CVIndependent

Fri08142020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Carlynne McDonnell

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.

Nothing is more identified with the Fourth of July or summer celebrations than the display of fireworks.

I love the beauty of fireworks—the excitement and the celebratory nature. But as a caregiver of pets, I despise the private and sometimes illegal backyard fireworks, which often take a toll on animals. I can manage planned fireworks with calming medicine, clothing or loud music—but not the random, louder-is-better explosions that set dogs on edge and panic them to the point of danger.

According to the American Humane Society, July 5 is the busiest day of the year for shelters finding companion animals that fled in fear—breaking chains, jumping fences and running miles away in abject panic.

Being prepared is important. There are some basic steps to take to keep your beloveds safe:

• Microchip your animal, and make sure that your name and phone number are up to date. Update your dog’s information on their collar tags, too.

• Make an animal-emergency binder that includes your pet’s name(s), breed, weight, medical issues, prescriptions, veterinarian, microchip information and current photos. Good photos of every animal are especially important for identification; make sure pictures and descriptions are as current as possible.

• Talk to your vet if you know your animal is fearful of loud sounds in advance of a holiday. Your vet is the best source for advice and, if necessary, medication to help provide a more calming experience.

• Consider using CBD oil, like VetCBD or hemp oil, to calm them (and perhaps yourself). Start at least a week in advance. Do your research on the quality of the product before you buy.

• Provide a calming inside environment—with music, blankets and, if possible, you. Set up beds and blankets in closets or under the beds as safe hiding spaces. Expect possible accidents. Be calm yourself, as your anxiety can create anxiety in your pet. If you can’t be home, make sure pets can’t break a window or open a door.

• Check your fencing and gates to confirm that there is not an easy way out. You would be amazed at how strong terrified animals are.

• Make sure you have a safe, confined indoor space for your cats.

• Walk your pets just before dusk/dark so that they will not need to go out during the fireworks. A pet can bolt from a leash, even if it’s never happened before.

• Be on alert when outside after you hear fireworks. There may be more animals around than usual—and they may be agitated.

Even if you take all these precautions, animals can get loose. Understand that your pet may be panicked and full of adrenaline, and may act more feral than domestic. If your pet goes missing, post on social media; tell people in your neighborhood; and ask people to report sightings. Babs Fry, founder of A Way Home for Animals, Inc.—and an extraordinary animal finder—recommends that you don’t walk around, because that will spread your scent, diminishing a key ingredient in bringing your pet home. Open your doors, and put dirty clothes outside. Ask your neighbors to help you look. Ask people to report sightings of your dog. Do not run after the dog or yell at it. Patience and calm are key.

Make sure you know the names of the shelters in the area. If your dog or cat does not come home, contact the shelters, and look at their Facebook pages and websites. In our area, there is Coachella Valley Animal Campus (in Thousand Palms), the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Desert Hot Springs Animal Care and Control, the Humane Society of the Desert (in North Palm Springs), Loving All Animals (in Coachella) and Animal Samaritans. Post on Facebook pages in the community in which you live. Contact your veterinarian.

You may come across stray animals. Be careful approaching them, but try to bring them to a safe place. The best place is an animal shelter, because some people do not use social media. If you can’t get the animal, please call animal control, and ask for help. Someone is missing their dog or cat.

It’s important to keep your pet safe all year long—but especially during holidays. Show them love by giving them the protection they 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.

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 www.psanimalshelter.org/pet-safety, 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.

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.

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? Animalsheltering.org 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.

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.

Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for California to become a “no-kill” state by including $50 million in his budget for the University of California at Davis to create a new grant-based system to help shelters achieve the goal of no longer euthanizing treatable cats and dogs.

Making California no-kill is an outstanding and commendable goal. Animal shelters almost always kill animals simply because of a lack of space. Hold times for animals in a shelter can range from no time at all for animals surrendered by owners, to five days or less for an unchipped stray, to 10 days or more for a microchipped animal. Hold times are up to the discretion of the shelter manager or shelter veterinarian—and animals that show any sign of illness or unfriendliness often end up on a euthanasia list.

It’s a matter of simple math: The only way to reduce the animal-shelter population is to reduce the number of animals.

Mimi Mitz has been the president of the Morongo Basin Humane Society in Joshua Tree for the better part of 30 years.

“Spay and neutering, and reducing backyard breeders, (are all) important to reduce the animal overpopulation,” she said. “There are three animal shelters within 10 miles of each other, and all three are always full, all of the time. If unwanted animals are not in a shelter, they are on the street.”

There’s another reason to spay or neuter your beloved animal: It can prevent medical issues. I asked Dr. Rachel Reedy, of Carter Animal Hospital in Cathedral City, about the top reasons to spay and neuter. “First, to avoid more puppies or kittens,” she said. “Second, to prevent mammary and ovarian cancers in females, and prostate cancer in males; third, for behavioral reasons: to reduce aggression in both males and females.”

We are fortunate in the Coachella Valley and high desert to have access to low-cost spay and neuter services. We have the Animal Action League, located in Joshua Tree, which provides low-cost spaying, neutering and vaccines (plus other services). AAL was founded in 1989, started providing mobile services in 2005, and has spayed and neutered more than 55,000 cats and dogs. Think about it: The number of dogs and cats that did not end up in a shelter as a result of AAL’s work is incredible.

AAL works with SNIP Bus and Molly’s Miracle, a mobile spay and neuter hospital built by S.O.A.R. (Society’s Outcast Animal Rescue) to provide low cost clinics. The need is great; check the calendar at www.animalactionleague.net.

I asked Melody Farnik, the director of the Animal Action League, why people don’t get their pets spayed or neutered. “Education and not knowing the reality and severity of the problem, as well financial constraints and location/transportation,” she said.

AAL performs spay and neuter services at its clinic in Joshua Tree; before the mobile services became available, people had to travel there.

“Mobile spay and neuter has made a huge difference,” she said.

Farnik recommends spaying and neutering cats and dogs at eight weeks or 2 pounds. I asked Farnik if she had any wishes for AAL.

“One wish would be to have another spay and neuter clinic come in and help out,” she said. “It takes a lot of planning, and we service communities in Banning and Beaumont, the Morongo Basin, the Coachella Valley and even as far as Imperial.”

Each low-cost mobile clinic session costs around $3,300 to put on; between 27 and 33 male and female cats and dogs can be seen per session. Clinics are underwritten through grants and donations.

Even with all of these wonderful spay and neuter services, the need is greater than the amount provided. To get to no-kill status as a community, we must first get spay and neuter laws enacted. We must curtail backyard breeding by creating laws and regulations that register and monitor these breeders—or ban them outright. We must educate people about the medical benefits behind spaying, and the devastation to female dogs when they have mammary or ovarian cancer. So many un-spayed dogs end up in shelters with mammary masses and horrendous tumors—and their discomfort and pain are heartbreaking.

What can you do to make a difference? First, adopt, don’t shop. Save a rescue beloved’s life. Go to a shelter, and bring home a wonderful woof or meow. Second, if you buy from a breeder, make sure it is a legitimate and legal breeder. Check out the way the animals there live, and how they are being treated. Cast-off and dumped breeder dogs are commonly found in shelters—often in terrible physical condition.

Third, spay or neuter your animal as early as possible. Unless you are a legitimate breeder, there is no reason not to do so. Ego is not a reason. Finally: Donate to your local animal shelters and rescue groups—organizations like AAL, that work toward a no-kill animal future.

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.

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.