September 29, 2013

Two & Seven

A dog named Noble is one or our favorite success stories. We just got an email update on him, titled Another update on Noble 2 years and 7 months later - we adopted him Feb 11, 2011 and could not be happier. Here it is, with a little history first:

February 5, 2011
A Friendly Office Reminder
Noble was rescued from Galax last summer, along with 15 other dogs and a 30 year old horse. He lived on a sanctuary of sorts and had the run of several acres, along with a pond, and a thoughtful caretaker. The lady that had for years opened up her home to abused and neglected animals had cancer, and her time left on earth was uncertain but short.

When neighbors told this wonderful lady that her dogs and horse were coming to Angels of Assisi and Harmony Farm Sanctuary, it was 2 pm on a Wednesday afternoon. She died at 4 pm the same day. I know she wanted to make sure her four legged family was safe.

The dogs arrived shortly after, and they were scared and unsure of what was happening. Each one had meticulous medical records, was updated on shots, and negative for heartworms. Slowly their personalities emerged and foster homes and adoptions took place... for all but Noble.

Nobel was fearful beyond words. There were days that we could not get him out of his kennel because he bared his teeth and refused to move. The one person he trusted was Dr. Spangler, and she would go and take him in and out. Once out of the kennel, he would press up against her side and beg to be petted.

A visit from Dr. Jackson Savage really helped Noble as well as the staff and volunteers who take care of him. Dr. Savage explained that Noble was not aggressive, just afraid. He really, really hated the loud noise in the kennel area, and hated being cooped up.

We started taking Noble in and out, in and out, with a lot of reassurance and a few treats. He went for walks, and slowly the tail that had been tucked between his legs for months started coming up. We moved him to a quieter place in the adoption center, and he improved even more.

Noble has become very attached to several of the staff members and volunteers- Tim, Francis, Bo, Bobbie, Sarah, Rose, and of course his first buddy Dr. Spangler. Once you gain his trust, he is your most loyal and faithful friend. He loves to go to the dog park, and his favorite thing in the whole wide world is to go for car rides.

His other favorite thing in the world is to be with the person he trusts. Noble will stick to that person like glue, and if you take a break from petting him he will gently nudge his nose under your hand as a friendly reminder that he is still there and waiting.

Yesterday, Noble moved into one of the offices and he seems to like it. Having him there makes for a better work day on our end too.

Dr. Savage feels that Noble would make the perfect dog for a retired couple or a retired gentleman.

He needs someone to go for car rides with, someone to be faithful to, someone to spend time with and somewhere not to be caged or kenneled.

In return he will give you his undivided love and attention. And if he thinks you’ve forgotten, he'll give you a friendly reminder that he will always be there, and waiting.

February 11, 2011
Best Day Ever!
Noble - the dog we thought would never in a million years find a good home -  went home today. To a wonderful, loving home. His new canine brother was adopted from us as a puppy, and they sure do look like they came from the same litter. We'll never know for sure if they are related, but we do know that Noble will be loved and cared for, and he'll do his best to love his new family as well.

A huge, special, tremendous shout out to Dr. Jackson Savage, who directed us and showed us how to give Nobel the chance he needed. Thanks to him, Noble is a happier and more confident dog. And now he is member of a real family and out of the office.

Here he is meeting his new family- Noble is on the left in these photos.

Another update on Noble
2 years and 7 months later - we adopted him Feb 11, 2011

Noble is on the right – still doing great and hanging with his brother in the back yard…just in case the office is wondering how he is doing – he is not afraid of much anymore and part of the family.

We are tremendously grateful for Noble's family, and seeing him happy and healthy brings about another sort of thankfulness. Two years and seven months ago, we did not have a dog trainer on staff. We did not have a shelter enrichment program, complete with Kongs and playgroups. We did not have a shy dog protocol, let alone special volunteers and foster homes to patiently work with them. We did not have an extensive dog walker and foster program. We do now. And while there is still much to learn and do (can't wait!), we have come a long, long way since Noble would not come out of his kennel. By all accounts, so has he, and seeing how we have both grown does a heart good. Thank you to all who have made it possible.

September 22, 2013

Kitty. In The City.

The Dog Around Town program is getting some friendly competition from the kitties. Meet Walt, making his debut at the O. Winston Link Museum. Walt is available for adoption, and, being the superstar that he is, his fee has been waived. Come meet this amicable fellow any day between 2-6 pm!

A huge round of appreciation for our resident cat advocates, Megan Greer and Chelsea Ellis,  for a job well done!

If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow;
but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.
― Mark Twain

Of Sofas & Souls

Old dogs are one of the rare gifts in life that can warm the place between the chin and stomach, where your soul resides, and bring out the truest form of a smile, the kind that bypasses the mouth and instead shines from the eyes.

There is nothing quite like them, and we are grateful for those who love them as we do.  The Sofas for Seniors foster program is geared for the older canine and feline crew- you provide the couch, and they will in turn put it to good use, and be forever grateful.

Pumpernickel has benefitted from the Biscuit Fund for abused and neglected pets, and is ready for a sofa of her own. She's about the easiest dog in the whole world, and has proved to be a fantastic couch warmer. Please contact us at if you would like to meet her, or any of the other soul warming, make your eyes smile, senior pets waiting for a new home.

Old dogs, like old shoes, are comfortable.
They might be a bit out of shape and a little worn around the edges, but they fit well.
- Bonnie Wilcox

Thank you to Carrie French for the beautiful photos!

September 20, 2013

An Open Invite

The welfare of the animals housed at the Regional Center for Animal Control and Protection continues to be of great concern in our community. Despite the addition of the new Executive Director David Flager, added staff, a veterinarian, increased salaries and decreased intake numbers, more animals are being killed.

In the past, Angels of Assisi has
been there to help, 
with box trucks to save animals on euthanasia day, with free medical care, with innovative foster programs, with invitations to every one of our functions, and with full support for the RCACP staff and volunteers.

During a prolonged transition period over the summer, we paid for an Angels of Assisi staff member to facilitate adoptions in the RCACP building, even though David Flager stated he did not want to waste our time with his estimation of 20 adoptions  per week. We thought 20 lives saved was worthwhile. In fact, it was more than that; it was productive and fun. Our efforts were put into increasing awareness of the wonderful animals available at RCACP, and it made a difference.

While this was happening, we continued to transfer animals from RCACP to Angels of Assisi. We continued to have concerns over medical care. Mr. Flagler's response to one such concern was that "lack of records do not reflect a lack of care," even though this practice is a contradiction of standards of care in the medical and veterinary fields.

Another medical concern was brought to his attention the day before he abruptly emailed me with the good news that RCACP was ready to start adoptions on September 2, a full month ahead of the anticipated launch date. I was told of our last day before the RCACP's own rescue coordinator was.

Angels of Assisi did not quit going to RCACP to facilitate adoptions, we were asked to leave.  No one asked for any advice or collaboration with running pound adoptions. Mr. Flagler stated in a recent news piece that RCACP was modeling their adoption program after ours. While we are honored that he wants to copy our program, the practices and protocols he has established are far from ours.  Having no other option, we honored his request and left his building on August 31.

To put things in perspective:

The RCACP has a bigger budget than Angels of Assisi.  This budget is paid for with your tax money. 
They have a bigger and newer facility than Angels of Assisi. It is a facility that we should all be able to be proud of.

They have added staff, to include a veterinarian and a licensed vet tech. 

They have the ability to develop a foster program, yet they have chosen not to.

They have the ability to send out press releases, yet they haven't.

They have the ability to learn from other communities who are already doing the programs that save lives. They have reached out to no one. 

They have the easiest thing in the world to market- dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens. Yet, more of them are being killed, and the anger and frustration of this is being directed at Angels of Assisi. We are still helping; I promise you, every one of our 31 staff members and many volunteers are helping. We are just helping in different ways rather than sending the box truck over for a quick fix on euthanasia day.

Since there seems to be so many questions, let's talk about it. I will be at Angels of Assisi on Sunday morning from 10 am - 12 pm. I will have the emails from David Flager, records we requested under FOIA, and the communications from our municipal leaders.

You are welcome to take a tour of Angels of Assisi, and ask me any question that you have.

You may want to invite your city and county leaders:


You may want to invite David Flagler, Trish Deaton, and Libby Carden from RCACP:
Angels of Assisi wants the RCACP to succeed, and we want to clarify any questions on how we are helping the animals in our community, Hope to see you all on Sunday-

Lisa O'Neill


September 19, 2013

Time and Patience

This worried girl arrived yesterday from Fauquier County, one of 24 dogs that were found in horrible living conditions. The rescue was of large scale, and those involved from throughout the state are trying hard to make it a successful one by ensuring that not only do all of the dogs survive, but that they have no reason to be apprehensive again.

Based on the fact that she crawled on her belly from the car to the adoption center, we have to put in some time and patience to get that worried look off of her face, but it will happen. Staff and volunteers will help work their magic with walks, play time, quiet time, and lots of love: the perfect recipe for a fresh start.

Many thanks to Marcia for transporting these girls to Angels of Assisi,
and to Waynette for giving them that extra something special.

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there one day.
~ A.A. Milne    


September 13, 2013

For The Record

Over the past few years, Angels of Assisi participated in the tremendous efforts to bring change to the Regional Center for Animal Control and Protection, also known as our community pound. The push for awareness escalated in the year 2009, when over 4,800 animals a year were killed under the operation of a company called Animal Care Services. ACS was wholly owned by the Roanoke Valley SPCA. The RCACP also had an advisory board consisting of members from Roanoke City, Roanoke County, Botetourt County, and Vinton.

We held candlelight vigils, protested in the streets, attended city council meeting after city council meeting, and spread the written word: both privately in letters and email, and publicly through social media and petitions. The media played an important role in telling the story.

Our message was consistent:
Change was needed with policies, procedures, and leadership of the RCACP.

Our requests included:
Improved medical care

During this time, Angels of Assisi pulled many, many animals from RCACP who needed significant medical care. We sent our transport truck over to transfer large numbers of animals to our adoption center on euthanasia days. We started a program for orphaned kittens, a group who had no chance to leave the pound alive. We developed a much more extensive foster program. We networked, stretched our resources to the max, lost and made friends, and occasionally came to the point of breaking to help the homeless animals in our community.

Over time, the much needed change started happening. The volunteer request was the the first to be granted, and what a difference they have made.

Continued progression lead to the announcement of a split between the RCACP and the Roanoke Valley SPCA. It became official on July 1, 2013, and the pound is now run by the municipalities who fund it; Roanoke City, Roanoke County, Botetourt County, and Vinton.

The municipalities have added staff to fill the vacancies of leadership and medical staff, including a new Executive Director, a Veterinarian, and a Licensed Veterinary Technician.

During the transition period this summer, Angels of Assisi staff and volunteers facilitated on site adoptions at the RCACP; for the first time, animals were allowed leave the pound directly to new homes.

A few weeks ago, the Executive Director emailed us with the good news that RCACP was ready to start their own adoption program. Our last day at RCACP to facilitate adoptions was Saturday, August 31. The pound was ready to roll on their own.

We are very proud of the changes made at RCACP, and of the fact that the number of animals killed has gone from over 4800 when we first started, to 1781 last year. A heartfelt congratulations to the caring community who made this happen. Although not there yet, we have every confidence that we can join the ranks of no kill cities throughout the county who have worked hard towards this very same goal. There are now three adoption centers in Roanoke where perspective families can go to find a new family member: RCACP, Angels of Assisi, and the Roanoke Valley SPCA. 

Because of the history, and the fact that change can be scary, we have been asked one question repeatedly since the announcement of RCACP adoptions: Will Angels of Assisi still be saving animals from RCACP?

And the honest answer is: the new leadership of RCACP is now equipped to save their own animals. It has been a long time coming, and the day is here. Angels of Assisi will always help in some capacity with the RCACP animals, especially if there is one in need of more medical care than they can provide, and as special needs arise. For example, Lily (already a staff favorite!), who suffers from a condition called Cerebeller Hypoplasia, came from RCACP. She will need a very special family to take care of her, and we are prepared and happy to assist.

The animals who enter our adoption center will mostly be coming from the people in our community who need help, and are trying to do the right thing by NOT taking their animals to the pound. They deserve our support, and we have learned from the best on how to provide it.

We wish the RCACP and Roanoke Valley SPCA every success in their new endeavors. As for us, our focus is progressing to help keep animals out of the pound. This includes continued development of our programs for victims of domestic violence, people needing short term placement for their animals as they get back on their feet, and help in placing animals for people in hospice.

We are adding events to the Angels in Action program, taking low cost and free medical services into under-served neighborhoods, expansion of our sick animal services, and additional pet retention services. Angels of Assisi will continue to help any animal control entity with court case animals, who can benefit from the Biscuit Fund for abused and neglected pets.

A heartfelt thank you to all who have endured the ups, the downs, and put in the sheer hard work to get us to this point. It was a lot, and we can testify that not one day went by without thought or action into the situation at hand.

The time has come to move forward, and it feels really good to be back doing what our Angels of Assisi family does best- prevention, treating others with compassion, and thinking outside of the box for creative progression.

With deepest appreciation for each and every person who helped along the way, and with much hope for the future-

Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
~  WDC