October 2009

“Would You Take Care of My Hedge Hogs?”

Author: Paul deVere

On one of the television episodes of Cesar Millan’s “Dog Whisperer,” he talks about the different barks dogs make. Some are calling for attention, some are angry or frustrated or, more often than not, they are just saying “hello.”

Walking into Brooke’s Bed and Biscuit Luxury Boarding Kennel, everybody seems to be barking “Hello,” or “Hey,” or “Wu’s up?” It is immediately obvious the dogs like to be there. Typically, the cats imply they are on “holiday.” Visitors are ignored.

Bottom line: Everyone, including owner-operator Brooke Fisher, her staff of 13, and all the “guests,” are quite happy to be at the kennel. The indoor facility is 12,000 square feet, including large runs for the dogs, a grooming station, cat condos and a feline play area. There is also a covered pool and 11 fenced, grass yards where the dogs are taken out to play five times a day.

“We have a lot of happy dogs,” Fisher says. “We do small play groups, they have so much fun. They definitely don’t sit in the cage all day.”

Brooke’s Bed and Biscuit boards pets when locals go on vacation or must leave the area for a few days. But they also board pets for vacationers coming to Hilton Head. “The owners go on vacation and so do their pets,” Fisher said. “Most hotels and vacation homes don’t allow dogs, so people from Atlanta or Florida bring them here. They can check out their pets for the day and take them to the beach,” she explained.

The kennel also offers “Doggy Day Care” for owners who work in the area and don’t want to leave their pets at home alone. “With all the exercise and play, we really tire them out,” Fisher said. The only problem arises when the owner comes to take the dog home. One of the regular “visitors” will sit down as soon as he’s outside the kennel and won’t budge. “The owner has to drag him out,” Fisher said, laughing. “He keeps telling us, ‘Honestly, I don’t beat my dog!’ It’s pretty funny.”
While dogs and cats are the usual, Fisher said they have had their share of interesting guests. “We’ve boarded parrots, ferrets, we’ve even boarded fish. We’ve had a tortoise, rats, mice, guinea pigs, hamsters, iguanas, everything.” The most unusual? “Hedge hogs,” said Fisher, “though the pot bellied pigs are unusual too, but they’re rescued.”

Fisher does a great deal of rescuing. “We’ve rescued about 550 to 600 dogs since we opened nine years ago, and hundreds of cats,” Fisher said. There is an entire aisle in the kennel dedicated to rescues. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I’ve always been a fan of adopting animals rather than purchasing them from pet stores. There’s not an animal shelter in Bluffton, so that’s what we’ve become. It’s not by choice, but there’s no way I can turn people down. If there’s a puppy found on the side of the road, people bring it here. A lot of times the Hilton Head shelter is full. They’re a wonderful shelter, but they’re always at capacity. I can’t turn around and say ‘take them to the kill shelter.’ That’s how I wind up with all these strays. I’m a sucker.”

People seem to know about Fisher’s feelings. “I’ve actually been to kill shelters and pulled out ones that are highly adoptable. We find them by the side of the road. Some are abandoned here. Some surrender their pets because of the economy. They come here in tears and ask if we’d take their pet. We’ve had a couple thrown over our six-foot fence in the back and abandoned in our pool area in the middle of the night,” said Fisher.

Once in her care, Fisher takes the rescued pet to her neighbor, Dr. Ben Parker’s Coastal Veterinary Clinic and has them vaccinated, neutered or spayed, and treated for heart worm prevention. She pays for it all. “Dr. Parker has been a huge help,” Fisher said.

Fisher said that for customers who board a pet for the first time, both owner and pet show some separation anxiety. “We see that a lot. But the dog can tell you if it’s had a good day or not. It’s just like picking up your child at the day care center. You’ll know right away how the day went. When they bring them the second time, the dog goes right to that (kennel) door. Tails are wagging and they’re ready to play,” Fisher said. Play is definitely what pets like best. At Brooke’s Bed and Biscuit Luxury Boarding Kennel, that is obviously the order of the day.

For more information, visit www.brookesbedandbiscuit.com.


A Different Kind of SNAC for Pets
By Kate Hanzalik

A lonely pup wanders around town without a collar and you’re concerned; your ears perk right up. A field cat here or there…well that’s kind of cute, right? Wrong.
Cat and dog overpopulation leads to stray pets; stray pets lead to overpopulated shelters; and overpopulated shelters lead to euthanasia. In 2005 alone, more than 30 thousand dogs and cats were euthanized in the Lowcountry. The executive team at Spay and Neuter Alliance Clinic (SNAC), the region’s largest spay and neuter clinic, knows this frightening pattern all too well.

“The biggest thing that concerns me is the euthanasia rate in America,” said Shawn Albertson, executive director of SNAC. “There are different stats out there and this is a conservative estimate. For every 100 dogs that go into a shelter, 85 are killed.
“[The clinicians] will euthanize the animals that came in first to make room for other animals. It’s a terrible job, and they don’t like it,” said SNAC’s co-founder and president, Barbara Greenstein, who has had more than 20 years of experience volunteering for animal shelters in Upstate New York, in Jasper County, and at the Hilton Head Humane Association.

“We’ve seen these animals brought into shelters—some thrown over the fence overnight, some tied to doorknobs; some [people] would load their puppies and kittens in a car and dump them and take off. There isn’t a shelter in the world that can accommodate all the homeless animals that come in,” she said. “We recognized that the only viable solution was to have animals spayed and neutered. This is the only way we can prevent all of these animals and their offspring from winding up in a shelter.”

The veterinarians and staff at the clinic learned safe surgical procedures and protocols from the pros at the Humane Alliance Spay Neuter Clinic of Asheville, NC, which spearheaded the company’s development. “Bottom line, we know it works because Humane Alliance made it work,” said Albertson. “In 13 years, in 13 county facilities, they reduced euthanasia rates by 75 percent.”

Today the clinic has conducted more than 13 thousand procedures, and Albertson and Greenstein agree that the best way to provide service is to offer low-cost options for everyone.

“Usually places have sliding scales by weight or income—frankly the best way to do it is a flat fee,” said Albertson. “We don’t have any qualifications; we don’t ask what people make. We just want to get cats and dogs neutered.”

The top rate at SNAC for a female dog, which Greenstein said is the most complicated surgery, is $75. A male dog is $65. A female cat is $60 and a male cat is $50.

“And that includes everything: anesthesia, pet medications, boarding overnight, transport—it really is a very good deal for people who feel they can’t afford it otherwise,” said Greenstein. “We also have vouchers that can help people who can’t afford our low rates.”

SNAC volunteers visit various feral cat colonies as well. Oftentimes they pick the cats up with a humane trap and bring them straight to SNAC, or the clinic will pick them up. Either way, SNAC returns the furry free-spirits to their place in the wild. “Gradually the colony dies off naturally, and that way we are not killing them,” said Greenstein. (SNAC does not offer ongoing animal care, but they offer referrals to vets that do, and they offer micro-chipping and vaccinations.)

“Spaying and neutering is a good thing for animals. It calms them down,” said Greenstein. “They are not going to want to run away from home as often. It is also a cancer preventative for some types of cancers in dogs. And they recuperate very quickly—especially puppies and kittens.”

Greenstein is planning a September fundraiser, fashion show and silent auction at the Country Club of Hilton Head and is accepting donations for auction items.

SNAC is located at 21 Getsinger Street, Ridgeland, SC. To schedule an
appointment, call (843) 645-2500 or visit www.snac1.com for more

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