We heard someone say once that hounds are not exactly beautiful. We couldn’t believe our ears! To politely protest, we named the next fifty hounds to come into our shelter after beauty queens—starting with Miss Alabama and going all the way to Miss Wyoming. ”Being a hound” was their talent and, thankfully, there was no swimsuit completion.
One by one, these lovely animals, some former hunting dogs that had been abandoned, found homes where they could live as pampered pets. One little beagle had a harder time being chosen. Her name was Miss Wisconsin and at one point in her life had been stuck under a chain link fence for some time. The fence had left bloody, sore, criss-crossed marks on her back that were tough to look at. Potential adopters, especially those with young children, walked quickly away from Miss Wisconsin.
Each year at Richmond Animal League, we embark on Operation Silent Night-an initiative that ensures every animal is home for the holidays. Adoption fees are reduced to $10, the public is invited in to get to know the animals, and those who are not adopted go in to loving foster homes. By 8:00 p.m. on December 23, every animal is home and the echo in the shelter is the sweetest carol we could imagine.
Miss Wisconsin was up for adoption at the beginning of Operation Silent Night in 2011. Days went by and the wounds on her back were preventing anyone from getting to know her. We knew what we had to do. We bought Miss Wisconsin a trench coat and covered up her injuries so that her beautiful face would be the first thing anyone saw.
On December 21, a little girl and her family came in to look for a new dog. By that time, there were only a few dogs left to choose from. It didn’t matter, though-it was love at first sight for the little girl and Miss Wisconsin.
Everyone at the shelter lined the hallway leading from the kennel so that Miss Wisconsin and her new girl could be their own parade with adoring spectators. We clapped and cheered and reached down to pet the little dog in the trench coat.
Outside on the sidewalk, we captured the moment of Miss Wisconsin going home. I’m kissing Miss Wisconsin’s head, and her new girl is holding her leash and ready to walk this one beauty hound into a whole new life.
RAL volunteers are the best!
Robin has been an RAL volunteer since March of 2013. She is currently a Wednesday Night Adoption Counselor, but often steps up for adoption counselors who need to have their shifts covered. Robin always makes a point to ask staff and volunteers if she can help them in any way. Additionally, she has taken on the task of ensuring all of our cat carriers are labeled and zip tied together so there is no risk of losing any of our kitties in transport due to equipment failure. Robin loves adult, geriatric, special needs, or any kitty that might have a harder time getting adopted. She is pictured with Ruby, but her favorite kitties are currently Odd Thomas and Sunshine.
A litter of puppies was relinquished to a rural municipal shelter. That’s not a unique start to what ended up being a very special story. It was obvious from the beginning that the smallest puppy in the litter had the biggest head. He was Frank, and we would soon learn that he has hydrocephalus, a condition known commonly as “water on the brain.” We knew that Frank’s condition would put him at risk of being euthanized, and we wanted him to have the same chance his healthy litter mates had. RAL pulled the entire litter and placed them in a loving foster home.
One by one, Frank’s brothers and sisters were adopted. As Frank remained, his foster family got more and more attached. They researched hydrocephalus and wrote a beautiful and truthful bio about Frank’s potential-and his limitations. He had one mild seizure when he was 8 weeks old, but there has been no evidence of more seizures. His skull may never fully close, so being gentle with his head is important. After Frank is fully developed he may need surgery to place a shunt to help fluid drain from his brain into his abdomen.
While in foster, Frank tagged along with his foster family everywhere they went. He went to work, shopping, on long walks, and even got to go on a beach vacation. Photos of Frank chasing the waves were very popular on our Facebook page, and many people posted that they wanted Frank. But no one put an application in to adopt him. Perhaps not knowing a lot about hydrocephalus made potential adopters leery of adopting Frank.
The longer Frank was in foster, the more we all loved him. His foster mom and dad could not have taken better care of him, and we thought they might keep Frank forever-we could not imagine a better life for Frank. And then something we never expected happened. A nurse who works with children and adults with hydrocephalus learned about Frank. A hospital can be a stressful place for anyone, especially children, and she thought that Frank would be perfect at putting kids at ease and offering an empathic shake to others with the same condition as his. Frank’s imperfectly shaped head and his sunsetting eyes make him so beautiful. No one could look at Frank and not feel a little happier. As their hearts were breaking, his foster family knew that this was the life for Frank-that he was destined to be a little dog with a big impact.
Seeing Frank with his two families the night of his adoption broke all of our hearts wide-open. Frank is the only one dried-eyed in the pictures-as if he knew he was on to big adventures where he could repay his foster family for giving him the chance to be found-and loved-by the perfect family.
Frank’s dad works as a firefighter so when Frank is not letting children know that everything is going to be okay, he is hanging out at the fire station.
Most of the RAL regular visitors already know about Callie—unofficial RAL mascot and least feral feral cat in existence—but did you know that she’s just one kitty in RAL’s outdoor cat colony? There’s also solid white Snowflake, solid black Effie, a few different occasional long-haired feline visitors, and then there’s the guy pictured above, who we’ve very creatively named Old Man. Callie’s claim to fame is that she’s called RAL her home for the past ten years, but guess what? Old Man’s been here even longer! He was originally relocated to the RAL property with his brother over ten years ago. His brother has since passed away, but Old Man’s been perfectly content to call the grounds around RAL his home since then. We like to think that long-timers like he and Callie have enjoyed each other’s company for all these years, even if they never really became “best friends”!
One reason why Old Man remains so much less well-known than Callie even after all these years is that while Callie has “mellowed” towards people in her old age, until very recently, Old Man did not. He kept his wild nature throughout his life, preferring to hang out in the safety of the drain pipes in front of the building during the day and only coming close to the building for dinner after everyone was gone. Lately, though, it seems like maybe he’s finally mellowing a bit as well. Maybe after all these years of watching the humans bring out his dinner, he’s finally starting to come to the conclusion that people aren’t quite so bad after all.
But even if he doesn’t ever come around completely like Callie did, we still wanted to give Old Man his day in the sun and the recognition he deserves, too! We love our longtime kitty residents, and we know they appreciate us in their own way, too. So the next time you see a big, lanky tuxedo kitty wandering the grounds, don’t worry—he belongs here more than anyone!
Reasons to Adopt a Black Pet
Black pets absorb heat – Perfect for cuddling on a cold winter day.
Black is classic, elegant, never is out of style and goes with anything.
Black pet hair makes vacuuming easy. You can quickly spot the areas of most urgent need.
Black and white photography is so much fun!
Walking a black dog or holding a black cat makes you appear thinner.
You can’t tell if they’re dirty and their teeth always look white.
You can save time on date night – you won’t need the lint brush on your little black dress.
Black pets are just as loving, loyal and trustworthy as white, brown or yellow pets and are consistently the last to be adopted.
RAL volunteers are the best.
October’s Volunteer of the Month is Katrina Leser.
Katrina has been an RAL volunteer since 2009. On Friday afternoon’s Katrina volunteers in the spay/neuter clinic, cleaning kennels and reuniting pet owners with their four-legged surgery patients. Then, Katrina travels over to the shelter to continue volunteering as a key Friday night dog crew member. Katrina’s all-time favorite pet is a dog named Sookie.
Thank you for your service Katrina!
Fostering: How do you do it?
Two of my foster puppies are at the Loving Spay+Neuter Clinic today getting (you guessed it) spayed and neutered. Which means that they are ready to be adopted and no longer need to come home with me. I’ll go home and break down the puppy crates, pack up the baby gates, and stop clipping coupons for puppy pads.
I get asked the “how do you do it?” question a lot.
"I could never foster, I’d end up keeping them all!"
I’ll admit; the first time it was hard. Not the initial “bringing home the puppies” part - that part is easy. Sure, the potty training is a little rough, and the 2am i-hate-my-crate-and-want-to-get-out-NOWNOWNOW gets old pretty quickly. But the universe made puppies cute for a reason and you quickly adjust to the new normal - rolling up area rugs, hiding the bathroom trash can on top of the toilet tank, baby gates, daily mopping, etc.
Sometimes you’ll want to pull your hair out. One adult dog foster I brought home escaped from her crate, opened up the refrigerator, and helped herself to a head of broccoli. Another foster, Nugget, hid my phone under a bush in the backyard. And my wallet. And my car keys.
But teaching them manners is kid’s play compared to letting them go.
I promise you that it gets better. In the last year, I have fostered more than a dozen dogs. Once you let the first few go, it becomes easier and easier to see the big picture - each animal that you love, take care of, and then send to their forever home makes room for the next one that needs you.
Trout and Cora made room for Spike and Annie. Mikayla made room for Jovie. Koala made room for Nugget. Most recently, Pearl, Pewter, Porpoise and Pencil made room for Trout, Bo, and Spoon (pictured above - and still available!).
No one can adopt them all. But we can help them all find homes!
RAL is always looks for fosters - for puppies and kittens, but also for adult cats and dogs who need a break from shelter life, a chance to recover from an injury or illness, or simply the opportunity to learn that people are alright.
If you are interested in fostering, please email email@example.com.
What you should know about…
Art by Matt Machado, RAL volunteer
Wendy, a one year old beagle/basset hound mix, helps Executive Director Amy McCracken receive the BIG CHECK from ACAC
During the shortest month of the year, ACAC raised $22,925 for Richmond Animal League (RAL) – an amount that will make a difference in the lives of animals all year round.
Between February 1st and February 28th, ACAC locations in Midlothian and Short Pump offered 25 day memberships for $25 and donated all of the special membership fees to RAL. Current members were encouraged to invite their family and friends to check out the premier fitness centers and sample the variety of classes and amenities offered at both locations.
The goal of the campaign was to raise $10,000 for RAL – enough to cover one month’s worth of medical expenses. As word of the special spread around Richmond, the $25 memberships started adding up to the tune of $22,925, more than twice the starting goalACAC has joined with other non-profit organizations in the past for similar campaigns, but this year, rather than choose a national group, ACAC decided to pick a local charity to be the beneficiary of the funds. Every dollar raised will remain within the community that funded it, and go directly towards caring for animals here in Richmond who rely on RAL for help.
In a fitting tribute, the first animal to arrive at RAL after the announcement of the campaign total, a young shih tzu mix, was named ACAC and adopted almost immediately.
Have you met Nelly?
Nelly is one of the dogs in foster through our Gracie’s Guardians pit bull division. Nelly is the perfect companion dog - sweet, snuggly, potty-trained, and ready to come home with you! Nelly qualifies for our Seniors for Seniors program, which means her adoption fee is waived for adopters 55 years or older!
She’s not as spunky as she used to be, so she’d make a wonderful couch buddy in a laid-back household. She knows all about the comforts of dog beds, leisurely walks around the neighborhood, and the occasional treat snuck under the table.
For more information about Nelly, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.