With fires burning both north and south of us, we are reminded how lucky we are not to be in harm’s way. After what Sonoma County has been through the past year, and the flashbacks and stress that the smoke in the air brought with it, we should all be grateful that we are even here to enjoy the holiday season. It’s scary and sad times that we are going through and our hearts go out to our neighbors that called Paradise home.
Experience taught us that there are still some hard times ahead. For those who lost everything it is slow to have that reality sink in, they will have a million decisions, both small and large to make. Those who were lucky enough to grab their pets and get them out safely face the problem of where to live that will accept pets. It’s so heartwarming to see some of the reunions happening as pets that survived the fires and are in the shelters are reclaimed by their worried parents. But sometimes, even more heartbreaking, are the stories of those who made it out with their pets but having to relinquish them as they move in with family or friends who don’t have enough room for everyone.
Imagine losing everything then having to give up your precious companion. You might be saying that you would never do that but if you’ve not been in this kind of no-win situation, it’s unfair to judge people. Recognize that when a home is lost that family’s reality has changed. Forced to move in with friends or relatives while trying to find someplace to live – perhaps having lost their business or place of employment as well, is incredibly stressful. And not everyone is welcoming to pets, or perhaps they already have pets of their own and they don’t get along.
We just went up to Oroville and pulled 11 animals from their shelter so they could take in more evacuee animals. Right now all the strays they find (except for medical cases that need to be transferred to hospitals) are staying at the emergency shelter up by their airport so that the owners can more easily find their pets. But as this new reality sinks in we know (from sad experience last year) that many of these animals will be identified and then surrendered as the families realize that they have nowhere to take them.
I’m sure we will be going up again to take more animals. Currently they have about 1,800 animals housed in the emergency shelter. We’ve received many calls from people wanting to know where to bring donations of supplies. Last I heard they are overwhelmed with donations and are turning people away. Many want to help and run out to the store and buy as much as they can afford to donate. The thought is generous but I can speak from experience being on the receiving end that getting in a random selection of pet supplies is not helpful when they are trying to keep the animals on some sort of steady diet. The logistics of logging in (required for accounting purposes) and finding storage for all the supplies donated is daunting. It’s over a year since our fires and I still have at least 30 boxes of baggies! Fortunately, they don’t have an expiration date but we don’t really use that many of the size we have left.
If you really want to help, please consider a cash donation. Amazon and Visa gift cards are sure to come in handy to buy the exact supplies they need, pay for the medical care the burned animals need, fill the gas tanks of all the animal control vehicles going out to do the rescue work, etc. Donations can be given online at www.nvadg.org/donate and checks can be mailed to: North Valley Animal Disaster Group, P.O. Box 441, Chico, CA 95927.
This is going to be a long time event – finding all the strays will go on for months, as we well know. Please support this effort if you can. Stay tuned to our Facebook page and we’ll keep you posted on ways you can help and when we bring in more animals. Adopting any animal (doesn’t have to actually be from the fire area) clears the space for us to help another, so if you’re thinking of adding to your family, now is a great time. And most of all, keep those affected in your thoughts – they need all the good vibes they can get!
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed 1-6:30; Thurs.-Fri.-Sat. 1-5:30; Sun. 1-4:30.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.