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RN&R Family Guide   |  M AY 1 2 , 2 0 1 6

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9:32 AM

“Here, Leopold. Come to mommy.”

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FamIly F r o m f u r ry to fa n g e d, f r o m C at m a n d u to Co c k a d o o d l e M o o , t h i s R N & R Fa m i ly Gu i de is all about pets


think it’s fair to say there’s no doubt about it—our pets are part of our families. I’m not going to lie. When I call my dog Leopold, I say, “Come to mommy.” That’s just how I think about our relationship. And I know I’m not the only one. That’s why this edition of the RN&R Family Guide is dedicated solely to our furry, feathered—and even our fanged—family members. So, snuggle up to your favorite family member—you know, the one who’s probably the cutest and definitely talks back the least—and settle in for a good read. If you’re into reptiles, you might want to start with Kelsey Fitzgerald’s story about desert tortoises, or maybe Melanie Peck’s story about a man who loves both snakes and dogs and has made it his life’s work to keep both safe. Erin Meyering’s

story might be of help to you if your own furry family member is big enough to be the subject of rental housing discrimination. And we’ve got a story from former soldier Timothy Lenard, who tells us about little white dog who brought two weeks of comfort and companionship to soldiers in Afghanistan. As for my part in this guide, it’s been a strange trip. I went in search of local animal rescue operations and wound up going all the way from Catmandu, a cat rescue in Carson City, to CockadoodleMoo, a farm animal rescue in a remote valley about an hour northeast of Reno.



Jeri Chadwell-Singley RN&R Special Projects Editor

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Bobbeye Bowes holds Hummer, a 20-pound male desert tortoise.

“It’s amazi ng— I c a n lo o k at t h e ya r d a n d say, ‘ I t lo o ks sa f e to m e ,’ b u t yo u h av e to get on th e grou n d an d th i n k li ke a to r to i s e .”



Bobbeye Bowes

of a

pet Bobbeye Bowes holds Hummer, a 20-pound male desert tortoise. P H o t o / K e l s e y F i t z g e r a l d

D e s e r t to r to i s e s awa i t h o m e s i n N o r t h e r n N e va da


f you’re looking for a low-maintenance pet, you can’t do much better than a desert tortoise in winter—or early spring, for that matter. On a sunny morning in late April, Patty Cwiak opened a large cardboard box that was sitting at the back of her Sparks garage. Peering into the depths, she reached down to her tortoise, Tucker, and tapped him lightly on the back of the shell. He stirred, pulling his legs and head tight against his body, and resumed his nap. “He went in in November, and last year he came out May 5,” Cwiak said, stepping back and closing the box. “So, six and a half months. It’s called brumation; it’s kind of a catatonic state.” Brumation, the reptilian equivalent of hibernation, allows cold-blooded critters like Tucker to wait out months of cool weather by slowing their metabolisms. During that time, they don’t move much, but they’re not entirely asleep either. They don’t eat, and they rarely need water—just a few of the reasons that desert tortoises make fascinating pets. Desert tortoises are native to the Mojave and Sonoran desert regions of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, California and Mexico. The Mojave desert population (Gopherus agassizii) is currently listed as threatened, and protected under federal law, but those already in captivity can be legally adopted in the state of Nevada through a non-profit organization called the Tortoise Group—which is just how Cwiak acquired Tucker, about three years ago. This spring, as she waits for Tucker to awaken from his winter slumber, Cwiak is volunteering with the Tortoise Group in an effort to find homes for

more than 20 tortoises in Northern Nevada. With the exception of a few tortoises that are being re-homed from other Northern Nevada locations, the rest are from the Las Vegas area. “These aren’t coming from the wild, these are the progeny of pets,” explained Kobbe Shaw, executive director of the Tortoise Group in Las Vegas. “We have literally thousands upon thousands that need new homes tomorrow.” Why this abundance of homeless pet tortoises? The problem is complex, said Shaw. Tortoises in captivity have extremely long life spans (on the order of 80 to 100 years) and very low mortality rates. It is illegal to take desert tortoises across state lines, so when people move out of state, they must leave their tortoises behind. A facility in Southern Nevada called the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center that used to help house unwanted tortoises and arrange tortoise adoptions closed in 2015. To make matters worse, captive tortoises can’t be released into the wild because of the risk of spreading disease. “Tortoises can get this disease called upper respiratory tract disease, which is kind of like a runny nose,” Shaw said. “In captivity, the tortoise is just fine. You give it some antibiotics, and you can nurse them through it. But they will carry that disease with them. You put one tortoise like that out into the wild, and they’ll kill an entire population within a month or so. It’s really deadly.” Although the climate in Northern Nevada is cooler than that of the desert tortoise’s native range, tortoises do well here so long as they are brought indoors when temperatures drop. To help facilitate adoptions in the Reno-Sparks area,

by Kelsey Fitzgerald Patty Cwiak and other long-time tortoise owners Bobbeye Bowes and Cheryl Darnell volunteer with the Tortoise Group as yard inspectors, doing home visits and advising people on how to turn their properties into tortoise-safe environments. During home visits, they look for several key elements: a yard of decent size (they recommend at least 600 square feet), a fence that a tortoise can’t see through or dig under, areas of sun and shade, a water dish, and a burrow for shelter. They also look for any type of hazard that a tortoise might encounter. “It’s amazing—I can look at the yard and say, ‘It looks safe to me,’ but you have to get on the ground and think like a tortoise,” Bowes said. “They’re very curious. I went outside once and there was my tortoise, climbing up our chain link fence.” Bowes and Darnell have kept tortoises for 20 and 30 years, respectively. Darnell’s tortoise, Hummer, is a massive male of unknown age. He weighs about 20 pounds, loves dandelions, and has learned how to open her screen door and let himself into the house. What’s Darnell’s favorite part about spending time with tortoises? “I think the fact that they acknowledge you,” she said. “There is some kind of an attachment there. They recognize you. They look to you for food. If you sit in the yard, they’ll come over and visit with you. They’re more personable than you expect a reptile to be. I think that’s what amazes a lot of people, is the personality that they have.” Ω

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e l e l rra t t ttle a a r roll aNd

T r a i n i n g co u r s e t e ac h e s d o g s to avo i d r at t l e s n a k e s

John potash says using mild electric shocks, a dog can be trained to avoid snakes, often in fewer than 20 minutes.

Learn more about the Get rattLed! proGram by caLLinG 234-8844 or visitinG the website, http://GetrattLed.orG/.


n Nevada, rattlesnakes are an omnipresent threat to dog owners who love to take their dogs on walks in the great outdoors. But it’s possible to train a dog to avoid them with help from John Potash, the owner of Get Rattled!, a Truckee Meadows-based business that trains dogs and their owners to avoid snakes of the Viperidae family, pit vipers. “Dogs get bit all the time,” said Potash. “A dog’s natural reaction when it sees a snake—because dogs have an instinct to be curious—is to go get a sniff,” which naturally leads to dogs being bitten in the face, which can often be serious. The Great Basin rattlesnake—the only pit viper species of concern in northern Nevada—comes out of hibernation in spring and can normally be found through October. “But, with our weird weather last year, people were finding them in February, which is very unusual for this area,” Potash noted. They can be found just about everywhere in the Truckee Meadows and surrounding environs, he said, though if you’re walking your leashed dog in your neighborhood that has paved streets and sidewalks, “You don’t have to be as worried.” That’s not to say that rattlesnakes aren’t found in neighborhoods— they’re just more easily spotted than in the brush, Potash explained. “If you’re up in the hills or anywhere that’s less populated, there will be rattlers,” Potash said. They come out whenever the weather warms up, even at night. According to Potash, the good news is that the rattlesnakes in this area, “are pretty mellow, comparatively. I’m sure people walk past them all the time. If a rattler doesn’t feel J o h n p o ta s h imminently threatened, it’s just going to stay coiled and you’ll never even know it’s there.” That’s because a rattlesnake’s number one line of defense is not its rattle, but its camouflage. “They don’t want to be seen,” he said. “If you see one, it’s not going to come after you. It’s going to try to get away.” In training dogs to avoid snakes, Potash uses mild electronic collars and live snakes—he owns more than a dozen rattlers. Training is typically quick and effective and takes less than 20 minutes for the first session, and only one or two follow-up or “refreshers” sessions.

Potash, who has made his life’s work the welfare of animals, has been a lover of both dogs and snakes since he was a kid. His fascination with reptiles came about in the usual way. He was into dinosaurs,

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even as a toddler. “I learned all the scientific names. It was kind of weird at that age.” From dinosaurs, he made the jump to butterflies, moths and bugs. Then, of course, he caught lizards and frogs, some of which his mother let him keep. But no snakes. While attending Alice Maxwell Elementary in Sparks, a man brought a variety of reptiles—including a Burmese python—to his class, and Potash had his picture taken with the snake. “It’s a very vivid memory,” he said, recalling the fascination he had with the six-foot-long, slow-moving, winding snake that hung around the handler’s neck and arms and looked Potash right in the eye. When he was about 15, a friend caught a striped whipsnake and offered it to Potash, who begged his mother to let him keep it. “I went to the pet store and got all the wrong information—we didn’t have Google back then—so it didn’t last long, maybe a month, and then it died,” he said. The experience led Potash to a lifelong loathing for misinformation about animal care and a commitment to providing accurate information, which he does via his own school presentations and, most recently, as part of the Snakes Alive! exhibit at the Wilbur D. May Museum. “I wanted another snake,” he said. So, he and his brother conspired to purchase a ball python. They had to pay it off over three months—and built a cage for it without their mother knowing. When he brought the python home, “She flipped out,” he said, but eventually let her sons keep the snake. Determined to care for the python properly, Potash ended up taking it to a veterinarian, who suggested that he join the local herpetological society, which led to a chance meeting with a man named Ken Foose. Now living in Las Vegas, Foose at the time operated a reptile museum in Virginia City. When Foose shut the museum down to start a jewelry store, all the reptiles and displays ended up in his basement. “He had copperheads and rattlesnakes,” Potash said. “I was super fascinated and wanted to learn as much as I could. He’s the one who taught me how to handle venomous reptiles. I got my first rattlesnake at the age of 17.” After graduating from Sparks High School, Potash started volunteering at a local wildlife rescue operation, taking calls and trying to answer questions. Because he didn’t know all the answers, he continued his education—taking college classes in subjects that had to do with birds and reptiles. Potash, now 43, ran the Wildlife Rescue Foundation for 13 years and sat on the Washoe County Animal Control Board for eight years. He’s currently on the University of Nevada Reno’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, and is a board member of Nevada Animal Owners Alliance and the International Herpetological Symposium, in addition to running Get Rattled!, which serves most Western states. Ω

“ Dogs get bit all th e ti m e. A d o g’ s n at u r a l r e ac t i o n w h e n it se es a snake — b e c au s e d o g s h av e a n i n s t i n c t to b e c u r i o u s — i s to g o g e t a s n i f f.”

coLd bLooded caLLinG

RN&R Family Guide   |  M AY 1 2 , 2 0 1 6

by melanie peck

Bring your family to Wingfield Park Warm weather plus cool music—it must be Rollin’ on the River time again. We asked you to tell us who you’d like to see on the main stage, and you responded with votes for your favorite local performers. We’ve revamped our long-running Rollin’ on the River concert series, turning it into a celebration of our community and the local music that moves us. Among this year’s performers are ... Jelly Bread, The SexToneS, Bazooka zoo, Jake houSTon & The royal FluSh, hellBound Glory, Spike McGuire, The uMpireS, canyon WhiTe, and More To Be announced! Thanks for sending us your votes for your favorite local bands and artists. Look for a full concert schedule in the near future, and join us down by the river every Friday night in July.

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by Timothy Lenard

Just a heads up. If you’re the kind of person who cries every time you hear “Old Shep,” you might not make it through this story.

Demon DoG


had a pet for only 14 days once. He was a small white puppy with a curly tail that looked like it belonged to a pig. His name was Demon, and he sure lived up to his namesake. In those 14 days, I awoke numerous times to frantic footsteps and people shouting “Demon!” at the top of their lungs. He liked to steal socks. Demon’s home was a god-forsaken outpost in the middle of nowhere Afghanistan. The Army called it a

hazy brown. A couple of times I woke up to find he had procured an extra knee pad and placed it under my cot. Demon didn’t just play games. In the 15 days I spent at the JSS, Demon went on a majority of the patrols. I remember one early August morning, hours before the sun came up, we left to patrol the local villages—12 soldiers in a staggered column walking down a dusty road and one tiny mutt running in circles around them.

caked in mud and sweat. When the company sent a resupply element, the company commander came with them. The evening of my 14th day, I was lying in my cot when I heard a chorus of groans erupt. I got up and saw the company commander marching towards a field outside the camp with his pistol drawn. Following him was one of the radio operators, cradling Demon in his arms. Neither of them looked at us.

D e m o n ’ s favo r i t e ga m e wa s s t e a l i n g g e a r f r o m s o m e o n e a n d f o r c i n g t h at p e r s o n to c h a s e h i m a r o u n d. … A co u p l e o f t i m e s I wo k e u p to f i n d h e h a d p r o c u r e d a n e x t r a k n e e pa d a n d p l ac e d i t u n d e r m y cot. “joint security station.” Delta Company, First Battalion 504th, built the outpost in early 2012. They were the ones who found Demon and named him after their company mascot. Military general order 1A specifically prohibits “adopting as pets or mascots, caring for, or feeding any type of domestic or wild animal.” No one at the JSS cared. One advantage to being in the middle of nowhere is the people who enforce those kind of rules tend to avoid it. The Army isn’t wrong to worry about soldiers keeping pets. Rabies is common among the roaming packs of wild dogs in Afghanistan. If contracted by humans, it’s almost always fatal following the onset of clinical signs. When I arrived at the JSS, in August 2012, the story being passed around was that the previous battalion had brought in a veterinarian to vaccinate Demon. They also said Demon found two IEDs for them. I didn’t believe either of those stories, but it was sure nice to have a dog running around. Demon’s favorite game was stealing gear from someone and forcing that person to chase him around. This caused moon dust—extremely fine sand that coated the JSS—to billow and shroud the outpost in

I was toward the rear, so I kept my eye out for Demon. Early on, we passed a couple of wild dogs and Demon sprang into action. He sprinted towards the wild dogs barking as ferociously as he could. The wild dogs scattered, and Demon ran back to me. For the next mile or so, he regularly looked back to make sure none of them followed us. As the sun began to rise, we stopped in a small village. Soon after, the villagers came to the mosque for Morning Prayer. One of them brought his goats. Demon decided he was going to see if he was part shepherd. He ran up to the herd and all but one backed away. One goat, with a large set of horns stepped up to Demon. Demon looked at us, as if to say, “You guys have my back, right?” “That dog is about to learn an important lesson,” someone said. The goat slammed his horns into Demon’s head. Demon yelped and ran back to where I was set up. I saw he was trembling so I gave him a few reassuring pats. When it was time to leave, he was so scared I had to carry him out of the village. After 13 days at the JSS, everyone was exhausted. We got to sleep four hours at a time in between guard shifts and patrols. Our uniforms were

I didn’t see what happened next, but I heard the shot. Then Demon start wailing, the kind of high pitched scream a dog does when you step on its tail, except it kept going. It went on long enough for someone to shout, “What the fuck are you waiting for?” I clamped my hands down on my ears, trying to muffle the sound. Then I heard the second shot. As the commander walked back through our camp, the whole platoon just stared in silence. Once he was gone, I shouted at the sky. I paced around in the moon dust. I kicked a bottle of water across the camp and pounded my fist into a wall. Guys in my platoon would later tell me that it was the maddest they ever saw me. They were probably right. The commander left Demon’s body lying in the ditch where he shot him. So a couple of guys went out to dig a grave for him. They fashioned a cross out of some spare lumber and engraved in sharpie: “Here lies Demon. Murdered by A6,” our commander’s call sign. Then someone nailed a sock to it. In the 14 days I knew Demon, he became a part of our platoon. He walked with us on patrol. He played stupid games with us when we were bored. He was our pet and, for a little while at least, he made that far flung shit hole in the middle of nowhere a little bit like home. Ω

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This message brought to you by the Washoe County Health District with grant funding from the CDC through the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health.

“Wh e n th ey j u s t b e co m e s o co n t e n t t h at t h e y ’ l l s p r aw l o u t i n front of yo u i n t h e s u n , yo u k n ow t h at yo u ’ v e g i v e n th e m a good l i f e a n d t h at th i n gs ar e m uch bette r than th ey u s e d to b e .” Mark Robison

OveR the


Co c k a d o o d l e M o o i s a s a n c t u a ry t h at ta k e s fa r m a n i m a l s o u t o f t h e f o o d c h a i n Story and photos by Jeri Chadwell-Singley


Left: mark robison feeds Willa the donkey. right: Liam is one of several pigs at Cockadoodlemoo.

obody’s gonna hurt you,” Mark Robison cooed to the turkey that rested in his lap as he sat on the ground of the pen. The wind whipped through the little valley northeast of Reno where Robison’s home and his farm animal rescue, CockadoodleMoo, are located—ruffling the turkey’s feathers and carrying with it the scent of the coming rain. CockadoodleMoo was founded in 2007 by Robison and his wife, Dianne, but the couple’s move to the remote property in the foothills of the Pah Rah mountain range came earlier. While the sanctuary is now home to turkeys, chickens, donkeys, goats, pigs, rabbits, cats, dogs and desert tortoises—plus unofficial denizens like squirrels, birds and mice—the whole thing actually started with just one noisy pet—a barking dog named Harper Lee. The Robisons were both working nights at the Reno Gazette-Journal when one of their two dogs passed away. Afterward, the remaining dog—Harper Lee—picked up the habit of barking continuously through the night, annoying the neighbors and leading to a visit from animal control, which in turn led the Robisons to look into ways of keeping their dog quiet. “At the time, it was very popular to cut their vocal chords, and then there’s also the things where there’s like a shock collar that shocks them every time they bark,” Robison said. “We just hated all of the solutions, and we didn’t want to lock her in the garage. So, we decided that her happiness was important and barking was part of who she was. We moved out here so that she could be free to be herself and bark all she wanted.”

Betting the farm The Robisons new home was not only distant from the city in a valley accessible by a single lane dirt road, it was also spacious, offering them 168 acres of land. “This is the type of place that you envision retiring to, where you’re out in the country, and it’s beautiful, and you can hike in the mountains with your dogs every day,” Robison said. The Robisons, longtime vegans and animal rights activists, had found themselves living in their dream retirement home decades early, and they saw a new opportunity in the large plot of land they’d purchased to accommodate Harper Lee. They were inspired by the Nevada Humane Society’s adoption of a “no kill” policy and decided that they too wanted to provide a home for unwanted and abused animals. “We looked at rescuing dogs, and there were already a lot of dog rescue groups, and we happened to read this book called The Pig Who Sang to the Moon by Jeffrey Masson,” Robison said. “It was about what the lives of farm animals would be if they weren’t kept on a farm to be raised for meat and dairy. And, you know, what sort of things they’d do—like the turkeys roost in trees, and the goats like to climb stuff, and the chickens like to take dust baths.” The couple got busy constructing pens and shelters on their land and, shortly thereafter, put out word to animal services and the Humane Society. It wasn’t long before they began receiving animals. “One of the first animals we got was a goat named Festus, and he was just picked up as a stray wandering down the highway,” Robison recalled. “He had

nerve damage in his back legs, and so he couldn’t walk and they thought he was really old and only had a few months to live. So they asked if we could take him. We ended up having him for seven years. And he was great.” Many of the other animals at the rescue also arrived there after having lived a tough life. Robison explained that the turkeys are females who came to the rescue from a farm where their lives had consisted of repeated artificial insemination for the purpose of breeding Thanksgiving turkeys. CockadoodleMoo is also home to former organic egg farm chickens that, according to Robison, would otherwise have been killed when their egg production slowed as they neared 1 year of age. Other chickens, he said, have arrived featherless, suffering from malnutrition after their owners became too old to care for them. And yet another chicken came to the rescue after being tossed off a balcony onto the casino floor of the Atlantis, purportedly by members of a University of Nevada, Reno fraternity. “The animals that come to us—we try to only take the worst of the worst who are going to be killed if we don’t take them or who nobody wants, because they’re injured or sick or too old,” Robison said. “They’re of no value to anybody, so they face certain death.” According to Robison, CockadoodleMoo currently has about 75 animals, which is just about as many as it can handle. Though he’ll take the occasional chicken, roosters—which are the animals he’s most often asked to take—are a trickier matter, as they don’t get along with one another and so require separate living

spaces. And animals arriving at CockadoodleMoo are there to stay. The Robisons don’t put them up for adoption, partially because they don’t have the resources to vet potential adopters, but also because of the stress it would place on the animals. “Moving for an animal is really traumatic and stressful, because they don’t know what’s going on, and they’re very used to their routines,” Robison said. “We don’t want to put them through that again.” According to Robison, CockadoodleMoo is a permanent home for him and his wife also, and they’re still happy with the initial decision that began with a barking dog and ended with more than six dozen permanent farm animal residents. “It’s all about taking care of the animals, because when you see how happy they are, and when they just become so content that they’ll sprawl out in front of you in the sun, you know that you’ve given them a good life, and that things are much better than they used to be,” he said. Ω

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IntroducIng dr. FannIe Fang to the aspen pedIatrIcs FamIly. Board Certified in PediatriCs aCCePting new Patients Office Hours: Monday - Friday 9am to 4:30pm Phone: (775) 322-1880 | Fax: (775) 322-1897

Think Free

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h o m 8,551 e ow ner s





beG foR

home B i g dogs get th e sh o rt e n d o f t h e s t i c k w i t h r e n ta l h o u s i n g by Erin Meyering


am the proud puppy parent to Biscotti, a 75-pound behemoth. He’s black lab mixed with boxer and bulldog. He’s large, in charge, and one of the most loving pups you’ll ever meet. Finding a place for my slobbery sweetheart and me is grueling. We’re looking right now, and the clock is ticking down. Renting a home or an apartment that allows a large dog is like winning the lottery. Detailing the places in Reno that actually allow large dogs just isn’t worth it. For one, if I actually knew where these mystery homes were, I wouldn’t write this article. And two, the housing market’s large and constantly changing. Apartment complex owners frequently change their pet policies, and individual landlords who offer their properties to big animals come and go like wildfire. To give you a run down, though, looking for places online looks a bit like this:

or via some depressing form letter email: “No, you and your best friend, who just happens to have four paws and fur, cannot live peacefully in our neighborhood. No, we don’t have exceptions to our policy.” And after looking for an hour, you may very well be out of options, as I’ve been many times.

» Step one, set your budget and zip code.

I understand people fear my large dog running around the second story apartment, but how is that different than an angry adult stomping about or a toddler falling down? And damage? I’m confident that Biscotti has never chewed a single shoe, let alone a chunk of the wall. Also, isn’t that why there’s generally an additional pet deposit (which I’m completely OK with, by the way)? To get around a strict pet policy can be challenging. I have a friend who actually created a puppy resume for her black lab beauty, and it worked at an apartment complex that didn’t normally allow dogs. I know what you’re thinking. That’s bloody brilliant! I’ll just write my dog’s best qualities: doesn’t bark much (Aren’t the smallest dogs the yappiest anyway?), sleeps most of the day, plays well with others, people pleaser, and so on. Then, I’ll provide an adorable, heartwarming

» Step two, narrow the search to include dogs. Take a deep breath—fingers crossed. OK, you’re in. The selection may have gone from 100 available properties to 20 but, hey, you still have options! This is so exciting. » Step three, select a specific property and, without even looking through the photos, scroll to the rental description. Often, your heart—just a second ago fluttering with optimism—drops. You see a heart-wrenching 30- or 50-pound weight limit, which your dog hasn’t qualified for since he was six-months-old. Other times, it’s simply a note asking you to call for the pet policy, which generally means the property manager has to tell you the weight limit by phone

Biscotti is a 75-pound lab mix. Finding a rental that will accept a dog of his size is a difficult task. PHOTO/ERIN MEYERING

“ I h av e a f r i e n d w h o ac t ua l ly c r e at e d a p u p py r e s u m e f o r h e r b l ac k l a b b e au t y, a n d i t wo r k e d at a n a pa r t m e n t co m p l e x t h at d i d n ’ t n o r m a l ly a l low d o g s .” photo of him. Maybe the one of him curled up on the couch with his bone, or maybe the one where it totally looks like he’s watching television. I told you. It’s brilliant. Who says no to that? Regardless of whether I try to work around restrictive policies or manage to find a diamond in the rough, it saddens me that I’m moving in a month and am having such a difficult time simply because my furry friend has a bit more junk in the trunk. The first photo I posted on social media of Biscotti was captioned, “Meet Bisco, short for Biscotti. We share a birthday, a love for food, a rebel spirit, and a heart.” Yes, it’s true that we have the same birthday but, more importantly, he really is a piece of my heart. I simply want the best for him—to find a home where he’s safe and can run, play and enjoy life. Isn’t that what we humans want, too? Ω

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cat house C at m a n d u i s n ot yo u r t y p i c a l s h e lt e r


hat’s Maxine, and she’s a three-legged Manx, and she’s with Miss Hiss, who was a—well, she’s still a little on the feral side, but she’s getting a lot better,” said Linda Buchanan, the executive director of Catmandu—a cat rescue operation in Carson City. A self-described Jill of all trades, Buchanan opened Catmandu in an old house on Brown Street in March 2014, after her husband and business partner, Kurt, passed away. “I was trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life,” she said. “And I was actually planning on finding some nice, quiet little job where I didn’t have to interact with the world and I could just pass time until I got to die. I mean, honestly, that’s where I was.” At the time, Buchanan was also trying to find help for a stray cat that was living under her neighbor’s house. She’d been feeding him but had been unable to coax him out, and the neighbor had decided to close off the cat’s access point so he could be trapped and taken to the animal shelter to be euthanized. When Buchanan started looking into other options, she found that there was little in the way of help for stray cats in Carson. “So I was going, ‘Somebody needs to do something. Somebody needs to do something,’” Buchanan recalled. “And I just woke up one morning and went, ‘You know what? I’m somebody, and I’m going to do something.’ So I pretty much sold everything I had and took what little money I had from Kurt’s pension, cashed that out, found this place, and, yeah, Catmandu was born.”

Story and photos by Jeri Chadwell-Singley

left: keith Carroll and other volunteers are building “catios.” the profits will be used for the shelter.

A hAlfwAy houSe for kittieS The house on Brown Street is old and a little worse for wear, but it’s been rehabbed to create a unique type of cat sanctuary. Outside, a large elm tree sits in the driveway. The falling seed pods drift down like fat snowflakes on a warm day, as the cats watch and lazily bat at them from the wood and chicken wire extensions on the windows. Buchanan calls these “catios,” and they’re just one of the features that were built on site to make the home more cat-friendly. Inside, the rooms are filled with custom-built cat trees covered in plush carpet, many inside large enclosures with open doors called “cat condos.” Hidey-holes are abundant, and dresser drawers stuffed with pillows and blankets have been secured to the walls to create additional cozy perches. Cats peer down from ledges and peek out of breezeways built into the old cupboards in the kitchen and closets. The cats are all free roaming, with different rooms designated for newcomers and longtime residents—a concept that was inspired by other cat rescues like the Feline Rescue of Northern Nevada in Verdi, which caters to geriatric cats, and the Wylie Animal Rescue Foundation in Incline Village. It’s a much different sight than the walls stacked with small cages that one might expect to see at a typical animal shelter. All told, there are more than 50 cats at Catmandu, and Buchanan knows them all by name.

right: Plouise and Plewis (silent “p”) are eight-week-old kittens. Bottom: linda Buchanan pets Miss hiss.

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“Most cats—when a cat goes into a quote-unquote shelter, they seldom come out in better shape than they were when they went in,” Buchanan said. “But here they do.” According to Buchanan, many of the cats at Catmandu are traumatized from abuse and life on the streets, and they’re often fearful of humans. Allowing them live among other cats who have become reaccustomed to human interaction helps combat this. “I think the cats help each other as much as the people help, because they really interact,” Buchanan said. “And the cats watch, you know, and they watch all these interactions with people. “And it’s like, ‘OK, I’m seeing these people come in, and they bring food, and they clean boxes, and they pet me if I let them, and nobody wants to hurt us.’” Little by little, Buchanan said, they come around. Eventually, many find new homes through adoption to people the rescue has vetted. But with more than four dozen cats residing at the rescue at any given time, one has to ask, “How did this become such a large problem?”

“A n d I j u s t wo k e u p o n e morn i ng an d w e n t, ‘ Yo u k n ow w h at ? I ’ m s o m e b o dy, an d I’m g o i n g to d o s o m e t h i n g.’ ” Linda Buchanan

CareLessness kiLLed the Cat “Cats are second-class citizens,” Buchanan said. “They really are, and people believe that, ‘Oh, it’s a cat. It can survive. It can hunt mice. It’ll be OK.’” According to Buchanan, there are a lot ways that a cat can end up at Catmandu, but many arrive having suffering similar fates—some when their owners move and abandon them, others when their owners die and property managers simply shoo them outside. “I would love to see cats get better care,” Buchanan said. “Right now, I’m just up to my eyeballs just in what I’m doing here. You know, the ferals are the ones that really get the short end of the stick. I feel so bad for them, because the problem is most of them—they’re not feral. It’s not their fault, you know.” And it’s not just an issue of time. Money is tight at Catmandu. The operation is run with the help of about 12 regular volunteers, including Buchanan’s 27-year-old son, Keith Carroll. “You know, I put the place together on a shoe string,” Buchanan said. “It was $20,000, and that got the place painted, floored, got the cat condominiums built, and covered the first three months of operating expenses.” No one, including Buchanan, draws down a salary. The sale of donated items like stuffed animals and cat toys helps to offset costs like food, veterinary bills and medicine. Other people pitch in with fundraising

and by picking up cats from the vet. And now, Buchanan has hatched a new plan to help offset costs—and perhaps someday free up time for her to pursue cat advocacy outside of the rescue. With the help of her son and other volunteers, she plans to start building and selling the type of catios, carpeted cat trees and cat condos she’s installed at Catmandu. “The catios are a wonderful thing,” Buchanan said. “I’m really excited about being able to bring those to people. The cats love being able to go outside and be safe. It just does them so much good to be able to go outside.” Ω

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