In Napa, Christmas photos with Santa are for pets, too

Tuesday December 18th, 2018

Family members posing for a picture with Santa Claus are a staple of Christmas season, and one such photo shoot Sunday in Napa was no different – except these family members had fur and four legs.

Bel Aire Plaza hosted a three-hour session to capture holiday mementos of dogs, cats and their human companions in a distinctive spin on the familiar snapshots of small children on Saint Nick’s lap. The event was a fundraiser for the Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch’s no-kill rescue and sanctuary program – as well as a way for Napans to show affection for pets they treat almost as closely as kin.

“They’re just as much my babies as my Ryan is, and I’d rather hang out with pets all day than people,” said Kylie Kirkpatrick as her furry and human family – son Ryan, 9, and their year-old basset hound Rose and Maltese-poodle mix Rocco – took their places around Santa and Mrs. Claus around a backdrop of decked trees and wrapped presents.

A joint effort of JARR, Bel Aire and the Heritage Eats restaurant, the furry holiday photo shoot took place on the same patio that had hosted a traditional kids-with-Kriss Kringle gathering the day before.

The screeching or sobbing of frightened toddlers at the sight of an unfamiliar bearded man might have been absent, but this version of a photo shoot carried its own challenges. “They’re overexcited,” admitted Susan Needleman, a JARR volunteer and the event photographer. “There’s a lot going on in every direction, so just getting them to sit still is a challenge. We just try to give them a minute or so to hopefully calm down.”

As Needleman prepared to press the shutter button for each portrait, an assistant stood to her left, each hand holding aloft a ball- or bone-shaped squeak toy – its noise, with luck, capturing a dog’s attention for a few seconds before it yanked at its leash or spun dervish-like completely out of the frame.

Some lap dogs or house cats curled peacefully in the lap of an owner or Mrs. Claus, dutifully posing for the camera. On the other hand, Dodger, a 4-year-old dark-furred poodle mix, lasted 30 seconds before dashing off the studio, his leash knocking down a velvet rope.

“He’s super crazy; he’s always been a little crazy,” admitted Dodger’s owner Shelby Higginbotham after she apologized profusely to some volunteers. “My boyfriend saw this event in the paper and thought it would be a good idea. We were thinking we could give him the benefit of the doubt,” she added, laughing.

Just outside the patio, another woman waited her turn with more confidence, even remembering her canine’s rambunctious youth.

“He’s OK – he plays well with other dogs,” Wahu Oseso of Napa said of her 2-year-old golden retriever Bentley.

Oseso’s four children all had posed with Saint Nick in their younger years, but she was ready to make room for a kid photo of another sort. “I think it’ll be a surprise for them,” she said with a laugh.

For other pet owners, Sunday was a time to capture memories of a bond as well as a season.

Trudee Lewis arrived for the photo session with what appeared to be a nylon bag, but the pulling of a zipper revealed Declan – the cat she had rescued through JARR just three weeks earlier. After Declan’s turn before the camera in Mrs. Claus’s gloved hands, his owner expressed a sentiment that could have been born of years rather than days of companionship.

“He walked right up to me and purred and said, ‘Here I am,’” Lewis said.

Napa Valley Ballet Academy collaborates with local animal rescue

Wednesday December 12th, 2018

Collaborating with the Napa Valley Ballet Academy, Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch (JARR) will bring some of its adoptable dogs to the NVBA’s performance of a Christmas classic, “The Nutcracker.”

The holiday classic debuts at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at the NVUSD District Auditorium, 2425 Jefferson St. in Napa.

“When children are better educated around issues concerning animals our whole community benefits,” said Monica Stevens, co-founder of JARR. “Children and animals naturally go together and we couldn’t be happier to collaborate with the Napa Valley Ballet.”

Marcella Contessi-Smith, artistic director of Contessi Ballet, and founder of the North Bay Performing Arts Center is directing this joint performance with NVBA. This performance will mark her first steps into retirement at the age of 90. Smith has been dancing for more than 70 years.

“Napa Valley Ballet is proud to work with other nonprofits in the region,” said Christopher Ott, chairman of Napa Valley Ballet, “We take very seriously the development of whole human beings in our program. Working with other organizations such as Contessi and Jameson models clearly the connectivity of the world and underscores the fact that dance training is life training.”



Napa's Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch moves to greener pastures

Sunday November 25th, 2018

From the looks of it, Harvey, Kiki, Tacoma and Sasha are quite content at their new home in south Napa.

Lounging around their new indoor/outdoor “catio”, the felines and a handful of others recently relocated from Ella’s CatHouse & Catnip Bar, an adoption facility located on Caymus Street run by Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch (JARR) in downtown Napa, to the Carneros area.

They were city cats before. But now, “They’re country cats,” said Monica Stevens.

Founded in 2014 by Monica and David Stevens, JARR is no-kill rescue and sanctuary. The nonprofit provides transitional and permanent shelter, adoption and rescue services, humane education, animal advocacy and more.

In mid-November, the nonprofit’s headquarters moved from Caymus Street to the new ranch facility at 1199 Cuttings Wharf Road in Carneros.

“It has been a wonderful 21 months where we have been incredibly successful in adopting over 150 cats into loving homes,” said Julia Orr, director of communications for Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch. “It is a bittersweet departure for all of us but the cats will have a wonderful new home.”

The new home “is the perfect location,” said Stevens. The facility was previously home to the Wine Country Pet Resort. Today, the space can accommodate dogs and cats and also farm animals such as horses, sheep, pigs and chickens.

Combining both companion animals with farm animals at one location is the best of both worlds, said Stevens.

The JARR cats joined a group of nine horses, three pigs, two dogs (one of which just got adopted), 10 hens and nine sheep, and others will eventually join them at the animal sanctuary.

Now known as Ella’s CatHouse at the Ranch, the cat adoption center is open daily by appointment only. Eventually, the 4-acre property facility will be open to the public.

JARR gets called for animal rescues for three reasons: someone died, leaving their animal without accommodations; someone is moving and unable to or won’t take their pet with them; or the animal is suffering from abuse or neglect.

The Carneros location is already licensed to hold 75 dogs and 25 cats. But Stevens said she doesn’t plan on caring for that many dogs. Dogs do better in foster homes rather than kennels, she said.

“This ranch will enable us to rescue and aid even more animals,” Stevens said in an August interview. “Here we can provide them with a humane, loving space to receive care and, for many, a second chance at life.”

Biz Buzz: Stevens receives nonprofit award

Monday October 29th, 2018

Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch (JARR) co-founder Monica Stevens was the recipient of the 2018 North Bay Business Journal’s Leadership in Non-Profit Award.

“It is such an honor to be recognized amongst so many people doing such outstanding work in our community,” said Stevens.

Since inception in 2014, JARR has grown to be a leader in animal rescue in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties. The organization played a vital role in animal rescue efforts during the 2017 wildfires, and has recently purchased a ranch property in Carneros on which it plans to build a state-of-the-art animal rescue and sanctuary. 

Toyota van donated to Napa Valley animal rescue group

Thursday October 25th, 2018

Napa car dealership owner Sharon Vasser presented the keys to a “rescue” van on Thursday, Oct. 11 to Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch (JARR).

Founders Monica and David Stevens, alongside their team of staff, joined the Vasser representatives to accept the van dubbed the JARR Rescue Vehicle at the Vasser Toyota Dealership on Soscol Avenue in Napa.

“The Vasser Family epitomizes the sense of community, generosity and love of animals that Napa Valley is known for,” said Monica Stevens, co-founder, Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch. “We are grateful for their partnership with JARR.”

The NV200 van will be used to transport small animals in emergency situations, to veterinary appointments, in the event of a natural disaster and to new adoption homes. It will also be used to transport equipment for the JARR vaccination clinics and will put in special appearances at local events such as the Napa Christmas Parade.

A statement from James E. Vasser Sr. and James E. Vasser Jr. read: “We all have the responsibility to make the world around us a better place. Supporting Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch a no-kill rescue and sanctuary is an honor and a privilege. Their love of animals and dedication to our community is an inspiration to us all.”


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