One of the most beloved and well known animal actors during the 1960s and 1970s was a scruffy little shelter dog named Higgins. This pup played all sorts of roles, but is probably best known as the dog on the Petticoat Junction TV show and as the title role in the movie Benji. As a kid, I was crazy about every show and movie that had a prominent animal actor, but the movie Benji was a particular favorite. I’m certain this movie was a contributing factor in establishing my lifelong passion for animals.
Higgins was discovered by Frank Inn, a Hollywood animal trainer and true animal lover. Inn was known to visit animal shelters and take home all the healthy pets because he couldn’t stand for them to be euthanized. He kept and trained the ones that he thought had potential as an animal actor and he found loving homes for the rest. There was a time when Inn and his assistants had over 1,000 animals in their care.
It was during one of Inn’s shelter sweeps at the Burbank Animal Shelter when he found a special little tan-and-black mixed breed puppy. Inn believed this little pup was a combination of Border Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Miniature Poodle and Schnauzer. With Frank Inn’s incredible talent as a dog trainer and this puppy’s natural abilities, the dog went on to become what some people consider the best animal actor of our times.
Higgins first major national role was of the dog (creatively called Dog or sometimes called Boy, as in “Here, Boy”) in Petticoat Junction. Higgins appeared in 163 episodes from 1964 to 1970, and even though he was un-credited in this role, it introduced him to millions of fans. During that time, he also made guest appearances on Green Acres and Beverly Hillbillies. Even though he was from Burbank, California, Higgins must have had a southern accent.
Most animal shelters are run by kind and responsible people who love the pets they care for in their facilities. Their main goal is finding the perfect owner for the pets. Without these caring individuals, dogs and cats would have no place to live while they wait for their forever home. However, some shelters are thinking outside the box to give pets a better environment to wait in.
Adopt-A-Dog animal shelter in Armonk, NY is manned by an army of dedicated and committed volunteers who help insure each pet living at the shelter receives all the love and attention they need. The animal shelter, sanctuary and rescue began in 1981, and sits on two acres of land. This shelter is unique in how it’s run, and proudly touts a 95 percent success rate in adoptions with practices that include educating potential pet owners about responsible pet ownership, how to properly care for pets, and making a lifetime commitment to adopted pets.
The shelter is run more like a sanctuary. Volunteers walk the dogs, take them for car rides, take them swimming, and play ball and other games with them in the exercise yard. During office hours, cats and dogs are allowed to wander in the office area where they get to spend time with the staff, sack out on a bed or watch TV. The office is in a house and has two people who live there, so someone is always available to tend to the needs of the pets. In order to give all of the dogs in the shelter access to the home, they are rotated on a daily basis.
The adoption process is taken slowly at the shelter. Their goal is to make sure a pet is a good match for someone’s lifestyle. Multiple home visits are made when there are children or other pets in a home. The first step for any shelter is to find someone to adopt a pet; making sure the pet remains in the home and isn’t returned to the shelter can be a harder task to accomplish. This is where Adopt-A-Dog stands out from other shelters by using a program they incorporated to educate potential adopters, and taking time to make sure a pet fits into a potential owner’s lifestyle.
Black Dog Syndrome is a very real problem in animal shelters. It seems like the more common or plain looking a pet is, the less likely they will find a home. Trying to give a voice to those who have none isn’t always easy to do, and it can be frustrating when it seems like no one is listening. But it’s important to keep speaking out because one voice can make a difference, if it’s persistent and comes from the heart. A young girl in Kansas is proof that one person can create change; she is speaking up for black dogs and cats in shelters.
A dark colored shelter dog already has one strike against him. If he is large with even a hint of bully breed in his DNA, he automatically has three strikes against him. Many shelters try to help a dark colored pet get noticed by adding a colorful bandanna or collar around their neck, but many potential adopters simply look past them anyway. The ASPCA has found that a dog or cat with more than 65 percent of a black or dark coloring in his coat is less likely to be adopted.
Why people walk right by a dark colored dog or cat is a mystery, but there are some theories. Black cats are often associated with witches and black magic. Some people believe the darker color makes a pet unlucky. Black dogs appear more aggressive to some, and their roles in movies too often portray them as mean and associated with the bad guys. Potential adopters have used phrases like “they’re spooky looking,” “you can’t see their eyes,” or “they don’t look trustworthy.”
It’s possible a black pet is harder to see among lighter colored coat colors that have a tendency to catch someone’s eye. I know from experience with my black dogs and cats how difficult it is to get a good photo of their face, especially if the light isn’t very good. It’s difficult for shelters to capture a cute facial expression when you can’t get a good picture of their eyes.
We’re all ardent animal lovers here at the CANIDAE RPO blog, and I know you are too or you wouldn’t be reading this. We all share a deep and abiding passion for pets, and we want nothing more than to see every animal treated with compassion, kindness and love. What better way to work towards that common goal than to instill those values in children at a young age?
Whether it’s with our own kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews, neighborhood kids or a friend’s child doesn’t matter. What’s important is that we help all children learn to form loving bonds with animals. We know from experience that pets enrich our lives in so many wonderful ways, and they teach us vital life lessons that make us better human beings. Sharing this knowledge with the young ones in our lives is a great way to pay it forward.
Kids learn by example, and it’s up to us as adults to show them not only the right way to treat animals, but how to develop a strong pet-human bond. The results are so worth it!
Adopt a Pet
Having a pet in your own home is the most obvious way to foster a child’s love of animals. They get to see firsthand just how special animals truly are, and each passing day is an opportunity for their relationship to blossom. If having a dog or cat in the family is not feasible, consider getting a smaller pet such as a hamster or gerbil which still provides a way for kids to bond with a living being.
Involve Kids in Pet Care
Learning how to care for their pets teaches kids about responsible pet ownership, but it also helps them build a lasting love for all animals. If you’re unsure which chores are appropriate for the age of your child or the type of pet you have, the ASPCA has a nice Pet Care Section with kid-friendly tips on caring for dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, birds and other pets.
For many years, animal shelters have been a place where pet owners could take their dog or cat when they could no longer care for them. That’s still the case, but today’s shelters have expanded to become more than just a shelter by providing other pet related services in addition to finding new homes for pets.
Shelters are developing humane education programs to help teach kids how to respect animals and have compassion for all life. Children are taught how to handle a pet, the proper way to pet them, and when they may need to give a pet their space. Responsible pet ownership is the focus in each program, and some shelters include responsible stewardship for all animals, domesticated and wild. These programs help teach kids empathy and why it’s important to have compassion for the animals we share our environment with. Programs vary from shelter to shelter, with some offering classes on pet first aid and disaster preparedness for pets.
Since the downturn in the economy, some shelters have come up with a way to help struggling owners keep their pets. Instead of surrendering a pet to a shelter and adding to their population, safe haven programs are giving pet owners a better option and hope by boarding or fostering pets for people who are in a temporary situation. Home foreclosures or a loss of a job is already a stressful situation. Surrendering a pet to a shelter only adds to a family’s devastating economic loss. Safe haven programs also give military personnel preparing to deploy overseas a way to keep their pets while they’re away. Instead of worrying if a pet they had to surrender to a shelter has found a good home, soldiers can concentrate on their job knowing their pet is safe and waiting for them to return.
Training Classes and Behavior Evaluations
One reason many pets are surrendered to shelters is because their owner doesn’t know how to correct a behavior problem. However, most behavior issues can be easily resolved once you know how to help a pet. Even aggression can be corrected. Some bad behavior is due to medical reasons and some is simply a matter of the owner taking the lead role with a pet. Many shelters now have an animal behaviorist on staff to help with pet behavior issues. Training classes give pet owners the tools they need to teach basic commands and learn how to control their dog.
Whenever I read adoption tales, I marvel at the many different and circuitous ways people find a certain pet that turns out to be a perfect match for them. Many times, they were looking for a completely different pet than the one they ended up with, and sometimes they weren’t looking for a pet at all. Yet everything fell effortlessly into place, and another fortunate pet found his forever home.
Some people might say “Oh, what a coincidence that was, and now we have the best pet ever!” I don’t believe in coincidences, though, so I am not at all surprised when something completely unexpected brings a family and their beloved pet together. I believe it was meant to be.
Haven’t we all experienced a time when we felt we just had to adopt a certain pet but didn’t really know why? In every case, these pets become such an integral part of our life that we can’t imagine being without them. But did we find our pet, or did they find us?
I ask this after reading a touching tale about a troubled shelter dog who behaved very badly, and as a result no one wanted to adopt him. That is, until his true and forever family finally walked through the door.
A couple had gone to their local shelter with their adult daughter to help her pick out a pet. She had lost a cherished pet a few months earlier, so they were waiting until it felt like the right time for her to adopt again. The man and his wife were not looking for a pet for themselves, but this one plucky little dog caught their eye, and they asked about him.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.