"No-Kill December" hasn't gone over well with some of those animal activists, who see it as a smoke-and-mirrors way to hide the failings of a system that doesn't really care about cats and dogs. I've heard complaints from volunteers of overflowing shelters, where dogs were crammed five or six to a tiny kennel to make the December numbers look good.
"This isn't just about a no-kill month. It's something we've been working on all year," he said. "We've been out every weekend, pushing everybody to do just a little bit more... those five extra spay/neuters, finding a home for a couple more dogs. People are beginning to believe that if everybody does their part, it's absolutely achievable."
The question is what has to happen to turn this temporary reprieve to a lasting moral victory.
Barnette said that can't be left to animal welfare groups. "We have to get the community involved."
She sees a promising future in a new fostering program, now recruiting volunteers to get animals out of cages and into temporary homes, where their personalities can shine.
"We used to only do it for puppies or kittens, too young to be ready for adoption," she said. Now they're trying to find foster families for dogs and cats overlooked in the chaos of busy shelters.
"Maybe they don't run up to the front of the cage and stick their paws through so people see how cute they are," she said. "They're a little shy, or overwhelmed .... We need to get them in homes where they can blossom, where people on the street can see them and recognize what good animals they are."
She's describing a dog like the little guy sleeping under my desk right now.
His mother was one of those animals whose behavior problems might have ended her life: a stray slated to be euthanized because she tried to bite anyone who came too close. Camarillo shelter workers didn't realize the little dog was uncomfortably pregnant. A Simi Valley rescue volunteer did. She bailed out mom, who gave birth a few days later to five puppies.
We fostered two of them, and fell in love with this one. He wouldn't have made much of an impression in a cage at the animal shelter. He sleeps too much, he's afraid of loud noises, he's about as smart as a rock.
But he's a gift that my family can't imagine living without. If you'd like to find out more about fostering, go online at http://www.laanimalservices.com and check it out.