Category Archives: Stories

Dog Licenses – The Why’s, What’s and Where

by Gregg Senko

Everyone knows what a dog license is. They’re the shiny little tags that dangle from the collars of our canine companions, right?  Sure, but they are also much more than just doggie jewelry or a mere action people follow through with “just because.”  So what is the point of a dog license and just how necessary is it?

“First off, it gets your dog home if it gets lost,” says Lorain Police Officer and FAPL volunteer ‘Doc’ Rick. “Second, it’s the law and can save you from a $100 fine,” he adds. The dog license, as you can see, is not really a debatable option. If you are planning on taking on a dog, or if you already have an unlicensed one, buying a dog license is something you will want to address sooner rather than later.

Dog licenses purchased after January 31, 2017 cost $32.75. However, if you just moved into Lorain County or if your dog is under six months old, the cost is $16.75. Doc Rick also mentioned that the cost of the license goes to running county kennels such as the care and feeding of the dogs there. For an extra $5, you can get the heart-shaped license which goes toward medical care for the kennel dogs.  Also, keep in mind the license needs to be renewed on an annual basis.

It’s important to remember that a dog license is much more than a piece of metal. It’s the law and that tag is vital for getting a lost dog back home. For those that may think either or both of those prices are somewhat high, in all seriousness it is best to really consider the animal companion itself you are taking on. There will be plenty more expenses where that came from. The license is only the beginning of the care and financial responsibility that is required.


*Licenses can be acquired from Friendship APL*


Pets and Seniors – A Few Hours at Rose

by Gregg Senko

On May 25th, a collaborative partnership between Visiting Angels and Friendship APL was put to use as staff and volunteers of both organizations headed to pay a visit to some seniors in Avon. No, this wasn’t the class of 2017 we were connecting with, but some very excited senior citizens who reside at the beautiful and spacious Rose Senior Living Center.  With a convoy of FAPL folks in tow, we all arrived on a very rainy Thursday afternoon.  Some had cats, some had dogs, but we all got rather wet on the brief walk from car to front door.  Not even the Flash would’ve been fast enough to run between the drops.  Great weather for a duck, right?

Once inside, we were kindly greeted by Rose Senior Living staff and guided to a lounge area where some folks were eagerly awaiting getting acquainted with the kittens and dogs we brought with us.  Some were content with watching the animals from afar, while most preferred that hands-on experience of being able to interact with the four-legged wonders.  I’ve done volunteer work at a senior living facility in the past and it proves to be a very rewarding experience watching the eyes of the residents light up when they get to participate in moments like these.

This MinPin gets some love from a Rose resident

While all the animals we brought with us were available for adoption, this was more of a therapeutic visit rather than an adoption promo.  Still, some animals just sell themselves.  Take Mercury for instance.  He’s a 3-year old border collie-mix surrendered in Amish country for euthanization.  FAPL recently picked up both him and a sibling.  I had the honor of handling the somewhat nervous yet very gentle Mercury at the May 25th event.  Low and behold, Mercury may have just found a new home by the day’s end.  One Rose staff member in particular took to the shiny-coated, sad-eyed pooch and that may have been a match made.


The visit went extremely well and we look forward to working with the good people at Visiting Angels and Rose Senior Living again!


Mercury takes in the sights and smells of the unfamiliar environment


FAPL staff member Cathy takes a breather with Tootsie who was definitely the class clown (Tootsie, not Cathy)

Fearless FAPL Director Greg Willey tames this beast

Dog whisperer (literally, I’m whispering to this dog)

Derek chills out with Little Amy

Tootsie seizes the moment going on the slobber offensive


Too much excitement for this little guy

Visiting Angels and Friendship APL @ Rose Senior Living

Fix Elyria – Adventures in Cat Trapping

by Gregg Senko

In June of 2013, a North Ridgeville woman contacted the North Ridgeville Police in hopes of finding a resolution for a feral cat and her kittens that had taken residency in her backyard. A humane officer showed up, but what took place thereafter was anything but humane. The officer proceeded to shoot the entire litter of five kittens in front of the resident and her own children. Let’s call this action what it is; simply ignorant, despicably heinous and purely unprofessional (that article can be found here). If this story were to be an answer on Jeopardy!, the category could be “Not Cop of the Year.”

This putrid and shallow action against the kittens, which eventually came to be known as the Woodpile 5, had inspired Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda to take some steps to prevent something like this cowboy behavior from occurring again.  With that, Mayor Brinda sought out a grant which the city ended up receiving.  From that, Fix Elyria was born in 2013.  Fix Elyria is an effort that allows the staff at Friendship APL to set cat traps and have the caged felines fixed and released, thus cutting down the feral cat population dramatically.  With a strong bit of teamwork, Operation CatSnip was enacted and the traps were set.  Organizations such as the mobile Neuter Scooter, Pet Fix (Akron) and Quick Fix (Medina) were called upon to perform the surgeries which the grant money went toward.  The combined efforts collected and fixed 150 cats in a single day.

While feral cats may not initially sound like a problem, it can certainly grow out of control.  A population explosion can increase the spread of feline diseases and the cats themselves can wreak havoc on local wildlife (i.e. birds).  Thankfully, the hard work is paying off.  The number of calls from private citizens and businesses asking for assistance in remedying feral felines has decreased considerably.  Still, feral cats will be an ongoing issue so the work of the FAPL staff involved with Fix Elyria is never done.


As time has gone on since then, the grant has since run dry, though Fix Elyria is still very much alive and well.  To make this happen, FAPL continues to fund the cat-catching efforts.  On May 23, 2017, I got to see the Fix Elyria program in action.  Before the day got underway, however, I arrived at the shelter to find someone had dropped off a rabbit and a cat overnight, leaving them outside in separate cages (thank God it’s not winter).  Rabbits can be difficult to read.  The cat, unfortunately, was visibly scared to death.  Both animals are now inside the shelter confines getting food, water and any necessary medical care.

Becca consoles a rabbit left on our doorstep


A very frightened cat left at FAPL

Once the friendly new lettuce-muncher and cat were secured indoors, we were on our way.  With Sue (one of FAPL’s two humane officers), and Becca commandeering the trip, we packed the van with 11 cage traps and a several individual containers of wet cat food.  Our first stop was in the historic residential district of Elyria on Washington Street.  A resident there had asked for our assistance and requested we set up a couple of the traps on her property.  We arrived under the close watch of someone peeking from behind the tree line just at the end of the resident’s backyard.  A young buck took a cautious interest in us while feeding.  Next to him, a raccoon, up well past his bedtime at 8:00 am, popped his head up to see what we were doing in his neighborhood.  Nothing to see here, fellas.  Move along…move along.

That short-antlered onlooker was no lawn ornament


Two traps were set and then it was on to house #2.  With three traps set there, we then moved onto a few businesses and left our signature there in the form of more cage traps also complete with cat food inside.  After a short amount of time and a few miles around town, our job was done…for the morning that is.  Around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon of the same day the traps are set, Sue and Becca will revisit the locations to collect the traps and send any unfixed cats we acquired to get spayed or neutered on Thursday.  By Friday they are ready to get released back into the wild.

Some folks may wonder why we don’t try and adopt them out.  Well, trust us, you wouldn’t want that.  These animals are feral through and through and while they may take a liking to a human or two at some point, they have lived a life where confinement does not suit them.  Honestly, that would be a very unbefitting situation for them (and ultimately for the people housing them as well).  Dogs can be turned around from that lifestyle on the streets, cats not so much.  These are critters that are just very content to live life roaming the woods and viewing people from just out of arm’s reach.

This feral kitten took an interest in the cages we left behind. Perhaps she’ll occupy one by this afternoon.

As previously mentioned, Sue and Becca will head back to the locations this afternoon to collect all the cages.  When I asked Sue what the usual results were for something like this, it turned out consistency was something out of the picture.  “Some days you get several cats, other days you may find two cats in one cage.  Then there are times you show up to find them all empty with a cat sitting on top of the cage,” she explained.  I had to laugh at the latter image, which is so typical of cat behavior.  That mocking expression of who got the victory that day is rather definitive of felines, feral or domesticated.  You gotta love ’em.


There was an intended follow-up to this article to report how many cats were trapped that day, which were two to be exact.  It’s less than we hoped for but it is progress nonetheless.  What was unexpected (and unrelated to the cat trapping) was another event concerning the same humane officer mentioned at the beginning of the article.  Without going into great detail, that officer was dismissed by the City of North Ridgeville as of May 24, 2017.

Volunteer Feature of May 2017: ‘Doc’ Rick

by Gregg Senko

Accomplishments can be had in many ways at Friendship APL.  The amount of kennels or cat condos one has cleaned can be just as impressive as how many cats or dogs you took to the vet for care or how much money someone has donated.  It’s all symbiotic and they’re all necessary for the continued function of a place like FAPL.  There is one volunteer, however, whose accomplishments start to make your jaw drop.  Ladies and gents, please meet Doc Rick.


Gregg: What got you interested in participating at FAPL?

Doc: It started when I saw an ASPCA commercial. I was working three days a week at the time and had a lot of time off, so I thought I’d just go volunteer to walk dogs a couple times a week. That changed the first day I went to help with morning kennel care. I had so much fun working with the staff and the dogs that I came more and more often and stayed longer and longer. Soon I started to understand dog demeanor and how to approach dogs that were afraid or defensively aggressive. Soon Greg asked me to spend more time working with these “at risk” dogs. I didn’t realize at the time I was getting “on the job” training for my current assignment on the police department.


Gregg: How did you get the nickname ‘Doc’?

Doc: I was a Hospital Corpsman stationed with the Marines. Marines call their corpsman “Doc” as a term of respect and comradary. The nickname stuck around when I was the medic on the police SWAT Team, then when I was the medic for an off road park. When I started working with dogs, it was already my Facebook profile name so it just continued on from there.

Gregg: Outside of FAPL, I understand your full-time occupation is a Lorain police officer.  How long have you been on the force?

Doc: I have been a police officer for 27 years. The first 24 I worked as a road patrol officer. The last three years, my primary assignment is anything involving animals, from safely catching loose or stray dogs, to investigating dog bites, animal abuse and wild animal issues.

Gregg: About how many dogs per week would you say you rescue while on the job?

Doc: It varies by the time of year, but I’ve caught about 2,000 dogs in the past three years. About half go to the county dog kennel, the rest are returned to their owners as they are wearing county license or are microchiped. Pregnant females or dogs with significant medical issues, such as starvation, usually go to FAPL. The number of loose dogs has been declining and the number of dogs being returned directly to their owners has been steadily increasing as owners are becoming more educated in their responsiblities as pet owners.

Working in conjunction with FAPL’s Humane Officers, at least 200 dogs and puppies, and a few cats and rabbits, have been seized from abusive, neglectful or deceased owners and taken to FAPL.

Dogs are often the unintended victims of human criminal activity too. Dogs are often present at crime scenes, such as homicides, narcotic raids, automobile crashes and medical emergencies. These dogs are often emotionally traumatized by the incident and are at high risk for defensively aggressive behavior. I’m  called in to  safely remove the dogs from the scene so the investigators and medical personnel can do their jobs.

Gregg: The Lorain Police Department will lose a significant member of their team when the day comes for you to retire.  Do you still plan on keeping an eye out and helping stray dogs in the city limits?

Doc: That day is coming in less than a year. There is nothing official yet, but plans are in the works which will allow me to continue to “serve and protect” Lorain’s four legged citizens next year, with a different badge on my shirt.


Gregg: That is awesome news!  Thank you for serving the citizens of Lorain and the canines of Lorain County!

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Brick by Brick: Remodeling FAPL

by Gregg Senko

Two years ago, FAPL underwent its first internal renovation in a number of years. What is now the streamlined-looking blue dog room and orange cat room was once a less welcoming, but functional corner of our adoption center, has since been revamped into a much more animal and human friendly space. Fast forward to 2017 and the same efforts have been exacted on our remaining cat and dog caged spaces. The previous orange dog room is now graced with yellow walls. “Graced” being an appropriate verb as the room will soon be named “Grayce’s Tack Shop,” honoring Kimberly Grayce Roach, a former FAPL volunteer and Lake Ridge Academy student who passed away unexpectedly in 2016. Grayce’s love for the color yellow, and more importantly horses, earned the room color and tack shop moniker.

Greg Willey hammers down! (literally)

In addition, the blue cat room is now the purple cat room, changing out the stacks of stainless steel box cages for new, specially ventilated cat condos.  You’ll notice the vertical PVC pipes in the photos below which allow for the ventilation that greatly cuts down on litter dust and dander accumulation.  The portholes allow for a cat’s transit from one part of the condo to their litter box, thus separating it from their eating area.  Lastly, the green cat room is still green, but with the significant decrease in cat populations, is now serving as a dog overflow room, but is suited to house cats as well if necessary.

So while knocking down cement block walls and adding a fresh coat of paint are obvious improvements, you may be asking why the switch from the old style cages to new?  In short, the days of traditional cages at shelters are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  While you may not be able to stick your fingers through a chainlink slot to have a dog or cat get acquainted with you, the gigantic plus is eliminating the spread of disease amongst the animals.  In short, what’s easier to wipe down and clean?  A fence or a glass door?  The grooves and intertwining nature of chainlink fencing are harborers of bacteria.  It is not uncommon for a dog to spread bacteria and even feces on this material.  The intricate weave is just not conducive for eliminating those microscopic baddies and preventing the spread of illness.

The glass doors are a safer option from not only illness, but possible injury as well.  With no loops or weakened fencing a dog could place their paws on, the quarter-inch tempered glass doors eliminate those hazards while also cutting down on some of the noise.  Plus, the kennels overall still allow for plenty of proficient airflow so their inhabitants can remain comfortable.  But enough on specs, let’s get to the visuals, right?!  Without further ado, Here are some of the before, middle and after shots of the room remodels.  On a personal note, I have to say I the outcome is not only aesthetically pleasing, but so much more functional now as well.


Formerly the Blue Cat Room, it is now the Purple Cat Room:













The Green Room has become…still green but is now multi-purpose









Grayce’s Tack Shop

Before and After…


Derek vs Cement Wall. Derek wins.










Without your donations, this would never have been possible!  FAPL would like to extend a massive thank you to all those who contribute their time and money!


Local Car Dealer Helps Out in Big Way

by Gregg Senko

As a non-profit organization, Friendship APL is always open to donations. Whether it’s a dollar dropped off at the main desk or a check written at our annual Wags event, every little bit helps. The bottom line is we would not be able to continue to function without the outpouring of financial support from generous folks and businesses. It keeps the lights on, gas in the tank, vet bills paid and the staff working.

On April 18th, Ganley Westside Subaru held a fundraiser for us which was extremely kind of the good folks over there. If they donated something like $1,000, I personally would have been excited. However, they did not donate $1,000. They donated $13,000. Can we say pleasantly surprised? Sometimes it helps to have a pillow on the floor to cushion the landing of your jaw dropping. Needless to say, I was astounded at the very generous act from that dealership.

As always, vet bills are one of the biggest expenses FAPL faces annually (if not the biggest). To see an amount arrive this sizable is not only helpful, it’s a blessing. Thank you to Ganley Westside Subaru for your most awesome assistance in helping us care for our cats and dogs before they are off to their forever homes. Well done, ladies and gents!

Volunteer Feature of April 2017: Ashley

Gregg:  How did you initially get involved with Friendship APL?

Ashely:  I’ve been an animal lover for life. I grew up with cats and dogs being loving members of our family. So naturally, I started working at a local animal hospital as a teenager in high school. I continued to work in animal clinics for around 3 years before life led me down another path. Eventually, I found my way back to animal care, just in a different aspect. My fur babies and I had everything we needed, wouldn’t have asked for more and I just wanted to help those less fortunate. At the time, I worked full time at a hospital and attended community college so I could only volunteer on weekends.

I was born and raised on the Westside of Lorain County, inherently being familiar with the area where Friendship APL is located but other than that I honestly don’t remember what drew me to the shelter or how I ended up there. I do remember that I learned about their Volunteer Orientations, being held the second Saturday of each month from 10:00 AM to noon, which still happens to this day. So on January 8th in 2011, I attended the 2-hour orientation, took a seat on one of the metal foldout chairs in the ‘Education Room’ and happily filled out the application, signed up for their fundraising & event and adoption 101 classes. Executive Director, Greg Willey, was speaking to inform us about the sweat and tears that it takes to care for these poor animals waiting for their second chance, a new leash on life. He was soaked from scrubbing dog cages and eyes irritated due to his cat allergies. He and every other staff member or volunteer that spoke that day convinced me that it was exactly where I wanted, even needed to be. Back then, we actually had a small group that would meet at the shelter on Sundays to discuss upcoming events and organize them together. For the first few years, I solely volunteered for fundraisers and adoption events. I loved every moment! It truly warms ones soul.


Gregg:  What are you primary duties there?

Ashley: When I was on the staff at FAPL, I was dedicated to coming in and cleaning cages and kennels for the first 2 1/2 hours of every day, because somebody has to do it. Where would the shelter animals be without us? The remainder of the day is meet & greets, adoptions, and miracles. The joy and comfort one feels when a dog or cat has finally met their human and head to a furever home is difficult to put into words.  That’s right, they rescue us and we belong to them. They watch over us as our protectors and pals. We just don’t always know it. It’s the very stuff “warm and fuzzy” is made of.

I worked there during “kitten season.”  It was this period when I was faced with the first kitten that I would foster. We literally had a wait list with hundreds of names and numbers on it, people wanting to bring in litters from stray or ferrel cats. Sadly, there is only so much we can do as a shelter. It is this time when hospitals, clinics, rescues, and shelters alike are all full with more infant kittens than there are hands to help them. This is a reason why fostering is such a necessity. This among educating the general public the importance of spaying and neutering their domestic pets. Fostering and donations are always appreciated. Friendship holds Foster Orientations on the third Sunday of the month at 1:00 PM, with special thanks to Foster Mom, Mary Cordray. My cat Ricky is proof that fostering saves lives. He was fostered by one of FAPL’s staff and I knew he belonged with me after I spotted him in the kitten nursery.

I have also ran transports, taking animals from one of the other organizations with little or no room left under their roof to Friendship. No city is too far when it comes to a pet reaching their destiny. This particular APL and the kind souls that run it, make an extreme concerted effort to bring animals out of the shadows of kill shelters, back in to the light, where they may be seen for their potential and recognized for their worth. Petfinder is also a pawsome pedestal for drawing attention to pets available for adoption. I have personally adopted from other rescues via Petfinder twice. My chihuahua/toy fox terrier Abby came to me through PAWS Ohio and one of my cats, Lucy was just 8 weeks old in a humane society Southwest approximately 1 1/2 hours from here when I fell in love at first sight again. Abby has grown into a brave little girl over the past 6 years. Lucy is incredible with her mitten paws with thumbs… She is a Polydactyl (aka Hemingway), she has extra toes on four of her paws!

Gregg:  You’ve volunteered at seven consecutive Wags to Riches events. How has the function evolved in that time?

Ashley:  Wags to Riches is still my favorite every year. I seriously wouldn’t miss is for anything. It started in 2010, with much credit due to Kristina Willey. Each consecutive year since, on the weekend closest to Valentine’s Day, it has been held at Tom’s Country Place in Avon. I have personally seen it grow into the successful fundraiser we both had the pleasure of witnessing this February.  It is by far, Friendship APL’s most important even of the year. The astounding selfless feats that occur on this evening restore hope and faith in that there is good left in the world. I believe we are blessed to live in Northeast Ohio near so many people who give so generously. You don’t think it’s possible to exceed last year’s marks and then you see the records broken again and again. It really has evolved in the most positive ways imaginable. I am proud to say that I have been a part of Wags to Riches for seven years and counting.


Gregg:  So how many pets do you have in total?

Ashley:  Five.  Three cats and two dogs.  I live for the fun, laughter and love that my fur babies bring me. That is why I don’t think twice when it comes to getting my Miniature Pinscher, Ezekiel to the eye doctor or his allergist. As a result of an Amish puppy mill or backyard breeder, Zeke had developed full cataracts in both of his eyes by the age of two. He was much too young and still had so much life to live that if it was remotely possible, we would get his sight back. Thanks to Dr. Ellen Belknap at Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital in Akron performed surgery and gave him artificial lenses and regained his sight. Later, he would meet Dr. Emily Conway at VCA Great Lakes Veterinary Hospital, who successfully treated 3 corneal ulcers. He gets OcuGlo vitamins and other prescription eye meds daily for the rest of his life, but it is worth it to see the brightness in his eyes. He is also severely allergic to dust mites and takes Apoquel daily in addition to soothing baths and topical treatments. He is one happy, grateful pup.


Thanks for all you have done and continue to do, Ashley!

Friends of Fido…and Pluto too

by Gregg Senko

Friends of Fido is a non-profit organization dedicated to caring for and rescuing dogs. They run strictly off of donations and have been partnered with Friendship APL for some time now. As far as dog pounds go, Friends of Fido works exclusively with the Mahoning County Dog Pound & Adoption Center. The charitable group’s volunteers contribute on a variety of levels when they pay their visits to the Mahoning pound by socializing with dogs, walking the dogs, and even photography of the dogs there. However, their generous involvement doesn’t stop there.

As I mentioned, Friends of Fido works closely with Friendship in getting dogs out of the Mahoning pound, which at any given time can hold 50 canines of varying sizes. While I personally have not paid a visit to that establishment, I have been to the Richland County Dog Shelter which holds the same amount if not more. These places are good in that they give the dogs a chance at adoption. These places also have a strong negative in that they are a very chaotic atmosphere for the dogs. Walking into one of these incites one dog to bark which becomes a chain reaction for the other dogs. The next thing you know it becomes a yelping symphony and a very stressful environment for the animals. Plus, when it comes to adoption at these places, it becomes a scenario of odds. Take a dog out of a crowd of 50 and put him or her in a situation of half that and their exposure to a great potential adopter improves dramatically.

That exposure comes to fruition at FAPL, and one such success story involves that of Pluto. Pluto is a mixed breed pooch discovered by a Friends of Fido volunteer who soon learned that Pluto was suffering from the early stages of heartworm. They wanted to get Pluto out of the Mahoning pound where he had already been residing for a few months. As part of the way the group operates, Friends of Fido made a donation to FAPL to assist with the treatment of the heartworm parasites, of which Pluto made a complete recovery after roughly a month. Once Pluto got the all clear from a veterinarian, he was eligible for the adoption floor at FAPL. Once that green light was given, it didn’t take long for the lovable dog with one floppy ear to get scooped up by a loving family. Right now, Pluto is living the high life with his new human companions and everyone seems enamored with the tan-coated comrade.

This may be the first time you have heard of Friends of Fido, maybe not.  However, stories like these are not rarities with them.  Like FAPL, they are often unsung heroes in the world of saving pets’ lives and getting them adopted in great homes.  This line of work isn’t a popularity contest though.  Instead, it’s often a race against time to get these loving animals connected to loving people.  In the case of Pluto and so many before him, mission accomplished.

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

Gordon roams his playground of hay while in foster care.

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.

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.