July 9, 2014

These Are The Days

If you haven't heard the rooftop shouts, Angels of Assisi is in this thing called the ASPCA Rachael Ray 100K Challenge. Chosen as one of fifty contestants across the country, we are competing to save more animals during the months of June, July and August 2014 than we did over the same three-month period in 2013.

The ASPCA and Rachael Ray will award a total of $600,000 in grant funding to shelters who significantly and creatively increase the number of lives saved in their community.

Angels of Assisi adopted out our own record breaking number of 247 animals in June. The Challenge has been fun and hard work, as we expected. Adoption numbers are continuously monitored, accompanied by "gotcha day" photos that can make any heart sing. Along the way, however, something somewhat unexpected has happened. We're half way through the challenge, and we have....learned some stuff. The Angels of Assisi adoption center- who led our community in adoptions last year- has learned quite a lot about improving the adoption process this summer.

Yes, the challenge is about increasing numbers. But it's also about putting staff members in areas where they can shine. Jill Nelson has taken the project of senior pets under her wing, and has fluffed them, primped them, given them fancy names, facebooked them, and found them new homes-  12% of our total adoption in June were senior pets, including Paul Mitchell.

It's about our love-hate relationship with spread sheets and data, on one side such a PIA, on the other so fascinating, anticipatory, and concrete.

ASPCA Record Breakers:
Kick-off Week

Record:  Adoptions in a single week
Breakers: With a 380% increase in adoptions over the same period last year,
Angels of Assisi was one of 10 agencies who reported most adoptions in a single week.

It's about deepening our bond through a friendly rivalry with the Lynchburg Humane Society, as sparked on by their by their Executive Director, Makena Yarbrough: "Regardless of who wins, all the animals win in the long run...... OK who am I kidding. I want to beat Lisa O'Neill and Angels of Assisi so badly!"

It's about taking that bond and sharing what we do with our city and county leaders, and gaining their support. 

The challenge is about finding innovative new programs, and way to match people with pets, including Pets for Patriots. Sebu here scored herself a wonderful new home this way.


It's about learning to graciously utilize a program set up by the municipalities for free spay and neuter of pound cats, showing those kittens off on channel 10, and watching them go home later the same day.

It's about getting organized for events in the community, as many as 4 in one day. Even more so, it's about trusting our amazing volunteers to help homeless pets find their place in the world.

It's about getting many of our long term animals adopted. 

And for other long term residents, like Trinity, understanding that no matter how many people are pulling for her, it is not her time yet. The challenge is about resiliency, and not giving up. We'll figure out how to make it Trinity's time, and because of her, friendships have been made, thinking outside of the box expands, and lessons have been learned. One of them being that Cathy and her Star City Roller Girls are a lot more than meets the eye, and there is a deep well of compassion under those helmets and pads.

Don't ever underestimate what people will do for a cause they believe in.

It's about keeping up with how to spread the word and communicate. There is this odd little thing called a "hashtag" defined as: a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the #. Hashtags make it possible to group messages, since one can search for the hashtag and get the set of messages that contain it.

Good day, have we had fun with The Hashtag: #everyonelovesagoodrescue, #assistantpaul (referring to senior dog Paul Mitchell) #weloveourvolunteers, #seniorsrock, #100KChallenge, #100KSaved, and the all time favorite by our newest adoption center specialist, #icanprettymuchrockanything. That one will be coming soon to an AOA volunteer t-shirt near you.

It's about the joy of photography, and capturing the moments. It's about people bringing their talents to the table for a common love of animals.

The challenge has made me understand what Susanne Kogut, now Executive Director of the PetCo Foundation, meant when she said "cats are easy" in reference to adoption. At the time, I wanted to believe her, I really did, and for years I rolled the phrase around in my brain. Cats are easy. Cats. Hmmm. Cats. Are Easy. *headtilt*

That concept was shelved, until we formed a partnership with the Valley View PetSmart store. Within days, I got it. Cats ARE easy to adopt, you just need to get them in the right place at the right time. Our first month at PetSmart enabled over 80 cats to find homes, many of them kittens, but also fat cats, senior cats, and plain old everyday cats. People saw them, people fell for them, and people took them home. It was easy. Manager Greg and his wonderful staff at Valley View PetSmart have made it possible, and we thank them so much.

As we finish up the first half of the ASPCA Rachael Ray 100K Challenge, it has sunk in. All of the buzz, community support, trust, and the huge increase in number of lives saved, this... insert aha moment ... is going to be the new normal. Yep. It's not just for the summer. The Challenge is to network, have fun, learn, and soak it all in, so that the rest of our days can be just as good. Thank you to all for getting us this far.

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