November 21, 2013

Heartbreak, Hope, and Blended Families

Meg entered our building and our hearts almost two weeks ago. After living in a crate in a garage for most of her life, she was surrendered to Angles of Assisi with a large group of dogs from a breeder who was going out of business. She was enormously pregnant, and went immediately to a wonderful foster home. While there, she settled into a new bed, a TV watching routine, a couch, and a family who loved her quiet and appreciative ways.

Meg's due date for her puppies came and went. Yesterday, it was decided that a C-section was necessary, and all hands were on deck for the surgery. As soon as Dr. Spangler opened her up, she knew something was wrong,  Blood clotting issues were immediate and dangerous, making the delivery of seven babies difficult. Staff worked very hard to save them all, and soon they were snuggled up in our incubator.

Meg, however, was a different story. Effort after effort to stabilize her did little, and as soon as we could, she was packed in blankets and hot water bottles for a trip to the emergency vet clinic.  As I drove, Dr. Phillips continued to work on her in the backseat, and she was rushed to the waiting EVS staff.

Assessments and consultations were made, and we decided the best, most humane thing to do was let her go. All we had ever wanted for Meg was to have a home besides her crate in the garage, a time when she would be more than a breeding dog, have her very own soft bed, and be a part of a family. She had that for 11 days, and in the world of rescue, sometimes we have to accept that that is enough, and tell ourselves that dogs, unlike humans, live in the moment, and to her she had it all. It was just too damn short.

As fresh as the heartbreak of losing sweet Meg was, we also had a new dilemma on our hands- her seven puppies. Three of them were scooped up with bottles and formula, and went to another wonderful foster home. The other four came home with me, to meet Ella.

Ella is a sweet, beautiful, and under-socialized boxer, who had her own four puppies last week. She was surrendered to Angels of Assisi from the same rescue as Meg, and shared her love of the big soft bed and TV time. We took a deep breath, rubbed Ella's babies with a little bit of homegrown lavender, did the same for Meg's babies, and gave them back to mama.

Things were a bit scary at first, as Ella got up and paced while she took it all in. Babies squirmed and squealed together, while mama took a moment to regroup, and have a major potty break. Sometimes, when someone throws four new kids at you, one just has to do what one has to do. With that out of the way, she went back to the big soft bed, hunkered down, took the babies in like they were hers, and we all exhaled.

The brown boxer babies look enormous next to the little Italian Greyhound babies, but they are all taking their turn and eating well. The last 3 of Meg's puppies came this morning, and mama Ella took them in immediately, no potty break required. And then there were eleven.

We can't bring back Meg, but we can give her babies the safety and security she would have tried to give. No crates in garages, and no being used for breeding. They will have families and toys, and lots of love. Rest in peace sweet girl, you will always be in our hearts, and yet another spark to keep fighting for those behind you.


Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I... am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.

Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!"
(Thank you, Diane)

Ella, Meg, their babies, and all of the other dogs surrendered from the breeding situation will benefit from the Biscuit Fund.

We really can't say it enough - so we'll say it again. Thank you. We have the best group of supporters that we could ask for, and it's because of you that we the animals in our community get the care that so many need!


November 18, 2013

Flip Side

Eragon was adopted yesterday, and now has a wonderful home with a big back yard, complete with his own gazebo. Best of all, he has a lady who will love and cherish him for the good boy that he is.

These photos are dedicated to the heroes working the front lines in animal neglect and cruelty. Puppy mills, hoarding situations, and animal cruelty are heartbreaking and life changing experiences for those dedicated to combating these evils. Witnessing the abuse of innocent lives is something that most of us cannot even imagine, let alone have the determination to investigate, document, and prosecute the injustices done to these sentient beings. Our deepest respect and admiration for those who have the perseverance to keep fighting the good fight. We're behind you all the way, and will honor your services by doing our very best to keep the happy endings rolling. Meanwhile, we will never, ever forget the diligence behind them.

November 17, 2013


Matthew Brown officially joined the Angels of Assisi team last spring. He was not known to foster, transport, jump on the Michael Vick bandwagon, or as a crazy cat guy. However, while busy getting his degree in Computer Information Systems at Roanoke College, he helped us with IT projects, and over and over again demonstrated a quiet kindness and efficiency.

We hired Matthew not because he has veterinary skills; we are fortunate to have that covered with other staff members, as well as a pretty good, albeit ever changing, handle on the animal issues in our community. We brought Matthew in to round out the other half of the circle- the people side. Angels of Assisi has added services for people needing help with partnerships including hospice, domestic violence assistance, bringing veterinary services to underserved neighborhoods, and elderly care.

I often refer to Matthew as Tyrant, because he is the guy who keeps us on task and on schedule. He knows at the drop of a hat our adoption numbers and our finances. It is not uncommon to get friendly reminder emails from him at midnight or the wee hours of the morning. He is our IT guy, has upgraded our electronic medical record system, and improved the back end of our website.

Tyrant is also the one who says "all right" and "OK" with a smile in his voice to folks asking for help. He does a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes without looking for an ounce of credit, and he has helped build a bridge between the adoption center and the clinic. When he is around, there is a sense of calmness and organization, and he gets the big picture. As long as we don't ask him to parallel park the box truck or develop a poker face, it's all good.

The next 2 weeks will be a little emptier for us, because he is taking his altruistic heart to India for a second round of working in an orphanage (there's that compassion for people trait at work). His adoption center partner, Chelsea, organized a mini toy drive of items that can be packed in his suitcase. I wanted to give him a compass to help guide him home, but restrained, knowing that Matthew will always find his way.

Be safe, our friend. We'll miss you, we won't mess with your computer settings, and we can't wait for you to come back. We also understand that certain, special souls need to go out into the world and do good, and we are proud of you.

You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.
- Frederick Buechner

November 15, 2013


With well over 60 new dogs in the adoption center, we have been quite overwhelmed. Not with the magnitude of care that these new dogs need, but with the kindness, dedication, and can-do attitude of our volunteers and staff. Spay/neuter surgeries, dental care, and updating of shots is being handled in our clinic. Daily care, grooming, blanket/treat/toy distribution is being taken care of very nicely in the adoption center. Volunteers have jumped right in like seasoned pros, and we could not be more proud of their significance on our team.

Thank you to all who have embraced being a part of the new lives these dogs have been given, shared their photos, their stories, and will join us in wishing them well in their new homes.

November 13, 2013

A Change Of Course For Many Dogs

Last week, a commercial breeder made the decision to go out of business. While exploring the options, Angels of Assisi was brought in as a possible solution to place their numerous dogs.

The other options included:
+ Selling them to other breeders
+ Taking a chance of putting them in the wrong homes where they could be bred more
+ Puppy mill brokers
+ The pound

The choice was made to surrender the dogs to Angels of Assisi, with the agreement that they would be spayed/neutered, microchipped, updated on shots, receive any needed medical care, and adopted, and that the breeders were truly going out of business and would not be selling any more animals.

In the last 4 days, we have received 44 dogs, with another 20 expected this afternoon. Staff and volunteers are working overtime to get them settled in, and we are proud to report that many have already received their spay/neuter surgery.

The dogs are in good shape, are friendly, and being very cooperative during all of their changes. Thank you for your patience as we try and answer questions and get them ready go. We are very grateful that the former owners of these dogs chose to have them adopted instead of sold, bred more, or end up in the wrong hands. In return, we promise to give them our adoption guarantee, and are thankful for your support as these new guys start their new lives.

November 8, 2013

Biscuit BFFs

We got an amazing email stating that everyone's favorite girl, Harvest, is doing well in her foster home. She and her family are getting some support and camaraderie with another favorite Biscuit of ours, named Rosie. Rosie has been through the whole naked dog due to allergies thing, and her family have managed it like champs. We delighted for both dogs, and even more so to see the Angels of Assisi family of caring and supportive people grow each day.

(You can ready about Rosie here


Dear staff-

Thank you again for taking the time to introduce us to Harvest. We absolutely adore her! I brought her into the Angels clinic today and was surprised by the number of people who have been following her story. She loves playing fetch in the driveway, but I think would really prefer playing in the grassy backyard (if only she knew that she had allergies ...)

Today, was a pretty exciting day for her because she met two new friends (Scout and Rosie). Coincidentally, Rosie's parents are my graduate school advisors and have been super helpful in giving me some tips for managing Harvest's allergies as Rosie was in a similar situation. Anyway, Harvest and Rosie really enjoyed spending time together and since they are both a part of the Angels family, I thought you might enjoy seeing a picture of both of them

Hope all is well back at the adoption center!

November 6, 2013

Donations At Work

Sammy got herself caught up in a pretty bad home situation involving drugs and domestic violence. She arrived at Angels of Assisi yesterday for a fresh start, and is available for adoption. Despite having a rough ride in life, she likes to be held and is settling in nicely.

Thanks to a wonderful lady named Carla for ensuring she has a safe future, and thanks to all who support our adoption center and domestic violence program, enabling the animals caught up in the middle get a second chance.

November 5, 2013

The Angels at Assisi

What is you kitty's name?
Chloe. Chloe Sue.

What is she here for?
For her shots and to get her nails trimmed.

She seems very sweet- where did you get her?
From the SPCA. Not the pound building where they can put animals down. The SPCA is behind them and they are a no kill shelter. That was important to me. She has lived through 2 rounds of antibiotics and now I just want to make sure she stays healthy.


How about your cat? What is her name?

What is she here for?
Whatever she needs. I.... I lost my other cat about a year ago. She had to have surgery on her eye and then had cancer... I spent over $1000 on the surgery, then more with her cancer and I still lost her. I couldn't do it again, I was worried to take my cat to the Vet because I did not want them find anything wrong with her. She is 16 years old. But then my daughter told me about this place so here we are.

November 4, 2013

Puppies and Kittens and Pigs...

We got a new guy from Bedford Animal Control today, and he is pretty awesome. His name is Bacon... his name is Jimmy Dean.... he needs a new name, and some of our well meaning staff and volunteers need a little sensitivity training!


Being able to say "yes" and provide shelter and care not only to dogs and cats, but to other animals in need makes us one thing for certain- the luckiest rescue in Virginia. Mr. Needs A Real Name is on his way to safety at Harmony Farm Sanctuary, and is in full agreement.


Making Virginia Safer for Animals: Keep Up The Good Work!

We wanted to share some exciting news and success stories with you and tell you some simple things you can do to make Virginia a safer place for the animals you are helping on a daily basis.

In Virginia, there is a lot of work to be done to make our state a more humane one. We need legislation that would help prevent owners from keeping their dogs chained for extended periods of time. We all would like to see puppy mills outlawed. We want to ensure that Virginia’s leaders are compassionate toward all animals.
Humane Dominion’s sole purpose is to provide an avenue for all Virginia animal lovers to come together as a voice for the animals. Through our combined forces, Humane Dominion has been working to elect officials into office who are supportive of animal issues.
We've had some big news and important successes in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election:

  • Humane Dominion endorsed its first slate of wonderful, animal friendly candidates, from both parties. You can view our list of endorsed candidates by clicking here.

  • Mark Herring, candidate for Attorney General, did something highly unprecedented and used animal issues as a platform to run on after receiving Humane Dominion’s endorsement. This shows that Virginia candidates are beginning to realize the large number of animal lovers we have and understand that they must stand with us on animal issues in order to earn the votes of animal lovers and ultimately win the election. You can learn more and view the graphic flyer that Herring created highlighting where he and his opponent stand on animal issues by visiting this site:

  • Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe's campaign recently took a page out of Mark Herring's book when they realized that opponent Cucinelli was one of the other two Senators (along with Obenshain, Mark Herring’s opponent) that voted against a puppy mill law and made a huge share graphic that the Democratic Party of VA pushed out.  (You can see this on the Humane Dominion Facebook page) That is HUGE!  All eyes around the country are on this Gubernatorial race and in a few short months our little PAC has put the animals on center stage-- so exciting!! Never has a VA Governor's race talked about the animal vote!!!!
We are going to have a very successful slate of candidates on November 5th but no matter what happens at the top of the ticket, Humane Dominion has made animals MATTER with Virginia legislators.  We have made this issue RELEVANT. That is huge-- so huge..... We will feel the momentum and power we have gained by our new army of candidates and the new aura of importance animal welfare issues will carry in the General Assembly in January. And we can do so much more with a broader audience and more advocates.

None of this can be successful without getting the word out about these candidates and why it is important to vote in the Virginia state elections on November 5. Here is how. Anything you can do to help us spread the word to the many animal lovers you know would be greatly appreciated! Together we are going to make Virginia a safe place for the helpless creatures you all do so much for!

November 1, 2013

Welcome Friends

Hi Lisa-
While I have you up on e-mail... Just a gee wiz question??
I was under the impression you all provided services only to patients who were spayed or neutered as this was part of you mission.  I have noticed several times recently that we have shared patients who are receiving your services that are intact and some of them actively breeding their dogs.  Just curious if your policy or mission have changed.

I received the above email earlier this evening from a local Veterinary clinic that we communicate with often. We're always open to questions and suggestions, and here's the answer to this one.

Our main mission has always been low cost, easy access, spay and neuter services. It was where we started back in 2001, when over 9,000 homeless animals were being killed in Roanoke each year. Since then, Angels of Assisi has performed over 82,000 sterilization surgeries on dogs and cats, and last year, the number of animals who lost their lives at our local pound was 1,718. Still too many, but we are making progress.

When the Angels of Assisi wellness clinic opened several years ago, only animals who were already fixed were allowed. However, as we learned more about the process and embraced the needs of our community, we realized that if we welcomed people in who did not have their pets altered, it gave us a tremendous opportunity to talk to them about the benefits of spay and neuter- for the health of their pets, and for the health of our community.

Offering low cost wellness services to unaltered pets is also a good way to ensure that these animals receive preventative health care. Many of the family pets we treat would never make it to a full service vet clinic. By taking away some of the barriers, these dogs and cats are able to be examined by a Veterinarian, receive their vaccinations, remain healthier, and with an ultimate of goal of being sterilized. It usually works.

Although not widely known, we also have a pet food pantry and give out bags of food to needy individuals. A young guy arrived last week, and needed puppy food for his mama dog and 3 week old puppies. I could feel the tension in the room when he told us that they were pit bulls, the number one type of homeless dog killed in Roanoke. Instead of chastising him, we readily gave him the food, and talked nice and easy about the health needs of his puppies and the importance of bringing them in for their shots. He may or may not have had a plan for his dogs, but he left with a little more knowledge, and was open to it. He'll be back for more food, and we'll have continued, nice and easy conversations about getting the puppies into good homes, updated on shots and fixed, and also about getting his mama dog spayed.  If we had nailed him with euthanasia stats and the how dare you attitude, he would not have returned.

Most of our clients are Average Joe people, and most of their animals are sterilized. For those seen in the wellness clinic who are not, we lower the barriers for them to come back, both financially and by having them feel comfortable with our staff and services, along with the most important aspect of educating about the benefits of having their pets spayed or neutered. Not pointing fingers, but sharing our expertise. An over-riding expectation of the Angels of Assisi staff is that people need to feel safe when they enter our building- both for the physical needs of their animals, and the emotional needs of the people.

Angels of Assisi does not want to be the rescue who judges and shakes our fists over the irresponsible public. We want people to come, use our services, and leave with an open mind, a bigger picture, and a positive experience on what animal rescue is. They may have had an unplanned litter of kittens, let's make it easy for it not to happen again. If we pound them into the ground when accidental things happen, why in the hell would they ever want to come back? If animals are bred without planning, or to make a quick buck, we will offer alternatives and solutions while they are being seen in our clinic.

Our goal is to make wellness visits, spay/neuter, and adoption a no brainer, positive, everyday part of life.

Finally, my personal position on breeding: I believe there are such things as responsible breeders in the world. These are the folks who take complete responsibility for the lines and health of their animals, who do not have litter after litter, and who have a lifetime commitment to the lives they have helped bring into the world. These people are not our enemies. and we have found over and over again that they will help us with breed specific foster needs and breed specific medical cases. Think about it... if the truly responsible breeders and the rescue groups, instead of fighting each other, joined forces, what a powerful team we could be against the backyard breeders and puppy mills who are the cause of so much heartbreak.

We have many battles to fight in the animal welfare arena, but they are not with the people who enter our building. To those who come to us for help, we will do our best to keep your animals safe, and show you, to the best of our knowledge, how to do it. The path to a healthier community for our animals is not by putting up barriers, but by taking them down.

For more information, please join us for 
Behind the Scenes Day on November 9th. We are looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones, and will welcome your input and stories as we share ours.

With much admiration and respect for all who support the animals with open minds and generous hearts-