Friday, December 31, 2010

Archive Fridays - 6/27/06

We have Kittens!!

And since it's just mean to make you wait for the pictures after the announcement, click here for day just born babies.

*Note:  Though I left out most of the pics with afterbirth schmutz on the kittens, there are still a few noticable bits.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Atticus - the little cuss

This is Atticus.  He's one of my foster babies for now.  Sometimes I look at him and forget he's not Efah, my little black kitten from last year.  He's just as cuddly as Efah was.  Then the "little cuss" will come out and I remember real quick.  Atticus suffers from the eternal fear that he's not going to be fed enough.  So breakfast and dinner times are a bit of a challenge.  Especially since Mariner has now decided that she has to mimic that behavior.  All of that should change, though, if he can score a forever home that will free feed.  And I'm sure he'll end up being a "fat and happy little cuss."


I don't know what it is about my sewing, but all the cats love to interfere with that.  You may recognize that fabric Atticus is on as the fabric I used for my niece's garb.  That's what I was sewing here.  Atticus just decided to plop down on the fabric and try to nap.  Of course, my attempt at removal turned into a game.


So then I decided to try to move the fabric I was working on.

"Oh Noes, it's MINE!"

"You cannot takes mah Fabrics!  I must Hoard dems!"

Yes, Atticus speaks in LOL Cats.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This is how we Christmas

Christmas Eve is a big foodie deal in my family.  Thanksgiving is more of a formal food affair and we do have long back and forths over what food we're going to fight for to keep in the repertoire.  On Christmas Eve though, we experiment.  I can't remember exactly when we decided to do appetizers for the Christmas Eve gathering, but what I do remember is Mom being tired of cooking two large meals right after the other.  I think I was still in Junior High, or maybe I had just entered High School, but for me that translated into "more cheese balls and cookies!"  So naturally I was all for it.

These days our family gathering is much smaller than it used to be due to other parts of the family doing their own thing for the holiday.  But we still gather at one of the family homes to eat together and open presents.  Below is our Christmas table with all of our dishes.  Though apparently we were missing Mom's truffles.  For shame!


Mom is the sweets queen.  She always brings her traditional Christmas cookies and gingerbread men plus whatever other cookies or truffles she feels like throwing together.  It's not Christmas without those Christmas tree and candy cane sugar cookies.  I remember sitting around our kitchen table as a girl decorating those.  the trees have much less of those silver beebee looking candies on them now that I'm not decorating anymore.  I think our dental plans are thankful for that.


Mom also always brings the beef.  Our thinly sliced Burgandy Beef favorite was a tad overcooked this year, but it was still just as good as always.  I'm one of those people who prefers my beef on the medium to medium rare side.  I don't care what Mom said about the dish being overcooked.  I still took a baggy home with me to eat for the rest of this week.  Also seen here is the horseradish sauce that is to accompany the beef as well as my sister's shrimp dip and some cheezy things and bacon wrapped sausage appetizers.


Here we have the Mushroom plate.  


First up is my Mom's stuffed mushroom recipe and her rye bread snacks, which also have a small amount of mushroom in them.  Both of these items have been on the Christmas menu since we started doing this appetizer style meal years ago.  They're one of those items that we all insist on reprising every year.  This year I was supposed to make the stuffed mushrooms, but Mom's recipe ended up being put together by my Brother-in-Law since the makings of that recipe were one of several which were left at my house accidentally.  He did a great job with them considering we realized I got the wrong kind of Parmesan.  The greener of the stuffed mushrooms are Walnut and Spinach Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms from Foods for Long Life.  That recipe was a new one for me.  I've always wanted to add in a raw vegan option for us to try out.  I finally made it this year.  Except, I didn't have time to dehydrate the mushrooms, so they ended up getting lightly baked anyways.  They were a hit in any case, but I sure would like to try them out as they were made to be eaten sometime.  The little white bread appetizers are my sister's mushroom canap├ęs.  If I remember correctly there's mushroom, mayo, and fried onions mixed together on that bread.  

On this next plate we have the Pumpkin Pie Wontons from food.com and Pear & Brie Tart from Beantown Prepster.
Those Pumpkin Pie Wontons were also made by my Brother-in-Law as yet another pre-prepped dish forgotten at my place, but it as it turned out, his were better than mine!  I actually made the Pear & Brie Tart, which was just Divine!  That recipe was a first for me and I was a little nervous about how it was going to work since I've never really worked with phyllo dough much, but it was very easy to put together and it tasted wonderful!  If you click on the link, there is mention of Philly Cream Cheese for the herbed cheese.  I used Boursin cheese because I never saw any such garlic herb Philly Cream Cheese.  But Boursin cheese is made like Neufchatel, which is fancy cream cheese, so it's the same thing.

I had one other item that didn't make it out to the table setting this year.  My Sweet Potato version of Perfect Parsnips from the Good Mood Food Blog.  These were another example of a pre-prepped food that was left at home, so we hurridly tried to replace them.  Unfortunately, I didn't put enough oil on them during the baking process, so they were too flour-ey.  Then after I added the oil, the cheese started over cooking, so the potatoes didn't ever crisp up.  But they tasted ok mushy, so we all snacked on them as we were cooking everything else.  By the time we were ready to put the last food on the table there wasn't even enough of the potatoes to put out.

For Christmas gifts, the adults in the family draw names for gift giving.  But we go all out for the kids.  Since my niece is the only girl child in the family, I've been making her fun costumes or purses or accessories every year for a while now.  I really enjoy it.  This year she asked for Renaissance Faire garb so she can be in costume for Scarborough Faire.  Her little brother also asked for garb as well, but he's still little enough that I think he forgot and would really rather have toys when it comes down to it.  I still made him garb.

Here they are in their new Rennie fashions:


I made my niece's dress from my tried and true Tudor Tailor patterning book.  This is actually the pattern I've used for most of my own garb.  It's simple and easy and can be worn under more embellished looks or alone.  I made it a little big so she has room to grow.  It laces on the sides and in the back and the shoulder straps are  loosely stitched so they can be adjusted as well.  The skirt is a separate piece for mixing and matching as well as full adjustment.


My nephew got a basic Tudor shirt with a collar and basic straight legged pants.  There's going to be a doublet later to fancy it up a bit.  I have all kinds of great fabric to dress him in, but since this was the first thing I made for him, I wanted to make sure I had basics first.  He should be able to grow in that shirt and the pant legs have several inches of hem to give.  Plus if he stays thin he can wear the pants as highwaters and wear cool socks with them.

I hope all of you had a great Christmas and have a Happy and Save New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Archive Fridays - 6/20 - 26/06

This week's blog post is actually four posts.  I figured it was silly to drag out the "waiting for kittens" saga into 4 weeks.

6/20/06
6/21/06
6/22/06
6/26/06

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Shopping Whirlwind

For the first time in many years I actually finished my Christmas shopping prior to the actual week of Christmas.  Yes, I am one of those procrastinating shoppers who tends to always have at least a couple of gifts to buy on December 23.  This year, I finished my shopping the Friday before.  I was so very proud of myself.  This is not to say that I'm totally finished with Christmas.  I still have a couple of gifts I'm making myself, but those are sure to be finished quickly on my day off.  So they don't count.

Last night I was in Jo-Ann Fabrics to pick up ribbon for one of those very such home made gifts I need to finish.  I also needed a gift bag.  In the past I've been very good about avoiding the Holiday decorations aisle completely because my home is chaotic and any decorations I try to put up will be immediately destroyed by those shredder kitten claws.  I'm not kidding.  I tried putting up a tree 4 years ago and it was only marginally destroyed, but then I had fewer foster cats then.

So, I'm in Jo-Ann's and I'm in the Holiday decorations aisle looking for gift bags and I notice that most everything is already 70% off.  It is at that very moment when "Crazy Holiday Shopper" me spirals out of control.  Right behind me was a collection of the cutest turquoise blue snowman and snowflake baking tools.  I wanted it all.  From the cookie spatula to the whisk, to the oven mitts.  They all matched.  Hell, I think I would have picked up the apron had there been one.  Then there were cookie cutters and pancake molds and toast stamps.  What about serving dishes?  I want matching serving dishes!!!  I had my arms full as I made my way down to the register.

I don't remember what exactly it was that snapped me out of my shopping insanity, but all of a sudden I heard this little voice in my had say, "Maggie!  What are you going to do with all of that stuff?  You don't bake! And if you did, where are you going to store it?  Which full closet?  Hmm?"  All I have to say is Thank Goodness I have voices inside my head because I was about two seconds from purchasing an armload of un-needed, though really cute, junk that was just going to end up in a box at the back of one of my closets and never seen again.  Or at least not seen again until I stop fostering cats en mass.  Just like my Christmas tree and my Halloween decorations.

Thank you voices in my head.  You rock!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Looking for a new furry family member? How to be prepared. Pt 4 - Is Free really Free?

In previous installments of this series I've discussed purchase vs adoption for acquiring a new pet.  But there is also a 3rd option I'd like to talk about.  The "free" giveaway.

Scenario 1:
You're minding your own business shopping for all those crazy holiday gifts and then you spot a cart full of the cutest puppies on the planet.  Your daughter has been begging for a puppy for the longest time now, but you just weren't sure.  It's Christmas now and you think you're ready to make the plunge, and well, Free puppies means Zero money spent on this particular present!  So you can get a puppy And that Barbie she wanted too.  Win Win!  Right?

Scenario 2:
You want to surprise your significant other with that kitten she's been hinting about.  You've looked at rescues, but their adoption fees are all around $100.  You have been on a tight budget lately and really can't afford that kind of money for a present.  So you look in the paper and on Craigslist and find a few listings giving kittens away.  Wow!  You may be able to get that kitten Plus a gift certificate to DSW!  How is that not a win win situation?

Answer:
While those litters may very well have come from a lovely home who had an "oops" litter and they look beautifully taken care of and may not give you any health problems like a commercial bred pet might, "free" is never "free" in this case.  Pets being given away for free 9 times out of 10 have not been vetted at all.  So remember, you still have to pay for all of that vetting.  Just how much could you be out of pocket?

I've done a small price comparison on various options local to me.  And from what I can see, the cost of fully vetting a new kitten or puppy is going to be just shy of $400 (using the more costly spay surgery scenario) if you use the subsidized SPCA clinic.  Having your vetting performed with a personal vet is going to cost quite a bit more.  When all is said and done, paying for your own vetting can cost you between $495 - $630.  And while you are sure to receive the best possible care that a personal vet can provide, for those who are on a budget and looking for a "free" pet, "free" just got rather expensive.  Even the cheapest method of going through a low cost mobile vet for vaccinations and going to a non-profit group like Kitti Co for the spay or neuter is going to cost you $109.  If the mobile vet does not test for FIV and Leline Leukemia,  you'll need to have that test performed at a vet's office, which will tack on not only a $55 office visit, but another $35 for the test, bringing your total to $199.

So what exactly are you saving if you adopt?  Quite a lot actually.  Average adoption fees for cats in the Dallas area seem to average between $55 and $125.  The same area seems to average between $85 and $285 for dogs.  If you adopt from a rescue that guarantees all the vetting no matter what age you adopt, your out of pocket for vetting will be confined to illness after adoption and the annual boosters.  However, some rescues only pay for the spay/neuter and whatever vaccinations are due at the time of adoption.  In this case, you would be responsible for the rest of the vaccinations due.  Adopting an 8 week old kitten from a rescue may still end up costing you a little in vetting shortly after adoption.  So ask those questions.  Make sure you know what you are getting with your adoption fee.  Even still, with having to cover those last vaccinations on your own, you will come in at well under the cost of a "free" kitten who requires all of its vetting.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Archive Fridays - 6/19/06

This week's Archive blog introduces Flo.  What a sweetheart!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Looking for a new furry family member? How to be prepared. Pt 3 - Buying from a Breeder

It's been a while since my last installment of this series.  I've been thinking a lot about how I can write this piece responsibly.  And honestly, it's been a little hard.  On the one hand, I believe very firmly in a person's right to choose a path they want to take, so I am not going to just omit this post as I would kind of like to do. On the other hand, I would never ever recommend that someone buy a puppy or kitten, and the more I learn about the small animal business, I'm actually reluctant to recommend purchasing a small animal from a store as well.

The reality is that none of the pets sold in a store come from responsible breeders.  There are a very small hand full of stores who work with small mom and pop breeding operations, but they are rare.  Actually, the pet you purchase is more likely to have been bred in a large scale operation and have been warehoused inhumanely at least once.  And if an animal is known to have been inhumanely housed at least once, it is not an overreaction to assume it may have been inhumanely housed for most of its life or that it may have serious health problems.  Many of us thought this only happened with puppy and kitten mills, but the raid of a North Texas exotic animal warehouse in 2009 showed the rest of us the light.

Though all of this said, I cannot go all the way out on a limb and say that ALL breeders are irresponsible as PETA and other animal welfare groups believe.  I do believe that there are a handful of breeders out there who produce healthy, well cared for litters with all the veterinary care that should be given before sale.  While I hope that everyone will stop purchasing pets and only adopt so we can keep our pet population down, if you're bound and determined to purchase a "pure bred" from a breeder, these small, honest operations are the way to go.

By now I hope you have gone over the pros and cons of adoption vs. purchase and if you have still decided that you must purchase from a breeder, do not purchase unless you have done the following things:
  • Visit the breeding facility.  Responsible breeders will allow you to see their facility and will allow you to see the mother of the litter.  If the father of the litter is on site, they will allow that also.  It is important for you to see the stock your pet comes from so you can anticipate any problems.  If the breeder will not allow this, walk away.  This should be an absolute 100% deal breaker.  But if you are allowed a visit, you should: 
    • Look for a clean facility.  A dirty kennel or home where the puppies are raised could be a sign of neglect and possible ill health.  This is not to say that farmers who raise their puppies outside are neglectful of their litters.  The point is you need to look for how waste is disposed of and signs of being removed in a timely manner.  You don't have to expect the care takers to pick up after every stool, but if there is a large pile of excrement left unattended for what looks like more than a day, you could have problems.  Any sign of neglect of cleanliness and care should be a deal breaker.
    • Discern the age and health of the parents.  It is cruel to allow animals to continue producing litters when they are past their prime.  Breeding into old age endangers their health and increases the risk of something going wrong. You are looking for a responsible breeder and thus someone who has the presence of mind to only breed when the adults are in good health and of a prime age.  This is the sign of someone who truly wants to do the right thing by their animals.  Signs of forcing older, less healthy animals into breeding should be a deal breaker.
    • Watch the behavior of the parents.  Sometimes there are behavioral issues which are inherited.  This is not to say that all animals inherit their parents' behavior.  That's just not true.  But occasionally, they will.  I speak about this from experience.  I grew up with a beautiful Labrador Retriever who my mom described as "squirrely".  In layman's terms, he was afraid of a lot of things and that fear could sometimes manifest into undesirable behavior.  Apparently his mother also had the very same "squirrely" personality.  Actually, she was a bit worse.  Had my mother realized the behavior would be passed down, she would never have brought home our dog.  She would have chosen another breeder.  In addition, signs of aggression and fear in the parents could also point to neglect and mishandling.  Neglect and mishandling can also lead to large vet and training bills when you find out you can't handle the issues.  Though our dog was loved and adored and we worked with his issues, a family with little knowledge of these kinds of quirks may have grown frustrated and given him up.  The point here, is to make sure the pet you choose is with you for its whole life, so choose well.  
  • Ask for references.  A good breeder will have happy customers, so it should not be a problem for them to have at least one or two of those happy customers vouch for them.  Many exclusive show breeders have no qualms asking you for your references, so do not feel as if you can't be proactive yourself and ask for theirs.
  • Ask if you can attend a vet visit.  A good breeder will only offer healthy puppies and kittens.  They'll have begun administering their vaccinations and will have had them checked over by a vet in the process of getting those vaccinations.  If the breeder isn't comfortable with you attending the visit for the litter, offer to meet them at your vet for the single kitten/puppy to have a check-up.  If you are paying for a pet, you have the right to know if it is healthy.  Having a breeder balk at this isn't as much of a deal breaker as the refusal to allow a site visit, but gauge the reaction to your asking.  If they are appalled, you may want to find another breeder.  I would take an absolute refusal with no reason as a sign that they have something to hide.  If they are very forthcoming with the medical records and have a decent reason, use your own judgement.
  • Ask what happens if the pet ends up being sickly.  If you get home and, for example, your puppy ends up with parvo.  What happens?  Are you refunded the money you paid?  Will the breeder pay for the vet care?  Will they demand the pet back?  These are all questions you should ask.  Returning the pet isn't always the best idea.  Especially if you begin to have second thoughts about the breeder.  The most important thing is getting the pet the proper care.  Sending it back may not be the avenue for proper care.
And after all of this pre-purchase preparation, you should still expect to take the pet to your own vet for a first check up with someone you trust, unless you really hit the gold mine and the breeder let you do that in the first place.

Purchasing a pet responsibly is not an impulse event.  It takes time and research.  It takes even more such time and research since you can't trust people anymore to do right by the pets they are selling.  And I have to say that makes me angry.  Even if I wasn't an animal rescuer, as a potential customer, it makes me angry that I could be sold a sick animal who could break me financially because a breeder was neglectful and a vendor was a liar about where the pet came from.  Make no mistake, even though large scale breeding operations who supply pets to pet stores are USDA licensed, they are not regulated very well at all.  The facility may receive warnings for issues, but it could be years before the USDA follows up on those issues.  In the mean time, hundreds of pets have been bred and sold.  Some states are putting forth new laws to regulate these breeders.  In Texas, we have the Texas Humane Legislation Network trying to get legislation passed for us.  Missouri was successful in passing their own legislation this year.

Here is a good FAQ from the Humane Society of the United States that addresses questions like "what states have puppy mill laws?"; "I bought a puppy and she got sick. What can I do?"; "Isn't it against the law to sell a sick puppy?"  The more you know about this issue, the better prepared you are for making your decision.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Archive Fridays

When I first started fostering pregnant mom's and their kittens, I began a blog over at Live Journal so my fellow fosters and friends could keep up with their progress.  I haven't posted on that particular blog since 1998 because of the confines of the Live Journal commenting rules.  I wanted to expand to a more public space.  Now the time has come to let that old Live Journal account go.  To be honest, I had almost forgotten it existed.

So in honor of my original foster blog, I'll be posting those archived posts over here as I move them over.  I'll post one every Friday until the entire story over there is placed over here.  I hope you'll  join me for my weekly looks down memory lane.

The first installment is here.  Foster Kitty Flo was a great first mama for me.  I adored her babies.  I hope you enjoy the story.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Party Snag

I bet you're wondering where Part 3 of my series on finding a pet for the Holidays is aren't you?  Well, Part 3 is the section on Buying a pet and I'm really having trouble putting that one together.  It's really taking a lot of thought due to my personal feelings on the matter and I have a lot on my plate right now.  I'm crossing my fingers I can have it ready next week.

In the meantime, this is my latest drama.

I'm going to this fabulous Victorian Christmas Ball in Waxahachie, TX on Saturday.  I'm pretty excited about it.  Several of us from the DFW Costumers Guild have been dying to attend a proper ball.  So this is just the ticket for us historical costuming geeks.  And I already made an appropriate dress, so all was good.  There would be no fighting to make something new.  I could focus on the mini-garb for my niece and nephew.  Well, that's what I thought.  Until I tried the dress on last night.

Oh dear.  I was aware I had gained weight back from what I had lost over the last year, but didn't realize how much that weight would affect my red victorian dress.  It was bad.  Since these types of dresses are made to fit really well in the first place, gaining weight is not a good thing.  I barely was able to hook the bodice closed and there were gaps at the closures.  NO BUENO!!!  Just about the only way I can wear that dress now is to make a front piece to hide the closure.  Ok, no problem, that's a relatively cheap and realistic plan to pull off in the little amount of time that I have.  Then I looked at it again and noticed the Huge rip in the off the shoulder strap on one side.  And I also noticed many other parts that need to be replaced or covered due to damage from wear.  So in short, the whole bodice really needs to be replaced.  And I don't have the funds for new red silk right now.

In my panic, I started hatching a plan for just getting a lot of heavy lace to sew to the neckline and shoulders and then figure out something to cover the closure area.  But the more I thought about it, the more I really just wasn't buying that look with the natural form fan skirt that went with it, which is also a little plain.  I mean, I'd have to do a lot of work to make it look like it wasn't a hasty addition.  At this point, the plan ended up turning into a major expense and a bit of a handsewing project.

BAH!!!!

The party is Saturday, remember?  Three Days!  Actually, less than that since I work a full time job and have little time after work to sew.

But even as I was lamenting my problem, true insanity took over and the Holy Fabric Stash came to the rescue.  It's funny how these little devils start speaking into your ear about what you might be able to accomplish if only you listened to their cracked-out plan.  At that moment I remembered a nice piece of royal blue taffeta-like material that was handed down to me from someone else's stash purge.  Yes, those little devils won and I was energized with a new crazy plan.  The tag on the fabric
 said there was about 2 1/2 yds.  Hmmmm, what could I do with that?  I knew it was enough for a Truly Victorian August Overskirt even though the pattern calls for 2 3/4 yds.  But what else?  Was there any hope that I could also fit a bodice into the remaining fabric?  Let me tell you, folks, I was so determined it would work at that moment that I went for it.  I found my Truly Victorian Ballgown Basque Bodice pattern and I started puzzling.  By the grace of the Holy Fabric Stash, and those crazy little devils, I was able to just barely eek out that bodice.  It's gonna be sleeveless and I'm going to have to patch a small amount of fabric on the back tails, but nobody's going to be paying attention to them since they'll be overpowered by the bustle just underneath.  And later I can use some trim to cover it if I want.


Now I'm sitting at my desk waiting for lunch time to come around so I can go across the street to Joann's Fabric to buy something for an underskirt.  I'm using my Truly Victorian 1870s Underskirt pattern.  It's the exact underskirt I used with the August Overskirt years ago when I made my Mina Blue dress.  I also need some tulle for a trick I just learned to stiffen the bustle part of the overskirt for a little more poof.  And I'm looking for some lace for the neckline.  And buttons.  I don't think I have the time to wait for Saturday morning to visit the Button Man on Perth Street.  I guess that will just really depend on how cheaply I can get everything.  I may just be making a trip to Perth at 9am if the buttons I want are expensive at Joann's


Will I finish in time for the Ball on Saturday night?  Who knows.  I can always go back to the old reliable pink polonaise if I don't finish.  It's not formal, but it will work in a real pinch. 


Am I crazy to think I can knock this dress out in such a short time when I've never been able to do it previously?  Absolutely, but I'll never know if I don't try and I know I'll be sitting at the Ball disappointed that I didn't at least try.  I'd rather show up in something lesser because I failed than show up in something lesser because I gave up and didn't even try.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Looking for a new furry family member? How to be prepared. Pt 2 - Adoption

If you read Part 1 of this series, or any of my blog really, you know I am a big fan of adoption.  Growing up, my family raised both cattle dogs as well as AKC show dogs.  Now that I am an adult, I am very involved in animal rescue.  So I've seen both sides of the coin.  And as I got older and started talking with my Mom about Puppy Mills, she's shared with me some of the fraud she saw happen in the dog breeding world that she didn't think I needed to know as a child.  She's right, I wouldn't' have retained that knowledge as a child, but knowing as an adult has must made me even more fervent of a supporter of Adoption.


Now you've done your research and you've decided you want to adopt.  Wonderful!  Now what?

You can go to just about any Veterinarian clinic or Pet Store in town and find flier for pets up for adoption.  Or you may see a rescue set up in the parking lot or store operating an Adopt-a-Pet.  There is absolutely no shortage of animals to adopt.  You may find a shortage of puppies or kittens at some points of the year, but there are always a plethora of animals of just about any age to adopt at any time.  In fact, in some places, like the DFW Metroplex, the sheer number of rescues offering pets for adoption can be dizzying.  But there are plenty of fun and stress-free ways for you to go about finding your perfect pet, so don't let the number of available pets overwhelm you.


  • Petfinder is a handy pet search website that allows you to choose what kind of pet you want to adopt and your location and then the program does a lot of the legwork for you.  If you know what kind of pet you are looking for, this service is a great tool to find all the available animals in your area, then all you need to do is call the rescues and set up an appointment to visit.  The search gets even easier if you have an idea of what sex or specific traits you want.  Once you find a pet you like, you can e-mail the rescue right there from the pet's profile page.  Most rescues use Petfinder to list their available pets.  And Petfinder continues to try making the search more accessable for potential adoptors.  There's an App for that.  Really.  Someone developed an iphone app for petfinder searches.  

  • Adopt-A-Pet events are many rescues' bread and butter.  Some rescues have shelter facilities they adopt from as well, but many do not and the regular adopt-a-pet events are their sole source for adoptions.  Many rescues increase those events during the Holidays in anticipation of families wanting to adopt  for Christmas so it should be easy to find one in your area.  Just look for any Petsmart or other pet store which does not sell animals and you should find what you are looking for.  And since most rescues operate on sparse volunteer hours, you can bet that you will see pets at each event that are new and never make it to their website or Petfinder.  So if you don't find what you are looking for online, visiting in person may help you find what you are looking for.
  • Contacting rescues directly is also a good idea to find what you are looking for.  E-mailing or calling rescues directly will get you the most up to minute information on their roster of pets and you don't have to wait for an event.  If the rescue doesn't have a facility and you do still have to wait for an event to meet the pet, at least you can get your name down as an interested party and you can ask what needs to be done so that the pet isn't adopted before you can meet it.  And sometimes adoption screening can be started over the phone saving you more time when you meet the potential new pet.  If you are at a loss as to who the rescues are in your area, go right back to Petfinder and search for rescues in your area.  If there are rescues in your area using Petfinder, they will pop up on the list with contact information.  And like I mentioned, most rescues use Petfinder as a listing service.
Once you have found a pet that you are interested in adopting, talk to the rescue.  Ask questions.  This pet is coming into your home as a family member, so don't be afraid to ask any and all questions you may have.  Good rescue volunteers wish to make a perfect match just as much as you do.  They are not in this for the money like breeders are.  When you ask questions, volunteers are able to make sure the pet you have chosen is a perfect fit for your home.  Here are some great questions you can ask when you are talking with a rescue:
  • Is this pet ok with kids/cats/dogs?  If you have either of these family members in the question, this should be the first question you ask.  Sometimes the adoptable pet will not have been exposed to one or all of the above, but when they are, it is very helpful to know how they reacted.  And even if the potential pet hasn't been exposed, someone should know whether the pet has a risk of reacting adversely to any of those family members in the home.  A dog who can only focus on the flashy squirrel tail in the back yard may not be a good fit for a home with a flighty cat.  A pet of any kind who has food sharing issues may not be appropriate for a home with a small child, or another dog for that matter.
  • I have a doggy door, do you allow indoor/outdoor adoptions?  I would say that this is the second question you should ask if you have a pet door or are planning to let your adopted cat go in and out.  There are rescues who will deny adoption based on indoor/outdoor homes unless you meet specific criteria.  I know this sounds harsh, but this is because many people lose their cats every day when they allow them outdoors to play.  Rescues want their pets to live the longest life possible and they don't want to risk a new family losing a cat they have adopted from them.  I suggest you ask this question sooner rather than later so you don't get attached to a pet and then are told at the end of the interview process that you are not approved.  Volunteers don't like telling you that anymore than you like hearing it, so it's best just to get it out of the way early.  But don't give up immediately.  Ask about cat fences.  Some of the rescues who have issues with allowing cats outdoors will approve homes with cat fences.  If you are planning on installing a cat fence, bring the literature with you to show the rescue you are serious about the cat's safety.  Research and honesty goes a long way with volunteers during your adoption interview.  
  • Is this pet up to date with it's shots?  Some rescues guarantee all shots upon adoption.  Others only guarantee the minimum required for the city.  A great example of this is the Feline Leukemia vaccination for cats.  Some rescues simply do not have the resources to provide this vaccination.  It is important for you to know what shots have and have not been given.  If you plan to travel with or board your pet this is especially important.  Boarding facilities have differing requirements and they will require shot records to prove what vaccinations your pet has received.  Airlines will likewise require shot records.
  • Is this pet spayed/neutered?  Most rescues will already guarantee that the pet is spayed or neutered upon adoption.  Some will allow you to take the pet home if it is too young for such surgery, some will not.  It is important that you know the status of your pet's alteration.  Having a surprise litter when you assumed the pet would be altered is no fun.  And part of the beauty of adopting a pet is that it has already been altered at no cost to you.  It is quite costly to foot the bill for a spay or neuter on your own.  In part 4 of this series, I'll discuss that price comparison further.
  • Is this pet microchipped?  Just like certain vaccinations, some rescues do not have the resources to microchip their animals.  But it is such a wonderful bonus if they can.  I suggest that everyone think about getting their pet chipped whether the rescue provides it or not.  We are only human and pets are fast.  As a pet parent who has had a lightning fast cat fly out the door and not be seen for a week, I can say that chipping is one more avenue to ease worry.  Pets can slip their collars when they are out and if a rescuer or animal control officer, or even neighbor doesn't see a collar, a microchip is the only link you have to your lost pet.
  • How do I register my microchip?  It is all well and good to adopt a pet with a chip, or to have your pet chipped yourself.  But if you don't register the chip under your name with the chips registry, you may as well have inserted a pebble under the pet's skin for all the good it will do you.  Pets with existing microchips are most often registered to the vet or to the rescue organization.  You need to register the animal under your name with your information.  And don't forget to renew that registration when it expires!
  • What food has this pet been eating?  Many people don't realize this, but it is just as important to know this detail as it is to know the shot records of your new pet.  Changing a food cold turkey can cause all kinds of stomach upset.  That includes the dreaded diarrhea and the gas bombs of death!  No matter what your thoughts on food quality and price, always start your new pet on the same food they were eating in the rescue.  You can gradually change the food over time to whatever you want, provided they don't have special dietary needs with special food requirements.
  • What Veterinarian can you recommend in my area?  If you don't already have a trusted family Vet, this can be a very important question.  Most rescues have a favorite vet, or even a number of favorite vets.  And if the rescues are using those vets for all of their veterinary needs, then you can be sure there is a continuity of care.  In addition, many rescues have a necessity to use lower cost Vets, so if your rescue has a favorite, you just may be getting the best Vet for the money in the area.
Think you're ready to adopt now?  I hope so!  So many pets need adoptive homes.  It is my hope that one day most people will adopt as well as spay and neuter their pets, so we can bring down this giant number in the pet population.  I can only hope that if we do that the population of pets available will be healthier and happier.  And healthy and happy pets make very good pets.

In Part 3 of this series I will discuss Breeders and what to look for when going about purchasing a puppy from a responsible breeder.