The twilight sky is amber with hints of rust from the late summer sun. Towering 300-year-old oak trees canopy the expansive lawn. We gather at the edge of a grass knoll overlooking acres of lush grape vines laden with fruit almost ripe for fall harvest. Everyone is still.
Debby Duvall, a volunteer with the Wildlife Care Association, stands before us with two plastic pet carriers, each holding an orphaned barn owl. A young guest is her assistant for the evening. They both don heavy leather falconry gloves. Unlatching the first carrier’s metal door, Duvall gently pulls out the imprisoned bird, and instructs her guest assistant to grip the owl’s legs while she holds the bird in position for release, the owl’s fierce talons gripping the sturdy gloves for balance.
As I drive into the parking lot of the Sacramento SPCA, I see several people and pets already lined up outside the Spay/Neuter Clinic. It’s 6:45 a.m.
Animal owners and rescuers leisurely chat to pass the time on this crisp fall morning, cat carriers and humane traps scattered about their feet. Dogs, large and small, scruffy and fluffy, struggle against their leashes to greet one another.
Recently, a dear friend, who has lived in the Sacramento area for 40 years, decided to relocate back home to the Midwest where she spent the first 28 years of her life. Despite the prospect of harsh, snow-laden winters and saying goodbye to her many friends, she sold her Carmichael house and purchased a two-story condo with a stunning view of her new city.
There was just one problem. She had to transport her 17-pound schnauzer mix and four cats more than 1,500 miles to their new hometown. And it was not going to be by car—four cats in carriers and an active pooch on a four-day road trip would be too stressful.
By her own admission, Gina Knepp didn’t know a pit bull from a Pomeranian.
“But I knew how to motivate people. How to get energy behind the mission,” says Knepp, who took over as animal care services manager at the city’s Front Street shelter in 2011.
Her mission was to turn around a failing facility with an abysmal 20 percent “live release rate”—the percentage of animals leaving the shelter alive.
Visit the artisan jewelry store, Little Relics, in Midtown on Tuesdays and Thursdays and be prepared for an enthusiastic welcome from Buttercup the bulldog.
“Sometimes she becomes an overzealous greeter,” says Buttercup’s owner and master jeweler Susan Rabinovitz. “She follows people around. She thinks everyone is here to see her.”
This is how the conversation typically goes: “My friend found a stray cat and took her to the SPCA on Bradshaw.” “You mean the county shelter?” “Isn’t that the pound on Front Street?”
Confusing? Yes. But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s start with the basics.