July 31, 2018 - Last Saturday, the fifth annual WineaPAWlooza took place at Gamble Family Vineyards. The charity event and wine auction raises funds for the animal rescue organization Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch (JARR). According to Gamble Family Vineyards, the event exceeded expectations and raised $1.4 million, which will help JARR’s mission of building a state-of-the-art, cage-free animal rescue and sanctuary in the Napa Valley and will assist with implementation of programs and to aid disaster preparedness, response, and relief for animals.
Owner and founder of Gamble Family Vineyards, Tom Gamble, has hosted the event since it’s inception. Gamble has always been an animal lover, and even named a wine in his portfolio after his beloved rescue dog, Cairo.
“We were honored to host this incredible auction benefiting such an important cause," said Tom Gamble. "Having been surrounded by loving rescues my whole life, hosting WineaPAWlooza allows us to give back and have a good time doing so. I believe caring for rescues allows us to be our better selves.”
The evening included a two-hour grand tasting of valley wines, plant-based bites created by Top Chef star, Chef Casey Thompson, a star-studded pet parade emceed by Bonnie-Jill Laflin (sportscaster, TV personality, star of “Basketball Wives,” model) and a high-energy live auction led by renowned wine auctioneer Fritz Hatton. Auction lots ranged from luxury, one-of-a-kind travel experiences, to a collection of some of Napa’s rarest and finest wines. The evening concluded with a musical set by Napa Valley-based rock band, Wristrocket.
In attendance were many Napa Valley vintners and wine-making notables such as Russell Bevan, Amanda Harlan, Tor Kenward, Julien Fayard, Juan Mercado, Andy Beckstoffer, Shannon Staglin, Will Phelps, Jasmine Hirsch, Larry Fairchild, Mark and Sherri Carter and host of the event, Tom Gamble - all dedicated to the mission of JARR.
U.S. California Rescuers Work Overtime to Save Animals During California Fires: 'Many Perished or Are Still Out There'
Monica Stevens remembers that the first calls came in at exactly 10:45 p.m. on the night that fires began to rage in California, because “that’s when all hell broke loose.”
She and her husband run Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch in St. Helena, Calif., nestled among the agricultural communities of Napa and Sonoma counties. As tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes during the past two weeks because of deadly wildfires, many found themselves feverishly wondering how to protect creatures ranging from cats and chickens to horses and goats. Her organization alone has fielded over 600 calls.
“There’s a lot of dead animals all over the fire areas,” Stevens says, “but there are a lot of survivors as well.”
As fires crept up on communities, her team of workers raced to find homes for animals and coordinate rescues, as well as deliver supplies to evacuation areas set up for large animals at local fairgrounds. She recalls one couple in their eighties who live along Tubbs Lane in Napa and were forced to evacuate “kicking and screaming” because they did not want to abandon their six horses, along with cats and sheep. With planes spilling fire retardant overhead and the air thick with smoke, Stevens and fellow volunteers went back in with a large transport vehicle. “We had to go in twice,” she says, “because we couldn’t get all the horses in one load.”
Stevens estimates that as many as three thousand animals, including hundreds of horses, were displaced because of the flames in Napa and Sonoma alone and that just as many animals did not escape. As firefighters have made progress containing the flames, harried field operations have largely given way to the slower work of disaster recovery, which includes finding and rehabilitating animals that might have been penned in by fences that are no longer standing. “Many perished or are still out there,” she says.
The ongoing firestorm is one of the worst that the state has ever seen, particularly in Northern California. At least 42 people have lost their lives and about 7,000 structures have burned as firefighters have tried to contain dozens of wildfires. While human safety has been top of mind for emergency responders and residents in stricken areas, many have been forced to leave pets behind, going back to look for them days later. In Napa, some residents stood in long lines to be escorted back to homes in evacuation areas in the days after the flames started on Oct. 8. They were allowed to collect only medication or animals on these initial trips back, and many held empty pet carriers as they waited.
Some locals were forced to make hard choices about what to do with large animals as fires quickly approached their properties. Stevens recalls hearing from a local veterinarian that one couple in the Atlas Peak area — a part of Napa where some residents had to be air-lifted to safety — decided to shoot their horses “before they were enveloped by the flames.”
There are many stories with happier endings. Stevens has found homes for hundreds of displaced animals, ranging from llamas to ducks. (Among the rescued creatures in the area was an 85-year-old tortoise that weighed 200 lbs.) Deborah Blum, founder of a Santa Rosa- based animal sanctuary called Goatlandia, has doubled the amount of creatures under her care since before the fires began to just over 100. The newcomers include 14 goats — as well as a burro, pony and horse — that she and other volunteers evacuated from property surrounding a winery in the middle of the night.
One woman in the Santa Rosa area saved her 70-lb. dog by putting it in a duffel bag and biking away from the danger zone. Another woman managed to get her pony out in a Honda Accord. But many tales involve teamwork, as well as individual dedication to the cause.
People have connected on Facebook and rescue groups, with some looking for help and some offering transport vehicles or space for animals. “People would call and say, ‘Hey, I have two goats here and I need to get them out right now,'” Blum says. “Everything from chickens to goats to horses.” She credits social media with saving a lot of animal lives and says the outpouring of help in the area — ranging from the volunteers who have gone behind police lines to get animals to those now donating money for food and supplies — has been overwhelming: “We are definitely Sonoma Strong.”
Tracy Vogt, who runs another Sonoma-based animal sanctuary called Charlie’s Acres, quickly raised $7,500, using part of it to fill a trailer with horse feed and hay, which she delivered to the animal evacuation site at the Solano County Fairgrounds. Her own barn was damaged and fences leveled. “Everything was burning” she says. As of Thursday, the power and water were still not functioning at her property either, so her animals remained at a sanctuary that took them in down the California coast in Half Moon Bay. One of her brood is a pig named Gertrude that first came to Charlie’s Acres after a wildfire in the area last year. “So this is her second,” Vogt says.
Among such animal advocates, there is hope that people in the area will take time during the long recovery to make plans for what to do with their animals the next time wildfires break out. In the meantime, they will keep proselytizing about how the life of every animal has value. “It’s a good time to step back and see animals for more than just commodities,” Blum says. “For us, they’re equal.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”