Rebecca Frank – Behavior & Training

Meet Rebecca Frank, a member of the Behavior & Training team at SFACC. She’s usually out in the yard with a dog but took a break to share a bit about herself…

Where were you born and raised, and how did you come to work at SFACC? Did you grow up with animals or did some experience draw you to working with them?

I was born and raised in both Lafayette, Louisiana and Sugar Land, Texas. I grew up with three rescue cats and two rescue dogs. I have been volunteering at various animal shelters since I was 10. I simply can’t remember a time before I felt the weight and importance of advocating for animals without homes. After college I worked at a non-profit for adults with developmental disabilities. I loved working with that demographic but simultaneously was falling in love with my new housemate’s pit bull mix. I fell in love so hard. I started to educate myself on the history of pit bulls and why they get such a bad reputation. This struck a chord with me and I began shifting my career plans. I felt certain my passion could carry me through the next 35 years that a career would require of me. I decided becoming a dog trainer would best equip me with the knowledge and skills to help as many dogs as possible. I graduated from The Dog Training Internship Academy while working at a puppy training school and while volunteering at SFACC. Luckily for me, a position opened up on the Behavior & Training team at SFACC! I applied and to my extreme delight, got the job!

What do you do as an employee of SFACC? For how long?

I have been working on the Behavior & Training team (B&T) here since January of 2019. B&T is responsible for evaluating all the dogs that come into the shelter. We check to see how comfortable they are with human interaction, what kind of toys or treats they prefer, and how sociable they are with other dogs. We gather information to see if the animals are ready for adoption directly from at ACC or better suited to go to a rescue that has more resources to help them become more adoptable. We also come up with individual plans to help animals that are here for a long stay remain as emotionally happy and stable as possible.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Doing this job requires making a lot of difficult decisions. If it weren’t for my fantastic co-workers, who are consistently a source of lightness and support, I’m not sure I would be able to show up for the animals in the way I am able to. So my co-workers certainly are a part of my job that I appreciate most! My favorite moments at work though are when I make a break through with a really scared or shutdown dog. It’s so wonderful to witness them starting to feel safe and watching their personalities come alive. I often find myself saying to them, “Oh there you are, baby! I knew you were in there somewhere!”

Although the SIP ordinance has had plenty of downsides, one of the silver linings has been a lower population here at the shelter. Because of this, there has been more opportunity to spend extra time working with the fearful animals. I have cherished this!

Do you have pets of your own? If so, how many and what are their names? What do you do when not at work (hobbies, interests)?

I have one cat and her name is Sybil Storm-Cloud. She is an eight-year-old sweet cream puff. She knows how to kiss on cue, high-five, sit, spin, wave, and comes running and meowing when I ring a certain bell (which always leads to sardines).

When I am not at work and when we are not in quarantine, I spent a lot of time with my friends. Our favorite activities are hiking, cooking together and doing crafts. I also have begun dabbling in a bit of swing dancing. While in quarantine my boyfriend and I have kept ourselves occupied by going on hikes, exploring various trails in our neighborhood in Marin, trying to build some kind of meditation practice (why is that so hard?!), Zooming with our families, and lots and lots of cooking.

Most memorable case/situation/adoption at ACC? 

A frightened white pit bull with a gray patch over one eye and the pinkest lips came in to the shelter as a stray. I got the pleasure of naming her and I chose Passion-Flower. (I like to give pit bulls silly or flowery names to help fight the stigma.) Like many scared dogs in the shelter environment do, Passion-Flower was growling at most people who passed by her kennel. She decided, for some reason though, that she was okay with some staff members. Lucky for me, I got to be one of them! The first time I took her out of her kennel, I completely and totally fell in love with her. She fit her whole 65-pound body into my small lap and stayed there the whole time. Even though I fall in love with so many of the dogs I get to spend time with at the shelter, she really got into my heart for some reason. I decided I couldn’t bare the idea of her not taking her home. So, I decided to foster her until we could find her the right home. She really blossomed at my house and was a joyful, cuddly, dream girl. She was adopted after being at my house for a month. It was so hard to let her go but now she lives the dream life. She lives in Santa Cruz with a retired couple who are home with her often and who go to the beach daily. They send me updates every so often and it was such a wonderful experience.

What has made an impression on you while at ACC?

Nothing has made more of an impression on me than discovering a group of people who do extremely hard work based on their motivation to do better for the animals.

Volunteers Shelter in Place with SFACC Animals

During the shelter-in-place order as a result of COVID-19, SFACC mobilized shelter volunteers to foster adoptable animals. As of April 3, there are 62 animals in foster care, which gives the staff a break and makes more space available if needed for people who become ill and cannot care for their pet. Our sincere and deep gratitude for all the volunteer fosters giving these animals the field trip of their dreams!

 “Smallz is 14yo and Bam Bam is 9 years old, acting like he’s 5 until he realizes he’s tired. Smallz has arthritis so his walks are short and sweet. Bam Bam has been exploring Russian Hill, Aquatic Park and the Palace of Fine arts. He’s enjoying the highlights of the area without the crowds.
Bam Bam has been getting in plenty of steps every day keeping his foster mom active an away from the fridge. (Lol). Mostly the fridge is barricaded by Smallz when he lays down in the kitchen. It works great for all of us. Brushing sessions are requested daily now by Smallz. One of his admirers on the street asked if he’d been to the salon as he looked so dapper and fresh! Bam Bam is just a constant head turner by other people and dogs so he’s feeling good about himself too. They love both the brushing and hanging outside to see people walk by. They’re really good at cuddling and letting you know when they are still in need of more lovin’…These two are a treat to have around.”

Good boy Dermot is enjoying his foster time! Looks like he’s perfected chilling indoors, as well as the one ear up and one ear down look.

We have our first foster win! Guinea pig cuties Pigglesworth and Pygmalion will be adopted by their foster as soon as we resume adoptions!

Playful Lady is loving foster life and her foster feels likewise! “Lady has been a dream to have. She is such a sweet cat with tons of love to give. Thank you again for allowing me to foster her, it’s been a pleasure.”

Foster dog Hans is clearly an expert at cuddling in place! Who wouldn’t mind staying indoors if you get to snuggle up with a big handsome German Shepherd?

Guinea pig foster update! “Here is our little foster girl, her name was piggy but we call her Gwendolyn! She is so pretty and sweet! Great eater and makes the loveliest sounds

Lop eared buns Nala and Bella are enjoying their foster home, with lots of tasty treats, a bun house and lots of love!

“Travis is loving his life and getting as many snuggles as possible. We love having this little man.”

Beautiful Miss Moey is making the most out of sheltering in place in her foster home. She looks pretty comfy cozy!

Fluffy foster gent Evante is doing great in his foster home. He was understandably nervous at first but now he’s out and about! “He loves being pet, makes muffins and purrs when I’m nearby.”

“Pecan Sandy loves garden views and dozing off in the sun after a long walk around the neighborhood.”

It’s a pigeon party! Foster birds Sabah, Marzipan and Fondant enjoy a sunny breakfast.

Foster cat Sammy has elegance and flair as well as a stellar view of the city.

Pretty girl Minna is thriving in her foster home, recovering from her spay surgery in loving surroundings.”Overall she’s doing great! So full of energy and cuddles. She’s such a sweet, good girl.”

“We just brought Louisa to her foster home today. She is super sweet and was exploring immediately. We let her have some time alone to settle in and she immediately found the bed we set up by the window. She played with a feather toy for a bit and then settled on my lap while I ate dinner. I think the only time she isn’t talking is when she’s settled on a lap”

Advice from cat behaviorist GoCatGo (SF)…”Louisa started off her first days home in a chatty mood. It was hard to leave her alone without her singing her favorite tune. We’ve redirected her attention to food puzzles, giving her a job to do each day while #shelterinplace . (Hey, you can repurpose those #toiletpaper rolls! ) She’s quieted down some, but she’s probably always going to be that quirky and chatty kind of cat. Big Thanks to resourceful and creative foster parents that want to make the best of these challenging times.”

“Prince Harry is an active, kittenish teen. …Cuddly too and likes head scratches and belly rubs. He’s sweet and very gentle. He figured out the lay of the land very quickly and is curious about whatever I’m doing. He’s super playful and loves chasing the fishing pole toy. Happy lounging by himself too, watching DogTV.”

Wee pup Pinnocchio is now with Grateful Dogs Rescue. Check out how cute he is with his foster siblings!

Michael Hernandez – Shelter Service Representative

[caption id="attachment_4440" align="alignnone" width="600"]Man sitting next to black and white dog. Michael with his beloved Simon[/caption]

by Lisa Stanziano
Newsletter Editor

“I go by Hernandez most of the time.” Michael H. told me when we sat down to talk on a sunny afternoon in front of SFACC. His enthusiasm is as warm as his smile as he told me how much he enjoys talking with people and helping them. He’s the first person folks see as they walk into the lobby and the first impression from (Michael) Hernandez is a friendly one. “I’ve been working at SFACC almost a year. I started last May. I love people. And I love to talk. So, as a Service Representative I get to do what I love all day. The team works together in an amazing way. Sometimes the situations are very difficult. But for every bad thing, are good things happen. The staff has a huge amount of collective knowledge. Mara has been my mentor and I’ve learned so much from her. …I literally wake up and cannot wait to go to work.”

Originally from Manteca, California, Hernandez graduated from Fresno State, and then joined the Army. He served 8 years and was able to travel widely, spending time in 14 countries, and 21 states, including a 6-month tour in Afghanistan. Settling in the Bay Area, he wanted a job that would engage with the public and his love of animals drew him to volunteering for 5 years with the SF SPCA’s Macy’s holiday windows adoptathon. This last December was like a dream for him—working at Macy’s windows again but this time as an SFACC staff member. He was on site at Macy’s Union Square site at least half of the program days (mid-Nov. 2019 to Jan. 1, 2020), helping with the adoptions of 60 SFACC animals.

Hernandez tells me that his favorite conversations are with veterans. “One of the special adoption programs at SFACC is that adoption fees are waived for veterans, and many folks don’t know that. And SFACC works with ARF (Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Organization), which has a special program, Pets and Vets, that places service dogs with veterans. …It makes me happy to share this information with veterans. They can relate to me because I’ve served.”

When he’s not on duty, Hernandez spends time outdoors and with family. He recently lost his beloved dog Simon, who was with him every day for many years. They went everywhere together and the adjustment has been hard. “He was a great dog who outlived all the predictions by the vet (he had a congenital heart condition).” Most of us know that loss, and how being at SFACC, surrounded by like-minded animal lovers, can help us grieve. For Hernandez, joining the SFACC community feels like his destiny. “I’m meant to be here and I hope to be at SFACC until I retire.” …We hope so too!

Donor Salute – Rachel Krall & Belarus

Adoption is always in style! Our hats are off, and our t-shirts and sweatshirts are ON in salute to SFACC grad cat Belarus and his amazing mom, Rachel Krall, who contributed $4,000 to SFACC in 2019 from fundraising projects and her own corporate matching gift. Her idea for a Belarus t-shirt fundraising drive came to her in July, 2019 after she adopted lovable, cross-eyed Belarus from the shelter the year before. She teamed with a company called Bonfire to create t-shirts with Belarus’s adorable face and and the tag-line “Love isn’t blind; it’s cross-eyed” and sold them online, with the proceeds going to Friends of SFACC. The shirts were so popular that Rachel decided to expand to winter wear—a delightful sweatshirt with Belarus’s adorable face on the front and the message “Adoption: The Best Pedigree” on the back. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sweatshirt drive were split between SFACC and Cat Town in Oakland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…On a roll, Rachel also initiated a donation to SFACC of needed supplies from litterbox.com, which she hand-delivered to the shelter in December. We’re so grateful to her for channeling her love of beloved furry companion, Belarus, into a creative way to share that love and help the shelter too!

More about Belarus and Rachel…
Belarus was rescued from San Francisco Animal Care & Control in June 2018, when his googly eyes and winning personality caught the attention of many and won Rachel’s heart. This furry gray boy was surrendered to SFACC by his previous family because of landlord issues. He was at the shelter for about a month before a series of his photos by Josh Norem (@furrtographer) went viral after being posted on SFACC’s Instagram account. Rachel saw them and immediately knew she had to meet him. She is a big-time animal lover and had been following shelter pages for three years, hoping to find the perfect companion to offer a loving home. When she saw Belarus and heard more about him and that he needed a quiet and loving home, she knew it was meant to be.

Rachel rearranged her schedule and made a special trip to the shelter to meet Belarus. She was informed later that evening that she could take him home! “He’s now the king of his 1-bedroom castle in San Francisco. Belarus has continued to catch the eyes of many admirers on his new Instagram account @My_Boy_Belarus. He is a very active and oh so curious cat. He loves to play with balls and can even give high-fives for treats! He seems highly intelligent and doesn’t let his wonky eyes slow him down, in fact, he seems to see just fine minus a few quirks (like pawing at his water).”

Many mews and thanks to fundraising superhero Rachel Krall! Her passion for animals and her creative efforts in helping SFACC go far beyond adoption and inspire us all.

Belarus’s now has an Official Merchandise Store where you can order two shirt designs in a variety of fabrics and colors. Both designs donate 50% of proceeds to SFACC. Check them out HERE!

 

John Skeel – Deputy Director


John with a shelter dog at an adoption event in Windsor.

Q & A with John Skeel, SFACC’s new Deputy Director

Where were you born/raised and were you interested in animals growing up?
Originally from Brighton, England, I grew up about an hour north of London in the city of Peterborough. I have always had an interest in animals and there were animals around me as I was growing up, including dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, birds and fish. An uncle of mine worked as a manager on a farm, so I was around farm animals too.

What is your past experience?
I moved to the United States 31 years ago and received my Bachelor’s Degree from Central Michigan University in Therapeutic Recreation/Psychology, and my Master’s Degree from Michigan State University in Park, Recreation and Tourism Resources/Urban Studies.  Most of my career I’ve worked as a director or manager for a variety of municipalities, special districts, and non-profit organizations in administration.

My early career work involved developing therapeutic programs involving treatments for people recovering from various physical, mental, or emotional conditions where animals—such as dogs, cats, and horses—were part of the therapeutic treatment.  For example, working with horses in hippotherapy programs where horseback riding is used as a therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment for improving a person’s coordination, balance, and strength. Even in the park and recreation field I was responsible for the creation and management of dog parks, equestrian trails, and farms.

During the last five years I was the Director of Animal Services for Sonoma County, where I managed animal services for the County and ran a shelter operation very similar to the one here at SFACC. In Sonoma my work focused on improving the life of animals at the shelter to increase our live release rate and adoptions. These efforts included making various innovative shelter improvements, increasing efficiency and effectiveness of operations, expanding and improving community outreach efforts, reorganizing the overall operation, managing a rebranding effort and overseeing an awareness campaign designed to reposition the organization to maximize support for funding and other resources. Oh, and then there were the annual fires and floods, which helped to give me an unforgettable first-hand education on disaster and emergency response and preparedness.

When did you start working at ACC and what do you do?
I serve as deputy director here at ACC, a position I have held since September 3rd of this year. My responsibilities include the development and implementation of policies and procedures that determine which animals will be made available to the public, which will require alternative placement, and which will be humanely euthanized. I ensure that the shelter meets the highest animal care standards as determined by national humane organizations, federal and state law, and public perception. I’m responsible for managing all aspects of field operations, including patrols, investigations, and enforcement of animal neglect and abuse cases. I manage front counter operations, including licensing, permitting, and other regulatory programs. I also manage volunteer and outreach programs, and supervise a staff responsible for the care of 10,000 animals each year, including domestic, wild and exotic species. I must also work effectively with the department’s adoption partners, volunteers and other animal control agencies, who play a key role in maintaining and improving the City’s live release rate. I also work with other law enforcement agencies within and outside of San Francisco to improve compliance.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
After three months on the job, I’m still learning and understanding my responsibilities and how best I’m going to be able to assist ACC, however, I am really enjoying getting to know the staff, volunteers, and the community we serve.

So far, what is the most memorable case/situation/adoption at ACC?
Every day has been memorable so far. I don’t think there have been two days that are the same, which helps to keep things very interesting.

Do you have pets of your own? If so, how many and what are their
names? What do you do when not at work (hobbies, interests)?
We have two pets, both rescues from local shelters: Max our dog (6), and Kitten our cat (3).  Over the years we have also had fish, hamsters, rabbits and lizards. My home is actually in El Dorado Hills, but I have a room in the Mission District where I stay at during the week. I usually take the Amtrak to go back home on weekends. I enjoy running, hiking, movies, concerts, and gardening all as ways to relax and rejuvenate. Travel is another passion, whether it’s overseas or just something local, simply getting out and doing something different and meeting new people is what I enjoy.

Do you have any ideas, aspirations for the shelter’s future?
Obviously, I’m really excited for the opening of the new shelter, which is one of the reasons I was so interested in this position. I think the new shelter will not only be unique and state of the art, it will be an incredible opportunity for SFACC to mature into an organization that can set itself apart from other similar organizations, and in doing so be able to create an environment and a presence where we can become the leading edge for innovation, compassion, and leadership in animal care, not just in our community, but also in the state and across the U.S.


Kitten as a kitten (now three years old)