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Boots' camp

From Animal Sheltering magazine March/April 2015

Nearly a decade ago, the Arizona Humane Society’s (AHS) emergency response team and emergency animal medical technicians deployed to Louisiana to assist in rescue efforts following Hurricane Katrina. The conditions were overwhelmingly sad, and the number of animals needing help was great.

Of the 300 animals who made their way to Phoenix in the aftermath of Katrina, there was one in particular who caught the attention of staff and volunteers.

Boots, a chow chow/golden retriever mix—named for the bandages that initially covered his four burnt paws—was just 2 years old when he was rescued. The AHS team found him injured and called the main emergency shelter to register him. That shelter was full, so he was brought back to the AHS camp—which was in a parking lot at a Salvation Army. The AHS medical team took care of his injured paws through daily soaking, cleaning and bandage changes. When Boots went unclaimed, AHS volunteers Susan and Bob Juergensen immediately adopted him.

Boots is a survivor in his own right, but it’s what he is doing now that is getting so much attention. With supervision from his owner, Boots “volunteers” as a nanny in our new kitten nursery, which provides critical care to kittens 5 to 8 weeks old until they are ready for adoption. During a period when kittens’ exposure to new things in a positive manner can directly impact their experiences later in life, the time they spend with Boots is making them more adaptable and more adoptable.Boots volunteers at the nursery weekly, slowly introducing himself to the kittens, letting them sniff, stare and swat at him. Based on the kittens’ reactions—shy, nervous, curious or playful—they can spend time with Boots outside of their kennel.

“Our nursery is about more than saving lives,” says AHS feline welfare specialist Liz Truitt. “It’s about improving the quality of life for the future of each kitten. So in addition to tending to their physical needs, it’s important that we also address their behavioral needs.”

Boots teaches the kittens that dogs don’t have to be scary, a role that he seems to relish as he continues to paw it forward for homeless pets.

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About the Author

Bretta Nelson is spokeswoman for the Arizona Humane Society, Phoenix, Ariz.