I looked to the sky at just the right time. A Red-tailed hawk had just dived down to grab a live rat in its talons. She was ascending directly above me while I was walking Murray, our rescue mutt, in our neighborhood not far from Big Sur Land Trust open space. What happened next was pretty cool.
Murray, 12 years old in a few months, didn’t mind stopping, having just crested a steep block. I kept my head up, and his went down to investigate new smells. The hawk and the hawk’s chicks began a series of back and forth contact calls, a version of the popular swimming pool game, Marco Polo. In this case, calls help the adult find chicks eagerly awaiting their next meal. Red-tailed hawks co-parent so the adult could have been male or female. I’ll go with “she.”
As I often say, we see the best and worst in people in our business. Take this past week, which started with this email message:
“I need to get rid of these three dogs. One of them is half boxer and something else and the other 2 is rottweiler [sic] and I just really need to get rid of them. They’re just taking up to much room for me and my family.”
Wow. I haven’t seen a message worded so bluntly, with so much detachment. As the only open-admission shelter in Monterey County, we responded as we always do, informing the owner that we should be seen as a last resort after they’ve exhausted other efforts to rehome their dogs…that we rehome all healthy animals, that we make well most animals with health and behavior challenges, but can’t make any promises. We assess animals carefully and individually.
Eric Clower, the SPCA’s super-talented Maintenance Manager, oversees all aspects of our 200+ acre campus. Our resident MacGyver tackles complicated HVAC systems, maintains a small fleet of vehicles, and chases down water intrusions from rooftops in a single bound. He didn’t wake up last Wednesday morning thinking he’d be building a turtle platform. But, it’s what he did and it’s among the many reasons I love this organization.
The backstory: our equally talented Humane Investigations Supervisor, Marty Opseth, was out playing a round of golf. Knowing he was with the SPCA, the golf course staff brought him their animal-related dilemma: turtles in their man-made pond were having trouble sunning themselves, clinging to the pond’s steep edge. Aquatic turtles, as some of you know, need sunlight. They spend the good part of their day basking in it. Basically, they live the lives of Kardashians.
According to Wikipedia, an “animal rescue group or animal rescue organization is dedicated to pet adoption. These groups take unwanted, abandoned, abused or stray pets and attempt to find suitable homes for them….rescue groups exist for most pet types (reptile rescue, rabbit rescue, bird rescue), but most are common for dogs and cats…rescue groups often find volunteers with space in their homes for temporary placement.”
Can an animal shelter also be an animal rescue group? What is the SPCA?
Like a rescue group, the SPCA is funded by donations and is dedicated to finding new loving homes for animals. We do this for between eight and nine of every 10 animals we receive which is especially meaningful given we never turn away animals. We accept unwanted, abandoned, abused, neglected and stray animals daily! This includes physically and behaviorally broken animals and animals that no amount of resources could possibly make well.
Here’s how we’re different from typical animal rescue groups:
As they say, a photo’s worth a thousand words. To me, this photo is worth much more, but I’ve kept it to a tidy 567. Hey, we’re all busy this time of year. Busy decorating homes, addressing holiday cards, and shopping.
Our neighborhood is holding a holiday lights decorating contest; $100 for first place, $50 for second and $25 for third. My 8-year-old pleaded “Go big, Dad!” He doesn’t have a great sense of money yet and I don’t have the heart to tell him I already spent the equivalent of the first-place dough on extension cords. My wife asked if I knew what I was doing with all the cords and multi-pronged outlets snaked around the garage and front yard. I said yes with Clark W. Griswold confidence, but I’m also holding my breath when anyone plugs-in a hair dryer.
Two custom, almost life-sized gingerbread men (people?) we made for our front yard could push us into contention. Why buy inflatables, when you can spend far more time jigsawing, sanding, painting and sealing plywood? One of the cookie cutter figures needed minor surgery after a button eyeball I attached with glue slid halfway down his face, making him look more like a deformed Halloween decoration. The eye is screwed back where it belongs. We’re looking good now, ready to be judged.