The Happy Beast - Blog - AdoptionsArchive of blog posts from The Happy Beast on “Pet Adoption” topics, including our foster cats and favorite animal rescues and shelters, including Mother Gaia Animal Rescue, Almost Home Adoptions, and Adams County Animal Shelter & Adoption Center.

Giving Back: How We Became Foster Dog Parents

Chelsea and Pi - The Happy BeastAfter my dog’s sudden death this summer, I found myself incredibly lonely. My best friend, who I spent hours walking with every morning, who I rushed home to after work, who kept me company in the kitchen and kept my feet warm at night, was suddenly and very unexpectedly gone.

Fortunately for me, my life is saturated with animal lovers. After Pi died, a friend came over and helped me pack away all her things. I kept a couple bowls, her leash and collar and a few toys. Everything else went in boxes for the shelter where another friends works. The next week, I drove to Adams County Animal Shelter (ACAS) in Brighton to donate Pi’s things. That’s where I met Mila. She had just been surrendered to the shelter for the third time in her short life and her sweet little face melted me.

The next week, I went back to the same shelter with toys donated for a group of dogs pulled from an overrun shelter in Texas. This time I got to go to the ‘Texas Dog’ playgroup. In Texas, these dogs had been living in overcrowded kennels with little human interaction. At ACAS, they were given their own spaces and they were spending time every day with volunteers. Later, I met a springy Dalmatian puppy brought in as a stray and a very sweet but very sad bulldog who had been surrendered by his family of six years. I was torn between wanting to give all of these dogs a home and knowing that I wasn’t really ready to have a dog of my own yet.

Brownie - Foster dog at The Happy BeastUnderstanding how I felt, my friend who works for ACAS gave me a foster family application. A few weeks later, our home was approved and soon after that, my boyfriend and I went back to meet a few dogs who needed a temporary home. Brownie came home with us that afternoon. We took him for a walk through the park that evening, and that was the first time since Pi died that I felt really happy. Brownie needed time as a foster because he was a little nervous around men and the shelter needed more information on what his behavior was like in a home. After a couple days of slow introductions every time we entered the house, Brownie became very comfortable with us. He proved to be an excellent snuggle-buddy to my boyfriend and the perfect hiking partner for me. After his time with us, Brownie went back to the shelter and a few weeks later, we got the amazing news that he found his new family!

Antonio - Foster dog at The Happy BeastWe just finished up with our second foster dog, a sweet and goofy blue pit bull named Antonio. In the shelter, he was anxious around the other dogs. He spent most of his time hanging out in staff members’ offices, but he still lost weight from the stress. In our home, he was a happy, snuggly, lump on our couch. Wherever we were, he liked to bulldoze himself between us. My boyfriend likened sleeping with him to cuddling with a rock. He quickly stole our hearts and we seriously considered keeping him, but were hopeful he’d find another home. With that hope in mind, after his two weeks with us, I returned him to the shelter. Dropping him off absolutely broke my heart. That guy did not want to be surrounded by barking dogs. He wanted to be in our bed. But less than 24 hours later, Antonio was on his way to his forever home with his perfect family and that felt really good.

This is what I’ve learned about fostering dogs so far:

  1. Fostering is flexible.
    Different organizations have different needs, as do the animals they serve. The program at Adams County Animal Shelter allows us to take dogs short term based on our schedule. Keeping an animal for a week or two gives them a break from shelter life while allowing us to gather more information on how the dog does in a home environment. For our situation, foster care is a mini vacation for the dogs. Other dogs from ACAS may need a home to stay in until they find a permanent home and many rescue groups operate solely out of foster homes. Those animals typically need a place to stay in until they are adopted which could mean a longer commitment.
  2. Fostering is free.
    Well, kind of. The shelter provides us with beds, toys, a crate and food, (but I can’t help myself from bringing home extra treats from The Happy Beast!) Any medical care is handled by the shelter veterinarian and the shelter covers the bill.
  3. Shelter dogs are amazing!
    Because we are dog-savvy people in a mellow household with no small children, we can host dogs that may have a few quirks or need additional training. So far, our fosters have been incredible, and we joke that if these are the ‘challenging’ dogs, the other dogs in the shelter must be pretty darn perfect.
  4. Giving them back is really hard, but totally worth it.
    It’s hard to communicate to a dog that this home is temporary (it’s also hard to convince ourselves that we can’t keep all of them) so taking them back can be difficult. I remind myself that our role as a foster home is to be a stepping stone to their forever home. We can work on behaviors like leash walking and impulse control and help determine what kind of home they would do best in.
  5. ‘Foster Failure’ is actually a really good thing.
    While the term may seem negative, ‘Foster Failure’ only means the foster family decided to keep the animal forever. Foster Failure = Adoption Success!

While not without challenges, this experience has helped me heal from losing my dog and has already brought so much happiness back to my life. My time with Pi showed me what it means to really love and respect an animal. She taught me all about dog behavior and training and now I can use everything I learned from her with each dog that comes into our home.

If you are interested in fostering with Adams County Animal Shelter, visit http://www.adcogov.org/volunteer-program

Many shelters and rescue groups, including our friends at Mother Gaia Animal Rescue are also always in need of foster homes. If you are looking to foster in your area, check with different organizations to find the one your lifestyle fits best with!

How You Can Help Stop Puppy Mills

We love puppies. That’s why we don’t sell them.

I read the most gut-wrenching article about puppy mills in The Rolling Stone last month titled, “The Dog Factory: Inside the Sickening World of Puppy Mills.” The reporter, Paul Salotaroff, joined a task force from The Humane Society in a massive puppy mill raid in North Carolina. The story begins with a sickening description of the house under investigation, continues to the discovery of sick puppies and deformed breeding dogs, and ends with the rescue of 128 animals (dogs, cats, and goats) and the arrest of the owner of the operation. Barbara Yates, the woman allegedly responsible, had been running this USDA-inspected puppy mill out of her basement for at least five years and was making a living selling those puppies online. The photos and stories are graphic, but the piece is an informative call-to-action.

The tagline of the article calls puppy mills, “the secret shame of the pet industry.” Those words hit me hard, because, you see, I’m part of the pet industry and I had no idea how devastating and wide-reaching this problem really is. We have a sign in our window that says “We love puppies. That’s why we don’t sell them.” We signed a pledge with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to never sell animals in our store, and when someone comes in looking for a puppy, we send them to local shelters or rescue groups instead. (Check out our Pet Resources page to find one near you.) Based on my background, and the good people I’ve been around, I mistakenly held the belief that most dogs I met came from a shelter or a responsible breeder.

The unfortunate reality is that many dogs are purchased in a pet store or from an online broker. Sales of puppies from puppy mills are happening closer to home than you may think; right here in Colorado. We boast of our dog-friendly towns and high adoption rates at local shelters, but there are still at least 25 USDA-licensed puppy mills in Colorado with an estimated 1,300 breeding adult dogs. Our state makes up just a fraction of the over 10,000 legal puppy mills and brokers nationwide. Some are massive livestock facilities while others are crowded basement operations hidden in suburban neighborhoods. That’s the kind of “secret shame” Salotaroff is talking about.

What is a puppy mill?

A puppy mill, also called a puppy farm, is a commercial dog breeding facility. A court in Minnesota determined the definition to be “a dog breeding operation in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits.” Avenson v. Zegart, 577 F. Supp. 958, 960

How is this happening?

Brokers and pet stores make impressive claims on the reputability of their suppliers while deceiving consumers with terms like “USDA Licensed” and “AKC Registered” and marketing their businesses with stock photos of cute puppies, smiling breeders, and clean facilities. 

What does USDA Licensed mean? The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) inspects breeding facilities to make sure they adhere to the guidelines laid out by the Animal Welfare Act. Sounds good, right? Well, the Animal Welfare Act allows up to 12 dogs kept in a single cage and has no limit on the number of animals kept on a single property. Cages must be six inches larger than the dog so the dog is able to stand up, but unlikely unable to turn around. What’s worse is that dogs never actually have to be let out of those cages. The breeders are required to have a written exercise plan, but there is no requirement that those plans are ever carried out. Facilities are inspected as infrequently as every three years and fines for violations often go unpaid.

What does AKC Registered mean? AKC Registered only means the puppy and his or her parents have been registered with the American Kennel Club as purebreds. It does not have any guidelines for health or temperament of the dogs registered. While the AKC does encourage choosing a responsible breeder, many puppy mill dogs come with papers stamped with “AKC Registered.”

Secondly, internet sales are booming.  In the last ten years, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) have cracked down on stores selling puppy mill-bred dogs, but online brokers have allowed the industry to continue and thrive. Of the 2 million puppies bred and sold each year, approximately half are sold online.

What can we do?

The Humane Society of the United States recommends we “choke the blood supply of puppy mills” by not giving the industry any money and never buying a puppy from a pet store or through a website. Instead, they encourage adoption of a shelter dog or finding a reputable breeder.

  • If you want to buy a purebred puppy
    Choose a reputable breeder and investigate their history and references. The HSUS published a thorough checklist to simplify this process. A responsible breeder cares not only about the health and temperament of their dogs, but also about where their puppies end up. Responsible breeders won’t use a third-party to sell their animals so beware of pet stores and online brokers who claim to have working relationships with “good” breeders. Meet your breeder face to face in his or her home.
  • Adopt a shelter dog!
    1.2 million dogs are euthanized in US shelters every year! There are a ton of rescue groups and humane societies in Colorado where you can find adoptable animals in need of good homes. PetHarbor.com, and Petfinder.com can help you find a dog or puppy based on breed, age, and size. These websites fully vet the shelters and rescues, which makes it very difficult for inhumane breeders to sneak through. Despite this vetting, it’s still a good idea to research reviews and any complaints.
  • Get involved
    Learn more about what’s happening and tell your friends. We recommend starting with the resources we used to investigate this article:

Live Video Stream of Our Foster Cats!

If you’ve been by the store recently, you know that we’re fostering cats from Almost Home Adoption for Rescued Cats. You can read our blog to learn more about Teo, Dottie and the rest of the kitty crew, but now you can watch them too via our live video stream!

If you’re looking for a kitty fix (and Loki too) now you can tune-in to the live video stream from The Happy Beast, which we’re broadcasting using a super-cool Petcube video camera, which even includes audio and a little laser for interactive play. Just download the Petcube app on your mobile device and send us a friend request.

You can also watch cats and dogs from a variety of animal shelters and rescues from around the country. It’s all part of the Petcube for Shelters program that helps shelters discover new ways to adopt more pets, collect donations, and engage with the local community.

Enjoy the Petcube feed from anywhere or stop by the store to check it out in person. And if you’re looking to purchase a Petcube, give us a holler and we’ll hook you up with a discount code.

Helping Cats with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)

Dottie, our long-time foster cat, was born without a right hind paw, but that doesn’t slow her down a bit! Unfortunately, when she first came to us, we couldn’t say the same thing about her Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), which caused severe vomiting, diarrhea, and general stomach discomfort that kept her from have having much fun.

The good news is that with a new diet, close oversight, and a little TLC, we’ve been to help Dottie make a full recovery and live a happy, healthy life. We want to take the opportunity to explain what irritable bowel disease is, how it affects cats like Dottie on a daily and long-term basis, and how you can help your cat with IBD or similar stomach issues.

IBD is a general term referring to a group of gastrointestinal disorders that are believed to be the result of intestinal inflammation. The source of the intestinal inflammation is attributed to one or more of the following factors: genetics, diet, and/or diminished intestinal microflora. Cats with IBD will typically exhibit chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea and be at increased risk for intestinal lymphoma.

Current research supports the idea that diet plays a large role in the overall health of both humans and animals. For decades cats have unfortunately been fed highly processed, species-inappropriate foods. Cats are obligate carnivores who have no known dietary requirement for any carbohydrates in their diet. The average kibble is well over 25% carbohydrates! (Please see previous post on carbs in pet food for more details). It is essential that cats with IBD, or displaying symptoms, be fed highly digestible proteins. The more processed a food is, the more chemically altered and less digestible it becomes. Feeding such highly processed, carb-heavy foods has the potential to greatly damage overall intestinal health, especially in cats prone to digestive disease.

Healthy gut flora (or the lack of) is linked to the severity of intestinal inflammation. If a cat’s natural gut microflora is depleted, it is unable to fully digest and absorb the necessary nutrients. This is why it is extremely important, especially after a round of antibiotics, to use a PreBiotic or ProBiotic to re-establish and maintain a healthy flora.

There are varying degrees of IBD, but in all cats with IBD, no matter the severity of their symptoms, it is absolutely essential that they are fed a diet that is highly digestible and unprocessed. The house cats of today are no different from their predecessors. They are built to process and thrive off of their natural prey source of rodents, rabbits, and birds – a raw food diet.

The severity of Dottie’s IBD appears to be minimal. Upon her arrival at The Happy Beast, we fed her an exclusive raw food diet and her stools immediately solidified. It should be noted that she does become loose if she gets even the highest quality canned food. On a day-to-day basis, Dottie is very low maintenance, she eats her raw food, plays around with her catnip toys and loves scratching on her natural tree posts. Long term, we feel that because we got her on a raw food diet early on in her prognosis, she will live a long and healthy life.

Do you have a cat with IBD? Send us an email or stop by the store in Lafayette and ask how we can help!

Restoring Their Roar: Our Newest Foster Cats

We recently welcomed three new foster cats at The Happy Beast – Fancy Pants, Violet, and Dottie (in addition to our other rescue, Mr. Kitty, now christened “Teo”). All three cats came to us suffering from chronic diarrhea, which was the result of their irritable bowel disease (IBD). Dottie was also born without her right hind paw, but gets around fine and climbs like a champ! All three cats were originally rescued from hoarding situations by Almost Home Adoptions for Rescued Cats, which is a cage-free cat rescue in Westminster.

The rescue had tried everything to help resolve the cats IBD, except for putting them on a raw diet. As a last ditch effort, the rescue contacted us and asked if we would be willing to foster them and put them on a raw food diet. Of course, we agreed and all of the cats are doing much better now.

Dottie has made the quickest improvement and as soon as we transitioned her to a raw diet, her stools became solid. The rescue had a feeling this would happen because her brother also suffered from chronic diarrhea, which was resolved once his adopted family put him on raw. It has been an interesting process and we have been taking copious notes about their progress. Fancy Pants and Violet still have a way to go, but are making progress. Their stools haven’t quite solidified, but they have fewer episodes of diarrhea. This is really nice for us because it means there is far less clean up!

Another interesting observation is that even when Dottie ate a high-quality canned food (she would get into Teo’s leftovers) she would immediately have soft stools. This happened on three different occasions. It seems that her body needs raw. This makes sense because cats certainly don’t cook up mice after they catch them. 🙂

Dottie is now up for adoption through Almost Home Adoption Center. She is a lovely cat and must be kept on a raw food diet, as her digestive system is very sensitive.

Stop by the store to say hello and meet these sweet kitties!