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February 26, 2014

Lend a paw

How you can help local pets in need

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Lend a paw
A student at the Kingsley Montgomery School, in Waterford, gives a pet a high-five for a job well done during a training session with Teacher’s Pet.

Across metro Detroit, there are countless pets waiting to find a warm home, a hearty meal and maybe even a few snuggles. But if you’re not ready to commit to adding another member to your family, there are still things you can do to help better the lives of cats and dogs in your area.

The Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society is always looking for volunteers to help care for the many pets in their care. According to Executive Director Corinne Martin, GPAAS has two functions: to act as an animal adoption organization and to serve as a community animal shelter for Grosse Pointe Woods, Grosse Pointe Shores and Harper Woods. Those are two big tasks which need to be completed with just a small pool of resources, and volunteers are an integral part of making that happen.

“We have volunteers who help at adoption showings. They might sit with an animal, talk to the public, hand out fliers, manage applications, run bake sales,” said Martin. “And in the shelter, we have people who help walk the dogs, people who pet the cats, people who do the laundry, people who wash the bowls. They’re the backbone of our organization.”

All of the volunteers, she said, make it possible for GPAAS to continue its work to place homeless animals with loving families. That’s especially true of the foster volunteers, who take shelter animals to their homes to care for them temporarily while an adoption is arranged.

“Fostering gives the animal an opportunity to get out of the shelter and into a home environment, which makes them more adoptable,” she said, explaining that animals behave more like potential pets when they’re in a comfortable home instead of a cage. “The foster family can tell us what (the pets are) like at home and analyze their personalities, their behaviors, and give them the attention they need.”

Some animals are better as the only pet in a home, while others are good with older children. Some dogs may have lots of energy and would benefit from being in a house with active owners, and some cats might fare better in a space without dogs. There are so many factors that come into play when matching the right pet with the perfect family, and foster care is the best way to determine those important personality traits.

“In the shelter, they’re in a cage 24/7. They go out for walks here, which is nice but it’s not enough. There’s nothing better than socializing with a family,” she said.

GPAAS isn’t the only shelter working hard to get animals into homes. Almost Home rescue and no-kill shelter relies on donations of time, money and other items from pet lovers. Michael Palmer, owner of Premier Pet Supply in Beverly Hills, said he tries to make it as easy as possible for his generous customers to support Almost Home and other local shelters through his store.

“A lot of people just want to help, so they’ll make donations with us. That’s a common occurrence, actually,” said Palmer. “We always offer 15 percent off food and treat purchases to be donated to a shelter. We’ll take (the customer’s) word for it if they want to take it with them, or they might buy something and leave it.”

One of the ways many customers like to donate to Almost Home is to put money into an account the shelter has with Premier Pet Supply. Palmer said he’s accepted donations of just a few dollars, all the way through $500. Then, shelter workers are able to come and purchase as much food or other supplies as they’re able to afford.

“We’ve been here over 20 years. We’ve earned all of our customers and their trust. They know when they donate through us what that money is going to be used for. (The animals) are being taken care of, and we’re following through the way they would expect us to,” he said.

Volunteers and donations of cash and supplies are always needed by Teacher’s Pet. The nonprofit organization works with juvenile detention centers and other children’s groups around metro Detroit to instruct young people on how to train dogs. The nearly 10-year-old program has had a positive impact on the participants on both ends of the leash, said founder Amy Johnson.

“Sometimes, troubled kids have a difficult time relating to adults. Dogs seem to have a way of crossing that boundary. They’re non-judgmental, loving, and when you’re kind to a dog, that dog is kind to you,” she said.

Teacher’s Pet walks participating students through the basics of dog training, such as getting the pet to sit and stay or teaching the pet fun tricks. The kids learn patience and pride in hard work; all the while,  the dogs learn obedience, which makes them a better candidate for adoption.

Johnson said her program is always looking for volunteers to drive pets to and from facilities such as Children’s Village in Pontiac, crossroads for Youth in Oxford, the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center in Mount Clemens and more. There are also opportunities to donate crates, dog toys, collars and other items. The group also has a pet foster program and needs people to work at adoption events.

“We need grant-writing help, a web designer, a writer to help with a blog — any talent you might have, we could use it,” said Johnson.

All of the organizations mentioned in this story are welcoming volunteers and donations. For more information on how you can help pets in need, visit www.GPAAS.org, www.PremierPetSupply.com, and www.TeachersPetMI.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.