Tag Archives: rescue

Road Trip! ~ by Pat Lang

Love the lure of the open road? Love driving long distances in the dead of night? Love meeting new people in lovely destinations like Denny’s parking lots or I-5 truck stops? Love rescuing animals? Then transport may be just the thing for you!

If you follow the Dogwood Facebook page, you’ve seen many, many references to dogs (and some cats!) being rescued from Central Valley shelters or from homes where the owners are overwhelmed and can’t cope.  But we’ll bet you didn’t how much effort, planning, coordination, and sheer hard work go into bringing these animals into Dogwood’s loving arms.

The need is huge, and as Dogwood becomes a bigger and bigger presence, there are more calls and Facebook requests for rescues: mamas and puppies, sick animals including dogs with mange (now becoming a Dogwood speciality), injured animals: the list goes on!  Once the request is made, it becomes a matter of determining “do we have room?” and “are there foster homes available”?  Then comes scheduling!  This is a tough job and one that can easily take hours.  Identifying who can handle the transport, or part of it, and when; if a transport that needs to be done in legs, who can do which leg, from where to where, and when. And then trying to fit all the pieces together into a seamless whole.  Many, many phone calls, text messages, Facebook posts and instant message requests later and we have a plan. (Kudos here to people like Jennifer Colletto, among others, who work tirelessly just about every day to make these rescues happen, for Dogwood and other Northern California rescue groups. These tireless volunteers work through California Rescue, Facebook and other websites as well as using their own personal networks to facilitate our rescues).

Transporters then determine where (and when) the meeting point will be, most often a well-lit, very public place like Denny’s or a rest-stop.  Armed with cellphone numbers for everyone driving the various legs, they load up with crates, blankets, leashes, collars, bowls and water, towels, potty pads, and cleaning materials, and off they go into the night!  Although rescues can happen at any time, many occur in the evenings or late at night: some volunteers work a day job and can only help after work, some are emergencies.  This transport work is made so much easier in the age of smart phones! Transporters stay in touch so everyone knows if the previous leg is on time or running late; they can keep on top of traffic conditions and give each other a “heads-up” when they are closing in on the meeting point.  Once the meet-up occurs, everyone (drivers and passengers!) gets a potty break, and then it’s on to the next leg.

Meanwhile, “back at the ranch,” Shirley Zindler, Hannah Houston and other volunteers are setting up for the new arrivals so they can be checked, wormed, vaccinated, and settled for the night in soft, warm beds.

Does it always go smoothly?  No!  Are there always surprises? Yes!  Sometimes the people we are meeting wonder if we could just take one more dog – if we can, we do. Sometimes the dogs are in much worse shape than we were led to believe or the owners become reluctant to surrender an animal you’ve driven miles to pick-up!  Our transport volunteers roll with the punches, make lots of phone calls, and make it happen: quite literally, they are making life-saving decisions.  Central Valley rescues are hard: the need is great, the conditions can be dire, and sometimes people can be difficult. But these heroes do it because they are saving lives.  They go into warehouses after hours, with passwords and a flashlight trying to find a stowaway Mama and her kittens from China, they go into homeless encampments, they encounter difficult owners who’ve changed their minds…

And let’s not forget the transport volunteers on a local level who ferry animals back and forth to vet appointments! They all make a difference, one animal at a time…

If you are interested in joining our team of volunteer transporters, please complete our volunteer application and let us know that this is a skill you have to share.
Gray Kitten

What to do if you find a litter of feral kittens ~ by Pat Lang

It’s that magical time of year: kitten season, when it almost seems as if it’s raining kittens. Shelters are packed to the rafters (or soon will be) with every shape, size and color of kittens. And that’s just the kittens we know about! Feral moms are giving birth in bushes, in empty garages and garden sheds, wherever they can find what they think is a safe spot.

Sometimes what looks like a safe spot to them ends up being an area that we humans wander through or that presents other risks to the little feline family. So today’s “kitty lesson” is what to do if you find a litter of newborn/young kittens, with no Mom in sight. First thing: do nothing at all but watch and wait!  Many, many times Mom hasn’t abandoned her new little family but is out hunting, looking to provide for her newborns.  Moms can often be gone for several hours. In most cases, a little patience on your part will reveal that Mom returns to feed her family.  Check on the family several times a day, from a SAFE distance (binoculars are a big help!). Keep an eye on numbers: if the little family seems to be getting smaller in number, Mom may be moving them to a new and safer location.

Orange Kitten

Our first instinct is to help – and for us, helping usually means rescuing the kittens.  But this good-hearted instinct creates more problems than not.  First of all, if the kitties are truly wee little ones, they will need to be bottle fed.  And while bottle feeding little ones is a wonderfully satisfying task, it is still a lot of work.  And, even more importantly, bottle feeding is a really an unsatisfactory substitute for mom’s milk.  Mom is the best at raising her brood: her milk provides crucial nutrients and there’s no substitute for the training and discipline that Mom provides.

But we understand wanting to help. So here’s what to do: put some dry kitty food and water out for Mom but at a distance from her litter.  Mom purposely puts her litter away from food since she understands that food attracts predators..  When she returns from the hunt, she’ll appreciate the easily accessible banquet!  And keep a quiet eye on the little family, from a distance and at different times of the day.  That way you’ll have the best chance of seeing if Mom returns to care for her family.  Kittens who aren’t receiving enough milk will most likely be either crying constantly or very lethargic and inactive. Assess the health of the kittens: is their fur dry and fluffy? Or wet? Are they sleeping quietly? Or crying/squalling? Are they dry and away from danger?  Is their location away from traffic, people, bikes, etc.?

Gray Kitten

If after a day or two, you sense real trouble, seek out help from an organization experienced in dealing with feral cats.  They can offer advice and direction on how best to proceed.  In Sonoma County we are fortunate to have Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County as our feral experts, but more and more grass roots/volunteer organizations dedicated to the care and protection of feral cats are popping up all over the country.  The Community Cat Coalition in Washington state, Alley Cat Allies on the East Coast and many others.  A quick Google search for feral cat organizations should provide you with the contact information you need.

If the little family can stay  together until the kittens are old enough to be weaned (usually 6-8 weeks) then you can consider how best to trap the family for spay/neuter (once again many local organizations offer free or low cost spay/neuter) and can pull the kittens for socialization and Trap/Neuter/Return the feral mom.

Careful and watchful waiting will yield the best results for everyone.