This time every year Nevada Humane Society produces its 12 Saves of Christmas. A small recounting of some of the incredible lifesaving transformations that occurred at our shelter over the past year. Twelve animals are highlighted and their stories told. Their stories are demonstrative of the scale and scope of what we do each year. These 12 special animals stand in place of the over 15,000 we will serve. This was the final story in the series. I thought it was appropriate for this column, the first after the holidays.

Button’s story. Our Christmas Miracle

Adoptable Pets at Nevada Humane SocietyButton was a tiny baby when she found herself alone, on the streets, and unable to fend for herself. Button was freezing one December night and in search of warmth and shelter she climbed into a dumpster and tried to make it through the night. Button was only 6 weeks old.

The next morning, a caring gentleman was taking out his trash when he heard tiny, desperate cries. He looked high and low and discovered the pleas were coming from inside the dumpster. He dug through other people’s week old garbage and finally found Button. She was obviously fighting for her life, injured, and was rapidly running out of time. He knew Button’s only hope was Nevada Humane Society. The Good Samaritan rushed her to NHS.

Once Button arrived at NHS, the staff immediately recognized this precious little creature was living on borrowed time, they had to act quickly if Button was to see tomorrow. Staff rushed her to the veterinarian. The crack medical staff stabilized her but Button’s prognosis looked incredibly bleak. She had a seriously injured eye, was emaciated and hypothermic. A NHS staff member took her home overnight and fed her every couple of hours to keep her alive. Button was barely clinging to life. Everyone prepared themselves for the worst — Button did not appear to have a future. Our collective heart was breaking.

The next day Button was once again hurried into the capable and caring hands of the veterinarians. Our vets needed to once again give her fluids, keep her warm in an incubator and fight to stabilize her, just keep her alive. Once Button was pulled back from the precipice, she had to undergo an intrusive physical exam. Button had a broken jaw, an eye that had been ravaged and destroyed by infection, and needed profound long term medical care and TLC. Button was incredibly untrusting of humans and was not only sick but terrified. Who could blame her?

Button went into foster care after a couple of days of intensive medical intervention. She was stable enough to leave but still needed round the clock care. Her new foster home, in concert with NHS’ clinic, would provide extensive treatment and began the next step of her rehabilitation — socialization, love, and attention.

Button is now over the critical point and moving toward a full recovery. She requires special food until her jaw heals, minimal activity, and she is adapting to living with only one eye. But she is safe, she is happy, and she will see tomorrow. Button is truly a holiday miracle.

From Button and all of us at Nevada Humane Society — Happy Holidays! Thank you for helping us make miracles happen every day.

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Surprising Mail for Nevada Humane Society

I think I’m a pretty nice guy. I know I work for a pretty great organization. I’m positive that Nevada Humane Society does exceptional things for a superlative community. I feel pretty good at the end of most days.

Like everyone, there are days in which I walk through my front door exhausted, angry, disgruntled or even (perhaps more than the others) bewildered. That’s just life! Often my moodiness is because I am being difficult, sometimes it’s because others are being difficult and at least once it was because my Jayhawks got clobbered by Kentucky in basketball. Usually, it’s just me being a grouch but after petting my dog and a diet root beer I’m as happy as a Kentucky fan on the aforementioned occasion. Rarely it‘s harder to shake.

Occasionally, not all that commonly, I and others at NHS receive hate mail. That may surprise you, it did me a bit, but in the fullness of time I realized that it takes all kinds of folks and all sort of opinions to make the world go round. It makes total sense. I always read the unhappy messages and see if there is something to learn from their content. Many are just people who don’t like pets. That’s okay; I like them enough for all of us. Judging by our adoption rates so do you. No worries, we can all agree or disagree to agree or disagree. The worse ones typically have titles like “Your Pets Are Lazy and Useless”, “Kevin Ryan is a Dork”, “Animals are Disposable”, “Who Cares About Cats”, and “Saving Animals is a Waste of Time”. I kid you not; those are real subject lines from emails I have received. Normally, I don’t sweat these much (frankly my sisters would agree with the dork comment), but recently one got to me a little and kept me up all night.

The specifics aren’t important; the gist was that NHS ought to just be a “disposal” location for unwanted animals, that’s it. It went on to decry our efforts and decree that all animals were meant to be food, are useless, and that animals are property and thus they can and should be treated no differently than any household object.

What vexed me most was that this person has clearly never experienced the joy I get from my dog every day and the elation we witness thousands of times a year at NHS. Pets may not be for everyone, but I can’t imagine not understanding the exponential ways they augment our lives. There’s plenty of science to support the reality that pets enrich and extend our lives, improve our moods, and reduce stress. Yet late in the night this note left me restless and I was reminded of a more profound reinforcement of the above thesis.

Early in my tenure at NHS I attended a G.I. Dogs training class at our shelter. The veterans in the program, American heroes living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury, chatted about the programs meaning to them. A gentleman stood up and said “before I had my service dog I woke up every day and thought about killing myself. Now that I have my dog, I never think about it.” That knocked the wind out of me.

Regardless of your opinion of pets or anything I ever write in this column, never doubt the power of animals in our lives. Put simply it’s unconditional love, it’s acceptance, it’s companionship, it’s adoration—its having someone in your life that is happy to see you no matter what, even when you walk through the door in a cruddy mood.  Pets may not be for everyone, but they’re for me and they are part of this community. Northern Nevada saves more than almost anyone—we are the nice list. Buy yourself a present in reward—maybe a cat.

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Remembering A Legacy

Giving has been on my mind lately.  Now, don’t worry, this is not my “season of giving” column where I beseech you to support your local animal welfare organizations—I save that until December when you are feeling particularly merry.  The concept of giving has been knocking around my noggin for a couple reasons; chief amongst them is the recent passing of legendary local philanthropist Link Piazzo.  Mr. Piazzo’s generosity helped make NHS’ new home on Longley possible which in turn made our no-kill community possible.  Since the shelter that bears his name opened, well over 70,000 lives have been saved.  His generosity provided a second chance to tens of thousands and gave the gift of love to the families of Washoe County in the form of dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters and more.  That is quite a surpassing legacy; his was and is an immeasurable gift.

Giving can take many forms.  Mr. Piazzo not only gave an incredible, jaw-dropping financial contribution to NHS, he also gave a little dog named Punkin (a homeless dog housed at NHS) a new home.  Mr. Piazzo described Punkin, “She is very simply the greatest dog on earth, the smartest dog on earth, and now she’s one of the most expensive dogs on earth!” I can’t imagine a better example of how a little love given and a little (or a lot) love returned changed the world. That’s just what happened, together we changed the world. Washoe County became one of the nation’s earliest no-kill communities and a shining example that saving every life possible is not just the right thing to do but the most effective thing to do. NHS is one of the most effective animal welfare organizations in the nation as a result of a little dog named Punkin (and her incredible family).

Over 70,000 animals have been given a new home since 2007 and each story is special, each “happy tail” is moving and we jump out of our skin every time we hear back from one of our adopters.  The act of adoption is a gift and each time a family gives a home to an animal in need we celebrate.  We know how everyone involved, furry or two legged are changed.  NHS recently saved a dog who had been attacked—her injuries were extensive and required dramatic facial reconstruction. Our talented team of doctors saved her life. I went in the morning after her evening surgery, expecting to see a drawn, sad, ailing animal. I thought I would sit with her a bit and comfort her. When I arrived at her kennel she was all wagging tail and wiggly. I bent down to pet her and she covered me in kisses and tried to climb me like a tree. It was as if she had forgotten her injury and ordeal and just remembered that she loves everyone. That was her gift to me.

Just last week she was adopted.  A gentleman gave her a second chance and a new home.  I am ironclad certain that he will receive ten-fold in return.  A pet’s love is a gift.

Thank you to Link Piazzo for helping NHS and our animals find a new home.  Everyone at NHS will grieve this loss, forever remember his extraordinary generosity, and remain eternally grateful.  We are proud to call the Link Piazzo Animal Shelter home.

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