By Lee Winocur Field and Marion Jacobs
Times in Laguna have been rough lately, even for animals.
On Dec. 23, hotline coordinator Sandra Truelove-Silverman received a call from a distraught 15-year-old girl. During Laguna’s recent deluge, a mudslide at the foot of their deck had swept the family’s pet kitten Mitzi down the hill. The family’s veterinarian, who diagnosed the kitten’s leg as broken in three places, said the surgical bill to save her would be $1,600, or else they would have to put her down. Overhearing his daughter’s anguish, the teen’s father took the phone, sounding curt at first as he stated that he had just been laid off and only had $422 for his family’s Christmas, but his other kids had voted to forfeit their gifts to save their sister’s pet. Then the dad’s voice began to crack as he vowed to find a way to get the money. He just couldn’t let that little cat die. Luckily for this family, his daughter had found a flier about RUFF (Rescuing Unwanted Furry Friends) in the vet’s office, and Truelove-Silverman was able to rescue the situation with funds to cover the entire medical bill.
For 22 years, this small Laguna group of eight local volunteers has been providing emergency financial aid to pet owners in desperate need of assistance. Truelove-Silverman estimates that every year RUFF helps more than 1,000 sick, injured and abandoned animals and rescues many more from “kill” shelters. Unfortunately, due to poor economic conditions and increasingly costly veterinary care, more and more pet owners and rescuers are finding it financially impossible to provide required medication and surgical care. As a result, the number of calls to RUFF has increased dramatically.
RUFF volunteer efforts are supported by two annual fundraising events. Their Easter Brunch, offering champagne and live entertainment, and their Thanksgiving Day Dinner, with all the trimmings, which welcome both donors and their sociable pets. Thanks to the support of June Neptune, who each year generously provides venues at Tivoli Too and Tivoli Terrace, these unique and festive sit-down holiday meals are sold-out events every year.
RUFF volunteers are also kept busy with two other projects. Once a month, RUFF sponsors a pet food giveaway for unemployed people and seniors. Last year they distributed more than five tons of pet food to people in need and an additional 1,000 pounds to rescue groups. The food is donated by local area schools, organizations, pet stores and pet food makers. Your donations to RUFF would be most welcome, and a food pick-up can be arranged by calling 949-722-1511.
Finally, working with four other agencies in nearby towns, RUFF offers a Seniors 4 Seniors program in which senior pets (over five years) are found for senior citizens (over 55). In addition, RUFF volunteers have negotiated substantial discounts with more than 60 veterinarians, pet stores, pet boarding and grooming salons, pet sitting and pet walking services, and dog trainers. A list of these services has been compiled into a booklet, which is given to each new senior pet owner.
Thanks to RUFF, little Mitzi and many pets like her, together with their owners, are enjoying a happy and healthy new year.
For further information, contact RUFF at 949-580-1092 or visit http://www.RUFFRescue.org.
Dr. Lee Winocur Field is an adjunct professor for National University and Woman’s Club coordinator for the Laguna Beach Community Alliance program. Dr. Marion Jacobs is a practicing psychologist in Laguna Beach.