Posts tagged dogs

AMONG THE ANIMALS: Foster care: ‘A shelter without walls’


Mo, a foster cat from PAWS

Sept. 19th, 2013

Originally published in City Living Seattle and the Queen Anne News

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

My husband, Eric, and I had presided over a two-dog, one-cat household for a long time before one of our dogs passed away in May. We were not ready to commit to another dog. Instead, we decided to foster cats and dogs from a local rescue group and help out one animal at a time.

We signed up with the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) since its shelter is close to our North Seattle home. There are also foster programs through the Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) and numerous private rescue groups. Smaller rescue groups also depend on foster families to care for homeless pets because they do not have a brick-and-mortar shelter.

Eric and I acquired the requisite training to volunteer and to learn how to engage with the foster-care system. We learned about pickups, drop-offs, vet appointments and how to encourage good behavior in the home so our foster animal will be adopted.

I was ecstatic when PAWS’ foster-care coordinator Rebecca Oertel called to say she had a dog needing care for two weeks. By the end of the day, our confident yet tiny foster dog, Mariah (a Chihuahua mix), was firmly established in our home and was spending her Friday night in a rambunctious play session with our dog, Toby.

Toby loved every minute of his new playmate’s company. They chased and played tug of war (with both sanctioned and unsanctioned socks). At times, my cat Buca would sit high on the counter and watch Mariah bounce around the living room like a ball in a tennis match.

Toby and Mariah

Toby and Mariah

As a puppy, Mariah needed guidance on house training, but she quickly absorbed new commands like “sit” and “stay.” She was a joy to have in our home.

When I got a voice mail that a family was keen on adopting Mariah, I was overjoyed, yet I braced myself to miss her petite and energetic spirit. Toby, Eric and I took Mariah back to the shelter together, and the abundance of kisses and hugs were natural at such a moment to say goodbye.

New foster family members

That day, Oertel introduced us to Mo, a 20-pound Maine Coon-mix cat with a positive outlook and polite disposition. In our extra bedroom, Mo hunkered down in the closet. But within a day, he found the lounge chair and amply filled it as if the space between the arms was destined for a giant, long-haired, white cat.

Mo was a perfect gentleman toward dogs, cats and people. He even graciously notified me when it was time for his litter box to be cleaned, and he kept himself and his surroundings in order. Indeed, he was a perfect houseguest, complete with good “meow” conversations in nearly comical tones.

We found it exceptionally difficult to take Mo back to the shelter so that he could meet some potential adopters. Mo awaits adoption at PAWS Cat City in Seattle’s University District.

Our current foster dog, Choco (a Chihuahua mix), is about 2 years old and started out timid around new people. Within days, she learned that life at the Lagally house is safe for dogs, and she found good company in my cat, Buca.

Choco and her shoe pile

Choco and her shoe pile

Like Mariah and Mo, Choco’s unique personality is a delight to discover. Chaco loves shoes, and she collects them from all over our house — from closets, shoe racks or the back porch — and piles them on the couch. No shoe is ever damaged — just displayed as yet another glorious find. As we take joy in and offer respect for Choco’s shoe pile, she seems to learn that people are not so scary after all.

Rewarding connections

Animals at SAS or PAWS typically need temporary foster care to recover from a cold or surgery or to take a break from the shelter. Foster families come from all walks of life, including working people, families, apartment dwellers and homeowners.

“We literally have all lifestyles represented, said SAS spokesperson Kara Main-Hester.

Main-Hester said that SAS regularly has about 130 to 200 animals in foster care and more during kitten season, and more than 700 animals per year are cared for by foster parents serving our local city shelter.

Similarly, PAWS placed around 1,600 dogs, cats, kittens and puppies in foster homes last year alone.

“The foster-care program creates a shelter without walls,” explained Oertel, who emphasized that PAWS can always use more foster families, which, in turn, helps PAWS care for even more animals.

For me, not only do foster-care programs serve an important role as part of the companion animal-shelter system, such programs also give foster parents the rewarding, heartwarming chance to connect with some very precious souls who we might otherwise never get to encounter in our journey through life.

For more information on local foster-care programs, visit the Seattle Animal Shelter website at, or contact PAWS at

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of “Living Humane,” a news site providing information on humane-conscious lifestyles at She also writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at


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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Second Chance Rescue saves homeless pets with needed special care

Dr. Valerie Sherer and Preston

Dr. Valerie Shearer and Preston

By Christie Lagally

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

Originally published in the Queen Anne and Magnolia News and City Living Seattle

April 5, 2013

[Update: Preston (left) has been adopted since the writing of this article.]

Every rescue group has a creation story, but this one is unique. It begins in the hearts of Dr. Steven Weinrauch and licensed veterinary technician Michelle St. Mary, as well as the many volunteers who rose to the call to provide top-notch veterinary care to shelter and homeless pets.

Weinrauch, a local veterinarian working at the time for a national, corporate-run veterinary hospital, saw a great need. The Gold Bar puppy mill had been raided, and a lot of those dogs needed medical care. So together with his future business partner, St. Mary, Weinrauch’s wife, Kathryn (a fellow veterinarian), and many other willing veterinarians in the Puget Sound region, Weinrauch attempted to open his hospital and give the dogs the care they needed.

But not everyone was on board: Weinrauch’s employer did not approve. Use of company hospitals and resources to help non-paying clients — let alone dogs without owners — was not allowed. Weinrauch and St. Mary, of course, took care of the dogs anyway.

That was four years ago. Since then, Weinrauch and St. Mary have expanded their initial ambition to care for homeless pets into a successful veterinary practice that carefully integrates their philanthropic values into every aspect of the business.

Both Drs. Kathryn and Steven Weinrauch and St. Mary now operate Second Chance Rescue, with a network of veterinary hospitals, including three they created from the ground-up: Northpointe Animal Hospital in Lynnwood, Main Street Animal Hospital in Mill Creek and Snohomish Station Animal Hospital in Snohomish.


Preston napping in his foster home

Preston napping in his foster home

A philanthropic mission
When you walk into the Northpointe Animal Hospital, it is obvious that the facility was built to suit a practice offering quality veterinary care and the ability to accommodate the needs of all patient needs — including those animals coming from shelters into the care of Second Chance Rescue.

This model, a synergistic combination of nonprofit and business, is not just about sharing space. Every part of Weinrauch and St. Mary’s practice has a philanthropic arm. Drug suppliers are asked to donate medicine for rescue patients when the company makes an order for antibiotics or arthritis medication meant for regular patients. Suppliers of vet-prescribed products, like prescription dog or cat foods, are asked to donate bags of food for the Second Chance dogs and cats.

Even in the construction of the new Northpointe hospital, St. Mary and Weinrauch asked contractors to donate a certain amount of their time to support the rescue.

The result is a fine example of socially conscience entrepreneurship that serves animal clients with or without human owners.

But because of its specialty services, animals taken into the rescue are referred by groups like PAWS, not directly from the public. Kay Joubert, PAWS director for Companion Animal Services, explained that Second Chance is one of its Placement Partners, a trusted organization with which they transfer animals to ensure proper care and the best chance for the right adoptive home.

Second Chance came with a glowing recommendation from the Everett Animal Shelter, which rescued the Gold Bar puppy mill dogs. Joubert said that the decision to transfer a dog to Second Chance depends on the needs of that animal and whether Second Chance has the right foster home to give an animal long-term care.

Preston at the park

Preston at the park

Currently at Second Chance, 7-year-old Preston is up for adoption. True to its mission, Preston is under the care of Second Chance because of his epilepsy. This gentle soul needed special attention to control seizures and receives that from Northpointe veterinarian Dr. Valerie Shearer.

In fact, every person who works for St. Mary and Weinrauch’s hospitals also gives their time to the rescue of dogs and cats. Shearer also serves as Preston’s foster family until the right home is found.

A new solution
Second Chance Rescue appears to have done more than create a new rescue group: It created a new solution to help homeless pets.

“We have a wonderful collaboration with Second Chance,” Joubert said, adding that PAWS also consults with Weinrauch on medical cases within its shelter system.

The advantages of having an animal-rescue focus on specialty veterinary care are clear. Dogs and cats become homeless for a variety of reasons and come to shelters and rescue groups with many complex needs. Some need a trainer, some need a breed-specific rescue and some, like Preston, need a generous dose of expert veterinary care from the dedicated volunteers at Second Chance Rescue.

For more information about Second Chance Rescue, visit Information on PAWS can be found at

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is host of Living Humane on KKNW 1150 AM ( and writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at To comment on this story, write to

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Chaining dogs is illegal

By Christie Lagally
Richmond News

See original article in the Richmond News.

February 11, 2011

In the wake of the recent destruction of 100 sled dogs in Whistler, it’s natural to reflect on what could have been done to prevent this horrific event.

Political voices from the sled dog community to animal welfare advocates say that we need better laws to protect animals (which we do) and that we need the sled dog industry to be responsible and take care of their own.

The man who shot those dogs claimed he had no other choice and that he asked for help from various agencies, and was a victim himself of a company that put profits first.

Of course this does not justify his actions or that of his company.

But the lesson I learned from this mass murder is that animal welfare has always been and will always be is a matter of diligence and cooperation in our communities. And diligence is what is needed right now here in Richmond.

My friend Helen Savkovic works at the front desk of the Richmond Animal Shelter and receives nearly every call to our local shelter regarding dogs, cats or other animals in distress or in need of new homes. But some of the hardest calls to receive are those about a dog chained in a yard, penned up or used as a guard dog for an industrial site with no real home or family.

Alone, frustrated and confused, these dogs suffer from exactly the problems you’d expect from unending isolation — aggression, anxiety and fear. Worse yet, chained dogs often suffer from the collar wearing all the hair off their necks and the collar can even imbed into the skin.

In Richmond, the first section of Animal Control Bylaw 7932 says that no animal, including a dog, can be “hitched, tied or fastened to a fixed object where a choke collar or chain forms part of the securing apparatus.”

Clearly, chaining or tethering a dog is against the law in Richmond, yet people still do this. And often it’s only the neighbours or passersby who see a dog living in these conditions.

“Chaining is illegal in Richmond although penning isn’t,” says Savkovic, “and both are harmful to the dog and to the people who have to witness this cruelty.”

Marion Hewko is the Canadian representative and contact for Dogs Deserve Better (DDB), an international organization dedicated to educating the public about the cruelty to chained and penned dogs.

In addition to advocacy work through local shelters, Hewko and other area representatives for the organization work to help owners understand how awful life is for a dog on a chain.

Hewko works to form a relationship with owners of dogs who are reported to be living life on a chain or always penned in a yard.

She says that so many people don’t realize the emotional and physical trauma they are causing their dog, and Dogs Deserve Better helps owners understand the need to bring the dog into the family and “break the chain” of isolation and abuse.

But a handful of representatives can’t address the issue of chained and penned dogs alone. DDB depends on neighbours, friends and family, or passersby to report a chained or penned dog in distress.

In Richmond, you can call the Richmond Animal Shelter at 604-275-2036. If you see an incident of a chained dog, write down as much information as you can about the address and conditions.

If you have a cellphone or camera, take a video to document the situation so that an animal control officer or a representative from DDB can get in contact with the owner and ultimately help the dog.

While we may not be able to help those sled dogs now that they are gone, we can certainly make every effort to help every dog in distress in Richmond. If you want to do more to help chained or penned dogs, visit the Dogs Deserve Better website at

Christie Lagally is a volunteer pet columnist and founder of the Animal Welfare Advocacy Coalition. View her blog at

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