Happy Endings & Other Stories!

Top 10 Safety Tips for Pet Parents

By the ASPCA

Attention, animal lovers, it’s almost the spookiest night of the year! The ASPCA recommends taking some common sense precautions this Halloween to keep you and your pet saying “trick or treat!” all the way to November 1.

1. No tricks, no treats: That bowl of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.

3. Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

5. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume may cause undue stress.

6. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.

7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.

8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

9. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.

10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increaing the chances that he or she will be returned to you


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Many of you have already met Dakota, a seven-year-old purebred Boxer who was relinquished to us along with her mate, Duke.   Although Duke was quickly adopted, Dakota has been at Berkshire Humane Society (BHS) since early September – mostly because of several medical issues that will require multiple surgeries.

As is typical of many dogs at BHS, Dakota and Duke came to us as a result of what Roberta Townsend, Supervisor of Kennel Services, calls “landlord issues.”  In this case, however, the landlord was concerned that dogs weren’t being cared for properly and suggested that the owner surrender them.

According to Roberta, Dakota and Duke were a breeding pair and had produced numerous litters.  In fact, before they came to BHS, Dakota recently had her last litter–despite being seven years old, an age when most female dogs are retired from breeding.

Besides being spayed, Dakota will need a surgery to remove two teats and reduce several others that have become overly extended in large part because of the many litters that she has produced.  Roberta explains that the surgery is for medical and cosmetic reasons.

Then there are the two surgeries on Dakota’s ears.  Because of severe ear infections that went untreated, she’s developed scar tissue both inside and outside her ears.   As a result, Roberta says that Dakota’s not only lost much of her hearing but is also experiencing significant pressure and pain.  On the recommendation of Dr. M. Faulkner Besancon, who examined Dakota, an ear oblation will be performed that will remove her ear canals as well as part of her outer ears.  Although Dakota will lose all of her hearing, her prognosis is excellent because she’s already acclimated to her present hearing impairment.

Currently, Dakota is in a foster home with a family as she found the shelter environment very stressful.   The plan is to allow her to rest and gain weight for a month or so before the first round of surgeries.  So far, the news is good.  According to her family, who also lives with another rescued boxer, Dakota has gained three pounds and is getting stronger and happier by the day.

Dr. John Reynolds of Pittsfield Veterinary Hospital will be spaying Dakota and doing the surgery on her teats, while Dr. M. Faulkner Besancon of Upstate Veterinary Specialties will perform the ear oblation.  Although both veterinarians have generously reduced their fees, the cost of Dakota’s ear oblation alone is about $5,000-$6,000.

Despite Dakota’s difficult past, she remains an affectionate, trusting dog who needs some extra care before she begins her new life.  For example, even during her multiple examinations that clearly had to be painful, her response was to shower the staff with kisses.   As Roberta explains, “We want to do all we can for dogs like Dakota.  They deserve another chance.”

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By Diane Briggs

In case you don’t remember the story in our spring newsletter about Elinor, the obese cat surrendered to the shelter, I will give you a brief overview. Elinor, a 9-year-old tiger cat, was surrendered to Berkshire Humane Society (BHS) on a very cold day in February due to behavior issues.

When I came into work that Monday, as usual, I asked how the weekend went. Dottie took me into a room to show me Elinor. As I approached her cage, my heart sunk. I saw this extremely large cat (22 pounds to be exact) lying in her litter box with skin just draping over the edges of the box. I looked into this cat’s eyes, and all I saw was emptiness, loneliness and sadness…a beautiful cat that seemed totally forlorn, lost, and unwanted.


Reading Elinor’s intake I couldn’t help but cry. Elinor had lived with a family her entire life. They loved her, and she used to be a lap cat. But apparently things changed. Elinor co-existed with the other cats in the house until the numbers grew, and she eventually got pushed out. So as these changes occurred, she became an outcast.

For the past two years, this wonderful cat received little if any human contact. Perhaps to compensate for the lack of attention, her family fed her 3 cups of a food a day. Elinor gained so much weight that she had a difficult time walking. Because she couldn’t clean herself, she became very smelly, and her family felt she was a health risk to their grandchildren. At this point Elinor was forced to live outside during the summer and in the basement during the winter.

Meeting Elinor and learning what this poor cat was forced to endure the last 2 years made me extremely sad but also set me on a mission to help this “broke pet” unpack the baggage she had carried the past 2 years. John, who is always open to “thinking outside the box,” let me move Elinor into our office area. Initially Elinor stayed in the closet, but that was okay considering she lived alone in a basement for 2 years. I also understood that she needed time to adjust and learn to trust again.

She was given a warm and soothing bath which made her smell so wonderful. It must have made her feel better too because I actually saw some life in her eyes. After a week or so, Elinor started to venture out. We were all shocked to see how large she really was. She had so much extra skin that it fell over her should like a shawl and stopped just above her front feet. Her stomach area was so large that it almost hit the floor and made it almost impossible for her to go to the bathroom without soiling herself. However, we were there to help her, and we used a washcloth to keep her clean.

Elinor’s eyes were still very sad, and it bothered me. People who know me well understand how deeply moved I get when an animal is so dejected. Elinor needed us to help her believe in herself and to learn to love and trust people again. Daily sweet talks and gentle petting helped her a lot. We made her as comfortable as possible. As days turned into weeks, Elinor began her transformation from being sad, lonely, and rejected to actually becoming part of our wonderful BHS family….a family that would not turn our backs on her. Elinor began to blossom, and I eventually saw the sparkle in her eyes!!!

Because she was so large, we questioned if perhaps she had a medical issue such as diabetes. After a total physical exam, urinalysis, and extensive blood work, they found she had no health issues. This was wonderful news, but now we had to figure out how to help her lose weight. Elinor had the frame for a 10 pound cat, not the 22 pounds she was carrying around.

Dr. Michelle Gorbutt and Dr. Heather Blake from Greylock Animal Hospital graciously come to the shelter on a monthly basis to examine any pets we need looked at. When they met Elinor, they believed that Elinor actually weighed around 30+ pounds at some point, which resulted in all this excess skin hanging on her. To help her lose weight, we limited her food intake. I would take her down the hallway so she would walk back to the office, and we used string toys to motivate her.

Elinor finally got to the point where we could see she lost weight, and her back legs became clearly defined. She was able to move around a little better, and her sad eyes were gone. However, as she lost the weight, the excess skin started to droop even further. Her fur on her back stood up straight due to the skin pulling down on her. Her stomach pouch would hit her back knees as she walked. Occasionally this same area would get in the way as she urinated.

So as all her friends at the shelter watched Elinor turn the corner from sad and lonely and unable to move, we watched her struggle to walk and/or move comfortably. We knew there was really nothing more we could do to help her. We couldn’t cut back her food anymore and we couldn’t force her to exercise and/or walk more because she was clearly uncomfortable.

Because Drs. Gorbutt and Blake had followed Elinor for months, they got to know this wonderful cat very well. We felt the last option to help Elinor was to see if they could safely do some type of surgery to remove her excess skin. We would have never thought about this surgery for cosmetic reasons but we had to think about it for Elinor. The two vets talked among themselves and decided that they would be willing to help her. They agreed with us that Elinor had plateaued on her weight loss and that she was uncomfortable.

So for quality of life and hygiene purposes, surgery was done on Elinor, or Ellie Mae as I affectionately call her, on Monday, August 12, at Greylock Animal Hospital. It was a tough day for Ellie Mae and a very difficult day for all her friends at the shelter. We knew she was in excellent hands, but we all worried. There are always risks with surgery for animals as well as people. Would this surgery be successful? Finally, we got word – Elinor made it through surgery, and she was recovering from the anesthesia. Drs. Gorbutt and Blake successfully removed 2.5 pounds of excess skin.

Since Elinor is such a huge part of my day and my heart, I visited Elinor at Greylock Animal Hospital each day after work. The first day I saw her I started to cry…not because she looked terrible but because she looked like a normal cat. It was the first time I had seen her laying on her side. Prior to surgery, she was so large she couldn’t get comfortable on her side. I watched her in sheer amazement at how good she looked despite the shaved body, the drains in her side, and all the stitches. I talked with Dr. Gorbutt and thanked her over and over again for the remarkable job she and Dr. Blake did with Ellie Mae’s surgery. Everyone at Greylock Animal Hospital fell in love with her because she was so friendly despite all she had been through. That visit I spent 45 minutes petting and watching Elinor, who was heavily sedated. As long as I was stroking her, she never stopped purring. I looked into her face and kissed her when I left that evening.

During other visits, I continued to see improvement. On Tuesday evening, Dr. Gorbut beamed as she said that in the morning Elinor got up and actually did a full body stretch, which was such a positive sign. When Dr. Gorbutt coaxed Elinor to get up and move on the floor, I was so amazed to see a cat with no extra skin or a poach hanging from her stomach.

On Monday, I picked Elinor up to bring her back to her “home,” my office. In thinking about all Elinor has been through, I really believe she has let go of most of her baggage, physically and mentally. I’ve thought about her the past 6 months living in my office and watched her blossom. I kept thinking about all of the cats I’ve helped in my office, thanks to John allowing me to do so. Elinor is the only cat who won’t venture out of the office when we leave the door open. The only times she goes in the hallways is first thing in the morning when I come in and just a few people are here, and then again at night, during her supper time. I wondered if this was because she was so uncomfortable walking or perhaps it relates to her experiencing love and then becoming an outcast in her previous home. I really think that Elinor doesn’t leave the office because she feels so loved and is afraid if she wanders too far she will once again be cast aside.

As I write this article, Elinor is now safely recovering in my office. She sleeps a lot but overall is very content to be “back home.” She has over 100 stitches in her body that will need to be removed around August 27. She currently weighs a little over 17 pounds.

As you can probably tell by this article, I love Ellie Mae so much. I am proud of her all accomplishments, which came about because of the love, commitment, and true compassion of everyone at BHS. And I am so very proud of her new physical body because of Dr. Gorbutt, Dr. Blake and all the other staff who tenderly cared for Ellie during her surgery and recovery period at Greylock Animal Hospital. This was not a cosmetic surgery; this was a surgery that was necessary to help Elinor live a normal life.

Eleanor_website_waistlineBEFORE Eleanor_website_waistlineAFTER

It will take time for Elinor to completely heal from this intensive surgery, but everyone at BHS is watching her carefully. When she’s awake, she does walk around the office, stretch on the scratching post and do casual stretches, all of which she could never do before. We talk to each other during the day when she wakes up and looks at me. She has a lot to say, and I think if she could talk she would thank BHS for believing in her when she didn’t believe in herself. She would thank everyone for cleaning her up and helping her to come as far as she has. She would also thank the vets, for although the surgery was difficult, once she heals she will feel great!

When I think about the perfect home for Ellie Mae, it would be a home where she could live the rest of her life without any fear of being tossed aside again, a home where Elinor will never see a basement, a home where there are windows she could safely look out, a home where she will not be put outside, a home where she will be someone’s world, a home where she will be loved and brushed, and a home that would continue to care for her the way that everyone at BHS has cared for her.

Although all of the pets surrendered have their own sad stories, Elinor once knew and enjoyed love before experiencing the pains of being cast aside with only little human interaction for the past 2 years. Perhaps Elinor’s family thought that by giving her all the food she could eat would make up for her living in the basement. All I know is that Elinor does not want to be alone. Elinor wants and needs the companionship of people who will truly love her like we all do at the shelter. Elinor also NEEDS a family who will understand that she has to remain on a strict diet or she could quickly gain back all the weight she had before. We don’t want that to ever happen to this beautiful cat again. Plus what I’ve found with Elinor is that she can and will pass up food for attention. So if someone feels bad about her limited diet, just give her lots of love and attention, and she’ll be just as happy as if she had food and/or treats.

I guess I’ve talked long enough about Elinor. All I can say now is that it will be extremely difficult for me to let her go. But because I love her so much, I have to love her enough to let her go and start her new life. It will be bittersweet for me as I’m so attached to Elinor and love looking to my left and seeing her peacefully sleeping in her bed with no worries or fear, completely relaxed and loved. As I’ve said many times, her new family will have to walk on water (hehehe…only kidding!) Her new family is out there, and they will find her. I really think Elinor deserves to be the only kitty in the house because she has been through so much.

So that’s Elinor’s story….she’s just an amazing cat that has been through so much and deserves nothing but the best!

*Elinor is also known as Eleanor, Ellie Mae, and Ellie!


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bhs-class-of-2009Hello from the Bunt Family! Lucy the Cat (formerly Mystic), pictured with Willie. Lucy no longer has loose stool, or cacne (cat acne, under her chin)! Willie doesn’t mind that he’s no longer known as Ripley, or Montana. In fact, we’ve come to realize that he’s fairly deaf – unless he’s being asked to dinner or for a walk.

For the animals, all stress levels have seeped away. For our part, we’re lucky to have them. Thought you’d like to know.

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blazenkotoHi! I was the ten-year old girl with my family that adopted the two cats Koto and Feret. (Now known as Blaze) I wanted to write this letter to tell you about how greatly Blaze and Koto have changed since we adopted them. As I write this, Blaze lingers underneath my desk, rubbing against my hands and legs. Koto is upstairs, probably looking out a window or taking a nap. I can hardly believe these are the same cats that hid behind our couch the first night at their new home.

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gracie-fishI just wanted to send you some pictures of Gracie (known to BHS as Hillary). I adopted her a little over a year ago. I am so happy that I drove 2 hours to get Gracie. She is the best cat ever!!
Thanks & enjoy the pictures!


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sadies-new-home-011Hi BHS,
Sadie, as I now call her, was difficult to get to pose for the camera! She took one week to the day to stay out long enough from under the bed to get some photos. But we are making great progress. She is eating well,using the litter box and has enjoyed being brushed daily.
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bnzBilly and Zoe are two cats I adopted from the Humane Society. Just wanted to drop by a picture of them and show you how well they are doing. Billy (left) adopted August 2006 and Zoe (right, previously Miley) adopted August 2008, are doing great and are best friends!! They love to be together and love to be around people, in fact, they follow me EVERYWHERE!!! They are two of the sweetest cats I’ve ever known and they never stop purring. They complete my family and I could not be happier with these two! Thanks!

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Slugger is settling in well. We are glad to have him. He had his vet visit today and is doing well. We hope you like the pictures.


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sammy-008-3I adopted Sammy in Feb. 2008. He has been such a delightful addition to our family. He is continually entertaining with his larger than life personality. He has really thrived since I adopted him. He enjoys frequent trips to the Greylock Glen and the Rail Trail in Adams, MA. He has completed a puppy obedience class and he has gained quite an extensive vocabulary.
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Mother and son are doing quite well and I am so thankful to BHS for bringing them both into my life!  I adopted Jasper through a satellite event in North Adams and subsequently made a visit to your Pittsfield facilities to bring Lila home.  Please accept my sincere thanks for all the hard work and care you provide everyday. 

-Violet Ryder

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This is Phoebe’s 1st week with us. She is such a lovable and sweet little girl. Phoebe had no problem adjusting to her new home. I think she was suppose to ours. She entertains hershelf and us. Doesn’t know which recliner she likes best , so she tries them both.
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We just wanted to drop you a line to say that Emma is doing great. She loves to be outside chasing squirrels and going on long walks with our boys. Can’t say that the cat loves having her here but they are doing well with the potential of becoming great friends. Everything has fallen in place for all of us. Thanks for all of your help!

Stefanie and Jamison Nevins

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Dear BHS,

July 31st 2008 marked the 5 year anniversary of adopting Annie (then Sammy) my chocolate lab from your shelter. Adopting Annie was one of the best things I have ever done and I smile every day when I look at her.

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We adopted our wonderful 7 year old lab, Scooby, back in March of this year. He has been an amazing addition to our family! This is our family’s first dog and we couldn’t be any more thrilled with Scooby.

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I hope all is well with you and all your furry friends.

Needless to say, I’ve taken dozens and dozens of photos over the last month. She took to our house immediately and has been a real joy.

She weighed 4lb 8oz at her first vet visit Oct 16, and 5lb 2oz Nov 6 when she got her 3rd distemper shot.

Thank you and all the best, John and Jane MacGruer

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The staff at BHS might remember Mango as “Buckwheat” but a new home, a fresh start , and new name. Mango is doing great !

He is a great addition to our family. We would like to thank everyone at BHS for all of their help (especially Lisa !) The best feeling is not when you adopt a dog, but when the dog adopts you.

Merry Christmas !

Edward, Angela & Mango Manning

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I adopted two beautiful tiger stripe senior male Manx cats, Timmy and
Toby, who had lived together, three weeks after I put my beloved cat
companion, Max, down to due illness. My heart was broken with grief.

These two boys have filled my home with so much joy. It feels as though
they were meant to be here. I saw them on line and immediately felt
drawn to them. When I met them in person at Berkshire Humane, that
feeling was confirmed.

Berkshire Humane made the entire process so easy and I was also impressed by the level of care they give their pets.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

*Sandra Herkowitz

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Dear Shelter Staff,

I wanted to give you an update on Peppermint Patty, now known as Eve. She is a playful, affectionate girl and is enjoying her new home and her role as much-adored only pet, as you can see from the attached pictures! Since she was adopted, she has grown considerably and recently got a clean bill of health from Dr. Tuttle.Eve

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