They have a way of provoking the most sensitive, sweet and openly emotional written and spoken sentiments from people, equaled only by certain amatory love poems and the occasional, glowingly-reverential funeral eulogy. Even then, one sometimes tends to doubt the full sincerity of the person delivering the remarks. When people speak of animals, however, the love in their words is generally accepted without question.
Even the great French novelist and Nobel-winner Anatole France—a writer whose works were banned by the Catholic Church after his death in 1924, a man so reviled by certain segments of the population that none other than the Nazi party of Germany predicted that Mr. France was certainly burning in Hell—once wrote, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” The late humorist Josh Billings, who died in Monterey and whose entrails—after removal from his body in preparation for embalming—were narrowly saved from being used as fish bait by a local boy, is quoted as saying, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.” He also said, “In the whole history of the world there is but one thing that money can not buy … to wit the wag of a dog’s tail,” words that accompany the opening moments of Walt Disney’s classic “Lady & the Tramp.” Meanwhile, on the topic of cats, the celebrated Australian poet Pam Brown writes extensively about her feline friends, her most oft-quoted remark being, “One small cat changes coming home to an empty house, to coming home.”
The point of all this is, of course, that animals mean a lot to many humans, and we spend a lot of time thinking about them, writing about them and on occasion, even caring for them. Since there are far more critters in creation than the ones that live in our homes and eat from the cans and bags we buy at the local store, however, a number of nonprofits have emerged over the decades to step in and assist when animals find themselves in need of a human helping hand. And sometimes, it’s the other way around.
Dozens of such nonprofit organizations exist in the North Bay alone, some providing shelter and care for the animals, others putting trained animals together with people requiring the assistance of guide dogs or other assistance canines.
Here are a few, some well-known, some less so.
Compassion without Borders (cwob.org), based in Santa Rosa, was founded in 2001, by Christi and Moncho Camblor. Four programs—Mexico Dog Rescue and U.S. Dog Rescue, Veterinary Wellness Clinics and Spay-and-Neuter Services—carry out their original inspiration, to create a happier future for animals on both sides of the Mexican-American border. “We founded our organization 18 years ago, originally with the sole focus on Mexico and the dire conditions that exist there for many animals, who don’t have easy access to low-cost veterinary care,” explains Cambor, a veterinarian and Executive Director of Compassion Without Borders. “The situation is often pretty dire for animals south of the border. But as we’ve grown, we came to realize there was that same need, the need here in Sonoma County for many low-income people who can’t afford the proper level of care for their animals. So now our work straddles both sides of the border.”
In addition, Compassion Without Borders is engaged in efforts to provide alternatives to electrocution, a common form of animal euthanasia in parts of Mexico.
“We’ve been working hard to end the practice of electrocution, which is extremely painful for the animal, and to switch it over to humane euthanasia by injection, like its done here in the states,” Cambor says.
She emphasizes that there are many simple ways to enhance the care of animals and pets here in Sonoma County.
“It should go without saying, but anyone looking for a pet should always adopt and never buy one from the stores,” she says. “And there are plenty of organizations like ours and others that need your help. We need volunteers, and of course we need donations, which is often the only way most of us can do the work we do. We feel lucky to be supported by our community, to be able to continue to be part of this work here in the U.S. and in Mexico.”
Inspired by a beloved golden retriever named Lily, Petaluma’s 10-year-old nonprofit Lily’s Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary provides a safe haven and adoption services for large-breed (50 lbs. and up), aging dogs (7 years and older) who lost their homes for one reason or another. Such animals fare poorly in shelters, where adopters shy away from dogs with short lifespans and the likelihood of medical needs. Founded in 2009 by Alice Mayn, the volunteer-run organization (Lilyslegacy.org) follows the mission of ensuring that these dogs, either surrendered to or rescued from shelters, live out the rest of their lives as beloved family companions, either in permanent, adoptive households or foster homes, or at the sanctuary, which also provides hospice care for dogs in need.
Napa County’s Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch (jamesonanimalrescueranch.org) is a no-kill, animal-rescue sanctuary for companion animals and farm animals in need. Founded in 2014 by David and Monica Stevens, the nonprofit provides permanent and transitional shelter, humane education and animal advocacy, while working to end animal hunger, animal cruelty and overpopulation of animals.
The Humane Society of Sonoma County (humanesocietysoco.org) has operated since 1931. A donor-supported nonprofit, the organization provides various types of medical treatment (including spaying and neutering) and adoption services. The Humane Society also maintains a strict no-kill policy at both of its shelters, in Santa Rosa (5345 Hwy. 12 West) and a state-of-the-art, four-year-old facility in Healdsburg (555 Westside Road).
Looking forward to a similarly modern new facility is Sonoma’s Pets Lifeline (petslifeline.org), currently caring for the Sonoma Valley’s cats and dogs at a temporary shelter at 21045 Broadway. A major capital campaign is underway for a new shelter to continue the center’s mission of offering sheltering and adoption aid, education and other community services. The new facility will cost about $3.5 million, and if all goes well, should be open by the summer of 2020.
Santa Rosa’s Countryside Rescue (Countrysiderescue.com) saves and protects abandoned, shelterless local animals of all kinds (dogs, cats, rabbits and farm animals), finding them permanent, safe and loving homes. The nonprofit’s goal is to decrease Sonoma County’s current number of homeless animals, while increasing the number of creatures placed in homes practicing responsible pet ownership.
Canine Companions for Independence (cci.org), originally founded in Santa Rosa in 1975, now has training centers and other facilities in several states across the U.S. Its National Headquarters and Northwest Training Center are currently located on the Jean and Charles Schulz Campus in Santa Rosa, which officially opened 23 years ago, in 1996. The organization trains puppies to become service dogs for visitors to healthcare facilities and for humans with disabilities, from hearing loss and physical limitations to cognitive and developmental disabilities. Canine Companions, unofficially credited with having developed the idea of “service dogs,” is presently the largest provider of assistance dogs on the planet, and offers its services and trained dogs free of charge to qualified beneficiaries.
Finally, Marin County’s Guide Dogs for the Blind (guidedogs.com), operating in San Rafael since 1942, offers its services free of charge, including personalized training of guide dogs for the blind and sight-impaired, along with financial assistance for veterinary care.