Mary’s Story: Shelter last hope for abandoned pets

The little dog’s broken jaw hung grotesquely open. Her right eye was crushed in its socket. Medical staff examined her extensive wounds as she nervously scanned her new surroundings. She had no identification tag and no microchip.

Mary, as she was later named, was found in October, 2010, suffering from multiple injuries.  She was rushed to nearby Sun Valley Animal Shelter in Glendale, Arizona, where she became one of the 5 to 7 million pets admitted into animal shelters each year.

Mary’s story is an all too familiar one.

“It’s frustrating,” said Kurt Olsen, spokesperson for Sun Valley Animal Shelter, who sees the results of irresponsible or abusive pet ownership every day.

The reasons pet owners cite for relinquishment became the subject of a first ever study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP).

The NCPPSP conducted personal interviews at 12 animal shelters in four regions of the United States with people who were surrendering their dogs or cats. The top ten reasons cited for giving up a pet were: Moving, Landlord issues, Cost of pet maintenance, No time for pet, Inadequate facilities, Too many pets in home, Pet illness, Personal problems, Biting (behavior issues), and No homes for littermates.

Part of the mission of many shelters is to educate pet owners with options that would allow them to keep their pet.  But the best proven strategy for reducing pet abandonment takes place even before a pet is adopted.

Screening is a prevention tool as much as it is a matching tool. It increases successful adoption rates. Potential adoptees are asked about their residence, income, time constraints, household occupants and if other pets are already in the home. Many shelters employ volunteers to help with the screening process.

Olsen himself started out as volunteer, and gradually became a full-time staff member. One of his main responsibilities today  is that of Volunteer Coordinator. “We depend upon volunteers for a lot of things,” said Olsen.

Volunteers may be asked to run food drives, help with fund-raising and tackle daily tasks such as feeding, walking or socializing pets. He encourages people with special skills such as marketing, grooming and obedience training to volunteer.

Olsen presses a flier into my hand.

It’s an update on Mary. It’s been six months since she entered the shelter and the flier displays Mary’s before and after photos. Except for her right eye, which had to be sewn shut, she looks like a normal, cute little dog. The transformation is amazing.

Mary’s medical costs, over $6,000, were covered thanks to the generosity of independent supporters.

Animal shelter volunteers and staff work tirelessly to provide abandoned or relinquished pets with medical attention and a chance to be adopted into a well-matched loving home. They also offer education to pet owners and provide a second chance for animals picked up by overburdened and underfunded local animal control agencies.

“I love my job,” said Olsen.

To volunteer, make a donation or adopt a pet visit


Think Pink!

With October here many of us are thinking, planning and preparing for Halloween; however for others October is the month to remember, bring awareness and support to those who have, have had or lost their life to breast cancer.

For a dear friend of mine, October brings thoughts of her four family members that have been afflicted by this disease in the past five years. Of those was her great grandmother who just turned 100 years old; she was 95 years old when she had her mastectomy.  All four members were in the advanced stage and therefore had to have either a single or double mastectomy. Thankfully all of them are healthy now and living their lives to the fullest.

National breast cancer awareness month started in 1985 and has been every October since. Initially the campaign was geared toward promoting mammography as the most effective tool for fighting breast cancer, but now include a variety of awareness campaigns.

One common misconception is that only women can develop breast cancer; however the disease does not discriminate against age, sex, race, religion or socioeconomic backgrounds. With no immediate cure available, this disease continues to affect around the world. According to, in the United States alone in 2011, there were 2,140 new cases of breast cancer in men and 450 deaths last year; there were also 230,480 new cases of breast cancer in women and 39,520 deaths. Breast cancer is the second largest cause of death in women behind lung cancer.

In recent years increasing public awareness has brought the disease to the forefront of our minds. Social media has had a big impact within various groups and organizations that promote different ways to spread the word. Many professional sports teams will be seen wearing pink in support of breast cancer awareness month. For example, the Arizona Cardinals, along with other teams in the National Football League have a complete line of products to bring awareness to breast cancer and will be seen sporting pink attire to show their support during their games.

According to the Susan G. Komen website, breast self-exams have had mixed results in effectiveness for finding early stage tumors. Though knowing how breasts should normally feel can help in detecting abnormalities that your physician can follow up on.

Mobile On-Site Mammography is the largest and most advanced mobile mammography program in Arizona for more than twenty years. Want more information? Call (480) 967-3767 to schedule an exam.

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Susan G. Komen Phoenix Race for the Cure. It will be held on October 14, 2012 at the Wesley Bolin Plaza.

Show your support this October and THINK PINK!