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A Journey to No Kill with the Patch Pups

It takes a lot of work to become a no-kill community and a large team of volunteers willing to help.

The Manatee County Board of Commissioners will vote Tuesday morning on whether to adopt a No-Kill plan for the community's lost and abandoned animals.

Under the no-kill plan the goal is to save and adopt out every adoptable dog or cat that comes to Manatee County Animal Services. If the county is successful by December 2012 only 10 percent of the animals that come to animal services will be put down. And those will be only the animals that are too sick or too aggressive to save.

The first step in the process is Tuesday's vote. But it's the next steps that will be the most difficult. To meet that goal, the county is relying on its citizens to get behind the goal.

The county will look to the public to foster dogs and cats, to embrace spay and neuter programs for pets and to adopt pets from shelters, rather than buying them from pet stores.

Patch will spend the next 8 weeks writing about the foster program first hand. I began fostering an abandoned female dog who had a litter of puppies a week ago. She has been with me since the puppies were three days old.

I will chronicle the volunteer process to be a foster: it's easy! Just volunteer with one of the rescues in town or call animal services to get in touch with a foster coordinator.

The need: It's great. There are dozens of cats and dogs that could be saved by having a temporary home; people have to be open-minded about the dogs and cats they get. When I saw the mama dog and her pups, I almost cried. The fat little puppies who haven't yet opened their eyes were being fed by an emaciated and stressed mother.

I could see every rib, count the vertebrae in her spine and her hip bones were protruding. The good news is after one week, her ribs and spine aren't quite so visible and she is eating like a champ. She has a quiet room, instead of a shelter full of other animals and she is much more relaxed.

She came to my house smelling terrible, but after a bath and regularly changed bedding she smells much better.

And the benefits and challenges: The puppies continue to grow every day. It's fun to watch them feed and to listen to their little squeals as they go in search of mama's milk.

It is a challenge too as the mother and I get used to each other. She does not like to be away from her pups for more than a few minutes, that means I have had to drag her out of the house to potty. Unfortunately she's been very stubborn about it. I am definitely thankful for tile floors!

But I have found that food is a great motivator. She gets puppy chow whenever she wants it, but to get canned food she has to go outside. And while we are out there I can usually coax her to do her business. Also I have gotten better at reading her cues and can usually tell when it's time to force her to go out and stay out until she has pottied. Of course there have been a couple of 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. moppings that have been frustrating and tiring, but considering the possible alternative for the mama dog and her pups, I can get over a little lost sleep.

Other than that, things have been pretty low key. She is easy with me. She loves to see me coming -- probably because she expects the "good" food. She seems to trust me with the puppies even though she keeps a close watch. And I respect her protective nature and try not to bother them too much. But I definitely want to share their progress with everyone who is curious about what it take to become a No Kill community. So watch for updates. I am sure things will get exciting around here as four puppies get their legs under them

Toni Whitt October 11, 2011 at 03:41 AM
I look forward to reading your blog! I am glad I only have four puppies!
Sheri October 11, 2011 at 03:47 PM
Toni, we thank you sooo much for stepping up and fostering an entire litter. I hope you blog causes other to become foster parents. I think one of the pups should be named "Lucky" :)
Jen Bartolone October 12, 2011 at 01:40 AM
Toni, thank you for what you are doing.. it's truly an amazing thing and takes a lot of love and patience! We fostered a dog not too long ago from a local rescue, Canine Castaways, and we of course fell in love and decided to officially adopt. Finding foster homes is so crucial to rescue organizations and gets one (or in your case, four) more dogs out of harm's way while they wait for a forever home. I know there are people out there that haven't considered fostering, and if you are reading this please seriously consider it and look into some local rescues... you will be saving a life!
Toni Whitt October 12, 2011 at 12:41 PM
Thanks Jen, I'm glad you had such a good foster experience. It's been good so far and the puppies are just so fun to watch.
Jessi Smith October 12, 2011 at 05:51 PM
It's very cool that you're doing this, Toni. You know, if you ever need a puppy sitter...

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