Tyson’s Family Photoshoot

Tyson and Ashley are the winners of the Dogs of Charlottesville Photo Competition, and their prize was a free photoshoot together! Ashley wanted to bring along her fiancee, Chris, and just like that the photoshoot turned into a sweet family portrait. We all met up at Chris Green Lake on a sunny Monday, and I couldn’t have been more excited to meet Tyson and his parents.Ashley and Chris adopted Tyson from the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA about two years ago, and since then have been inseparable! This boy is as sweet as he is energetic (and strong!), and I’m so happy that I was able to capture a few moments of the three of you together!


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Gray Muzzles and Full Hearts: Senior Dogs at CASPCA


This week it’s all about those gray muzzles! During my time volunteering at CASPCA, I’ve noticed a good amount of senior dogs in the kennels, so I decided to bring out my camera and highlight a few of these older pooches! I also had the opportunity to interview Chelsea Mitchell, the Marketing and Promotions Coordinator and former Animal Care assistant to get some insight into the lives of senior dogs in shelters.


My interview with Chelsea Mitchell












Can you first tell me a little about your job here?

  • My job is the Marketing and Promotions Coordinator. I do all the social media postings and I do all of our media spots, so whether that is a news story, a radio spot, special features; anything that has to do with the media, I do that! I am also the Events Coordinator, so all of our big events that we have like the Critter Ball and the Bow-Wow Walk, I am the person doing the planning, all of the logistics, and all of the background work. Then I help run all of our off-site events, whether we are at the mall or a pet store, anytime we are out in! I’m getting all the supplies and making sure volunteers show up, then I’m also there as well helping with adoptions. I also manage the website!

Wow, you do a lot! How did you get this gig?

  • I’ve been here for almost two years in June. I started out in Animal Care for about a year or a year and a half, but then I went to talk to Leslie Hervey, the Executive Director, and Lisa who used to be in charge of Marketing Department and told them that the Marketing and Promotions Coordinator was my dream job! They had me do some writing samples and a small internship, and after I graduated in December they offered me the job!

So you’re a recent grad? What school?

  • I went to VCU. Every weekend when I was at school I’d come back to Charlottesville and work Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday at CASPCA.

That’s dedication! So why did you work at this shelter and not one in Richmond?

  • My family is from Charlottesville, and I’m not a huge fan of the hustle and bustle of Richmond. I love the outdoors and there’s so much to do here, so I would rather prefer to come back to Charlottesville!


So what criteria does an animal have to meet to make it a “senior?”

  • Our vets deem it 7 and up, and that’s basically it!

What do you think the general ratio of senior dog to other dogs is in this shelter?

  • I can’t give you an exact ratio. We definitely don’t see a lot of senior dogs, we have a few at a time but there are usually a lot more of the younger dogs. Senior dogs do have a harder time getting adopted because of their medical conditions; people have the stigma of “oh they’re old, they don’t have a long lifespan left” but that’s not always the case.

Where does this stigma come from?

  • I think that people want that little, happy go lucky puppy and when you walk in and see a gray muzzle, people just automatically think that they don’t have a lot of years left, but they have just as much to give and they have such big hearts.

What are some reasons to adopt a senior rather than a young or adult dog?

  • Most senior dogs are already house broken because they were surrendered or strays so they’ve been in a house for a long time. They are also calmer than a puppy, a lot better mannered. They just want to be your constant companion. They may not have all the energy of a younger dog, but they still want to go out for walks with you, and they’ll just sit with you and ask for love! They are very low key and low maintenance. They’re calm, they’re mellow, and just want to be your friend.

Do you think senior dogs are more likely to be surrendered to shelters than younger dogs?

  • It really depends on the situation. Sometimes people surrender their senior dogs because they are going into an assisted living home or there are medical problems, so there are just so many different situations and circumstances.

Does CASPCA have any programming to assist in the adoption of Senior Dogs?

  • Yes we do! We have a program called “Senior for Seniors” where any person over the age of 60 can adopt a senior animal for free. We’ve seen a lot of success with this program. There was one case where an older man came in and adopted two BFF senior dogs. He was so happy about it because he said, “I’m a senior and these guys are seniors, and they are just going to hang out with me!” Like I said, sometimes it’s hard for seniors to get adopted, but some people come into CASPCA and just get so excited about this program.

Do you think senior dogs need more care in shelters?

  • Being in Animal Care, and I don’t know if it’s just me or not, when I came in and saw a senior animal, I just automatically gravitated towards them. I would give them extra blankets, extra love, extra toys because it is harder for them to be here than a younger dog. They’re just looking for that special somebody, and it really breaks my heart seeing senior animals here because they need to be in a home, they don’t need to be in a kennel.

These wonderful senior dogs are available for adoption at CASPCA, don’t miss out on finding that fur-ever friend!

Hitch (adopted)



Interview with CASPCA Volunteer Coordinator Kaicee Robertson

Kaicee and her Therapy cat Hardy
Kaicee and her Therapy cat Hardy

This week I’m excited to feature an interview with Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA Volunteer Coordinator Kaicee Robertson! Kaicee’s the star who manages all the volunteers who make their way through the shelter, and she’s also incredibly passionate about Pet Therapy. Read below to get to know her and all she’s done for CASPCA!


1. Can you tell me about your position as Volunteer Coordinator?

As volunteer coordinator, I’m the point of contact for anyone who volunteers with the SPCA – for dog walkers and cat socializers who come in weekly, for groups who want to do one-day service projects, for junior and adult volunteers. We’re lucky to see so many volunteers here with such different backgrounds and experiences!

2. How did you come to this position at CASPCA? What’s your background?

I actually went to school for and received a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. I moved to Virginia after I graduated, and I began to volunteer at the SPCA. I soon realized that I loved it here so much that I couldn’t see myself leaving, so I applied for a position as an adoption counselor. That was 4 years ago, and I’m still here!

3. How many volunteers does CASPCA have? What’s their age range?

The SPCA sees about 1,200 volunteers a year, ages 14-92! We also have much younger volunteers who volunteer with their parents. Our current youngest is 4-years-old, and she loves volunteering with the kittens.

4. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Definitely being around people who are as passionate about animals as I am!

5. What’s the hardest part of your job?

Not having enough hours in the day and stopping myself from taking some many wonderful animals home!

6. Why should people volunteer at CASPCA? What makes it unique?

There are so many different ways to get involved with the SPCA! From volunteering with the cats and dogs to becoming a pet therapy team, from helping at our Rummage Store to helping in our clinic, from volunteering weekly or only volunteering for special events… there are just so many options! We also have many great opportunities to combine passions – if you love gardening and outside work, we have a Flora and Furries gardening group. If you love children, we have camps and birthdays and tours and school visits. We have photography volunteers and volunteers who help market the animals. Like I said, there’s something for everyone. No matter what you do or what you love to do, you can find a way to help animals in the community with that passion.

7. Are there certain types of people more fitted to volunteering at CASPCA? 

There are definitely more types of people better fitted to certain aspects of volunteering at the SPCA, but there are so so many different volunteer opportunities available here. A wide range of people can find somewhere to volunteer at the SPCA where they’d be the most comfortable.

8. Can you tell me about the Pet Therapy program? How did you become involved?

The Pet Therapy program is my baby – I love it! There’s always been a big need in our community for this. The SPCA was constantly getting approached by nursing homes and schools to visit with animals. But how to make sure the animal you’re bringing is the right animal for that situation? Some animals are spooked by large groups of children, some have never seen a wheel chair, and that’s 100% ok – they’re still lovely, amazing animals, but at the same time we wanted to be very careful not to set animals up in situations where they wouldn’t succeed. About 10 months ago we really started researching pet therapy, and we worked on reaching out into the community – who was interested, who was already registered, who wanted to become registered but just needed guidance? We began matching teams with facilities, and setting up visits. It’s been a huge success, and it’s allowed us to make some wonderful connections in the community!

9. Why do you think Pet Therapy is important? For what circumstances is it best suited?

We really focus on areas where there’s the most need. Schools and nursing homes are our biggest push. Having an animal visit can help with depression, motivation, and emotional support in seniors. It brightens their day and gives them something to look forward to and talk about. With all of our teams, the handlers are just as engaged as their animals are. So they really talk to nursing home residents – just asking someone how they’re day is going can really lift spirits. We also focus on mainly elementary schools and visit struggling readers or students who have had no animal experience or negative animal experience. While reading is obviously a huge component, we’re also looking to build a future of more compassionate, more aware, and more empathetic children who will value and cherish animals for the rest of their lives.

10. What does the training entail?

There’s a saying that therapy animals are born, not made. There are certain innate qualities that we look for in both handlers and animals – it’s really a team effort. So we look for handlers who are outgoing, can talk to a wide range of people, are comfortable in all kinds of situations, and most importantly can support their animal and really look out for what’s best for their teammate. For animals, we look for “bomb proof” animals. By this I mean animals who can be in a variety of situations and remain calm and happy. Animals who are ok with clumsy petting and sometimes improper handling, who enjoy going to new places and meeting new people. First and foremost, the animal has to enjoy this work – not every animal has to be a therapy animal. There are many perfect animals out there who wouldn’t enjoy this kind of work, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! There are a few different groups who register therapy animals, and they handle the evaluations. All of their evaluations are a bit different, but they all focus on innate qualities and skills that can be taught (like sit, down, stay, etc.). We have therapy dogs and a cat from Pet Partners, Love on a Leash, and TDInc.

11. I know you have a cat that you participate with, what other animals have gone through the training?

Yes, Hardy and I are a registered therapy team! I’m only registered with Hardy, but we have about 15 other teams who have therapy dogs. Right now Hardy is the only cat, and while he doesn’t mind all the fame that comes with it, he’d be happy to share the spotlight! All sorts of animals can become therapy animals, and we’d absolutely love to add some fabulous feline or other animal teams to our group.

12. How many people are apart of that program? Where do you go volunteer your time?

We have people at all stages in our pet therapy program. Some are just learning about therapy work and are preparing for therapy evaluations, while others are already registered and visiting. We currently have about 12 registered teams who visit on at least a monthly basis. We focus our volunteer times at nursing homes, schools, and libraries. We also do special visits – for example, we visited Greer Elementary for their national reading week. Some of the places we visit are below:

  • Brunley-Moran Elementary School
  • Cale Elementary School
  • Central Library
  • Crozet Library
  • Gordon Avenue Library
  • Martha Jefferson House
  • Mountainside Senior Living
  • Northside Library
  • Rosewood Village
  • The Golden Living Center
  • The Heritage Inn
  • Woodbrook Elementary

13. How can others get involved?

Give me a call if you have a registered therapy animal! I’d be more than happy to start setting visits up. The community response to this program has been astounding – schools and nursing homes are so grateful, and we’re so fortunate that we have the support to fill this need. If you have an animal who you think might be a good therapy animal, I’d be happy to get you started or meet you and your animal. I’d also be happy to help you meet an SPCA animal who may be a good therapy animal. I met my therapy cat Hardy at the SPCA!

Are you interested in getting involved at CASPCA? Go to their website or email Kaicee at volunteer@caspca.org

Adoption Success Stories: Buster and Ty

Adopters Chelsea, Julia and Paula can’t get enough of their Shelter Dog Buster


Now that I’ve spent a few weeks in the shelter, I thought it was time to highlight some fantastic success stories! I was lucky enough to have two friends who recently adopted some new furry friends, so I packed up my camera and spent the afternoon rubbing bellies and snapping a few shots! I started my day with Julia, the proud mamma of Buster from CASPCA, then finished with Paige and Will, the pseudo-aunt and uncle of a 5lb spitfire named Tiberius the Conquerer. Read below for some insights on their adoption stories and to see these sweet shelter dog faces!


Buster the Beagle mix, 2.5 years


As I said in an earlier post, CASPCA has one of the best adoption rates in the country, so it’s no surprise that Julia, Chelsea, and Paula found their new housemate in just a few minutes! Even after taking him home, people walking around town still recognize Buster! Buster get’s more shout-outs than they do, and usually from people they don’t even know!

Can you tell me a little about Buster’s adoption story?

Julia: We had talked about fostering a dog for a month or two, so one Saturday Chelsea and I said “Ok, let’s do it,” and we got Buster to foster. We took him and we were supposed to foster him for two weeks, but it was probably only that first weekend when we realized “Ya, we can’t give him back.”


Why were you drawn to buster?

Julia: One of our friends picked him out because of his mannerisms. He was pretty calm and seemed well behaved, and at the shelter you can look into his background and personality and just he seemed great.

Buster enjoys Julia’s cuddles


Did you know Buster’s background from the shelter?

Julia: Yes, he’s had two owners before us. His first gave him back for financial reasons, and then the second owners, we aren’t really sure what happened but animal control picked him up on the street and brought him to the shelter. They tried calling the owners on file and they just never responded.


Was Buster fully trained?

Paula: He was pretty good, he knows his name, basic commands, was already housebroken. He sometimes has some issues getting into our trash but you know, he’s just like a regular dog, always hungry! We try to teach him tricks, but he’ll only do them for Julia!

Buster feels right at home with these eight girls


Can you tell me about your experience at CASPCA?

Julia: They were really nice to us!

Chelsea: They let us have a lot of time with Buster, which was extremely helpful because we got to see how great he was.

Julia: They were really understanding of the fact that we were college students and they didn’t hold that against us. Everyone was so friendly and professional. When we went back to adopt him after fostering him I was worried that they wouldn’t let us because of our age, but they said ok and the process was very fast! It was a great experience.


How has Buster adjusted to living with 8 girls?

Julia: Well, he sleeps with Paula!

Chelsea: He adjusted so easily to living with all of us. He listens to every command and to anyone. He also just shows love to all of us. It’s so hard to reprimand him because he’s so great. He doesn’t bark unless he wants to play with another dog!

Julia: It’s great having 8 people because there’s always someone around to take care of him

Chelsea and Paula snuggle Buster


What advice would you give to someone else looking to adopt?

Chelsea: Make sure you’re ready for it. Buster is always excited to see us, so if you aren’t willing to be excited to be around your dog, it’s not fair to them.

Paula: Buster brings so much joy everyday when you come home, but it’s a lot of time. You have to get up to take him out early and go for a walk.

Julia: I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in college, I love coming home to him!


Any funny quirks or stories about Buster?

Chelsea: When we were all deciding that we should adopt him, we put our hands in a sort of team break huddle, and Buster’s nose popped in right where our hands were. I think that was the cutest thing ever!


Tiberius the Conqueror Cline (Ty), 4 months


McCulloch, Paige, and Will drove hours to rescue little Tiberius from a kill-shelter. While he’s McCullough’s pup, Paige and Will act as a semi-aunt/uncle to this little guy, helping out when they can!


I know Ty has an interesting adoption story, can you tell me about it?

Paige:McCulloch had been talking about getting a dog with Will and I for months. One of my high school teachers posts on Facebook photos from the Westmoreland County Animal Shelter, and so this little dog popped up on my newsfeed and I sent him to Will and said “This dog looks like McCulloch’s soulmate!” His name was Scruffy and we decided to just do it! So we got in the car at 9 am the next morning and drove 3 hours to Westmoreland County Animal Shelter to find out that Scruffy had been taken ten minutes beforehand! But they said his brother was still there if we wanted to meet him. They brought out his brother named Ranger and he was just adorable so we took him home and renamed him Tiberius!

McCulloch: He’s been the best dog, and I’m glad that Scruffy got adopted because there’s no way he could have been better than Tiberius. I hadn’t adopted a dog before, but I always assumed I would adopt rather than buy one.  Especially at places like the shelter I got Ty.  They don’t have the resources to hold on to dogs very long, so they really need to people to adopt.


Can you tell me a little about the shelter?

Paige: Well, it’s a kill shelter. It’s in a really rural area and they don’t have enough people coming in to get the dogs. Once a dog comes in, they have seven days to be adopted and if there’s space in the shelter, they get to stay longer, but once they hit overflow they unfortunately have to euthanize them. They just don’t have the resources or demand to keep them.

Will chases Ty in a U.Va garden


What breed is Ty?

McCulloch: Supposedly Ty is a mix of a Pomeranian and a Schnauzer, but I don’t think he looks anything like that and the vet agrees with me, so I’m skeptical about that being his actual breed.  When people ask me what kind of dog he is, I’m never sure how to answer, so I usually just tell them he’s a regular dog!


How has he adjusted?

Paige: Ty has adjusted so well. He was brought in my an elderly woman who had an accidental litter of puppies and she had found homes for all but two, Ty and his brother Scruffy, so she brought them to the shelter. So we know he hadn’t been abused. He’s been great! At first he was super shy, he came home and slept for about 15 hours but now he’s crazy and loves people. You would never know he was a shelter dog from his attitude. He’s entirely privileged and thinks the world is his stomping ground!

McCulloch: He was shy at first, but he has adjusted really well.  He’s very friendly and social; he loves to be around people.  College life suits him well I think.  He likes that there is a nearly constant stream of people to come play with him.  I live in a house with several other people, so he’s rarely alone, which suits him perfectly.


Ty and Paige take a break from playing in the snow


Would you adopt again?

Paige: Absolutely, I totally want my own dog at some point in time.

Will: Even though she’s allergic!

Paige: Yes even though I’m allergic! I would totally adopt again if there was one that fit into my life.

McCulloch: I have not adopted before, but I totally would again.  I must admit that I lucked out getting a dog that’s the right size and that has the perfect personality for my lifestyle.  I don’t know if I would get off so easy a second time, but I’d definitely want to try. Adopting dogs is awesome.  You’ll feel much better about yourself.  It’s easier than I thought it would be honestly.  An added bonus is I think it made me regulate my schedule more.  He gets me up at the same hour every day to go out, usually around 8 AM, I have to make sure I’m home at a reasonable hour to let him out before he goes to sleep.  Having a dog has made me more responsible, but in a not terrible way.


Do you see a difference between shelter pups and breeder pups?

Paige: Only the cost! In terms of his personality, absolutely not. I mean, he had a previous owner that you had to learn about but from day one he was McCulloch’s dog. Ty is so young though, he’s really a baby through and through just like Hubbell, my family’s dog. The only difference is that he didn’t cost $2,000.

Will: I have a dog from a breeder at home. I don’t think there’s any difference. Maybe we lucked out and got a great shelter puppy, but he’s just as loving, just as caring.

Ty loves to romp through the snow


Any advice for people looking to adopt?

Paige: Just make sure you have time for them!

McCulloch: I would advise people try and get a sense of the personality of their potential dog before they adopt it.  A lot of shelter dogs are skittish around new people, which is a big problem for the hyper-social college lifestyle.  I also advise that you enlist a small network of friends to help you with the dog before you take one home.  You will need people to watch him occasionally when you are unable to, especially because college schedules are so erratic.  It shouldn’t be too hard though, because I’ve found most people are happy to help out with a puppy.  In fact, if you adopt a dog your number of friends will probably expand pretty quickly!

Will: McCulloch has really changed his schedule to be with him and to take care of him.

Paige: He’s his buddy!

Does Ty have any quirks?

Paige: He loves socks! He slept over in my lawn-room the other day and while we were up in the loft, we looked down and saw that he was gathering every stray sock he could find into one pile in the middle of the room to play with.

Will: He also loves SAE!

Paige: Yes, he loves SAE, the frat! I was playing with him and the kids I mentor through Madison House, and he slipped through his collar and bolted up to their front porch and just sat down. Then a few minutes later we were walking down the street and he slipped his collar again, took off and ran up to SAE’s back porch! So we don’t know what his deal is, but he just loves SAE.

McCulloch: Ty also loves to run around, but his only problem is that he gets distracted by his tail.  It’s really funny to see him bolt off in a direction, only to stop suddenly and trip himself because he seems to be confused about what his tail is and why it’s following him.

Ty gives kisses to Will and Paige



Do you have an adoption story you’d like to share? Comment below!

“A pet is the only true love money can buy”- My interview with CASPCA Executive Director Leslie Hervey

Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA

I was excited to kick off my shelter project with a one on one interview with Executive Director Leslie Hervey! What better way to start my learning about Charlottesville’s very own shelter than by going straight to the women who does it all?

I made my way to the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA (CASPCA) on Monday just as the first flurries of snow started to come down. As I pulled into the driveway, I was delighted and relieved to see bundled up volunteers walking and playing with the dogs, despite the brutal teen temperatures. I wandered through the shelter, cooing at the cats and kittens in the hallway, and eventually found myself outside of Leslie’s office. After spotting me through the window, she quickly hurried out to greet me, exuding the brightness and warmth I so desperately needed on this snowy day. We settled into the couches in her office, accompanied by Hardy, a fluffy therapy cat, and began to chat about everything I should know about animal shelters and CASPCA. Here are some quick facts before I dive into our interview!

Hardy is Volunteer Coordinator Kaicee Robertson’s kittie. They recently become a registered therapy cat team in December, 2014

National Statistics vs. CASPCA Statistics

  • There are two types of animal shelters: open and limited admission. Open admission accepts all animals while limited admission accept animals based upon a predetermined selection criteria and based upon their available space.
    • The Charlottesville ASPCA is an open admission shelter, meaning that they accept animals from all different scenarios, including bite cases, seized animals, court ordered holds, and ill animals. Some of these animals come to the shelter with a predetermined destination of euthanasia, such as one’s that have been determined as dangerous by the state.
  • There are two ways to measure “No-Kill” in shelters. One is by using the Asilomar Accords measure where no healthy, adoptable animal is euthanized. However, it is up to each individual shelter to determine what that really means. The second is that a “no-kill” shelter should euthanize less than 10% of the overall intake of cats and dogs for the year.
    • CASPCA has met both definitions of No-Kill for almost 10 years
  • Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs
  • Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized. Of those, approximately 1.2 million are dogs
    1. The euthanasia national average for dogs is 31%
    2. The euthanasia CASPCA average for dogs is 2%
  • Approximately 2.7 million shelter animals are adopted each year, 1.4 million of those being dogs
    1. The adopted national average for dogs is 35%
    2. The adopted CASPCA average for dogs is 64%
  • There is no live release rate average (the total number of adoptions, transfers, and return to owners divided by total number of intake animals) because there is no national organization monitoring all shelters, so this statistic has not been collected
    1. CASPCA has been monitoring this statistic, and is proud to say that their live release rate for dogs is 97%, 95% total for all animals

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From the looks of these statistics, the Charlottesville ASPCA is doing PHENOMENAL! Not only do they provide a safe space for dogs and other stray animals, but they also provide so many additional services that make these animal’s lives exponentially better.

Here’s a look into my interview with Executive Director Leslie Hervey:

Executive Director Leslie Hervey
Executive Director Leslie Hervey

Can you tell me a little bit more about CASPCA?

“We are an open-admission shelter with an animal control contract. And we are a hybrid in that we have a vet clinic here. So the building is really divided up into three pods, one is the pound, which is now called the public shelter, the SPCA, and a full service veterinary clinic. There are four county animal control officers and one city animal control officers and they are amazing! They on average answer two calls for every one call a regular police officer does, and they are our hands into the world because they are so kind and humane oriented. They are working with people to try to get them to do the right thing for the animals.”

How would you describe what you do?

“I would say my primary function is fundraising. It takes such a big amount of money to keep the organization running. It’s a $3.5 million dollar operation and much more than $1 million dollars of that is raised every year. We do a lot of special events, fundraising, and grant writing. I have staff that does it as well, but I am the face of the organization, if you will, so a lot of times it involves me. After that, I would say it is management of people. It takes a lot of hands to take care of the animals; it takes a lot of volunteers. But the Executive Director has the ultimately responsibility for all of that.”

What is your background in animal shelters?

“I worked for the Martinsville Henry County SPCA for ten years. That was a private shelter, so we pulled from the two animal controls that were there fast enough to take them No-Kill. That was an exciting thing. We built dog parks in that community and had lots of support and happy people surrounding that organization, and Martinsville is still a leader in shelters in the state today.”

What’s your favorite thing about working CASPCA ?

“I get my pick of the animals! No, that can be dangerous; I already have six dogs and a cat from Martinsville! That’s your favorite part of the business, but it’s also the hardest part because your immediate answer to anything, especially for an animal that’s had a hard time, is to say you’ll take it home because you can guarantee it’ll have a happy rest of its life at your house! But that can’t be the answer. At some point you just have to say no; I haven’t reached that point obviously because I have six, but I’m trying!”

What challenges do you face at the shelter?

“I don’t have good emotional boundaries. I feel a lot of empathy for animals, and people but primarily animals. So I have a hard time making good decisions once I’ve looked into an animal’s eyes. My ability to judge and to understand an animal’s future once I’ve met and been with it is not as effective anymore. I have to work at that. Even when you understand that the best thing for the animal might be for it to be euthanized, it takes a bite out of you that you can’t replace. It wears you down a little bit, one at a time.”

Why do you think people should adopt a shelter dog?

“I don’t have any problem with responsible breeders. Before I got into the animal shelter business that’s where all of my animals came from. I had a Bouvier, you’re rarely going to find a Bouvier in a shelter! I was just unaware of the fact that there was so much more supply of animals than available homes. Hopefully everyone working in this industry is fixing that gradually. There are a thousand good reasons to adopt, whether you just want to do the right thing or give an animal who had a rough start a new home. Then there are the great selfish reasons. Where else are you going to go where you are going to see this variety of ages, weights, breeds, personalities? Puppy training is extremely hard, many times if you go to a shelter it’s already done! A lot of the times, what you see is what you get at a shelter. Even if you go get a puppy from a responsible breeder, you don’t know how that puppy is going to turn out; it’s just a baby! But if you adopt a little older of an animal, you know what it will turn into. You can come to CASCPA and I’ll let you take an animal home for the weekend to let you see how it’ll fit in. If it doesn’t fit in, you can take it back and try a different one! Where else do you get to do that?”

What are the most common misperceptions people have about shelter dogs?

“That they are damaged goods. Animals aren’t like people. They are terribly resilient, they are forgiving, they remember but they don’t dwell. So whereas a person might spend the rest of their life being angry because of something that happened to them their past, dogs don’t do that. They may flinch every time you raise your hand, but they don’t dwell on the fact that they came from a bad home where somebody beat them, they’re just grateful to have you and this good situation now.”

Do you ever get favorites in the shelter?

“I fall in love every day. There is so much happiness here; it’s not every minute of everyday, but 95% of the minutes are fabulous. There is so much joy, so many good outcomes, and it’s not just the animals that are getting such a better life but the people are getting such a better life. My favorite saying is that ‘A pet is the only true love money can buy’.”

I’ll be going in for my dog-walking shift this Thursday, so stay tuned for the first highlight of one of the shelter dogs!


Why Adopt a Shelter Dog?

Shelter Dog

You’ve done it; you’ve made the decision to add that four-legged furry friend to your household. After extensive name brainstorming and dropping those unused coins in the jar on your kitchen counter, the next step is to actually start searching for your new fur-baby.

While it is incredibly tempting to buy a dog or puppy from a breeder, checking out the local shelter first can be an extremely rewarding experience. Not only are you taking in a pup who truly needs a home, but you are also saving a life. “Around 2.7 million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the United States because too many people give up their pets, and too few adopt from shelters.”  While there are many reputable “no-kill” shelters, other’s are overpopulated and unfortunately must make the tough decision on whether or not to put down an animal.

Shelter dogs are just looking to you for another chance to find their forever home!

So, why are there so many dogs in my local shelter?

Meet Popcorn, the cutest gal of the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA


When you think of an animal shelter, what do you think of? Do you think about hoards of misbehaved hounds who couldn’t be handled by a family? Or perhaps you envision aggressive breeds that are a menace to the community. In reality, most shelter dogs were once loving, affectionate, and well behaved family pets that fell victim to one of many “people problems.” When I say people problems, I am referring to a number of different circumstances that we as humans and as pet owners are responsible for, such as training, health, and planning. As a pet owner, you are responsible for the wellbeing of your new friend, and that takes time and energy. Many times people will buy a new puppy for their child for Christmas, but the kid loses interest in it by the next week. The family brings the pup to the shelter. In another example, an owner doesn’t take the time to properly house train a dog, so he has accidents on the carpet a few times a week. The owner takes that dog to the shelter. In a very common circumstance, an elderly owner has a forever companion to sit with every day, but one day, the dog is left sitting alone in an empty house. The owner’s relatives may not have the resources or desire to care for that dog, so they take him to a shelter.

All of these instances make up the core reason that shelter’s are so over-populated.  Pet owners do not take the necessary steps to train or care for their dogs, so they take the easy way out and give up their friend, the dog who depends on them, to a shelter. While this step is better than the alternative, abandonment, we cannot blame the over-crowding of shelters on anyone but ourselves.

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Adopt:


  1. You can save 2 lives
    • By adopting from a shelter, you’re saving the life of a dog that may have otherwise been euthanized due to overcrowding and lack of shelter resources. Also, you are freeing up space so that another homeless dog can be taken-in and cared for.
  2. Adopting will save you money
    • Most shelters will send you home with a healthy and happy companion! This includes recent vet examinations, vaccinations, spay/neuter operations, and micro chipping. Aside from these health costs, most shelter’s adoption fees are chump-change compared to breeder fees! Many shelters also offer adoption promotions during the holidays, making the fee a real bargain!
  3. Some dogs will already be trained
    • Many dogs are given up for adoption for reasons beyond their control, such as the death of an owner or a child’s allergy. Since they were once family pets, they already know their basic commands! Living in a shelter might not make for the best learning environment, but once you remind your pooch about proper manners, you’ll have a well-behaved and trained companion.
  4. You can find a dog that fits your personality
    • Many shelters give each incoming dog a behavioral evaluation so they know who to best pair him with! When you come to the shelter, you’ll be able to tell if the dog you’re interested in is shy, quiet, lively, or energetic! You’ll also be able to get a sense of the dog’s personality, their likes and dislikes, before you take them home! Through this evaluation, the shelter makes sure that you have all the information necessary to be able to pick your perfect friend.
  5. If you adopt, you won’t be supporting puppy mills or pet stores
    • Puppy Mills are “factory style” breeding facilities that disregard the welfare of the dog. Most dogs and pups housed in puppy mills are put in extremely poor conditions, including being kept in small cages, improper medical care, and little human contact. In many circumstances, once the adult dogs are “used up” for their procreation purposes, they are just discarded, either by being abandoned or killed. Puppy Mills often are the provider of pups to pet stores, Internet ads, or even newspaper ads. By purchasing one of these dogs, you are supporting an operation that promotes cruelty to animals.

The Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA


Next week, I’ll be heading into the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA (CASPCA) to start my volunteer work being a dog walker! I’ll also spend some time interviewing the staff, learning more about the way that shelter’s operate and serve their community. I’ll also have my camera in hand to take some cute shots of some of their furry residents! Stay tuned for more info about your very own dogs of Charlottesville and how you can get involved in a shelter dog’s life!

Key Resources to Peruse

The Human Society of the United States