A Fond Farewell to Loyal Readers

Last summer, Bonney Brown and I left the Nevada Humane Society team to work full-time with Humane Network, an organization that we founded to provide consulting services to other groups who want to increase lifesaving for homeless pets in their communities. This work has been very rewarding and taken us from coast to coast, small towns to large cities and private nonprofits to government-run agencies. The consistent factor is that people all over the country feel a deep responsibility for animals and are committed to saving more lives. Many of them see Reno, Sparks and Washoe County as a model for what they wish to achieve in their community.

Our experiences at NHS were invaluable and sharing them across the country has been an honor. We are so proud to have been a part of the organization’s transformation — one that is truly a tribute to the compassion and commitment made by our community. We can all now proudly declare that Washoe County is one of the safest places in the country for homeless pets.

Last November, we officially handed off the NHS reins to an extremely capable and dedicated new CEO, Kevin Ryan. We know that Kevin has settled in, reshaped a great team of both experienced and new staff and is focused on exciting new goals.

It is now time for Bonney and me to sign off on writing this Animal Files column. Together, we have written more than 260 editions of the column since its inception in 2008. I have personally connected with thousands of regular readers — especially those of you who communicated how you were touched by a particular column. I have shared my feelings, experiences, information and milestones. We have jointly celebrated successes and mourned losses. You have inspired me in so many ways — from personal encouragement to your own compassionate acts.

So, with gratitude, Bonney and I say goodbye to you all. But we are not saying goodbye to this community and the work of being a voice for the animals. Animal Files will also continue as an avenue to speak for them with Kevin Ryan as their voice. Thanks to each and every one of you for your support and most of all for what you have done to create such a compassionate and caring community.

Events that help homeless pets:

Animal Shelter Behavior Seminar by Kelley Bollen runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 2-3 at Nevada Humane Society. Learn about reading dog/cat body language, stress reduction, enrichment, etc. Details and registration available at www.nevadahumanesociety.org.


It Takes a Village

by Diane Blankenburg

I am currently co-teaching a shelter management certificate program through the University of the Pacific. The last module of the Community Programs course was called Community Relations—a term that seems very broad and somewhat vague. According to Gale Encyclopedia of Small Business, “community relations refers to the various methods companies use to establish and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the communities in which they operate. The underlying principal of community relations is that when a company accepts its civic responsibility and takes an active interest in the well-being of its community, then it gains a number of long-term benefits in terms of community support, loyalty, and good will.”

Although this definition was directed toward for-profit businesses, the concept is even more important in the non-profit world. Nevada Humane Society (NHS) and other animal shelters exist for the sole purpose of benefiting the community—both humans and animals. But they cannot succeed without a strong community backing and NHS has been blessed with one of the most compassionate and generous group of citizen supporters when it comes to homeless pets.

A great example of this good will can be found at the Rapscallion Seafood House & Bar on S. Wells Ave., a fine-dining mainstay in our community. For the third year in a row, NHS has been selected as one of the restaurant’s charities of the month. When you dine at Rapscallion for lunch or dinner during the month of February, just tell your server that you’re there to support NHS and 20% of your food bill will be donated to help homeless pets. This is just one of so many ways that Reno and Sparks businesses have stepped up to support our lifesaving mission.

NHS is dedicated to saving homeless pets but it is also committed to helping the people who play a key role in accomplishing our mission. We recognize how economically challenging life has been in this part of the country and look for ways to make it easier and more affordable to have pets. As a result, offerings of high-quality, low-cost spay/neuter services have been increased and low-cost vaccinations are now available by appointment at 775-856-2000 (ext. 333 for spay/neuter info and ext. 311 for vaccinations).

These services are in direct response to the overwhelming needs of our community. Charitable donations from businesses such as Rapscallion are the cornerstone for supporting these new programs. Community relations is a two-way street and it truly does take a village to provide a safety net for the homeless pets that depend on us.

Events that Help Animals

Doggie Palooza, February 22, 10 am to 6:30 pm, at the Nevada Humane Society shelter. Dog Marketplace, cool dogs available for adoption, and Hollywood dog trainer Joel Silverman.  Admission is free. 2825 Longley Lane, Reno.

Beat the Heat and have your female cat fixed for just $20 at Nevada Humane Society, Through February 28. Call 775-856-2000 ext. 333 for an appointment. Sponsored by PetSmart Charities.

Senior Dogs are Extra Special

by Diane Blankenburg

Beaumont, one of my labs, just turned eleven. As I look at him in his mature state with greying muzzle and slower pace, my heart melts. He is so unassuming and accepting—bringing such a sense of peace and harmony to my household (especially in comparison to my younger, more energetic labs). I will never forget his young, happy-to-do-and-see-everything years, but the senior ones are even more special, providing a comfort that is indescribable.

Don’t get me wrong, Beaumont lives up to the lab reputation. He gets into playful trouble when I’m not looking and shows bursts of energy in wrestling with his canine siblings. He still alerts me when FedEx arrives and attacks his food with the vigor of a pup. But his favorite spot is “his” end of the sofa and he now waits to follow me until he is sure my new location will be held for some period of time. He no longer demands attention but when I return from an out-of-town trip, he gently approaches me, wedging his head into my lap for a gentle ear rub while he moans in ecstasy.

Having known this special bond with a senior dog, my heart is particularly heavy when I see the eyes of senior animals in shelters. I wonder how hard it was on them to give up a comfortable home and family for a lonely kennel. It’s even tougher to watch potential adopters pass them by for younger, more chipper animals. I so want to help others know the same deep connection that I have felt with my own senior pets.

The advantages of adopting a mature dog are immense. They have mellowed and are much easier to handle. They tend to be house-trained, generally know some commands like sit and stay, are content to lie by your side (more or less), and don’t seem to require as much exercise as a puppy or teenage dog. But they have every bit as much (maybe even more) unconditional love to give.

My Beaumont is lying at my feet as I write this column. He is not worried about a thing except being near me and I am so touched by his mere presence. To use an old saying, “try it, you’ll like it.” I know that in a very short time after adopting an older dog, you too won’t be able to imagine life without him or her by your side.

Events that Help Animals

Year of the Cat Adoption Promotion at Nevada Humane Society. Adopt your “good luck” cat through January 21. Cats over three are free; other adult cats are $25 and most adult dogs are $50. Shelter open every day at 2825 Longley Lane, 11:00 am to 6:30 pm and an hour earlier at 10:00 am on Saturdays.

Senior Dog Adoption specials offered all year long at Nevada Humane Society. Senior dogs ten and up are $25 and people 55 and older can adopt a dog over six for free.

Beat the Heat and have your female cat fixed for just $20 at Nevada Humane Society all February long. Call 775-856-2000 for an appointment.  Beat the Heat is generously sponsored by PetSmart Charities.

‘Tis the Season for Giving

By Diane Blankenburg

The holiday season is traditionally a time for giving. In fact, it is the most generous time of year for many people. We just spent this last week giving time and gifts to family and friends that we hold dear. Historically, December is also a time when there is a surge of charitable donations—not just because people want to meet end-of-the-year tax deadlines but also because of their special connections and relationships with specific charities.

We are very fortunate to have connections to Nevada Humane Society (NHS)—even if it’s only to live in the same city. This organization has been the safety net for well over 9,000 animals this year, as well helping many thousands more through low-cost spay/neuter surgeries, pet food assistance, and their free Animal Help Desk. It has become a stand-out shelter in the country and held up as a model by national organizations.

Because of NHS’s great success in saving orphaned pets, this community has rallied in support—from children to adults, individuals to businesses giving pennies to thousands. Here are a few recent examples that touched my heart and made me proud to live here.

  • A little girl came into the shelter on Cupcake Day to see Santa and more importantly, donate her tooth fairy money to the animals.
  • NV Energy showed up a couple of weeks ago with two carloads full of items to benefit the shelter animals.
  • A teenage girl, instead of receiving presents for her Sweet 16 party, asked that her guests make donations NHS.
  • Lifestyle Homes Foundation is once again renewing their grant to spay large-breed dogs.
  • A senior has been furiously crocheting holiday-themed cat beds and recently brought in her current batch—she has made over 8,000 in total.
  • Circus Circus just delivered a truckload of quilts for animal bedding.
  • Another supporter just set up a fund in memory of her recently deceased border collie to help border collies get treated and adopted.

It’s not too late to help the animals this year with a monetary donation or even donations of pet food and supplies. If you would like to be a part of the Nevada Humane Society family through a donation, you can do so online (NevadaHumaneSociety.org), by phone (775-856-2000), or by mail or in person (2825 Longley Lane, Reno 89502). You not only get a charitable donation tax deduction, but most importantly, the satisfaction of giving to deserving homeless pets that cannot help themselves.

Events that Help Homeless Pets:

Home 4 the Holidays Pet Adoption Drive at Nevada Humane Society. Adult dogs: 450, adult cats: free. Open 7 days a week for pet adoptions at 2825 Longley Lane, 11:00 am to 6:30 pm and an hour earlier at 10:00 am on Saturdays.

Lights of Love Tribute. A $10 contribution to Nevada Humane Society lights a white light for each pet you wish to remember or a colored light for each pet you wish to honor. For more info, call 775-856-2000 or visit nevadahumanesociety.org.

Kevin Ryan Takes the Helm at Nevada Humane Society

by Diane Blankenburg

When Bonney Brown and I decided to launch Humane Network, a non-profit animal welfare consulting organization, earlier this year, our top priority was to help the board of directors find someone who could take over the leadership of Nevada Humane Society (NHS) and ensure that the lifesaving efforts realized over the last six-plus years would flourish.

There were hundreds of applicants with various degrees of qualifications as the board looked for the perfect fit. Fortunately, for the organization, the community, and mostly the homeless pets, Kevin Ryan emerged as the top candidate and has now taken the helm at NHS as its Chief Executive Officer.

Kevin is the former Executive Director for Pet Helpers in Charleston, South Carolina and has extensive experience in animal welfare and non-profit organization leadership. Most recently, he helped lead a South Carolina initiative that dramatically increased lifesaving for dogs and cats—boosting the save rate in Charleston County from 37% to 77% while growing the income for Pet Helpers by $1.5 million.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Kevin through the recruiting process and during the last three weeks in his new post as CEO of NHS. He is an energetic, intelligent, dynamic person who is 100% committed to the lifesaving of homeless pets. “I am honored to join the talented and passionate team at Nevada Humane Society and am looking forward to continuing and enhancing the work being done,” said Kevin.

As I have said many times, I could not have been more proud to serve this community and its animals that depend on us. We have been very fortunate to have had Bonney Brown’s leadership for so many years—leadership that helped make Washoe County one of the safest communities in the country for homeless pets with a 94% communitywide save rate for dogs and cats.

I am now so very proud to have Kevin Ryan in that leadership role where I know he will take Nevada Humane Society to even greater heights. So please join me in welcoming Kevin to our community!

Note: Kevin Ryan will join Bonney Brown and Diane Blankenburg in writing this column. Kevin’s first edition will be next week.

Events that Help Animals

Home for the Holidays Pet Adoption Drive at Nevada Humane Society through January 1. Adopt a pet and help reach the goal of finding homes for 1,200 pets. Special adoption fees are $50 for most adult dogs and fees are waived for adult cats. Shelter located at 2825 Longley Lane, Reno. Open 11:00 am to 6:30 pm daily and 10:00 am to 6:30 pm Saturdays.

Do Dogs Watch TV?

By Diane Blankenburg

Horses racing over land in War Horse.  Lively birds strutting  across a glacier in March of the Penguins. Spotted pups playing with each other in 101 Dalmatians. Cats running to their food dish in a Purina commercial. What do these have in common? Yes, they all involve animals but they also are favorite viewings for my yellow lab Boomer on my 50-inch flat screen television.

There has been debate over the years on whether dogs can actually watch TV. We humans need about 20 images a second to perceive what we see as continuous film. Dogs have much sharper eyes than us and need 70 images per second. With modern TVs generating more frames per second, dogs can now perceive the pictures as film, just like we do.

According to Ernst Otto Ropstad, an associate professor at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, “They probably see the new TVs just as well as they see the world in general.” In the United States, hopeful producers have recently created special television channels just for dogs. A channel explicitly aimed at canine viewers launched in Israel earlier this year, following a successful launch here in the States.

For my Boomer, it doesn’t matter whether the screen animals are real or animated. It doesn’t matter if the storyline is dramatized or a documentary. It doesn’t matter what kind of animals, although horses are his favorite. He doesn’t just watch, moving his head with each action—he yelps and whines and jumps at the TV as if engaging in real-life activity. The degree of intensity depends on the type and level of the screen action—sometimes so relentless that I can no longer watch the movie.

In my home, this behavior is very dog specific to Boomer, as my other two labs are true couch potatoes and sleep through it all. Ropstad believes there are individual differences in dogs, even though science doesn’t have an answer yet to why this is so. One theory is that dogs’ hunting instincts take over and if they are more instinctive in the real world, then they will be more stimulated by the activities on the screen.

Cats have similar vision abilities to dogs. A friend shared that one of her cats, Cassidy, loved the opening to Star Trek that showed the Enterprise moving through space and her sister had a cat who loved to watch a particular weather man on a local TV station.

Even though my home is not a scientific research lab (no pun intended), there is no question in my mind that Boomer watches TV and understands what he is watching.

Events that Help Animals

Nevada Humane Society’s Blue Jeans Ball on November 16, 5:30 pm, at Atlantis Casino Resort to benefit homeless pets. Mayors Cashell and Martini honored. Festivities include formal dinner, dancing, silent and live auctions, raffles! Live entertainment by Nashville’s country superstars, Whiskey Dawn. More info and tickets available at www.bluejeansball.org.

How do Community Cats Fit into the Community?

by Diane Blankenburg

This past week I had the honor of visiting Dr. Kate Hurley, the Director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the UC Davis Center for Companion Animal Health. Dr. Hurlev has been studying animal sheltering for years in an effort to improve the quality of life for shelter animals and ultimately increase the number of lives saved.

Recently, Dr. Hurley has been focusing on cats since they are losing their lives in shelters at a much higher rate than dogs. Historically, shelters have been admitting significantly more cats than they are adopting out, resulting in millions of deaths. Her conclusions, based on research, indicate that there are more humane and effective (both in cost and results) alternatives to the methods of the past. Her recommendations have proven to eliminate shelter crowding and the euthanasia of healthy cats in communities that have implemented them.

The two main strategies are Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), where cats are humanely trapped, vaccinated, neutered and healthy ones returned to their community home, and secondly, scheduled, managed admission of cats into shelters. Both are lifesaving programs that meet the needs of pets, wildlife and people in our communities. With Dr. Hurley as our guide, we visited two animal service shelters in northern California (Sutter and Yolo Counties) where the first strategy is currently implemented, resulting in dramatic and positive results.

In the last several months and as part of my consulting work, I have been visiting multiple animal services shelters around the country that are beginning to implement one or both of these strategies. Baltimore, Albuquerque, San Antonio, and Atlanta have community cats programs founded on TNR methodology. Others have made it their policy to no longer accept un-owned or free-roaming cats. Again, the positive impact on lives saved is tremendous.

Washoe County already has its own community cats program that has been working in cooperation with animal services for many years and was pioneered by a local non-profit group aptly named Community Cats. The program was founded by locals Dr. Diana Lucree and Denise Stevens in 2000 and provides free spay/neuter services for feral cats. In ten years, over 15,000 feral cats have been fixed, leading to a 75% reduction in the number of feral cats entering local animal shelters. In 2000, Reno Animal Services euthanized more than 1800 feral cats—all that entered the shelter. Ten years later, only about 450 entered the municipal facility and most were saved. The program was even endorsed by the City of Reno in 2006 and has been recognized by the Washoe County Board of Commissioners for several years with county proclamations.

Washoe County has once again been a trailblazer for animals—ahead of its time and leading the way in lifesaving programs.

Events that Help Animals

Safe Trick-or-Treating at Nevada Humane Society on Halloween, October 31, 4:00 to 7:00 pm. Plenty of treats for children who come in costume. Hot chocolate and apple cider, spooky music and staff and canine friends in costumes. Event is FREE. Call 775-856-2000 for more information.

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