The Puppygate Affair

gates beforeI’ve been working at the Humane Society of Jefferson County for just over 3 months.  In the puppy room we have 8 inside/outside runs.  There are chain link gates at either end and a sliding door in the wall that separates the inside from the outside.  Outside the gates are  7 feet or so tall, inside, two runs have tall walls and gates (for jumpers) the rest have 3 foot high walls and gates.  Two of these short runs had really sad gates on the inside.  The bottom rails rusted completely away and fell off, leaving an oddly shaped door that was augmented by zip-tieing cat crate doors to the chain link to fill the growing gap between door and post.  I award points to the other staffers for ingenuity, but it’s time to do something more permanent about this.

These were difficult to open and only going to degrade further.  They were ugly too.    So I took it upon myself to fix them.

I ordered the hardware from an on-line supplier I’ve dealt with before.  Their prices are 1/2 to 1/3 the price at Lowe’s or Home Depot and the parts are just as good as the others.  AND they have everything I need.  Go into Lowe’s and ask for the wire ties needed to fasten the top and bottom of the fencing to the rails and I get a blank stare: “Ummmm … bailing wire is over here, or we could sell you this expensive stainless steel wire…”

No, I want the aluminum ties used by fencing companies. has them and a bag of 100 pre-cut ties with one end precurled is just $6.00.

cut-off saw for making gatesI bought a metal-cutting wheel at the local Ace Hardware so I could use my chop saw to get accurate, square, clean cuts in the rail stock — I just needed to clean out all sawdust from around the saw because cutting steel pipes gives off an impressive incendiary spray.

I bought some 10’ top rail at Home Depot.  The online supplier can’t ship lengths of rail.  What my local Lowe’s carries is not 1 3/8” (1.375”) diameter but a metric “equivalent” (1.30”).  That smidge of difference generated a lot of bad reviews from people who bought fittings and rail and were angry when Lowe’s own fittings don’t fit the Lowe’s rail.  They had to cut shim stock to make the joints tight.  So I drove to Home Depot in Morristown to get proper top rail.

gates framedI built the frames at home and took them to work today.  I stripped the mesh off of the old gates (because I cannot find 36” high chain link mesh) and mounted it to the new frames.  I also bought a chain link stretcher that worked pretty well.  It didn’t want to pull the tension bar over quite enough to get the bolt through  the tension band … but being a bright fellow I found a way to shim the pivot and get it to work.

gates installedThe end result is, I think, a big improvement in appearance, functionality and ease of use.  It took me a couple of hours to complete the gates and mount them.  The first one took far longer than the second one, because I was figuring it all out on that one.  Once I knew what I was doing (I’ve never done this before) it went fast and easy.

There are quite a few other gates that need work.  Most just need the bottom rail replaced: it’s rusting but not gone yet, not a complete rebuild.  I’ll tackle those as I can.  A co-worker, Julie, said she has a bunch of top rail stored in her yard that they don’t need and I can have for future projects.  That will cut costs even more!

H.S.J.C. has bought a building and land in an industrial park, but it’s going to take another three years or so to raise the capital funds and produce designs needed to refurbish that building into a “shelter”.  So this building is going to have to serve us for a while.  I’ll do what I can to help with that.

What is This “Rescue”?

I work at the Humane Society of Jefferson County.  It’s what some people call an “animal shelter” but I avoid that term when I can because of the negative connotations that come with that term.  It is, however, a place where a large number of animals are housed in minimal accommodations.  My coworkers and I work very hard, every day, to keep their living spaces clean and healthy.  All animals are vaccinated upon entry, watched closely for signs of disease, and medicated as necessary for their recovery.  Euthanasia is a last resort, and not taken lightly.  Due to the diligence of our management, euthanizing for lack of space is a rare occurrence (as in “it has been years since it happened.”)

In the past week or two, visitors to H.S.J.C. have seen tags reading “Going to Rescue” on the doors of many animal’s crates or runs.  Some ask what that means.  A few complain that they want to adopt an animal so tagged: why can’t they adopt if the animal is right here? Continue reading “What is This “Rescue”?”

Josephine – Notes on a foster dog

Josephine first came to our attention when the Humane Society of Jefferson County posted an urgent plea for rescue or foster of a female beagle mix who was so terrified by the “shelter” environment that she was at risk.  My wife, Marie, decided we needed to help this poor thing.  After some communication through Facebook, we drove out to pick her up for fostering.

Age: Approximately 9 months (as of May 2017).

History: Picked up as a stray by Animal Control in April.  She was terrified of everything.  The shelter environment only made that worse. She was placed into foster care to give her a peaceful environment and to work on her fear issues.

Health: Good except for a fungal skin condition brought on by anxiety, which is being treated.  She has been spayed, wormed,  and is current on vaccinations.

Personality: Once she calmed down she has become a playful, spunky, silly, lovable girl.  She craves attention (loves a gentle belly rub) and seeks it from people she trusts.  Josie is friendly and playful with all of our dogs, even those 4 times her size!  She is fearless and open with all of them. Continue reading “Josephine – Notes on a foster dog”

Julian – Notes On a Rescue Dog


When I first met Julian, he was sitting in an outside pen at the Humane Society where I work.  He was a mess.

Julian had been picked up by animal control because a resident called to report a dog fight.  I don’t have details about exactly what happened or what became of the other dog, but Julian got chewed up pretty badly, especially his head.  We were giving him antibiotics to fight infection and help his wounds heal.

He was sitting, with his feet all bunched up, on a toilet seat cover.  Someone gave us a bunch of them to use as comfies — we use them mostly for cats in their wall crates.  But here was this 60 pound boxer bunched up on this woolly toilet seat cover like it was the best thing in the world: an oasis of comfort in an otherwise miserable existence.   It was funny and heart breaking at the same time.

Over the weeks, Julian began to mend and he proved to be gentle and friendly when we worked with him.

Then we tested him for heartworm … and the test came up positive.  Our boss wasn’t surprised: Julian had obviously been neglected and allowed to run loose.  It was no shock to find he was not on a preventative.  She said the best thing to do was to put him down.  With his scars and the HW+ there was no way he was going to get adopted, and we don’t have the facilities to treat his HW anyway. Continue reading “Julian – Notes On a Rescue Dog”

Tails of Woe


I’ve been working at the Humane Society in a neighboring county for about a month and a half. It’s hard work in a couple of ways. A large part of what I do is cleaning up after the animals. There is a lot of work to do and it has to be done before they open to the public, so it is fast paced work as well. It’s physically demanding and I come home tired.

It is also psychologically hard.  I like working with the animals. I know I should not get attached because most of them will not be there long: they’ll be adopted or sent out on rescue. Keeping them around a long time is actually bad because this is (of necessity) a kill shelter, although they work hard to keep euthanasia to a bare minimum.

When I started working there, there was a little pit bull named “Freddie”. He was bright, and friendly, and even as a new employee he never objected to my coming into his pen to clean or work with him. He was obviously a favorite with all the staff. Everyone loved Frddie. He looked a bit like Gator, one of my foster dogs at the time.

We put Freddie down last week. Continue reading “Tails of Woe”

Lego Steele – Notes on a Foster Dog

This is a foster dog diary post about Lego.  New information will be added to the end of this post so all info on this dog is kept in one place and in chronological order.

Last Updated: March 31, 2017

Lego’s History

LegoThe story we got was that her family got another family dog after having Lego for almost 4 years.  Lego did not get along with the new dog right away, so they got rid of Lego. Continue reading “Lego Steele – Notes on a Foster Dog”

Charlie & Joey Steele – Foster dog notes


This is a foster dog diary post.  New information will be added to the end of this post so all info is kept in one place and in chronological order.

Last Updated: March 27, 2017

Charlie and Joey’s History


My name is Charlie and I have a story to tell you.

My brother, Joey, and I are young: not even 8 months old. I lived in a pen with two male dogs, one of them my brother.

We didn’t have food bowls.  The people who took care of us threw food on the ground for us to compete over. We had minimal shelter  and our bellies hurt because we had worms.   Nobody gave us any love and little attention. They only looked at us from far away. They never opened the pen or cleaned it.  Some would say it was disgusting, but it was all we had known. Continue reading “Charlie & Joey Steele – Foster dog notes”

Best Laid Plans

calendar, planning, routineThe Rescue group I work with (Steele Away Home) was supposed to have a medical day yesterday (Friday) so I requested to be off work that day — since I have two dogs that needed to be spayed or neutered.  But the mobile vet clinic would not start, so the medical day got rescheduled to next Thursday. I work Thursday — I’m off Monday and Wednesday.  Monday I’m supposed to take Marie’s car to the mechanicn place.

Today I asked around work if anyone would swap days with me. Bobby said he needed to be off Monday because his wife has a doctor’s appointment and he needs to stay home to take care of their 3 kids. That would complicate getting Marie’s car to the mechanic, but we could drop it off Sunday, so I agreed to the swap.  That means an extra trip into town and leaving her car in the parking lot overnight, but … it would be there so they could get started on it Monday morning.

When I got home there was a message on the answering machine. It was from Bobby. His wife’s appointment is Wednesday this week, not Monday as usual: the first time that’s ever happened! So he’d rather swap Wednesday for Thursday not Monday for Thursday.

I love it when things just work out!

Tale of the Toolbox

toolbox basic

Last week there was a fence/gate repair job that needed doing at work.  A co-worker, Bobby, and I were asked to take a look at it and see what we could do.  The boss had some parts that might help.  They even had a toolbox … of sorts.

Bobby had recently been assigned the task of cleaning out several junk drawers, finding all the tools and putting them into a donated toolbox, sorting through the rest: toss the detritus and sort the usable “stuff” into big plastic bags by category.  So our task now was  simpler.

However, the toolbox consisted of 3 hammers, a half-dozen badly abused screw drivers, and a pair of pliers.  We decided to bring tools from home and do the job the next day.  Bobby wasn’t there the next day, so I accomplished the job with the tools I brought.  All I was missing was a set of deep sockets (which I didn’t have but Bobby did) and a ratchet.  But I did the job with a crescent wrench.  The sockets do the job faster and with fewer bloody smears on the fencing, but a crescent wrench will do in a pinch.

I wanted to double the hinge at the top of the gate (which is at least 8 feet wide, maybe more) to keep it from twisting the hinge again.  I lacked one part and a couple of bolts to do that.  I picked up the hardware on my day off.  I also decided to assemble a usable toolbox.

My Toolbox History

Continue reading “Tale of the Toolbox”

Ilo Steele – Notes on a rescue dog

This is a foster dog diary post.  New information about Ilo will be added to the end of this post so all info on this dog is in one place and in chronological order.
Post last updated: April 10, 2017

IloIlo arrived March 7th.  That name is spelled eye – ell – oh, and pronounced “Ee-low”.  Ilo is a white Husky with blue eyes, he is around 1 year old and weighs (guessing here) around 50 pounds. He appears to be in good health.

Ilo’s History

Ilo was adopted locally as a puppy.  He spent most of his life on a chain in the yard.  He didn’t even have a collar: they just wrapped the chain around his neck and fastened it.  As a result he has a gray band around his neck that will be difficult to remove.  In time, that hair will shed out, so it will go away.  Eventually.

One of our rescue families talked that family into surrendering him.  Ilo is here for evaluation and training.  His shots are current.  He will be heartworm tested when he goes in for neutering on the 17th.
NOTE: That test came back negative, so he is now on a HW preventative to keep him safe.

Continue reading “Ilo Steele – Notes on a rescue dog”