I see it all too often. The playful, undeniably adorable little kittens (and puppies) are always picked over the calm, quiet, snuggly older cats (and dogs).
It's natural to gravitate toward the kittens. Baby animals are damn cute, and if someone brought me a kitten right now I wouldn't turn it away. But the senior cats and dogs, once adorable babies, too, who've been abandoned and surrendered to a shelter — these are the animals who really need more human attention and affection.
November is recognized nationally by shelters and rescue groups as "Adopt a Senior Pet Month," but this doesn't mean we should forget about those sweet oldies the rest of the year.
While the cons — health problems/risks, cost of care, emotional attachment fears — of adopting an animal nearing the end of its life are often the reasons people choose kittens first, older pets have many positive qualities often overlooked. They're calm. They're (usually) trained, or if not, they're actually better at catching on than younger animals. And, in more cases than with a younger animal, you're probably really saving a life when you adopt an older pet.
I'll admit I used to more often gravitate to the cuter and more active younger cats hanging out in the shelter's kitty room where I volunteer. But in the past couple years, a very special senior cat entered my life, and I've become totally won over by the quirks and qualities of senior cats.
But there are too many cats out there like her who aren't as lucky to have such a loving home. Countless senior pets are patiently waiting, right now, for the day they're not overlooked, and someone comes to pick them instead of their younger, rowdy kennel neighbors. Pets like Star.
This beautiful, regal calico came to the Spokane Humane Society in March of this year, and because of her age and a (manageable) health issue, she's been waiting for a home for the eight months since. Shelter staff can't pinpoint why, because Star is the definition of a "star" cat. She's already declawed in the front, although she's so quiet and well-mannered, she'd probably never think of being destructive.
Just because a cat has passed their kitten stage doesn't mean they're done with play time, and Star loves to bat around a toy or two when she's feeling frisky.
Since coming to the shelter, Star has been diagnosed with a very manageable condition, common in older cats, called hyperthyroidism. This requires her to take an inexpensive ($16/month) tablet twice a day, mixed into her food.
Star would do best in a calmer, quiet home. She doesn't particularly enjoy being around kids, who don't always understand she can't play all the time. All she really needs is someone who'll let her snuggle in their lap every once and a while. She doesn't really mind other cats, and lived with a feline companion before she was surrendered to the shelter.
Star was recently featured at last weekend's Spokane Humane Society Furr Ball gala, at the Davenport Hotel, where many guests doted over her beautiful, silky fur and her incredible calmness in such a busy, loud setting. Unfortunately, even though she seemed to win the hearts of many that night, she didn't find the home she longs for.
How wonderful if Star found a home for the holidays. She's not the only senior cat at SHS looking for a human to snuggle, though, and her other longtime friends at the shelter include Tigger, Stash, George, Fancy, Sam and Luna. SHS's partner shelters (SpokAnimal, SCRAPS) also have senior pets looking for homes, so if Star's not the cat for you, that's okay. We believe her special day will come!
Yesterday I went to the Spokane Transit Authority board meeting where the “task force” of concerned business owners — led by Greater Spokane Incorporated, Visit Spokane and Downtown Spokane Partnership — gave their opinion on how STA should use its Plaza.
The task force’s recommendations were mostly in line with STA’s existing plans, but they diverged in one hugely significant way. Rather than expanding the Plaza to bring in the community and create greater connectivity for non-transit users, they advocated the opposite.
The task force’s plans will never achieve their desired effect because you can never restrict use in public spaces enough to get rid of the parking lot pee-er.
Let me paint a picture of the space in which he was peeing: It’s a surface lot on a stretch of Howard that has almost no street-level retail. It’s also near the train tracks. No one purposefully walks around there unless they have very specific business in one of the handful of buildings on the block. And even then, people drive up, park as close to their destination as possible and shuffle quickly indoors.
I’ve seen people get in their cars and drive from one side of the tracks to the other.
I’ve never felt unsafe in this lot or on the street itself. It’s just ill-suited for pedestrians and starved for destinations. As a result, I have only ever had neutral, negative or just weird experiences on that stretch of road. No one besides our parking lot pee-er hang out there because, besides the beautiful new SUMAC mural under the trestle, no one has given those blocks a second thought for maybe a decade.
Conversely, all the traits that make it a bad place to hang out and have positive experiences is exactly what makes it such a prime place to drive up and find some random dude peeing. It’s secluded and empty of people.
We all recognize the STA Plaza currently suffers from usage woes. It’s a big space without much going on, and big spaces that are empty of people are hard to secure. Both the STA’s plan and the task force’s plan seek to solve this problem, but in opposing ways.
The STA wants to increase amenities to open usage to the entire community, offer more opportunities for engagement and make the Plaza a gathering place. The task force is asking STA to narrow the Plaza’s feature set to only the sorts of things bus riders absolutely need.
The problem with that plan, of course, is that the Plaza is still a public space. Even if you reduce the use to basically nothing, people are still free to hang out.
We know what public spaces with low use look like. They look like the parking lot near Fellow. They look like the stretch of Wall between Riverfront Park and Riverside. They look like the slope of hillside below the Post Street substation.
We also know how to make those places safer: make them more engaging. We turn an unused hillside into Huntington Park. We plan events to offset the lack of retail on Wall.
The crazy thing here is that DSP, GSI and Visit Spokane have all recognized this. DSP was absolutely instrumental in helping Terrain put on Bazaar, the art market we launched this June on a disused stretch of Wall St. I’ve had conversations with folks at Visit Spokane about their desire to drive tourism by activating public squares all around the city. All three entities were enthusiastic supporters of our recently passed park bond.
They totally understand the vision!
I worry though, that because of the fraught, 20-year political history of the project, and the pressure being exerted by certain downtown businesses, no one is recognizing that the Plaza has the exact same potential for activation as Huntington Park or Wall Street. Honestly, I think it has an even greater potential, because it’s indoors and is already the nexus of our transit system.
Let me be the person who says this: Good as it is, I don’t think STA’s plan goes far enough.
One of the greatest revitalizations of a public space I know of is the transformation of Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square from a squat parking garage in the middle of the city into a thriving meeting place.
They did it with smart planning aimed at attracting the greatest diversity of people possible — just like STA has done — but then they went further: creating a separate entity to program the space, filling it with cool stuff a couple hundred times a year. Now it’s the home of concerts, festivals and events, a hub of downtown Portland, and a big tourist attraction.
Now imagine how it would feel if a tourist or business traveler coming to Spokane for the first time grabbed the shuttle from the airport, rode downtown and found themselves disembarking onto an art market, or a free concert, or just a bustling place with a diversity of people and a diversity of shops.
Isn’t that the sort of town you’d want to explore? Like, “Wow, if their bus Plaza is crackling like this, what must their clubs be like? Their restaurants? Their neighborhoods?”
Then who better to ferry that person around to those destinations than, you know, STA itself. The word “synergy” gets thrown around, but come on now.
Now imagine that same tourist getting off the shuttle to a Plaza renovated according to the task force’s specifications: a smaller, more utilitarian space for the workmanlike ferrying of people from place to place, with maybe an employment office in one corner.
At any other time than peak hours, the space would feel empty and maybe a little alienating. If that tourist had to spend any time waiting for a transfer in the task force’s version of the Plaza, I honestly ask myself who he or she would run into.
It’s still a public space, even if no one’s using it, so the only person I’d put money on is that smiley guy from the parking lot, making the most of the solitude to take a quiet pee in the corner.
Luke Baumgarten is the interim co-executive director of Spokane Arts, a cofounder of Terrain, the founder of Fellow Coworking and former culture editor of the Inlander. He tweets @lukebaumgarten.
After two weeks of students calling for changes to the way the school addresses sexual assault, Gonzaga University's Title IX coordinator, who handles all reports of sexual assault on campus, has resigned.
The school's human resources department confirmed that Sarah Green resigned Wednesday and "has left the university," but would not provide any more details. Green's voicemail now directs callers to the assistant director of human resources, Gretchen Stoup, who will temporary fill the job.
Eric Baldwin, who oversees student conduct and counseling as the dean of student well being and healthy living, said he found out about Green's resignation today and has "absolutely no context" about why she left.
Leaders of the student group that's been organizing on campus — we wrote about them this week here — say they found out about Green's departure when they were told she wouldn't be attending a panel discussion tonight being put on by the student group Students Advocating Sexual Health Awareness. The students were also given "absolutely no details" about her resignation, but quickly emailed Baldwin to ask for student involvement in the hiring of her replacement.
"There's a general feeling of we don’t really trust the administration. We've seen people be silenced, we've seen things mishandled, and we want to have a stronger voice in how things are dealt with to restore trust," says Meg Besch, one of the leaders of the student movement. "Having a voice in hiring the person creating the policies that keep us safe or don’t keep us safe is something that needs to happen."
Baldwin says he will lobby the administration to involve students as a search for Green's replacement begins. Meanwhile, he says, his office will continue to work with them on the changes they hope to see to the way the school handles reports of sexual assault and supports survivors. The hiring of a new counselor and changes to the counseling intake process have decreased wait times for students in need of those services, he says. (Students complained that they had previously been asked to wait two months for counseling. As of today, there are no students on the wait list for counseling appointments, according to Baldwin.) The school is also close to finalizing a contract with nonprofit Lutheran Community Services to provide a victim advocate on campus. A victim advocate, unlike a Title IX employee, is not required to report instances of sexual assault if the victim doesn't want to report or wants to do so anonymously. Anyone hired by the university is subject to Title IX rules, but using a contract would allow an exemption for Lutheran's employees and a new resource on campus for students who've experienced sexual assault. Baldwin says he expects that contract to be finalized by next week.
Along with those changes, the students are still calling for more, including an on-campus survivors' support group and harsher penalties for students found to have committed sexual assault. Besch, the student leader, says her group met once with Green and she seemed open to their ideas, but "we don't feel like [her resignation is] going to hurt our momentum."
"That's not something we're going to allow to happen," Besch says. "We're going to keep pushing to get the changes we think we need here."
OUTLANDER serves as a weekly round up of Inland Northwest outdoor recreation and natural resources news. This feature will highlight a wide variety of issues and events, ranging from camping stories to national environmental disputes. We’ll also try to include some scenic photos. Feel free to pass along suggestions or curiosities that celebrate the Great Outdoors.
Just a week short of Thanksgiving, Spokane finally gets its first dusting of snow for the season. Check out Snowlander for information on local ski resorts and other inspiration for making the most of it.
In related news, the state parks commission this morning approved a ski area expansion at Mt. Spokane that drew sharp opposition from local conservationists. (KHQ) Who spoke against it last night. (KXLY)
Also, some quick tips for getting your skis in shape for the season. (Outside)
And advice for snowshoeing like a pro. (Backpacker)
Moving on from winter sports, wildlife officials ask for misdemeanor charges in the killing of a wolf in Whitman County. (NWSportsman)
If you're missing summer angling, check out this travel feature on Spokane's rewarding urban flyfishing. (NW Flyfishing)
Renovation work will make the popular Tubbs Hill trail wheelchair accessible. (SR)
Check out a new recreation plan for the Snoqualmie Pass area and offer feedback by Dec. 19. (DNR)
Washington-based research shows stormwater can kill salmon in a matter of hours. (AP)
So maybe consider going out to clean up along the Spokane River this Saturday with Gonzaga. (Riverkeeper)
A new investigation also shows how Boeing has opposed clean up efforts in Washington's Duwamish River. (INVW)
The state Attorney General's Office plans to sue the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to bolster worker safety protections. (AGO)
Meanwhile environmental groups have sued to protect habitat for the lynx, which includes portions of Northeast Washington. (Conservation Northwest)
Montana researchers looking for a better understanding of how hunters and bears interact. (Billings Gazette)
Researchers and video effects provide vivid explanation of how herds move across protected wilderness in Wyoming. (Biodiversity Institute)
The U.S. Senate rejected a bill to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline this week by a single vote. (CNN)
But India's coal rush could tip climate change. (NYT)
Just as NOAA confirms this year has seen five record warm months. (AP)
And industrial pollution is turning Canadian lakes into jelly. So we can look forward to that. (WaPost)
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