Tag Archive | "arf"

Jamie Berger

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Jamie Berger, of the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons (ARF), spoke about the organization’s upcoming designer show house and some of the other ways community members can get involved. Photo by Sole Riley.

By Mara Certic

What does Saturday’s designer show house entail?

Not only are we an adoption center in Wainscott, we also have a thrift shop in Sagaponack, which helps to fund what we do here. I believe it’s 15 to 19 percent of our operating budget that actually comes from revenue at the thrift shop, so it’s absolutely instrumental in what we do. This is now the fifth year of the designer show house. Obviously we weren’t the first to do a decorator show house, but it’s got a little bit of a twist to it because the designers volunteer their time and they use items that they’ve found at the thrift shop, or items they’re personally supplying. It really came from the idea of taking the thrift shop stuff, and incorporating that, or an item that inspired you to create a themed room.

How many decorators are involved in this year’s show house?

There are six designers, and they each get a little room—we call them vignettes—and they’re invited to come to the thrift shop over the winter, take a look at what we have and from there they stop by on occasion, see if there’s anything new that inspires them to create their new space. The designers just got into the thrift shop this week to start setting up their spaces for Saturday night.

So is each vignette like a separate room of a house? 

Exactly—it’s whatever inspires the designer. So Mark Shriver was inspired by a four-poster bed with carved birds that he found at the thrift shop. So he has decided to create “Tippi’s bedroom,” in honor of Tippi Hedren. It’s something that moves them. One of the other designers, Kevin Heart, was given a space that has dog wallpaper on it. So he went with that theme, and he’s calling his room the Dog Portrait sitting room. And everything the designers put in there will be on sale, so not only do you get to experience these great designers and their creativity, you can actually own a piece of the room, or the whole room if you wanted. And of course, it all benefits ARF.

How long will all of the little vignettes be on show?

So Saturday night is the cocktail party. We have two different ticket levels: 5 p.m. is the higher end ticket, which gets you in before anyone else. If you’re really interested in purchasing, I’d suggest coming then. And then general admission will be from 6 until 8 p.m. Sunday, it will be open for the general public, and we’ll ask for a suggested donation of $10. We hope that we sell out of everything on Saturday night, but if we don’t then everything’s still for sale, and the sale will continue into Sunday.

What will this money be used for?

It really goes to our day-to-day operations, what we do here at the adoption center, whether it’s food, just paying our overhead or specific rescues, where we do travel to other areas.

How else can community members pitch in?

We do really rely on our vast number of volunteers for a lot of the programs we have. We have people who come by and walk dogs, people can volunteer at different events that we have. We also have a project called Operation Cat that helps manage the local cat populations here. It’s a trap, neuter and release program, and it’s totally based on volunteers.

The other day I saw an ARF van at an event. What is that used for?

Oh you saw our mobile van… Not only does that help in our transport, so that the animals are much more comfortable, but it’s been key for getting our animals adopted. Our mobile van is out every weekend. There are a lot of people who don’t want to come to shelters and we just thought if you’re not willing to come here, we’ll bring the animals to you. I think it’s about 40 percent of our adoptions that come off the van now. It’s really helped us get our animals adopted.

For more information visit arfhamptons.com

ARF Dog Training Classes

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Photo by Sole Riley.

If you got a new puppy or dog for Christmas, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons reminds you that January is “Dog Training Month.” To help you and your pooch get off on the right foot in 2015, ARF is offering indoor dog training courses taught by Matthew Posnick, starting on Saturday, January 17.

Four-week dog obedience classes begin this week. They will focus on positive reinforcement techniques and the curriculum includes Leash Handling, Let’s Go, Turning Techniques, Stay/Stand, Sit/Stay, Down/Stay, Leave It, Come, No Jumping and Leash Pulling Prevention Exercises. The class will be held Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. for the basic class and 10 a.m. for the intermediate class. The cost is $125. A four-week puppy kindergarten will be held from 11 a.m. to noon. The cost is $100.

Winter classes take place in the heated greenhouse at Wainscott Farms on Daniels Hole Road. Participants have been asked to park at the ARF Adoption Center at 90 Daniels Hole Road and walk across the street or park on the shoulder of the road.

Registration can be done online by visiting www.arfhamptons.org or calling (631) 537-0400, extension 202.

ARF Raises Funds with Annual Garden Tour

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Art by John Canemaker, image courtesy of the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, Inc. 

By Genevieve Kotz

The Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, Inc. will host its 28th annual ARF Garden Tour on Saturday, June 21.

“Celebrating the Summer Solstice in Springs” is a self-guided tour of six private gardens in Springs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. Featured on the tour are the gardens of Pamela Bicket and Zachary Cohen, Peter Bickford and Greg McCarthy, Annachiara Danieli, Deborah Nevins, Suky and Michael Novogratz, and Edwina von Gal. Free refreshments will be served at the home of Ms. Bicket and Mr. Cohen. Ticket-holders can view the gardens in any order.

Many of the gardens use native plants and environmentally sound practices while not straying from quality design.

Tickets are $85 and can be bought online (www.arfhamptons.org), over the phone at 631-537-0400, extension 129, or at one of the following locations: the ARF Adoption Center in Wainscott, the ARF Thrift Store in Sagaponack, Lynch’s Garden Center in Southampton, Mecox Gardens of Southampton and East Hampton, East Hampton Gardens, The Bayberry in Amagansett, the Sag Harbor Florist or Marders in Bridgehampton.

In celebration of ARF’s 40th anniversary, a $175 ticket is also available that allows visitors a tour of the Judith and Gerson Leiber garden and museum as well as a post-tour wine tasting at the waterfront home and garden of Marshall Watson and Paul Sparks. These tickets must be purchased in advance by phone, online or at ARF.

The ARF Garden Tour is one of the longest running garden tours on Long Island and the tour this year is chaired by Barbara Slifka and Mark Fichandler.

All proceeds benefit ARF. Founded in 1974, ARF is the leading no-kill animal shelter on eastern Long Island. It has found homes for over 20,000 cats, kittens, dogs and puppies. The ARF Adoption Center, located in Wainscott, is open every day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

ARF Celebrates 40 Years of Protecting Man’s Best Friend

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ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick gets a kiss from Pretty Girl, a pit bull mix rescued from a dog fighting ring. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick gets a kiss from Pretty Girl, a pit bull mix rescued from a dog-fighting ring. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Forty years ago, Sag Harbor Village was overrun with strays, cat colonies had overtaken the East Hampton Town dump and feral dogs roamed the Northwest Woods in wild packs.

The commonplace conversion of house pets to wild animals seems unbelievable on the East End today—and that change is in large part thanks to the efforts of ARF, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary this Saturday.

People have been encouraged to bring their dogs on leashes and their cats in carriers to the celebration, which includes dog agility courses and contests, free pet microchipping and rabies vaccines, an “Ask the Vet” booth with Dr. Sarah Alward, music, fresh food for both humans and pets, and proclamations from elected officials and the Humane Society.

“We’re celebrating 280 years in dog years,” said Executive Director Sara Davison, noting that guests can also visit the shelter and view pets for adoption.

“A lot has changed since ARF was founded and we’re very, very proud of the role we’ve played in helping to make the East End a no-kill community—and by that I mean that no animal now in most of the East End towns is euthanized for lack of space,” she said.

“Through ARF’s work of advocating for spay and neuter, the numbers of unwanted litters of kittens and puppies are way, way down and we’re able to take all the animals that are healthy or can be rehabilitated and we get them homes,” Ms. Davison added.

ARF Executive Director Sara Davison poses with cats at the Wainscott adoption center. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

ARF Executive Director Sara Davison poses with cats at the Wainscott adoption center. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

When ARF was founded in 1974, “People were abandoning animals left and right…. There were huge tracts of woodlands where there were feral dogs, a lot of suffering, a lot of animals abandoned—and that’s all changed,” she said.

In 1973, the late Cleveland Amory, an American author who devoted his life to promoting animal rights, brought three local women together for a meeting at what was then the Paradise Restaurant in Sag Harbor.

Mr. Amory contacted the women—Barbara Posener, Sony Schotland and Dorothy Wahl—because of their respective contributions to animal welfare on the East End.

The late Ms. Posener had made flyers calling on summer residents to leave their house, not their dog, when they left the area in the fall. Ms. Wahl had reached out to Mr. Amory to notify him of someone who was illegally selling leopards and other wildlife. Mr. Amory approached Ms. Schotland, the owner of a shop on Main Street at the time, because she had raised money to buy a fence for the Hampton Animal Shelter, a shelter on Brick Kiln Road with a bad reputation.

“I constantly tried to help them, but it was to no avail,” she recounted.

After Ms. Schotland raised funds for a fence, the shelter owner took the money but applied it elsewhere, she said, rather than using it to enclose the cats and dogs in her care. Claiming to take in strays, the shelter actually perpetuated the problem, said Ms. Schotland, as its animals would wander from Brick Kiln Road into Sag Harbor.

“The warden in Southampton told me, ‘I have never been to any place where I pick up so many strays, I pick up an average of 30 strays a month out of just Sag Harbor,” Ms. Schotland said.

Mr. Amory, “the god of the animal world in those days,” according to Ms. Schotland, brought the women together, approaching the shelter to offer their help.

When the group’s offer was rejected, ARF was born.

“If she had not rejected us, ARF would never have been,” Ms. Schotland said.

The trio founded the new shelter “with little more than a passion for animal welfare, a backyard and indomitable determination,” according to ARF board president Lisa McCarthy.

“We had no clue what to do and it felt like having an elephant by the tail, but then, little by little, it worked,” Ms. Schotland said.

In the beginning, the founders boarded animals in their homes, in the back of Ms. Schotland’s shop, and at local animal hospitals, vets and friends’ places.

It is it’s required that found animals first be taken to a designated shelter, Southampton Animal Shelter in Southampton or the East Hampton Veterinary Group in East Hampton, to be held for a period of time, so there is a standard place for an owner to look for their pet.

In the early 1980s, ARF, still a fledgling organization, brought a four-month old black lab, “adorable” according to Ms. Schotland, to Southampton Town as mandated.

“That was terrible,” she recalled. “By the next weekend, when the people came back to look for it, it had been destroyed, it had been euthanized.”

Following the incident, Ms. Schotland, Helena Curtis and ARF successfully lobbied the town to increase the mandatory holding time for stray dogs from five to 10 days.

As ARF’s reputation grew through such efforts, bigger names signed on.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick plays with Pretty Girl. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick plays with Pretty Girl. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

“Little by little, we formed a board and we got more organized,” Ms. Schotland said.

With help from philanthropists Edward and Susan Yawney, ARF celebrated its 10th anniversary with the purchase of 22 acres on Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott.

Today, ARF has 27 professional employees, hundreds of volunteers and an annual budget of $2.5 million—and plenty of stories supporting its initial mission to protect homeless and abandoned cats and dogs.

“They all have a story,” said Jamie Berger, director of marketing and communications. “Some we know, some we don’t.”

A year ago, a pit bull mix was found lying close to death on the floor of a dog-fighting ring in North Hempstead.

“She’s pretty well chewed up from what they did to her,” said Matthew Posnick, ARF’s trainer who is in the process of rehabilitating the dog, now affectionately called Pretty Girl.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick shows the scars on Pretty Girl's face from her days in a North Hempstead dog-fighting ring. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

ARF Trainer Matthew Posnick shows the scars on Pretty Girl’s face from her days in a North Hempstead dog-fighting ring. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Within about 10 weeks, Pretty Girl was out of a muzzle and socializing with other dogs. She was on the pier at HarborFest, playing with dogs and kids and although she isn’t up for adoption quite yet, the shelter is hopeful she will be ready for a home soon.

“Of all the things I’ve done here in four years, I’m most proud of that,” Mr. Posnick said, as Pretty Girl licked his face. “She’s a really happy dog.”

Nancy Butts, who has worked at ARF for 21 years—topped only by Debbie Downes’s 28 years—was never allowed to have an animal growing up.

“My father used to say to me, when you get married you can have all the dogs you want,” said Ms. Butts, who now has four. “I got married on a Saturday and got an animal on a Monday.”

Snuggled below her desk was Patrick, a Pomeranian who looks like a puppy but is actually 7. Rescued from a puppy mill in Ohio, Patrick is patiently awaiting a home.

With an extremely high release rate—the rate of how many animals come into the shelter versus how many leave alive—ARF has adopted out 20,000 animals to date.

Longtime ARF employee Nancy Butts with Patrick, a seven-year-old Pomeranian rescued from a puppy mill. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Longtime ARF employee Nancy Butts with Patrick, a seven-year-old Pomeranian rescued from a puppy mill. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Ms. McCarthy’s personal goal is to adopt out 2,000 animals yearly by 2017.

“We’re very proud of the community,” Ms. Davison said. “We’re thankful for the support that we’ve gotten through the years from the community, and it’s enabled us to create one of the leading shelters in our country.”

“Not every shelter can afford to do the kinds of surgeries and rehabilitative care that we provide, but once we admit an animal into our doors, we really make a pledge to them that we’re going to do everything we can to get them healthy and get them adopted,” she added.

ARF’s 40th Anniversary Celebration is Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the ARF Adoption Center, 90 Daniels Hole Road in Wainscott. For more information or to RSVP, email tdix@arfhamptons.org or call 537-0400.

From Tehran to the East End

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The Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, Inc. (ARF) announced yesterday that two dogs have been rescued from the outskirts of Tehran, Iran and have found a new home at ARF in Wainscott.

The rescue was coordinated by the Humane Society International (HIS) in a response to a ban on all dogs in cities and suburbs of Iran.

According to an article in the Washington Post, while dogs were increasingly becoming popular companions in Iran, they were frowned upon as being a Western influence and unclean in the eyes of Shiite rulers.

Responding to their popularity, Iranian government officials have proposed banning dogs in all cities and suburbs and as a counter measure animal shelters in Iran began working with groups like the Humane Society to find homes for Iranian dogs in other countries.

Two have now found their way to the East End of Long Island.

According to a press release issued Tuesday by ARF, international travelers from Iran delivered the dogs — Lampic (below) and Narin (above)— to the ARF Adoption Center last week, although hundreds more dogs await rescue in Iran.

According to ARF, both dogs are young, large, lanky female mixes and are in quarantine in the adoption center’s medical wing. Both will undergo full medical exams and will need time to acclimate. One of the dogs, Lampic, has no vision in one eye, although ARF officials said otherwise they are healthy. Once they have undergone their quarantine, they will be ready for adoption.

The Serious Side of Pet Adoption

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By Claire Walla

“Do not buy the rabbits! Do not buy the chickens!”

Just about this time of year, when baby animals are born and images of fluffy white bunnies mark the onset of Easter, East Hampton resident Pat Lillis gets extra upset.

“I know, ‘they’re sooo cute,”’ Lillis mocked with a strained, high-pitched inflection. “But, who’s going to take care of them?”

If you’ve ever met Lillis, then you know this dialogue, written as it is, does little to capture the full spectrum of her husky, Irish, curse-word-ridden speech. And it does nothing to convey the passion she has for this issue.

Wearing Ugg boots, ripped cargo shorts and a t-shirt with the phrase “Defend human rights today, prevent tragedy tomorrow” — a year-round look for the 61-year-old — Lillis tended to the animals in her home as she railed against a segment of the population she has many issues with: “animal lovers.”

“There’s a reason why these cats are here,” she continued, referring to the posse of felines lounging in her kitchen. “It’s because people ‘fell in love’ with them.”

Twelve years ago, Lillis founded a non-profit organization called Elsa’s Ark, which raises funds to care for injured or abandoned animals. The organization is run out of her home in Springs, and can best be described by a hand-made sign she has hung on a bulletin board in her garage: Only one question allowed, how can I help?

“I had another one, but it fell down and the cats pissed on it,” she explained.

Lillis herself has cared for rabbits and chickens over the years, and is now caring for precisely two dogs, 15 chickens and nearly three-dozen cats, only one of which — Houdini, whom she described as “a thug” — is her own.

Lillis goes through roughly 574 cans of cat food a week. She counted.

“I don’t go looking for animals,” Lillis was very quick to explain. “And I don’t buy them.”

This is one of the many talking points that flips her lid. Lillis believes nobody should ever buy an animal. And even if they have plans to adopt, she urges interested parties to think long and hard before bringing a cat, a dog or even a chicken into their home.

Every now and then, she said, a “brave soul” will knock on the window of her Volvo and ask for her help. Lillis gritted her teeth before continuing: “If I meet you and you tell me you’re going to give up your animal, you’d better be in the ready position to start the 100 meters.”

According to Ginny Frati of the Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons, located in Southampton, the center sees about 12 domesticated rabbits each year. It is currently caring for two baby bunnies, in fact, which, at three inches long, she estimates are about two-and-a-half weeks old. They were allegedly found in East Port.

The Center also sees its fair share of chicks and ducks. Last year, she said there were two domesticated geese found along the banks of Otter Pond right here in Sag Harbor. Rescue crews were able to secure the animals, rehabilitate them and find them new homes.

However, Franti said most are not so lucky.

“People often bring them to a pond when they don’t want them anymore,” she explained. “Usually a fox or a raccoon will get them in the first year.” And with domestic ducks, she added, “Dogs will attack them, then we get them after they’ve been attacked.”

More than two decades before Elsa’s Ark was established, three East End residents created the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons (ARF) to address the growing population of abandoned animals on the East End.

ARF’s executive director Sara Davison said the situation has improved dramatically for Hamptons cats and dogs. Now, only about 15 percent of the dogs at ARF are abandoned. However, about half the cat population at ARF is there due to “owner abandonment.”

According to Director of Operations Michele Forrester, the shelter can keep up to 160 dogs and cats at one time, and it’s almost always at capacity.

“We’re now approaching kitten season,” Forrester further explained. Around this time of year, the feral cat population has an explosion of new litters, many of which end up at ARF. She said there are hundreds of volunteers throughout the community who not only help to feed feral cat colonies, but help locate new litters of kittens and bring them to ARF to be spayed or neutered.

“We call that ‘breaking the feral cat cycle,’” Executive Director Sara Davison added.

Because of these practices, Forrester said ARF has seen a decline in the number of kittens it’s seen for the past four years. However, she added, there are still too many cats for ARF to handle on its own. Because it is a private facility, ARF is able to pick and choose which animals it keeps for adoption. There’s a waiting list for the rest.

“You can’t overwhelm the staff, we have to stay at a level we can handle,” Forrester continued.

Like ARF, Pat Lillis is a big proponent of “breaking the feral cat cycle.” Elsa’s Ark provides free spaying and neutering services for anyone wishing to sterilize their cat.

But, she acknowledges that curbing reproduction is only half the battle.

In the backyard of her home, surrounded by her chickens Charlie Brown, Bertha, Red Red, Jeanne, Aggy, Mattie and Phyllis Diller (a light brown bird with a feathery ‘fro), Lillis explained that people’s attitudes toward animals are a big part of the problem.

For example, several of Lillis’ birds came from a man in Westhampton Beach who had moved from Mastic with 11 chickens in tow. He abandoned the birds when his neighbor complained.

“People don’t think before they get animals,” Lillis railed.

The cleaning, the feeding, the going into the chicken coop at dusk with a flashlight to check every nook and cranny for threatening four-legged species with an appetite for breast meat, she said it’s all part of the job.

At the beginning of January, Lillis said two cats were left in their cat carrier with a note: “We know you will give them a home.”

Just repeating the story put Lillis on edge.

“F— that!” she roared. “I’m a spinster at 61-years-old, how much longer am I going to live?! The nerve!”

“People make the mistake of saying I love animals,” she continued. But, she she said it’s not love.

“I believe everyone should be looked after,” Lillis said. “You have to be part of this world you’re hanging out in. I pick up everything. I pick up people, I pick up animals, I pick up garbage… If you see something that has to be done, it’s your civic duty to do it. It’s just your civic duty.”

A New Pet For The Holidays: Call ARF


By Richard Gambino

A  new pet dog or cat — what a great way to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah and to start the New Year! And the place to go for one is the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons (ARF).

ARF, located in Wainscott, is in its 37th year. During that time, it has saved some 18,000 homeless cats and dogs, in partnership with good people who have adopted them.

A short personal story: My wife and I most recently adopted an ARF kitten, jet-black with three white spots on her underside. Our grandkids promptly named her “Pepper.” She had lost her mother, and on the day before we first saw her, her sister had died. Pepper spent most of the time huddled in a corner of a cage, and was eating very little. To our concern, she spent the first two days in our house crouching under low furniture, or in one of its corners.

Then, she blossomed. Pepper is a happy, active, energetic, affectionate and very smart little creature. Without any training, she not only talks to us — in very expressive “meows,” when one of us talks to her — but, also without any training, when we throw one of her little stuffed toys down a corridor, she races to it, picks it up in her mouth, runs back to us, and drops it at our feet. The only feline “retriever” we’ve ever experienced.

All this was on my mind as I talked recently with Melissa Tiska, who is one of ARF’s two adoption coordinators. Ms. Tiska told me that ARF presently places 500 to 800 animals per year into adoption; about 60 percent of them are dogs, and about 40 percent are cats. She explained that, unlike times in the past, today most local dogs are neutered or spayed, so a more limited number of ARF’s animals are from this area. Some come because their owners have died, others from owners who cannot any longer keep them, e.g., because the folks have moved into apartments or are renting homes in which pets are not allowed.

Ms. Tiska said, “Ten to twenty percent of our animals come from animal surrenders and from animal control officers who find them as strays. For example, we work hand in hand with East Hampton Animal Control, which does not have a shelter of its own, and take in stray animals whose owners cannot be found.”

But ARF has partnerships with other rescue groups, for example in South Carolina, where many animals are not neutered or spayed, and as a result “they are putting down [i.e., putting to death] obscene numbers of dogs and cats, and we also obtain dogs from ‘puppy mill’ breeders.”

These latter are people who solely for profit breed large numbers of “purebred” dogs of various breeds that are eventually sold in pet stores — many at Christmas time. The relatively few mills in Suffolk County each have 50 or so dogs jammed in a basement, and when found, are raided by the ASPCA. But ARF gets large numbers of dogs from the Midwest and elsewhere where thousands of puppies are bred on large, open “puppy farms” covering many acres. Adult dogs that are not good at reproducing large litters of puppies at puppy mills, and puppies that don’t meet “purebred” standards, are considered “disposable” animals, and used to be put to death.

Now they are rescued, “no questions asked,” by ARF, through intermediary rescue groups. (One of my family’s pets today, a very loving and healthy dog, “Gemma,” was rescued as a rejected puppy from a mill breeding Ridgebacks in Oklahoma.)

ARF does not put down animals, but keeps them until each is adopted, regardless of how long it takes. (The very rare exceptions are terminally ill or injured individuals, or those with severe, uncorrectable problems making them dangerous to other animals or to humans.) ARF does and will advise people on where to obtain low-cost vaccines for their pets, and offers more information of all kinds regarding pets. (Call: 631/537-0400, ex. 202.)

Ms. Tiska told me, “Cat adoptions are a huge issue. They are harder because many cat-lovers already have three or four cats in their homes, and some people have cat allergies.” She added, “A lot of our kittens were born of feral mothers, found by good people who bring them in to us.”

Of course, the kittens have not grown up wild, so do not behave like feral cats.

“We neuter or spay them,” said Ms. Tiska. “We ‘microchip’ the kittens, socialize them, and put them up for adoption.”

Ms. Tiska added that ARF also works with volunteers who humanely capture adult feral cats, bring them to ARF where they are neutered or spayed, and then returned to the areas in which they were found. All animals adopted from ARF each have in them a microchip about the size of a grain of rice, painlessly embedded under their skin by ARF’s veterinarian, which can be electronically scanned if the pet is ever lost, found, then traced to their owners.

ARF depends very much on volunteers to “socialize” its animals, i.e., get them used to being with people, e.g., by playing with them and grooming them. Volunteers also walk ARF’s dogs on leashes, making them ready to do so with the people who adopt them. (If you don’t know how to walk a dog, one of ARF’s people will teach you.)

Volunteers, including on weekends large numbers of students from East Hampton High School and Pierson High School, also do office work, and help socialize animals, including 30 or so dogs that come to ARF from puppy mill rescues every three months, some undernourished or with other fitness problems. Many ARF volunteers are retired people, but others work during the week and come to help on weekends.

Ms. Tiska told me that many people who come to adopt a pet at ARF bring their kids with them — a good idea, she said, because kids show their preferences for individual animals, and vice-versa. We agreed that it is very good for a child to live with pets. It much enriches a kid’s life, and usually sets a pattern of kids’ wanting animals when they become adults. (I did not have pets as a child, but have learned as an adult how much better life is in exchanging love with cats and dogs.)

PBS’s Nova series has broadcast a fascinating documentary called, “De-Coding Dogs,” in which we see biologists run scientific tests on dogs that confirm what dog owners have always known. To wit, dogs have an ability to tune into humans’ thoughts and moods that is … well, uncanny, making them unmatchable companions. And after more than 40 years of having cats, which we never let out of our home, my family can tell you cats, too, have individual personalities, also making possible very personal relations with us.

ARF’s website is great to see. Just Google “ARF of the Hamptons.” To receive ARF’s quarterly newsletter in the mail, call 537-0400, ex. 202. ARF is totally dependent on financial donations from the public. People can also donate much needed old towels, bedding that animals may use, and pet toys. To donate, call: 537-0400, ext. 202. To adopt a pet from ARF or volunteer, call 537-0400, ext. 203.

Sit. Stay … Really, I Mean It!

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By Annette Hinkle

With temperatures inching down toward the 30s, and a brisk wind picking up, last Saturday morning hardly seemed the ideal day for an outdoor graduation ceremony.

But in the enclosed pen outside the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons it was, in fact, a very big day for ARF’s newest graduates — Cheddar, Razzle, Buddy, Raider, Louie, Lucky, Dixie and Gracie, all of whom took their diplomas and the plummeting temperatures in stride as they sniffed the ground for fallen treats or took part in a game of tag with fellow alumni.

The dogs (and their owners) had just completed Dog Obedience 101, a class offered by ARF’s Gail Murphy that covers all the basics— sit, stay, down, heel and loose leash walking. Over the course of the five weeks, all the students made admirable progress toward becoming good canine citizens, which Murphy cites as the primary goal of the course.

“I’m a huge advocate of taking dogs as many places as possible,” says Murphy. “I want your dog to perform like a guide dog, walking through town at your side, not interacting with dogs, sitting down while you stop to talk to people.”

But Murphy also stresses safety and she feels it’s imperative that dogs learn to come when called and be taught to wait before exiting a car or house. Murphy knows first hand about losing a dog tragically. Five years ago, her own dog, Zephyr, was killed by a hunter’s trap in the Long Pond Greenbelt. As a result, Murphy became actively involved with ARF to get trap laws changed.

“When I got the opportunity to teach these classes I thought it was fantastic,” says Murphy. “It had been 10 years since I had taught obedience and I had always used compulsive training, which is hands on manipulation to correct behavior. Then I was introduced to positive reinforcement which is all about relationship building.”

“With positive reinforcement, the worse thing that will happen is the dog will get an extra cookie, play time or praise,” she says. “In compulsive training, If the dog is not understanding you, you’ll only escalate the strength of your punishment. If your timing is not right, you’ve lost the lesson.”

“Dogs make us live in moment,” she adds. “What better way than to catch the dog just before he does something wrong, redirect him and say great job when he’s doing something right? You always give them some way to be good.”

“It’s changed my life completely,” adds Murphy. “I took a different course because of Zephyr. Though his death was such a tragedy, I don’t regret a moment of anything, because it was through him that I came to this.”

At the first obedience class, the dogs moved tentatively around the space, unsure of themselves and the others. But Murphy, who has something of a sixth sense when it comes to dogs, quickly put it all in perspective, identifying play bows and interpreting the scene from a dog’s point of view, including the nearby vocalizations of ARF’s tenants.

“This is a shelter. Those dogs out there are barking. They’re saying ‘I hear you’re out there. I’ll kick your ass.’ Everyone’s talking trash,” says Murphy.  “This is a distracting environment. There’s a loose cat that loves to patrol right at the edge of the pen and drive the dogs nuts, the train is right here, the airport’s over there and jets fly in over head.”

“If you’re trying to teach new behavior, ideally you want to take away all the distractions. Going outdoors is not a place to start a new technique,” she says.

But outdoors is where the class must be, so Murphy encourages owners to act like a trusted tour guide by getting their dog’s attention and redirecting them away from the surrounding distractions.

The dogs enrolled in the class represent a range of breeds and ages. There are small dogs prone to heel nipping, puppies like Louie the golden doodle who needs focus, and Buddy, a golden retriever with so much energy he’s difficult for his owner to control, and Raider, the 105 pound rottweiler whose previous owner used some undesirable training techniques on him that need to be undone.

Then there’s Gracie, the six month old chow/corgi/shar-pei mix who has become something of the office dog at the Sag Harbor Express. Because Gracie is so young, owner Judy Clempner notes her behaviors are related largely to just being a puppy. Among her issues is a tendency to jump up on people.

“That’s a normal behavior for dogs,” notes Murphy who explains that puppies lick their mother’s mouths in order to get remnants of food. “It’s nice to get the dogs when they’re young. All is new and they’re learning the lay of the land.”

“If it’s an older dog that has been with their person for a long time, usually you’re trying to change the person,” she adds. “It’s like a husband/wife relationship. I want everyone to be a team. It’s also good for people to see this person is having the same doggie problem. It’s like therapy.”

Because she’s still on the small side, Gracie also tends to be intimidated when meeting new dogs. So what’s an owner to do if a dog comes to the class with behavioral issues from an earlier encounter with people or other dogs?

“You rebuild the trust if there’s been a bad association by being diligent and with the right motivation,” says Murphy who notes that it takes just one bad encounter to instill a specific fear in a dog and advises Clempner to become Gracie’s protector.

“If she sees another dog on the street, distract her and say ‘Gracie, good girl, look at me, here’s  a piece of cheese. That dog doesn’t have to come over to bother you, but you get cheese with when you see others dogs.’ It’s positive reinforcement.”

Murphy likens being a good dog owner to being a good boss. Think of the dog as the employee, she says, you pay him in cookies or toys, and you are a benevolent leader. You create trust, motivation and provide feedback.

But in order to take the lessons from the theoretical to the practical, Murphy puts the dogs and owners in a series of hypothetical situations. One such imaginary scenario is the dog friendly concert. In this drill, some of the owners sit in chairs and keep their dogs sitting quietly beside them while another dog and owner must weave around the chairs and prevent their dog from interacting with the others. Other drills include passing a full cup of water while walking the dogs, or shaking hands on the street while keeping the dogs separated and heeled at the side.

Finally, on the last day of class, the graduates and their owners are put through the paces in a timed relay race in which each dog must sit on command at a series of orange cones spread out across the pen. In the end, the winning dog was Louie, the five month old golden doodle owned by Emma Walton Hamilton who came to the class with her son, Sam.

“It’s been a great experience. I’m disappointed it’s ending,” says Hamilton who’s considering enrolling Louie in ARF’s agility class the next time it’s offered. “Louie’s smart and has responded so well. He’s come a long way. I know a huge part of our responsibility is to practice at home.”

“He’s still a baby and very distractible, but I’m pleased with his progress,” she adds. “I wouldn’t say he’s the best student in the class, but he’s not the worst either. He was one of the worst in the beginning.”

And Gracie?

“She’s still young, and the issues still exist, but I feel I have the skills to deal with them,” says Clempner. “I can see a difference in her response to me. Food is king. She gets very excited for treats.”

The next Obedience 101 and Intermediate Dog Obedience classes at ARF will be offered by Gail Murphy in spring. The cost is $125 for five classes ($100 for ARF dogs adopted within the last year). For more information about enrolling, call 537-0400.

Top: Sniffing the camera at the first Obedience 101 class at ARF on November 6, 2010 (Michael Heller photo).

Non-Profits Feel Economic Pinch

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Across the board local businesses are hurting from the recession, but perhaps local non-profit organizations are feeling the impact more acutely. With the government contributing very little to their budgets, many local organizations are primarily funded by individual donors or corporations. Kristina Lange, of the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, said that although the volume of donations has remained the same, the amount donated has substantially declined. Bay Street Theatre, which relies on a combination of donations and grants, recently learned that grant money they were expecting from the New York State Council on the Arts had been put on hold, as Governor Paterson cuts down the state budget. Both ARF and Bay Street Theatre reduced their annual operating budgets by six and fifteen percent, respectively.

Although Fighting Chance, a free-of-charge counseling and resource center for East End cancer patients, has a ‘rainy day fund’ of $80,000, they have trimmed their budget, instead of tapping into these funds. The organization cut their expenses, primarily by reducing their advertising expenditure, and is operating on an “austerity budget for 2009,” said Duncan Darrow, founder of Fighting Chance.

Anticipating a shortfall in donations, many local non-profit organizations also trimmed their already lean budgets for this year. Kristina Lange reported that ARF implemented a hiring freeze, and subsequently reorganized their staff.

In addition, the non-profit cut down on community programs. Last year, ARF offered spay and neutering clinics for pet owners, as well as pet micro-chipping. These programs were cut from the budget.

Even with these setbacks ARF was still able to provide their key services, like a dog agility and obedience school, pet therapy, a pet bereavement support group and, of course, their kennel for animals up for adoption.

Despite the fact that ARF reduced their programs, Bay Street Theatre found ways to increase their programming without breaking the bank. On inauguration day the theater’s doors were open to the public for a free screening of the day’s festivities. The theater will televise the Oscar celebrations on Sunday, February 22, which will also be free to the public. During these screenings, Bay Street operates a concession stand, which helps defray the cost of keeping the theater open.

“For us to put on a full blown Equity show is outrageously expensive,” said general manager Tracey Mitchell. “We recognize that people don’t have a lot of cash. This is one way we can provide something free to the community.”

The new programs at Bay Street include a children’s theater camp, “Cabaret at the Bay” evenings and “Saturday Morning Picture Show” screenings of classic family films. The children’s theater camp will run in accordance with the school breaks during February and April. Mitchell said the camp was created to lend a helping hand to working parents.

As the economy continues to take a downturn, almost every local non-profit organization has noticed an increase in community demand for their services. ARF reported a 26 percent increase in pet adoption from 2007 to 2008, as nearly 731 dogs and cats were adopted last year.

“I attribute this in part to people finding comfort in animals. It feels good to rescue an animal from a shelter,” said Lange. ARF is noticing higher rates of pet abandonment and the non-profit is also housing more puppies than usually.

Darrow, founder of Fighting Chance, said that nearly half of the cancer patients on the East End contact the organization.

“Patients are now looking at the stress of a cancer diagnosis, coupled with the stress of surviving the recession,” said Darrow. “Most of these people are not highly affluent, and some of them are losing their jobs. Even in the best of times, chemotherapy and radiation treatments are stressful.”

Darrow added that Fighting Chance has established various programs to help these people. The organization offers a “Help-at-Home” neighborhood fund, which awards cash grants of up to $500 for existing patients. Darrow said these funds are often used to repair the patient’s car, since they often have to receive treatment once a day for a number of weeks. Fighting Chance also arranges for cancer patient transportation to treatment centers, with the help of Twin Forks Limo company.

These non-profit organizations remain an integral part of the community, but some non-profit staff wonder if they will be able to outlast the recession. Of ARF, Lange said “we have been around since 1974 and we have never felt anything like this.”


Above: Sag Harbor resident Carol Wesnofsky with Richu, a Peckinese she adopted last year at the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons. 


And They Called it Puppy Love

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  by Joseph Hanna

 Wisdom must be refreshed. Snow in the high Colorado Mountains does not melt, it “sublimates”. Sublimation means that snow at a certain altitude changes from a solid to a gas without going through the usual watery phase. Wisdom is like that. You acquire it through painful lessons. You then own it rock solid. You go about your life. You become distracted. Wisdom sublimates so that later, when you need it, phfffft. It has out-gassed like a dinner of canned beans. One learns from one’s mistakes, but it does not do any good if one forgets what one has leaned. I forgot and thereby hangs a tail.

“Mom wants a replacement for Rudy,” said the beloved in my telephone earpiece. I could not see her face. I was at work and what is left of my mind was deeply engaged in some technical problem of getting electrons to go whither I wanted and not whence they might wish to wander. “I’m taking her to ARF,” continued the beloved in even, non-threatening tones.

Rudy had been a golden retriever who, how shall I say this delicately? He liked to put his nose into everyone’s business. He left moist imprints on the front of my corduroys. These damp spots were difficult to explain and made me self-conscious at various, big, in-law functions and holiday merry-makings, the gaiety of which was often rent by shouts of “Rudy! Down!” from everyone else but me. My role was to mutter, “Oh, he’s OK,” while violently crossing my legs and not meaning a word of my assurances. Rudy was not OK. He was weird.

But that day at work, the day in question, my brain was so enmeshed in matters electronical, that the phrase “taking Mom to ARF” failed to ignite the master alarm light on the dashboard of my mind. The warning siren failed to sound as well. Wisdom stood mute and forgotten. I hung up the phone. Hours went by. They seemed like normal hours, the kind that had been passing boringly in the post-election letdown. But they were not normal hours. They were fraught with complications and entrapment. The first I knew that fate had decided to stick its cold runny nose into my personal business, was when the office phone tootled later in the afternoon. I assumed it was some disgruntled customer. The gruntled ones do not call.

“Joe, line one is for you. It’s your wife.”

The beloved? At that hour? It was too early for her to ask me to stop at the IGA on the way home to fill-in some blank in the pantry.

“Yes my dear?” I intoned into the mouthpiece.

“Can you go with me to ARF tomorrow?”

“Certainly I am able to do so,” I said. The next day would be Saturday, my day for rest and recuperation. Ha! “But why? Has your mother found some needy straggler? Perhaps a Burmese Mountain Guard Dog with a nose the size of a dinner plate? She needs my assistance keeping it from grabbing the steering wheel on the journey home?”

“No. She didn’t see anything she liked … “

There was a dreadful pause as in a pause filled with dread. The pause was hers, the dread was mine. When it came back online, her voice was pitched in dreamy tones. “There is something I want you to see,” she said sweetly.

Poop and turds! That can only mean …

“She’s soooooo cute,” said the beloved, beginning the second oldest sales pitch.

“Cat?” I said with a tinge of hope in my trembling voice.

“No. She’s part Chihuahua and part schnauzer.”



“Did you say something my love? I think you are breaking up. One of us is. More of a crack-up really. I thought we agreed that when Scupper passes, we would be free and have a lot of extra spending money?”

“She’s soooo cute. I really want you to see her.”

“But you know quite well that I am susceptible to cuteness. If I see her and she is cute, I will give my heart to her. That’s what started all the trouble between us.”

“What trouble is that, buster?”

“This trouble right here! What happened to our weekends free to drive to Connecticut?”

“I’ve seen it.”

“All of it?”

“Enough of it. I really want you to see this dog. Can we go tomorrow?”

Hooves were planted. Weight was shifted. Horns were lowered.

I went. I saw. She conquered.

We call her Peaches. Her ears are like satellite dishes when they are opened for listening. At other times, they fold in half and stow tips down so that she is able to negotiate the world’s byways without wearing a “Wide Load” sign and a blinky light.

Scupper the schipperke was depressed at first. He likes routine and hates change of any kind. He cares not at all for public displays of affection. Peaches, on the other paw, likes to kiss anything that moves. She uses plenty of tongue. She is given to various enthusiasms and enjoys making a squeaky toy dance and sing. She has so much joie de vivre that no one can stay angry for long in her presence, even when she has been indiscrete with her … ah … natural functions.

The beloved, who in times not distant past, approached house cleaning with the care and determination of a molecular biologist, now glides past on the way to the powder room cradling a small but fragrant fecality wrapped loosely in the quicker-picker-upper. She cannot hide the smile on her face as she “sternly” reprimands Peaches for the puppy’s latest detour on the road to housebroken.

“Has Peaches been naughty? Poopies belong outside.”

Yes they do. And yes she has been.

Peaches smiles, wags her tail and nods. Maybe when we have the spring thaw … right now, baby, it’s cold outside.

Wisdom has been refreshed, but too late to be of any help in the matter of Peaches vs. Sisal et al. I will pass on to the rest of you what I have re-learned, in hopes that someone may benefit. Never let your spouse go to ARF alone.  And by alone, I mean without you. Relatives and friends don’t count. They are all enablers. I have to end this now. I have to go walk Peaches and it is raining, which means I have to get her into one of her outfits. While I’m shoving a paw through the appropriate sleeve, I will get kissed a lot. It’s OK. When life hands you a lemon you should do something with all that zest.