Memories of Rescuing Kittens Last a Lifetime

The arrival of kittens at Nevada Humane Society’s shelter each spring and summer is followed by a small army of amazing individuals and families we call foster care volunteers. These big-hearted people take these little guys in for a few weeks until they are ready for adoption. While all foster caregivers are heroes in my book, I find the families to be most touching, perhaps because they bring back memories of growing up in my own family.

I did not realize it at the time, but my parents were animal rescuers. My father was always finding stray dogs and cats in Boston where he owned a business, and he would bring them home where my mother would nurse them back to health. Some were adopted to other families while others just stayed with us. My brother, sisters, and I all learned how to pick kittens up so as not to hurt them and as we got older, we were all trained in the proper way to bottle feed them. It was a wonderful time spent with our parents and these helpless little creatures that needed us.

Families are great for young animals especially during their critical socialization period—a window that closes at just 8 weeks for kittens and 12 weeks for puppies. Anything they do not experience in these first several weeks will be frightening to them later. So the more attention, handling, play time, and normal home life they get to experience in these early weeks, the better adjusted they will be throughout the rest of their life.

Looking back, the kittens were great for us as kids, too. Spending time with them we learned how to be gentle and developed a deep appreciation for other creatures. We also came to understand that the kittens needed our family even when we kids did not feel like looking after them—our parents modeled responsibility and shared its rewards, providing an important lesson for us.

So when eager children arrive at the shelter with mom or dad to pick up their foster kittens, it brings back warm memories, from over 45 years ago, of my parents and the many animals our family saved. I cannot help but think about the lifelong gift these parents are giving to their children—not to mention the gift of life they are giving to the kittens.

Events that Help Homeless Pets.

Adopt a Pet at NHS and Play Wheel of FURtune through April 29 at Nevada Humane Society, spin the wheel to win a cool prize or receive a reduced adoption fee. Open daily for adoptions 11:00 am to 6:30 pm and an hour earlier on Saturdays at 10:00 am.

April Showers Bring May Kittens Kitten Shower April 28at Nevada Humane Society. Donate Kitten Milk Replacement, heating pads/discs, nursing kits, dry or canned kitten food. Learn how to become a foster parent 1:00-4:00 pm. Call 775-856-2000 for more information.

 Walk for Animals June 2 at Sparks Marina. Register today to help raise $100,000 for homeless pets. Brochures available at area businesses or download one from

Counter Surfing

Counter surfing is not a new X Games sport but rather a very old sport that has been fine-tuned in many households. Labradors are particularly well adapted to it but other breeds of dogs can hold their own. Basically, it is where the competing canine develops his body so that he can stretch, touch with mouth or foot, take down to floor, and consume anything on a counter or near a counter. The success of this sport is not only measured by agility, but also distance from edge and absolute speed. An Olympic level competitor can reach absolutely any part of a counter and whip off any item in the blink of an eye.

In my house, all canines participate in this sport, but some have mastered better than the others. The thrill of the sport is what drives them, but some targets up the ante more than others. The most exciting targets in the cooking food category have been a large pot of stew still cooking on the stove, a chicken breast sautéing in a skillet, and an open-faced sandwich broiling inside the oven (yes, I do mean inside). The already cooked food category is not as challenging but equally rewarding—a freshly baked rum cake and whole pizza, each taken down in one second flat.

The goal of every competitor is not be harmed but there is no stopping a true athlete—so broken glass and all were the target with a new pan of baked brownies (only minor bleeding of the gums incurred). And there was no stopping with a 20# bag of dog food—although a trip to the vet was required to be sure that the tripled-in-size stomach would shrink back with no complications.

The ultimate counter surfer does not stop with food—wine bottles and glasses (some do have class) and many paper products are quite the trophy. One time an entire stack of work resumes were removed and shredded with pride.

This sport’s name was actually coined by the renowned animal behaviorist, Kelley Bollen and I just learned of it when she visited our shelter a couple of weeks ago. I now watch the sport in action and am proud of my K-9 kids’ accomplishments.

I never before realized that my labs’ talents were actually part of a treasured sport. I can now be the proud mom (rather than angry one) when the counter surfing games begin. Although, my worries for their well-being will never be diminished.

(Disclaimer: Counter surfing should never be attempted without proper training and oversight. Stay-tuned for tips on how to fine-tune this behavior so that all are protected.)

Events that Help Homeless Pets.

Adopt a Pet at NHS and Play Wheel of FURtune from April 18 through April 29 at Nevada Humane Society, every adopter gets a chance to spin the wheel to win a cool prize or receive a reduced adoption fee. Open daily for adoptions 11:00 am to 6:30 pm and an hour earlier on Saturdays at 10:00 am.

April Showers Bring May Kittens Kitten Shower & Info Session, April 28at Nevada Humane Society. Donate a kitten supplies: Kitten Milk Replacement, heating pads/discs, nursing kits, dry or canned (non-fish pate style) food. Info session (learn how to become foster parents) from 1:00-4:00 pm. Kitten shower (with activities and refreshment) from 2:00-3:00 pm. Call 775-856-2000 for more information.

Nevada Humane Society Walk for Animals at Sparks Marina June 2. Register today and help raise $100,000 for homeless pets. Brochures available at area businesses or download one from You can also register online.

Do Our Pets Dream?

If you have ever seen your sleeping pet’s feet move, you may have assumed that they were dreaming—and you would be right about that. While many pets do not show outward signs of dreaming, experts assure us that all mammals dream. No one really knows the purpose dreams serve, but experts seem to agree that dreaming is essential for our well-being. 

The brains of our dog and cat companions are structurally very similar to our own. During sleep, their brain wave patterns demonstrate the same stages of electrical activity observed in humans.

The first phase of sleep is called light slow wave sleep. During this stage, we are not fully relaxed and can be easily roused. Next comes deep slow wave sleep when we become progressively more relaxed and harder to rouse. Finally, we reach the rapid eye movement or REM stage of sleep during which our brain waves become extremely active again while the body becomes completely relaxed.  Waking is most difficult during this stage of sleep. Humans awakened from REM sleep report that they have been dreaming.

Cat and dog sleep patterns follow these same stages, though most sleep more than we do—10 or more hours a day with up to 20% of that sleep being REM sleep. Some people say that they observe eye movement in their sleeping pets, a sure sign that they are in REM sleep and their brain is busy dreaming.  

During what we call a catnap, the cat is in light slow wave sleep. Their mind is resting, but their bodies are not fully relaxed. They are able to keep their limbs tucked and they are not dreaming

Dogs, cats and rabbits have different sleep habits than people; they tend to be crepuscular, meaning that they are naturally most active at dawn and dusk. We humans are diurnal, most active during the day. Dogs often adjust their own sleep habits to match ours.  

The subject matter of dreams seems like it would be harder to ascertain, but researchers have assessed this too by comparing brain waves from dreams with waking experiences. The results show that animals often have dreams associated with the activities of their day, just as people do.

While it is easy to focus on the differences between animals and people, in so many ways we share much in common, including our dreams.

Events that Help Homeless Pets:

Adopt a Lovable but Less-Adoptable Pet: Adopt a shy, older, sassy or special needs pet and adoption fees are waived through April 8 at Nevada Humane Society. Nevada Humane Society is open 7 days a week for pet adoption. 775-856-2000.

“Why Does My Dog Do That and How Can I Get Him to Stop?” Presentation April 5, 5:30-7:00 pm by Kelley Bollen, MS,  Certified Animal Behavior Consultant at Nevada Humane Society, 2825 Longley Lane in Reno. Requested $5 donation.

April Showers Bring May . . . Kittens?

The Iris’ are popping up all over my yard; a vivid reminder that springtime has arrived. April is when new life starts springing up from the ground and trees are blossoming all over town. At Nevada Humane Society, a different kind of life is springing up—newborn kittens.

At some point in time, nearly every animal shelter feels the pinch of not having enough space. It seems that no matter how large the facility, there is always one more mouth to feed. The showering of kittens lasts through the summer and into the fall resulting in hundreds of more mouths to feed.

It would be impossible for us to care for all of these little kitties without our foster program. A volunteer foster program is an ideal low-cost way to greatly increase the number of lives saved while at the same time providing a wonderful opportunity for the community to become more active. Our program has hundreds of dedicated caregivers who eagerly open up their hearts and homes to care for and ultimately save lives—over 2,500 last year

Foster homes free up limited space at the shelter so that more animals can be saved—ones that are ready for adoption. But, sadly, there are never enough foster homes. Although there are also foster needs for puppies and special-needs adult animals, the greatest need lies with kittens. Once the season is in full swing, an average of 20 kittens will come into the shelter each day. The foster caregivers take care of them until they weigh two pounds—big enough to be spayed or neutered and made available for adoption. 

Usually you can begin fostering the same day as long as you have space to keep the foster animals separate from your own animals and are certain your pets are current on all vaccinations. There is no fee to pay and we can provide a starter kit of supplies if needed. Fostering lasts anywhere from three to eight weeks and after that you can take a break or choose to pick up a new batch of foster babies.

All homeless pets are safely in loving homes—a lofty goal, but feasible with the cooperation of an entire community. One of the easiest ways that individuals can get more involved is to open their homes to animals in need of short-term TLC. Please consider becoming a foster parent today and take a personal role in saving lives!

If you are interested in fostering rescued pets, please call Nevada Humane Society at 775-856-2000 ext. 321. Starter kits, training, medical care, and on-going consultation are readily available.

 Events that Help Homeless Pets

Adopt a Lovable but Less-Adoptable Pet: Adopt a shy, older, sassy or special needs pet and adoption fees are waived March 20 through April 8 at Nevada Humane Society. For more information, call Nevada Humane Society at 775-856-2000 or visit 2825 Longley Lane, Reno.

Make Nevada Humane Society Your Spring Break Destination: Bring the whole family on April 11 for free, fun activities including a clown, balloon art, and cupcake and cookie decorating. Shelter is located at 2825 Longley Lane, Reno.

Kitten Foster Information Session on Saturday, April 28, from 2:00 to 3:00pm. If you have ever considered fostering kittens but you aren’t sure what is required, this is for you. Call 775-856-2000 ext. 321 for more information.

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