Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

To properly explain how our cat, Buster, is hanging out at Dodger Stadium at a time when we are unable to do so, we need to start the story in June 2006.

We were living in Tucson, Ariz., and it had been about a year since my cat, Beavis, had died. After serious negotiations with my then-boyfriend (and now-husband), Garrett, we decided it was time to bring another feline into our lives. One weekend, we headed to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona to meet some of the cats and kittens up for adoption. I was looking at a cute little grey furball when Garrett pointed to a cage containing two orange-and-white male kittens, about six weeks old. One of the kittens, then named Yoda—presumably because of the tufts of white hair sprouting out his ears—was nervously sitting in the back of his cage. The other, then named Kiku, was hanging on the wire door, mewling his extreme displeasure at anyone and everyone who passed by.

“If we get two cats, they won’t be alone when we’re not home,” Garrett said.

So we went over to meet them. Yoda remained nervous. When picked up Kiku to give him a look, he reached out and clawed my upper lip.

“Handsome, you’re going to be paying for that for the rest of your life,” I said.

After they received the requisite neutering and vaccinations, we took Yoda and Kiku home. Yoda became Maeby, and Kiku became Buster. (I was a big Arrested Development fan at the time.) As beloved pets do, Maeby and Buster became family.

Maeby, the fluffier one, transformed from a skittish, nervous kitten into, no exaggeration, the sweetest creature I have encountered on this planet. He exuded joy—whenever someone picked him up, he’d reflexively begin kneading with happiness—and loved being social whenever friends would come over. He enjoyed playing fetch, but we had to be careful when taking him outside, because he could escape from any harness placed upon him.

Buster, the shorter-haired one, turned into the alpha of the pack—at least in his own mind. While he and Maeby adored each other, he’d chew off Maeby’s whiskers when we weren’t looking. He could be just as loving and as social as Maeby, but he was also perfectly happy to hang out by himself, whereas Maeby wanted attention whenever possible. Buster had one obsession—bugs. Whenever one was spotted inside the house, it would demand his rapt attention.

In early 2013, we had decided to move to Palm Springs; this meant uprooting Buster and Maeby from the only home they had known. While they HATED the car trip here—they always hated car trips, associating them with vet visits—they settled into their new home in Palm Springs nicely. However, several months after the move, Maeby got very ill—he had an impacted hairball in his colon. He was also given another diagnosis: He was in the early stages of kidney disease.

After emergency surgery and a short hospital stay, Maeby came home and fully recovered—although we were told to shave his gorgeous fur to cut down on the chances of a recurrence. While he didn’t care much for the clipper jobs, they didn’t ruin his happy, ever-loving nature. He remained his sweet self until suffering an apparent stroke. In 2015, at the age of 9, our Maeby passed away.

Maeby’s death transformed Buster. While his base personality remained the same, and he still had occasional moments of solitude, he became an attention freak: When he was in the mood, he insisted on attention. If there was a lap open, he was on it, and if there wasn’t a lap open, he would wait, not-so-patiently, until there was. The picture posted here was taken one night as he waited for me to finish dinner so he could have access to my lap—and, more importantly, get belly rubs

Shortly after Maeby’s passing, Buster, too, was diagnosed with early-stage kidney disease. But as of his regular checkup last March—right as the world was shutting down—his kidney levels were OK, and his overall health was good.

Buster was quite happy with the lockdown, because it meant that both of his dads were working from home and rarely went anywhere—meaning he got more attention, belly rubs and snuggles.

Early in the summer, we noticed that Buster was getting skinnier. His food bowl didn’t empty as quickly as before, and as the days passed, it started barely emptying at all. While Buster was as loving—and insistent on belly rubs—as ever, he had moments of lethargy. The final straw came when we noticed he wasn’t cleaning his fur as well as he always had: It was time to subject our 14-year-old Buster to the cross-town car trip to the vet. (Our cats went to Banfield Pet Hospital; shortly after Buster’s March visit, they closed down the nearby Palm Springs location, meaning we had to drive him to Palm Desert.)

We dropped him off on the morning of Friday, July 24; several hours later, the vet called with the news: His kidney levels were off the charts. Buster was very sick. He had only a few days left, and he could start having seizures at any time.

We had a brief discussion, and decided that it was time to let Buster go. We told the vet we’d return to say goodbye.

One of the most awful things about this damned pandemic is that it’s robbed us of our coping devices—the things we use to deal with the travails life brings us. Going to the gym, happy hour with friends, a summer vacation … nope, not possible right now.

The timing of Buster’s death coincided with the blessed return of one of my coping devices: baseball. I am a huge Los Angeles Dodgers fan. In normal times, I watch at least half of the team’s games on TV, and I try to get to Dodger Stadium once or twice a year to take in a game.

While Major League Baseball is back (at least as of this writing … you never know what COVID-19 has in store for the future), it’s different. Some of the rules have been changed; players are asked to keep their distance from each other in the dugout; and, most notably, there are no fans in the stands.

Well, actually, there are fans … sort of.

The Dodgers, as well as other teams, are allowing people to purchase fan cutouts, which are then placed in seats at the stadium. (Fun fact: A cutout of the eponymous corpse from Weekend at Bernie’s currently sits behind home plate at Kansas City Royals games.) In the Dodgers’ case, all of the proceeds, except for the $11.25 value of the cutout, go to the nonprofit Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.

The Dodgers aren’t just allowing human cutouts at the stadium; they’re allowing pets, too. So … because we can’t go to Dodger games in person this year, and because the bulk of the $149 fee goes to a good cause, we decided to send Buster, in cutout form, to Dodger Stadium on our behalf.

On Saturday, Aug. 8, as we watched the Dodgers play the San Francisco Giants on TV, we spotted Buster in the stands. The sight led to biggest smile I’ve had on my face since March.

Published in Pets

As one would expect from a pet columnist, I love animals. I love to talk and read about them, and I always watch shows about them.

I am far from alone: Many of the people I know also have a deep love for animals. They care for their animal babies with extraordinary love and tenderness. As we know, that treatment turns those animals into the rulers of their families’ lives—they become our home bosses.

I wanted to hear from others about their pets. I’d seen someone else on Facebook pose a question: What would your animal have in his/her/their pocket? So, I decided to ask some of our friends and neighbors that question, as well as their pets’ type, age and quirkiest trait.

Tim O’Bayley, CEO and Creative Director, O’Bayley Communications

Abbott, part husky, with two different-colored eyes. He's 2 1/2 years old—and absolutely adorable and full of life. Quirkiest thing: He likes to sleep/nap mostly on his back, with one leg up against a wall or a piece of furniture. In his pocket: one of his many toys. He likes to have them close by at all times.

Siobhan Velarde, Coachella Valley Chanteuse

Pickles, 8-ish years old, and Doctor, 6 years old. Quirkiest thing: Pickles wants all the pillows … literally ALL of them. Then she burrows into the center, throwing half of them on the ground. Doctor howls to specific theme songs. No. 1 is Jeopardy! and also Golden Girls. In her pocket: Pickles would have her leash. Nothing gets this kid more excited than her daily walk, although she moves at a snail’s pace. Doctor keeps her mommy, daddy and big brother in her pocket. She totally owns us!

George Nasci-Sinatra, Major Gift Officer, Martha’s Kitchen

Luigi Morkie and Gioia (Joya), Maltipoos. Quirkiest thing: Luigi must sleep on top of at least two pillows, and they must be a certain height—like Princess and the Pea. Gioia can only sleep if one of her back legs is propped up, and she is on the back of the sofa or a pillow. In their pockets: Luigi would have unlimited treats; Gioia would have every squeaky toy she owns.

Vickie Burnett and Pam Crocker, Happily Retired

Flo is a miniature dachshund who is 13 years young and full of life. Quirkiest thing: She loves to play ball all day long and will fall asleep with the ball in her mouth slowly squeaking. In her pocket: a ball.

Michelle Bergeron, Animal Angel and Rescuer Extraordinaire

Einstein is a 2-year-old cat. Quirkiest things: He knows how to climb, and open and close curtains, and has even made some of those fancy "Starry Night " curtains due to his antics. In his pocket: Shock Top beer bottlecaps.

Emily Nine, Veterinarian Assistant, Carter Animal Hospital

Lilly is a 2-year-old basset hound. Quirkiest thing: She likes to jump on me when I am not expecting it, and she is like a tree log! In her pocket: She would have ladybugs or crickets.

Kristen Dolan, Director of Community Relations and Resource Development, United Way of the Desert

Cats: Wally, 12; Tiki, 10; and Bodhi, 9 months. Quirkiest things: Wally likes safe places to hide, so you'll likely find him squished in some sort of small space. Tiki loves morning and nighttime snuggles, but doesn't want anything to do with you during the day. Bodhi does this spider-cat thing across the carpeted rooms in our house where he sprawls out on his side and pulls himself across the carpet by his claws. In their pockets: Wally would have snacks; Tiki would have a measuring tape to make sure you were keeping six feet away from him; and Bodhi would have a Swiss Army knife, because he gets into all sorts of adventures.

Stacy Eder, Real Estate Broker

Sammy is a Maltipoo, 4 years old. Quirkiest thing: She uses a toy from a fur kid that has passed away to knead when we think she’s stressed out. She was dumped twice prior to coming to our home, so we don’t know her history. Our thoughts are that she was taken from her mother and littermates too early. In her pocket: A container full of cantaloupe. Sammy is obsessed with it!

Rachel Reedy, DVM, Carter Animal Hospital

Uno is a 7-year-old horse. Quirkiest things: He’s a total escape artist, and he’s a ham for the camera. In his pocket: Granny’s Horse Cookies—he loves his horse cookies! Spud is a 3-year-old Boston terrier. Quirkiest thing: He is obsessed with puppies. He loves them! In his pocket: It’s empty, because he would eat whatever is in there.

Janeen Bahr, President, S.O.A.R. (Society’s Outkast Animal Rescue)

Harley is an 18-month-old rottweiler. Quirkiest thing: At 110 pounds, he’s afraid of my three-pound foster dog. In his pocket: any toy that could be thrown and returned.

Felix Tipper, Events Manager, F-10 Creative; Bartender and Fitness Promoter

Bam Bam is a 14 1/2-year-old pug. Quirkiest thing: He is very judicious about his kisses. Although he is the biggest snuggler and love bug, his kisses are rare; they are a very quick and short semi-lick. He also does not like the camera lens. In his pocket: treats. Like most pugs, he’s food-obsessed.

Joni Padduck, Happily Retired

Bella Rosa is a 4 1/2-year-old Chihuahua/Jack Russell/miniature pinscher mix. Quirkiest thing: She's afraid of small children. In her pocket: her daddy! She'd bring him everywhere with her.

Sharon Ollenburger, Search and Rescue, Riverside County Sheriff

Sally Ann is a 12-year-old cat. Quirkiest thing: She is very vocal, especially in the morning or if I have been gone a long time. In her pocket: She would have a picture of me or chicken Greenies treats.

Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.

Published in Pets

The heat sure rolled in quickly this year!

OK, a confession: I feel this way every year. If we didn’t have the weather to complain about, we would be miserable! I dread the heat—but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

However, the hot weather poses unique challenges to our pets in the Coachella Valley. I reached out to Kimberly Raney, owner of Vet Tech to You, a new mobile veterinary-technician service, and asked her about the most important things a pet owner should think about in the hotter weather. Four things came to mind, she said: walking on heated surfaces; heat exhaustion; animals in cars; and other animal threats, like coyotes and snakes.

Walking on heated surfaces: Dr. Pia Salk offers a “rule of paw” for judging safe pavement temperatures: Touch any outside surface for seven to eight seconds. If it causes pain, it’s not right for any animal to be on that surface. Sand, rocks, concrete and asphalt can get incredibly hot—at lower outside temperatures than you may expect. Dr. Salk pointed out that asphalt, on a 77-degree, sunny day, can reach surface temperatures as high as 125 degrees. We should also remember that outside air temperatures do not necessarily correlate to outside surface temperatures. Tender paws burn easily, so early mornings are the coolest times to let your pet out or take your pet for a walk.

Heat exhaustion: Do you ever watch your dog or cat lie down on the hot pavement, and think, how can that possibly be good? They do seem to know their limits—but we may not know their limits when we take them out with us for exercise.

Heat exhaustion is very real for dogs, and the signs are easy to observe. According to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, the first sign of heat exhaustion is excessive panting. Panting is the way dogs cool themselves, but excessive panting means danger. Other early signs include lethargy and less responsiveness to commands.

The Humane Society says that potential heat-stroke signs include excessive drooling, glazed eyes, dizziness, a lack of coordination and even a loss of consciousness. If you suspect that your animal has reached this point, cool them down, and call or take them to a vet. Some dogs are more prone to heat exhaustion then others: Puppies and seniors, dogs with flat faces or longer hair, and dogs with medical issues are at a higher risk.

Animals in cars: California Penal Code 597.7 prohibits leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle if, by doing so, you “endanger the health or well-being of the animal.” According to the Shouse California Law Group, the criteria used to determine whether the health and well-being of an animal in a car is endangered include the weather (too hot or too cold), ventilation, whether the animal has food or water, and any other circumstance that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering. In the Coachella Valley, police will come and break a car window to rescue an animal if they believe it is in danger.

The Palm Springs Animal Shelter posts heat warnings at, regarding both asphalt and car safety. The information is a matter of life and death. With an outside temperature of 75 degrees, inside a car, it takes 10 minutes to reach 94 degrees, and 30 minutes to reach 104 degrees. At an outside temperature of 95 degrees, it takes a car 10 minutes to get to 114 degrees, and 30 minutes to get to 129 degrees. Leaving an animal in a car during the summer is a death sentence for the animal—and could/should be a jail sentence for the person responsible for that animal.

Coyotes: Almost everyone has seen a coyote in a surprising urban place—in neighborhoods, on roadways and near businesses. The most bizarre place I ever saw a coyote was crossing the street in Orange County at the Brea Mall.

Here in the Coachella Valley, we have a large amount of undeveloped land, and we are surrounded by deserts, mountains and forests. Coyotes hunt small animals—and will kill a cat or a smaller dog for food. Larger dogs are vulnerable between January and March—breeding season, when coyotes may defend their turf.

Leaving your domestic pets outside and not watching them carefully can make them easy prey—and sometimes, even watching them carefully doesn’t help. Coyotes, as sorry as you may feel for them, are natural killers. If they can eat your pets, they won’t hunt. If they aren’t hunting, they are invading civilization, which is dangerous to them.

How do you stop this? Leash your animals. Never let them out alone, regardless of the time of day. Coyotes can jump fences with great ease, walk on walls, climb your roof and even dig under your fence.

Rattlesnakes: I dread this time of year, because rattlesnakes are out; baby rattlers are around; and I live in fear for my pets. We are vigilant about keeping areas clear and watching for snakes carefully.

The Animal Medical Center of Southern California says that dogs are 20 times more likely to be bitten than humans—and 25 times more likely to die if bitten. Dogs are naturally curious and don’t always know to stay away when they see a snake in the wild—especially if your dog likes to play. Rattlesnake-avoidance training is often available through veterinarians and animal shelters.

Never put your pet’s life in jeopardy—even for a minute. You will regret it forever if something happens on your watch. They are your love and your responsibility. Contact animal shelters and veterinarians for information. Be prepared, and treat your pets like the important part of your life that they are.

Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.

Published in Pets

COVID-19 has put me into a haze. Each day runs into the next. My motivation is down, as the days of sheltering in place stretch out ahead, with no end in sight. I’m procrastinating a lot (as if that wasn’t a problem before). I go back and forth—from optimistic to pessimistic, discouraged to encouraged, depressed to grateful.

My husband is considered an essential employee, and he commutes twice a week—an hour and a half each way. That brings a whole new level of worry. Compounding my concerns and fears is the lack of performance by the federal government in addressing this pandemic. Each day seems to bring some misrepresentation or attempted negation of facts—while people are dying in this great country. Our safety net has huge holes in it. At least there is evidence the measures in place in California have flattened the curve. But wondering what the future will hold, how our lives will change, and for how long—that can all be overwhelming.

However, there’s one constant in my life: The animals that live with me. Many of you can relate, I know. They are inconsistently consistent—and thank goodness. The cat that wants to share his opinion on any variety of topic, or the dog that believes any phone conversation is actually her conversation—they ground us in reality, to both the life we had before and the life we have now. They are natural mood elevators. They love us. In many cases, they are clocks—reminding us of our routine. Feeding, walking, petting, cleaning litter, picking up poop, changing the water, giving treats, going for a ride—all remain routine, when not much else is. Lexi, the 19-year-old terrier mix, lets us know at 5:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. every day that she expects her meal within the next 30 to 45 minutes—and that it’s time to let her out, too.

On mornings when I just don’t think I can get out of bed, the residents of our senior sanctuary and hospice convince me, by never failing to remind me how much love they have to give. Their exuberance and joy, despite their medical challenges and advanced ages, are hopeful and uplifting. Every day is new and joyful to them. They are happy in the fresh air and the sun, or laying on the couch or bed with you. They are our teachers on how to live in the moment.

Many people have decided to foster or adopt during this safe-at-home phase—so much so that some shelters are running out of animals. I recommend this highly: Not only will you give an abandoned animal a safe place; you will give yourself a gift of unconditional love that, now more than ever, is healing and uplifting.

Just remember: These animals are not perfect. Many of them have been abandoned, neglected or abused; if they are older, perhaps they have lost the only family they’ve ever known. Be gentle and patient. Expect accidents, fear, anxiety and mistrust, at least in the beginning. Correct them with love, and make them feel secure and safe. Their repayment will be love and trust beyond comprehension. Take one of our sanctuary residents, Tilly, as an example: She is 16 years old and just celebrated her one-year anniversary with us. Today, she is a different dog—freer and more opinionated. Patience has reaped extraordinary rewards.

The rescues and shelters in the Coachella Valley are currently open only by appointment due to the COVID-19 restrictions. There is Riverside County’s Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms; the shelter can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 951-358-7387. In North Palm Springs is the Humane Society of the Desert, at 760-329-0203. In Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Animal Shelter can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or 760-416-5718, ext. 3.

There are many rescue organizations in the valley, too. Just to start, for cats, contact Pretty Good Cat, Kittyland or Forever Meow. For dogs, contact Society’s Outkasts Animal Rescue, California Paws Rescue or Loving All Animals.

For people who already have animals: Be sure to check in with your veterinarian. Some are closed; others are handling only critical care; all have procedures in place to protect both staff members and clients. Expect longer-than-usual waits for appointments and prescription refills.

Despite these tough times, we should all learn from our animals: Live in the moment. Enjoy. Love—and be loved.

Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.

Published in Pets

It’s so hard to know what to believe when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. So much misinformation is being posted and spread around. State, county and local governments have been forced to figure this out on their own—and that has left us hanging.

I don’t want to get sick, and I really don’t want to have my friends and loved ones ill because we didn’t take things seriously enough. People need to take precautions—if not for themselves, out of care for others—and that includes the need to provide a plan for our best friends, our beloved companions: the animals that rely on us for safety and care.

One bit of good news: According to World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Veterinary Community, there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected by COVID-19. But we humans can, and we should always—not just in a crisis—have plans in place that address what happens to our pets if something happens to us. This is not the time to overload shelters from carelessness or panic.

So, what do we need to do in the event we get sick or are hospitalized? lists five key points to be prepared. (Given that we live in earthquake country, being prepared is even more necessary. Consider Salt Lake City’s earthquake on March 18; it can happen at any time.)

• Identify a family member or friend who can care for pets if someone in the household becomes ill.

• Have crates, food and extra supplies on hand for quick movement of pets.

• Keep all animal vaccines up to date in the event that boarding becomes necessary.

• Ensure that all of your pets’ medications are documented, with dosages and administering directions. Including the actual prescriptions from your veterinarian, if possible, is also helpful, as is including your veterinarian’s contact information.

• Microchip your beloved animals. If that’s not possible, make sure they have identification—such as an up-to-date tag with a current phone number on a collar or harness.

I asked Dr. Allison Bradshaw, Mobile Pet Vet in the Coachella Valley, what advice she could provide to help people feel more prepared.

“As we face possible supply-chain interruptions or quarantine, it will be wise to have a two-week supply of pet food and any medications that your pet may rely on,” she said.

She also reiterated that there’s no evidence your pet can have, spread or get ill from COVID-19.

“The American Veterinary Animal Association has released the following statement: ‘Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people,’” she said.

I asked her what she thought about going to a dog park. She said that people should be aware and take the precautions to avoid human exposure (stay six feet apart; don’t go out if you’re sick, etc.), but not because of exposure between dogs.

Don’t be in a vacuum, and don’t isolate to the point that your animal needs help. There are many resources to help. Start by calling your veterinarian for advice.

With so much uncertainty in our lives, our highly sensitive animals can sense the frustration, concern, fear and confusion we are feeling—and that might cause anxiety in them. However, it is more important than ever to protect your animals from getting loose. We cannot rely on the system to do our work for us—because those who work to protect our animals at the shelters may need to protect themselves.

Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.

Published in Pets

The love we receive from our animals is deep, beautiful, unconditional and extraordinary. The relationships we have with our animals are incredible: You might be aggravated with all the humans in your house or even in your life—but the magic woofie or kitty will always save the day. Whether you’re returning home for a trip or a simple errand outside, a pet is always happy to see you, wagging or barking to welcome you.

This magical relationship makes it even more difficult, painful and heartbreaking to say goodbye. No matter how many years they live, it is never enough—and sadly, we often must make the decision to end their lives.

It’s terrible to watch the decline of a pet. Sometimes it seemingly comes on suddenly—our eyes are opened for the first time to a slowing gait, a missed jump onto the couch, or the inability to finish the usual walk. Sometimes we must watch as an illness takes hold. Regardless of how the end of the life of a beloved approaches, it takes a toll—emotionally and physically.

The hospice aspect of our sanctuary is the most difficult—and it’s an aspect we deal with a lot. We usually bring in senior dogs that are in the shelter system; they’ve been abandoned by their family because the family can’t afford to pay for euthanasia, or perhaps they don’t want the responsibility of caring for an ill senior dog. We know from the moment we get the first request and/or see the first picture that the remaining life span will be short. Nonetheless, we approach each dog with the same hope—that there will be some sort of magic that restores quality of life or longevity. We know that will almost never be the case, but the heart wants differently.

There have been times we have taken a dog straight from the shelter to the veterinarian to be euthanized, because the animal was dying, and the shelter did not want the responsibility. We recently welcomed an older dog that wheezed and gasped. We tried a few medicines, and while he responded slightly, his level of discomfort was heartbreaking. Late at night, we took him into the ER vet and gave him the ultimate gift of love.

Yes, we call euthanasia the ultimate gift of love—because that’s what you’re doing when you’re ending your animal’s pain and suffering, while your heart is breaking. People always say that they do not know how we do what we do. I always say: How can we not? These gentle and loving creatures are completely dependent upon us for their well-being and care; in return, they give extraordinary love. How can we not love these beloveds enough to say goodbye and end their suffering?

People also ask: How do we know when it is time to say goodbye? It’s an easy (while still heartbreaking) decision, after checking with the veterinarian, if your animal can no longer walk. It’s easy if your animal is too weak to stand up or has lost bodily functions. It’s easy if your animal no longer has any interest in food or water. Be sure to ask the veterinarian if he or she is just extending the life or providing longer-term care. Veterinarians are life-saving heroes—and sometimes it’s hard for them to recommend saying goodbye.

But not every situation with an animal is such an obvious crisis. It is the more subtle times that people need to be aware of: Suffering animals will sometimes still eat, drink and show you love, because you are their everything. Up to their last breath, they want to please you. Your great sadness and heartbreak should not stop you from seeing clearly what is happening, and doing what is best for your animal.

People always wonder after if they say goodbye if they did so too soon—if they did the right thing. Well, we say that it’s a good thing to wonder—because you will never forget if it was too late. We had a dog with congestive heart failure dog before we started Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love. She went into respiratory distress at the end of her life, because we were not paying enough attention. We have still not gotten over that experience. Do you want one more day or one more week with your animal if it’s truly suffering?

Trust me: We aren’t clinical about any of this. Our hearts break every time; we cry over every dog to whom we say goodbye. But every one of those dogs is held tightly, sung to or whispered to, and loved in the last minutes of their lives. Isn’t that something we all deserve?

Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.

Published in Pets

The Coachella Valley is a pet-lovers’ paradise.

We love our animals. We dress them up. We sleep with them. Some of us take our pets out shopping, dining or hiking. We share photos of and stories about our pets, and believe that they are our soulmates. Almost everyone has a funny animal story to share. Almost everyone has a story of loss with which we can commiserate.

But sometimes, that love doesn’t go far enough. Just take a look at any of the lost-and-found pages for our valley communities, and you’ll see that the number of lost and escaped animals is astonishing. And sometimes, love doesn’t mean forever: Animal-rescue organizations and animal shelters know that it’s become far too common for people to abandon older pets.

Janeen Hudson Bahr is the founder and president of S.O.A.R.—Society’s Outkasts Animal Rescue, a Coachella Valley animal-rescue organization that works on the issue of senior-animal abandonment. Bahr said the survival rate for senior animals is low. After all, when a person becomes an animal companion, a relationship develops based on trust and love. Over time, the trust and love deepen—and so does the animal’s dependence on us for safety, care, food and shelter. It becomes a deep and meaningful relationship—and when a human abandons that relationship, it is heartbreaking for the animal, who believes it is part of your pack. To them, being discarded is heartbreaking and life-threatening.

Senior cats and dogs at shelters without rescue efforts are barely seen, and rarely heard about—and when their hold period is up, they’re often euthanized. Even worse, when an animal has been surrendered by its owner, the euthanasia clock starts ticking immediately. Also, many animals are abandoned at shelters by owners as “strays” so owners can avoid paying relinquishment fees. Those animals have to wait a period of time before they can be adopted or rescued—and for older animals, that wait period can be debilitating or even deadly.

In the Coachella Valley, animals are lucky to have Michelle Bergeron, the rescue supervisor for Animal Samaritans, who works with the county’s Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms. She works hard to coordinate rescues and save animals’ lives. She said senior-rescue groups are few and far between, and adoption offers for seniors are limited. Even though rescue groups post senior animals’ pictures and needs on Facebook, and there are many comments on each post, the rate of rescue and adoption is low.

I founded Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior rescue and hospice in the Coachella Valley. We see many of these abandoned former beloveds. They are heartbroken. They are depressed. They are confused. Regardless of the condition in which they used to live, they are now without their family and without their pack—without understanding why.

I have asked shelters in Southern California about the reasons people give when relinquishing an animal. The most common reason is that the animals have costly medical issues. Another frequent reason is a need for an animal to be euthanized, combined with the owner’s inability to pay, and a belief that the shelter will do what is best for the animal—which is not always the case. Some people have had to say goodbye to a pet when going into assisted living or hospice care, and family members and friends either will not or cannot take in the pet. And then there are people who have simply become tired of their old animals. Some of these old animals are picked up loose on the street; even though there are known owners, those owners never come to claim them.

It does take a village to help abandoned animals—and it takes people with deep hearts and incredible fortitudes to adopt an animal closer to the end of their lives. Yes, losing an animal we love can be soul-shattering—but what an amazing gift of love it can be for a person to hold an older animal close and speak lovingly to them as they leave this world.

If you have a pet, be a forever friend—a forever companion. Keep your beloved animals through to the end of their lives. Recognize the value of your senior animal. Don’t be quick to break their heart and abandon them. Find a solution for their medical problems. Reach out for help if you need it.

And if you are thinking of adopting, consider a senior pet. They need that forever love—but be patient. They may be heartbroken after being left behind, but in spite of that heartbreak, their ability to forgive is extraordinary and educational. You will change their life—and the depth of their love and gratitude will change you forever.

Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.

Published in Pets