Category Archives: Stories

Staff Feature of March 2017: Becca

Friendship APL is reminiscent to a bee hive at times as its workers are always in motion carrying out one task or another. Not all of these staff are always visible to the public when they walk through our doors, however. One such staff member at FAPL is Becca, who spared a few minutes of her time to keep us up to speed on what she does behind the scenes.


Gregg:  Hi Becca!  You look pretty busy today.  What are some of the things you do here?

Becca:  Sometimes I help at the front, I also assist with shots and vaccinations of our resident animals, but usually TNR is my specialty.  That’s Trap-Neuter-Release.


Gregg:  Beside the obvious, what does TNR entail?

Becca:  Well we go out in Elyria and North Ridgeville and set traps for feral cats, collect them and take the animals to the vet to be spayed or neutered.  Then we release them.  This dramatically helps cut down the future feral cat population.


Gregg:  Why only those two cities?

Becca:  It’s a matter of organizing a team of people in each city to be able to conduct the TNR program effectively.  For instance, attempts are growing in the city of Lorain to have regular catch and release TNR efforts out there.  It just takes a bit to get things together to make it a fully functional and regular program in one town.


Gregg:  Interesting!  I assume this would somehow pertain to your interests and long-term goals

Becca:  Absolutely!  I love working with animals which is what brought me here in the first place almost three years ago.  The long-term plan is to be a veterinary tech, but for now, I really enjoy getting animals off the streets and adopted into great homes.  It’s very rewarding!

Becca with rehab resident Catty

A Pig Out of Place

Felines and canines are the mainstay of Friendship APL.  Obviously, we see more of them come through our doors than any other animals.  Since these are statistically the two most common pets, it makes sense.  Still, we don’t turn a blind eye to other animals in need.  There’s usually at least one rabbit staying at FAPL and in January we even had a ferret for a few days before she found her forever home.  In the latest scenario of an uncommon pet needing common care is the case of Gordon.

Gordon is a 3-year old, personable pot-bellied pig who FAPL found out about recently.  He has had a bit of a hot-potato life thus far.  He was with one person, then put on Craig’s List, found by another individual who then contacted her mother who took on the affectionate farm animal.  While the best of intentions were there to care for Gordon (he is neutered), he just wasn’t living in a regular pig environment.  His human caretakers at the home were aware that Gordon was just too big, even for a pig, and he needed to lose weight.  They simply wanted him to have a life he was more deserving of so they made the call to Friendship.

Transferred from the home via dog crate, we soon discovered Gordon is quite the friendly swine and very much enjoys having his belly rubbed.  Currently, this intelligent critter is residing at a foster home and is doing well.  If you’re familiar with caring for pigs, have the proper environment to raise one and are looking to provide a great home for one, Gordon could be your match.


Please contact FAPL at 440.322.4321 for more information or click here.

Gordon roams his playground of hay while in foster care.

The Petfinder Five: How One Grant Changed the Lives of Five Dogs

The Petfinder Five: How One Grant Changed the Lives of Five Dogs

By Gregory Willey

In November of 2016, we were informed that we were one of 25 shelters being awarded a $10,000 grant. This grant had a primary objective of saving the lives of animals that might otherwise not have had an opportunity to find forever homes. That is exactly what Friendship APL did. It all began with a little dog named Penguin.

Lorain Police Officer and Friendship APL volunteer, Rick Broz, found an injured dog in the city. He had been hit by a car. His leg and pelvis were left shattered. He spent several days at Lorain Animal Hospital before being transferred to our care.

D. James Gant examines Penguin’s fractured Leg and Pelvis at West Park Animal Hospital

We took Penguin to West Park Animal Hospital. After X-rays, we knew the leg was too far gone to save. It would require amputation followed by a month of rehabilitation in a foster home to allow the fractured pelvis to heal.


On February 25th, Ashley Sims drove all the way from New Jersey to meet her sister at Friendship with her two Boston Terriers in tow. She had been following Penguin’s story since his arrival. After a meet and greet between her and her four-legged family, Penguin was on his way home to the Garden State.

Ashley Sims and her growing family with her sister Erin George.

With Penguin’s story came a series of dogs with similar injuries, either on accident or on purpose, which all had similar issues. Next up was dog number two – Lola!


Lola shortly after her amputation.

9 month-old Lola arrived from the Mahoning County dog pound. She was intended to be an easy adoption from an overcrowded shelter needing help. Shortly after arrival though, our volunteers and staff noticed some swelling and tenderness in her front leg. We took her to West Park for X-rays. To our disbelief, she had been walking around on a leg that had been broken most likely weeks before arriving at the Mahoning County Dog Pound. It had actually begun to heal but in such a way as to cause much discomfort for the poor girl. The leg at this point could not be saved and once again would require the leg to be amputated.


Lola officially arrived at Friendship APL on January 9th. She found her new home on January 28th.

Coincidentally, while sitting in the emergency clinic, the City of Cleveland Dog Warden walked in with a dog that had been hit by a car. What was wrong with the young Boxer mix? You guessed it another broken leg! The dog would be made comfortable by the West Park staff and held for three days should an owner step forward. No owner step forward, and Friendship agreed to help the stray dog. Dog number three would come to be known as Serendipity because if we had not been there with Lola, would we ever have had the opportunity to help her?

Serendipity and I take a selfie shortly after surgery.

Serendipity’s injury was recent. Thanks to the work of the Cleveland Kennel’s and the team at West Park, her leg was able to be saved. It required the placement of plates and pins, but she would be the only dog in this story able to keep her leg.

Serendipity officially arrived at Friendship APL on February 1st (she arrived at West Park Animal Hospital on January 9th). She would find her forever home on February 4th.

Next up was Arrow, an 8 month-old Pitbull. This was a direct request from a veterinarian. This sweet boy was surrendered over to the vet for euthanasia following an injury to his rear leg. After seeing the multitude of stories over the past two weeks, it made sense that the staff would reach out to us to help.

Arrow shows off for the camera. He is a total ham!



Arrow arrived at Friendship APL on January 14th. He found a loving family on January 18th!

So that made four.

The final dog in the bunch was very special. We had emergency call come in concerning a puppy that had been attacked by another dog. The good Samaritan was able to rescue the dog from the attack and drive him over to Friendship APL. The little Beagle mix was only four or five months old. The injury was so severe, it required immediate surgery. Their were two immediate concerns. Bite wounds are more likely to become infected, and her leg had been snapped in two. This would be the hardest decision we would have to make.

An hour after arriving at Friendship, Aubrey waits at West Park Animal Hospital for veterinarians to examine her.


We had two choices. One. We could put pins and plates in and save her leg. Two. We could amputate. Option one seemed like the obvious choice. However, upon further discussion with her veterinarian, this could result in multiple surgeries. Given her age, her leg would continue to grow. This could result in her having to undergo multiple surgeries  over several weeks. With each surgery, there would be a risk of complication.

We decided to go with option two. She would only have to spend a few weeks recovering in a foster home adjusting to life on three legs before heading to a new home. And that is exactly what happened.

Aubrey arrived at the shelter on January 22nd. She found her Valentine on February 14th.

One of the strangest parts of this story is that Penguin would lose his right, rear leg. Lola would lose her right, front leg. Arrow would lose his left, rear leg. Aubrey would lose her right, front leg.  That means every dog which needed surgery in January would lose a different leg. All but Serendipity, who did not lose a leg at all. What are the odds of that?

On behalf of our entire staff, volunteers and the Petfinder Five, we extend our most heartfelt gratitude for helping us save lives.

Meet Giulio

There’s no rhyme or reason, no metrics, no measurable explanation as to the number of cats and dogs residing inside the FAPL walls at any given time. Sometimes we get an influx of dogs and people are mostly adopting cats that week. Seven days later the exact opposite happens. While it is difficult for someone like myself to remember every animal that comes through, every once in a while there is that one special pet-to-be that just strikes a cord with me.

This past Monday, after doing a little writing for an upcoming newsletter, I walked around the cat cages to see who our current residents were.  As fate would have it, it was the last room I checked when I laid my eyes upon a beautiful black cat named Giulio.  As I stopped in front of his cage, he extended a paw through the bars as if to greet me, a gentle inquiry asking if I would provide him with a few seconds of company.  I read the description on the door of his cage which stated he was a 14-year old male.  In addition, I also learned that Giulio was there due to the passing of his human caretaker.  My heart melted.

After opening the door, he peeked his head outside the frame of his stainless steel home, which promptly led me to gently scratch his head as his eyes began to half-shut in relaxed demeanor.  After kneeling down to his level, it became rapidly apparent the difficulty of Giulio’s predicament.  Kittens are easily adoptable.  Middle-aged cats are more difficult but they commonly find homes.  A cat that’s 14 years old is quite the task to get adopted.  For what it’s worth, this article would have never materialized if I had the space to take him on.  I would have adopted him on the spot.

Nevertheless, these are the cards Giulio and I have been dealt.  I’m not in a position to adopt him and he needs a loving home.  Two days later I stopped back at Friendship to take him out of his cage and let him roam one of the empty rooms.  He sniffed, inspected, observed and walked the perimeter of the room in traditional cat curiosity.  When he was done, he looked at me and meowed a few times, as if to communicate something my human brain just wasn’t able to grasp.  Giulio is a sweet soul.  He’s an adorable buddy that just needs that right person who has no problem taking on a cat that’s 14.

Sometime’s folks look to adopt a pet that is “perfect” in their eyes.  Why?  You don’t strive for a perfect child or a perfect husband or wife.  It’s not realistic and therefore unobtainable.  The same applies for our canine and feline companions.  What’s the big deal with adopting a cat with three legs or dog with one eye or a cat that just happens to be 14?  Take my advice and head over to the shelter and spend a few minutes with Giulio.  He’s confused by the change in his living situation, but his arrival at Friendship is all with the intent for a better life for him.  Pet him, hug him, and you’ll see just why Giulio is a loving and wise cat who could be a great fit for you.   Click here to learn more.

*UPDATE: Within 48 hours of this article posting, Giulio was adopted!  Enjoy your new home, buddy!*Big thanks to Christina M. for making this come together!

FAPL Director Wins Award

When someone walks through the doors of the Friendship APL, chances are they are there looking to add a new member to their family. To make that happen, there is a vast amount of work that goes on behind the scenes that the public usually isn’t aware of. That’s not really a good or bad thing, it’s just is the way it is. People aren’t typically concerned with who had the cat or dog prior to them, the struggles that the shelter underwent to obtain the animal or the man hours that went into all of that. Rest assured, the staff and volunteers at FAPL have no desire to promote these things. We just want to match up a loving animal to a loving person or family.

Still, with all that being said, a little pat on the back every once in a while is good for the soul and provides some outside reassurance that the work we are doing is recognized by more than just the men and women who help out within the confines of the shelter.  On February 17, 2017, Leadership Lorain County presented the Difference Makers Gala, recognizing the exceptional efforts of leadership throughout the county.  With six such awards presented on the evening, FAPL is proud to announce one of those went to our own Executive Director, Greg Willey.

For Willey, a Cleveland State graduate with a degree in communications, his intended path was one of marketing and advertising.  Call it fate, the universe or a higher power, this was not to be in his cards.  Unable to find work in his field, it took a little coaxing from his wife to pursue a position at the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter located, ironically enough, on Willey Avenue.  If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.  Nevertheless, Greg Willey was hired there and after nearly a decade of improving their adoption and volunteer programs, left to take on his current position with the Friendship Animal Protective League of Lorain County in 2009.

Under Greg’s tutelage, FAPL has gone from aiding 1,100 animals per year to almost tripling that today.  In that same span of time, volunteer hours at FAPL have more than tripled while also helping animals find homes throughout 18 Ohio counties.  To quote a line from Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility,” so it is rather appropriate to point out Greg Willey has excelled with the responsibility that comes with the territory of his position.  Thank you to the FAPL Board for their recommendation of Greg to the Leadership Lorain County organization and an even bigger thanks to Greg himself for the selfless work he continues to do.

(left to right) FAPL Board Member Barb Sangiacomo, FAPL Board Member Patrick Radachi, FAPL Executive Director Greg Willey, FAPL Board President Deb McFadden, FAPL Board Member Justis Clifford, FAPL Board Vice President Amy Richards

Wags to Riches 2017 – What a Night!

By now, it’s been no secret of the significantly large expenses that Friendship APL incurred in 2016 for medical procedures. Spay and neuters are common and they do add up, but as awareness of not only FAPL’s existence, but its continuous efforts to save animals gain more attention, those more serious procedures such ACL repairs and amputations amass large debts rather quickly. Well, Saturday, February 11th, 2017 showed just how awesome and caring residents of Northeast Ohio can be.

I should probably introduce myself briefly before I explain what I observed on a personal level this past Saturday.  My name is Gregg Senko.  I’ve been volunteering at FAPL since the autumn of 2016, usually in the form of writing articles to grace the face of our newsletter.  I’m originally from here but I did spend five years in Florida recently, with the majority of that being Sarasota.  When I was there, I volunteered at a large, non-kill shelter.  Their facility stood on eight acres of Florida land with several $15,000-apiece hurricane resistant huts that could house four dogs each or twice that many cats.  There was even a secondary location in a plaza storefront.  They were heavily promoted throughout Sarasota and Bradenton each year and the money flowed in quite generously.  They do great work down there and they deserve it.

However, FAPL doesn’t have the luxury of massive promotional work.  It’s not a household name across multiple counties.  It doesn’t have an influx of four-figure checks coming in on a whim.  We don’t have individual huts that cost the price of a small car.  I don’t mention these things out of jealousy or ill will.  I mention them because FAPL and its Executive Director, Greg Willey, do a lot with a little.  They operate on this notion of just moving forward and doing.  Put the animals’ welfare first and do what’s best for them.  Sometimes it’s just best not to overthink things.  Don’t sit there and debate the cost of the surgery for the animal.  Just do it…and that’s exactly what FAPL does.  It is not done with reckless abandon, but with caring intentions and a heart of gold, which brings us to February 11, 2017.

It was my first exposure to a Wags to Riches event and what a beautiful one it was.  Yes, there were a plethora of prizes that lined the walls of Tom’s Country Place, the venue of the evening’s gala.  Local celebrities from Fox 8 appeared, an authentic OSU Buckeyes helmet was up for grabs and the food was delicious.  As great as those aforementioned aspects are, they were not the highlights of the evening.  The highlight was when tables of guests made their donations and everyone was asked to stand.  Greg Willey stood proudly at the front of the room naming an amount and asking people to sit if their table collectively donated less than that.  As the stated amounts increased by Willey, more tables continued to sit and the emotion from FAPL’s Executive Director started to surface.

So here is where my mention of Florida comes full circle.  There is something about the people of Cleveland and its surrounding areas.  There is this undeniable vibe of positivity among its citizens.  Yeah we get six months of gray skies throughout the year.  I’ll take it.  We have harsh winters from time to time.  I’ll handle it.  We have some absolutely incredible, down to earth folks here who will give a paycheck to help an injured cat and dog.  I’ll embrace them.

As Greg’s voice started to crack in sheer emotion and surprise once the amount of $3,000 was announced and multiple tables were still standing, I would be lying if I told you I was not starting to experience the same swell of emotion.  Greg had to face the crowd of 300+ that night.  I got to sit in the back, shielding my teary eyes from the masses.  Why?  Because I have seen a little girl’s face light up at the shelter when she and her mom took home a cat and I have seen a middle-aged man dance around the parking lot in elation with his new dog.  Wags to Riches made moments like those possible.  As for that leading donor table, they surpassed the $5,000 mark.  What that table alone contributed was remarkable.  What all the guests did combined was like a greater power hugging your soul.  That’s Northeast Ohio for you.

(Left to right) FAPL Board President Deb McFadden, Fox 8 anchors Gabe Spiegel and Natalie Herbick, FAPL Board Vice President Amy Richards

Wags didn’t stop there though.  There was also a night of festivities that continued to put smiles on the faces of those in attendance.  A money-free casino evening was the theme as people took their seats at Blackjack tables and around the roulette wheel.  Personally I watched my chips disappear faster than a desert oasis.  Hey, just like real life in Vegas, but I digress.  While guests excitedly darted between tables, a collective “Awww!” of disappointment was let out over at the red and black spinning disc of chance.  Surely someone just missed red 27, but even when real money is not on the line, the engaging roulette wheel can apparently still have a cold, cold heart.

The evening’s musical entertainment was provided by local band Honeycreek.  The five-member group had a knack for playing a wide variety of tunes, even slowing some down to make them appropriate for the casual mood of the evening.  I even caught a Lady Gaga song played by them, with just enough of a toned down tempo and a jazzy club effect added to create a new spin on it.  Honeycreek didn’t miss a beat on the evening, playing a marathon of sets and showing no signs of musical fatigue.

This article cannot be concluded without a mention of some very special guests of honor.  A few cats and dogs from the shelter were on hand to meet and greet with the human attendees.  One in particular was a three-legged sharpei named Jersey who became the night’s social butterfly.  As Greg Willey said in his speech, the sharpei breed can typically be non-social and standoffish.  Jersey was anything but those two traits.  This dog was so incredibly happy with all the attention, all she did was put smiles on people’s faces.  This dog’s awesome demeanor is just begging for an adoption.  While less spotlight-enjoying, the other dogs and cats on hand were just as lovable in their own, more chill way.  Everyone has their own speed, even felines and canines.

By the end of the night, FAPL had exceeded its expected donation goal.  Attendees, many carrying prizes, left happy and yours truly took a second to stare at what all that hard work produced.  I’ll be honest.  I don’t know the origin story of the Friendship Animal Protective League in Elyria, Ohio.  I just know that whatever evolution it underwent over the years has led to a culmination of staff, volunteers and leadership that have turned this shelter into a well-oiled machine.  It is a place where cats and dogs get new leases on life, and sometimes so do the people that adopt them.  It is a place where dogs are trained and bonds are made.  It is a place that holds one night a year so dear to its heart to make it all possible.  Wags to Riches.  What a night.



Photographs courtesy of Abby McElhannon and Gregg Senko

Video courtesy of Dawn Ermler-Fischer




Staff Feature of February 2017: Denise


While Friendship APL has a significant number of volunteers, they also have a strong staff of employees there that keep things on track and moving forward. One of those employees happens to be one of the more seasoned veterans at Friendship who has seen and done quite a lot in her time there thus far.  With that being said, our February spotlight is on none other than our beloved Denise.


Gregg: You’re one of the few Humane Officers on staff here at FAPL.  What interested you in that position?

Denise: To be honest, it was never what I thought I’d be doing.  When I first started at the shelter in 1999, I did a little bit of everything around the office and at the front desk.  After doing that for about a year, I ended up becoming a Humane Officer and I’ve never looked back since.  It’s a been a wonderful job.


Gregg: What all is involved in being a Humane Officer?

Denise: It can be intense at times.  There are a number of prosecutions and resulting court appearances that must be made.  There are investigations, roughly 400 to 450 a year, that lead up to those prosecutions and a lot of reporting to document all of these situations.  Another facet of the job is seizing animals, most commonly dogs in unfavorable living conditions/situations.


Gregg: Cats too?

Denise:  Cats not so much, but we do seize a few cats from time to time.  The vast majority of the cases are definitely dogs and even the occasional farm animal like horses and pigs.  Since we can’t bring horses to the shelter, we have special foster homes set up for them.  One of the most important aspects of the Humane Officer position, however, is educating people.  It is very important to inform the public on how to properly care for their pets and what to look for in reporting bad situations.


Gregg: That definitely sounds like it keeps you busy!  Anything else on your résumé?

Denise: Yes actually.  I’ve been involved in the Grafton prison program with the shelter for the past 17 years.  It’s been pretty rewarding and it’s great to see how far that program has come.


Thank you for all your effort, Denise!

It sounds like she has a full plate so we’ll let her get back to work.




Wags to Riches ’17 Quickly Approaching!

Throughout the year, FAPL Director Greg Willey and company do their absolute best to rescue animals in the most unfavorable of situations. Cats hit by cars, dogs abused by cruel owners, these are just a few of the countless scenarios that bring animals to the Friendship Animal Protective League. However, before they spend a few days in a FAPL cage awaiting adoption, they must first pay a visit to a veterinarian to rectify any unfortunate medical conditions.

Volunteer and Facebook guru Sherry with one of our former residents.

The veterinary costs that FAPL incurs are a necessary, but costly part of our business.  Our business is rescuing animals and finding them good homes, and while vets went to went to school to help animals, their services are not free.  Throughout the year, FAPL holds and participates in numerous events to raise funds to keep our building running, to pay our staff and, most significantly, to cover the costs of those vet bills.  In 2016, medical costs of our animals more than doubled what it was in 2015.



“Doc” Rick and a four-legged friend at the 2016 Wags event.

Despite those fundraising efforts throughout the calendar year, none assist us more than our annual Wags to Riches event.  This year, the fundraising gala will be held on Saturday, February 11th at Tom’s Country Place in Avon, Ohio.  Tickets are $100 and include dinner, open bar, the opportunity to purchase tickets for raffles, casino games and just the general notion of a really good time.  Plus, at the end of the day, it’s all to help the animals.

Try your luck at some games of chance and help benefit animals

Click here for more information on how to purchase your tickets for the 2017 Wags to Riches event!

Prizes galore!



Hogs n’ Suds – Christmas Style

On December 18, 2016, Lake Erie Harley Davidson of Avon, Ohio held their annual Christmas party to much fanfare.  Customers of the dealership and general Harley fans showed up to enjoy in the celebration that was a good time had by all.  Lake Erie Harley Davidson was also very accommodating to the Friendship APL as they welcomed us with open arms for the event.

Hog Dog guarding the tip jar

As FAPL volunteers Diane, Kevin and Gregg showed up to the festivities, they quickly commandeered the beer table, pouring both Great Lakes Christmas Ale and Labatt Blue to tantalize the holiday-seeking taste buds of Harley aficionados.  As patrons lined up for their brew, the FAPL trio kept things moving while tips were all donated to the shelter.  For most of the beer drinkers on the evening, once they discovered that the tips went to help the animals, they dug a little deeper in the pockets to fill the jar, something which we are all very grateful for.

Holiday thirst? Consider it quenched.

Local blues favorite Colin Dussault was on hand to provide the evening’s entertainment as he and two fellow musicians took the floor.  The mini-band took a detour from their traditional blues flavor, performing a number of classic rock hits that were enjoyed by all in attendance.  Dussault and crew played at a steady pace with little let-up in their talented performance, playing to the very end of the evening’s party.

Colin Dussault acoustic band

Finally, a Christmas party just isn’t complete without a visit from a certain North Pole resident.  In one of his last appearances before his big night, Santa paid a visit to Lake Erie Harley Davidson.  Not only that, but jolly old Saint Nick came in full red and white fashion with his better half, Mrs. Claus, as the two sat for photos with kids and spread holiday cheer.  Horsepower, beer, Santa and helping animals.  I’d say Christmas came early this year!

Santa and Mrs. Claus

The relationship between Lake Erie Harley Davidson and the Friendship Animal Protective League goes back nearly three decades and we couldn’t be more appreciative of their help and attention.  This is especially the case during these cold winter months when strays roam our neighborhoods amongst the chilling air and bad owners leave their pets tethered outside on freezing winter nights.  If beers and bikes aren’t your thing, no worries, you can help out pets by contributing directly to FAPL and by reporting abusive and neglecting circumstances to FAPL and the proper authorities.

Look for the beer events to resume at Lake Erie Harley Davidson this March.  Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year!



An Unconventional Resident

Cats and dogs are the heart and soul and FAPL’s residents.  When potential adopters walk through those front doors, it is usually to add a companion to their household that will either require a litter box or a leash, a scratching post or a Milk-Bone.  There are also the unconventional animals that come our way looking for loving homes, not always the first pet on the minds of the aforementioned adopters.  There are the gerbils, guinea pigs and hamsters of Lorain County that occasionally find their way to us.  Let’s not forget our long-eared, lettuce-loving friends as there is always at least one rabbit that calls FAPL its temporary home.

Still, there are those moments when an even more uncommon animal ends up here.  After all, it was only a couple weeks ago when a ferret was surrendered to us.  The rascally young lass, affectionately named Slinky, had a personality all her own and found her new forever home in about a week.  So that sounds like that’s about it for our “unique animal” roster for a while, right?  Not so, my friends!  We will take the hand that’s dealt when it comes to an animal needing help.  That logic is no different in the case of Bear.  No, we didn’t get a homeless grizzly.  Bear happens to be the name of a 20-pound, 8-month old mini-pig.


After being bounced around from home to home, Bear’s eating slowed dramatically, a symptom of her unstable living situation.  I’m not a veterinarian.  I’m not an animal behaviorist.  However, one of the best pieces of advice I can give to anyone looking to take on a pet is do your research.  A pig is a pig.  I know what you’re thinking, “These are words of wisdom? A pig is a pig?”  Actually, yes, they are wise words because all too often an individual or a family pursues an animal for wrong reasons.

When the Disney’s live action film 101 Dalmatians came out, it seemed like everyone and their brother wanted a Dalmatian.  Yes, they are beautiful dogs, but yes, they are also very energetic and can be very stubborn.  That is a breed that requires a great deal of patience as well as an energetic human to keep up.  In the case of Bear, she is not a dog, nor is she a cat.  She is a pig, and the care a pig requires is different and needs to be addressed as such.  While they are quite the intelligent creature, they are not going to bark on command or confine their bathroom behavior to a litter box.


Right now Bear is slowly but surely coming around back to her normal self at a foster home.  Ideally, she would change homes one more time, but only once more as it should be to her forever home.  If you have a familiarity with the breed and are thinking of being Bear’s permanent human companion, feel free to give us a call.  Bear would love to settle into a caring home that knows how to cater to her style!

Volunteer Feature of December 2016: Mary Lou

Starting December 2016, Friendship APL will highlight a different volunteer or staff member each month.  This month we feature none other than Mary Lou, who for many is the first person they see when they walk through our front doors.  In February, Mary Lou will reach a milestone with FAPL, an amount of time that one should certainly be proud of.  Her duties are varied and her work ethic is a determined one.


Gregg:  How long have you volunteered at FAPL?

Mary Lou:  Six, almost seven years!  It’ll be seven in February.


Gregg:  What do your duties include?

Mary Lou:  I work at the front desk, so I take care of a lot of duties up there including answering the phones, answering questions about the animals, making sure people are satisfied with their answers, and assisting with adoptions.


Gregg:  Do you help out outside of the shelter?

Mary Lou:  Yes, I foster kittens.


Gregg:  Oh that’s awesome!  How long do you usually care for them?

Mary Lou:  I take in the kittens that are too young to be spayed or neutered.  Typically, these kittens are under 2 lbs. and less than 3 months old and are too little to be at the shelter.


Gregg:  What is one of the most rewarding experiences volunteering at the shelter?

Mary Lou:  Fostering the kittens, though it is always tough bringing them back to the shelter once they are ready for adoption.


Gregg:  Can you think of what one of the biggest changes has been since you started volunteering here?

Mary Lou:  We’ve grown, so there has been a lot more animal intake and a lot more adoptions.


Thank you, Mary Lou, for your service to the shelter!

If you are thinking of volunteering or adopting a cat, dog or rabbit, please feel free to call the Friendship APL at 440.322.4321 and ask Mary Lou or any of our other staff or volunteers questions regarding which pet may be the pest companion for you.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Friendship APL!

Happy Holidays from Friendship APL

Inmates Helping Dogs in Grafton

With all animals that come through the doors of the Friendship APL, our goal is to find them good homes.  Sometimes the situation at hand just isn’t conducive to that ideal scenario.  Take the case of canines for instance.  Like people, dogs (and cats for that matter) can have a wide range of personalities.  Some are more energetic than others.  Others are more reclusive.  Unfortunately, extremes in that behavioral spectrum do not relate to the most adoptable pet.  A hyper dog can have trouble adhering to commands and the overly shy dog may have minimal interaction with their human counterparts.

Shepherd mix

In lieu of scenarios that can prohibit an adoption that is ideal for all parties involved, Friendship APL has utilized an unconventional but extremely productive resource.  If I told you this resource was the GCI, most would pass off the three-letter abbreviation as the condensed name of some company that works with dogs.  That’s not entirely accurate, but not wholly incorrect either.  No it’s not a company, but yes they do work with dogs.  It’s the Grafton Correctional Institution.  Yes, it’s the “big house” for these animals, though the care and guidance they receive is anything but punishment.

This minimum/medium-security installation saw the implementation of the Love-a-Pup program in 1999.  In short, FAPL sends dogs to the prison where they go through an 8 to 12-week program to become a dog that has either come out of their shell or has calmed down to be an attentive companion.  In reality, it is much more than that.  Sure, that is a grand step for these animals and FAPL as well.  A dog that can be adopted frees up space in the shelter for another dog to get rescued off the streets, from a bad home or even from a kill shelter.  There is the human connection, however, that cannot be ignored.

German Shepherd

This Shepherd heeds his handler’s commands during a review of the dog’s progress.

Yes, the men that call the walls of GCI home have done some bad things to get there.  The point of this article is not to discuss who is a bad person and who just made bad decisions.  These guys are there for however long, and amidst the 1,999 inmates currently there, close to 20 of them get to have an opportunity to bring a new purpose to their confinement.  What started out as a six-dog program close to two decades ago, has more than tripled in size.  Once an inmate who applies to be a part of the program has been given the green light, they get to choose their dog who is assigned to him 24/7 for the aforementioned 8 to 12 weeks.

On the day I visited the Grafton Correctional Institution, 18 dogs and their inmate handlers came into a room, one by one, supervised by the facility’s Sgt. Roberts and FAPL’s own dog trainer, Don Hutchins.  The inmates and their dogs, ranging in all breeds and sizes, from a spunky Chihuahua-mix to an all-white icy-eyed Husky, stood in place while Don examined each pooch.  They then paraded their canine friends around the room as the dogs proudly walked in an orderly fashion at their handlers’ sides.  This was soon followed by a variety of commands from the inmates such as sit, stay and come.  Some dogs were a little more eager than others to get that treat in their handler’s hand, but that’s why it takes several weeks to condition these dogs and not a few weekends.


Some love the camera, some love the treats, but all will be attentive dogs once they finish the program.

As for the details of the program, the dogs are with their handlers around the clock.  They reside in the cell with them and have scheduled ‘bathroom’ breaks during the day.  Exceptions are made in cases of medical concerns for the animal such as bowel irritation or other instances. As previously discussed, the dogs learn commands and corrective behavior, have around-the-clock attention and receive grooming as necessary.  For the inmates, this is not merely a way to pass the hours.  They receive a certification for being a qualified dog handler after 4,000 hours of training which can take approximately two years.  They can also receive a grooming certification for the proper cleaning and maintenance of a dog.

Make no mistake as these are not simple pats on the back to boost morale.  While that may be accomplished in the process, the bigger picture sees someone who has acquired skills and is now marketable for hiring once they have served their time in prison.  For a country that has the highest recidivism rate in the world, this is extremely important so the individual does not somehow resort back to their ways of old.  Instead, they can be a functioning part of the workforce.



It is also worth mentioning how the program is not only therapeutic for the handlers, but for the prison as a whole.  The presence of dogs on the GCI grounds has a calming effect.  Non-handler inmates will take an interest in the animals, asking the men if they can pet their dog, while perusing any number of questions from the dog’s name to their breed and progress.  In addition, there is financial production as well.  The Love-a-Pup program has generated $11,000 in the last four years alone for the prison.  The money goes immediately back into the program, purchasing items such as cold weather gear, food and treats for the dogs, and top of the line grooming equipment such as a clipper vacuum, shark fin scissors and dental cleaning items.

These men take their job very seriously, and as Sgt. Roberts expressed to me, “All of these guys either had a dog before they got here or knew a neighbor that had a dog.”  That connection is undeniable in what I witnessed.  There is a chemistry between the imprisoned and their dogs and an emotional attachment that becomes apparent when it is time for the pair to part ways.  Each one has become a fit for their partner which has produced priceless results.  In one case, Sugar, a deaf dog found a great home caring for an autistic child.  In a separate instance, another canine graduate now pulls a handicapped child in a pool via special harness; exercise and recreation the child would have otherwise not known.  While ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘speak’ are foundation commands, these are examples that go above and beyond of what is expected at the end of 12 weeks.  While every dog that enters the program may not be a service dog, one cannot deny the importance of finding a loving home for a dog that is now eager to listen and respond to their human companion.

A Husky patiently awaits his next order.

Winterizing Our Animal Companions

Yesterday, November 19th, marked the first snow of the ’16-’17 winter season.  The wind had torn two tarps off of a train of parked shopping carts at a local store.  Snow had quickly begun falling as if someone flipped a light switch, rapidly speeding toward the earth as it pelted me in the face like tiny frigid needles.  Yes, welcome to the north coast.  Fortunately, any disdain for such inclement conditions is easily remedied.  I simply went inside and had lunch.  Problem solved, at least until I had to go back outside, but such is life in Northeast Ohio.

While none of us can control the weather, we can control where we go.  Unfortunately, this is not the case for animals.  I remember years ago, meteorologist and pet lover Dick Goddard had told viewers not to be fooled by the fact an animal such as a cat or a dog has a fur coat.  This is not a bulletproof vest from the elements.  To disagree with that is foolhardy and ultimately cruel.  Wolves and lynx can handle it.  Our dogs and cats are not wolves nor lynx.  So, with that in mind, it is important that we all follow the following steps to care for our animal companions that rely on us to feed them and keep them warm during the oncoming tundra-like conditions that Greater Cleveland is no stranger to.


#1  Bring Your Pets Indoors

I would refer you to the earlier mention of a cat or a dog’s fur coat.  It is not a bubble that protects them from the cold.  Would you sleep outside with a jacket when the temperatures drop to the 30’s or lower?  Of course not.  Bottom line, if you think it’s too cold for you, then it’s too cold for your pets.   Unless the dog house has a door that shuts with fully functioning heat like your house does, bring them in.  The same goes for folks who have cats that like to spend time outside.  Bring them in at night so as to avoid any type of frostbite or other injury.

cold outside

Always bring your pets inside in inclement conditions, especially the winter.


#2  Salt on the Driveway

The website recently published an article pointing out the dangers of walking your dog on salted surfaces in the winter.  Dogs often lick their paws after a walk.  Should they ingest any of the salt they walked on, it can cause oral and internal irritation.  It is important to note that it is not simply plain sodium that is getting thrown down on streets and sidewalks.  It is an ice-melting agent combined with a sodium element.  You wouldn’t put it on your fries, so don’t let your dog taste it either.  In short, walk your dog in areas free of the ice-melting chemicals if you can.  Even if this is not possible in your area, ALWAYS wipe your dog’s paws after the walk.


Ice-melts are not pet friendly


#3  Strays Have Feelings Too

If time and money allows, leave out a small structure for strays so they are protected from those biting Ohio winds.  Taking a Rubbermaid container and placing it on its side is a great start.  Tape the lid to the side facing the upward and now you’ve got an awning over the opening.  A few dishes with some food and water will go a long way for a feral cat with an empty belly.  Plus they may keep any rodent problem down by hanging around your home.  They may be fed, but they still have an instinct to hunt.  Another, slightly more elaborate option is to take a Rubbermaid container or styrofoam cooler (or any large plastic container) and cutting an entry hole in it for a cat.  Make sure the lid is secured and throw some hay in there so that animal has a warm place to rest.


A cat shelter is an inexpensive yet very helpful commodity for stray and feral felines.


#4  Hold the Turkey

Okay, so maybe this last tip doesn’t have to do with the weather, but as Thanksgiving is right around the corner, this one is worth mentioning.  Turkey skin is toxic to dogs.  Let me type that again.  Turkey skin is toxic to dogs.  I know some will read that and say, “Oh I’ve been giving that to my dogs for years and they’re fine.”  Hey I sped down I-480 last week and didn’t get caught.  That doesn’t make it okay.  Every Thanksgiving season, veterinary clinics get flooded with calls that the family dog is acting lethargic, vomiting or worse.  There is absolutely no sense in rolling the dice on this one, folks.  Your dog will still love you if you don’t give them turkey ever again.


Turkey skin is toxic to dogs. Refrain from feeding it to them.


So those are four simple yet vital tips to take to heart when caring for our pets and kindred stray spirits that roam our neighborhoods in the outside cold.  Sadly, every winter some unfortunate stories make the news of animals who did not make it through freezing temperatures or the perils of the outdoors.  Let’s do our best to follow the aforementioned steps and make our four-legged friends as comfortable as possible in these coming months.

Hope for Six, Come Back with Seven

November 14th saw FAPL Executive Director Greg Willey take a trip down to the Richland County Dog Shelter.  A previous article mentioned the facility’s spaciousness and resulting ability to house so many stray and surrendered pooches.  At the same time it is always ideal for a dog’s stay in such a place to be as minimal on time as possible.  That’s why Señor Willey and two volunteers made the trip to obtain six dogs to bring back in an effort to actively find them good homes.


Denny is eager for the camera and he’s still looking for a home.

FAPL’s large transport van will comfortably hold six travel kennels of varying sizes.  It is always our intent to first find dogs that are the most readily adoptable by reviewing their behavior and any available history.  Second, we try and maximize the capacity of those six kennels.  Now writing has always been my preference over math, but this was one time 6 = 7 made sense.  Let me explain.

Friendship APL

Midnight’s stay at FAPL was short as someone scooped up this lovable Lab-mix.

After a thorough review of all the animals present, it was deemed that there were seven dogs that would all have great potential for finding a great home quickly at the FAPL shelter.  Notice that problem though?  Six cages.  Seven dogs.  Oh the humanity.  Not so fast though!  With one of the dogs, Taz, being the tiny Yorkie that he was, easily fit on my lap for the return trip.  Viola Six cages occupied, dog #7 rode shotgun with me.


The recently adopted Taz

As of this writing, we are proud to say nearly all seven found homes in less than a week since their pick-up from Richland.  It’s just another badge of honor the shelter proudly wears in connecting good pets with their human companions.  Otis, whose picture isn’t shown here, is another black Lab-mix who, along with Denny (shown at the top) are still waiting for their people counterparts to discover them.  Whether it is Denny, Otis or any of the other dogs, cats or rabbits that suit your fancy, please stop in to see who can complete your family.  Even if it’s just to look, we welcome your visit at the Friendship APL!


Jack found his forever home on 11/19/16.



The Cattery is Open!

What has been a work in progress for over a month has finally come to fruition. Friendship APL is excited to announce its newly complete room for free-roaming felines, or as we like to call it, The Cattery. First off, we owe a big thank-you to David Humphrey and Ohio Desk for donating the furniture that will be shared by human and cat alike. FAPL’s own Executive Director, Greg Willey, fashioned the shelving against the far wall that you see below. A high durability indoor/outdoor rug is also now part of the room to handle the foot traffic of people while also giving the cats a warm place to lie.


Plenty of shelves to jump to!

The room is designed to hold 10 to 12 free-roaming cats. The concept of a communal cat room is not a new one, but it is certainly one that has ongoing benefits for our resident purring machines. For one, it establishes socialization amongst them. Socialization leads to tolerance of other cats and tolerance leads to adoptability. There is also the health/wellness factor that comes into the equation.  Cats who have decreased stress levels in situations around other animals (or in general), can lead healthier lives.


Well-lit and full of places to hide and reside


Finally, and related to the previous matter, this new room frees those 10 to 12 cats from their cages, allowing them to jump, play and sleep in an area much more wide open than their previous living quarters.  Yet another added benefit of the Cattery is that it allows FAPL to rescue more cats.  Those dozen or so vacant cages give us the opportunity to save more cats from unfortunate situations such as bad homes or rough lives as strays in the great outdoors.  If you’re interested in adopting in your future, please stop by the Friendship APL and step into our cozy cattery!


Rumor has it our cats are Van Gogh connoisseurs



Friendship Animal Protective League of Lorain County

8303 Murray Ridge Road, Elyria, Ohio 44035    (440) 322-4321  

Friendship APL is a 501(c)(3) organization.

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