Letters from First Graders

by Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM, Director of Veterinary Medical Services

I get stacks of letters from 1st graders quite frequently as I am featured in a textbook story about a veterinarian who works in an animal shelter. I always write back to the class, and try to answer all of the questions. Here is a sampling of the letters I’ve received – the letter I wrote today is below.


Tiny Woodpecker Finds His Wings

By Marna Terry, ARL of Boston volunteer

It was quiet in Animal Intake today when Christine of Cambridge Animal Control walked into the office carrying a tiny cardboard container.  Christine had been called to Kenmore Square by a woman who had watched as a tiny fledgling crashed into a coffee shop window and lay stunned on the ground.  The little bird had tried to fly a couple of times as the woman watched but he had not been successful in nearly an hour and she was concerned.  So Christine collected the bird and brought him to us, and she was pretty certain he was a baby woodpecker. 

We were dying to get a glimpse of him so we carefully opened the box just a little bit and there he was, impossibly tiny and perfect, the characteristic black and white striations were already distinct and his little beak, barely  a quarter of an inch long, was a hard, shiny black.  He just sat there, wobbling back and forth a bit.  What to do?  The general opinion was that he would right himself overnight and could then be returned to the grassy area by Kenmore Square which was undoubtedly his home. 

A second opinion was required, and the ARL of Boston’s Rescue Services Manager Brian O’Connor was summoned.  He agreed – he’d seen lots of stunned birds who just needed time to regain the air.  He gingerly opened the box and WHIZ! out zoomed our tiny woodpecker, swooping all over the upper reaches of the intake office until finally settling on a high window ledge, well out of reach and looking adorable.  Brian got a net and oh so gently captured the little adventurer and oh so carefully put him back in his box.  Christine took him and bid us a happy farewell as she headed back to Cambridge to return him to his life.

Summer Wines and Fine Cheese at the Boston Design Center

The Animal Rescue League of Boston is pleased to pair with the Boston Design Center, Polka Dog Bakery, The Urban Hound, and The Urban Grape to raise money for the Alice T. Whitney Helping Hand Fund, an ARL of Boston program that provides subsidized veterinary care for pet owners in need.

On Wednesday, June 8th from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. the Boston Design Center will host a wine tasting to benefit the League. The Urban Grape, a generous friend of the ARL of Boston, will be providing their best summer wines for all to try!

So what does design, wine, dog treats and a dog hotel have in common with the ARL of Boston? We all love animals! It is through that passion that the League is able to partner with these amazing local businesses to raise money for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased in advanced by clicking here or can be purchased at the door.

For more information contact Michelle Chandler, Manager of Individual Giving, at 617-226-5638 or mchandler@arlboston.org.

Via email: No ears, no tail, no worries

From Dave, the new owner of Elsie Maude. Elsie was rescued this winter and lost her ears and tail to frostbite.

She is doing very well and has acclimated to the new environment. She is unbelievably sweet and unlike other cats I’ve had – gravitates to new people immediately – not trepidation. She is the only cat that loves her belly rubbed!



by Melissa Tanguay, Assistant Manager, Boston Shelter

Walking down the hall today I saw one of our staff carrying this bowl of goodies – quite a creative use of milk bones, jerky sticks and peanut butter, if I must say so myself. They looked so good I almost wanted to eat one. Our staff never ceases to amaze me by always looking for ways to make our animals’ lives better. Lucky dogs!

Petco Foundation Makes $50k Gift To Dedham Shelter Renovation Project Renovation Will Optimize Care; Make Use Of Latest In Eco-Friendly Technology

Dedham, Mass. – The Animal Rescue League of Boston’s Dedham branch recently received a generous $50,000 donation from the PETCO Foundation in support of its “Building for the 21st Century” Safford Memorial Animal Care and Adoption Center renovation project in Dedham.

“We are grateful to the PETCO Foundation for their support of this project and for recognizing its importance to our mission” said ARL of Boston President Jay Bowen. “Our renovation plan will allow us to create a comfortable and healthy environment to meet the physical, medical, behavioral and psychological needs of the animals in our care.”

Under the innovative guidance of ARQ Architects (a leader in humane shelter design), the renovation will provide the latest animal welfare and wellness features while improving work areas and providing a more pleasant environment to facilitate pet adoption. Equally important, it will incorporate the latest in energy efficiency, sustainability and green technology.

The total project cost is $2.7 million dollars and the ARL of Boston’s Board of Directors has committed $1.5 million from the Capital Spending Fund with the expectation that $1.2 million will be raised through fundraising. Since January $532,000 has been committed by individuals, charitable foundations and corporations. Please click here for further information about the renovation or here to support the project.

Left: On May 25, the PETCO Foundation presented the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s Dedham branch with a $50,000 donation in support of its “Building for the 21st Century” shelter renovation project. The renovation will provide the latest animal welfare and wellness features, provide a more pleasant environment to facilitate pet adoption and incorporate the latest in energy efficiency, sustainability and green technology. Pictured are (left to right): PETCO Vice President of Regional Operations John Drew (with Montana, a horse being cared for at the Dedham shelter), ARL of Boston President Jay Bowen, ARL of Boston Volunteer and Educational Programs Manager Debby Vogel (holding Chico the Chihuahua) and PETCO Regional Marketing Coordinator April Botta with Loka the kitten. The PETCO Foundation’s donation will be used to create a multi-purpose community room for dog training, humane education programs and as a triage area for large-scale animal rescue and humane law enforcement cases.

Match-Up II Debuts Wednesday May 4th

The Center for Shelter Dogs, a program of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, will debut Match-Up II Online in a day-long workshop at the Humane Society of the United States Animal Care Expo on May 4th in Orlando, Florida.

The Match-Up II Shelter Dog Rehoming Program is a multi-part system designed to help shelters gain a better understanding of the personalities and needs of their dogs to make successful matches. The program consists of five parts: behavioral history, behavior evaluation, personality scoring, behavior in the shelter, and behavioral triage.

Expo workshop attendees will learn how to conduct the behavior evaluation online, calculate automatic personality and triage scores, and generate outcome reports with recommended training programs for problem behaviors.

Watch the Match-Up II Online Video:

The Center for Shelter Dogs is dedicated to improving the welfare of homeless dogs cared for by humane organizations, animal control facilities, and rescue groups throughout the nation. Rigorous science-based research and outcome assessment is the cornerstone of all efforts by the Center. Drawing on the expertise of its staff, the Center is able to incorporate clinical medicine and epidemiology into its strategies, establishing a world-class program on behalf of shelter dogs.

Patient, loving care gives Molly a third chance

Thanks to the patient and loving care by the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s staff in Dedham and Brewster, on April 8th a “wonderfully sweet and gentle” 10-year-old female Umbrella Cockatoo named Molly, has found her forever home – her second, in fact.

According to Brewster Animal Care and Adoption Agent Faith Phillips, Molly’s history with the League began in 2005 when she was first brought to the Pembroke and Dedham shelters and then adopted. However, sometimes, even a “forever home” doesn’t last forever.

“She was brought back to Dedham in 2011 because her owner was laid off and had to move to an area that wasn’t appropriate for Molly,” explains Phillips

Unfortunately, Molly also had emotional and health problems – including a one-inch open wound on her chest.

“Molly was a picker and perhaps a self mutilator when she was originally adopted out and unfortunately it hadn’t gotten any better by the time she came back to us,” says Phillips. “Picking and self-mutilation is a hard thing to correct; in fact it can rarely be cured. It’s most commonly due to stress, boredom, poor nutrition and poor living conditions. It can also be due to illness.”

Transferred to Brewster, she quickly settled in, instantly loving everyone there. Shelter veterinarian Amanda Goeman started her on oral Baytril and Metacam (to both heal her wound and manage any pain associated with it) and fitted Molly for a sweater made of stockinette to try to keep her from picking the wound on her chest.

Phillips also called a close friend of hers in West Virginia who has experience with feather-picking cockatoos. “She suggested we also put organic warm aloe on her chest twice a day to moisturize her skin and the scab that was forming over her wound. Molly was wonderful at taking her meds and was very patient with us when we restrained her to put on her aloe, and within a week, we could see new feather growth.”

Enter Gina Bellucci-Dilizia from Springfield who already had a rescued male Umbrella Cockatoo named Cookie Monster about Molly’s age. “Gina said right away that she wasn’t interested in breeding the two and has already talked to her avian veterinarian about parrot sterilization. She was looking for a companion for Cookie Monster, because he was very bonded with her daughter and she was concerned about his well being when her daughter went away to college. She knew that birds can quickly become depressed, aggressive or even sick from such a drastic change and she was hoping another bird would help with the transition.”

When she brought Cookie Monster for a visit at the shelter, for Molly it was love at first sight.

“Molly was making noises that we had never heard her make before unless she saw a tub of her favorite food – peanut butter,” says Phillips. Since then, she says, it’s been a match made in heaven.

“Molly is completely off of her fattening seed diet and is eating all of her fruits and veggies, plus some extra treats. Cookie Monster is quite a talker; she’s starting to mimic his sounds and will probably start broadening her vocabulary in no time. She’s always out of the cage, interacting with him and the rest of the family, getting socialized, exercised, and stimulated, and she’s on the kind of high quality diet that very few birds get. Molly couldn’t have gotten a better home. I wish all birds, if they had to be in a home, could have a family like she does.”

Phillips concludes, “I think this is a nice story because it shows the kind of home that we always hope will come around for our parrots that are up for adoption and the extent to which we try to help each individual animal if we can. I like that we all worked together for her, from Lisa Lagos and the Dedham shelter staff, to Dr. Goeman, to Brewster and the shelter agents here.”

Abandoned in a parking lot, Dartmouth finds a new home

A two-year-old German Shepherd abandoned in March in a Malden parking lot has found his new “forever home” thanks to the combined efforts of the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s rescue, behavior and adoption staff.

Malden Animal Control initially found “Dartmouth” (so named because he was found in the municipal lot on Dartmouth Street in Malden) and called the Animal Rescue League of Boston when they couldn’t catch him.

“They suspected the dog was abandoned – there was an open bag of dog food that he was sitting next to,” says Rescue Services Manager Brian O’Connor, who responded to the call with Senior Rescue Technician Danielle Genter. “He would get scared, run off and then come back to the same spot. And he was very much on the alert when he heard people walking by or heard car doors slam or cars driving by – like he was looking for somebody.”

After several unsuccessful tries by both O’Connor and Genter, O’Connor enlisted the aid of a sympathetic dog-owner who lived nearby and cheerfully volunteered to bring her “super-dog-friendly” Great Dane/Lab mix to help in the effort.

“He definitely piqued Dartmouth’s interest,” relates O’Connor. “So I started jogging around the parking lot with this woman’s dog and he started jogging along behind us. After a couple of passes back and forth, we turned to go back and he stopped with his leash right next to my foot. So I stepped on the leash. Although dogs often freak out a bit when they know they’ve been snagged, he just looked up at me and acted like any other dog on a leash so I bent down slowly, picked it up and walked him over to the truck and we took him to Malden Animal Hospital.”

After getting his vaccinations and spending the mandatory 10 days “stray time” for possible owner pick up Dartmouth was brought to the League’s South End shelter and behavior department for evaluation.

After spending time as a stray dog, Dartmouth was, not surprising, very nervous and slow to adapt to his new surroundings. “Everything was scary to him – cars, stairs, the wind, even plush squeaky toys,” says Center for Shelter Dogs administrative assistant Naomi Johnston who “office fostered” Dartmouth for several weeks. “We eventually got him to the point where things weren’t quite so scary but he was still startled by unexpected noises and easily overwhelmed when around a lot of activity and noise.”

Although characteristically active, he also liked his down time – and snuggling. Exhibiting the loyalty that characterizes the German Shepherd breed, he quickly became a favorite of the several shelter staff members who worked with him.

Boston Shelter Supervisor Caitlin Berkery says that 10 families submitted applications. “Our eventual choice was a couple with a 21-year-old son who lived in Saugus with a huge fenced in back yard. They’d had a German Shepherd who had passed on in January at age 13 and were looking for another one.”

She says they were very eager to adopt Dartmouth. “They’d been checking the website every day, and people at both their work places kept asking, ‘Did you get a call?’ When we called them, they were so happy they rushed right down that day.”

They report that Dartmouth is doing well and they’re very happy with him. “He actually initially bonded to the husband more than they wife that surprised us because when he was here he was more nervous of men and bonded to the women here,” says Berkery. “But they’re working on that, and all is going well so far.”

A Dog Day Afternoon

Thank you to Shreve, Crump & Low for hosting A Dog Day Afternoon on Sunday, May 1st. 40 individuals brought their dogs (and a bunny too) to the fine jewelry store to have a picture taken of their adorable pooch. With the help of the following generous supporters Amy Hawkes of Click Imagery, Fish & Bone, Polka Dog Bakery, Mama Micki’s All-Natural Bakery and SWEEET all dogs walked away with goodie bags filled with treats from all these fabulous locations. Their human companies received a gift that will last a life-time — a photo of their four footed friend  placed in a silver frame.

We extend our deepest gratitude to all the people who came by, the supporters for the delicious goods and to Shreve, Crump & Low for raising over $1,100 to help animals in need!