When it comes to finding animal stars among the masses, Hollywood producers and animal trainers know talent when they see it. They understand the value of a good pet, and search the shelters to find the next pet star waiting to be discovered. Broadway producers also scour animal shelters when searching for the perfect pet to cast in a Broadway show. Just what kind of pets can you find in shelters? Some of the most talented, well behaved and smartest pets around.
I previously wrote an article on famous TV and movie pets adopted from shelters and trained for their specific roles. Many of the most recognized and loved pets on TV or in the movies did time in a shelter. Some of these famous pets were just hours away from being put down when they were discovered. I think it’s safe to say that the performance a Black Mouth Cur named Spike gave us in “Old Yeller” made us all a little teary eyed. Spike was found in a California animal shelter. Morris the orange Tabby was found in a shelter in the nick of time, and became famous as the finicky feline in TV commercials. Higgins, the lovable and talented mutt that starred on “Petticoat Junction” and known as “Dog” from 1963-1970, went on to delight children in one of his other famous roles as Benji. He was found at a shelter in Burbank, California.
A two year old Terrier mix named Sunny is one of Broadway’s newest stars. She will be playing the role of Sandy in a remake of the musical “Annie,” due to open later this fall. Sunny was rescued from a Houston, Texas kill shelter and was on their list to be put down when her picture was spotted online by animal trainer William Berloni. He prefers searching for animal talent in shelters because, “The most talented animals are right there under your nose. The message is: Animals in shelters are not damaged, just unfortunate,” Berloni said to the Associated Press in a July 2012 interview. He continued “I always say anybody could have gone into a shelter and adopted any one of the animals that I’ve turned into Broadway stars the day before I did. And they would have been great dogs in someone’s home.”
Many of us have loved a mutt at one time or another. A special mixed-breed dog was my beloved companion for 17 years. She was stunningly beautiful and incredibly well behaved, with a sweet yet mischievous personality. My friends and family adored her too; she was an exceptional pet and people often asked what breed she was. I suspected she was part yellow Labrador but the other parts were a mystery at that time.
During her lifetime, countless people commented that they’d like to have a dog just like her. Heck, I’d like to have another dog just like her! Of course, I had no idea of her true heritage; a Good Samaritan found her alone, weak and malnourished, in an abandoned warehouse. Through a circuitous route involving several shelters, she finally found a forever home with me.
Then, when I wrote a breed profile about the Expressive Norwegian Lundehund, I came to believe that my mystery dog was part yellow Lab and part Lundehund. At the time when I had this dog, there were no tests to determine a mixed breed dog’s ancestry.
Within the last several years, however, DNA tests have been developed to genetically determine a dog’s breed composition. And if you don’t want to get all technical, there are other, less scientific methods to identify a dog’s heritage. Linda Cole recommends a practical approach to breed determination in How to Tell Which Breeds are in Your Mutt.
Because I am an animal rescuer, I’ve had many dogs come in and out of my life. Out of the all of them, only two have been purebred dogs. That’s been my choice; I take in the dogs that are hard to place, which usually means mutts. (As an aside, shelters usually have plenty of purebred animals if that’s what you’re looking for.) Interestingly, more than half of the dogs in the U.S. are mutts.
With millions of cats and dogs in animal shelters, there’s a lot to pick from. Different sizes, colors, mixed breeds, purebreds, personalities and ages. A study done by the ASPCA looked at reasons why people adopt the shelter pet they pick. This is important research because it can give shelters insight as to why certain pets may be overlooked by possible adopters.
Shelters are already aware of black dog syndrome, a bias against black dogs and black cats. For some reason, people looking at pets miss seeing the darker colored ones. It’s possible they are overlooked because some people are superstitious about black cats, in particular. The lighting in shelters isn’t always good and if a darker pet is hiding in the corner of his cage or sitting way in the back, they may not be seen as easily as the lighter colored pets.
According to the study, it may be the ‘cuteness factor’ that attracts people to certain pets. Last year, the ASPCA set out to try to figure out why people picked the specific pet they did. They asked 1,500 people who adopted a pet to fill out a questionnaire at five shelters across the country. Was it the pet’s age or physical appearance, or perhaps their behavior that caught the person’s eye? They discovered that when someone adopted an adult cat or dog, behavior was at the top of the list for consideration. The age of the pet made no difference. When it came to kittens, age was the deciding factor, and people chose a particular puppy based on physical appearance. For the cat loving adopter, what the kitten looked like didn’t matter, and a puppy’s behavior was ranked at the bottom for those who picked a puppy.
The purpose of the survey was to shed light on how a potential adopter’s thought process worked and what they looked for when making their decision. The results have given shelter workers insight as to how and why certain pets may be overlooked. It also points out the importance of talking with people looking to adopt to help them see the potential in all of the shelter pets. The study can help workers learn how to show off a pet’s ‘inner beauty’ for those animals that may be less likely to be adopted because they aren’t as cute as others. A pet may have the perfect personality and behavior for someone, and the survey suggests shelter workers may need to point out the benefits of another pet that might be a better match for the adopter’s lifestyle.
There’s nothing worse than suddenly discovering your pet is missing. I know from experience how hard it is to search for a lost pet when you have no idea which way they went or where on earth they could be. In the past, all you could do was hang posters, talk to neighbors, walk the area around your home, and worry. It may not take the worry away, but there is a newly launched network that may be able to help. The Lost Pet Alert Network may be your best hope if you’re searching for a lost pet.
You can find animal shelters in every community across the country, in rural and city locations. Some are small and others are quite large. Over the last several years, pet populations in shelters have increased because of the slow economy. The Lost Pet Alert Network was launched on December 5, 2011 in an effort to help pet owners find lost pets that have made it into a shelter or rescue organization.
The best tool we have as pet owners that can assure a lost pet’s return is the microchip. Other than a tattoo that can help you identify your pet, a microchip contains pertinent information someone scanning you pet needs in order to return him to you. It has become a practice for animal shelters and rescue organizations to scan pets entering their facilities to see if there is an implanted chip. After all, it’s to their advantage if they can quickly return a pet to his family. Shelters depend on donations to operate and the slow economy has also slowed donations to many shelters across the country, leaving a lot of them struggling with their budgets.
My good friend Kevin has been volunteering for his local animal shelter for many years. Kevin, aka meowmeowmans, writes about the homeless cats on his wonderful blog, Animal Shelter Volunteer Life. He tells of the lucky cats who find their forever homes, and he also features the many sweet souls still waiting to be adopted. I love to read the adoption stories, because I know just how much the lives of the animal and their new family will change for the better. I celebrate each of these adoptions, sometimes silently with a smile but very often with a “wahoo!” or a “yay!” In stark contrast, the stories of those not yet chosen make me melancholic. No animal should have to know abandonment and homelessness, yet far too many do.
Recently, Kevin posted about the kitties not yet chosen, and said he hoped they could find a home before Christmas. We know the reality is that most will not, and yet we can’t stop hoping that some will go from unlucky to lucky, if not before Christmas then at least sometime in the New Year. When faced with a reality that is less than ideal, hope is what keeps us going; it keeps us doing what we can do in the moment until a better time.
My version of a Christmas miracle would be loving homes for every homeless pet, nutritious food for every hungry pet, and love for every animal who is alone and lonely. I shudder to think what would’ve happened to my precious cats Rocky and Annabelle if I hadn’t been asked to water someone’s plants, only to discover two tiny kittens badly in need of rescue. If they had somehow managed to survive – which isn’t likely considering they were very ill and no one was caring for them – they wouldn’t have a better life than the one they have now, with me.
When I read about a shelter dog that finds a loving forever home, it warms my heart. When I read about a shelter dog that finds a loving forever home and goes on to make it in the big leagues, I stand up and cheer, warm heart and all. The story of Wallace will make you feel the same way.
Nobody is sure about the first part of Wallace’s life. He was a wandering stray when some good Samaritans found him and took him to the Humane Society. Being an overly energetic, high-drive dog, Wallace had a real struggle; he couldn’t acclimate to the boredom of kennel life. The animal shelter staff was losing faith in this ‘impossible’ pup. The longer Wallace lived at the shelter, the worse his behavior became. His future didn’t look bright.
That’s when Roo Yori and his wife Clara learned about Wallace. With the help of other animal lovers and advocates, the Yori’s pulled this athletic dog out of the shelter environment on August 1, 2005. Read More »
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