McKenzie Joseph – Friends of SFACC Director of Dev. & Communications

What do you do for Friends of SFACC ?
I started working with Friends of SFACC (Friends) the first week of February, 2020, as a Campaign Manager. My role was to work directly with the Board of Directors and SFACC to raise funds to support the new shelter and multiple Friends-funded programs at SFACC. I am now serving as Director of Development and Communications for Friends. My focus is to continue stewardship of our generous donors and solicit new donors to keep funding the Behavior and Training Program for SFACC, the Rescue Partner Grant program, along with other SFACC needs that are not funded by the City of San Francisco.

How did you become involved with the Friends of SFACC? 
I was not aware of all of the amazing services SFACC provides until I began preparing for this position. When I was looking to adopt my very first dog, SFACC was my first stop, but the day I went all of the available dogs were at an adoption event! I am glad that I was able to experience the old building without knowing about the capital project in the works. In just that short experience, it was obvious how much the animals and people of San Francisco needed and deserved a better facility.

Where did you grow up and have you always been interested in animals?
I grew up in Bakersfield, CA. My dream career as a child was to become a veterinarian because I couldn’t think of anything better than spending all day every day with animals. That dream quickly faded once I realized the tougher sides of being a vet. My parents are Great Dane lovers, and because it gets so hot in Bakersfield, our 100+ pound Great Danes were mostly house dogs, which I loved.  When I was younger, I also had a special fondness for smalls, and I always had either a lizard or turtle as my own pet that I didn’t have to share with my sisters.

Do you have pets of your own? What do you do when you’re not at work?
I share my home with one cat named Sloan and one dog named Grey. Sloan is an independent, lazy, loving, orange kitty who has finally warmed up to sharing his home and his mom with his hyper little sister, Grey. Grey is a mystery breed who came into my life from Family Dog Rescue when I was working for a non-profit in the Bayview. I live in Pacifica, so I spend much of my spare time with Grey either at the beach or hiking.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I can honestly say that I believe in the work SFACC does and find so much joy out of being able to play even the slightest role in their success. Working alongside other like-minded, animal-loving people makes every day a treat.

Grey and Sloan lounging together (Ruff life!)

Emily Buldoc — Animal Care Attendant

Emily Bolduc came to SFACC with the intention of becoming a volunteer. With her background working at a local boarding facility, she was eager to lend her skills to the dogs and cats waiting for homes at the shelter. She never made it as a volunteer. During the orientation, she learned that ACC was hiring a part-time temporary animal care attendant (ACA) and applied for the job. She joined the staff in Dec. of 2019 and became a full-time permanent ACA in July of 2020. Animal care attendants carry out the cycle of an animal’s stay at SFACC: receiving the animal in the lobby; setting them up comfortably in a kennel, cage, or aquarium; providing enrichment (exercise and socialization); administering medicine as directed by the vet staff, and conducting virtual adoption meetings on zoom. ACAs play a critical role in the animal’s chance at a new life.

Back to Emily…growing up in Central Massachusetts, Emily’s family embraced a menagerie of animals: dogs, cats, mice lizards. When she went to college in Rochester to study biotechnology, her roommate had a lab/Rottweiler, Levi, who she helped care for in his twilight years. Emily bonded strongly with the dog and felt the deep responsibility of caring for an animal. The experience might have forged her path to helping animals.

After college, Emily and her boyfriend drove across the country to San Francisco, where her boyfriend was starting a new job. The experience of caring for her roommate’s dog still resonated with her and she took a job at Wag Hotel, where she worked for 6 years, first as an enrichment coordinator, supervising dog play groups, and eventually as a manager. That’s when she decided to head to SFACC to apply as a volunteer (the old location is across the street from WAG). Instead, she applied for the part-time position to cover for staff who were bringing kittens to the Macy’s Windows event (before the shelter-in-place shutdown). “It’s odd that most of my time at SFACC has been during the SIP.”

[caption id="attachment_5754" align="alignright" width="193"] Emily with a kitten she fostered.[/caption]

Emily notes that without volunteers in the building—though they are helping in other ways like fostering and driving transfers—the staff has the opportunity to do more enrichment with the animals directly. “We take the animals out of the kennels and work with them. It gives us the chance to see their personalities out of the kennel and to observe changes in their behavior that we can share with the Behavior and Training team. We can advocate and collaborate in this way, which sets an animal up for success.” As an example, Emily shares the case of King, a pit bull stray with a tendency to become overexcited. Working with techniques guided by B&T, Emily saw progress in King’s interactions with people, which she relayed to the B&T team. They continued to work with King and his interactions with people improved to the point where he was able to be transferred to a rescue partner and charmed his foster family so much, they adopted him.

One of her favorite things to do on the job is take animals out of the kennel and engage them for photo shoots. She likes to capture their personalities with the goal of getting them adopted into the right home. “Showing a dog having a great time in the yard or a cat playing with toys or lounging in a relaxed moment is so much truer to their character than a sad face sitting in a kennel.”

Like many shelter staffers, Emily has two rescues of her own at home. Both were strays in S.F. and are beloved family members: Rizzo, a sweet pit bull, and Pancho, the Chi. Both are middle-aged and sweet. Emily is also very fond of plants, a passion she learned from her grandmother. “I have about 50 houseplants right now, which is probably my biggest hobby at home, plus cooking and walking my dogs.”  During the pandemic, instead of making sour dough starter, Emily’s pet project became creating a plant aquarium. Then she decided to add beautiful red and white freshwater shrimp. “I started with about 10, and now I have around 50. They’re fun and colorful!”

When asked what has made an impression on her working at SFACC, Emily doesn’t hesitate, “Everyone here has such respect for all the animals that come in—whether it’s a pigeon, cat, dog—it doesn’t matter what the species or circumstance is. Every animal is treated with the same high level of care. And it’s not easy because different species have specific needs. We all try to meet those needs and set each animal up for success.”

Fostering During the Pandemic

Meet Suniti Warey (with Shakespeare), a long-time cat volunteer who–like many SFACC volunteers–rose to the challenge when the pandemic closed the shelter by fostering an animal. She fostered six!

I fostered Shakespeare for almost three months. He had been returned twice and desperately needed a lucky break. He was a challenge at first. He had a strong hunting drive which led to some behavior issues until I figured out how to manage them, working closely with Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi (SFACC’s Cat Behavior Consultant), who was very helpful.  Though Shakespeare demanded a lot of tailored interaction to help get his energy out, he did settle down and became a sweet and loving chonk. I was so thrilled for him when he finally found his adopter, seemingly a perfect match.

 

My next foster was an adorable little black kitten, Pipette. She was a bit shy and overwhelmed when I first brought her home, but soon acclimated. She grew up so quickly into an energetic, hilarious cuddle bug and was soon adopted. It was hard to see her off, as she had provided quite a lot of entertainment during the pandemically uneventful summer.

Flamingo was kitty number three, who was with me very briefly and went off to her new family after enchanting visitors with her adorably playful nature.

My next fosters were the undersocialized pair Bonnie and Clyde who took a couple weeks to warm up but ultimately were the most charming and fun duo. Clyde especially couldn’t get enough affection; they were the happiest and funniest little characters. They were overlooked by adopters for a while but eventually found their perfect forever home. We’ve received some updates from their new family and it fills my heart with joy to know they are so loved.

Denver Max (Maxy) was my most recent foster, and he was quite a project. Extremely under socialized and fearful–it took me almost a month to earn his trust. He learned to love being petted and snuggled, and could play forever! He remained nervous around people and found a wonderfully patient adopter to continue to work with him. He also has a brother to show him the ropes!

During the pandemic, fostering provided me with a continued connection to SFACC, where I’d been volunteering for six years. I sorely missed the interactions with staff and fellow volunteers as the pandemic dragged on, and of course I missed visiting the rotating lineup of furballs and getting to know these little souls for the brief time they were at the shelter. I always hoped that I brought something positive to their lives before they could find their adoptive family. Fostering was a great way for me to keep this going. Of course, looking forward to playing and cuddling with my fosters after a long day of work was a bright spot in the otherwise isolating times.


Suniti and Pipette

Live Rescue – Ride Along with Officer Rebecca Fenson

By Rebecca Fenson,
Animal Control Officer, #22

Over the past several months I had the privilege of having the Live Rescue film crew, Alecc and Brandon, in the field with me. Several other officers were also filmed, and they did a wonderful job representing SFACC and our work. This is my experience.

Alecc would interact and liaise with the public, other city agencies such as SFPD and SFFD, and anyone on scene who might be involved with the call. He would explain what the filming was about and get permission forms signed.

Brandon was the cameraman. He handled the filming and facilitated our commentary, including the lead-in comments and the wrap-ups. All that talking we did–that was at Brandon’s prompting. We don’t generally wrap up our activities cheerily announcing to anyone within earshot, “I feel great about this one … this is why we do this.” Or, “This sweet pup is gonna have a wonderful life from here on out!” Or, “What a victory, rescuing a raccoon, then releasing him back to the wild!” (Officer Pone is always wildly enthusiastic and interactive, so this might not apply to her.)

For me, this was the biggest challenge: talking about the call before, during, and afterward so the audience had context for what transpired. Drama, suspense, excitement, and, especially, a build-up to a happy outcome are the ingredients for a good segment on Live Rescue. It was a bit too choreographed for me. After I loaded the dog into the van or released an animal to the wild, or when a relieved family came to redeem an exuberant dog, Brandon would ask, “So, what happened here? What’s the next step? And how do you feel, is this the great outcome you wanted?” Meanwhile, I’m thinking, what is my next call? Or, where is the nearest bathroom? Being a New Yorker, it was all I could do to not summarize a call with, “She’s safe, she’s back with her family, yada going to yada. Let’s roll.”

That is not to say the crew got in the way…they did not. The crew was very respectful of the work we were doing, and they went out of their way not to be a distraction or to impact the call or our work in any way. I really appreciated that. They also were incredibly nice, friendly, and easy to be with.

I was always sure to try and convey information about the animal that was accurate. And if I wasn’t sure about something, I would qualify what I was saying or be more vague. For example, I did not want to be filmed calling a Boston Terrier a Frenchie, or a vole a gopher. And because we often have to assess an animal’s condition out in the field, it can be tricky initially, knowing if a raccoon is sick or injured or is just napping; wildlife will do everything they can to avoid appearing weak or vulnerable. So I tried to not be too declarative about anything I wasn’t sure of.

We had to judge whether the film crew should accompany us on some calls. Most of the time, this was easy. For example, they would remain in the vehicle when I was responding to a report of abuse or welfare violations, when I was seizing an intact pit, or on calls for protective custody of a dog whose guardian was hospitalized, in jail, or had died. Those are some of the many calls we regularly respond to that would not be appropriate to film.

Occasionally, Brandon and Alecc decided to hang back on calls that would have been great on air. One example is a call I handled for a code 2 (priority) sick raccoon. I told Brandon that, based on his reported condition, the raccoon was likely to be euthanized. So, they did not accompany me. On scene, the person who called SFACC emergency dispatch showed me the raccoon in the backyard of their business … a brewery. I approached the raccoon, who was lying on his stomach, making a groaning sound. This was not a demeanor I had ever seen a raccoon in, nor were these typical sounds. All that was missing was a foam “number 1” finger and a plastic cup. Was my raccoon drunk? The staff admitted that it was possible that he had accessed some alcohol-in-the making. I scooped up the party boy with a catch pole. He did not put up a struggle, flopping into the cage like a furry jellyfish, still groaning. I left the brewery, saying I hope he’d paid his tab and, on the more serious side, confirming the place was secure and that this break-in was an anomaly. I brought the raccoon back to SFACC, and reported to the vet staff that I suspected this guy had a few too many and maybe we should let him sleep it off. After examining him, they agreed. Sure enough, after a few hours, the raccoon sobered up. Swing shift released him that night. The film crew was very disappointed that they had elected not to film this one. From then on, during calls for sick wildlife, Brandon would say, “If the animal is drunk, let us know immediately!”

One of my favorite and unanticipated aspects to having the film crew ride along was seeing San Francisco through their eyes. Brandon, from Salt Lake City, constantly pointed out unique architecture and art. He marveled at the steep hills and the famous SF views of the bay. Where I would drive around remembering suffering animals and challenging interactions I’d had in certain locations, he’d point out whimsical buildings and beautiful murals. He loved the classic cars cruising the city. Meanwhile, I’d wonder about the nearest good burrito place and complain about the traffic. His fresh perspective on San Francisco was a welcome change.

I’m pretty sure during the course of our conversations, Brandon and Alecc learned something about humans’ relationship to animals. They learned that while pigeons might not be as novel and as impossibly cute as baby raccoons, they matter just as much.

My favorite part of being with Alecc and Brandon was when they asked me if I wanted to help animals because they have no voice. I replied that all animals have a voice, we’re just not listening. That sparked a conversation about the rich and complex lives that animals have─which is the reason I do this job─and why I agreed to do the show.

SFACC ACAs Kathryn Jones and James Purcell Help with Butte County Wildfire Rescue Efforts

By Kathryn Jones
Animal Care Attendant

Last week I was given the opportunity to provide emergency assistance to the people and animals of Butte County as they experience another devastating sweep of fires in their region (the North Complex Fire). Previously, James Purcell (another Animal Care Attendant at SFACC) and I had deployed to Butte in 2018 to help during the Camp Fire. I was excited and grateful to be able to help this community that I had come to so deeply appreciate and care for, and apprehensive because I was once again reporting to a fire zone, and didn’t know what work lay ahead of me.

James arrived in Butte a few days before me and got to work on dropping off much needed supplies for folks and animals sheltering in place. He drove injured and burnt animals all the way from Oroville and Chico to UC Davis, transported animals from emergency shelters back home to their owners, and seemed to be all over the county. I anticipated similar work but was in for a pleasant surprise; the emergency shelters were critically low on people with large animal experience.

When I arrived at the command center, I offered to go anywhere I was needed. When they realized I had ranch experience, I was swiftly deployed to the emergency large animal shelter—an equestrian park in Oroville known as Camelot. The owner of Camelot, Mike, had generously offered to host evacuated farm animals and exotics on his land.

I spent the majority of the week caring for a variety of animals on the ranch. There were mini donkeys, pigs, chickens, dwarf goats, draft horses, wild mustangs from BLM land, peacocks, ducks, pheasants, sheep, all manner of chickens and roosters, cows, llamas, and even a zebra!

Ranch work is physically exhausting, starts at dawn, and often goes until the sun has set. It was a grueling week, but one that was filled with rewarding experiences. I was able to assist a vet in giving subcutaneous fluids to a goat that had been plucked from a burning field, help load up a 300lb pig named Fred (he went back home to his family!), apprehended and safely confined a loose hog, figured out how to relocate two feral llamas (don’t get spit on!), made new friends, and saw old ones from the Camp Fire. Any time I am deployed, I am always grateful to be a part of a community that can come together so magnificently in support of each other and the animals we love.