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Cover Story November 8th, 2007

  Untitled Document


by lyle e davis

Those beautifully expressive eyes and faces above all say basically the same thing.

I want you to love me!

There’s a whole lot of animals who have found love . . . and a home to match it, thanks to the love of one woman, Helen Woodward. Most of us have heard of the Helen Woodward Animal Shelter. Few of us really know who Helen Woodward was; how she managed to develop what is today one of the premiere animal care shelters in the world. It’s an interesting story.

Because of her, a lot of animals that would otherwise have continued to be strays, or, worse, been euthanized, have found loving homes. But there are still animals today at the Helen Woodward Animal Shelter that need someone to love them. We hope to persuade you to become one of those people who let your hearts be your guide and visit the shelter and find a new love of your life, whether pup or adult animal.

The puppies go first. Cute little cuddly things that they are . . . but sometimes we have adult dogs who have been at the shelter for some time. They need love every bit as much as those young puppies do. One of our goals in this cover story is to find homes for some older dogs, some of which have been at Helen Woodward's Animal Shelter for up to a year or more. One in particular, Roy, is very well trained, obedience training (you can see him on a video clip from the organization; go to: www.animalcenter.org. Click on the Adoption link and you'll see the link featuring Roy.)

If I had a large estate, or ranch, or even large property out in a rural area, I'd adopt Roy in a minute. He's everything I don't want. A large dog. A male. But I feel so sorry for him. The patrons of the shelter are a lot like me. They want the cute little cuddly puppies . . . not an adult. I'm hoping we can find Roy a home.

We’ll introduce you to some of the other adult dogs who need homes a bit later in the story. Besides Roy, there are Sprite, Dodger, Bogie, Abbey, Belle and Frederick. We’ll have photos and a bio on each of them (we may even arrange for an autograph or two from them to you); but for now, let’s explore a little history.

How It Came To Be

It was 1907 and a little girl was born. Her name was . . . Helen. Helen Whittier.

It was, perhaps, prophetic in that there was a cow in the backyard of the Los Angeles home where she was born. Seems she always had a connection of some type with animals. Her father, Max Whittier, a farm boy from Maine, became a pioneer in the California oil industry. While looking for water one day, Max discovered oil. Kinda like it happened on the old “Beverly Hillbilies” tv show.

This led to the creation of the "Rodeo Land and Water Company" and eventually the community of Beverly Hills. From their home on Sunset Boulevard, Helen and her three brothers looked across the bean fields that stretched all the way to Wilshire Boulevard.

Helen's mother died when she was 14 years old. When her father died several years later, her brothers took over the family business and the responsibility of raising Helen. She attended USC for a year before marrying Hoke Woodward. Hoke's family were neighbors on Alvarado Street. He and his brother drank fresh cow's milk after school with Helen and her brothers. Helen, Hoke, and their daughters, Winifred (Win) and Marcia, always had dogs in the house (usually golden retrievers). Helen loved the outdoors. She said, "The days that the sun doesn't shine don't count."

Her happiest days were spent on the Del Mar beaches with her dogs. She loved dogs so much that the furniture in her home was covered in plastic, so that the dogs could lie anywhere. When friends came for dinner, there would often be no place to sit because the dogs took all the available seating. Win says that she believes her mother preferred dogs to people for their unconditional love and loyalty.

After Win and Marcia were grown, Helen began investigating the possibility of forming an animal shelter. She bought an old farm with a wooden water tower in Rancho Santa Fe. It actually wasn’t much more than a bean field. Land that really wasn’t worth much . . . at least not back then. One would imagine that land would be worth just a few dollars more in today’s real estate market. Helen's good friend, Mel Morse, had many years of experience training and caring for animals. Working together they established the San Dieguito Animal Care and Education Center, with Mel serving as Director. Helen's vision was to create a special place where "people help animals and animals help people."

Unfortunately, many of the structures that house Helen Woodward Animal Center today were not built until after Helen's death in 1983 at the age of 79, so she was not able to see her final dream realized. The Center was renamed in 1986 to honor her memory.

We know that Helen would be pleased if she could see the miracles that take place at Helen Woodward Animal Center today. Each time we see a disabled child on a therapy horse, a group of scouts learning about responsible pet ownership, or a family walking out the door with its new dog or cat, we thank this amazing lady whose vision and love for animals made it all possible.

puppyToday, the Helen Woodward Animal Center is a private, non-profit 501(c) (3) organization located in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. Established in 1972, the world-renowned Center has grown to serve 50,000 adults and children, and 10,000 animals each year.

Most of us think of the Helen Woodward Animal Shelter as a place to go when we want a new puppy, or a kitten. But it is so much more than that. The Center brings animals and people together through a variety of beneficial programs that reach out to orphaned pets, homebound seniors, the physically and mentally challenged, and abused children.

• Through the Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program children and adults with physical and mental challenges enhance balance and muscle development during weekly riding sessions on specially trained horses. On average, 44 people participate in 120 lessons every month. Students range from 4 to 70 years old.

• Staff and volunteers of the Pet Encounter Therapy Program bring the unconditional love of the animals to people of all ages in hospitals, hospices, convalescent homes, youth facilities, and psychiatric units.


• The AniMeals Program provides free food to the pets of homebound individuals. This program enables the pet and owner to stay together and works in partnership with San Diego's Meals-On-Wheels program, Jewish Family Service, and other senior service organizations.
• The rapidly growing Educational Program offers humane education classes and Critter Camp for children. Lessons teach respect, compassion, empathy, and appreciation for animals and their environment.

• The Community Equine Hospital provides surgical and diagnostic facilities for horses and other large animals. Care is provided for more than 1,000 horses every year-as well as llamas, alpacas, and other large animals.
• The Club Pet Boarding Facility where dogs, cats, birds, snakes, guinea pigs, iguanas, and other exotic pets get the royal treatment. The animal's care, comfort, and well being are the utmost priority. Going on vacation? Need a place for your animal(s) while you’re gone? Want to know that your animal will be well cared for, fed, and exercised regularly? The Center can handle that for you.

• The Pet Adoption Facility finds loving, lifelong homes for more than 1,900 orphaned dogs and cats per year. The Helen Woodward Animal Shelter’s no-kill philosophy and innovative pet placement program also serves as a model for animal organizations worldwide.

• Helen Woodward Animal Center's Animal Center University trains shelter representatives across the country in "the business of saving lives.”
The Center relies on donations, grants, and sponsorships to carry out its services to the community. Fortunately, it has earned the recognition it is due and the community seems to know that this is a wonderful operation to support, whether with money, volunteer time, or the donation of food, animal toys, blankets, or other supplies.

For those who are active in philanthropy, the Helen Woodward Animal Center proudly, and justifiably so, points to their 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America's largest independent evaluator of charities.

Receiving four out of a possible four stars indicates that Helen Woodward Animal Center excels in successfully managing the finances of its organization in an efficient and effective manner. This consistency in their rating is an exceptional feat given the economic challenges many charities have had to face in the last year. This is even more important now that, we hope, the devastating firestorms are behind us.

Like many of us individually, the Helen Woodward Animal Shelter also had to evacuate during the firestorms. The mandatory evacuation on Helen Woodward Animal Center and the surrounding Rancho Santa Fe area was lifted just before 8:00am, Thursday morning, Oct. 25th. Staff began to arrive at the Center for the first time since the evac was imposed on Monday morning. This marked the first time in their 35 year history that there were no animals at Helen Woodward Animal Center.dog

Animals arrived back at the Center Thursday by 2:30pm. Cleanup continues. This disrupted services in terms of adoption, and receiving newly orphaned animals, but they are back in operation once again.

Even now, though the fires appear to have dwindled down to a not so precious few, there are still issues related to the fires. The shelter and one of its major corporate sponsors/supporters, the Iams pet food folks, are offering help. Pet parents concerned about their animals or dealing with evacuation related issues due to the wildfires are encouraged to call the Iams pet help line at 800 508-9725. for important information or to speak directly with a pet wellness professional.

Animal care and vet health professionals will be available from 6am-7pm, PST, to answer common pet related questions on topics such as:

• Smoke inhalation
• Evacutaion/emergency pet preparedness
• Emergency pet feeding and hydration
• Superficial wound care and other injuries.

How Can You Help?

The Helen Woodward Animal Center always needs foster families. From time to time the Center receives special pets that need foster care until they are ready to meet their new families and go "home" to stay. Maybe you can provide a safe haven with the love and care these little animal friends need. You can become a temporary foster parent to a pet in need. Volunteers provide varying levels of care for orphaned dogs or cats, ranging from a warm quiet place to promote weight gain, to socializing with humans, noises and new surroundings. The most intensive level of care requires bottle feeding young animals. Length of time needed is 2-8 weeks. The pets are brought back to the Center after foster goals are met. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age.

While openings in the Adoption Center are very limited, they do occur. Pets awaiting their new home need extra love and attention. Working in the Adoptions Department includes exercising and socializing dogs or cats, kennel cleaning, grooming, laundry and clerical duties. Once trained, volunteers are scheduled to come in once a week for a 3-hour shift. Volunteers work with minimum supervision. Volunteers working with dogs need to be physically able to handle very large, enthusiastic dogs. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old to apply.

AniMeals is a pet–food-on-wheels program that provides regular meals free of charge for the dogs and cats of homebound elderly and ill people. Volunteer Route Representatives pick up food from donation bins in pet supply stores, once per week or twice per month. A car is necessary as part of this volunteer effort. Food Packagers custom package a week's worth of meals for each pet (once per week). Meals Delivery People pick up the packaged meals and deliver to Meals on Wheels Centers. This is also once a week and a car is necessary. Volunteers must be at least 18-years old to make deliveries.

An excellent task for junior volunteers between 10-13 years old is volunteering to hold a pet food and coin drive at a local supermarket. Parental supervision is required and is done offsite at your local grocery store. Coins for Critters raises funds with coin canisters. Funds support all the Center's programs, including Adoptions, AniMeals, Education, Pet Encounter Therapy, and Therapeutic Riding.

Katie is available for adoption. To see some of the adult dogs who need a loving home, click here. These are dogs who have been at the Center for some time. They’re wonderful dogs - they just made the mistake of growing up.







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