Northwest NEWS

December 2, 2002

Features

Not just an animal shelter anymore

Ben Leib and Heidi, a German shepherd, enjoy a safe and happy companionship. A Dec. 12 workshop - A Whole Lot of Drool: Introducing Babies/Toddlers and Pets' shows new parents how to help their pet develop a positive relationship with their baby/toddler.

by Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Writer


Lisa Allen/staff photo
Does the baby's pale yellow crib with coordinating Beatrix Potter linens have shelf paper inside it, sticky side up? Does the changing table near the Peter Rabbit mural have a jar filled with dog treats? According to education coordinator Kathan McCarthy of The Humane Society for Seattle/King

County, these are important matters for expectant parents to consider before baby arrives. Dog treats and shelf paper serve as a couple of tools that help pets adjust to the change a new baby will bring.
   Many new parents, she says, want to ease their pets into the new situation but don't know how to begin. For this reason, The Humane Society offers a class showing expectant couples how to start and steps to take. They give away a wealth of trade secrets, like how to keep a cat away from the crib. "Put double-sided tape around the crib," says McCarthy. "Or put shelf paper inside the crib, sticky side up. When cats jump in, they feel the sticky paper and don't like it. Cats hate things on their paws." McCarthy has a ton of helpful information such as this. Want to keep a cat or dog off counters? "Fill pop cans full of coins," she says. "When the pets jump on the counter and knock the cans over, they hear the loud noise and think 'this is not a pleasant situation, I don't want to try this again'."
   These tips, and dozens more, will be covered in an upcoming workshop sponsored by The Humane Society called 'A Whole Lot of Drool-Introducing Babies/Toddlers and Pets.' The class, held at Evergreen Hospital on Dec. 12, 7 pm to 9 pm, encourages a positive relationship between the baby and pet well ahead of the child's birth. Partnered with Evergreen Healthcare, The Humane Society holds the class three or four time a year as a result of new parents who expressed concerns about their pets and wanted to ensure their child's safety.
   Says McCarthy, "The purpose of the class is to educate new prospective parents and to acclimate their existing pet to the arrival of the new baby. The pet has been the new parent's only baby up until that point and it's a huge adjustment for the pet." The class addresses the basics of preparation and positive introductions. New parents learn a variety of ways to facilitate a smooth transition. One example—get the crib, changing table and baby wipes ready to go a couple of months before the baby's birth. The Humane Society recommends the pet familiarize with the new sights and smells in the nursery. McCarthy suggests another way expectant parents can help their pet gradually adjust. "Babysitting helps dogs and cats get used to [what they hear as] yucky baby crying sounds." She adds another piece of advice, "Also, switch pet care roles months in advance."
   If the mother-to-be feeds and walks Princess the poodle, she explains, Princess will not likely want to share her attention with a new baby. But, says McCarthy, if she switches roles with her husband beforehand and he assumes the job, Princess will feel the competition a lot less when the baby becomes a part of the household.
   Also, rewards never hurt and McCarthy says that a treat jar next to the changing table will reinforce good dog behavior. If Princess sits respectfully when the mother changes her baby, the poodle knows that a treat waits. "So, they associate the nursery with a great thing," she says.
   Once primarily known as an animal shelter, The Humane Society now expands into a wide variety of educational programs and special services.
   Today the organization provides pet-related workshops throughout the year ranging from "Toilet Training Your Cat," to "Separation Anxiety."
   They also have volunteer programs, such as one for teens called the Humane Teen Club and a foster parent program for those willing to wean babies or care for animals with upper respiratory infections. In addition to this, they keep a pet food bank and supply pet food to senior citizens with low incomes or to people living with AIDS.
   The Humane Society also remembers people and pets at the holidays by offering gift certificates for adoptable pets, gift baskets full of pet accessories and Santa Pet Portrait sessions throughout the County during November and December.
   Above all, there's the Adoption Center dedicated to making the right connection between people and pets. McCarthy says The Humane Society currently has hundreds of animals ready for adoption and each animal can be viewed by name on the organization's website.
   They currently have lots of cats (around 100) looking for permanent homes. "We have an 80 percent adoption rate," McCarthy says, and mentions they have animals of all ages and in a variety of species. "We have babies to senior citizens. And in addition to dogs and cats, we have small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils and mice. But we don't have reptiles, farm animals or wild life."
   When asked if they adopt out animals for holiday gift giving, such as a puppy for a nephew, McCarthy says, "No," then clarifies, "If the nephew wants the animal, he needs to be a part of the process." The Humane Society's process includes an interview with the prospective family wanting to adopt.
   "We want to set the adoption up for success and the whole family needs to be there," says McCarthy. "If the dog [considered for adoption] does not like cats and the family has cats, that dog would not work in the family's situation."
   Generally, though, the connection works, making a win-win situation for the pet and family.
   The pet gets a warm, loving home to call its own and the family reaps the emotional and physical rewards, such as companionship, unconditional acceptance, and lowered heart rates and blood pressure.
   Children get an added benefit—the opportunity to learn the importance of responsibility at an early age by acting as caretaker.
   McCarthy says that animals from The Humane Society can lead productive lives when placed with the right family. She recalls a German shepherd named Zorro who needed a lot of one-on-one attention.
   "The dog needed basic training introductions," she says. After the dog was adopted, the dog took to his new owner and began a positive change. "He turned into super dog," says McCarthy. "Now he performs in agility shows and works with kids doing therapy work in hospitals."
   She points out that Zorro's work as a therapist was recently featured in the magazine, Dog Fancy.
   For those who would like to consider adopting their own potential "super dog" or "super cat," visit www.seattlehumane.org.
   For further information on classes, programs and services, call (425) 641-0080.
   To register for "A Whole Lot of Drool: Introducing Babies/Toddlers and Pets" call (425) 899-3000. Cost $20/person, $35/couple.