Did you know that Pacific surfperch give birth to live young? I didn’t until I talked with Alistair Callaway. If SFACC ever decides to name a humane education czar, Alistair Callaway would make a great one. Alistair has been an Animal Care Attendant at the shelter since May of last year, and has a wealth of knowledge about caring for all kinds of critters, especially aquatic and exotics. Before coming to ACC, Alistair worked at Petco. on Sloat Blvd. for three years, and was instrumental in helping improve regional policy guidelines for the welfare of the animals at Petco. Committed to helping educate customers on animal care, Alistair became known by colleagues and repeat customers as something of an expert about the needs of the store’s critters. He spent extra time with potential customers, educating them about the fish, bird, or hamster they were interested in. “Sometimes when they learned how complex caring for a certain animal was, they changed their minds, but that’s ok and that’s better for the animal in the long run.”
Where did he get such a wealth of animal knowledge? For one thing, Alistair has a degree in zoology from SF State University, and has done extensive research on surfperch fish, working with biologists there, contributing to a body of data about a species of Dwarf Surfperch prevalent on the Pacific coast. Plus, he has extensive experience in maintaining his own salt water tank of finned BFFs, and is the proud guardian of Oliver, a 4-year-old Chinese Water Dragon, who he sometimes takes with him on excursions to Golden Gate Park (on leash of course). “These reptiles are arboreal–in their native habitat they live in trees and when we go to the park, Oliver looks for a tree to climb, and he’ll perch up there while I hang out and read.” Alistair loves rats too, and had three until recently–beloved Dagon and Bjorn have passed on but Loki is 3, which is like 90-ish, for a rat.
Alistair is passionate about the welfare of SFACC’s animals and the shelter’s mission statement–as many of us are. “The open-admission policy resonates heavily with me and is one of the reasons I wanted to work here. Seeing all kinds of animals come in–some in pretty bad shape–and then watching them evolve and blossom, and then go to new homes or other rescue or rehab organizations is gratifying.” …Every animal that comes to SFACC is given a second chance, and Alistair is often the one to personally do that–he has fostered baby rats and taken home an elderly hamster named Prudence for hospice. After chatting with Alistair, I feel fortunate, on behalf of the critters, that he left his native Southern California and adopted SF as his new home. Welcome Alistair!
Are we getting tired of hearing about another SFACC staff member who started out volunteering? Definitely not! Marisa Plaice started volunteering at SFACC with dogs in 2015. She worked with the Fetch dogs, exercising and socializing dogs that are in SFACC custody but are not available for adoption. A word about Fetch: SFACC provides safe harbor to animals in many different situations: dogs escaping abuse and neglect; pending “vicious and dangerous dog” hearings in court; dogs who are affected when their owner is hospitalized, incarcerated, or passes away; dogs who are abandoned in buildings or in cars; and dogs who need a safe place while family members escape domestic violence. Some dogs in the Fetch program eventually become available for adoption, and that is in large part due to the care of Fetch volunteers like Marisa. Back to our shelter hero…a local gal from San Carlos, Marisa always loved animals and considered becoming a veterinarian. She ventured to Southern California for college and although vet school didn’t happen, she found her way back to the Bay Area and to thinking about helping animals. In a way, she feels her path has come full circle at SFACC. Volunteering with the Fetch program, she was inspired by the difference she could make. “One case that still resonates with me is Max, a small pup who was seized by SFACC officers as part of a cruelty investigation. Early on it wasn’t clear if he would be made available for adoption. After months of care and training by volunteers (first Fetch and then regular dog volunteers), he was adopted into a happy home where he’s thriving.” Besides working with Fetch dogs, Marisa helped as a vet room volunteer, cleaning, fetching dogs for exams, and giving out treatments. In March, 2018, Marisa was hired by SFACC as a vet assistant, while she attends classes to become a licensed vet technician. In this role, she is able to help with prepping animals for surgery, prepare treatments to animals, and assist with exams, while getting the hands-on experience required by her coursework. Marisa enjoys the variety of animals at SFACC and is learning a lot—especially about neonate kittens and wildlife, which can be challenging to sedate—particularly raccoons who do not appreciated being trapped. One of the things she likes best about her job is being able to provide care for animals who might not have received the care they need until they receive it from SFACC—whether due to neglect, abuse, or simply because they are wildlife in need of help. As a working student, Marisa has little free time but likes to record shop with her husband Sean, and spend time with their three dogs: Neko (a Husky mix), Henry (a Pit mix and former Fetch dog), and Ada, a 9-yr-old Chihuahua mix. They also have a cat named Peach.