Pet Connections

Home for the Holidays

By Cody Hoellerman, Animal Friends

Home for the holidays. It brings to mind such wonderful memories of being surrounded by family and friends. And, for animal lovers, what truly makes a house a home is the companionship of a beloved pet (or two!). 

At Animal Friends, our wish for each of the animals in our care is to have a home for the holidays. Our kennels are always at capacity with homeless dogs, cats and rabbits. But, in desperate times, we can often make room for one or two more – with the help of some creativity, of course! But, this past September when we rescued 117 Australian Shepherd mixes from a single residence during our historic Ross Township Rescue, we truly had to think outside the cage.

“Our Humane Police Officers were alerted to an odor coming from the property,” Krista Sobecki, Humane Investigations Coordinator, says of the call that led them to the house. “When officers investigated, the dogs were discovered on the property. Through the tireless efforts of not only our Humane Police Officers, but numerous Animal Friends staff and local first responders, we were able to safely remove all 117 dogs from the property.”

But, rescuing the dogs from the horrid conditions inside the house was just the beginning. “When I first went into the house, I was surrounded by wagging tails and lots of kisses – they were starving for attention,” recalls Kristy Pszenny, Animal Friends’ Admissions & Foster Care Coordinator. “Seeing them in their ‘home’ and the conditions they lived in … it was extremely hard to not be angry. At the end of the night, though, going back to see everyone in their clean kennels with a clean bed, food and water – they were finally safe and getting the care and support they deserved.”

Although it seemed like an insurmountable task, our dedicated team came together and worked tirelessly into the early morning hours until each and every one of the dogs knew they were safe.

A large-scale rescue has the potential to put a strain on any organization. A rescue of this size, however, could truly be devastating. “Bringing in such a large group of shy and scared dogs always requires a group effort,” says Liesl Wiesen, Behavior Coordinator. “This means experienced volunteers to sit with the dogs, hand feed them, slowly acclimate them to touch. We got to know each dog so that they could be matched with an appropriate home. Once adopted, our Behavior Department staff will continue to be available for adopters and dogs.”

Here at Animal Friends, we never back down from a challenge. We just dig a little deeper. Simply put, the support we receive from the community enables us to be there when the pets and people of our region need us the most.

“The outpouring of support from the community has been absolutely incredible. This ranged from donated food and supplies to goodie bags to be sent home with the dogs, and – of course – fantastic adopters,” says Katie Vecchi, Adoption Coordinator. “We are elated about the positive follow-up emails and phone calls we have received about the dogs in their new homes. They are adjusting well and enjoying their new lives.”

Our resources may have been stretched particularly thin this year at Animal Friends, but our goal remains the same for the animals who come through our doors – a home for the holidays. And, for animals like the 117 dogs from Ross Township, we will continue to fight for them even after they have found loving homes. “Humane Officers are now working with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office to file numerous animal cruelty and neglect charges,” says Krista Sobecki as she and her team continue to work toward justice being served.

Please, help Animal Friends give a lifesaving second chance to abused, neglected and abandoned animals this holiday season and in the new year. Together we can help them find a home for the holidays. Join us at ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org/Home.

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