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Keep'em Home Stories
The dogs & families who inspire this project
Below are just a few of the people and dogs who found help through our Keep'em Home Project. By working with community partners to provide resources, information and assistance to families who are struggling to keep their dogs, we aim to build a better community for the dogs and the people who love them.
MILA: Judgment Hurts
Mila's owners have good jobs but when medical bills mounted, they fell into financial distress. After losing their pet-friendly housing, 'D' drove to several animal shelters in hopes of finding a program that would accept their dog, but she was turned away again and again (Due to overcrowding, most of our shelters do not accept owner surrendered dogs, especially those from other cities). By the time we talked with D, Mila was living in the car, her family was split into pieces and she was despondent. We offered to take Mila in and hold her for 30 days while they searched for housing, but a month came and went and it was time to find Mila a new home. The shame of losing everything and then feeling judged is a common story with families who hit hard times and are forced to give up their beloved pets.
"I can't begin to explain how difficult it has been being separated from our girl. When I've tried to explain with friends and co-workers I've received blank stares or been told outright that she's just a dog and I'll eventually get another. She is our family. And as tremendously grateful as we are to have her in such great care, we are heartbroken and terrified of the possibility of never seeing her again. Throughout the day I'm wondering how she's getting along. If she's feeling as if we have abandoned her. Her great big personality is sorely missed by her family. We are so grateful for the work you do but also for the care and support you give and especially for not judging.. So very grateful." - 'D'
UPDATE: Mila was adopted to a new home and is adored by two kids and two adults. Her first family found a place to live but it does not allow pets. They hope to save up and own their own house someday so they can have a dog or two and never have to split up their family again. We stay in touch with them and look forward to happier days.
A spay opens the door
One of the easiest ways to keep a much-loved but displaced dog out of the shelters is by ensuring that spay/neuter surgeries are accessible and affordable, even free. This young man lost his housing but luckily a relative offered to take 'Gorda' on - provided she was spayed. Helping them allowed us to have a conversation with his relative about dog/dog introductions and common sense management in her now multi-dog home.
We need to do more of this in 2017. One of the main reasons friends or relatives bounce dogs back out of their homes after taking them in stems from conflict between existing pets. It's an easy problem to solve, but without information and support, many families and roommates panic after a scuffle and assume all is lost.
Helping Holly Get 'Home'
What do you do when your dog is suffering and at the end of her life but financial hardship prevents you from giving her a peaceful passing? The email was headlined, 'Holly our beloved family member.'
"I have a 16 year old female pit named Holly. We have had her since birth .... Holly has taken a bad turn in the last few days. She hasn't eaten or drank in this blistering 90+ heat. We know it's time. Unfortunately I don't have the finances to euthanize and cremate as I did with my other pets. I have since been diagnosed with a brain tumor and cannot work. I am on disability and have 2 daughters. We love our Holly and <are> in need of any financial resources or referrals to any resources so we can not let Holly suffer anymore. Please contact me with any help."
Euthanasia and private cremation costs can easily reach $500 or more. We're indebted to our donors who allowed us to say a quick 'Yes' to Holly's family, to Noble Veterinary Clinic for seeing them immediately, and to Ivy Cunningham for donating the cost of a private cremation so her family could have her remains. "My family can now start the long road of grieving. We don't know what we would've done without your help. Thank you for caring for a breed everyone else turns away. Noble clinic employees are professional, kind and very understanding to our pain and grieving. If there is anything we can do to help your organization in the future please reach out to us. Even if it's volunteering to make someone else's family get through this hard time. We are always here for you guys. Your kindness will never be forgotten. Holly left this life at 4:37 PEACEFULLY."
We met Pony Boy during one of our health clinics in 2011 and implanted a microchip in case he ever got lost. When he turned up in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant in 2015, several different parties contacted us for help. It was clear from the start that there was a small army of Good Samaritans looking out for this boy. They got him healthy and kept him safe while we searched for his owner, who turned out to be long gone.
Unfortunately, his is a common story in our area where affordable housing is hard to find and dogs can change hands several times when families are forced to relocate. Pony Boy started attending our PitEd classes and was such a doll that we knew some of our prospective homes might love him. A Halloween Open House during our classes attracted his forever home and the rest is history. Getting him there was a true community effort and is a reflection of the love East Bay dog people have for blocky headed sweethearts-in-need.
A Difficult Decision
We first met Elva at one of our public outreach events where her dog Bella was spayed and microchipped. Little did we know that she'd soon be homeless and spending her monthly income on hotel rooms to keep Bella safe. She searched high and low all summer for an affordable rental that would accept a larger dog, but the stress started to take a toll on them both and by summer's end, she had to give up. She'd originally saved Bella from a bad start and adored her completely, so letting go was bound to be very hard on her heart. Fortunately we had room in our Rescue Barn, so after a very sad good-bye, they parted ways and we started prepping her for adoption to a new home. Bella has since been adopted to a young Oakland couple. Without her dog, Elva was able to move in with family and focus on her health, although she's had a hard time with the loss. Sadly, her story and the heartache she feels for having to give up a cherished companion are not at all uncommon during this affordable housing shortage.
UPDATE: Beya was adopted to a couple who live in Berkeley and Elva was able to get a necessary surgery. She hopes to find a home that will allow her to have a dog someday.
Good Samaritans power up in 2015
Keeping lost and abandoned dogs out of shelters is easier when there is a system in place to support our community helpers. Good Samaritan activity doubled in our corners in 2015, and most of the dogs were from Oakland. Graciela (right) and her husband took the handsome Junior in when his owner (a neighbor) disappeared. We provided free neuter, shots, microchip, promotional assistance and placement support but his Good Sams provided the love and exercise and TLC. His new family appeared fairly quickly and took a couple of PitEd classes to learn the ropes. It was an extra special day when he went full adoption. Graciela was so proud - as she should be!
"They are definitely the perfect home for him. The kids are super sweet and full of energy. The parents are awesome and really dedicated to making Junior a happy home. We couldnt have asked for anything better than this! I just wanted to say thanks again for all the support throughout this process. We had no idea where to start after we got this energetic little pitbull!"
OWNER SUPPORT for the long haul / 2015
Veronica went homeless to keep her dogs. She found a dog friendly rental, but move-in dates were weeks away and she had no safe options for Keisha and Smoke. We were able to offer boarding, a neuter, training help and support as she struggled with the stresses of being homeless. As the weeks dragged on, Veronica moved into a friend's garage with her pets. Eventually, she got the keys to her home - a real house with a fenced-in yard. She told us, "Thank you so much for all that you have done. I wouldn't have been able to live without them. They give me so much joy and love." Her story was featured in an article written for Dodo.
Social Media to the Rescue / 2015
CeliaSue's call for help was urgent: Living on a very small monthly Social Security check, this 65 year old journalist had aleady been homeless with her dog Cici for six months and was dealing with breast cancer when we learned of her situation. With so many homeless families in need, this pair really needed a boost to get their story noticed. A video interview introduced her to a wide community of humanitarians and animal lovers, who jumped into action by sharing her story to their circles and donating to her fundraiser. Monies raised got her out of her car and into a comfortable pet friendly hotel room where she could pursue breast cancer treatment.
Even better, the facebook shares quickly generated a temporary dog friendly room share situation in the SF Bay Area. Just ten days after the campaign launched, both were soon safe and resting in their new home, where CeliaSue could catch her breath and focus on getting her health back.
NETWORKING OPen rentals TO KEEP'EM HOME / 2015
A stranger's thoughtfulness made all the difference after we received this email from Frances, who was desperate for housing:
I have been endlessly emailing, searching, craigslisting, Facebook messaging on pet friendly housing groups. Leroy has his CGC and his assistance dog tags through SFACC. I have been bouncing around between renting rooms from friends houses, commuting from Napa to San Francisco for work and house sitting. I have not had a day off since October and where I am staying is not safe. I would never part with either Leroy nor my Pomeranian mix but I am about to live in my honda element.
Thankfully, a renter with a pet friendly home alerted us when she was getting ready to give up her apartment. That tip was the answer to Frances' months long search. We encourage more pet owning renters to do the same. By being conscientious caretakers of your home and sharing news with animal shelters and rescue groups when you leave, you are actively participating in keeping dogs safe and preventing family break ups in your town. Thank you!
A COMMUNITY EFFORT forges a miracle / 2014
How many people does it take to keep a dog and his family together? In this case, it took a whole group, each working to invent fast solutions during a time of upheaval for a dog owner and her family.
In December 2014, we got the call that an adult dog we'd met and microchipped a year prior had turned up stray in the city of Alameda. We first met AJ when he was a pup (right). Now an adult, the contact info on his chip had changed and he was impounded during one of the worst times of the year to be a shelter resident. Animal shelters typically run over carrying capacity during holidays and large, untrained dogs don't tend to fair well. AJ's chip showed that his owner was from Oakland and, normally, he would have been transferred to that highly challenged city shelter. But because his chip sourced from a BADRAP clinic, the staff at Alameda City Shelter was kind enough to hold him safe in their kennels while we dug in and searched for his person. After some detective work, Nailah's Facebook page lead us to her employer and we were soon in touch. We learned that she and her young daughter were in between homes and although she was desperate to keep AJ in her life, there was nowhere for them to go and the clock was ticking. When the Alameda City Shelter got too full to hold him, a lucky adoption opened space in our Rescue Barn and he was safe once again. Unfortunately Naielah's housing budget was much smaller than what most rentals were asking, and with the added obstacle of needing both dog and kid friendly housing, we all thought we might have to switch gears and find AJ a new family. Then - a Christmas miracle that knocked our socks off: Staff at Naielah's place of employment (Home Depot) hustled up a home for her through a company wide initiative to end homelessness. A donor helped us get AJ neutered and our volunteers helped him with some basic training while Naielah got ready to move into her new home.
This situation was initially dire, and like so many lost pit bulls, AJ was on the fast track to becoming a shelter statistic. Thankfully, the microchip Nailah had requested a year prior changed his fate, and a community came together to find a way for them to all stay together.
PHOTOS from the West Oakland event where meeting AJ as a tiny pup planted the seed (the microchip!) for our reunion a year later.
Raj & Mumu: When a spay makes all the difference / 2014
A frustrating lack of affordable rental homes is pushing pet owners to make painful shelter surrender decisions in cities around the country. According to a February 2014 report from the CA Housing Partnership Corporation (CHPC), one in 38 people in CA do not have access to an affordable home. So when people like Raj contact us for help, they are quite often desperate.
His letter: I am currently looking for a new place of residence, most apartments ONLY allow pets who are spay/neuter. I am struggling to put together all of the funds needed to get my dog spayed, make a deposit for apartment and pay all other fees needed to move. I am barely making enough money to afford all this and i really need some help. I want to do anything necessary to keep my dog, she is my love! But i cant afford to do it all. Please consider me for this program, the only way i can keep my doggy is to get her spayed.
We were able to spay, vaccinate and microchip Mumu at no cost to her owner at one of our outreach events and three weeks later, he wrote to tell us that he'd finally secured a pit bull friendly apartment. One less dog surrendered to the Contra Costa Animal Care Services and one more family held together.
Thank you Well Pet Veterinary Hospital for your help with the event that allowed us to spay Mumu.
Rocco & the Devia Family: the six month search FOR HOME
After they lost their rental to an owner move-in, a family of four resorted to living in their car while they searched for an apartment that would accept them all. All included Carol, Peter, two young adult sons, 16 year old mixed breed dog Canella, and Rocco, an eight year old American Bulldog mix. Carol first contacted us to learn if we could help her with a muzzle for Rocco, something she'd hoped would prevent problems. She knew that animal control would likely take him away if he got into trouble with loose dogs while living on the streets with the family. We offered free training to instill enough handler confidence to help them avoid the need for a muzzle and that connection soon turned into a broader commitment to assist the Devias during their housing search. Nearly six months and several difficult lessons later, they’re finally HOME in an apartment and both dogs are still with them, safe and sound.
Thanks to the Devia's willingness to share their story in social media, tens of thousands were exposed to the difficulties of finding a pet friendly rental. They never asked for a thing beyond the muzzle, but still, readers were moved to help them. An outpouring of donations including monetary gifts allowed us to cover their costs for a hotel room and later, a small rented room in a house. Donated food and gas cards kept them going while they poured hundreds of dollars into application fees for rentals, only to be turned down again and again. We introduced their story in our BLOG, and later updated with some of the frustrations including bedbugs and the high cost of landlord rejection. Their story was picked up by the Huffington Post and then their good news shared by Huffington Post again as well as ABC National News.
While it was a property owner who'd attended our training classes who finally offered the Devia's a home, the media interest in this story attracted a strong reaction from readers. Most showed great empathy, while some expressed bitter criticism, blaming the Devias for their situation. They held their head high though and never complained about their circumstances or their critics. During their ongoing search, Carol continued to bring Rocco to BR's weekly Pit Ed training class where his comfort level with people and other dogs improved so much that he's now in Canine Good Citizen prep class. He's never needed the muzzle that first brought Carol to knock on our door for help, but we're grateful that she cared enough about her dog's well being to reach out to us as they were getting ready to live on the streets.
Thank you to all the dog lovers who helped us provide relief for the Devias during their long search for a home.
Good Samaritans: Veterinary Support = Safe, healthy dogs
Stray dogs who turn up in some of our most depressed communities are often saved from the streets by community residents - residents who can't always afford pricey vet care costs. These Good Sams understand that shelters are overcrowded and many surrendered pit bulls never leave. Keeping dogs healthy and out of crowded shelters is going to require that animal advocates support Good Sams and acknowledge the important role they play in helping street strays. By providing free and low cost vet care and training help, we can keep more dogs out of shelters. (And yes, it's still important to file a Found Dog report to city shelters. In most cities, this can be done without surrendering the dog to crowded kennels).
The photo shows Oakland resident Travis, who sought out a neuter and shots for his little street stray at one of our outreach events. He fell for the pup and hoped to keep him or place him with friends rather than risk the uncertainty of our overcrowded city shelter. We offered to stay in touch and will do our best to create an opening for him if everything falls through. Good Samaritans provide an incredible service to lost and abandoned dogs, no matter how thin their wallet may be.
Free Microchips: Get them safe, keep them home
Elizabeth adores her dogs, Winchester and Falcore, and brought them both to our free clinic in March 2014 for neuter surgeries, vaccinations, microchips and training advice. A few months later, they became lost and were picked up by a Good Samaritan. The dogs were on their way to the overcrowded Oakland Animal Services until the finder scanned for microchips and learned that they'd come through one of our clinics. We were able to locate the very worried Elizabeth and the dogs were home within an hour.
We are phoned in cases where the owner may have changed their phone number or is not answering. We use every available tool to locate them, including finding friends or family linked to their pages on facebook or alerts on our own widely seen page. By maintaining photos of dogs we've chipped in our database, we're able to get word out faster. In just about every situation, we're able to find the owner so the dog is saved. In cases where an owner has fallen on hard times and is unable to reclaim their pet, we do our best to intake the dog into our adoption program and find them new homes.
In 2015, we hope to invest in a pet tag engraving machine to quicken the job of reuniting lost dogs. The machines are pricey ($4K) but so worth the cost of keeping lost dogs out of our crowded Bay Area shelters.
Cisco, Shauna & Matty: Good sam Support that goes the distance
Shauna and Matty took on an unexpected house guest when Cisco lost his family due to a housing crisis. They felt alone and overwhelmed with the job of finding an adopter for this bigger, bouncy boy, and they knew they were on a tight deadline due to an upcoming move of their own. Our program provides free weekly training classes and support to help Good Samaritans set their foundlings up for success. We also advise on marketing homeless dogs, create adoption matches when possible and we counsel interested adopters so the transition is smooth and lasting.
Shauna jumped in with both feet, built a Facebook page (Cisco Needs a Home), and cleaned up his leash manners in Pit Ed class so he showed well to prospective adopters. By providing this kind of support to Good Samaritans, we can help prevent homeless dogs from landing in shelters, and without overextending our own foster home resources. As a result of Shauna and Matty's hard work, Cisco found a new loving home in just over two month's time.
A fun, HOW-TO SLIDESHOW for Good Samaritans everywhere. Look for Cisco!
Penny: keeping dogs home with training support
Dog training help is nearly nonexistent in under served communities like West Oakland, and when common behavior challenges crop up, the lack of support can push the most well loved dogs out of their homes. This dog owner adored her puppy, but was struggling with some frustrating behaviors when we first met the pair at one of our spay/neuter events. We learned that Penny had been barking non-stop while mom was away at work, and the neighbors and landlord had communicated that they'd had enough. She was very concerned about being evicted - With good reason. Finding dog friendly housing on a low income budget can take weeks or months and the cost of moving can sabotage even the best efforts, sending family pets to over crowded animal shelters.
The free spay and vaccinations were a welcome help, but the bigger problem of a pending eviction created a very real crisis. Our crew was able to learn about their daily routine and home set-up, then provide seasoned advice to help Penny's mom set her pup for success. At our two week check-in, Penny's noise making was all but gone and threat of eviction was abated. We were nearly as relieved as she was.
Beast: Buying dog owners time to reshuffle
Despite everyone's best efforts, we don't always succeed in helping dogs stay in their original homes. When dogs who've been microchipped at our outreach events show up stray months or years later, we're alerted by shelters and then do our best to track down their owners to learn if we can help them be reunited. Occasionally we're successful, but in many cases, we're challenged to decide if we can work the dogs into our adoption program.
Beast (right) came to one of our events to be neutered two years prior to landing in a shelter, but we remembered his charismatic personality as soon as we matched his microchip number with photos from the event. His owner confirmed that he'd surrendered his dog when he lost his apartment and job, and he could no longer afford to board him. Beast is such a delightful, well socialized dog that we knew his owner loved him dearly. A donation to our Keep'em Home Project allowed us to board him with a volunteer while his owner searched for a job and a dog friendly home. Sadly, our agreement to hold Beast for two months came and went and we needed to shift gears and re-focus energies into placing him in a new home instead. We can't win them all, but we're grateful that a microchip lead us back to Beast when he was desperate for help.
Our Adoption Program typically holds one or more dogs who fell out of homes that we worked with at previous events. Please let us know if you'd like to join our focus as a foster home or sponsor. Thank you.