Appreciating volunteers for National Volunteer Week

A walk through the shelter reveals a small selection of the many generous people who volunteer their time to help homeless animals.

There by the front door is Barbara Duggar, greeting people with a kind word and smile as she guides them to a pet that may become their next best friend. As I pass the cat rooms, the images on the windows remind me of Elia Pirtle, who paints seasonal scenes featuring frolicking dogs and cats. In the volunteer office, Judi Kleidon is busy updating the database of volunteers. In one of the cat rooms, I spot Ann Simone, a cat mentor, showing two new volunteers how to help cats.

Over in the clinic, Roxie Naphan is cleaning and preparing surgical packs to go into the autoclave for sterilization. In the surgical suite, volunteer veterinarian Dr. Randy Genis is performing surgery on an injured homeless dog. Linda Thimot drops off a feral cat in a trap so she can be spayed for an elderly woman who has been feeding the kitty.

On the way to the dog area, Natasha Sperka is coming down the hall with a big smile and an eager dog on their way for a walk. Bob Lissner is sitting on the floor in a quiet corner with a shy dog, offering patient encouragement. In the exercise yard, Michelle Ting is photographing a dog so he will look his best for people visiting PetFinder.com. Behind the shelter, Marlene Williams and Ken Damon are loading the van for an offsite adoption event.

Back in the office, Gina Cole is helping out. Karen and Charlie Freemyer have just arrived bearing two large bags filled with colorful crocheted cat blankets. During the past four years, the Freemyers have made more than 4,700 kitty beds, many in holiday colors. Roz Zimmerman has come to pick up a litter of kittens that need foster care before they are old enough to be neutered.

The place is buzzing with volunteers — many more people than I can possibly mention. But this week, National Volunteer Appreciation Week, seemed a good time to share some of the many good things they make possible for the animals. Our very special thanks to our many volunteers.

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It takes a community to save homeless pets

In the three-plus years I have been writing this column, I have often covered the many wonderful ways this comm-unity has demon-strated its com-passion and commit-ment to our home-less pets. The success of our community in saving these helpless beings stems from diverse people, groups, and missions coming together for a common purpose — to create a true safety net for these precious animals.

From April 30 to May 1, our community comes together once again for the homeless dogs and cats — committed to finding homes for 225 pets through Pet Adoptathon 2011. The weekend event is sponsored by PETCO and PETCO Foundation, and is part of the international Pet Adoptathon 2011 where thousands of animal shelters across the country and around the world will stay open around the clock to find homes for dogs and cats. Nevada Humane Society’s shelter will be open for adoptions 36 straight hours from 9 a.m. April 30 to 9 p.m. May 1.

It really is quite the fitting event for a town that is known for its round-the-clock activities. And for those true Renoites who visit the shelter between 11 p.m. April 30 and 7 a.m. May 1, you will be treated to free breakfast and waived adoption fees for adult pets (4 months and older, excluding specially priced dogs).

In addition, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 30, more than 200 dogs and cats will transform the parking lot at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, 3800 S. Virginia St., into a Pet Adoption Festival. The free event will feature nearly 50 regional rescue groups and shelters, humane organizations, and pet-related businesses. Pet parades, raffles, face painting, celebrity emcees, K9 unit demonstrations by law enforcement agencies, low-cost microchipping and autographs by the Nevada Wolf Pack football team are part of the day’s activities.

It truly takes a community to become one of the safest places in the country for homeless pets. But this isn’t just any community — rather a community that is always there for the animals whether giving money, volunteering time or adopting pets into their homes. The famous Ghandi quote, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” is familiar to most of us but it’s power is no less each time I hear it. Thanks for being a part of this very special community.

Bunnies make great pets for adults, teens

Nothing seems to inspire a pet trend like cute animals on the big screen. “101 Dalmations” and “Finding Nemo” both created a demand for real life versions of the cartoon animals. While for some this was the start of true love, others soon discovered that the pet was not the best match for them.

The latest adorable animal movie is “Hop,” the story of the Easter Bunny. The hero is a cute, jelly-bean-pooping bunny. Odds are, “Hop” will inspire people, maybe even you, to consider adding a bunny to the family.

“Bunnies make great pets, but they don’t poop jelly beans!” said Terri Braunworth, with a twinkle in her eye. Braunworth cares for the rabbits at Nevada Humane Society.

A rabbit living in a cage is not a very exciting pet, but get them out and get to know them and you will find personalities as endearing and individual as any cat or dog. The rabbits at the shelter are spayed or neutered, making them even better pets.

“The more time you spend with your rabbit the more rewarding they are,” Braunworth said. “Most of the bunnies available for adoption here are litter-box trained, so they can spend time with you in the house out of their cage. Bunnies love toys, too; they will chase a tennis ball and toss toys.”

One of Braunworth’s pet rabbits enjoyed regular walks on a leash and harness.

“He was a large rabbit and people sometimes thought he was a dog,” Braunworth said.

Rabbits enjoy a varied diet including broccoli, apples and dandelion leaves in addition to rabbit chow.

Bob, a calm, friendly fellow who loves banana chips, is one of the rabbits waiting for a home. Thumper, a spunky bunny, is just right for someone looking for a lot of personality in a pet. Both have brown markings on their cream-colored coats.

There are two bonded pairs of bunnies waiting for homes together. One pair, Lilli and Belle, seem like opposites. Lilli has a soft gray coat and is outgoing; Belle, a white lop-eared rabbit, is more reserved.

Rowan wins the prize for the most interesting markings: brown spots surround each eye and other spots resemble a moustache.

While these real-life bunnies don’t possess the jelly-bean-producing magic of the “Hop” cartoon Easter Bunny, in other ways, they are even more remarkable — bringing joy to the lives of people who give them care and love.

‘Pocket Pets’ are up for adoption at Humane Society

Animal shelters across the country are filled with cats and dogs.

At Nevada Humane Society, we sometimes also rescue small animals commonly called “Pocket Pets.” This term is used to refer to any small mammal comm-only kept as a house-hold pet.

According to Wikipedia, there are six general criteria that qualify an animal to be considered a pocket pet:

1. Its commonality as a domestic house pet

2. No potential danger to humans or other animals

3. Non-exotic

4. Overall ease of care and feeding

5. Amicable disposition making it suitable as a companion pet

6. Relatively small stature.

The most common pocket pets are hamsters, gerbils, fancy mice, fancy rats and guinea pigs.

Many children, maybe even you, convinced parents to bring one of these little guys home, only to find out that they didn’t know how to care for them at all.

Out of frustration, they end up in shelters if they are the lucky, and the unlucky ones endure a much worse fate.

Since I started working in the animal welfare field more than eight years ago, I have found a new appreciation for these special animals.

While the dogs and cats at animal shelters usually receive the bulk of public attention, there is always a population of small animals equally in need of a loving home and equally deserving. Visitors at our shelter are instantly drawn to the adorable creatures just inside our main entrance.

One of the most misunderstood Pocket Pets is the fancy rat. Domesticated rats are physiologically and psychologically different from their wild relatives. They are clean, quiet, friendly, smart, and easy to train, but they do need some special care and attention.

In fact, since they are different from the most common pets, (dogs and cats) you will have the opportunity to learn about the characteristics and behaviors of a new species of animal, which can be a fun and rewarding family experience.

The familiar “Unicorn Song” mentions “cats and rats and elephants” — while we don’t have any elephants, we have plenty of cats from which to choose.

But you may not know that we also have a large number of cute, cuddly, fancy rats, among an assortment of other pocket pets. If you are considering a new pet for your family, please consider adopting a Pocket Pet.

At Nevada Humane Society, we believe that all life is precious and these special, little lives will appreciate a new, loving home just as much as any dog or cat.

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