Animal rescue

SAVING HOPPER, THE CALIFORNIA ANIMAL RESCUE CENTER


By Janet McAfee

Sometimes an experience with a dog leads one down a path they never anticipated, the road to becoming a “rescue warrior.” It was 2009, and foreclosures caused many families and their pets to leave their homes. More and more animals found themselves on the streets and in shelters. Kirk Geiger, Coachella resident and animal lover, has heard of a King Boxer dog being left in a nearby backyard. The dog’s family had moved without making arrangements for his care and failed to leave food and water. Another “Rescue Warrior” was born that day, as Kirk couldn’t bear to think of a lonely hungry animal so close. He took action to secure a new home for the dog.

Kirk learned how an economic downturn can affect animals. He also learned that not everyone takes good care of their pets and would reject them for trivial reasons. Kirk has worked in theater and construction, but has taken the time to volunteer at a nearby private animal shelter. He connected with Christine Madruga who operated the Pet Rescue Center’s private “no kill” facility for homeless dogs and cats. When Christine took a well-deserved vacation, she hired Kirk to operate the facility. Responding to numerous phone calls from people finding stray animals and others wishing to relocate their own pets, Kirk went above and beyond the call of duty. He understood that helping animals means helping people. An exasperated conscript wanted to find a new home for a puppy who continued to relieve himself inside his house. They had tried training techniques to no avail. Kirk went to their house with a crate large enough for the dog to stand on and taught the family the steps of crate training. The children were delighted and the dog was beaming with joy knowing that there was success.

Over the years, Kirk and his wife Noelle have informally rescued more street dogs, paying for food, supplies, and veterinary work. At the height of the pandemic, Kirk’s acting assignments declined. Dogs needing help caught his attention. The couple decided to form a 501 (c) 3 animal welfare charity to accept tax-deductible donations and help more creatures. The Animal Rescue Center of California was born, based in Coachella, by a couple eager to serve the people and animals of the East Valley. Christine Madruga was the first to join the board of directors to advise and support the new relief group. (The Pet Rescue Center is now operated by Loving All Animals)

Saving a dog doesn’t change the world, but it does change the world for this precious puppy in peril. A call has arrived at Loving All Animals. A very skinny black sheepdog had been roaming a residential Coachella neighborhood for two weeks. The caller was fond of dogs, had two in her house, but couldn’t get near the scared animal. Another neighbor took out a bowl of water. The appellant was asked to provide dog food. Rescuers were sent text messages and Facebook, especially those able to handle a large, scared dog.

Kirk Geiger finished working on his car and quickly went to Maggie Alvarado. The frightened animal was still confined under his car with a bowl of food. Unfortunately, another neighbor was seen throwing stones at the skittish young dog. Maggie’s nephew, nine-year-old Mike, was already working to gain the animal’s trust, which caused him to return to their neighborhood despite the cruel neighbor. Mike was instrumental in helping Kirk capture the dog they named Hopper.

Kirk gave Mike his scanner to check for a microchip. It was a familiar story… there was no microchip, there was no collar with an ID tag, and the dog was not neutered. Kirk wisely brought hot dogs, a good treat used to catch fleeing dogs. It took an hour to coax Hopper into Kirk’s car. Mike gave Hopper his sweatshirt which had his scent on it. The dog now sleeps with the sweatshirt on every night. This dog-loving family offered to help Kirk in other rescue efforts. Maggie offered to be a Spanish performer while working in Mecca, and Mike would love to go with her. Hopper appears to have recruited two other rescuers. Kirk explains, “I couldn’t have saved Hopper without this family. They are a source of inspiration.

Hopper was sequestered in Kirk’s laundry room, quarantined because he may have been exposed to the disease on the street. Kirk transported him to veterinarian Dr James Clark for an exam, fecal test and check-up for a minor leg injury. The sweet and happy nature of the puppy was revealed, rewarding his savior. The future is bright and he will soon be in a loving home.

We need an army of rescuers in our community to respond to the current homeless animal crisis. Contact the Animal Rescue Center of California at (760) 877-7707 if you can accommodate a homeless pet. Visit their website www.thearc-ca.org to adopt, donate or volunteer. LIKE their “The Animal Rescue Center of California” Facebook page. Kirk and Noelle Geiger are truly the “heart of the rescue”.

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