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January 16
1926 - Newhall Community Hospital, est. 1922, opens in larger, more modern hospital building at 6th & Spruce streets [story]

Take a Hike | Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Jan 4, 2015

DianneErskineHellrigelIn my lifetime, I have adopted and found homes for more than 60 cats, five dogs and one red antelope. It breaks my heart that animals are homeless and on the streets, and that thousands every week are put to sleep because no one wants them.

I can’t stress how important it is to have your animals spayed or neutered. There are just not enough homes out there for all of these animals. It is such a tragedy to have them dumped out on the street to starve or be killed at a shelter.

If you are in need of a dog or a cat, I’d like to encourage you to visit a shelter or a rescue. There are a lot of animals looking for someone to love them. And it feels so good to rescue one of these little beings and bring them home. They are so very grateful and so in need of love.

If you’re looking for a place to make a donation, think of all of the rescues in Southern California that can use blankets, food, litter, cages and actual cash money to keep their operation running smoothly. You can make a difference in these animals’ lives even if you cannot adopt one right now.

dog1You also might think about surfing the Web and finding rescues that operate stores, and patronize those places. Just now I took a look at one such website and found things like the “Glamour Puss Watch,” “Fluffy Puppy Slippers” and a “Catffeinated Cat Mug.”

People spend thousands of dollars buying purebred cats or dogs from breeders. If you are looking for a new pet, there are just as many choices at a shelter or a rescue as there are breeders. Purebred animals are surrendered all the time. When people for one reason or another can no longer care for their pets, they surrender them.

When you adopt, keep in mind that your dog or cat will become a part of your family, and you should be willing to keep them when and if your life changes. You wouldn’t take your kid to the pound when you got tired of him. You need to think the same way about your dog-child or your cat-child. These loving animals usually have 72 hours in a shelter to find a new home before they die. Some popular breeds are kept around a little longer, but they are short-term residents just the same. Thousands of animals are put to sleep daily just because there is no room for them or money to feed them.

cat1Rescues, on the other hand, are almost always no-kill shelters. But they need to find homes for their animals quickly, too. Lots of animals cost lots of money to feed and lots of volunteer hours to care for them.

All of the animals I’ve adopted from shelters and rescues have been amazing creatures. They make great companions, and they crave your attention.

If you’re not sure if you can handle a dog or cat, you might consider being a foster parent first. This is a great way not only to help a shelter, but also to become acquainted with an animal and try it out first. Of course, that animal will still be available to others for adoption until you actually tell the rescue that you want it permanently.

I have a friend with a big heart. She brings in fosters all the time, and when they go to their “forever” homes, she brings in more. It’s hard to say goodbye, but she knows there are so many in need, and she’ll always be there to house a few more.

dog-kidFostering a pet can be a rewarding experience. If you wish to foster an animal, the rescue will first have you fill out paperwork. You should ask all of the questions you can think of before you bring an animal into your home. Questions like, “Why was he or she surrendered?” are crucial both to you and to the animal’s happiness in your home.

If it’s a cat that never uses the litter box, it might be a real problem for you. You should ask questions about his or her health, if he or she is spayed/neutered, if vaccinations are up to date, if there are behavioral issues, if he or she has a good temperament and gets along with other animals or kids. How does the animal behave when left alone? If he tears up your couch when you’re off to the market, it might not be the best match.

Before you adopt a pet, there are many things to consider. You will need to provide daily exercise for your pet. This can be walks or playing with toys. You will also need to provide stimulation such as talking to your pet, including them in family activities and petting them.

Even if you’re adopting a pet for your kids, you will most likely be the primary care giver. Don’t buy a pet such as a bunny on Easter because it’s so cute. Most of these pets are soon surrendered or let go to fend for themselves.

dog3A pet could affect your social life, your ability to travel, or your decision to relocate to a facility that does not allow pets or even having a new baby. You should take all of these life changes into consideration before you adopt.

A dog can live more than 15 years, and a cat to 20. You should make the commitment to take care of your pet for its entire life, not just until you get tired of doing so.

There are rescues for all kinds of animals. The Web is a great tool to find just what you’re looking for – from hamsters to snakes, birds and fish, you can find a rescue group. Many of these animals are free, and some charge only for reimbursement of medical expenses. There are thousands of rescue groups and shelters. Surely, you will be able to find just what you’re looking for.

Lastly, if you want to give the gift of a pet, make sure the recipient wants a pet. Have your recipient participate in the selection of the pet. Nothing could be worse than receiving a pet that is not wanted.



Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. If you’d like to be part of the solution, join the Community Hiking Club’s Stewardship Committee. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.




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  1. Abigail says:

    Thank you for reminding people of this very important issue many animals are facing today.

    For adopting turtles and tortoises please consider The California Turtle & Tortoise Club at http://www.tortoise.org There are no adoption fees and plenty of shelled friends needing homes. This type of pet is a great option when someone suffers from allergies, for example. They can be more interactive than many people realize.

    Thank you again.

  2. Megan Cooper Megan Cooper says:

    Ryan Carrillo it’s a baby Max!!

  3. Darlene says:

    Very well said! These poor fur babies could use a voiceike yours!!!
    If people would just visit a shelter… They’d never “buy” again!

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