Pets and Their People

Return To Sender

I was pulling out of a parking lot when I spotted her—a reddish ball of fluffy fur sprinting southbound on Fulton Avenue. Dodging car after car, she crossed the freeway overpass and then Auburn Boulevard.

I followed the wayward pooch to Edison Avenue, where she took a hard left. Twice when she stopped, I jumped out of my car and called to the misplaced mutt—only to have her ignore my pleas and keep moving.

Nesting In Natomas

Unaware they are trespassing on land owned by the Sacramento Kings, hundreds of snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons have taken up residence in a deserted oasis on the north side of Sleep Train Arena.

From a chain-link fence surrounding the grassland, the birds can be seen gliding among cement slabs and rebar, the foundation for a baseball stadium project led by Greg Lukenbill in the late 1980s that never came to fruition.

Beauty in Bats

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Fostering In Place

The sign posted at the entrance of Sacramento County’s Bradshaw Animal Shelter reads, “The shelter is closed to public access until further notice.”

It’s late March, three weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a State of Emergency and ordered Californians to stay home to help combat the spread of COVID-19. As a result, Sacramento animal shelters have shut their doors to the public.

Bringing Power To The Pets

When the owner of a Tahoe Park rental home abruptly sold the house, Kelly Cunningham and her 37-pound Australian shepherd mix found themselves unexpectedly searching for a new place to live.

“I started looking for housing and was completely dismayed,” Cunningham says. “There was a scarcity in rentals that would take pets, specifically a 37-pound dog.”

Best Feline Friend

After the death of her husband in 1998, Carol Stirnaman needed something to occupy her time.

Always a pet lover, the Sacramento-born resident considered volunteering at a local animal shelter. “I was looking for some type of volunteer work and I wanted it to be with animals,” she says. “I had cats and dogs all my life. I’m one of those people who just falls in love with animals.”

Making A Difference

Looking as sharp as a Wall Street banker, Kenn Altine hurries into the Sacramento SPCA administration building, three staff members trailing behind him as they listen intently to their boss. A crisp white shirt with French cuffs, traditional cufflinks and an expertly knotted tie are the daily norm for Altine, who joined the SSPCA as chief executive director in 2016.

“I always wear a shirt and tie. Every day,” says Altine, who previously worked as an editor and executive in journalism for 30 years, including stints in San Antonio, Reno, San Francisco and Houston, before moving into the animal-welfare world. “When you live and work in Houston, there is a dress code. In the middle of summer, you wear a long-sleeve shirt and you never go outside without a jacket. It’s becomes natural,” Altine explains.

Freedom Flight

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.

Good Day to Spay

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.

Flying With Fido

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.

Out of the dark

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.

Former Shelter Leader Gina Kepp with her rescue lab Coal

My Little Buttercup

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.”

rescue bulldog buttercup with her owner Susan

3 Shelters, 1 Mission

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.

Pit bull mix looks through cage with sad eyes

Long Journey Home

Bodie bounds onto the well-worn leather sofa and makes himself comfortable, furry head on a blue chenille pillow. The 75-pound German Shepherd with soulful brown eyes and gigantic feet is a long distance from China, where his journey began.

This handsome canine is one of the lucky ones. Found abandoned on the streets of Shanghai, he spent three years in a local shelter before making his way to the United States and his 4,000-square-foot home in Elk Grove with new owners Anna and Dave Kuhn and their other two rescue dogs.

Creature Comfort

The small sign hanging from the front door says it all: “Spoiled cats and their household staff live here!”
Spoiled cats indeed. Honey West, a tortie with a “tort-i-tude,” is most comfortable hiding under the bed when strangers call. Black Bart, a sleek panther-like feline, will make himself at home in anyone’s lap. Watson, a handsome short-hair tabby with golden brown highlights, is good about getting his daily diabetes shot but expects a treat for the effort. All three are seniors at 9, 10 and 11, respectively.

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