By Audrey Lodato, Director of Animal Care
Last Saturday, I heard giggling coming from the quarantine room. Curious, I let myself in to see that Jynsen and Sarah, our cat care techs, had made a salad for the guinea pigs. It was a pretty nice looking salad too, made of grapes, blueberries, lettuce, hay, and carrots. They had even presented it artfully next to a small bowl of pellets.
Hunter and Joe, who were the guinea pigs on the receiving end of the salad, were looking at it skeptically. Hunter and Joe came to Brother Wolf underweight and reeking of urine after being found in a box left in a cart at Petco. This was likely their very first salad, and the giggles were about watching them try and figure out what it was.
Hunter kicked at the lettuce and Joe hid in the little plastic house away from it. I asked Jynsen if someone had donated the vegetables, as we had put out a plea on social media earlier in the week. “No, I went and got them on my break” she said.
It was so sweet to me that Jynsen spent her lunch money on guinea pig salad because we didn’t get enough donated vegetables on that particular day. It got me thinking about how much it takes to run a rescue. How many small details there are that we couldn’t possibly tell the story of, and how unexciting — and yet completely necessary — things like guinea pig salad truly are. I’d like to tell you all about some of the less exciting things we need and buy with our donation money, and how we use them every day to save lives.
At Brother Wolf, many of our animals come to us from horrendous situations. We commonly see dogs who haven’t been appropriately socialized to people, whether this is because they were on a chain for their whole life, were born in the woods, or came from a hoarding case. Their rehabilitation process is extensive and sometimes it can take months before they trust people enough to be adopted.
Often, a crucial step to adoption is to first send them to a foster home. This helps us get a good sense of what might happen when they first encounter a home environment. Maybe they will be terrified of the television. They might be scared of tile floors and refuse to walk on them. It’s possible they will jump right up on the kitchen table and steal dinner. We don’t know until we try it! Luckily, our foster parents are willing to take on these challenges and report back to us so we can work with the dog to correct these behaviors.
Unfortunately, a scared dog is always a flight risk. Even with the most experienced fosters caring for them, they sometimes manage to get loose and run away. This is why most of our nervous dogs get sent to foster homes with GPS collars, which cost about $80 each. They are charged at night, when the dog is in the house, and put on the dog each morning. If the dog happens to get away, the GPS collar helps us track the dog down. We can usually find them in just a few hours — sometimes in pretty unusual places. We once drove our van through a cow pasture to get a dog back!
Despite their hefty price tag, GPS collars don’t last forever. Dogs have a way of wearing stuff out and losing things. In one memorable case, a beagle buried their GPS collar in the yard. We never did find it, but we knew it was back there somewhere!
We replace about ten GPS collars each year, and the expense adds up quick! It’s not exciting, but it’s essential in the life saving process.
One of the things that’s unique about Brother Wolf is our extensive Behavior and Enrichment program. Our dogs go hiking, participate in nosework class, and run around in play groups. Because of these efforts, they spend a lot of time with people — and people love to give them treats. Because of this, we may be the only shelter in the state of North Carolina where we have a problem with overweight dogs. Dogs in shelters tend to be stressed out, and dogs who are stressed out tend to lose weight, so most shelters struggle to keep weight on their dogs. Not us. We have dogs on green bean diets. LOTS of dogs on green bean diets. So, one of the things we purchase often is low sodium green beans. A quarter portion of the dog’s food is replaced with green beans each meal. It keeps them slim, while helping them feel full.
Kitchen scales are another weird thing we buy. Brother Wolf saves more than 1,300 kittens each year, and all kittens under 6 weeks old need to be weighed each day to ensure they are consistently gaining weight. Most kittens spend their early days in a foster home, which means that each individual foster needs to have a scale. We provide a special type of kitchen scale that weighs kittens in grams, a unit of measurement that allows us to see the smallest fluctuations. Any drop in weight is considered an emergency, and the kitten will immediately see our medical team for an assessment. The kitchen scales are truly an integral part of saving kittens — but at $15 apiece, with close to 300 foster homes, the cost can really add up. Still, we can’t save kittens without scales, so they are a necessary part of our work.
There are probably another 100 unusual things we use every day to save lives, and each of them has an interesting explanation. If you want to see some of these things in action, you can always help us save animals by fostering or volunteering. We’d love to provide you with a nervous dog and a GPS collar, or a kitten and a kitchen scale! Click here to learn more about our foster program.