Humans — and pets — get cared for at this shelter

By Karine Duetsch

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Photo by Marko Kokic, Red Cross Shelter at Sonoma Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, CA

Maddy Thoreson is a special-needs teacher for the Sonoma County School District where classes have been suspended since the Tubbs Fire broke out and threatened most of Santa Rosa six days ago. She knew she wanted to help those affected by the fire and became a Red Cross volunteer last Tuesday, October 10. She may have only been a Red Cross volunteer for a week, but to the residents of the pet-friendly hall at the Sonoma Fairgrounds shelter, she is an old friend by now. Maddy walks the rows of cots and kennels, checking in on everyone by name, pet and human alike.

At this shelter, volunteer veterinarians are on hand, ensuring residents’ pets are up to date with vaccines and have any medications they need; they also do regular wellness checks on the animals, in addition to the caring for residents, as many animals have been traumatized by the evacuation as well. Food, treats, water and food bowls, toys, kennels, and pet beds have been collected and await usage from residents along the wall at the entrance to the shelter.

Glen Leotta will stop at most available moments to mention that she has successfully reached the age of 93. Glen came to the Red Cross shelter days ago with her dog, Sally. “I feel like I’m in a fabulous hotel. They wait on me hand and foot.”

When shelter residents are not be able to take complete care of their animals, volunteers happily take their pets for a walk outside, creating a bond with the animals as well.


Lori Wilson and Jim Burns provided editorial support to this story.