Thursday, June 30, 2016

School's Out!

Though most days, I didn't really mind school, I will admit that my favourite day was always the last day. On this, the last day of school this year, I have been thinking about how far the OHS has come in reaching children and youth in our schools and what it means. 

Last year alone, OHS staff and volunteers reached a stunning 9,724 young people in classrooms across the city. That is an amazing number. When added to our summer humane education program, camps, birthday parties, and other programs for children and youth, the OHS reached an astounding 16,109 young people. And of course, now we are reaching young people in Ottawa's French and French immersion classrooms, not just in English schools. 

You may be thinking, "So what?" Here is the thing, my admittedly rudimentary demographic skills tell me that if we reach 16,000 children a year, assuming no duplication, we will reach every child in Ottawa at least once in their school life. If our programs are successful — building empathy, compassion as well as responsible animal ownership — and we reach every child in Ottawa, there is a real possibility of changing the future for not only animals, but our entire community. 

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Difference Between Cats and Dogs

It's warm. The sun is shining. Summer is finally here. It's the time for subjects no more weighty than the age-old debate: the difference between cats and dogs...

"Dogs come when they’re called. Cats take a message and get back to you later."
Mary Bly

"Cat's motto: No matter what you've done wrong, always try to make it look like the dog did it."

"Cats are ultimate narcissists. You can tell this by all the time they spend on personal grooming. Dogs aren’t like this. A dog’s idea of personal grooming is to roll in a dead fish."
James Gorman

"Dogs are like kids. Cats are like roommates.”
Oliver Gaspirtz

"Everyone needs a dog to adore him, and a cat to bring him back to reality."

"A dog is a man’s best friend. A cat is a cat’s best friend.”
Robert J. Vogel

"If a dog jumps into your lap, it is because he is fond of you; but if a cat does the same thing, it is because your lap is warmer."
Alfred North Whitehead

"Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through snow."
Jeff Valdez

"Dogs have owners, cats have staff."

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Evidence is in: The Benefits of Taking Pets to Work

OHS humane education staff with their pets.
I'm sorry I left this article so late. Friday, June 24 is Take Your Pet to Work Day. If you aren't as lucky as we are at the OHS, and are not yet able to take your pet to work, it may be a bit late to convince your boss that it's a good idea. If it is too late for this year, maybe you can use the event as a conversation-opener to prepare for next year.

Taking a pet to work is about much more than saving employees on the cost of doggy day care. A 2014 Jordan Smith article in Inc. magazine outlined the many benefits of pets in the workplace: increased productivity, communication, and morale, and improvement in the overall health and well-being of employees.

The article cites several studies in support of the benefits of a pet-friendly workplace, along with some U.S. corporations that have become true believers.

The companies named found that employees found long working hours more tolerable when they had their pets — or even their co-worker's pets — by their side. They found that pets promoted staff interactions with colleagues that they otherwise would not have had, leading to a more collaborative workplace. Stress reduction for employees was identified by both studies and the experiences of employers. According to one, “If you are in a position where something is stressful, seeing that wagging tail and puppy smile brightens the day — it can turn around the whole environment.”

The research cited is serious. No less than the eminent U.S. Centre for Disease Control reports that pets can reduce not only stress and loneliness, but also blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Remember, even the most pet-friendly workplaces like the OHS need to know how everything is going to work in advance. It is important to have rules, so that, for example, those few that aren't keen on your sweet little fur bundle aren't disturbed, and that no one feeds him without your permission.

So, here is your chance. If you have always thought that bringing pets to your workplace was a good idea, now armed with studies and anecdotal experiences, why not mark next June 23 as your personal D-Day?

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, June 9, 2016

They Need a Special Place in Your Heart

This month, get to know cats like Likos, the pet behind the
special needs label.
Our June adoption promotion is Behind the Label. It's our play on Behind the Music from the cable music station VH1. It is all about finding homes for special needs cats. We hope that you will look beyond the term special needs and see the real cat behind the label.

Animals at the OHS are special needs for a lot of reasons. They are generally relatively minor: a heart murmur with no discernible symptoms, arthritis, allergies which require a special diet, or another health issue that a loving and committed family would accept.

To promote the special ones, we reduce our usual adoption fee by half, and in June we are offering the equivalent of a first free vet visit by waiving the other half of the usual fee.

Gracie — my Siamese who must be obeyed — was special needs, owing to her age (10) and her smaller than expected kidneys. For me, this was a no-brainer. I wanted a cat that others might not. I didn't want a kitten: too much energy, too many unknowns. I wanted an adult that had a fully-formed personality, so I would know that we would get along. The fact that I wasn't allergic to her as I am with many cats helped a lot too. For all this, I was willing — happy — to take on the medical care that she may need sooner than other cats. In cat years, Gracie is late middle-aged. Here is the thing: so am I. And I think we both still have a lot to give.

Of course, special needs animals are only adoptable if our community will adopt them. We can do the pre-adoption medical work, we can promote the heck out of them, but at the end of the day, it is only you who can provide them a home. And when you do give them a home, it really isn't the animal that's special, it's you.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Tragic Death

The world has been shocked and horrified by the shooting of Harambe, a 17-year-old silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. If you haven't yet heard the story, a four-year-old boy fell into the gorilla enclosure, and after some tense moments, with the gorilla dragging the boy around the compound and displaying behaviour that some have described as protective, others as dangerously agitated, zoo officials made the decision to shoot Harambe. The child was rescued, relatively unscathed and the gorilla is now dead.

I feel for everyone involved: the child, the distressed mother, the zoo employees called upon to shoot a creature that they had raised from birth — one of the last of his kind. As for Harambe, his death just makes me very, very sad.

I have looked at the footage of the incident, and have thoughts, but given I am in no way an expert, or even slightly conversant in gorilla behaviour, I will not stoke the fire. I will keep my observations to myself.

But here is what I do know: when there is conflict between humans and wild animals, whether they be a gorilla in a zoo, a performing elephant, or a fox living on a piece of land to be developed, the animal almost always loses.

What can you do? You can reject circuses, zoos and aquariums that exploit animals for entertainment. Rather than trapping and relocating wildlife on your property, you can learn to coexist. If we make these changes, maybe one day the animals will stop losing.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director

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