Our very own Houdini

Hot Off the Collar | Volume 11

As a young boy, I was fascinated by the early 20th century illusionist Harry Houdini. I read every book and watched every film about his life. To an 11-year-old, those death-defying stunts were supernatural. It’s no surprise then, that when I heard we had a cat named Houdini, I took special interest in her. What I didn’t know is that our Houdini would mimic her namesake by cheating death with an incredible magic trick, courtesy of our amazing veterinary staff.

Houdini arrived on our doorstep as an owner surrender. She had recently given birth to four kittens and after our initial exam, she seemed fine and the kittens were healthy and almost ready to be weaned.
As we’ve been doing with nearly all the animals that have come to us since COVID, we fostered Houdini out to a loving temporary home until we could find forever families for her and the kittens.

A few weeks ago, Houdini’s foster volunteer became concerned with her health. She’d lost interest in food and was having some pretty serious bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. When Houdini arrived back here for her vet appointment, we knew immediately something was seriously wrong. Initially, we thought that Houdini had an abdominal mass which could have been cancer or possibly an abnormal uterus. During surgery, Dr. Gaines diagnosed intusseception, a condition in which one segment of intestine “telescopes” inside of another, causing an intestinal obstruction. The affected portion of the bowel was removed but that was just the first step. Houdini then needed a feeding tube inserted directly into her esophagus so that she could absorb nutrients and gain the strength she needed to recover.

In clinic medicine, this type of surgery might be more common. Here at the Kingston Humane Society, it was the first time we had performed a life-saving procedure of this nature so to us, it felt a little like magic.
The “presto” moment came soon after surgery as Houdini quickly began to improve and regain her cuddly disposition. She’s now a healthy, happy and affectionate cat, well on her way to a full recovery and likely available for adoption soon.

As I noted, we could not have performed this surgical feat without a committed veterinary team, led by Dr. Laurie Gaines. However you, our devoted and tireless donors were the “lovely assistants” for this little miracle. The generosity that you have shown for so many years and especially since the pandemic was declared, has enabled us to continue to perform new and innovative procedures. We can now take extraordinary measures to save animals that years ago, we did not have the resources to even consider. I often note in conversations with donors and supporters that your willingness to donate – quite simply – saves lives.
As an 11-year-old boy I was captivated by Houdini’s ability to make miraculous escapes look routine. As a 57-year-old director of the Kingston Humane Society, seeing our staff’s dedication and willingness to do whatever it takes to save every life is so much more impressive. In truth, it’s not a fair comparison at all because while a magician performs illusions or sleight-of-hand, our staff regularly performs real-life escapes in the face of certain death. It turns out that the Kingston Humane Society team members who saved Houdini were the real magicians all along.

– Gord Hunter, Executive Director

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Contactless adoptions will begin on May 6th for limited number of animals

Kingston, ON – May 1, 2020
Beginning on Wednesday May 6th, the Kingston Humane Society (KHS) will resume adoptions of animals to suitable members of the public. The number of animals available will initially be limited and significant safety protocols will be employed to avoid any contact or direct interaction with potential adopters.

Five weeks ago, the KHS suspended all adoptions in an effort to significantly reduce the potential of COVID-19
transmission within the community or to the KHS staff. In that time, more than 100 foster volunteers have stepped up to care for animals that would normally have been housed in kennels and waiting for adoption.

“Our foster volunteers have been incredible,” said Gord Hunter, Executive Director, “but we’re starting to see
the expected spring influx of animals and we need to be sure we have capacity within the shelter once things
begin to open up again and once the foster families begin returning animals to us.”

The capacity of the current building is limited to 75 cats and 44 dogs. The KHS currently has 112 animals in
care; the majority in foster homes. In May of 2019, the Kingston Humane Society took in just under 200
animals. After this year’s mild winter, Animal Programs Manager Christie Haaima expects numbers to rise significantly, potentially putting the shelter well over capacity.

“Each year, we see a large influx of animals heading into the summer months, predominantly stray cats and
orphaned kittens,” said Haaima. “We can’t allow Covid-19 to prevent us from saving the lives of nearly 2,000 pets this year. We need to be prepared by continuing adoptions and expanding our foster program.”

Pre-adoption counselling and meet and greets will be done virtually utilizing available electronic meeting platforms. The successful adopters will then come to the shelter to pick up the animal in a no-touch environment. Adoption payments will be accepted by debit or credit only using no-touch or minimal contact protocols. All KHS staff employees will wear full PPE and adopters will be asked to wear gloves and masks when picking up their new family member.

“This is new to all of us and we expect to experience small glitches that we’ll address and correct on the fly,” said Hunter. “Our goal is to find forever homes for as many animals in our care as possible and to remain within our somewhat limited capacity, keeping the strain on staff and animals to a minimum.”

Beginning Wednesday May 6th, the public can find animals available for adoption on our website at www.kingstonhumanesociety.ca . Online applications will be processed as received and suitable adopters will be contacted for virtual meet and greets.


The Kingston Humane Society is committed to advocating for and improving the lives of animals within our community. Founded in 1884, the KHS continues to provide shelter and care for homeless animals in Kingston and surrounding communities. We promote responsible pet ownership and compassion and respect for all animals. In addition, we work in and with our community to provide leadership in the humane treatment of all animals, to address the causes of animal suffering, to encourage people to take responsibility for their animal companions and to provide care for animals who are neglected, abused, exploited, stray or homeless.

Gord Hunter, Executive Director KHS, 613-546-1291 ext 105

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