Supporting Change for Companion Animals

Golden Retriever grinning

I don’t know who this Agatha and Christie were. But I’m sure glad you practiced on them before you got me.

I’ve changed a lot since I first brought Agatha and Christie home from the Philadelphia SPCA in 1991.

Yes, I’m fatter and older. But not just that.

I’ve learned so much about building a relationship with my dog. It’s made living with dogs one of the most satisfying aspects of my life.

But the reason I’ve changed has been because our culture is changing.

Adopting a Dog in 1991

Adopting a dog from a shelter was a whole different world just twenty short years ago. Here are just a few of the things I remember:

  • I never met an adoption counselor. Picking out a dog meant having an animal control officer taking you through rows and rows of kennels filled with stressed, barking dogs.
  • There was no such thing as a no-kill shelter.
  • Dogs and cats were not spayed or neutered if they were younger than six months old. That meant that anyone adopting a puppy or kitten would have to schedule surgery for their pet months after adopting him. And, if they didn’t…

I also remember when the only management tool for a dog who pulled on leash was a choke collar. When a trainer we met recommended a head halter to control Christie’s pulling, we had to go to the University of Pennsylvania vet school to buy one. They simply weren’t available in a pet supply store.

Adopting a Dog in 2012

When I adopted Shadow from the Tompkins County SPCA in 2008, it was in an entirely new world.

Yes, the SPCA had attractive apartments in their adoption center that kept the dogs calmer and made them more attractive to potential adopters. And yes, they had volunteers who could answer questions about the dogs. But the biggest change? The Tompkins County SPCA was a no-kill, open admission shelter—the first in the nation.

And that big choice allowed me to find Shadow.

At eight years old, the black dog had some strikes against her. In a regular shelter, she probably wouldn’t have lived long. But being committed to giving all animals in their care the best shot at a forever home meant that just being old, or being a less adoptable color of dog didn’t matter. Shadow had time to wait for us to find her. 

The SPCA of Tompkins County Board of Directors resolved to become a no-kill facility in 1999. In 2001 they implemented their plan. Today, their guidelines for becoming a no-kill facility are widely available and being implemented all over their world.

Cherie the hound mix in a crate

Can you imagine anyone not falling in love with this face?

Bring It Home, Chérie

Twenty years ago, a dog like Chèrie would not have been considered adoptable.

  • She has an old injury that was not treated leaving her with a pronounced limp.
  • She was too fearful to approach anyone easily and cowered at ordinary household noises.
  • She had an unattractive skin condition.

Today, the Tompkins County SPCA has given her a chance for a great life by sending her to us to foster and committing to her support until she could be adopted.

What do you think? Does she look adoptable to you?

Support the Culture Shift; Support the Tompkins County SPCA

SPCA of Tompkins County March for the AnimalsHoney and I (and maybe Chérie?) will be marching to support the Tompkins County SPCA on September 22.

If you want to be part of supporting not just the work of one shelter in one place but the idea of no-kill, open admission shelters, you can join us by lending your support.

Giving a gift today says that you want no-kill to succeed by making sure the nation’s leader doesn’t falter. It says that you think dogs like Chérie deserve a second chance at a happy home.

So make your gift today. Then enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to get a $20 Amazon gift card as my way of saying thank you.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Here’s hoping we continue to make positive changes in adoption!

    • Sometimes it’s important to look back and see how far we’ve come already. Otherwise, we’ll get bogged down in how far we have to go.

  2. Even though there are improvements to be made, just thinking about how it was not too long ago gives us hope. Also, there was no such thing as foster homes way back! What a wonderful development that gives dogs more time to find their home. An 11 year old like Brooks would never have lasted long before….but lucky me, now I get to have him!

    • I hope our thinking 20 years ago is a short time doesn’t mean we’re old, Peggy. :)

      I know when you look at Brooks it’s hard to imagine anyone would see him as unadoptable just because he’s a gentleman of a certain age. But you’re right that dogs like him would not have had long in any shelter 20 years ago. Hooray!

  3. It’s so great you are participating again this year! I’ve already donated. :-)

    That video of Cherie and Honey was so much fun to watch. She came a long way with you. Do you know if there have been an applications for her adoption?

    • Yay, Kristine! Thank you so much for your support again this year. I really appreciate it.

      I have not been contacted by anyone interested in adopting Cherie yet. I’m wondering if I should try taking her on the walk to get some visibility or if it would just overwhelm her. Last year there were a few dogs who hung back with their people because they weren’t suited to the mass of people and other dogs. But they did ok. I’ll probably wait until the morning of to see if Cherie would enjoy the walk or find it too stressful.

  4. So many changes we need to remember – and keep working on them. Just three years ago, Howie would have remained unadoptable in his shelter but he came to Silverwalk and then, most importantly, to the Boothealers Puppies on Parole program in the prison in Charleston, MO. His handler says it best “i had never seen a dog so shut down and afraid make such a tremendous change as Howie (paraphrased).” Howie is now in his own home which couldn’t have happened w/o a prison dog training program; one of the many innovations in the last 20 years.
    Love, love the video – both are having such a fun time.

  5. Oh wow. I didn’t realize how much adoption had changed. We adopted our babies in 2005, but we went directly through the original owner, before they were even fostered. And as far back as 2001, the process was almost identical to what you’ve described in 1991, at least it was in Florida. Good to know so much has changed for the better.

  6. When my peoples picked me from the shelter eight years ago, things were already improving for us dogs. I was in a “no-kill” shelter, and they even gave me Clomicalm for my anxiety issues to help me adjust to my new life.

    It’s great that peoples like you take it one step further and foster dogs like Cherie to give her the bestest chance for a new life. Thank you for what you do for us dogs.

  7. Wow! That’s a long way to come in twenty years!

  8. Adoption has changed so fast and in so very short a time. Thanks for the reminder. We may not be where we want to be yet but we’re getting there. Thanks for walking in support of the no-kill movement.

  9. That’s fantastic that you guys are joining in the walk! Cherie definitely deserves another chance and you guys are doing so much for her adoptability while you’re fostering her. I’m sure the perfect family will come along and see her potential. Good for you guys!

  10. Thanks for all you do for homeless dogs!