Start the Presses: No, Meatball isn't up for adoption

At 4 a.m. Friday morning, Paul Hubler's neighbor called. A bear is in my yard, he said. A few minutes later, a 400-pound ursine, believed to be the famed Meatball, was in the shallow end of Hubler's pool.

It's been that kind of week. Bears are more interested in cooling off than snacking on the Italian, baklava and orange juice in our trash cans. The weather does feel like July — if we lived in New Jersey — and the biggest local news story concerns the tragic death of an Armenian man half a world away.

Perhaps it's due to that famed day of superstition: Friday the 13th. The diurnal of doom occurred for the third and final time this year, the maximum number of times that particular combination can happen in a year.

I'm not much for superstitions. My wife and I take great amusement of taking photos of our black cats — Gracie and Ozzie — walking under a ladder. Our decision to adopt the pair, who are brother and sister, took about five minutes. My luck since the furballs joined our household has not suffered.

Apparently, though, not all black cats or dogs are so fortunate. According to the folks at the Pasadena Humane Society, the black critters are often left behind.

Is this because of superstition? Some bizarre form of racism? Nope, answered Ricky Whitman, vice president of community outreach for the society.

When people come in to adopt an animal, she said, they choose their pet primarily on how the animal looks. A black cat is, frankly, harder to see than a lighter colored one.

“It's hard to connect with their eyes,” she said. “It's just a practical, visual thing.”

So on Friday, the society had a $13 black cat adoption special.

Whitman said their senior vice president, Elizabeth Campo, came up with the promotion “to turn the superstition on its head.”

It's a significant discount — the normal cost is $70 — and a good number of people took the society up on the deal. At the beginning of the day, said Whitman, there were 104 cats available, 21 of which were solid black.

By the end of the day, more than 20 cats had been adopted. Pretty cool. Of course, Whitman said “black” was a bit of a technicality.

“Even the irises count,” she laughed. “Any cat is eligible.”

Whitman said summer is kitten season, and it's not unusual for the society to receive 40 kittens in a single day.

“Which is a reminder to spay and neuter your pets,” she said.

The promotion was not entirely uncontroversial. Whitman said she received calls from a number of people concerned that the day would bring the freaks — my word — out to the kennel.

“But we're worried about that every day of the year,” she said. “We have an extensive interview process. We're animal advocates.

“We lowered our prices. We didn't lower our standards.”

Kevin McManus, the adoption supervisor, agreed. He said his staff carefully screens anyone that wants to take home an animal, quizzing them about previous pet ownership, treatment and the like.

It's probably more than an art than a science, he said, but almost everyone comes in for the right reasons.

“They're trying to save a life,” he said.

The society does offer other animals for adoption — such as rabbits, birds and even an iguana — but no bears. Just as well, though I will note that Meatball is a black bear.

DAN EVANS is the editor. Reach him at (818) 637-3234 or

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