Nov 11, 2015

"Hercules": Helper Dog for Canine Cruelty Victims

At the ASPCA Gloria Gurney Canine Annex for Recovery and Enrichment (CARE), which houses dogs seized by the NYPD as part of animal cruelty investigations, a two-year-old pit bull named Hercules acts as a helper pup to other dogs in need. Hercules is one of six helper dogs at the ASPCA.

A former cruelty victim, Hercules was severely underweight and covered with multiple ulcers and wounds when he arrived at the ASPCA in March. Named by staff for his fortitude, Hercules is a heroic guide for other dogs at the ASPCA who are fearful and severely under-socialized.

“Using a helper dog is often much more effective and efficient than if we try to bring a fearful dog out of its shell all by ourselves,” says Victoria Wells, ASPCA Senior Manager of Behavior and Training. “It’s a huge leap instead of a baby step when you can pair a fearful or under-socialized dog with one who is more outgoing.”

Hercules has helped more than six dogs overcome their fear and poor social skills, while helping others build confidence and be less timid. Helper dogs like Hercules should be comfortable around other dogs, though not exuberant or overly rambunctious.

The extent of the helper animal’s role depends largely on the behavior of the dog in need. “For a dog who is shut down or catatonic, we’ll expose him to a neutral dog,” says Victoria. “This allows the fearful dog to relax or engage in the company of a being that can better communicate with him than we can.”

A helper dog may inspire another dog to walk around a room or down a hallway. “He may also coax a dog to go outdoors, which some are terrified of. But they’ll go if they can follow a helper dog,” says Victoria.

When a blind German Shepherd named Wiley arrived at the ASPCA, he was so fearful that he refused to move. The ASPCA Behavior team utilized a helper dog to guide Wiley out of his shell.

“We had to carry Wiley out of his kennel into the training room, and then back into his kennel,” she remembers. “The only thing that piqued his interest was when he heard another dog bark. So we brought in a puppy and noticed that when the puppy approached Wiley and sniffed him, Wiley would respond. Soon Wiley started interacting with people, then walking and playing, and his behavior turned around completely.”

Crimson, a six-year-old, blind shepherd mix rescued by NYPD officers, showed an interest in another dog’s pups at CARE and was soon designated as a helper dog to assist with their socialization.

“Crimson was vaccinated and mellow—and the puppies weren’t overpowering or too rambunctious,” says Kris Lindsay, Technical Operations Manager. “They boosted Crimson’s confidence and helped him navigate, and the pups benefitted because they needed to meet other dogs. It also gave their mother a break.”

As our helper dogs go on to find loving homes, the results of their heroic efforts will be felt in the many animals whose lives they touched.

Aug 11, 2015

A Bright Future for Hilary and Wendy

Animal hoarding is a complex animal welfare issue that can involve mental health and public safety concerns. Hoarding occurs when an individual has more animals than they can adequately care for, and in some cases—like that of kittens Hilary and Wendy—it can lead to some serious physical impairments. But old wounds weren’t enough to dampen these sweet cats’ spirits, and the bonded duo was eager to find a loving home where they could stay together. It took nearly a year, but they finally got the Happy Tail they were waiting for. Here is their story.

Hilary and Wendy came from an apartment with 14 cats and two dogs. The dogs lived in a partially-finished basement, while most of the cats lived outside and slept on and around the owner’s front steps. None of the cats were spayed or neutered, many were in poor health and some, including Hilary, had upper respiratory infections.

After their rescue in July 2014, Hilary and Wendy were taken to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) for further examination and treatment. It was there that we discovered the full depth of their suffering: In addition to stunted growth, both Wendy and Hilary were diagnosed with severe eye issues. Hilary, who is four months older, was nearly blind and, in addition to the aforementioned respiratory infection, arrived with an ear infection and chronic rhinitis. Wendy, who appears to have no eyes, actually does, but they are congenitally small, a result of the conditions in which she was born. She is blind.

ASPCA Happy Tails: A Bright Future for Hilary and Wendy

Despite their hardships, the kitties had developed loving, distinct personalities. “Hilary’s like the big sister and Wendy is the little sister,” said Liliana Gomez, a Veterinary Technician who cared for the duo. “Hilary’s the leader, Wendy’s the follower. But they’re both very affectionate.”

William Rivera, an Animal Care Technician, remembers working at AAH the day that Hilary and Wendy arrived. “Hilary was sneezing blood,” he said. “But I’ve been in love with her since day one. They are the perfect combination: One’s spunky, the other’s laid back. They just feed off each other and love being together.”

Hilary and Wendy remained at AAH for eight months before they were ready to move into our Adoption Center in March 2015. For two more months, they waited and waited for the perfect adopter until finally, in May, they met an ASPCA volunteer named Elizabeth.

“I grew up with cats and my mother fostered cats throughout my childhood,” says Elizabeth, who volunteers as a cat socializer whenever her work schedule allows. “When I met Hilary and Wendy, I knew they were special. They immediately struck me as sweet and easy-going cats. I had a good feeling that they’d be happy in my home.” On May 2, she adopted them and changed their names to Pepa and Lola.

ASPCA Happy Tails: A Bright Future for Hilary and Wendy

Pepa and Lola settled right into Elizabeth’s home, and it didn’t take long before their trademark personalities began to shine. “They seemed very comfortable on their first day,” Elizabeth reported, “especially Pepa—who likes to roll around on my blankets and have her belly rubbed.” After exploring every inch of the apartment, the cats were clearly in their happy place. “Within a day or two they were already able to hop onto my bed, despite their vision loss. I was really proud of them when the accomplished it the first time,” she says.

And Pepa and Lola are definitely enjoying living the good life. Elizabeth adds, “They love frolicking around the living room and dashing from one side to the other. They are both early risers, and so far I haven’t overslept my alarm once thanks to them!” she laughs. And it seems like the cats are also enjoying the safety and security of a stable, loving home—“Tonight we are watching old “Frasier” episodes on Netflix,” Elizabeth says with a smile.

From playful games to snuggly TV sessions, Pepa and Lola are a long way from their painful past. We are so thrilled that these kitties have found the perfect home together, and, despite their vision loss, we know they’ve got nothing but a bright future ahead.

ASPCA Happy Tails: A Bright Future for Hilary and Wendy

May 12, 2015

A Sweet Life for Dulcie

A Sweet Life for Dulcie

When an animal has been through trauma, theASPCA Animal Hospital has all the tools, experience and expertise needed to provide life-saving care. But although we are pros at administering medicine and conducting surgery, we know there is only one proven treatment that can heal broken a heart: a loving “forever home.” Here is the story of one such patient, a cat named Dulcinea.


In June 2014, Dulcinea (Dulcie for short) was found as a stray on the Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx, New York. She arrived at the ASPCA Animal Hospital in pain, suffering from unknown trauma that left her with lower jaw wounds and a burn on her back. She underwent surgery to remove the damaged skin tissue, and was soon transferred to the ASPCA Adoption Center to begin her search for a forever home.


At the Adoption Center, Dulcie grew increasingly standoffish. She was wary of people and animals, and it became apparent that her harrowing history had left her with lingering emotional wounds. She was having trouble wooing potential adopters until, four months later, a woman named Susan S. showed up and changed everything.


Last year, Susan lost both of her cats, Marabou and Molly-Plume, to lymphoma less than six months apart. Devastated and missing her feline companions, she agreed to join her daughter, an ASPCA volunteer named Allana, on a trip to our Adoption Center. “Of course we looked around at the cats who needed a home,” Susan recalls. “That’s when a feline behaviorist introduced me to a quiet little 16-month-old female cat who didn’t like being caged, didn’t like other cats and didn’t like people much, either.”


Although Dulcie was, in Susan’s words, “physically well but socially reticent,” Susan was intrigued by the green-eyed kitty. “When she came out of her cage to meet me, she seemed relatively relaxed and allowed me to stroke her head and scratch her chin.” At home that night, Susan’s couldn’t stop thinking about Dulcie, so she returned the next day and made the adoption official. “Although I have had a shelter cat or two all my adult life, Duclie is the first one with an ASPCA ‘pedigree,’” she says with a smile.


At Susan’s apartment in Manhattan, Dulcie made herself right at home. Susan says, “On arrival, she got a quiet private room, a cozy bed and all her necessities right at paw…Food, water ,litter box, scratching board, small toys. Within a day, she made it clear that she wanted to leave her room to explore. She promptly made the full apartment her own.”


Over the next six months, Dulcie continued to transform. “She has flourished in every possible way,” Susan says proudly. “Her weight has gone from 7.5 pounds to a pleasingly round 10 pounds. Her coat has grown plush and glossy. She has found both her voice (chirp as well as meow) and her purr.” Dulcie now spends her days playing, chasing her toys, and enjoying the sweet life Susan has given her.


Susan adds, “Dulcie is not a cuddler but she is delightfully companionable. She routinely goes to her bed when I go to my bed at night, to her chair when I go to my chair at the end of the day. She’s also exceptionally intelligent and resourceful. It is a ‘happy tail indeed!’”


After traumatic injuries and a terrifying ordeal on the expressway, Dulcie was clearly ready for a peaceful, happy home—and fortunately, she found it with Susan. Congratulations to this happy pair!


THANK YOU! Your support through Global Giving has raised over 15 thousand dollars to help shelter pets like Dulcie. Our lifesaving work would be impossible without the generosity of friends like you!


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