Willa: A Story of Hope

“Where there is great love, there are always miracles.” 
― Willa Cather


We think our feline Willa would understand this quote. Because she received great love and she experienced a miracle – the miracle of a new home.

She came to us in a live trap, with a tender spot on her face from pushing against the trap to get out. She spent her stray hold days in her hiding box in her kennel. It was hard to know who she really was. Would she show us?


Her stray hold period came and went and she remained unclaimed. A cat behavior evaluator approached her kennel and was happy to see her rub her head against her hiding box, that universal feline signal of “I’m friendly.”

In the evaluating room, she explored and approached the evaluator – rubbing against her and happily accepting attention. But when left alone, she hid. Maybe she just felt vulnerable when she was alone (don’t we all, sometimes?). So now we knew a little more about her – shy but she likes people.

Before being made available for adoption, she needed a name. “Favorite Authors” was the current cat-naming theme so the evaluator picked her own favorite author: Willa Cather.

We picked a kennel for Willa where we hoped she’d feel comfortable. And then we discovered something else about her – it wasn’t just people who made her feel safe, it was also other cats.



We would find Willa on top of her Kuranda bed, under the blanket hung between the kennels to give privacy to the cats on either side. But instead, she and the other cat seemed to be communing with each other. Her neighbor would reach his paws out to her and she would stay huddled close to him. But then he was adopted.

Feeling badly for Willa when she lost her friend, we placed another cat-friendly cat in the now-empty kennel next to her’s. And the scene replayed itself – the other cat and Willa staying near each other. But then, yes, he too was adopted. And Willa remained – hiding under her blanket.

Because Willa wouldn’t show herself off, we showed her off – we posted her on social media. We put enticing pictures of her on her kennel so people would know there really was a cat in there. But still she was passed by.

11.12.19_Willa and Sue FB post

And then the staff member who evaluated her was talking to a woman and her mother who were looking for a cat to keep the mother company. The staff member thought this home would be perfect for Willa – quiet and peaceful. So she took the mother to Willa’s kennel and the woman looked around, “Where is the cat?” Just then, Willa walked out from behind her blanket and crawled into the woman’s lap. And stayed there.

11.12.19_Willa and adopter

And so, Willa’s miracle happened: she found her new home. We wish her happiness.

Love Reign O’er Me

Love, reign o’er me
Love, reign o’er me, rain on me, rain on me
– The Who

This classic rock song from 1972 came to our minds instantly when we were told the inspiration for this pup’s name: “I found him in the rain and now he reigns over my heart.”

His story, or what we know of it, begins on September 6th when he was spotted, tied to a tree. B. (his new owner) saw him but with a car behind her was unable to stop. She drove quickly to find the closest turnaround to get back to him. She told us that he looked so sad – his back turned to everyone, wet from lying in the rain.


Photo taken by a bike rider who stopped to help.

She brought him home, dried him off, wrapped him in a blanket and fed him. And then in the morning, she brought him to us in case there was a family looking for him. But she knew she’d be back for him.

While she waited, calling us every day to check on him, he waited too…but he didn’t know what was going to happen. He didn’t know that the person who saved him was going to come back for him.


Soon-to-be-named Reign, waiting patiently.

So when he saw her again, he could barely contain his excitement!


And she told him his new name: Reign. And we think he will reign over her heart for a long time to come.


P.S. Most of the stray animals at AACC are brought to us by Good Samaritans like Reign’s new mom. Bringing a found animal to Anchorage Animal Care and Control gives that animal the best chance of being reunited with his/her family. Finders are always welcome to let us know if they would like to adopt the animal and are encouraged to call us every day during the stray-hold period to check on the animal’s status. Per Municipal Code Title 17, animals without identification are held for three days, not including the day they came in; animals with identification are held for five days, not including the day they came in. After that time period, they will be evaluated for adoption.

Open-Admission Animal Shelter or Ellis Island?

Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

– Poet Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus,”


Yes, that’s the quote inscribed beneath the Statue of Liberty in 1903. What does it have to do with us? Because an open-admission shelter is like Ellis Island: through our doors pass the homeless animals of the Municipality, either because they are lost or can no longer be cared for by their families. Also through our doors pass the animals from cruelty investigations and those whose owners are hospitalized or incarcerated. All are welcome. All are provided shelter.

And yet. And yet. We are still fighting the perception in our community that passing through our doors means the worst for an animal. Let’s look at a recent example: on Friday, July 12, we reduced the adoption fee on the cats available for adoption. We just wanted them to find homes. Some had been here since May. And cats were waiting in the back of the building for empty kennels in the front so they could be made available for adoption. In our naivete, we thought our community understood our intentions.

But today we were asked, “Are those cats on sale because they’ll be euthanized soon?”

Now, we’re glad this person asked. We’re glad she didn’t leave with the wrong impression. But it made us realize that something as simple as trying to reduce adoption fees can make our community think we have the worst in mind for those animals.

And what about those cats she was asking about? 27 cats were available for adoption on Friday. Of those 27, 19 were brought to us as strays. They remain unclaimed by their families. So it is up to us to find them new homes, even though they have a home but they can’t get back there on their own.


And for nearly every cat adopted since Friday, another has passed through our doors, needing shelter. And we have provided it.

So that’s why we sometimes feel like Ellis Island. We take in all who are brought to us. We can only hope our community appreciates our open doors and the efforts we make for the vulnerable animals placed in our care.


Kindness Matters….Just Ask This Snake

What would you do if you found a snake in your garden? Scream? Leave him there? Help him?

That’s the decision this Good Samaritan had to make when she saw a snake in her garden. Even though she’s a bit squeamish about snakes, her feelings about animals are expressed perfectly in this quote by actress Joanna Lumley, ““My mother early on taught us to respect all animals, and I mean all animals – not just cats and dogs but rats and snakes and spiders and fish and wildlife, so I really grew up believing they are just like us and just as deserving of consideration.”

Plus, she knew snakes can’t survive in Alaska so to turn her back and leave him in her garden was not acceptable.  So she summoned her courage, picked up the snake, placed him in a pillow case and brought it to Anchorage Animal Care and Control. After Officer Jonsen took the snake out of the pillow case, we couldn’t even convince her to hold him/her again for the picture! But she kindly agreed to stand next to Officer Jonsen and the snake.

snakeintake photo

It turns out that this snake had not always been at the receiving end of human kindness, in fact, someone had tied his tail in a knot. “So what’s so special about a snake’s tail? Well, because snakes are limbless, their tails fill many of the roles that limbs play in other animals. For instance, the tail is used to grasp onto things, in defense against predators, and as a communication device.” (Strike, Rattle, & Roll blog).

MrSnake Pre (2)

So we turned to our go-to veterinarian for all-things reptile, Dr. Nicholson, at College Village Animal Clinic. Dr. Nicholson had to amputate the snake’s tail and is caring for the snake during his recovery. If his recovery goes well, this snake will come back to AACC to find a home where. We hope this snake only knows kindness and compassion for the rest of his life. Because all animals,  yes, even snakes, deserve kindness.

MrSnake Post (2)Anchorage Animal Care and Control and Mr. Snake say “thank you” to the Good Samaritan who rescued him and to Dr. Nicholson at College Village Animal Clinic for caring him.

Mike the Malamute: Why Does He Smell Like That?!

We’d like you to meet Mike. Mike the Malamute. Mike is a true gentle giant – he’s a little shy and startles at loud noises, he’s polite in his affections, makes adorable play bows, and doesn’t drag you around on the leash. But (yes, there has to be a “but”, doesn’t there?), he smells. And he’ll make your nose tingle and your throat itch.


Why? Well, it seems that Mike was hit with spray pepper. When he came to us, the smell of pepper spray emanated from his fur. Whenever we spent time with him, our noses would run, our eyes would water and our throats would itch. But that didn’t stop us from falling for this guy, taking him on walkies, and playing with him. Watch this clip of Sue, AACC Kennel Supervisor, playing with Mike (volume on to hear her coughing!)

Animal Control Officer and former groomer, Rachel was assigned the task of giving this big, smelly guy a bath. She gamely suited up and coughed her way through the ordeal.

But, trust us, it was much tougher on Mike. Rinsing that poor baby’s face was painful for him but he stuck it out, without even so much as a growl. We also put ointment in his eyes to soothe them and gave him some pain medication. And then he laid his big head in our arms and moaned for a bit. And we tried not to cry along with him.

4.11.19_Mike the Malamute_a246675_3a

He’s such a tough boy though that just a few minutes later he was gladly chomping on treats.

So now Mike is ready to go to a new home. Yes, some pepper spray lingers in his fur but he comes with his own baby wipes so his adopters can continue to wipe the residue away. A little bit of initial discomfort will be worth it in the long run!

Adopt Mike. Wipe Mike. Love Mike.

4.11.19_Mike the Malamute_a246675_4a

We’ll never know why Mike was pepper sprayed. All we know is that he’s a happy boy now.

Batman: The cat who was rescued from a tree (really!) and then found unconditional love through fate, coincidence, serendipity (whatever you want to call it!)

This is the story of Batman, a shy and scared kitten who came to AACC on October 30, 2015. Just how scared was this little guy?

Here are some of the notes about him from our cat behavior evaluators:

Kitten will dart/avoid while in cage.

Remove kitten out of box and hold close with continuous petting / rubbing around face. Kitten will attempt to slink quickly away unless held close.

Kitten would begin purring with this interaction and purring would increase in volume and be continuous. After quite a bit of holding/rubbing face, kitten relaxed more and would begin some consistent nudging of my hand for attention and some head butts. Eventually kitten would relax even more and stretch out in the circle of my arms and rest head on my arm.

I’m going to send to admin if there is someone available for some periods of interaction. In maternity he is not going to get the attention that he needs to improve.

That’s how Batman came to live in Brandi’s office where we were hoping he would learn to trust people. Here are a few of Brandi’s notes on Batman’s progress:

At first he would lower his body and hiss when I tried to pick him up. Would start purring immediately after I picked him up. He would relax very quickly after sitting on my lap. He would head butt me for more attention. He wasn’t very active in his kennel, didn’t seem to want to play with toys.

I put him on my lap and he was doing his usual purring, rubbing and wanting lots of attention. I set him on the floor and he crawled back in my lap.

He ran/flipped around his kennel playing with his toys for almost 30 minutes. This was the first time I saw him playing.

I think he will be shy and hide in his new home at first, but he seems to warm up quickly.


Batman getting comfy in Brandi’s office.

Finally Batman had to leave the comfort of Brandi’s office and move to a kitten kennel in the public area. He was ready to be adopted. Or that’s what we hoped. But in his kennel, Batman hid. So no one noticed him. But former Animal Control Officer Johnny Leece noticed him and took a liking to him, and, as you can see, Batman took a liking to Johnny.

Johnny and Batman (2)

Batman enjoying view from Johnny’s shoulders.

We even put up a post on social media of Batman and Johnny, hoping that someone would fall in love with our little shy kitten.

Johnny and Batman

It took a while, but someone did finally fall in love with Batman. On November 22 a woman named Jessica came in looking for a puppy, but she walked out with a kitten…a kitten named Batman.

Jessica tells it this way:

I came across this beautiful black kitten hiding at the back of his kennel. HE WAS SO CUTE! I had to meet him. I was told he was skittish and it could take awhile for him to warm up to people. I could see that he was very people-shy. I had to have him. He needed someone to love him and give him a safe place to be.

And that’s how Batman went home to live with his mom and her cat, named Cat.

On January 1, 2016 we received a call about a cat stuck in a tree. Johnny Leece responded. He tried to reach the cat with the only ladder available at the apartment complex but the cat was too high in the tree. The men with the big ladders were called in – Anchorage Fire Department. As all of this was going on, Jessica received a call from a friend who happened to work for AFD, telling her that the firemen were at her apartment building trying to get a cat from a tree. Could it be Batman?

AFD was able to reach the cat and handed him to Johnny. And, yes, it was Batman – the kitten Johnny had bonded with at the shelter. And so Jessica received a second call, this time from us, letting her know that Batman was safe at the shelter, waiting for her so he could go home.

Johnny saving Batman (2)

Not quite close enough to bring him down safely!

So how had Batman ended up in that tree? We’ll let his mom tell that story:

The apartment we were living had pretty shoddy locks on the doors. It had been a VERY long day so I went to bed early. Cat has a mysterious knack for opening doors that aren’t properly closed or locked. I woke up around 5 am and noticed it was really cold. I jumped out of bed and ran to the door thinking something was wrong – it was. My front door was wide open and my beloved cats were missing. I panicked. I immediately threw clothes on and ran out the door calling for the cats, crying because they were gone. I sprinted around the corner and there was the meowing – Cat, sitting in front of the wrong building meowing at the woman in the apartment situated like mine, asking to be let in. I took him home but could not find Batman. I searched and searched, I called my boss who would not give me the day off. I had to go to work. I couldn’t teach, I was a mess.

And that’s how Batman was saved from a tree. But what about the unconditional love? Well, Batman has never become completely comfortable around people but his mom and her wife accept and love Batman on his own terms. And isn’t that each of us wants from our friends, family, and partners?

Batman is still a little skittish with humans and only comes around to be petted when it’s quiet and calm. He loves to snuggle in the mornings on our pillows with us and will follow us into the bathroom to get love while we are brushing our teeth.

We loved this post that Jessica’s wife shared a few weeks ago – sheer joy at Batman interacting with her when she was upright and not lying in bed.


It only took three years!! He finally came up to me. Not only came up but reached his paw out for treats. 😍😍😍 This is a pivotal moment in my life! 

I have tried to gain his love in many different ways. 

#freezedriedchicken did the trick!


Melissas post

Batman reaching for the freeze dried chicken while the rest of the gang looks on.

And who is Jessica’s wife? Well, she just happens to be one of our newest Animal Control Officers – Officer Winn. Oh, and the day that Batman was brought to us is Officer Winn’s birthday. This story really is fate, coincidence, serendipity…

So that’s the story of Batman, his rescue from a tree and the unconditional love his moms have for him – quirks and all.

And to top it all off, for no particular reason, Johnny Leece showed up to work one day in a Batman costume.

Johnny_batman costume (2)

We have no idea what was going on here. Yes, he did change in to a proper uniform.


“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

Batman aka Bruce Wayne

P.S.: Just before posting this Johnny Leece walked into the shelter where he hasn’t been for over a year. And he said he drove by Batman’s tree yesterday and thought “that’s the tree where Batman was.” Weird, huh?

Brutus’ Journey Home


Brutus didn’t know it but he was about to become a very lucky dog when he was spotted in the alders between Cuddy Park and Loussac Library. He was just minding his own business, making himself comfy in the depression in the dirt he had carved out for himself. But the Good Samaritans who saw him guessed that he was homeless and didn’t think that living in the alders was a good long-term plan for this guy. So they coaxed him inside their truck and brought him home.

A174616 (2)

After checking for a microchip at their vet (which he had but no one was reachable), they filed a found report with us and brought him home. He bravely underwent three baths, yes, he was that stinky. He even braved the initial wrath of the resident Miniature Pinscher who eventually gave in to the fact that Brutus just might not be going anywhere.

After a few days Brutus’ Good Samaritans decided to bring him to AACC for the legal stray-hold period, just in case a previous owner was coming to the shelter and looking for him. But they called every day to check on him and to remind us they wanted to bring him home if no one claimed him. He waited patiently in his kennel, every now and then lifting his head to give a lonesome howl.


Finally – today was the day that Brutus’ stray-hold was up. He flew through his evaluation – it was like he knew he had somewhere else to be. As soon as he became available, his new dad was here to get him. His dad had even gone into work early so he could leave early to bring Brutus home. Now that’s love.

And, boy, was Brutus glad to see his dad! Brutus led the way – out the door, across the parking lot, to the truck and right into the driver’s seat. As we were closing the door, his dad’s phone rang. It was Brutus’ new mom, calling to make sure they were on their way Home.

Welcome Home Brutus!



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