Creating a safety net for homeless animals

Many people are surprised to learn that Nevada Humane Society has been around since 1932 — predating the Humane Society of the United States by 26 years. It was founded by local residents who cared about the homeless animals here long before most local humane societies existed.

Northern Nevada continues to blaze new trails in our care and concern for homeless pets. Today, Washoe County is among the safest places in the nation in which to be a homeless pet; more animals get a second chance at the life they deserve than any other community its size. And it’s all because of the large number of animal-loving residents.

Last year, 9,668 pets were adopted from the NHS shelter alone, mostly by local families. With thousands of volunteers, giving a variety of services and foster homes that provide foster care to orphaned kittens and puppies, the love of pets is made abundantly evident.

Our low-cost spay/neuter programs provide services to economically challenged county residents.

They include voucher programs for cats made possible by the Hawkins Foundation and for dogs by the Lifestyle Homes Foundation. Our free Animal Help Desk is available to people across the state, though most callers are local. The help desk assists in all manners of animal-related issues from pet behavior problems to advice for finding lost pets to coping with lifestyle changes. Last year, 20,000 people used this free service to learn what they could do to help animals.

Nevada’s Department of Agriculture recently published the results of an annual survey that tallied various statistics from animal shelters across the state. NHS’s numbers stood out, performing

36 percent of all the reported spay/neuter surgeries and 33 percent of all the reported pet adoptions in the state of Nevada.

This really made an impact on me as part of the Nevada Humane Society management team. We always knew we were making a huge difference in our own community, but had no idea how big of a role we played in the statewide picture. It also made me realize that if some of the same lifesaving strategies that work here could be applied in other communities, together we would create a true safety net for the entire state of Nevada.

 

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Can animals predict natural disasters?

Paul, an Octopus, accurately predicted World Cup match victories in 2010 by selecting boxes containing flags of the competing nations. Oscar, a cat in a Rhode Island nursing home, accurately predicted the deaths of more than 50 residents, offering them comfort in their final hours. Medical Alert dogs can detect dangerous blood sugar levels and certain cancers in humans just by smelling their breath.

Animals have acute senses that allow them to experience things we miss. For example, humans have 5 million scent receptors while Dachs-hunds have 125 million. Bloodhounds top all other dogs with 300 million scent receptors. Many creatures, including horses, cats and snakes, have a special auxiliary olfactory organ that gives them an even richer scent experience.

When it comes to hearing, most animals can hear high-pitched sounds that are completely inaudible to us. Most nocturnal mammals can see in what humans would consider to be darkness. Whiskers give animals yet another way to detect subtle changes in the environment.

With these impressive senses, some scientists wonder if animals can predict natural disasters, and there is some evidence that they can.

A report following the deadly 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami told of an elephant suddenly trumpeting, breaking free of a tether and fleeing to high ground. Officials at Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park reported very few animal deaths from this disaster although the park is home to hundreds of elephants, leopards and monkeys. They believe these animals were able to sense the danger long before humans did.

Some scientists think animals might have an early warning ability because they hear infrasounds produced by earthquakes, volcanoes and storms that are inaudible to humans. Others think animals are able to sense subtle vibrations or other changes to the environment. Geophysicist Dr. Ikeya has found that some animals and fish react to minor changes in electromagnetic fields.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s take on this: “Even though there have been documented cases of unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes, a reproducible connection between a specific behavior and the occurrence of an earthquake has not been made.”

Even if animals cannot predict natural disasters, those of us who share our lives with pets and enjoy observing animals in nature are blessed by their rich senses and fascinating behaviors.

Pets teach how to live in the moment

I’ve learned a lot from my pets over the years. One of the biggest gifts they have given me is a model for how to live in the moment. I have read a slew of self-help books and attended numerous personal development workshops on this very topic. At the time, I had no idea that my very best teachers were four-legged ones living right under my own roof.

I have always lived my life in a very full mode–whether it’s working incredibly long hours or engaging in dozens of social activities. Either way, my days have always been very full and I have rushed from one activity to the next and collapsed in exhaustion. This way of life becomes habit and makes it extremely difficult to pause and enjoy the present moment.

But life is the present. So often we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past us without even noticing. I often find myself saying things like “I can’t believe that summer is already here” or “I can’t believe that summer is already gone” or “I can’t believe that the year is almost over.”

One of my favorite pastimes is to watch my three Labrador retrievers interact with each and the world around them. They are not worrying about the future or fretting over the past. They truly live in the moment.

If they see something, they chase it. If they smell something, they sniff around to find it. If they hear something, they freeze so they can better tune in. If they do or don’t like something, they immediately show it. They go to sleep when they are tired and they wake when there is something happening. They eat like they have never eaten before and with not a care about whether they will ever eat again.

Most people would agree that it isn’t easy for us humans to fully live in the moment. Maybe it’s not even possible. But many people, including professionals, believe that life is lived the fullest when we can better focus on the now. So if you feel life is passing you by and you don’t know how to slow down, just spend a day observing your pets. They give new meaning to the mantra “stop and smell the roses” and will

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