Was I Not Good Enough? … What Did I Do Wrong?

In the last few months at the animal rescue organisation we volunteer at Aniwell, there have been a number of dogs returned. The first one being Charlie, but more recently there have been 2 others who are now in back foster care. With this in mind I thought I’d share this with you..

Charlie – Nov 2011


My family brought me home one day,

All cradled in their arms.

They cuddled me and smiled at me

And praised me for my puppy charms.


They played with me and pampered me

And showered me with toys.

With all that fun and laughter

There was so much to enjoy.


The children used to feed me,

They gave me special treats

I even got to sleep with them,

All cuddled in their sheets.


I used to get their laughs and praise

When playing with that old shoe

But did not know the difference

Between that and a pair of Jimmy Choo’s.


The kids and I would grab old socks

And for hours we would tug,

Didn’t I do the right thing

When I chewed the Persian rug?

Charlie – January 2012 (back with us in foster care)


They said that I was boisterous

And I had grown far too big

Suddenly I was banished outside

And the boredom made me dig


The walks grew less and less

They said they hadn’t the time

I wish I could have changed things

But didn’t know my crime.


They returned me to the shelter

My spirit broken and my eyes asking why

They mumbled a bunch of excuses

And then suddenly kissed me goodbye.


~ by PetPickings.com ~

Dedicated to all the animals who find themselves being returned to shelters around the country and around the world. Charlie has found his “fur-ever” home with us at PetPickings.com, however Digit his brother and friend Muppet (pictured above) are still looking for their second chance. Email adoptions@aniwell.org.za for more information if you think you can offer Digit and / or Muppet a happily-ever-after ending to their story.

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The PetPickings.com “No Kill Revolution” Starts With YOU!

Animal overpopulation is everyone’s problem. Nothing happens without leadership. Achieving no kill success in your community depends on individuals like yourself willing to take responsibility. This does not mean looking for “someone to do something”.

That “someone” is you!


Stop thinking that there’s nothing you can do to assist the thousands of homeless animals. We all live busy lives, but we can all do something. Here are some things you can do:

  • Set the example first. Spay and neuter your all of your pets!
  • Chose to adopt a pet from a shelter instead of buying one from a breeder, back yard breeder, pet shop, puppy farm.
  • Strongly discourage friends and family from allowing their pets to breed. Where are all those puppies and kittens going to find homes? If they are all homed, that’s fewer homes available for the shelter pets that face euthanasia.
  • On your birthday, instead of gifts, ask for bags of dog or cat food and donate these to the local shelter.
  • Donate some bedding or money to purchase much needed items for a rescue organisation near you.
  • Share the pictures you see on the internet and Facebook of homeless animals that so desperately need a home. You’d be amazed how many rescued pets have found loving homes this way.
  • Spend just one morning a month volunteering at your local shelter. They are always in need of help to spend one-on-one time with the animals. Take the dogs for a walk around the grounds, play with them, bath them, play with the kitties etc …
  • See what repairs or maintenance needs to be done at your local registered rescue organisation and share your handyman talents.
  • Some animals don’t fare well in kennels, which does not bode well for them. Ask about becoming a foster parent. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. Some organisations that don’t have kennelling facilities rely solely on their network of fosters to be able to rescue animals from dire circumstances.
  • If you see an act of cruelty report it to the authorities – don’t turn a blind eye. Follow up with them to make sure it has been dealt with.
  • We can all say we love animals, but how often do we contribute to the wellbeing of animals? Stand up for what you believe in. Be their voice.
  • Educate people about what it means to be a responsible pet owner.

If we each individually take responsibility, we can win the “No Kill Revolution”.  Your effort could mean the difference between life or death for an unwanted pet, whose only “crime” was to be born.


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PetPickings.com “No Kill” Revolution Starts Today!

Nothing happens without leadership. Current media reports indicate that over 10,000 dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters across South Africa each week due to the lack of homes available for them. This equates to 40,000 per month and close on half a million every year. Simply because there aren’t enough homes to adopt them.

The difference between them being dead ... or sleeping ... is YOU!

So what can be done about it? We all need to quit sitting on the fence and thinking that there is nothing we can do to assist homeless dogs and cats, as there is ALWAYS something you can do. Achieving “No Kill” success in our communities depends on individuals willing to take responsibility. This does not mean looking for “someone to do something.” That “someone” is you. You need to make the decision to take the lead and recruit your family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Through this blog and our PetPickings.com Facebook Page, we’ll show you how to become a warrior and most importantly a hero in our revolution.

“Individually we are one drop, but collectively we are an ocean.” ~ Ryunosuke Satoro ~

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” ~ Mother Teresa ~

Due to the lack of available accurate and up to date collated statistics in South Africa, PetPickings.com is currently undertaking a study / research project to consolidate up to date information on the animals across shelters in South Africa. Once the study is complete, this information will be published in this blog.

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I Have A Dream …

In the prophetic words of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech:

“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream …”

Like Martin Luther King I too have a dream. My dream is that one day animal shelters will no longer have to euthanize thousands of unclaimed and unwanted pets every year due to numbers and lack of capacity. I have a dream that one day animal shelters will be empty and that every animal will have a place on this earth, in someone’s heart … in someone’s home.

Animal overpopulation is EVERYONES’ problem. Most people haven’t witnessed the euthanasia of a frightened and confused dog who was once someone’s pet only to be discarded like garbage in a strange, noisy and harsh environment. It’s heart breaking. His only crime … he was unwanted and one too many. In Greensboro, North Caronlina (USA) Sheriff BJ Barnes, frustrated and upset at learning that more than 75% of the animals entering the local shelter were being killed, decided to televise the euthanasia of a dog on his weekly show.  Viewers were shocked, but they also got the message and as a result there was an increase in sterilisations and adoptions from the local shelter skyrocketed. We too published a non graphic video clip this week (Buy 1 … Kill 1) which may have upset some people, but successfully drives this point home on our PetPickings.com Facebook Page.

Statistics both locally and abroad show that of the millions that enter shelters, only about half make it out alive. Figures coming out of the USA where statistics are more readily available, show that more than 12 million cats and dogs enter their shelters annually, an endless tide of incoming animals. Of these, nearly a quarter million animals are euthanised each and every month. That’s 405 every hour. One every nine seconds.

The Wikipedia definition of “Euthanasia” is “Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering.” It literally means “good death” which is usually interpreted to mean a quick, painless and humane method of dying.  It is self-evident that death should also be in the best interests of the animal.  The decision to euthanize a chronically ill or overly aggressive (ie: unadoptable animal) is relatively uncomplicated to make. The sad reality however is that millions of healthy, friendly, adorable, loving and very adoptable animals also end up in shelters … but there just aren’t enough homes available for all of them. It is the heartbreaking task of shelters to select those who will be placed in the adoption kennels.  Animals who have been in the adoption kennel too long … and all the rest who never had the chance, are taken to the euthanasia room.

The local shelter is too often the last stop for a dog or cat.  Shelters around the country have been put into this unenviable position by the irresponsible breeding of far too many animals.  Puppy mills, pet shops, backyard breeders and “responsible” hobby breeders, people who simply won’t, don’t bother or “forget” to have their animals spayed or neutered, pet food companies who subsidize unregistered breeders with free samples and discount coupons, and the cat and dog breed “clubs” that encourage breeding – all contribute to this massive problem. These shocking statistics don’t include the countless thousands of animals who never make it to the shelter, but are abandoned to live and die on the streets or in a back yard.

It is a sad fact that when a human being chooses to create a relationship with another living being, then fails to live up to the responsibilities that go with that relationship, we allow the human to simply walk away guilt-free – it is always the animal who pays 100%  of the price for the human’s errors. The animal pays with his life.


We all have to work together. With continued hard work, dedication and public education, I believe that the problem can be minimised, if not solved. If those who are creating the problem would take full responsibility, we could reach the ultimate goal, which is to eliminate the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals much faster. This can realistically only be done through legislation and although it is being pushed by the local rescue centres, it is unlikely to happen any time soon.

The solution is very simple, but requires the participation of everyone, including you. It all boils down to the most fundamental laws of economics – supply and demand. If there is no demand, the supply will dwindle as there is no financial gain.

So, what can you do to help?


  1. Buy animals from vendors on the street – there is an overbred, malnourished, abused mother where they came from.
  2. Buy animals in pet stores, as there is a puppy / kitten mill where they came from.
  3. Buy animals from backyard breeders. If you do, you’ll only be  encouraging them to breed more to make further profits.



  1. Adopt from a registered non profit rescue organisation / local shelter. You’re saving two lives in the process – the life of the animal you have just adopted and the life of the animal who has filled the freed up place.
  2. Sterilise your pets BEFORE they reach sexual maturity.
  3. Foster a pet on behalf of a non profit rescue organisation. If more individuals stepped up to foster pets until they found their permanent homes, there would be more space made available at the shelters, resulting in fewer euthanasias.
  4. Become a hero and sponsor a sterilisation with your local rescue organisation. In Cape Town there is a rescue organisation for whom we foster kittens called Aniwell that have a ‘sterilisation club’ called Steriwell through which you can sponsor a sterilisation for just R250 and actually get to meet the animal whose life you changed on their Facebook page and receive credit for it.
  5. Educate your neighbours, your colleagues, your family, your friends. Advise them to adopt from a local shelter. Discourage them from breeding their pets and encourage them to sterilise them instead.

Together, we can make a difference. Please … help me make my dream and that of thousands of suffering / abandoned animals come true.

All of the photographs in this article were taken by Photographer Andreas Holm who made a small collaboration called Shelter Dogs with The Toby Project in New York. www.tobyproject.org

The cartoons in this article are by NHR Cartoons.

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The Magic Of Fostering A Pet

Curly & Moe

Early Friday evening I bid fond farewell and loving goodbye to our 3 porky little foster kittens, who now at 9 weeks of age were eligible to ‘fly the nest’ to their new adoptive homes. I had collected this particular brood from a ‘house of horrors’ late on a Saturday night just over 6 weeks ago following an emergency phone call from a rescue organisation I foster for. At the time they were cold, stressed, exhausted, filthy, starved and possibly sick. Many people may ask why … why foster?

Fostering a needy pet is a richly rewarding experience. I won’t deny that it can be an emotional and often difficult experience that isn’t for everyone, but for those that can and do … it’s an experience that lives on in your heart time after time. In our case, we take in orphaned, underage kittens as we have a household full of pets who enjoy their quiet, over indulged lifestyle and aren’t terribly keen on having a whirlwind young dog pounce its way into their lives. Some of the orphaned kittens are so young and malnourished that they initially need bottle feeding every 2 to 3 hours. What warm hearted person wouldn’t want a continuous stream of the cutest babies to care for and nurture whilst they grow into adorable and adoptable little munchkins?


There are thousands of ‘invisible’ pets at shelters around the country. The majority of these shelters are filled to capacity as a result of backyard breeders and irresponsible / uncaring pet owners. Often surrendered or rescued pets that require any attention beyond the basics are euthanised, most often due to time constraints and capacity challenges. Rescued pets that are sick, too young, stressed out or unsocialized aren’t the best candidates for adoption. Pets rescued with behavioural issues resulting from abuse and neglect, are injured, temporary ill or simply orphaned face a bleak outcome without the availability of foster homes that can provide the attention and care required to rehabilitate, treat or wean them, thus transforming them into beautiful adoptable pets in the process.

Fostering makes an immeasurable difference for the pets you provide love, rehabilitation and a temporary home to and also for other lost souls at the shelters that may not have had that space available to take take them in. My fosters come in as sad, confused, malnourished, frightened little waifs and leave with their proud adoptive parents as happy, well adjusted, healthy, chubby kittens. Almost without exception I get feedback and photos from the adoptive families to let me know how their new family members have settled in and are doing in general.

If that isn’t a big enough reward, I don’t know what is.

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Top 10 Rules When Adopting A Pet

If you’ve been following our PetPickings.com Facebook page and started following our new PetPickings.com blog you will know that we strongly encourage people to “be part of the solution” by adopting pets from shelters / rescue organisations. Buy from a pet store or unregistered back yard breeder and the problem of ever present puppy / kitten mills is perpetuated, which results in an increased number of unwanted, homeless pets that invariably end up at the already filled shelters … or worse … suffering at the hands of uneducated humans who don’t want them, can’t care for them or resent / abuse them. This article is written from the perspective of adopting a dog from a shelter, however the same principles apply to any pet – eg: cats

Many people believe that rescued dogs are ‘damaged goods’ and therefore feel it would be best to buy a dog from another source that seemingly sell dogs that don’t or shouldn’t have ‘issues’. The truth however is that responsible (registered) rescue organisations / shelters work diligently in rehabilitating these lost and abandoned souls to ensure that the adoptive family takes home a well balanced pet whose only yearning is for a loving family, warm bed and a full belly.

Shelters are stressful environments for the pets that find themselves there, so I thought I would give you some insight into how to approach choosing a dog in this type of environment. Here are some things that you need to consider and do when adopting from a shelter:

1. Family dynamics

Everyone in the home should be excited and happy about getting a new dog. This includes any existing pets that you may already have at home. Is your existing pet friendly towards other dogs? If you see a dog that you like, observe him with other dogs / cats before you bring him home. If he doesn’t get along with others at the shelter, he most likely will not get along with yours either. Also keep in mind that it would be inconsiderate to get a young boisterous puppy when there is an old geriatric pet in the home. It would also be potentially dangerous to get a small breed puppy if you have very young children at home, as little pups are more prone to injury with clumsy and inexperienced handling.

2. Be realistic

Do your research and think carefully about what type of dog you and your family can handle before you go to have a look. An experienced dog owner would be able to cope with a stubborn or assertive personality calmly and more constructively than an inexperienced person. Be honest, is your family made up of mostly “Duracell bunnies” or “coach potatoes”? An active family that goes for regular walks in the forest or hikes up the mountain will get much pleasure from an active dog that will equally benefit from and partake in their lifestyle activities. A more sedentary family with a hyperactive dog however could lead to much frustration and destructive behaviour on the part of the dog. One of the reasons many Jack Russell Terriers sadly end up at shelters.

3. Time factors

 Do you and your family have the time and energy levels needed to be consistent in handling and training a puppy? If you’re not sure, then the answer is probably no. Although puppies are absolutely adorable with their puppy breath and adorable “doey” eyes, keep in mind that puppyhood is the shortest period of a dog’s life. A dog is a puppy from birth to eight months, then an adolescent from eight months to three years. Why is this so important? In a blink of an eye this puppy will physically resemble a grown-up dog and unless you’ve invested considerable time and patient energy, your puppy will be a troublesome adolescent. Don’t pick a puppy if the novelty will wear off once it no longer looks like a puppy.

If you don’t have the time to invest in raising a puppy into a well balanced dog, it may be an idea to consider adopting an adult dog instead. Divorce or death can leave a middle-aged or senior dog without a home. Generally they’re well house trained, don’t find joy in dragging towels, chewing up your slippers or ripping up a newspaper, they tend to be more settled and calm, and are usually easy to take for walks or a drive in the car.

Think long and hard about the kind of dog that will be best for you and your family, speak to an animal behaviourist for advice … and only then start hitting the shelters.

4. Consult your ‘secret weapon’

It’s never a good idea to charge head long into adopting a dog based on its looks alone – because he’s cute looking, because he has blue eyes, because he has big floppy ears. You need to ensure that his personality will compliment your existing family dynamic. The only way to start finding a dog that will be a part of your family is to make a point of meeting with the animal shelter workers and asking them which dogs are their favourite and why. Shelter staffers are an adopter’s secret weapon as they handle the dogs on a daily basis and know each one’s quirks and personality. Shelter workers are also eager for the best possible outcome for their charges, so are more than willing to share everything they know.

5. Introduction

If the shelter’s policy allows you to walk through to the kennel area, don’t judge the dogs by their initial reaction. Keep in mind that you are a stranger to them, so most dogs will be barking excitedly creating a loud din in an already stressful kennel environment. The dogs are merely reacting to the call of the other dogs and they shouldn’t be judged by this initial behaviour in the kennel, as it is not an accurate reflection of the dogs’ true personality. For this very reason, many shelters do not allow you to aimlessly wonder through their kennels “browsing”, but rather interview you first to ascertain what dog would best suit you and your family circumstances and then bring the best suited dogs out to you in a quieter, more serene environment. Remember however that you’re not shopping for a shirt of a certain size and colour, but looking for an addition to your family that has an individual personality with likes, dislikes and requirements.

6. Eye contact

The manner in which dogs communicate through eye contact is very different to humans. The more dominant dog in any group or pack uses eye contact as a way of managing the other pack members. Direct eye contact is seen as a challenge to the alpha dog, who may themselves use direct eye contact to signal displeasure with another subordinate dog. Eye contact between socially equal dogs signals interest and even excitement and is often seen when greeting each other or when playing. With this in mind, when looking through the kennels initially or first meeting a prospective dog avoid making sustained direct eye contact. Cesar Millan, the internationally reknown dog trainer, agrees and takes it one step further. When you meet a shelter dog for the first time he suggests a no-touch, no-talk, no-eye-contact rule. “Ignore the dog,” he says, “but stand or sit close to him, so he can get used to your presence [and scent]. Save the eye contact for when you really know each other better.”

 7. Invest time

Don’t rush your decision in choosing the right dog for your family, after all an adoption is for life. Take the family along to meet the potential prospects at the shelter and that includes your current dog. Most shelters that are well organised are happy to facilitate introductions of your existing family pet with the potential new addition. Once you have narrowed your choice of dogs down to two or three, ask if you can take each one for a short leash walk in the grounds. You can learn a great deal about a dog’s energy and personality during a 10-minute walk. If you have the opportunity, return to see the dog on a second day, at a different time of day, to determine if there are behaviour variations.

 8. What to avoid

Try to avoid rush hour at the shelter if possible. Weekends and afternoons are likely to be busy and potentially crowded, which can excite or agitate the dogs. It will also allow you less time to spend consulting the shelter staff about each dog that interests you, as they will be particularly busy. Instead, go in the middle of the week when it’s a bit slower and you can spend as much time as you need to make sure the dog you’re considering is a good fit for you and your family.

9. “Brakking” beautiful

Pavement specials / mixed-breed / Africanis dogs (what ever you prefer to call them) often make the best pets because they carry the great traits of all of the breeds in their make-up. It is widely believed that mixed breeds are generally healthier than purebreds, due to their decreased risk of passing along recessive genes. Some Pit Bull mixes also often find themselves in shelters around the country, so please be open to the Pit or Pit mix possibility. The main and most endearing trait in Pit Bulls is their loyalty to their guardians. They are intensely loyal dogs that are grossly misunderstood and deserve to have devoted, caring owner who is worthy of that intense loyalty. Their bad reputation stems from irresponsible owners. There’s also a theory that adopted shelter dogs are smarter and happier than those dogs born into more privileged circumstances, but I’ll leave that for you to decide! :-)

 10. Follow Nike’s advice

Once you’ve completed all your prep work, are ready and have made your decision, go to the shelter and ‘Just Do It!’ You don’t want to risk walking away from the dog who could become the most loyal member of your family and your new best friend!

Visit the Cape of Good Hope SPCA’s website for information on their pets available for adoption.

Footnote: We at PetPickings.com are honouring the Pit Bull breed in the month of October which is the birthday month of our very own beloved rescue Pit Bull Bruno. We have taken the liberty of declaring October “National Pit Bull Month”, during which we will be publishing various stories and facts related to Pit Bulls in an attempt to provide a better understanding of this highly misunderstood breed.

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Buy … or Adopt??

With spring officially in the air and spirits lifting out from the cold wintery hibernation blues, a lot of families are looking to share their lives with a furry companion or add to their existing menagerie for those walks in the park, hikes up the mountain or runs on the beach.

Before you commence your search however, I thought I would share some facts with you.

FACT:  Two of the top ranking search phrases on Google are “puppies for sale” and “kittens for sale”.

FACT: Puppy and kitten season is officially upon us in South Africa. Shelters and rescue organisations around the country are already starting to fill up with unwanted, neglected and abandoned litters.


The answer to the above question is simple. Don’t be part of the problem by buying a puppy or a kitten … be part of the solution. ADOPT from your local shelter or rescue organisation.

Here are some reasons why adopting a pet from a shelter is a much better choice than buying puppies or kittens for sale.


  1. Be a hero to two souls - By adopting a pet from a welfare organisation, you have rescued not one, but two lives. The life of the pet you have just adopted and that of another that will fill the place freed up by taking your new family member home. Hundreds of thousands of pets are surrendered to shelters around the country each year. Of those pets less than half are adopted whilst the rest are euthanized in order to make room for others that continuously come in.
  2. Get a healthy pet – Shelter dogs and cats have been spayed, neutered, vaccinated and dewormed before they are adopted out. Many are even microchipped. You will need to check with the rescue organisation that you are adopting from what their policy is.
  3. Save some money – The fee for adopting a shelter cat or dog is normally merely to cover the medical expenses for the services listed above. The adoption fee is a fraction of what it would normally cost had you gone through other channels and still done the responsible thing with regard to vaccinating and sterilizing your pet.
  4. A lifetime of love & loyalty – Rescued pets, that have had less than ideal lives before arriving at the shelter, are immensely loyal and affectionate when taken into a loving and caring environment. Perhaps they intuitively know that they are being given a second chance by a loving and caring family.
  5. Boost your role model status – Teach your children, family members and friends the value of offering second chances, and how one person can make a significant difference in the life of a pet through compassion and caring.
  6. Become a myth buster – Prove that not all pets that end up at shelters have behavioural problems. Whilst some may need some extra care, the majority are normal and will soon become well adjusted to your home and environment. Most shelters work closely with animal behaviourists that screen the pets for behavioural issues prior to adoption and will help you through any challenges that you may experience with your new family member should they arise.
  7. Myth busting cont – There are plenty of pedigree dogs (if that’s your thing) that can be found in shelters and rescue organisations throughout the country. All you have to do is enquire at your local shelters and you’ll be amazed how many are surrendered. Alternately you can also ask faithful Google by typing eg: “border collie rescue” or “labrador rescue” etc … for the local rescue groups and organisations in your area.

So before you type, “puppies for sale” or “kittens for sale” into your next Google search, please pause for a moment to reflect on the points in this article and take the first step in making a real difference in not just one, but two lives by Google searching for “pet rescue” or calling your local SPCA!

If you live in the Cape Town area look up African Tails, Aniwell or Cape Of Good Hope SPCA who have rescues of all shapes and sizes waiting for loving homes!


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