Archives for Why we do this category

Providing A Life Worth Living

By Audrey Lodato, Executive Director at Pets Alive

The definition of sanctuary is “A place where someone is protected or given shelter.”  We take the fact that we are a sanctuary very seriously. Although it would be wonderful if we found every animal a new home within a week or two, that’s not realistic. A big part of what we do is taking in the animals no one else wants, and those animals can come with some baggage. Abuse, poor training, neglect or any number of other situations can cause an animal to need  rehabilitation.  We understand that sometimes the sanctuary we provide for an animal will be long term, and that we have to work hard to make sure that the life animals have here is worth living.

1623727_1045676272114520_7588636880587175513_nIn this business, we call that process “enrichment.” Enrichment can mean a lot of things – special training, special housing, endless amounts of time dedicated to one animal to make sure that they know they are safe, protected and loved. Once they get that far, then we work on training them so they will be successful when they do find a new family. Anyone can keep an animal alive – put a dog or cat in a box and leave them there with appropriate food or water and medical care. It takes skill and planning to give an animal a fulfilling life when a home outside of the Pets Alive campus is something that isn’t immediately on the horizon.

When Pets Alive says we are a no kill sanctuary, we mean it. We do not kill animals. Each and every animal that finds sanctuary with us will be safe for the duration of his or her life. We promise to keep them not only well fed and medically healthy, but to also keep them happy and content. Even when it is difficult. Even when it costs money. Even when it means that we have to dedicate a disproportionate amount of resources to that animal. We would never make a different choice than to do whatever it takes to ensure their happiness. No place that calls itself a sanctuary ever would.

The skill that it takes to keep animals happy and safe means that it’s essential that we invest in our staff. The people that work at Pets Alive have endless hours of experience dealing with complex animals and we understand that an experienced staff is essential to the lives of the animals here.  Each and every Pets Alive team member considers enrichment at the top of their list of priorities, and more importantly, they understand how to develop enrichment plans that will be effective for the animal and safe for the people who work, visit and volunteer here.

jimYour donations pay for some of the best people in the business to be on this team, so that we can ensure that the animals receive the best care that is possible. These team members work very closely with talented volunteers who are extremely committed to our organization. That’s a culture we chose to create and maintain here every day. Pets Alive would never hire a team member that did not have the skill set to keep the animals here safe and happy. There is nothing that makes it worthwhile to compromise the care our animals receive.

Enrichment plans are discussed at length here daily. Sometimes there’s a whole list of requirements just for one dog or cat.

One dog that lives here who can be particularly difficult has a whole slew of provisions in place to keep him happy. He gets assigned special staff members to maintain his housing on a certain schedule. Volunteers to work with him. A whole team dedicated to improving his skills with people. A special apartment shed made just for him. Maria brings him hotdogs every time she visits and introduces him to new people. He’s happy and I love him despite the fact that I can’t even go IN his run. We all love him. That’s why we do this.

We created a whole ROOM for a cat named Bonk-Bonk that has a disorder called Manx Syndrome, so that we could ensure that heBarn orient would stay clean and healthy. We got him a friend, so he would not be alone. It cost more than a thousand dollars to retrofit that room for Bonk-Bonk, but when he is lying on his chair in a sunbeam or playing with his special plastic toys, we know that he is happy to be alive.

Our blind horse, Boo, got an entire pasture constructed just for him with special flexible fencing so that he can frolic and roll without being in danger.

When we tell you, our supporters, that we are a sanctuary, we mean that on the highest level. We want our supporters to feel comfortable when they send their donations to us. The process of providing enrichment to our animals may be complicated, but the principle is very simple. It does not matter how broken an animal that enters our care here is – how sad, how scared, or how angry. We know that things may have happened to them that we will never understand. Our job is to heal. We will, 100% of the time, do everything in our power to do right by that animal. We will keep them safe, healthy and happy for as long as we need to. We promise that to you, and we will ALWAYS keep that promise.

When you are choosing to donate to a rescue organization, it’s important to keep how your money will be spent in mind. Know we are doing everything possible to make sure that the animals we house are happy as well as healthy and safe. Although the image of the sad puppy in a cage on television might make you feel compelled to give a few dollars out of guilt, that should not be the reality of shelter life. When you give to us, you’re not only giving lifesaving. You are also giving a life worth living.


Filed in Why we do this by Audrey Lodato on May 04, 2015.  There are 0 comments.  

Pets Alive Westchester – A Year to Remember

By Erin Guilshan, Executive Director
Pets Alive Westchester


As we close out the last chapter of 2014, we reflect upon the year with both joy and gratitude. We saved hundreds of lives and adopted nearly 700 pets into kittiesloving homes this past year.  If it wasn’t for all of the support that people like you give to us, we could never have done this. We save animals everywhere by any means possible, including those that need medical care.  We have a soft spot for those animals that need us the most like the ones that are put on kill lists because no one wants to treat their medical conditions.  We get in animals with broken bones, ones that required surgeries, and those with chronic medical conditions that sometimes just need proper medication, nourishment and love in order to be healthy again. A little TLC goes a long way.

There are times when animals have come to us so severely neglected that although we can’t undo all that has happened to them in the past, we are able to give them a better future.


princess fiona before and afterPRINCESS FIONA – Escapes the Kill List for a Second Chance
She is a wonderful senior Shih Tzu that was just moments from her deadline when we pulled her from the NYCACC Kill List. Instead of treating her, they were going to euthanize her. She has Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism. Both are treatable. She had lost most of her hair on her body from the diseases she carries, but if she was treated, it would have grown back. Her quality of life would have improved. Some of what she needed was so simple like a bath and to be groomed. These are all things that we are giving to her and we know there is someone out there who will love this sweet girl for the rest of her life. We are able to see through the disaster that she had become because of neglect. We see in her a beautiful girl who will be healthy and will have someone to love very soon. In a matter of a day, this is the the change that was made just to her appearance alone. Imagine what a week, two weeks, a month will bring.

Minnie is a 16 week old puppy that underwent what is called recto-vaginal reconstructive surgery so that a separation could be made between her vagina and rectum as well as the construction of an anus. She had no anus and her rectum was connected to her vagina and that’s how she was passing feces. She had her surgery and we are happy to report she is doing wonderfully! Minnie’s pre-op and surgery was $3,000 – without this surgery she would not have survived much longer – we had to act quickly. We are happy to report she is doing wonderfully! She was adopted by a loving family where she will live a long and healthy life.


He arrived to us as a puppy with a seveLucky Before & Afterre case of Demodex (a form of non-contagious mange) that was left untreated. All he needed was treatment and some time to recover. His coat is now a beautiful one as you can see in his picture. It’s hard to believe this is the same dog. Over time the changes have been stunning. He was taken in by this amazing family when he needed them the most and he never left. A little TLC and a chance changed his life.


roxy and rex 2TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE
One of the stories that captured our hearts in 2014 was one about two dogs that were tied up to one of our fences at Pets Alive Westchester. They were left with a note telling us their names were Roxy & Rex and that they were 3 year old siblings. They stole our hearts instantly and quickly became favorite dogs for both volunteers and staff. Roxy & Rex were two huge American Bulldog mixes that got so much attention. Rex loved getting all the attention having his back scratched and belly rubbed while he would grunt and make talking noises for more. Roxy was a sweetheart that was always close-by her brother’s side. We knew that Rex felt a protective spirt toward his sister and they had to be adopted together. They were a bonded pair that we would not separate. This made it harder to adopt them as many people are not looking for two huge dogs. But their time did come and a wonderful couple eventually adopted them and has been giving them a life they could have only dreamed of. Roxy’s and Rex’s mom and dad even bought a new home so that they could adopt them. They had been looking at homes, but pushed it even faster so they could adopt them both as soon as they laid eyes on them. Its heartwarming things that happenroxy and rex like this that give us the incentive to always remember why we do what we do. Why we make sacrifices in our own lives. Why we go the extra mile. So that pets like Roxy and Rex have a chance at a better life.


One word has stuck with us through this year and that word is RESILIANCE. We found out something that we had always suspected to be true of us – that we could get through anything together. We certainly had our fair share of “storms” this past year that may have left us a little battered, but not broken.  What we found was that although these challenges were not easy to get through, we could get through them together. What we do at PAW is not a 9-5 job. We come in early. We leave late. We work from home. When we aren’t working you can bet we are thinking about an animal. What one person may call a job we call a lifestyle that can bring great joy as well as heartbreak. There are a certain breed of people that can do this day in and day out – it’s those that do feel the emotional aspects of our business that do it well. Those that are closed off in order to protect their own hearts need to know it’s time to leave animal welfare. Closing your heart is not the answer to help these poor souls that need us the most. Peoples hearts need to be kept open and available to give and receive the goodness that comes from saving these precious lives.  People often say to us, “I don’t know how you do it”. They don’t realize that we cry too at times. That our hearts break as well. We are not shut off from the pain and the suffering we’ve seen. Just the opposite. We understand the pain and suffering that happens is all too real and we want to fix them all. Take care of them all. Save them all.

January 1st 2014 didn’t start off as we had planned. We started the year off with our heat breaking during the coldest winter in our history. With the Polar Vortex looming around NY with beyond freezing temperatures, the heat suddenly stopped working. As it turned out, the oil lines throughout the building were not supporting the furnaces and we needed new lines installed. We all took turns staying overnight for weeks to prime the furnaces and make sure the heat stayed on 24 hours a day until it was fixed. Once it was in working order again, we were incredibly relieved (and exhausted).

constructionsWhile we were getting our heat fixed, we were also under construction. A new roof, insulation and renovated kennels were all happening at once. Being down two of our four kennels we had to be careful on how many new dogs we took in as we had limited space to put them. We are always rescuing animals in need and not being able to do as much as we were used to was very difficult.

By the beginning of March the kennels were ready and the roof was complete. The dogs had moved into the new, spacious kennels with stainless steel fencing that would see us though many years to come.

Marisol & Rob Thomas’ foundation, Sidewalk Angels, funded these projects and without them, we would never have been able to do all of this. We will be forever grateful for all they do for the Pets Alive organization. Their love of animals and those in need is inspiring.

Seeing the dogs in their new runs was by far one of the happiest days of our lives. We waited so long for this day to come that it almost seemed like it wouldn’t actually arrive. We had been making so many great improvements to Pets Alive Westchester and we were feeling on top of the world when the dogs moved into the new kennels. One of the staff members said to me the day they moved, “Now we can go back to normal and rescue more dogs”. This was always on the forefront of everyone’s minds. When we could do more rescuing. Being able to do this full throttle again was such a relief.

new kennels1

I know it might sound silly, but I swear the dogs were smiling as we walked by them in their new dog runs. Maybe they were smiling because we were so happy twiggyand they picked up on our energy and were just living off of those good vibes, but either way we were ALL smiling – including our dogs! For that moment and for days ahead there was an unstoppable feeling of new hope that generated throughout Pets Alive Westchester, the staff and the volunteers. We were better than ever and we were all living off of the natural high of rescuing animals in need, having our dogs in wonderful new kennels and having hope for better days ahead. The love we had for our “home away from home” shined through everyone and it seemed to be a contagious feeling to anyone who walked through our doors.

We felt unstoppable and had many great ideas and plans that we were moving forward with day by day and week by week. A new medical exam room that was donated was about to be put in the quarantine section of our kennels for our dogs. A new cat intake room was just created with brand new donated cages that would prevent disease from spreading and keep our cats in a spacious and clean environment while they were in there. We were developing a new adoption area, creating new spaces for our cats and bunnies as well as a store for new adopters to purchase items from. The new ideas of how to improve and what to do next were unlimited and we were doing them all. The needs had been so great for so long, and the time had come to make the necessary changes. We just kept chipping away at the next project and kept on going with what seemed to be an unlimited amount of energy, creativity and projects. The hard work and dedication from the PAW staff has been so impressive. The staff inspires each other, motivates each other and instills a sense of pride in all that they do. Pride for making PAW what it should. No matter what the task at hand has been, no matter how large of an obstacle that seemed to be in our way, we found a way to make it happen.

We were at the top of our game.


And our hearts broke.

1888538_620140018056157_2058908690_nThroughout all that we had been through we never for a moment would think that we would ever have to leave our building and find homes and other resources for our animals. But it happened.

It still has an impact on me to even write about this. It was by far one of the most difficult times in our lives. Remember, this IS our life. The animals are one of the biggest and most important parts of our lives.

That day, evacuating our animals out of the building tore our hearts apart. Where there was once hope, pride and joy was replaced with extreme sadness, concern and devastation. There was not one set of eyes for me to look into that didn’t look hollow or weren’t bloodshot from the tears. The words that couldn’t be spoken because there were just no words to express the deep sadness and disbelief was deafening. It all seemed so surreal that day for all of us and to this day we are still recovering from this on many fronts, both emotionally as well as financially. Read more about this in the blog we wrote called Our Greatest Challenge.

You can also see us evacuating our building in this article and video news clip.

Thankfully our animals are back in our building and we have been in full swing of saving lives and adopting them into wonderfulevac homes since July.

During that time, despite having no building, we were still able to save 100 animals and adopt them into loving homes. With or without a building, we never gave up and we never stopped rescuing.

To improve the lives of companion animals everywhere by any means possible, including rescue, adoption, advocacy, collaboration, intervention and education. This is our mission statement that we stand by and live by. This is who we are and this is what we do.


Since coming back to our building our dogs have been loving the improved dog kennels. The lives that are being saved are more than ever before in our history and we are back in full throttle saving lives, rehabilitating and making a difference for the animals in our care.

We could not have gotten through all we did without you and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

2015 is going to be an exciting year with some great things to come. We have repairs that will need to be done to our building and two kennels that still need to be renovated. There is still so much that has to be done in order for our pets to have the best home until they find a real home. Stay tuned and continue to support these wonderful animals. They need you.

Donate now to help us to continue our mission, to save more lives, give medical care when needed, feed and care for animals. You are all they have.

Filed in Animal Rescue, No-kill, Updates, Why we do this by Erin Guilshan on Dec 31, 2014.  There are 1 comments.  

Peyton and Miss Diva Go Home for the Holidays

By Audrey Lodato, Executive Director

At Pets Alive we believe that there is a home for every animal, but sometimes finding that home can take some time. We work hard as a team to talk about how long an animal has been in our care so that we can make sure that no animal falls through the cracks.  We have a morning meeting every day, and at morning meeting we talk about these long-term residents and how we can get them more visibility.

Peyton news

Recently we decided that we would focus on Peyton finding her forever home. Peyton came to us after being found pregnant on the streets of New Jersey.  A Good Samaritan named Adam rescued Peyton and brought her to Pets Alive. She had her puppies at her foster home, and she was a great mom. Her puppies quickly got adopted, but Peyton has been waiting patiently for three years.  At Pets Alive, we always try to think of fun ways to promote our animals on social media. We know we have some of the most amazing and dedicated followers who have helped us save the lives of thousands of animals.

10846255_938907452804883_412054422258380350_nSo after a very fun session with the Pets Alive team Peyton received a promotion to our “Daily Newscaster” on Facebook. Peyton’s new job was to report on the daily activities at the sanctuary. Peyton took advantage of this highly coveted access to show the world how amazing she was. She did talk about her friends here and there but she always made sure to tell her listeners just how lucky they would be to share their home with her. Peyton was only on the air for a short time because her very informative (and silly) newscasts did the trick and a very nice couple came to meet Peyton. Just in time for the holidays Peyton is now living in her forever home. She even has a new best friend and they enjoy spending time together in the beautiful fenced in back yard.

Peyton nominated her friend Romeo to take over the Pets Alive Daily News and we hope that Romeo will soon find his forever home too. We cannot thank you all enough for helping Peyton, and all of the other animals in our care, find love and happiness.

10500566_938988482796780_5592743086000777182_nNot to be out done our very own Miss Diva Deluxe decided that it was her turn in the spotlight. Diva found her way to Pets Alive almost exactly one year ago. Sadly her previous family had put her outside during one of the worst winters our area has ever seen. Luckily she managed to survive long enough in the polar vortex for one of our volunteers to find her and get her to safety at Pets Alive. One look at this girl and everyone instantly fell in love. Diva is so pretty and fluffy. Her personality is unmatched. Goofy and loving at the same time. It is impossible not to smile when Diva is around- probably because she will climb up your back just to get to your face and give you kisses. Staff and volunteers could not understand how this girl was still with us and not in her own home. She had been adopted a few months ago to a very nice man but he had decided he wasn’t quite ready yet after the loss of his long time companion.

Diva at home with momA few weeks ago a kind young woman named Kathryn visited the Cat House with her father. She explained to the staff that she had recently returned home from Australia where she lived at a cat sanctuary. She and her family had lost their senior kitty and wanted to adopt. Her mother had given her just one instruction- she wanted the sweetest, most friendly, shoulder cat that Kathryn could find. We could not believe our ears! Shoulder cat you say? Well, well, well- do WE have the cat for YOU! They met Miss Diva Deluxe as well as a few of her friends and advised they would be back soon. On Sunday they adopted Diva and we could not be more happy for her! She has settled right in to her new home and continues to make all those around her smile.

Pets Alive believes passionately that it is our duty to provide not just a place to live for our animals, but that we provide them what they need to be successful in a new home. Sometimes, as was the case with Diva and Peyton, all they really need is time.

Time is a simple thing, but it’s not something that every homeless animal has the privilege of getting. When we commit to an animal, we commit to them for life. They get all the time they need to find a family that’s right for them, which is why your support is so important. We’re so happy to celebrate Peyton and Diva’s adoptions in time for the holidays. Thank you all so much for your love and faith in us. From the entire Pets Alive family to you and yours- 


A. Lodato photo


Our mission is to improve the lives of companion animals everywhere by any means possible, including rescue, adoption, advocacy, collaboration, intervention and education.

Filed in Animal Rescue, Why we do this by Audrey Lodato on Dec 16, 2014.  There are 0 comments.  

Three Months of Love

Erin Guilshan, Executive Director, Pets Alive Westchester

sam2It was a very rainy day when Sammy, a little black Chihuahua arrived at Pets Alive Westchester by someone who found him at the nearby SAM’s Club parking lot (hence his very creative name). It was obvious he had been neglected by his owners. This old boy’s nails were growing into his paw pads, he had a large tumor just above his tail and he was severely overweight. We brought him right to the veterinarian to get him examined.

An echo-cardiogram showed that he had a level 4 heart murmur (you can only get up to a level 5) and he also had laryngeal paralysis (which prohibits the ability to breath and can interfere with eating). Unable to put him under anesthesia due to his heart condition we could not remove the tumor that was under his tail. Just a few days later it ruptured and was painlessly removed by the vet. We had him on medication to try to keep any infection from spreading through his body and continued with the medications for his heart and for the fluid surrounding it. Suspecting he may have Cushing’s Disease as well, which is too much cortisol being release from his glands, would only do more harm to his heart.

There are times when animals come to us in pretty bad shape like Sammy. For some animals we rely on Hospice Fosters to give them the home and love that they have been in need of for so long. Putting them in a kennel is not an option. They deserve in an environment that will enable them to enjoy their senior years. Sam came home with me to live the remainder of his life. In the few months that we had him as a part of our lives we saw him thrive and enjoy it to the fullest. This was a gift for us too and our dog Crockett (seen to the right with Sammy). Crockett and Sammy became quick buddies. Sam would follow him around our house and occasionally we’d find them laying next to each other. Sammy was enjoying a good life with his new family.


After losing 12 lbs. his little legs still had a little trouble holding up his body weight but he would wobble around and even tried to run for his food when it was dinner time. Occasionally toppling over and like a turtle on his shell, his legs would wiggle to try to find ground again. I’d pick him up and get  him upright and he would continue on his path to where he was going. He didn’t let anything hold him back. It seemed that he even enjoyed walking around as he continued to lose weight. 

His Cushing’s Disease test did come back positive. Although, this was another ailment that he had on top of his other medical conditions, this was treatable and we would be starting him on medication as soon as possible to give him the best quality of life we could for this senior boy.

Everyone at Pets Alive Westchester loved this little guy. He was cared for both at home and at PAW. Sammy and I drove home from our day there. He loved riding in the car. He was in his doggie bed sitting next to me as I dove. He would close his eyes, lift his head with the sun shining down on his face and he would smile. He was such a sweet little guy. I was so happy to help him find happiness and contentment in life. He was loved and he knew it.


That night though he suddenly began to show signs of distress. Struggling to breathe we rushed him to the emergency veterinary hospital. His heart was quite enlarged, he also had fluid on the right side of it. He received treatment throughout the night. The next day wasn’t any better. Barely able to breathe and in heart failure we had to make the decision to end his suffering. He had enough suffering during his years of neglect. We were glad we could give him the best 3 months he may have ever had.

It was time to let him go, to be free of this struggle he was enduring. Alone with Sam I rocked him in my arms as he laid his head on my chest. I told him how much we all loved him and what a good boy he was over and over. Gently stroking him as I cradled this wonderful boy, with my lips kissing the back of his head, he passed away without any pain. The tears rolled from my eyes and the pain at the moment was difficult, but I knew it was the last gift I could give to him. Thinking about what a great life we gave him the past three months and how much happiness he brought to our lives made me smile through the tears.

samThere will always be other Sammy’s out there that need someone to love them at the end stage of life which is why we developed a Hospice Foster program. As animals approach their senior years they are in need of the love and warmth of a home. To have an animal live the remainder of their days in a shelter environment is no way to leave this earth. If you would like to give this gift to an animal and be part of our Hospice Foster program please contact

If you’d like to help by supporting our medical fund, which supports hospice animals, please donate below.


Filed in Animal Rescue, Uncategorized, Why we do this by Erin Guilshan on Jul 30, 2014.  There are 4 comments.  

Our Greatest Challenge

By Erin Guilshan, Executive Director, Pets Alive Westchester

1975269_620144908055668_1266341788_nOn March 14th we faced what would begin our greatest challenge in the history of Pets Alive Westchester. What started off as small cracks in our building grew to be so large that you could see through them to the outside of the building. The floors were beginning to sink in some areas, new cracks were rapidly forming, and the first floor door frames began to buckle as the second floor started to show signs of a possible collapse. We worked with a group of engineers to evaluate the issues and they determined that we had no other choice but to evacuate immediately.

The magnitude of this hit each one of us – staff, volunteers and supporters – like ton of bricks. This is our “other” home. This is a place that has a heartbeat – a love that never ends. This is what makes up the Pets Alive family and it is the bond that has been created that will not be broken. We had nearly 200 animals that we had to find placement for that day, whether it was homes, other rescues or boarding facilities, we had to get them out as soon as possible. Our needs were great and time was of the essence to get our animals out of the building safely.

By 9am our lobby was flooded with adopters, fosters, media, volunteers and concerned members of the community. We reached out to our foster network, set up teams of people to help with adoptions and to get our equipment and supplies out of the building. There had to be hundreds of people there that day that were all there to lend a hand, work together and help us in any way possible. We were grateful to have had so many caring people by our side during our darkest hours. Pets Alive is supported by many people that would do anything for the animals. This same passion we share, for helping animals, is what generated the resilient force that was needed not just on that day but in the days and weeks to follow.

There are nearly 40 Legacy dogs who were from the Elmsford Animal Shelter that became part of the PAW family and still live with us, to move them somewhere else was rascal and rosieheartbreaking. We knew it would cause them confusion and stress. We feared they would not feel the security of the only place they ever knew to be their home. As the day progressed though, we were able to find boarding for our dogs at Northwind Kennels where they are able to be walked and loved by the same staff and volunteers who have taken care of them for years.

Our cats were also of great concern as were our bunnies. Both are easily stressed which we feared could have an impact on their immune systems and their health. They need a life that is peaceful and to be uprooted like this could be very difficult on them. In a matter of a couple of hours all of our bunnies were fostered and we had many of our cats placed in rescues. Mid-Hudson Animal Aid rushed to pick up 30 cats that they brought back to their rescue. Our sister location, Pets Alive Middletown committed to 13 cats and Pibbles and Kits committed to 4 cats. There are twelve cats that are still waiting for forever homes at both Mid-Hudson Animal Aid and Pets Alive Middletown. Pibbles & Kits has 3 remaining of the 4 they took; those 3 are doing well but do have special medical needs.

Half of our animals went to homes that day. Many people came to adopt and foster giving them the best gift ever, a home. We are so grateful for all of the support our fellow rescuers, the community and volunteers have given to us. We could not have faced this without all of you.

Here is what our love looks like

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Slideshow generated with Smilebox


So where do we go from here?

The answer is simply that we do not have all the answers yet. The team of engineers drilled two weeks ago. They are waiting on lab results of the soil tests which are expected soon.

Our insurance is covering the drilling and testing but they have not committed to help cover the costs we are enduring at this time to continue operations including 3 storagevania units, 2 office trailers, winterizing the facility, the cost of a generator and the cost to board our dogs. Northwind Kennels kindly gave us a discount on boarding fees, but with 40 dogs living at the facility the cost has been huge at $11,000 per month ($10 per dog, per day) which at this time is an expense that we certainly are not prepared for in our already tight budgets.

We aren’t sure which direction this path is leading us quite yet but we know one thing for certain – this will not stop us from saving animals and assuring they are given the best lives possible. We will continue to save lives as we try to expand our foster network. We have wonderful volunteers and supporters who will follow our animals to the ends of the earth to make sure they are safe and loved. Our staff has shown great strength during this time while creatively thinking of new ways to handle our situation ensuring the animals are given the greatest opportunity for happiness. I am so proud to be a part of this amazing team and to be a part of the Pets Alive organization!

While we work on determining what the future of Pets Alive Westchester building will be, we really need your continued love and support. You have heard us say before that “we cannot do this alone” and that is the truth. We are incredibly grateful for the amazing outpouring of love you continue to show us and the animals.

Although we are amidst the greatest challenge in our history, together we are going to get through this and come out of it stronger and prouder than ever. We won’t give up.

Filed in Animal Rescue, Uncategorized, Updates, Why we do this by Erin Guilshan on May 07, 2014.  There are 0 comments.  

Boomer’s Blog

By Erin Guilshan, Executive Director, Pets Alive Westchester 

Boomer arrived at Elmsford Animal Shelter in 2008. The two year old Boomer was one of 600 dogs that would only know life in a kennel with staff and volunteers to offer a walk or some love occasionally.

Pets Alive took over the Elmsford Animal Shelter in 2010 and acquired all 600 dogs and 500 cats. Boomer was one of many dogs listed as dog aggressive. Sadly many of the dogs were crated, stacked on one another through the hallways of this very large facility and you can imagine the pent up energy they all had being in crates most of the 24 hours a day. There were also multiple dogs chained to the walls of the kennel runs and once Pets Alive took over we were able to help with making their lives much easier in many ways. Not many dogs or cats were adopted out by the previous shelter and Boomer was one of them. He was one of many dogs that didn’t have the opportunity to get adopted at the young age of 2 when he arrived (a highly adoptable age by any standard). But, instead he lived there for 5 years. He went from a 2 year old boy that could have had a great chance at being adopted on age alone to a 7 year old and considered not a highly adoptable dog any longer.

Pets Alive took over the Elmsford Shelter in 2010 and about the same time that Pets Alive took over a woman named Leslie began to volunteer there. She was introduced to Boomer and quickly fell in love with him. Boomer was one happy boy despite all he had been through. He loved to go on walks, play and snuggle. Leslie found a boy that she would consider her dog at PAW for the next few years. Leslie’s words to the staff again and again have been “if I ever see the day that Boomer got into a home that would be one of the happiest days of my life”.  She had hope that this day would come but it wasn’t likely as his chances of being adopted over many other “highly adoptable” dogs (we all know this means young and not a pit bull) was not good. But, there is always hope and she did not give up on hope that some day it could happen.

Sometimes we just need to have a little hope and know that as a new day comes for us all, a new page turns in not only our lives but that of the animals at PAW too. New doors can open and have opened. Over this past year 30 Legacy Dogs went into homes. Many senior dogs and cats were adopted and we HOPE that in 2014 we will see many more go into great homes.

At a recent event Pets Alive Westchester had on October 26th Leslie was speaking to staff and volunteers about Boomer.  She was saying how she wished she could do something to help Boomer find a home. In our conversation she was told to do all she could through social media to build awareness about him. Do a write up about him and see where it will go. We discussed doing a blog to help this great boy find a home. At that moment Boomer climbed up onto Leslie’s lap – we laughed and called him a “lap dog”. Then I snapped a picture and posted it to Facebook.



The next day I received this email:

My name is Nicole and I’m pretty sure I know Boomer. I know this might sound weird. Back around Oct 2006 I found a pit roaming the streets and I took her in. To my surprise she was pregnant. We named her Nala. She needed an emergency C-section on December 6, 2006 or she and the puppies wouldn’t survive. Good thing I worked and still currently do at an animal hospital as a vet tech. We did the c-section. Nala and only 4 puppies survived. I think Boomer is one of her puppies. Nala passed away last year of a hemangiosarcoma. It broke our hearts because she was always our baby. WE kept 1 of her puppies, Lila and still have her. 3 years ago we acquired her sister Drea back into our lives as we were her 5th owners and her only choice other than a shelter. They are both happy and healthy. So back to Boomer. One of my husband’s friends took Boomer who lived in Ossining, NY. He promised to give him a good home. His name was Danny R. (Last name withheld for privacy.) We lost contact with Danny and Boomer over the years. A couple of years later we heard he didn’t have Boomer anymore. This left me very upset and not knowing what happened to him. We didn’t know if he got into a good home or fell into the wrong hands. I told everyone who got a puppy, if you could not keep them to please contact me and I would help re-home the puppies. Now after years of wondering I saw a picture you posted on Facebook of a brindle pit named Boomer who resembles his sister Drea. My heart dropped. I attached baby pics of Boomer so you know I am not fooling you or making this story up. This is some type of fate or something to be crossing paths with him again. (Just so you don’t think I have bad intentions I have saved a dog who was adopted from Pets Alive – his name was Blizzard in your records and needed a foreign body surgery. I think it was a guy named John who I spoke to and came to pick up the dog from our hospital. )

All I would like to do is meet Boomer and try to help him find a special home. I really hope you are able to help me with this request. I have not been able to stop thinking about him since I saw the picture last night.

Thank you for your time.



Boomer and siblings                     Boomer puppy

I read it again, as I had to take in what she was telling me. I initially thought that there was no way that this could be possible, but once I pulled out Boomers file I saw that the person who had surrendered Boomer to the shelter in 2008 was indeed the same person who she had adopted him out to. After all this time, she had finally found him. It was unbelievable and I shared the information with staff and volunteers in the office. We were all floored. What were the chances?

I wrote her back immediately:

Hi Nicole.

Your email was so intriguing. I looked up the name of the person who surrendered Boomer and indeed it was Daniel R. Boomer came to us in 2008. The listed reason for surrender was because they had a baby coming and didn’t have enough time for him.

I would love to have you come meet Boomer. He is a wonderful dog that is still in need of a great home.

It’s an amazing story and yes, I do believe it could be fate that you saw my post about him on Facebook.



After that day, Boomer’s life changed forever. All it took was one person who loved him so much. Like many times in life, there are things that happen that trigger other things to happen. In this case if Leslie didn’t speak with us about what she could do to help Boomer find a home, Boomer climbing on her lap, us laughing and taking a picture to post to Facebook, Nikki would never have seen Boomer. Was it fate? Was it coincidence? I’m not sure what it was that made the stars align that day for Boomer and Nikki, but it happened and we are all grateful that it did. Nikki came to Pets Alive Westchester the next day with her family and Boomer never looked back. After 5 years, Boomer is now in the home he belongs in. The home where love lives for him. He will have this love the rest of his life. It’s times like these that we rejoice and know that miracles do happen.

Instead of writing a blog about Boomer in need of a home, I’m happy to announce that Boomer was adopted. Another Pets Alive Westchester miracle.

boomer adoption

Filed in Animal Rescue, Why we do this by Erin Guilshan on Jan 26, 2014.  There are 7 comments.  

From Broken Spirits to Thriving Lives!

By Erin Small-Guilshan, Shelter Manager Pets Alive Westchester

I have heard these words countless times by Pets Alive staff and volunteers, “This is why we do what we do”. We save lives. Give medical attention when it’s needed. Sit with the shy ones, snuggle with the animals craving attention and provide them with love. In turn, we get to see them thrive and it’s when we see them go to a home, that’s when we say, “This is why we do what we do.”

We do all we can to better the lives of animals by all means possible.
This is who we are. This is what we do.


This is the first picture of Mitsy that I saw when I was looking on the NYCACC (New York City Animal Care & Control) list for animals that we could potentially save this past week. She looks like any other healthy tabby cat. But it was in the next picture that what I saw shocked me.


We knew we HAD to get her to Pets Alive Westchester as soon as possible! She needed medical attention IMMEDIATELY and we could provide it for her. We could help her. There was no question about it. We were going to save this girl and get her eye taken care of as soon as possible. She had been at ACC for 3 days and who knows how long prior to her arrival that she had been suffering.

It was 7:20 pm. ACC closes at 7:00 pm. An email was immediately sent to ACC to tell them that we could get her the medical care she so desperately needed. I then tried to call hoping that maybe, just maybe someone would still be there. How could anyone just allow this poor girl to suffer? By the way it looked in the picture, her eye was about to rupture if it hadn’t already.

I called them and got their answering system. Here’s what I heard:

“Press 1 if you would like to adopt an animal.
Press 2 if you would like to surrender an animal.
Press 3 if you would like to report neglect or abuse of an animal”.

I could say a few things here about what I was thinking at the time, but I think I’ll save that for another day. I shook my head and hung up the phone realizing they were all gone for the day.

poodleJohn Sibley does all of our transports from NYCACC. He had been working all week with me to help pull animals and transport them to Pets Alive West. John rushed to get Mitsy first thing in the morning and brought her to us where she received immediate medical attention. When he got to Pets Alive and we examined her, we could see that her eye had indeed ruptured at this point. Despite the discomfort she was in, she was alert and very affectionate.

Here’s what our plan is for Mitsy:
mits3We need to fight the infection in her eye. If we performed surgery immediately we would have risked her becoming septic. We also want the swelling to go down as much as possible prior to surgery. We need to be safe and look at all the factors. She is also a bit malnourished, and she should be as nutritionally sound as possible. She will be on antibiotics and eye drops to take away any pain for the next week. This will help reduce the swelling and will get rid of the infection prior to surgery. Her surgery is scheduled to be done on Thursday, 5/16 and we will be sure to update everyone on her progress on our Facebook page!

In the meantime, she is getting so much love and attention from the staff at Pets Alive West. She is an amazing girl with a great spirit about her! We have a lot of hope that she will do well in surgery, make a full recovery and be placed in a loving home. She deserves this.

A Chance at Life

We pulled 25 animals from ACC this past week. Monday through Thursday there was not a day that John wasn’t there to transport them. I went with him a couple of days since I had never been there before. I’m still very new at this shelter chimanager thing, but I do know that in the past it was fairly easy to be able to pull many animals very quickly as the ACC really needs to have as much space as they can for new intakes. I was SHOCKED at how difficult it was for us to pull any dogs. We must have requested up to 40 dogs that we wanted to save, and in four days time we were able to save just 4 dogs. They have now put in place an additional hold for animals to have time to be available for adoptions, which means they will be holding them there longer. I understand they would like to have an opportunity to adopt them out, but I’m wondering what will happen as their space fills and the animals get sicker and sicker. I think we all know the answer to that. The kill list will get larger and larger. This may not go the way that they have planned.

We were able to successfully pull 4 dogs, 10 cats, 11 kittens plus a momma cat had 4 kittens who were born at Pets Alive West yesterday.

mama4 of the kittens we took are bottle babies that are only four weeks old – one bottle baby was only a day old when we took her. It’s rare that a baby so young will live without the mother. Even feeding by a bottle, it’s just not the same as having the mother there to feed and nurture her the way a baby this young needs in order to survive, but we had to try. We immediately found a volunteer willing to take care of her. There are times when you wonder how it will all work out, and then you realize that it will, because if there is a will, there is a way. The pregnant mother cat had her kittens. What luck! We hoped that she would accept the bottle baby into her litter too. If she accepted her, we knew she’d survive for sure. She immediately accepted her into her litter of babies, and you can see it here.


ging1We were checking the urgent lists every night. On Wednesday we saw a cat named Ginger that had a leg injury with a bandage on it. The information on him said that his leg may need to be amputated. This could be a VERY costly expense. I continued to look at others but kept going back to him. I kept reading the short write up and thinking of the possible scenarios that could happen with his leg. We’d have to find an orthopedic surgeon if the leg had to be amputated. The ACC didn’t do an x-ray to see if it was broken or what the issue was, they simply wrapped it, took his picture and posted him to the internet. I decided that we couldn’t leave him like this. No one else pulled him. We needed to. Like many others, Ginger needed our help. Ginger was saved yesterday and brought to the Animal Hospital of White Plains immediately for an x-ray. The results were that he has a fractured leg, and no surgery is necessary. He also had an injury that wasn’t attended to on his paw, so at the hospital they flushed it out and treated the wound. They wrapped up his leg and he will be on light rest for up to 4 weeks. That was the best news we could have heard. We rescued this sweet 1 year old boy, got him treated and soon he will be adopted into a loving home.

That’s when you hear “This is why we do what we do.” We don’t give up. We won’t ever give up.


We could never have saved so many lives, could never have taken in animals that needed so much care this week without you. Your support is what enabled us to do this and enables us to keep doing it. You truly are the lifeline for these animals. Thank you for all you do to help support them so they can have the lives they deserve.

We want to keep doing this. We will keep doing this. We want to be able to continue to save animals with or without medical issues.

We can’t do this without you.

Please consider making a donation to the Critical Care Medical Fund today. Together we can be the difference between life and death.

Filed in Animal Rescue, NYCACC, Why we do this by John Sibley on May 10, 2013.  There are 3 comments.  

Links, Continued: Socks, Baby Food and a BIG SURPRISE!

Our story from last week continues, once again from Becky Tegze, Pets Alive Cat Manager…

The hissing continues… our “broken” Links is still hissing but there is something just a little different – Links stretched out relaxing on his bed! Good morning Links! You just made my Monday! I continue my ritual of talking softly to him the entire time I’m in the room caring for him and all his friends, when it hits me he hasn’t scrunched back up and he ISN’T hissing at me – he’s watching me! He hasn’t moved but when I sneak a look at him I see his eye following me as I care for the other kitties. He is curious! Oh Links, I just want to kiss you. We are on our way to being friends.

Okay Links, brace yourself: today we are going to work on being touched. This is a big step for any cat not used to human contact and affection, especially an adult cat. Even kittens who are not handled, cuddled, played with or shown affection by humans at a very young age can fear human contact as they age.

As I dig into my back of tricks I once again am talking to Links, hoping beyond hope that maybe he understands me. The first trick up my sleeve is a dowel stick with a catnip sock toy stuck on the end of it. For anyone who hasn’t worked with a “broken” cat before let me explain – this little trick serves many purposes, it gives me the “scary” human a bit more distance so I’m not leaning over Links (which would be way too scary at this point for him), and it keeps me safe because I do not know how Links is going to react to first contact. He could react by being frozen in fear, it could be a hiss or it could be him showing his displeasure with his claws, his teeth or both – or he could just be totally unfazed.

Drum roll please… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed in Animal Rescue, Case Studies, Why we do this by John Sibley on Mar 27, 2013.  There are 1 comments.  

Let’s Get This Cowboy Home!

By Jenessa Taylor, Executive Director Pets Alive Westchester

Cowboy with his horseyWe are so incredibly touched and grateful to all of you who have reached out to us in support of Cowboy. When Cowboy showed up on our doorstep there was never hesitation from our staff to bring him in from the cold, give him food and water and make him as comfortable as possible. When we discovered his injured leg there was no doubt that we would immediately get him the veterinary care he needed. But it was because of all of you who have so generously donated towards his care that we were able to financially afford Cowboy’s immediate surgery to correct his broken tibia and fibula. Cowboy is truly grateful to you all and says THANK YOU! (Just look at that face, how could anyone resist?) Read the rest of this entry »

Filed in Animal Rescue, Why we do this by John Sibley on Mar 09, 2013.  There are 0 comments.  

Princess Goes Home!

Note: This guest post was written by Misa Martin CPDT-KA, Staff Canine Trainer at Pets Alive Westchester.

When I first got hired at PAW, there were about 180 “Legacy dogs” living there – dogs that Pets Alive had inherited from the previous occupants of the building. In addition to getting familiar with all of these legacy dogs, it was requested that I work with a certain young Pit girl “every day”. When I first visited her, I saw why. Dumped at the shelter as a baby pup back in the “bad days” when Elmsford Animal Shelter was terribly mis-managed, Princess was taught at a young age that if she wanted a walk, she ought to leap about, grab the handler’s leash, dance on people’s heads, and carry on with all of these things (simultaneously). Volunteers reported that she had been tugging inappropriately since the beginning, and that she had been labeled as a Red/Caution dog as she made mistakes with her teeth quite often.

At 2 years old, she was fast and powerful. She was a great example of a young dog raised without any impulse control whatsoever – sweet, without bad intent (thank goodness!), but with kennel manners that were simply atrocious. Any prospective walker approaching her run would be quickly turned off by her intense display of bad manners. I had a lot of work to do!

Crate Games, March 2012

I began working Crate Games with her. Structure, structure, structure at all times when I was interacting with her, training that started even before my hand touched her kennel door. Tons of It’sYourChoice to engage her mind, tons of shaping. With her high energy levels, she was both a quick study and a true test of my timing skills! Some days, I wasn’t able to get her out at all (love that good old variable schedule of reinforcement….) but some days, as her good behaviors gelled, her new habits outweighed her old ones and we had good progress.

John Sibley and I quickly integrated her into our play groups, adding an additional high-value reward into my existing structure of training with Princess. The hijinks and fun that she brought to those groups meant that she met a bunch of dogs and had an outlet for all of that energy. The videos that we shot of her with all of her new friends were posted on YouTube, and turned out to be a key in getting her out of PAW. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed in Why we do this by John Sibley on Sep 07, 2012.  There are 0 comments.