Not So Many (un)Happy Returns!

I like statistics, so I often see how SoHumane does against other similar organizations in our state and in the nation.
Overall, we do very good. Our average length of stay (from intake to adoption) is just at 2 weeks for dogs and 45 days for cats. The cat numbers are on par with state and national groups, but our dog numbers are very, very good.
So is our “return” rate – the percentage of animals that are returned within 30 days of adoption. We’ve been hovering right at 8 percent, which is exceptionally low. But for 2014, that percentage has dropped to a mere 6.
I believe we have such low returns because the staff works hard to make a good match, not just make any match. If they believe the animal you have chosen isn’t the best fit, they will tell you so AND also provide some alternatives. If you still think your first choice is the best, they will give you some good advice on how to overcome some of the obstacles they see and, always, our staff is available by phone to help talk you though some rough spots.
Finding the right home for cats and dogs isn’t an exact science, but the men and women at SoHumane do a darn good job at it.

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Biscuits R Us

While at the coast last weekend, I had an epiphany – something I hadn’t really given much notice to suddenly became clear:

My dogs Zed believes that drive-through windows exist for only one reason: the dispensing of dog biscuits.

I noticed this because when I pulled up to a drive-through espresso shop, he went into the hysterics normally reserved for pulling into a friends driveway or turning up the dirt road to our camp in Scott Valley.

At the pharmacy, the bank, the Human Bean – every where we go that has a drive-though, the business has recognized that’s it’s good business to treat dogs as customers.

And, as Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing.


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Give a Hoot

I’ve spent a lot of time in the South Pacific, mostly on small islands. I love the people, the culture, the food – all of it except the trash. I can be on a small beach on a tiny island and see trash left there by people. This isn’t trash that washes up, it’s left by locals and tourists.

I asked a Chamorro (native to Guam) friend who used to be a park ranger in Idaho and he said he thought it was because people who had spent their whole lives on the island didn’t understand how rare the beauty of the place was and took it for granted.

I bring this up because I decided to get away this weekend by driving to the coast, then turning inland and following the Chetco as far as possible to find a remote camping site. I love to camp, but I don’t like campground. That’s why I like dispersed camping on Forest Service and BLM lands.

I got there after dark and had to back out of a few spots that were already occupied before finding a desolate camping spot right on the Chetco, just 15 feet from the river bank. Perfect! The dogs were able to wander around and not disturb anyone as I looked at the stars and counted satelittes.

I woke the next morning anticipating spending time just “dogging around” on the river. As soon as the dogs were out of the truck, they began exploring again. One look showed me why they were so anxious to get out of the truck.

There was trash everywhere. Empty beer and soda cans. empty hot dog packages, empty chip bags. Zed was digging in the sand behind a bush and I saw white toilet paper. Gross.

I had to put them back in the truck before they made themselves sick. I packed up and left disgusted.

Oregon is a beautiful state, but perhaps – like some South Pacific islands – people take it for granted.

Clean up your act, Oregon – I doubt there were many tourists who found their way to this remote site.


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Consider Yourself Part of the Family

I’m on my own this week, which means full responsibility for the two dogs! That means I HAVE to walk them every morning (no hitting the snooze button a couple of times a week), and go home at lunch to let them out and spend a little time with them. They’re used to having a human around at least 20 hours a day, but are good about being on their own.

I guess I could leave them out in the yard all day, or they’d probably be fine inside for 8 hours with no accidents. But that’s not how I treat family.

For most of us, dogs and cats are family. And at SoHumane, we want the entire family involved in making the decision to adopt a pet.

That’s one of the reasons that if you already have a dog, we require you to bring it in for a monitored “meet and greet” with the dog you want to adopt. If gives us a chance to help you learn how to integrate a new dog into a family with existing pets.

We also want you to bring the kids, spouses – anyone who is going to live with the animal. Being open on weekends helps make this possible, but closing at 5 on weekdays can still make it hard for everyone to get to our facilities at Table Rock Road.

That’s why we’re hosting a Hot August Nights event this  Friday and Saturday. We’re staying open until 8 p.m. each night and have lots of family events – prizes, games, a Barking Lot Sale, free popcorn – even a dunking tank featuring yours truly.

So if you’re thinking about adopting, or just want to hang out with some cool cats, come on down this weekend and say hello. You never know who you might run into!


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Cold Nose Girl Find a Warm Place

Remember the two dogs that I found tied by their leashes to our fence? I wrote about it here.

The larger, younger female quickly found a home with a previous owner, who had given the dog to someone else and was horrified to learn that, years later, the dog had ended up tied to a fence (we were able to find the woman through the registration of the dog’s microchip).

The other dog, an older female Aussie mix, has not fared as well. Suzy, as we’ve come to call her, has lingered at our shelter. She is a sweet dog, but is old. She also has a kidney issue that requires special (and pricey) food.

But I have good news to report. Suzy will become a permanent foster dog at the Addictions Recovery Center in-patient treatment facility. She will be the second senior dog that we have placed with this wonderful agency, which helps people deal with their addictions.

Because it is a treatment center, it is staffed 24 hours a day. That means Suzy will never be alone again. If she needs to go out, someone will be there. If she wants some attention, someone will be there. If she wants to just sleep quietly, someone will be there when she wakes up.

What more could a dog ask for?

Thank you, ARC, for helping humans and animals get to wellness.

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Cranky Old Man, Part 2: Clean That Up!

My recent post about off-leash dogs in Bear Creek Park really touched some nerves – there’s likely enough of us ticked off about this to form the first COPS chapter (Cranky Old People Society).

Right up there with the off-leash issue are people who don’t pick up their dog’s poop – either in the park, in the neighbor’s yard, etc.

When I lived in Houston, this was a real problem. I lived in an old, inner-city neighborhood with great shops, cafes, etc., which meant there were a lot of pedestrians, and a lot of people walking their dogs. And yes, many people would let their dogs poop in my yard and not clean it up.

At first, I would stand at the door and yell “Clean that up!” in full cranky mode. It rarely worked.

So I switched to a new campaign that became much more effective and one I use to this day. When I see someone letting their dog poop while on a walk and then not clean it up, I say “Excuse me – it looks like you’ve run out of poop bags. That happens to me all the time, so I carry extra: here you go.” And I hand them a poop bag (Yes, I almost always have some in my pocket – occupational hazard). Faced with a polite smiling person, they really don’t have much choice but to clean it up.

Non-confrontational (and, therefore, slightly less satisfying), but very effective.

You know what they say, you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, but nothing attracts flies like your neighbor’s dog’s poop in your front yard.’

Life is messy: Clean it up!

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Poor Excuses

Craigslist is a great resource – I use it to find items and, to be honest, to make sure someone isn’t trying to sell animals (not allowed by Craigslist) or sell an animal they have adopted from us.

I also use Facebook, especially SoHumane’s great FB page which features news about our animals, great stories from our adopters and calls for help in finding local lost animals.

Other local Facebook pages also deal with animals, but as a way to sell puppies.

And, as always, I am amazed by what people will post on Facebook and on Craigslist.

Two incidents are generating some conversation her in Medford. One was a post on the FB page that traffics in puppies (no, I am not going to provide a link), in which a 15-year-old girl posted that her Jack Russel had bite her so her mother took it our into the country near Klamath Falls and “dropped it off.” The girl posted that she wasn’t even sure if her mother had left the dog in the crate or released it.

Horrifying, shocking, disgusting. But wait: the daughter wasn’t complaining, she was glad this had happened and wanted the world to know.

It didn’t take long for people to react – the Klamath Sheriff’s department was called and the dog was found (not in its crate). Still no word about prosecution of the mother.

The other was a Craigslist post from a woman looking to trade her 1-year-old German Shepherd for another large dog. She said the dog would not listen and despite involving a trainer, was too aggressive with other dogs and would not listen to commands. So she wanted to trade him.

Craigslist allows other readers to “flag” a posting for a violation of policy, etc. and the woman’s posting kept getting flagged and she was inundated with e-mail criticizing her decisions and recommending she neuter the dog (she was specifically looking to trade for another un-neutered male).

She was outraged that people would criticize her.

No doubt, the 15-year-old feels the same.

Shame on both of them for assuming that behaving badly, then writing about it online, was acceptable.

“If you see something, say something” is a now common catchphrase.

If I see you posting about mistreatment of animals – believe me, I’ll say something.

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I’m That Cranky Old Man on the Dog Path (and on the War Path)

My dogs think I should walk them more often. The scales in the bathroom agree.

But sometimes I get so frustrated walking them that I don’t enjoy it and they don’t enjoy it. The reason: other dogs running around off leash.

In general, my dogs do pretty good with strange dogs – when they are properly introduced. We regularly foster dogs, so my boys know the drill of a meet-and-greet and, occasionally, they get to veto a foster. For whatever reasons, they don’t like all dogs.

And they don’t have to.

But people letting their dogs run around off leash in Bear Creek Park seem to think that just because their dog “loves everyone” and “doesn’t have a mean bone in their body” doesn’t mean that they can run right up to my dogs and not get a reaction. Consider the situation. My dogs are part of my pack. We are on a hunt together. Dogs have no concept of daily exercise or morning constitutional. They see walks as a time when the pack goes out together and smells things and marks territory. So add a strange dog to a mix, one who comes running right up, and the reaction isn’t always “pleased to meet you.”

The is no sane reason for letting dogs off-leash in public places. Bear Creek Park has a big dog park where they can run around off-leash in a protected area. It’s too chaotic there, you say? Too many other people (not you, of course) aren’t paying attention to their dogs, you say? Some of the dogs are too aggressive for your dog? Tough.

That’s how I feel about your dog on the loose.

Put them on a leash- it’s the law and it’s the right thing to do.

I’ll shut up now. #endofrant

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Forget the Birds and the Bees – Let’s Talk about the Puppies and the Kittens

Education is one of the most important parts of our mission – especially education on spaying and neutering family pets.

Let’s face it: adoptions address the symptoms of pet overpopulation, not the cause.

And I believe that educating school-age children is one of the most effective ways to make the message hit home – literally. It worked for smoking (“Daddy, I don’t want you to get cancer and die”) and it worked for recycling (Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute). But age-appropriate discussions about spaying and neutering can be tricky. It’s about sex, after all.

I believe all school-age children can understand that there are too many animals who are left alone on the streets. The conversation can be as simply as pointing to a cat on the street and asking: “Where do you think that cat lives? How does it get food? Where does it sleep at night?” These are questions that 5-year-old children can relate to. It can lead to questions about why there are so many cats on the streets and why your cat shouldn’t have kittens because there are already so many that need homes.

Those sad, sad commercials showing mistreated and starving animals locked in cages (yes, I change the channel, too, so don’t feel guilty) can lead to a discussion with middle-school kids about humane treatment of animals – puppy mills, chained dogs. Questions can include: What would you do if you saw someone mistreating an animal? Do you think chaining an animal outside is a good idea? What can we as a family do to help animals like this? We take volunteers as young as 12 who, along with a parent, can walk dogs or visit with cats. This is an excellent educational opportunity in both humane treatment of animals and in giving back to your community.

It’s also an opportunity to talk about spaying and neutering animals – on how to address the root of the problem. Questions can include: “Why do you think people don’t spay or neuter?” “What do you think happens when puppies or kittens can’t find homes? You may decide that your middle-schoolers are old enough to talk about euthanasia – the far-too-common result of too many litters.

Looking around the Web, I found a few forum discussion that parents may find helpful:


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When Things Go BOOM!

When my Zed was very young – just under a year – we took him to the Fourth of July fireworks in downtown Houston. We were hoping to get him used to the loud sounds, much the way gun dogs are exposed to the flash/bang early in their lives. He did great. Always a social animal, he was more interested in the humans around us than in the loud sounds.

But as he got older, his tolerance for the big booms diminished and he became fearful during the massive thunderstorms that regularly sweep across Texas. He started cowering in the shower stall (a vintage cast iron structure that could survive a hurricane) and, eventually we learned to make him a bed in there.

We still do that today when we know thunder is coming. But this time we pile blankets and his bed into the bathtub and he hops in there when he starts to get scared.

There are very few dogs – if any – that aren’t troubled by fireworks.

The bathtub trick is good.

So is putting the dog in a quiet area, away from windows, with a radio or TV turned on to counteract the noise.

If your dog is crate-trained, but the crate in your walk-in closet. It’s usually a room without widows and carries your scent, so the dog will feel more secure.

But dogs can still bolt. You could be on a morning or evening walk when a neighbor set’s off some firecrackers. Or the dog could be outside for a potty break when a loud noise goes off.

That’s why it’s is important that your dog have ID – a least a collar and tag, but preferably a microchip as well – so that you can quickly get reunited.

Plan ahead, think it through, and be prepared for your dog to be scared.

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  • Blog Author

    Kenn Altine

    Kenn Altine is the executive director of, the Southern Oregon Humane Society. He and the SoHumane staff are committed to helping cats and dogs that have lost everything, including the only home they may have ever known. Through the ... Read Full
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