by Mar Preston
Mar Preston is Co-Founder and Director Emeritus of the Mountain Communities SPCA.
Remember Margaret Mead’s quote? “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Years ago a small group of women in the Grapevine area of the Southern San Joaquin Valley gathered to see what they could do about the huge number of unwanted cats and dogs. Few resources existed. We were 65 miles far away from the Kern County seat, farther even from Ventura County, and beyond the curve of the earth from LA County.
Our little string of villages, leading upward into the mountains from Frazier Park on the I-5, decided to do something about it. Nobody was going to help us. We learned that we could form an SPCA. Did you know that all SPCA’s are independent?
Ours isn’t a wealthy community and people hesitate about spay/neutering their pets when it’s a choice between buying food for their kids and a vet procedure. They want to do the right thing, but the money just doesn’t stretch far enough. Peering backward down Memory Lane to 2007, I can’t remember how we got the money to start offering low cost spay/neuter procedures. We just did. Some people could pay a little, we got a few big donations and eventually we got a grant from an angel walking the earth to pay for dogs. We held barn sales; we dug in our own pockets.
There were resources out there, but so far away. As it happens, most of us were retired, or nearly so, and had leisure time and gas money. A place in Los Angeles would do feral cats for free. We began supporting feral cat colonies, fixing cats one at a time to reduce the population. We gave out free animal food. A few people came forward to offer foster homes. We worked out adoption procedures. The local paper climbed on board and the Mountain Communities SPCA gained visibility.
A few years ago we started a Thrift Store in Frazier Park, thinking that nothing could be harder work for old ladies than barn sales. I’d like to tell you everything’s been easy since then, but it isn’t true. It’s still hard to pay the bills, even with a fairly dependable income stream.
My own part now is reduced to cat spay/neuter issues. Another angel walking the earth is our Cat Lady. She works with the feral colonies, setting out and collecting traps late in the night to catch whichever ones we can to transport to the lowest cost clinic we’ve ever found. We also take pet kitties. Unfortunately, it’s a 150-mile round trip.
We start collecting cats–from 5 to 16 usually?about 6:30 a.m., drop them off around 9:00 a.m. and collect our woozy charges anytime from 2:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon. Admittedly, it’s a long drive home, but it’s gratifying watching the cats reunited with their owners.
Lest you think making this trip is all altruism, that’s not so. Living in a village in the mountains, we get to go to the big city of Simi Valley for the day! Grocery stores. Coffee shops. City lights. Boutiques. Wow. We hit the big stores, and have a bang up lunch. It’s fun.
It feels good. We matter.
Learn more at the Mountain Communities SPCA website: mountaincommunitiesspca.rescuegroups.org
You can find more animal rescue, therapy animal, and other pet related articles in our pet section.