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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Friday, October 05, 2007

Rescuing Cats and Dogs Makes the Cardinals' Tony La Russa a Winner Both On and Off the Baseball Diamond


"Winning a World Series is a dream come true. This (Animal Rescue Foundation) is beyond the dream."
-- Tony La Russa

Plagued by injuries to key players all season long, the St. Louis Cardinals gave it a good try but they faded down the stretch in September. They therefore did not make the playoffs and will not be able to defend the World Series title that they won last year.

When it comes to saving the lives of homeless cats and dogs, however, manager Tony La Russa is a perennial winner. Most notably, since he and his wife, Elaine, established the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in Walnut Creek, California back in 1991 they have found homes for more than three-thousand cats and dogs who otherwise would have been killed by either more conventional shelters or animal control officers.

Their no-kill shelter, which occupies 37,700 square feet of space on six and one-half acres of land and is manned by sixty full-time employees and four-hundred volunteers, is considerably more than a cat and dog adoption agency. For instance, it also provides emergency medical and dental care, sterilizations, and canine training classes as well as distributing free pet food to the poor.

ARF is also mindful of the special needs of both the young and old alike in Contra Costa County. For children, ARF offers classes on how to properly care for animals while individuals confined to nursing homes are paid regular visits by the shelter's cats and dogs. The goal of the organization's Visiting Animal Program is to lift the spirits of the elderly who are cruelly deprived of keeping cats and dogs because of where they live.

"ARF saves dogs and cats who have run out of time at public shelters and brings people and animals together to enrich each other's lives. ARF strives to create a world where every lonely person has a companion animal, and where children learn to care," is how the animal rescue organization defines its mission on its web site.

La Russa's involvement with animal rescue began, oddly enough, at his place of business, i.e., the baseball diamond. Back in May of 1990 when he was still with the Oakland Athletics, a terrified stray cat later named Evie ran onto the field during a game with the New York Yankees at the Oakland Coliseum. (See photo above.) La Russa was able to coax Evie into the A's dugout and was planning on turning her over to a shelter after the game.

He soon found out to his chagrin that by doing so he would by signing Evie's death warrant because at that time there were not any no-kill shelters in Contra Costa County. He therefore changed his mind and was able on his own initiative to find a good home for her. Little Evie's impromptu sprint across the diamond was therefore the inspiration for everything that has transpired ever since.

Totally dependent upon private funding, ARF relies upon donations and fundraisers for its survival. The organization is fortunate to be able to count amongst its supporters the celebrated guitarist Carlos Santana who has performed gratis in order to help it raise funds.

Perhaps more importantly, La Russa's commitment is genuine. "Elaine and I have been really pro-active," he told the Oakland Tribune on February 15th of this year. (See "Professional Baseball Champ Also a Champion of Animals.") "We just don't lend our name. We spend a lot of hours volunteering. People see we're really committed."

True to his word, the La Russas still reside in nearby Alamo where they care for fourteen cats, five dogs, and a rabbit. (See photo above.)

"The mission has been more important than the name," he pointed out to the Oakland Tribune. "What we're doing here is very meaningful. This whole idea of animal impact on people is magical. It's cheaper and there's no medicine or machines." (See photo below of the facility.)

During La Russa's twelve years as skipper of the Red Birds, the team has made seven post-season appearances including last season's World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers. Now, the rumors are flying that he may bolt the Cardinals next season in order to take over the reins of the Seattle Mariners. It is not known what impact it will have on La Russa's future, but the team earlier this week fired General Manager Walt Jocketty.

Regardless of whatever career path his life takes, La Russa's commitment to the cats and dogs of Walnut Creek is not likely to change. Cat and dog lovers will simply have to change their allegiance from the Cardinals to the Mariners should he ultimately decide to leave St. Louis.

La Russa describes the juxtaposition between managing a baseball team and his work at ARF as the difference between doing something that is professional as opposed to personal. "There's no crystal ball for a baseball season, so that's professionally challenging. But this is personal. You're talking about life and death."

La Russa, who also holds a Juris Doctor from Florida State University and is a member of the bar, sums up his feelings on his dual responsibilities by saying, "Winning a World Series is a dream come true. This (ARF) is beyond the dream."

Photos: TailGator of Flickr (Cardinals' logo) and ARF (Evie and La Russa, the LaRussas, and grounds of the shelter.)