by Katerina Lorenzatos Makris ~
Rescuing animals gives us more than the opportunity to meet wonderful critters; along the way we make fabulous human friends too. One of RescueDiva.com’s main missions is to spotlight and support rescuers around the world, including those who have become our dear friends, so I decided that for this debut edition of our newly remodeled website I should think back to the first bona fide rescuers I met in my adult life. To my delight, I realized that they must have been my longtime buddies Shelley and JP.
Highly valuable traits
In about 1990 or so, my classmates in a hula dancing class were Shelley Frost and her two sisters, a fun and friendly trio of gals who had grown up in Hawaii. No, we were not rescuing critters in our grass skirts, but while chatting after class, we figured out that Shelley worked on staff at the same shelter where I volunteered, Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, California.
A few weeks later, during one of my shifts at that shelter, a chestnut-haired, sparkly-eyed beauty named JP Novic came along and adopted Bart, a dog with whom I’d fallen madly in love, but couldn’t take home. It turned out that JP, too, worked on staff at PHS, and was good pals with Shelley.
Even back then I recognized special personality traits in these two young women that would be highly valuable in the world of animal protection. They both had ready smiles and easy laughs. Giggles, to be more precise. They were excellent listeners. They ran light on ego, and heavy on compassion. They possessed cracker jack organizational skills. Of course they loved animals—it was written all over them—but they had something extra that I had never encountered before—a quiet but laser-like focus on animal issues. The wheels in their clever heads were constantly turning on questions of what to do and how to best do it, so as to make critters’ lives better.
It’s OK to care
Before finding JP and Shelley, sometimes I felt that my own obsession with animal welfare was a little weird and maybe even a little wrong. Grownups weren’t supposed to care so much about “lesser” beings, were we? Meeting those two women opened my eyes to the fact that perfectly good and normal adults most definitely do care about all the earth’s creatures, and that we may legitimately devote our lives to improving theirs.
All of that became quickly obvious after meeting these ladies. What I couldn’t have predicted back then was just how much the modest, unassuming, but phenomenally energetic team of Shelley & JP would some day accomplish.
CAPE to the rescue
The original logo for the group that JP and Shelley co-founded in 1992, Center for Animal Protection and Education, included a drawing of a lighthouse on a cape of land, illuminating the sea. That was entirely appropriate, but I have to admit that their acronym, CAPE, has always made a different image pop into my head: two cute crusaders flying to the rescue, defending animals with their superhero capes in full flutter.
It is my great pleasure to focus this debut edition of RescueDiva.com on the achievements of CAPE, and to present the following interview with the dynamic duo who, for 30-plus years, have brought protection, education, light, and love to not only thousands of animals, but to lucky friends like me too.
INTERVIEW WITH SHELLEY FROST AND JP NOVIC OF CAPE:
Rescue Diva: What are your titles at Center for Animal Protection and Education (CAPE)?
Frost and Novic: JP Novic’s title is co-founder and executive director. Shelley Frost’s is co-founder, creative director, and director of the Animal Film Festival. Shelley wears a lot of hats!
Rescue Diva: Yes, I’ve always been in awe of Shelley’s hat wardrobe. I’m happy if I can keep just one on straight. Who founded the organization?
Frost and Novic: JP Novic, Shelley Frost, Dr. Josh Novic, Dr. Bonnie Yoffe, Dr. Robert Hoffman, Hilary Yoffe Sharp, and Becky Smith.
Diva: Why was CAPE founded? What was the motivation or impetus for it?
Frost and Novic: We both worked professionally in animal protection for many years. When JP moved to Santa Cruz in 1992, we saw there was a need for dog rescue/foster/adoption programs as well as humane education programs for the community.
The main principles on which CAPE was founded are still in existence today, only much broader in scope and impact. For example CAPE’s dog rescue programs now include Ruff & Ready. Our animal rescue has expanded to include a sanctuary where animals with special needs live out their lives, and the Animal Film Festival, now in its fourth year, exists to further educate people about the issues animals face around the world, and how people can change their own lives to help end animal suffering.
Diva: Where is the CAPE headquarters and sanctuary? Why/how did you choose that location?
Frost & Novic: It’s in Grass Valley, California, with a satellite program in Santa Cruz, CA. In 2012 we chose to establish the CAPE Animal Sanctuary in Grass Valley because Animal Place (AP), our sister organization, had just opened a 600-acre sanctuary on McCourtney Road. CAPE’s vision combined with Animal Place was to establish a vegan community and safe haven for rescued animals. Both organizations compliment each other in that CAPE’s programs address a variety of animal issues, and AP addresses animals used in agriculture. Both organizations works closely together supporting each other’s programs.
Diva: About how many people are on staff and/or volunteering for your organization?
Frost & Novic: Three part time staffers; 10 sanctuary volunteers; 40 Animal Film Festival volunteers; 10-15 foster care volunteers.
Diva: About how many people do fostering for you?
Frost & Novic: Five to eight at any one time.
Diva: About how many animals total has CAPE rescued since its beginning?
Frost & Novic: CAPE has helped thousands of animals since 1994, which includes rescue, veterinary care, sanctuary, and Ruff & Ready.
Diva: How many animals do you rescue/re-home per year?
Frost & Novic: Up to 100.
Diva: When and why did you start rescuing farmed animals?
Frost & Novic: We don’t specifically rescue farmed animals. Our mission is to rescue animals with special needs whether they are “farmed animals” or companion animals, or burros rescued from federal lands.
Diva: When and why did you start rescuing burros?
Frost & Novic: We knew about the embattled equines on federal lands—how the BLM does roundups of wild horses and burros, many of whom end up going to slaughter. We were equipped to rescue burros/donkeys at our sanctuary and there was a specific need to help these animals whose lives were in grave danger. We work closely with American Wild Horse Preservation in bringing burros to the CAPE Animal Sanctuary.
Diva: Why do you feel it’s important to care about and help animals? What does it mean to you personally to be doing this work for animals?
Novic: It is imperative that humans recognize the fact that all animals are sentient beings. They feel pain, both emotional and physical, and it is our greatest responsibility to treat them with the utmost kindness and respect. Humans have no moral right to use animals for food or clothing, biomedicial research, or for our entertainment. We would not consider using another human being for such purposes, so what gives us the right to use another living being in such a way? I have dedicated my life to helping animals and to reaching out to people with a message of compassion towards all living beings.
Frost: Animal suffering is unbearable to me. I am compelled to do everything I can to stop animal suffering, whether it’s how I live my life (vegan lifestyle), or my everyday work at CAPE to help individual animals who need rescue; or bringing the stories of animals to the public so they too can understand that animals have an interest in their individual lives, and want to live free from pain and suffering.
Diva: Were there any specific experiences or any particular people in your childhood or formative years that led you to have extra compassion for animals? How did you develop this consciousness?
Novic: I will always remember the day when I was about eight years old and I was with my parents eating lunch at a cafe along Highway 80 here in California. There were some cows grazing in a pasture that I could see from the window, and I so clearly remember catching a glimpse of one of the cows looking at me through the window. Her eyes connected with mine and it was this transformational moment when I realized that the burger I was eating actually came from the body of an animal just like her.
When I turned 16, I finally made the commitment to stop eating cows—because of her. That was more than 46 years ago and I still remember that beautiful cow. My journey to veganism happened one step at a time since that moment. Today, the educational opportunities to learn about veganism are so much more readily available. Many people today can make the decision to stop eating animals very quickly with lots of support and guidance to do so successfully.
Frost: When I was 18, we received a flyer in the mail from the local animal shelter seeking volunteers. I had the time and inclination to volunteer, so began the work that has transformed and shaped my life. Beyond that early experience, meeting and working for Kim Sturla, founder and executive director of Animal Place, I credit her force of nature for making me want to dedicate my life to doing what I can to end animal suffering.
Diva: What is the most difficult or challenging part of your work for the animals?
Novic: Without a doubt, it’s knowing how much suffering there is for animals in the world. The level of cruelty inflicted on them by humans is beyond imaginable. We need to work from all angles to stop the suffering—legislation, education, and making sure that we are role models to inspire others to stop inadvertently participating in the suffering.
Frost: FUNDRAISING! We don’t enjoy it, but it is a necessary task in order that we can continue to do our work saving lives and educating people. Beyond that, knowing the reality of animal suffering on so many fronts across the planet is gut wrenching and mind numbing, yet motivating at the same time.
Diva: What is the most fulfilling or rewarding part?
JP: There are two things that make my heart soar. The first is that I so love just being in the presence of animals. They touch my heart and make me smile and fill my heart with joy. The second very fulfilling thing is when we hear from someone that something that we have done has inspired them to make changes towards a more compassionate way of living. We have some high school kids that have interned with us and at the end of last year, each one of them got up at their high school graduation and proudly spoke. They all talked about their compassion for all animals and they had all made the transition to a plant based diet. I could not have been more proud.
Frost: Personally I love the CAPE Ruff & Ready Program. This is a hands-on rescue program where I work closely with other rescue groups choosing dogs for rescue, making sure they are all vaccinated/spayed/neutered/ behavior checked, pick them up, bring them to our shelter partners where they will all be adopted. I love meeting the dogs in person after seeing their photos and videos. I get to personally walk them one by one into our shelter partner facilities, then follow put as each is placed into their forever homes. The Animal Film Festival is a tremendous amount of work, but when I am at the theater, seeing the audience reaction to the films, interacting with the filmmakers, sponsors and our wonderful volunteers, I am fulfilled and hopeful that our work is effective and worthwhile.
Diva: Can you tell us about an especially difficult or challenging rescue of a particular animal that you’ve done? One you are extra proud of having saved?
Frost: I think Stevie has a great story. When a local dairy farm needed to close, mother and son goats Gertie & Stevie had to find a new home. Stevie was one of triplets born to Gertie a few months before we took them in. During the birthing process, Gertie’s pelvis broke. And Stevie was born blind.
Stevie arrived at CAPE with a serious infection in his rear knee joint. He had to spend almost an entire month in his barn stall to recover. His mom Gertie always stayed nearby, checking on him when he received his wound treatments.
With almost daily vet visits over a period of several weeks, Stevie’s treatments were very costly. We are so grateful for all our supporters’ donations to Stevie’s fund. He was such a trooper through the whole ordeal and has fully recovered.
Today, Stevie finds his mother by listening for the bell around her neck. He is incredibly affectionate and playful.
Diva: Some people say that rescuing animals is pointless because there are so many who need help, and we “can’t save them all,” etc. Also some say that the time and money spent on rescuing/re-homing would be better spent on spay/neuter programs, education, getting better animal welfare laws passed, etc. How would you respond to those?
Novic: Every single thing we can do to save lives, whether it’s rescue, spay/neuter, activism, sanctuary—it’s all vitally important. Some people have the interest and desire to do hands-on life-saving work, while others have the gift of approaching things from the legal arena. We need all of it to truly make the changes required.
Frost: Each and every individual animal has an interest in his or her life. Each animal, if allowed to live to his or her potential, could have a positive impact on this planet or the people who make up his/her family. Every hen has a personality. Every rat has likes and dislikes. Every dog, horse, cow, goat—you name it—they value their lives. Animals feel physical and emotional pain. CAPE is not in a position to work on legislation, but when CAPE is in a position to help an animal in need, we will jump into action. Yes, spay and neuter are of vital importance and this is an area CAPE hopes to tackle in the future on a larger scale. Education is very important and CAPE accomplishes this via the Animal Film Festival.
Diva: Can you list some important things that people should carefully consider before adopting an animal?
Frost and Novic:
~ Hours a day you will be away from home and your new animal companion
~ Fenced-in yard
~ Do all family members WANT the new animal?
~ Who will take care of the animal when you go on vacation/leave town?
~ Current animal companions
Diva: Can you list five things that everyone can do to improve the lives of animals?
Frost and Novic:
~ Eat a plant-based diet.
~ Adopt companion animals, don’t buy.
~ Spay/neuter your companion animals.
~ Use products not tested on animals, and only use products that don’t contain animal parts.
~ Do not frequent entertainment events where animals are used/exploited.
And as we like to say to people who couldn’t care less about animal welfare: “YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIKE ANIMALS, JUST LEAVE THEM ALONE.”
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Katerina Lorenzatos Makris is a career journalist, author, and editor. Her fiction includes 17 novels for Simon and Schuster, E.P. Dutton, Avon, and other major publishers (under the name Kathryn Makris), as well as a teleplay for CBS-TV, and a short story for The Bark magazine. She has written hundreds of articles for regional wire services and for outlets such as National Geographic Traveler, The San Francisco Chronicle, Travelers’ Tales, NBC’s Petside.com, Animal Issues Reporter.com, and Examiner.com (Animal Policy Examiner).
Together with coauthor Shelley Frost, Katerina wrote a step-by-step guide for hands-on, in-the-trenches dog rescue, Your Adopted Dog: Everything You Need to Know About Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need (The Lyons Press).