Gilroy’s newest animal rescue outfit will host a fundraising painting party at Fortino Winery on Tuesday to support work that’s already making a difference for lost and needy canines.
Called South County Tail Waggers, it was created last November by Karen Oneto and Marguerite Murphy of Gilroy.
They are not your typical rescuers.
They envision a robust animal sanctuary headquartered in Gilroy for homeless hounds and other critters and have started putting aside money from fundraisers including a t-shirt sale.
The need is great, according to Oneto, citing the case of an eight-week-old puppy found on Tuesday. The pup has no eyes, she said.
Gilroy police, whose facilities to house and care for them are minimal, pick up about 800 dogs a year, Oneto said.
If the owner of a lost dog in police care doesn’t find it there fast, it will end up at the county’s San Martin shelter or one in San Jose, where its future is uncertain, said Oneto, 55, a former teacher.
According to Oneto, the group envisons a private, “no-kill” animal sanctuary in Gilroy to serve South County, a haven for needy and abandoned animals, with the emphasis on dogs, at least initially.
It would be a place where animals could receive lifetime care if they are not adopted by a loving family. Some would go out into the community and do the magic only animals can—at senior citizens homes and in libraries with children, according to Murphy, 37, who works in finance at the Stanford University School of Business.
The unique nature of the dog-human bond is what inspired the group’s motto, “Saving Each Other.” It appears on the logo, the silhouette of a dog being hugged by a pair of hands.
“We feel that when you save a dog they turn around and do things to help save humans, assistance dogs, therapy dogs, they just become your best friend, they give us back more than what we have given them,” Oneto said.
The group has 15 core members, 10 others who help and more than 230 Facebook followers. It had its start last November when Murphy found a puppy and called police for help.
They asked her to keep it overnight because the department’s modest dog shelter has no heating. The next morning wasn’t any warmer.
The once homeless pooch is now Mickey Murphy.
The chance encounter brought Murphy to the realization that there are no facilities in Gilroy where such dogs can be cared for, fostered and adopted out.
“The next day I went on Facebook. I was just enraged and impassioned; I am a huge animal lover and advocate,” she said.
“I had it in my head that there was actually a shelter with heat and basic amenities for these animals but that wasn’t the case. I thought to myself, if I don’t do this no one will. So I wrote a post. In the first few hours I probably got 200 responses.”
One was from Oneto, a complete stranger. They met, then met again and have not looked back.
Oneto threw herself into the effort with Murphy. They operate under the nonprofit umbrella of the Gilroy Foundation and soon will have their own nonprofit status.
Oneto said the shelters run by the Gilroy and Morgan Hill police departments are inadequate, but South County Tail Waggers are helping out in that regard, too.
They have donated blankets, towels and toys and even do the Gilroy shelter’s laundry.
Ariana Stauble of Gilroy joined the group in March. Why?
“I just have an incredible passion for animals and how they are treated and cared for,” said Stauble, 44. She and her husband run a consulting company and she is an office manager for a speech therapy firm. She has a degree in psychology.
A lifelong Gilroy resident, she said the city has never had an animal shelter and a sanctuary is “badly needed.”
Tail Waggers is small, she said, “but that is OK, that is how everybody starts out. But there are tons of animal lovers between Morgan Hill and San Martin and Gilroy. I think (the sanctuary) is attainable.”
The group’s board of directors is made up of Oneto as president, Murphy as treasurer, Meredith Newton, vice president, Stauble as secretary, and Cindy Reed.
It has about 15 core members but needs more, Oneto said. She invited people to visit the Facebook page, Southcountytailwaggers, and attend the Tuesday “paintnite” that starts at 5:30 pm at Fortino Winery. The cost is $45, which does not include the wine. Already 40 people have signed up to attend, she said. For more information on the event, visit paintnite.com/events/1099978.html.