’t click with her. Luckily for me they didn’t and I got to spend some time with her.
She didn’t really care about me and was basically just a big puppy at that point. All she really knew was how to sit for cookies. She had A LOT of energy and was a little nippy (ah, the herding breeds!). I was hooked and put a hold on her. She came home the next day and settled right in on the car ride home.
What were some of the highlights of your first weeks together? Oh dear, I wish I could say it was a honeymoon from the beginning, but that was not the case! She tried to attack my cat Bailey (there was a baby gate between them), spent a couple months peeing on the floor, and was horrible with visitors. She was, however, a total sweetheart! As she settled into her new life, we worked through all those issues . She’s now great with the cat (they share my bed), never pees inside and loves meeting new people!
Were you looking for a Search and Rescue candidate when you started looking for a dog? I was not, but quickly realized after I got Roxy, this dog NEEDS to work! The Snohomish County K9 Team was hosting an open house, so I decided to check it out. We joined in 2013. Two years later, here we are and my life has completely changed!
How does the training work? In Snohomish County, you’re first a member of Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue (SCVSAR). There are training requirements at the county level including navigation, first aid, and wilderness survival. The county also has specialty teams, such as K9 and Equine, and each team has additional training based on their specialty. On average it takes 18 to 24 (or more) months to certify a dog. There’s no cost for the training, however you do have to purchase and maintain your own equipment.
What makes Roxy such a good candidate for SAR? She has high drive (she LOVES to play tug and “hunt” people), she’s bold, energetic and athletic. She’s that dog that will go all day, rest for an hour and be ready to go again. That’s the type of dog that drives you crazy as a pet but makes an excellent SAR dog!
What does the life of a SAR dog involve? Training, training and more training! Pretty much I just try to keep up with her. We do agility once a week, train with the team once or twice a week, and work on obedience, etc. in between. She also has regular doggie play dates with her friends. Down time to just “be a dog” is really important too. It’s easy to burn a dog out with too much training.
In additional to all of that, it’s important to keep your SAR dog physically fit. We ask a lot of them when they’re working and they need to be prepared for that. We do something active pretty much every day, sometimes that’s a run, a romp at the park or a good hike.
Any funny training moments you can share? She had a brief stint as a sled dog while we were training at Mount Rainier. I fell down and she was so excited to start her problem she kept going. I held on and went for a little ride. I think I see skijoring (a winter sport where you’re on skis and pulled by a dog/horse/vehicle) in our future!
What will the next steps be once you’re certified? She’ll be ready to deploy on missions. She’s currently working on her Airscent Certification, which involves working off leash in large areas. We’ve also done some disaster and avalanche training, and will likely continue to pursue that after she’s certified in Airscent.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to adopt a dog? First and foremost, make sure you’re getting a dog for the right reasons and you have the time to commit to dog ownership. Second, make sure you get the right dog for your lifestyle and be realistic about what that is. I see so many people get that “cute” working breed, then don’t give it a job. Those dogs will find a job, we’ve bred them to work. They may just decide that eating your couch or herding your children is the best job for them!
Get professional guidance from the beginning. Even if you’ve had dogs before, this helps get you and the dog off on the right foot. Give your dog time to adjust and try to see things from his/her perspective. Their entire world has just been turned upside down. Who knows what their history is? Their behavior is based on their past experiences, and that won’t change overnight.
Dogs of all shapes, sizes and personalities end up in shelters looking for that new forever family who’ll let their talents shine – whether those talents are delivering love through snuggles, creating laughter through fun times, or saving lives. Thank you, Janiece, for seeing Roxy’s potential and giving her the perfect career as well as the perfect home!