Lucy Jensen

Downtown Soledad on a Saturday can be a bustling little place. People’s comings and goings to the hardware store, the barber or the pharmacy. Getting an ice cream or some Mexican food for the family. Normal life is slowly returning. I had a mission in mind — no food involved, sadly.

It was time for our young Stella to get her second set of puppy shots and there was a drive-in shot clinic downtown that would be lasting a mere three hours. I did not have much time to devote to this; but I knew it would be pretty much in and out, 30 minutes at the most and we would be home again. Much to do, as always!  

The line for the clinic went out of the City Park-and-Ride and most of the way along the main drag. What? All those people had their pets in their cars and were taking them in for vaccinations? I was so impressed I forgot to be irritated that it would take me likely the best part of two hours to be seen and Stella didn’t have that kind of patience — she’s 4 months — so we left. But it left me thinking how things had changed in this small farm town from the inception of South County Animal Rescue (SCAR).

When we started SCAR at the beginning of 2016, the awareness about animal care and wellbeing was sadly not very widespread. You could always pick up a stray or abandoned dog on the streets. They were everywhere; no one would claim them. Most of us would drive around with leashes, water and treats in our cars, so that we could pick up whichever animal crossed our paths that day; such a common occurrence. Animals were commonly dumped on the country roads and in the vineyards; it was a shocking state of affairs.

Most of my own animals just showed up at the gates to our neighborhood or at my actual door and were claimed by no one. At one point, between fosters and my own, I had 11 dogs at my house. (Please don’t call the authorities!) British people are animal lovers. They are a vital part of our family and you take care of them from start to finish. I really struggled with the neglectful attitude I witnessed when I arrived in the Salinas Valley that, break-my-heart, animals were just not that important.

But I have to say with SCAR’s help and insistence on the decent treatment of all animals in our valley, I think the word has permeated the masses and folks are sitting up and paying attention. SCAR is still a small group of passionate individuals that work as a foster based program, and not a big conglomerate with a multi-million-dollar marketing budget to sway donors in their direction; no matter the reality of the euthanizations that occur behind closed doors when few are looking.

SCAR does their work with the help of small, but vital donations from the community, plus the odd grant here and there. They trap, neuter and release feral cats — also an important part of our communities. They rescue litters of puppies from Craigslist and neglected backyard dogs from a life of misery and near starvation. They will drive animals to the safe havens of other rescues to give them a chance at life. They do so much in our small towns that I could go on and on. And these folks do not get paid — this is their life’s work, the work they do after their paid work.

Often with charity work, people wait for other people to do what needs to be done. They have suggestions on how they should do it — talk is free — but they don’t actually get their hands dirty. The folks at SCAR have all got their hands dirty; they have chased scared pups with roasted chicken in the dark and spent hours trying to trap feral colonies with patience and persistence. They have visited homes and tried to persuade owners to surrender animals without fee or recourse and called on “Free Pups” whenever they see the ads pop up.

After five-plus years of growing pains and all — you try and put together a charity and see how easy it is — I have to say that SCAR stands tall and established in our area, no matter their marketing budget. Even through the dark days of 2020 and an inability to fundraise for all the vet care they needed, they still continued to rescue and transfer animals. They would sell a basket here or there when they could. Someone would donate a barbecue grill and they’d auction it off. They would do Facebook fundraisers and plead for dollars. Somehow, they made it through.

And now they can openly fundraise again, I would like to ask the communities they have served for over five years to step up for them and show their appreciation. SCAR is still a vital and growing entity. They have assisted in the local breeding ordinance for Soledad in becoming law, they have rescued or transferred well over 1,200 animals and, according to the extremely long line of pet owners waiting for vaccinations, I would say their outreach to the public about taking care of their pets — spaying, neutering and vaccinating, also chipping — has been received with open ears. Sometimes you just have to show people how it’s done and give them a path to do it. Then they will.

Join us Saturday, April 24, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Scheid Vineyards on Hobson, off Highway 101 between Greenfield and King City. Scheid is graciously hosting Taco Bout Dogs, a fundraiser for SCAR with free tacos, silent auctions, info galore and more. I shall be there doing my first book signing of “The Animals Teach Us Everything and Other Short Tails.” The book price for the day is $15, with $5 from every book sold going directly back to SCAR and the animals.

Oh, and you can sip and buy delicious wines while you are there at the lovely Scheid tasting room. It’s a gorgeous location nestled amongst the glorious vines of the Salinas Valley — you will be glad you came to give a well-deserved nod to such a wonderful cause. Oh, and Mother’s Day is just around the corner, so you can take care of that too while you are there.

I’m proud to say I am a co-founder of SCAR and they will always have their paws nestled deeply into my heart.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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