March 26, 2010

A Win Win Situation

Oliver is one lucky pup. Last week he was at the Regional Center for Animal Control and Protection, unsure of what his fate would be. Today, he is up for adoption at Angels of Assisi, but you won't find him in a kennel on Campbell Avenue.

Oliver is a loving foster home, with a family, toys, a nice bed, and a great yard to play in. He goes places to get exposure for adoption, and overall is one happy pup. Oliver is lucky that he made it out of the shelter, especially since he is a pit bull mix. He is also very fortunate that he is in a foster home, instead of the adoption center. As hard as we try, living at Angels of Assisi is not the same as a loving home.

On the flip side, the family that adopts Oliver is also very lucky. He is working on crate training, potty training, house manners, and walking on a leash. He gets along great with other dogs. He is wonderful with children. These are things that are learned in a home, and will make his transition to his adoptive family much easier.

To those who foster, Patti, Chris, Wendy, Amanda, Deb, Diane, Kim, Melanie, Jenny, Anita, Inglath, Tonja, and Robin to name a few- you all rock. Thanks for doing the hard work, the daily grind, and for being the unsung hero’s in saving the lives of these pets. We don't tell you often enough how much you are appreciated, but you absolutely are.

PS- be sure to visit Oliver's web page here



March 23, 2010

Networking Works

Last April, Faye from the Franklin County Animal Shelter gave us a call. "Lisa, honey, I am out of room and have got to get these 2 Walker Hounds transferred so we don't have to put them down. I can drive them up to Roanoke and be to Angels by 3 this afternoon."

And I said, "Ummm, uh, OK!"

Walker was one of the hounds, described as a "big ole' country boy with a sweet personality". Most likely he was a hunting dog reject, an unfortunate but common problem after hunting season. He made quite a few friends at Angels of Assisi, but no potential homes. Spring turned to summer, summer turned to fall, and Walker was still with us.

Thankfully, friend, dog trainer, and late night email warrior Melanie Schlaginhaufen asked her contacts at Lost Dog and Cat Rescue if they would have room for Walker in their program. They did, and Melanie drove him up a few days later.

Below is Walker's profile at Lost Dog and Cat Rescue, and we could not agree more:

Walker is a lovable lug who loves everyone he meets. He particularly loves all other dogs and plays beautifully with dogs of all sizes. Walker was a shelter favorite and had a special volunteer who came weekly and took him to dog park outings, so he is prepared for city life, dog parks and all! Walker is crate trained and good in the car would be fine with kids, though he might knock little ones over in his excitement. Walker has a big booming voice, but doesn't use it unless he is chasing a squirrel up a tree or gets very, very excited while playing. He is just a very, very nice dog who is looking for a very, very nice family to love him.

A few weeks ago, Walker's new family found him, and he was adopted.

From hunting dog reject in Franklin County, to Angels of Assisi in Roanoke, to Lost Dog and Cat Rescue in Arlington, Virginia, Walker is now home.

In the rescue world, journeys like this are not uncommon. Networking and a willingness to work together make for many a happy ending. We have seen it numerous times starting in Franklin County with awesome volunteers like Melanie, Anita, Jenny, Diane and Inglath who work very hard to save homeless pets.

Thanks everyone, for helping dogs like Walker find a new place in life- even if it means taking that good ole' country boy and turning him into a city slicker.


Lil Bit

Lil Bit may have realized she cannot take over as Clinical Director, and has moved on to some undercover work. We'll see what she turns up...


March 21, 2010

Figuring it Out

Prince was turned into Angels of Assisi last week. Like most of the animals that enter the adoption center, he is trying to come to grips with what's happening and figuring out if this is the place he is supposed to call home.

With a few days under his belt and some kindness of staff and volunteers, he'll settle in and get to know the daily routine. Our biggest wish for all the pets in the adoption center is that this "figuring it out" stage is a short one, and a quick stepping stone to finding the place that they truely can call home.

A special thanks to Vickie Holt for the photo

Needs A Foster

This little guy has lived out in a filthy pen for the entire 4 months of his short life.  He really needs a foster home for a while to get used to people- please call 400-2233 if you can help ♥

March 19, 2010

Waiting for Summer

Tucker is almost 1/3 of the way through his heartworm treatment. This consists of a very powerful and painful shot once a month for 3 months. During this time, he must be kept very quiet- as the worms die they break up and physical activity can easily cause an embolism. You can read more about heartworm treatment here.

Keeping Tucker quiet has been easier than I anticipated. His energy level is still very low, and even going outside on the leash leaves him panting and short of breath. Shiloh is doing her best to restrain herself, and often reigns in her energy to sit quietly next him.

We hope Tucker will finish his treatment successfully in June, and then take the summer to his groove back on. We can't wait to take him out for a hike and a swim, and let him enjoy being a dog again. Hang in there, Tuck, summers coming.


Future Plans

When I am an old
I shall wear turquoise and diamonds,
And a straw hat that doesn’t suit me
And I shall spend my social security on
white wine and carrots,
And sit in my alleyway of my barn
And listen to my horses breathe.

I will sneak out in the middle of a summer night
And ride the old bay gelding,
Across the moonstruck meadow
If my old bones will allow
And when people come to call, I will smile and nod
As I walk past the gardens to the barn
and show instead the flowers growing
inside stalls fresh-lined with straw.

I will shovel and sweat and wear hay in my hair
as if it were a jewel
And I will be an embarrassment to all
Who will not yet have found the peace in being free
to have a horse as a best friend
A friend who waits at midnight hour
With muzzle and nicker and patient eyes
For the kind of woman I will be
When I am old.

By Patty Barnhart
Originally published in The Arabian Horse World magazine in l992

Pictured above is Sundrop's High Flyer (Heidi)
A Harmony Farm Sanctuary rescue pony who is way too smart for her own good, but a joy to be around.

March 17, 2010

Keeping the Faith

In yesterday's blog post, we talked about the less than perfect pets that make their way into the Angels of Assisi adoption center. Many are older and looking for a soft bed, kind heart, gentle hands, and a place to call home for their last days on planet earth.

Meet Eunice. She was transferred from the Regional Center for Animal Control and Protection in Roanoke, and went to a foster home for a few days. A good grooming made her look as sweet on the outside as she is on the inside. Mostly it helped distract from her, ah, underbite shall we say? Eunice's chompers are the least of her worries- she is an old dog and her kidneys are starting to fail.

Yet this sweet girl still has a lot of love to catch up on, and today she went home with her new family. Because of your donations, Angels of Assisi is able to sponsor her medical care. We wish Eunice well, and hope that her last chapter on this earth is the best ever.

A special thank you to groomer Crystal Wright for bringing out her inner beauty and realizing you are NEVER too old to wear a red hair bow (the Red Hat Society would certainly approve!). Thanks to Vickie Holt for another awesome photo, and a great big thank you to her new family. Because of folks like you, we're keeping the faith.


A Franklin County Friend in Need

Bogie was brought to the Franklin County Humane Society on Monday suffering from a gunshot wound. The staff and volunteers at the FCHS move mountains to help many, many animals. If you are able to help donate towards his expenses please visit their website.


Happy St. Paddy's Day

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

and rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand

March 16, 2010

Lil Bit

Lil Bit is the new Angels of Assisi Office Cat Clinical Supervisor (move over, Dr. Spangler). Our previous office cat, Fred, was a mellow guy. He came out when things were slow, and lounged about on the desk, on the chair, or anywhere that suited him. He was friendly without being pushy about it, and was content with his 2 square meals a day and a soft sleeping spot. He was, what folks in the horse world would call, "an easy keeper".

Fred was eventually adopted, and Lil Bit was nominated as the next office cat. If you are in the building a see a black flash zoom by, that's her. She is upstairs, downstairs, in the bathroom, on the ledge, under the desk, over the desk, and behind the door. All within a blink of an eye. This is one girl who gets her exercise everyday, that's for sure.

Today she decided to soak in the clinical aspect of Angels of Assisi. Maybe we can put some of that good energy to use and have her explain the post-op orders in feline lingo as the cats leave following surgery.

Getting Past The History

The video posted below was put together by Jill Deegan, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney of Botetourt County. It's a sample of the neglect and cruelty cases she has been involved with- usually hands on during the rescue, and then later prosecuting the responsible parties. Combined with the outstanding Animal Control Officers in Botetourt County, Jill’s efforts have gained national attention and become an example for other communities.

Warning- the video is graphic. If you look closely, you will see some Angels of Assisi alumni- Jake the Redbone Coonhound, Riggs the small white dog with deformed legs and no eyes, Raggs before she had to have her eyes removed, and several other puppy mill dogs. There is also a photo of Fusia, an albino Doberman tied to tree. Fushia is available for adoption now.

Because of you- our network of foster homes, volunteers, and donors- Angels of Assisi is able to give these animals a second chance. It took Jake a good year, but with the help of several patient foster homes and dog walkers, he overcame his fear of men. Fusia still has a lot to learn about manners and what it will be like to live in a home and not tied to a tree day in and day out.

We also thank each and every person who have adopted; thank you for opening up your hearts and homes to these pets that need more than a little understanding. Riggs and Raggs were adopted even though they were blind and needed a lot of extra TLC. In fact, every dog adopted from a puppy mill situation has a lot to learn, and often this takes years.

Angels of Assisi does not exclude pets we take into the adoption center based on age or history- we understand that many will take more effort, but we also believe they deserve that chance. We are lucky to have a staff willing to put in the extra effort, and we especially appreciate Dr. Spangler and Dr. Eagen's support, expertise, and empathy. Most often on very little notice.

More than anything we have faith in our community friends that share this same belief and have stepped up to help case after case. Thank you, and keep up the good work.

March 15, 2010

Ah, Those Good Old Snow Days

A Spoonful of Sugar? Nope- Try This Instead!

Here is a great tip from friend Deborah Edwards! Thanks so much!

Allergy season is here!! I have pugs with allergies that cause ear problems, so I have to give childrens allergy liquid, what an experience! So after experimenting with the art of giving the prescibed doses of medication and dog excepting it (lol ) I have come up with a fun mutually agreed way...I smash up 2-3 saltine crackers to absorb the prescibed dose of liquid then I put a tbsp of peanut butter in it mix it, roll it into an excepting little fun treat. Finally a pleasant way fo giving liquid medication!. I also had problems with them taking their heart worm pills, so I take a little milk bone , put a small dolp of peanut butter on it and squish the pill down into the peanut butter and then they except it. Hope this little tid bit helps someone else avoid a displeasureable medication giving episode.


March 12, 2010

PitBull 500

The Regional Center for Animal Control and Protection in Roanoke is joining forces with the Roanoke Valley SPCA for "Pitbull 500"

The goal is to find homes for the many wonderful American Pit Bull Terriers (APBT) and APBT mixes that are housed at the Regional Center throughout the year. The goal is to save the lives of 500 loving, good natured dogs that would otherwise not be given the second chance they deserve.

Some of these dogs have been evaluated adoptable, some are currently on stray hold. If you are interested in adopting or can help any of these animals find a home, please call the shelter: (540) 344-4922 Ext: 230,231 or 238.

You can also see the dogs and cats for adoption at the The Regional Center on Petfinder. We wish them well and hope for many new homes ♥

March 10, 2010

Tips from the Trainer

The following entry is from dog trainer Melanie Schlaginhaufen's blog, knowing-dogs. Melanie has always been a huge help to the dogs in our adoption center, we value her friendship and knowledge.


Sit Means Take a Seat!

"Taking a seat" is something quite different than just "sitting". If you invited a visitor into your home, and you told him to "take a seat" as you pointed to your couch, you would expect that he would sit down and stay politely seated while you engaged in conversation. You might offer him a piece of candy from the dish on your coffee table, and your guest would say thank you as he took the candy, while still remaining seated.

However, if a visitor to your home was asked to take a seat and he simply sat quickly on the couch, grabbed a candy from the dish, popped up and then started to wander off, instead of staying seated and engaging in conversation with you, you would think he was pretty rude, right?

Yet we tolerate this behavior from our dogs all the time. Just a quick sit and pop-up for a treat is not an acceptable behavior for a dog when we ask them to sit. Is the dog being taught a "sit" or is he being taught a "sit, treat, pop-up"? From this point forward, when you tell your dog to "sit" think of it as asking him to "take a seat".

Taking a seat (remaining in the sit position) is essentially the same as a sit-stay, but it is not necessary to add the verbal word "stay" if you teach the dog that sit means sit until I give permission for you to get up. If you do wish to use a verbal command in addition to saying "sit", consider using the word “wait” for the sit-stay, reserving the word “stay” to mean remaining in a down-stay position. This way your dog does not get confused by the use of “stay” for both sit and down. Dogs often lay down on the sit-stay or sit up on the down-stay, because the same hand signal and same word is being used for both exercises. Better to simply say "wait" or repeat "sit" if you feel the need to say something to remind your dog that he should remain seated.

Begin to teach the dog to remain seated by teaching the sit for attention (watch me) exercise very early in the training process. Have multiple tiny treats in your left hand. Lure or place the dog into a sit (with or without food, depending on how well your dog understands the exercise at this point) and bring both your hands up to your face, underneath your chin, while saying “watch”, “watch me” or “look”. As soon as the dog focuses on your face, mark the behavior with a quick one-word of praise (good!) bring a treat down from your face with your right hand to his mouth, while your left hand remains under your chin. At the beginning, you’ll have to use lots of tiny treats to keep the dog focused, but within a few days the exercise will be sit (verbal command only, or lure if necessary), “watch”, gooooooooood (see explanation of bridge below) wait 2-3 seconds, give treat, repeat “watch”, wait a few seconds, treat, repeat. Within a week, most dogs can watch for several minutes before the treat is given.

Always use your release word (okay! or all done!) before allowing the dog to get up – remember, you decide when sit is over. The decision to move out of place belongs to you, not the dog. If you have a dog that is not overly food motivated and cannot stay focused on you just because you have a treat, then have a leash on him, so you can step on it to prevent him from just walking off. With this type of dog, you may need to start with a small squeaky toy held near your face in order to teach him to focus on you when you say the word "watch".

At the beginning of the sit for attention exercise, you will be using a quick word of praise to mark what you want from the dog (which is for the dog to look up and focus on your face). You will soon want the dog to wait longer before he gets up, and perform without a treat, so we will start making our praise more of a longer sentence, using it as a bridge between the behavior and the reward, so that the dog will not get impatient and get up. Bridging is simply doing something to let your dog know he is on the right track, that he is doing the right thing. In this exercise, it looks like this:

“Figi, sit.” Dog’s bottom hits the floor.

“Figi, watch me.” Dog remains sitting, looks up at owner.

Couple seconds pass (length of time depends on how much impulse control you know your dog has at this point). Your hand or finger is still on your face, helping the dog remember what to do.

“Goooooooooood, gooooood watching, good, watch me.” We are providing a bridge to let the dog know that he is doing the right thing, speaking in a very calm soothing voice, not high pitched or quick and upbeat, so the dog does not misread it as a signal to get up.

“Yes!” Dog is given treat.

“Okay, all done!” Dog is allowed to get up, we then re-direct the dog to another exercise or allow him a break from training. Do not give rewards at this point (after the dog gets up) because we want to reinforce sit while the dog is sitting, not after the dog is released from the position. Also, keep your "okay" release word upbeat but NOT overly excited (a release word given in a way that causes the dog to become overly-excited will cause the dog to anticipate getting up, because he will be looking forward to the feeling of being released, versus using a release that is a bit less enthusiastic, which will simply be a cue to let the dog now he is released from staying in position).

Using the watch me command to teach static attention is a very simple exercise, but it can work wonders in teaching impulse control, as your dog learns to focus on you for longer periods of time. It is a great way to teach a food-motivated dog the concept of "take a seat" on a positive note. In another post, we'll cover what type of corrections work best if correction is needed to keep your dog seated.


Your Donations at Work

Last week, this emaciated puppy was left in the care of Angels of Assisi. Dr. Spangler examined her, got her up to date on shots and prescribed worming treatments. Her main problem was not getting enough food, and that is being rectified in her new foster home.

It is because of your donations of time and money that we are able to help little pups like Penny, and we appreciate it very much ♥


Sharing the Love

Angels of Assisi’s volunteer photographer, Vickie Holt, has done a great deal to help increase adoption rates through her brilliant animal photography that captures the personality and spirit. Many have fallen in love with the pictures on the site, and have then come in to adopt. Vickie hopes to share her knowledge, tricks, tips and techniques with the nation through a book she is writing called “Gimme Shelter”. The friendly and easy-to-follow text within the book will help anyone with a camera take the kinds of pictures she has learned to take in a shelter atmosphere. The book will also be filled with pictures Vickie has taken at Angels of Assisi.

The book is due to be finished this summer, and then marketing for a publisher will begin. As with any other publishing endeavor, demonstrating that the book will have an audience will be a key factor. That is why she is asking that shelters and rescue organizations send emails for her to then present to perspective publishers.

In your own words, write how you’ve seen the Angels of Assisi photography and how you might want to be able to do that same kind of photography for your own organization. Send all emails to, then forward this email on to your own shelter/organization contact list so Vickie can get as many emails as possible to make the process of publishing as quick as possible. The quicker the book is published, the quicker many more animals can have the best chance of finding love.

As a preview, here is Vickie’s introduction to this very instructive piece of work. Please help. Email Vickie today, and please include the name and location of your organization.


In today’s world, animal shelters and rescue organizations need adoption websites that remain constantly updated with good pictures and animal bio information. It used to be that, when a family wanted to adopt an animal, they would spend a couple of days visiting shelters and meeting all the animals in person. With all our lives now being fast paced and full of activity, most people will visit websites first, and only venture out to the shelters if they find an animal they want to meet. This was never so clearly illustrated for me as when adoption rates plummeted at Angels of Assisi for the one month I stayed home to recover from surgery. Going forward, a good photographer will need to be an essential part of any shelter or rescue effort that hopes to remain successful in getting their animals adopted.

This is why I have written this book. I’m hoping that my experiences, and what I have learned by trial and error, will not only continue to make Angels of Assisi a notable and successful organization – but might also be a guide for other shelters that want to create adoption websites that will maximize exposure and adoption rates in their areas. You can’t have the public fall in love with your animals if they never see them, and the first place they’ll be looking is online. A good photographer with the right skills and techniques can make the difference between loveable, engaging images, or dismal, lifeless snapshots. Let my experiences be yours. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional, amateur or just getting started. In the hands of a photographer who loves these animals, the lessons in these pages could mean the difference between the animal finding a loving, forever home…or coming to a lonely, frightening end.

March 2, 2010

A Faithful Friend

Pictured below is Reno- protector and best friend to Nevada who gave birth to 6 puppies yesterday (see below post). We are not sure if he fathered the pups or not,  but he sure is a proud papa and stepped up to the plate to take care of his lady.

Thanks again to Vickie Holt Photography ♥

And Then There Were Thirty Three

Last week 27 dogs were rescued from a South Carolina gas chamber facility and 6 of them were brought to Angels of Assisi. Among the group is a pair of husky dogs that immediately captured a soft spot in all our hearts.

The female was very thin and pregnant, and the male stayed close to her side. They simply love to be together. It almost seems like they have traveled a long, hard road, and have just plain decided that a friend makes it easier and they are going to make the best of it. And try their darndest to have some fun along the way.

Yesterday morning, Vet Assistant Bobbie went downstairs to check on the newcomers. The two were crated next to each other, and the male, who rarely barks, was yapping and trying to get Bobbie's attention. As soon as she went to see what the commotion was about, she discovered a newborn puppy, and another on the way.

All together, six beautiful babies were born, raising the count of the dogs saved from the gas chamber to 33. Mama and babies are resting comfortably in a wonderful foster home, and Papa will join them later today- after his neuter surgery. Once again we thank Anita Scott and the Cooper family for opening their hearts inside and outside of this community to help these wonderful pets in need.

And a very special thank you to Vickie Holt Photography for the awesome photos!



Tucker was picked up by Botetourt Animal Control (ACO) last month with a bad limp and a skinny body, and was brought to our house as a foster dog. As foster parents, our job was to slowly put weight on him, follow doctor's orders and keep him safe and comfortable until the court date was over. We found that he had very little energy for a young dog; he slept a lot, and any small amount of activity would leave him panting.

As Medical Director of Angels of Assisi, Dr. Spangler's job was to evaluate him. She documented that his body condition was very poor; on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the worst) he was a 4. Blood tests showed he was heartworm positive. X-Rays proved that his heart was full of worms, and his limp was due to an old injury. The heartworm diagnosis explained his low tolerance to activity and if left untreated, he would die.

The Botetourt ACO's job at the time they found Tucker was to talk to the owner and offer advice and education. When that was not enough, and because of his poor health, they seized Tucker and collected evidence to present in court.

Tucker had his day in court a few weeks ago. The Commonwealth Attorney's office presented the case, and called on the ACOs who had seized Tucker to state what they had found. Dr. Spangler testified on her findings, and stated that Tucker had a significant weight gain in 2 weeks- almost 14 pounds.

The court testimony proved that Tucker had not had any veterinary care since he was a puppy, even after his hip had been broken. He had not been on heartworm prevention. He was underweight. The judge determined that he had not been properly taken care of, even though his owner claimed that "all labs are thin", and ruled that Tucker could not go back to his former home.

Tucker's owner had the option of appealing the case, or signing the dog over to Angels of Assisi. He signed him over.

The most memorable thing about Tucker's court case was the absolute professionalism that was displayed by the Botetourt ACOs, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Jill Deegan and Dr. Spangler. They did their homework. They were well prepared for the case. They kept to the facts. They had a good understanding of what is medically acceptable for an animal, and what is not. And even though it was found the owner did not take good care of his dog, they stayed professional and left the "judging" up to the Judge.

Meanwhile, Tucker does not really know about the hours spent preparing for his court case. He does not know about the years of experience that went into making these professionals very good at what they do. He does not know that instead of being burned out by all the neglect and cruelty seen in the animal welfare world, they have chosen instead to learn and be empowered.

What he does know is that it feels good to be inside. He knows his leg feels better. He likes his double cushion bed. He loves is his 3+ meals each day and that he some energy to play.

In a few days he will start his heartworm treatment. We hope that by summer he will "be all the dog he can be", and from the bottom of our hearts we thank his team of dedicated professionals for making it all possible.