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Animals. People. Community.
A PLACE TO
Pony and other
find their niche.
LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT AND CEO
Editor: Pam Townsend
202-723-5730, press 1
Cruelty reports accepted 24 hours a day.
202-576-6664, press 1
Main Number: 202-723-5730
Adoptions (New York Ave.):
Adoptions (Oglethorpe): Ext. 503
Behavior and Training: Ext. 236
Development: Ext. 315
Finance: Ext. 326
Media Inquiries: Ext. 267
Special Events: Ext 323
HOURS AND LOCATIONS
71 Oglethorpe Street, NW
Washington, DC 20011
Adoption Hours: 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. daily
Closed for adoptions on Mondays.
1201 New York Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Adoption Hours: 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. daily
Closed for adoptions on Mondays.
Stray animals are accepted
24 hours a day at New York Ave.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Jay Timmons......................First Vice President
Lisa LaFontaine................President and CEO
Amy Meadows..................Second Vice President
Hon. Mary Schapiro......Treasurer
Theresa Fariello...............Vice President
William Herman..............Vice President
Gregory Riegle.................Vice President
Lauren Talarico DVM, DACVIM
Jackie Dobranski, DVM
Matthew Parker, MD
Hon. Carol Schwartz
Lois Godfrey Wye
“Special”— many people use this word to describe the animals in their
lives. Usually, this adjective describes the strength and intensity of the
relationship we share with them. It also may refer to an unusual or
unique ability, a physical abnormality or disability, or even a singular
I am lucky to have shared my life with dozens of animals who were—
and are—special in one way or another. They include Merlin the
cat and my dog Sazzy, both of whom I wrote about in my Alliance
message in the spring. Their stories and situations aren’t unique. Many
of my colleagues at the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA) have—or
have had—animals they describe as special.
• Lauren Lipsey, vice president of community programs, rescued
two street dogs in Chile. One, a tennis ball thief, lived on scraps
fed to him by local children, and the other was found at the age of 2 months, scrounging
for food in a trash heap on the side of the road. Although Lauren says she’d never been an
“animal” person before she met Oreo and Lily, she knew she couldn’t leave them behind
when she returned to the States. Not only did they go home with her, they were the reason
she got into the animal welfare field.
• Media coordinator Pam Townsend and her husband adopted a puppy who was frightened
by many things—the sound of the dishwasher and refrigerator ice machine, umbrellas
being opened, a black briefcase, plastic trash bags, to name a few—and acted aggressively
toward unfamiliar people and most other dogs. Although life with Tango was a challenge,
Pam says the effort involved in managing him actually strengthened the unique bond they
shared. She also learned more about dog behavior than she ever imagined and met people
who not only improved Tango’s life but also enriched hers.
• Stephanie Shain, chief operations officer, had no intention of adopting foster kitten Mae.
Rescued by Animal Control Officers, the tiny girl was found dangling from a fence by her
leg, which was so badly damaged that it had to be amputated. Stephanie agreed to take
care of Mae for “a few days.” But the kitten’s irrepressible spirit and joie de vivre—which
remained intact throughout some post-surgery complications—made it impossible for
Stephanie to give her up. Today this “small and sassy and amazing” feline lives life to the
fullest with no idea that she’s different from other cats.
• Like Stephanie, Alison Putnam, director of finance and administration, thought her
relationship with Dolley would be temporary. She and Dolley went through more than a
year of service dog training, but in the end evaluators determined that despite knowing
upward of 50 commands, Dolley was too social and loved people too much to work as a
service dog. Instead, she took all the wonderful training she’d received and applied it to a
new “career” as a therapy dog. She and Alison visit the Armed Forces Retirement Home on
a regular basis, bringing comfort and joy to both residents and their family members.
These are just a few of the examples of the “special” animals HRA staff share their lives with.
You can read more about their stories, along with others, at humanerescuealliance.org/special.
We also encounter special animals every day at our adoption centers. They may look different
because of a physical injury or they may have been born blind or deaf, as in the case of Pony,
the dog on the cover of this issue. They may be species that most people would never even
consider as pets. Our goal is to match people with companion animals of all varieties.
Not every animal is suited to life in a home, but that doesn’t mean we give up on them; it just
means we have to be creative in finding them a niche as special as they are. Our new program,
Blue Collar Cats, is an excellent example of such an effort. Operated in partnership with our
community cat program, Blue Collar Cats is a rehoming initiative that puts cats to work—in local
businesses and residences—doing what they do best, in return for food, shelter, and basic care
by human “landlords.” Although only in its infancy, this program is off to a great start, with both
people and cats doing well. One Blue Collar Cat named Lady Dole even received a brand-new
(second!), multi-level kitty condo as a “performance reward” from her human guardians.
I hope you enjoy reading about a few special animals in this issue of Alliance.
LEAP OF FAITH
By Doug Conomy and Alejandro Salinas, Adopters
Nearly 3 years ago, we walked into the Humane Rescue
Alliance (HRA) looking for a dog. We’d been talking about the
idea for months: learning about the adoption process, reading
up on dog breeds, and considering how our lives would be
impacted. As we started our search, we felt confident and
prepared. Then we met Pony.
At just 7 months, Pony was a stunner: an Australian shepherd
puppy from Alabama with a black-and-tan merle coat and
a bright pink nose. He was sweet and lively and, as his
information card stated in bold letters, deaf.
Pony was the first deaf dog we’d come across and, despite
being smitten with him, our ignorance about his circumstance
gave us pause. We hadn’t prepared for this scenario: we
had so many questions about care and training but no real
answers. All we had was a feeling—a feeling that told us we
belonged with Pony. So we took a leap of faith.
With an application submitted, we left HRA determined to
educate ourselves about deaf dogs. We looked at books and
websites and that’s how we found Deaf Dogs Rock, a nonprofit
organization dedicated to the care of deaf dogs. The
organization’s website has training tips, articles, testimonials,
and even a directory of deaf dogs in need of adoption. We
used it to learn about hand signals and unique behavioral
traits—like how deaf dogs require proximity to their human to
Having done our homework, we felt ready for Pony’s arrival but, once again,
we were wrong.
Pony’s first weeks at home weren’t easy. We struggled to bridge the
communication gap, unable to get him to understand us. Long walks didn’t
seem to tire him and he showed little interest in training. Over time, we
became increasingly frustrated and we could tell Pony was, too. When he
started nipping and barking at us on walks, we knew our situation had become
Right around that time, a co-worker recommended Gwen Podulka (dogtrained.
com), a dog trainer and owner of a deaf dog herself. We set up a meeting but,
frankly, our expectations were low. We were ready to give up. But Pony wasn’t.
Within the first minutes of meeting Gwen, Pony had learned to go to his bed
on command. Clearly, Pony was eager to engage and Gwen had tuned into
his channel. During the hour and a half she spent with us, Gwen taught us we
needed to talk in Pony’s language and not the other way around. Pony knew
what he was doing all along—we were the ones who needed training!
Using clear signals, constant visual contact, and high-reward treats, she
walked us through several sign commands (sit, come, bed). We learned that
for dogs, mental stimulation can often be more tiring and rewarding than
physical activity. After the session, Pony was visibly exhausted for the first time
since coming home.
That session transformed our relationship with Pony. Since then, the learning
hasn’t stopped: he’s mastered about 30 commands (a combination of ASL
signs and our own) and growing, and has been happily doing agility training on
a regular basis for more than 2 years.
We needed to
talk in Pony’s
not the other way
knew what he
was doing all
along —we were
the ones who
Looking back, Gwen was right (she usually is) when she told us Pony
was a once-in-a-lifetime dog. At the time, it was a little hard to believe,
but now it’s obvious how Pony has and continues to enrich our lives.
Thanks to him, we’ve challenged our assumptions about deaf dogs
and discovered a passion for sharing this knowledge with others.
A year and a half ago, Pony got a little sister, Puma, a deaf Catahoula/
Australian shepherd mix rescue from Florida. Training has been easier
the second time around, with Puma quickly picking up commands
from watching and mimicking Pony. If you’d like to stay up to date on
their adventures or just say hello, you can find them on Instagram by
searching for the handle @pony_the_dog.
New Rehoming Options for Cats
By Erin Robinson, Community Cat Program Manager
Jojo came to the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA)
with her litter of three newborn kittens in early
2017 from an area where she could not safely be
returned after her kittens finished nursing. The
pretty black-and-white feline had a safe place with
HRA to help her kittens grow up and get ready for
adoption, but since she had never been socialized
with people, she wasn’t interested in being a lap
cat. That’s when her resume went up for Blue Collar
Cats, and a local theater was matched with Jojo
as their newest hire! Jojo now stalks the costume
and props storage as well as the rehearsal spaces
and offices, ridding the theater of their persistent
mouse problem. She sometimes even gives notes
Poser had lived his whole life outdoors with his
caregiver in Northeast DC, and he had a pretty good
life. Sadly, his caregiver passed away and there was
no one in the neighborhood to provide Poser with
food and outdoor shelter. So the 2-year-old tabby
came to HRA to find a better outcome. Since he’d
always lived outside, Poser very much wanted
to continue living in the great outdoors; thus, he
was paired with a new caregiver: a homeowner in
Capitol Hill who previously cared for a community
cat and was looking for another to help with the rat
issues that are all too familiar to DC residents. Poser
now keeps her backyard and alley pest free—and
provides endless photo opportunities.
Poser and Jojo are just two of the more than
20 cats whose lives have been saved since the
launch of a new HRA program called Blue Collar
Cats in January 2017. Felines in this program are
community cats who do a great job at deterring
and controlling rodents. But every so often, one of
them ends up in our care.
Since they’re not ideal pets, these cats would
normally be candidates for CatNiPP, HRA’s Trap-
Neuter-Return (TNR) program, if they had a safe
place to return to. However, such safe places
aren’t always available due to known abuse in the
area, the death of the cats’ caregiver, or even the
razing of the entire neighborhood for development.
And that’s where Blue Collar Cats comes in. A
rehoming initiative operated in partnership with our
community cat program, Blue Collar Cats puts the
cats to work—in local businesses and residences—doing
what they do best. It gives them a chance at a fruitful life
while benefitting their new caregivers with effective and
non-toxic pest control.
Essentially, the program is the next step in saving every
animal possible, even the cats whose behavior may not
make them good house pets. All the cats taken into the
program are sterilized, vaccinated against rabies and
feline distemper, eartipped, and microchipped so they’re
healthy and not interested in roaming or adding to the
There’s no one perfect place for a Blue Collar Cat; with
appropriate space to hide from people and noise and
a shelter to provide protection in cold or rainy weather,
anywhere can be a great space for these special felines.
Homeowners in Georgetown, Logan Circle, Shaw,
Capitol Hill, and even Manassas, VA, as well as a brewery,
hardware store, theater, and several restaurants have
brought on Blue Collar Cats. The expectations of anyone
“employing” a Blue Collar Cat are to provide daily food and
clean water, shelter, and basic health care throughout the
cat’s lifetime. And we’re already hearing from caregivers
how hard these cats work: from an overall reduction in
rodent sightings to seeing the cats in action!
You can find out more about the Blue Collar Cats program
and sign up to partner with us in this amazing and
innovative new venture at humanerescuealliance.org/
Poser and Jojo are just
two of the more than
20 cats whose lives
have been saved since
the launch of a new
HRA program called
Blue Collar Cats in
Snakes and Spiders
and Lizards, Oh My!
By Pam Townsend, Media Coordinator
The vast majority of people who pass through the
doors of the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA) in search
of an animal companion head straight for the available
dogs or cats or perhaps even the rabbits. But some are
looking for something a bit different.
Every year, in fact, HRA finds homes for several dozen
exotic animals—think snakes, spiders, and lizards—with
the number topping 200 in 2016.
Take Charizard for example. This 3-year-old female
iguana was adopted last year by Parrie Henderson-
O’Keefe and her son. The animal-loving twosome were
no strangers to unusual pets, having had a Russian
tortoise, a fat-tailed gecko, and an assortment of toads,
hamsters, and Anole lizards over the years, along with
a dog and a couple of cats.
“My son loves reptiles and wants to study herpetology
in college,” says Henderson-O’Keefe. “We were quite
intrigued by Charizard, and since my son seemed to
have a connection with her, we decided to adopt her.”
Today, the large lizard spends her days eating, sleeping,
and lounging on a cat tree in the sunshine that pours
through the skylight in Henderson-O’Keefe’s top
floor art studio. A heating pad and heat lamp provide
additional warmth when needed. Every few weeks,
she’ll go on a walkabout, wandering around the studio
or even heading downstairs to explore other rooms.
On the other end of the size spectrum is Ducky, a
1.5-year-old leopard gecko, who found his way to HRA
following an eviction. Fortunately, it didn’t take long
for this little lizard to find a new home with Delaware
To anyone interested in
adopting an exotic animal,
Daniels has three words of
advice: Research, research,
resident Grace Clampitt. Although Clampitt had never
had a leopard gecko, she had previously cared for two
bearded dragons, and had the lamps and enclosure
necessary for housing a reptile. She reports that Ducky is
doing well and enjoying his diet of meal worms along with
the occasional wax worm—a particular favorite of his.
Like Charizard and Ducky, Scuba Steve wouldn’t be the
pet of choice for most people but, thanks to HRA, this
bark scorpion also found the right home. Discovered
in an apartment hallway last December, Steve—who,
it turns out, is actually Stephanie—was rescued by
HRA Animal Care and Control Officers and taken to
the New York Avenue Adoption Center, where she
quickly caught the eye of HRA Law Enforcement officer
“I’ve always loved exotic pets,” says Daniels. “As a child
I watched documentaries and shows that depicted
animals in their natural environment. Now I enjoy setting
up enclosures for them as close to their natural habitat as
possible. I already had nine tarantulas of various species
and wanted a scorpion as well.”
Before bringing Stephanie home, Daniels, who has
more than 20 years of experience caring for exotic
pets, researched both the legality of owning—and the
responsibilities of caring for—a scorpion. Today, she lives
comfortably in her own secure enclosure.
“She’s awesome,” says Daniels, who recently introduced
Stephanie and a couple of his tarantulas to youngsters
at HRA’s Caring Kids Camps. “When I’m working on my
artwork late at night and look up, I’ll see her patrolling her
To anyone interested in adopting an exotic animal, Daniels
has three words of advice: Research, research, research!
These animals often have more specific and possibly
more time-consuming care requirements than more
traditional pets, and if people aren’t properly prepared,
the animals end up in shelters or worse.
BARK BALL raises $700,000
Thank you to everyone who supported the 30th
Annual Bark Ball. This year’s event was the largest
to date, with 1,200 guests and more than 500 of DC’s
best dressed dogs in attendance. The Washington
Hilton served as the perfect backdrop for one of
the region’s most sensational charity galas, which
raised more than $700,000 to benefit the Humane
Rescue Alliance’s (HRA) critical community services.
Guests enjoyed exciting silent and live auctions,
a delicious dinner, and a touching program led
by event host Wendy Rieger, NBC4 anchor. Other
special guests included the Honorable Bob Dole
and Honorable Elizabeth Dole along with their pups
Blazer and Leader, as well as Diana Bulger, the
chair of the first Bark Ball in 1988. We are extremely
grateful for their continued support of HRA.
This year’s live auction excited our generous donors.
Many were inspired by the Doles’ presence to bid
on two personally autographed copies of Unlimited
Partners. However, the auction package of the
evening was an Exclusive On-Field Washington
Nationals Experience. This package included a
one-hour pitching lesson with Max Sherzer, starting
pitcher for the Nationals; on-field batting practice
with the whole team; and tickets in the exclusive
Diamond Club. A bidding war was resolved when
the donors, Erica and Max Scherzer, graciously
decided to provide the experience to two winners,
each of whom pledged $10,000. This brought in
$20,000 for HRA, our animals, and our services for
Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors,
especially Louie and Ralph Dweck, U.S. Chamber of
Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers,
and TTR Sotheby’s International Realty.
We also want to thank our Bark Ball Chair Terri
Fariello, whose leadership and engagement of a
strong volunteer team helped make this success
IN HONOR AND MEMORY
Tributes listed here were received April 16, 2017 through July 15, 2017.
IN HONOR AND MEMORY Continued
from Page 11