Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

COVID-19 has put me into a haze. Each day runs into the next. My motivation is down, as the days of sheltering in place stretch out ahead, with no end in sight. I’m procrastinating a lot (as if that wasn’t a problem before). I go back and forth—from optimistic to pessimistic, discouraged to encouraged, depressed to grateful.

My husband is considered an essential employee, and he commutes twice a week—an hour and a half each way. That brings a whole new level of worry. Compounding my concerns and fears is the lack of performance by the federal government in addressing this pandemic. Each day seems to bring some misrepresentation or attempted negation of facts—while people are dying in this great country. Our safety net has huge holes in it. At least there is evidence the measures in place in California have flattened the curve. But wondering what the future will hold, how our lives will change, and for how long—that can all be overwhelming.

However, there’s one constant in my life: The animals that live with me. Many of you can relate, I know. They are inconsistently consistent—and thank goodness. The cat that wants to share his opinion on any variety of topic, or the dog that believes any phone conversation is actually her conversation—they ground us in reality, to both the life we had before and the life we have now. They are natural mood elevators. They love us. In many cases, they are clocks—reminding us of our routine. Feeding, walking, petting, cleaning litter, picking up poop, changing the water, giving treats, going for a ride—all remain routine, when not much else is. Lexi, the 19-year-old terrier mix, lets us know at 5:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. every day that she expects her meal within the next 30 to 45 minutes—and that it’s time to let her out, too.

On mornings when I just don’t think I can get out of bed, the residents of our senior sanctuary and hospice convince me, by never failing to remind me how much love they have to give. Their exuberance and joy, despite their medical challenges and advanced ages, are hopeful and uplifting. Every day is new and joyful to them. They are happy in the fresh air and the sun, or laying on the couch or bed with you. They are our teachers on how to live in the moment.

Many people have decided to foster or adopt during this safe-at-home phase—so much so that some shelters are running out of animals. I recommend this highly: Not only will you give an abandoned animal a safe place; you will give yourself a gift of unconditional love that, now more than ever, is healing and uplifting.

Just remember: These animals are not perfect. Many of them have been abandoned, neglected or abused; if they are older, perhaps they have lost the only family they’ve ever known. Be gentle and patient. Expect accidents, fear, anxiety and mistrust, at least in the beginning. Correct them with love, and make them feel secure and safe. Their repayment will be love and trust beyond comprehension. Take one of our sanctuary residents, Tilly, as an example: She is 16 years old and just celebrated her one-year anniversary with us. Today, she is a different dog—freer and more opinionated. Patience has reaped extraordinary rewards.

The rescues and shelters in the Coachella Valley are currently open only by appointment due to the COVID-19 restrictions. There is Riverside County’s Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms; the shelter can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 951-358-7387. In North Palm Springs is the Humane Society of the Desert, at 760-329-0203. In Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Animal Shelter can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or 760-416-5718, ext. 3.

There are many rescue organizations in the valley, too. Just to start, for cats, contact Pretty Good Cat, Kittyland or Forever Meow. For dogs, contact Society’s Outkasts Animal Rescue, California Paws Rescue or Loving All Animals.

For people who already have animals: Be sure to check in with your veterinarian. Some are closed; others are handling only critical care; all have procedures in place to protect both staff members and clients. Expect longer-than-usual waits for appointments and prescription refills.

Despite these tough times, we should all learn from our animals: Live in the moment. Enjoy. Love—and be loved.

Carlynne McDonnell is the founder and CEO of Barkee LaRoux’s House of Love Animal Sanctuary, a senior animal sanctuary and hospice in the Coachella Valley. She has been rescuing animals since she was 4 years old.

Published in Pets

Some people are heroes without meaning to be, and modestly claim afterward: “We got lucky!”

Robyne McCarthy Taylor was flying for Qantas, based in her native Australia. Born and raised in Victoria, Robyne, now 66, joined Qantas after trying a secretarial job in Melbourne after high school.

“I was 21 when I joined Qantas,” she recalls. “I trained with a group of really quality people—we were the youngest girls they had ever employed. We’ve remained really close throughout the years. It was when the (Boeing) 747s came in. I was one of three girls, ‘flight hostesses,’ who flew on each flight along with 12 male ‘stewards.’

“We had to sign a contract on our application about whether we wanted to retire at 35 or at 55. I was only 21, and thought that surely by 35, I’d be willing to go. But the stewards didn’t have to sign a contract. They also could get promoted into cushier jobs. We had the babies and toilets, and didn’t get counted for seniority that would lead to better positions and pay.”

Taylor was a member of the union specifically for the “girls,” while the “boys” had their own as well.

“I attended meetings, and we finally said, ‘Let’s go after them.’ We wanted equality, access to promotions, the chance to rise to be pursers and more money. Australian men were very chauvinistic, and they would say, ‘I’m not taking any orders from a Sheila!’ They didn’t think we’d win it.

“We got a female judge … and we got lucky!”

Taylor is a 25-year resident of The Springs in Rancho Mirage. She and her late husband, banker David Taylor, moved to the desert from Chicago after some friends convinced them to come and visit.

The couple met, naturally, on a plane.

“I had gotten fed up with flying and got a cushy job—I was kind of a flight spy,” she says. “I had been involved with a London-educated gentleman from Bahrain. … He wasn’t part of a royal family, but high up there. Anyway, I was sitting in first class on a Sydney-to-Singapore flight, heading to Bahrain. David was sitting in front of me heading to London. I thought, ‘What a nice-looking gentleman. Why can’t I meet someone like that?’ There was a magazine rack in front of him, so I got up to see if he had warts or anything like that. He didn’t. I said, ‘Didn’t I see you last week in Tahiti?’ He said, ‘No,’ and went back to his Wall Street Journal. At our stop, I stayed on board, but he was walking around and had time to think about it. When he came back … well, we were together for about 24 years, married for 20 of them.

“He was living in New York at the time, and he didn’t like me being away so much, so I asked for some leave-of-absence time. I told him he had to come to Australia to meet my mother. She actually said, ‘What are your intentions with my daughter?’ He was a total gentleman with such a good sense of humor. He said, ‘I intend to sleep with her as much as I can.’ Once his divorce came through, which had begun before me, I stayed in New York.

“After we were married, we were in London. Because I was still in the union, I said I wanted to go to Paris to help choose the new Qantas uniforms. For 12 years, we had worn lovely dresses designed by (Emilio) Pucci. I didn’t speak French, but I thought I had made it clear at Yves Saint Laurent that I didn’t want to see a single kangaroo anywhere! Three months later, when we opened the boxes, there were kangaroos all over. It was the worst moment of my life,” she says, before suddenly going quiet and serious. “Other than the death of my father. We were very close.”

Robyne and David traveled all over Europe while living in London, and after he retired, they took lots of cruises. “To be honest,” she smiles, “I never want to see another airplane as long as I live.”

Worst passenger ever? “David Frost,” she says without hesitation. “He insisted on sleeping on the floor.”

Best passenger ever? “Sammy Davis Jr. He was wonderful!”

Taylor’s involvement in the local community largely revolves around animals. “I was on the board of Guide Dogs of the Desert and with Loving All Animals, and I’ve supported the Cancer Center for Animals in Chicago. I’m also very lucky to have my little Lola (her dog) in my life. My husband died nine years ago, and Lola has been with me 7 1/2 years while I’m on my own.”

Taylor says she has tired of being charming since David’s death. “I had to be all my life. I’ve become a bit of a recluse,” she says. She hates computers, still sends handwritten notes, and stays in touch with a large group of good friends. Plastered to her garage’s inside walls are pictures, large and small, of key events in settings all over the world, surrounding her chic red convertible.

Taylor is not afraid to stand her ground and fight, no matter how blithely she waves off her accomplishments. She recalls when the settlement check from Qantas—after the case had finally been resolved six years later—arrived in the mail.

“I opened it, and you know those phony checks they send to rope you into something? I thought that’s what it was. David looked at it and said, ‘It’s a real check, for $50,000!’

“We were just lucky.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to noon on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

If you’ve listened to MIX 100.5 (KPSI FM) during the midday hours, you’ve heard local radio DJ Valerie Kattz. Valerie has been on the radio locally since 1993, when she moved to Palm Springs and started with RR Broadcasting. She donates a lot of her time to local animal-related charities, such as Loving All Animals. She recently took some time away from her busy schedule to answer The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

George Strait and Highway 101 in Lake Charles, La. I was 15 at the time.

What was the first album you owned?

The first album I remember begging my parents to purchase for me was Michael Jackson's Thriller.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I'm at work, and "Why Can't We Be Friends?" by War is playing on the overhead at this time. Oh, the joys of working at a radio station!

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I do not get rap/hip hop music. Apparently, I am just not THAT down with my homies, yo.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

My dream performance would be to see Journey reunite with Steve Perry. Journey is my all-time favorite band, and I would love to see them in concert one day.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

1980s music is my favorite, and I don't feel guilty at all!

What’s your favorite music venue?

I think we have a lot of nice venues in the desert. The casinos offer good acts, and the rooms are intimate enough to make you feel like you’re pretty close, even if you have the worst seats in the house. The Show at Agua Caliente is a really nice venue, as is the McCallum Theatre. For bars, I love the Palm Canyon Roadhouse. It's a fun place; the owners are great, and they always have great local musicians playing. But my absolute favorite is whichever one my boyfriend's band, Lost in Los Angeles, is playing at—so call me if you want to book them.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Don't stop believin’, hold on to that feeling,” from Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” (It runs on a loop non-stop in my head.)

What band or artist changed your life? How?

I would have to say there were different bands for different stages of my youth. It started out with Duran Duran, then in junior high, it was Mötley Crüe and all the "big hair" bands. In high school, I became a huge of alternative music, with Depeche Mode being my favorite. My all-time favorite is Journey.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Steve Perry: "Will you PLEASE get back with Journey and go on tour?"

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Don't even like thinking about this one.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Journey, Greatest Hits.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

You can probably guess where this is going by now: "Don't Stop Believin.” I will never stop believin'!

Published in The Lucky 13

Palm Desert resident Lindi Biggi has taken on the daunting task of advocating for the animals in our desert. She founded Loving All Animals in 2009, and is currently the organization’s president.

The organization’s mission is to bring together local and national animal welfare organizations. Loving All Animals currently holds adoption fairs, fundraisers to help local animal groups in need, and supports an Internet networking organization which helps find homes for critters big and small.

Biggi recently took some time to discuss the emotional roller coaster that is “animal rescue” at her getaway home at Lake Arrowhead. She also answered some follow-up questions via email.

For more information, visit, or call 760-776-9397.

What ignites your quest to devote most of your waking hours to animal advocacy? In other words, what floats your boat about critters?

I am genetically programed to dedicate my life to animals. It’s all my mother’s fault. I was raised on various farms, spending several years on a 2,300-acre farm property in Oregon. People who know me now will envision a series of beautiful rolling green hills encircled by a white rail fence with a grazing herd of Black Angus cattle and an equally elaborate corral full of … show-quality horses. … Well, it wasn’t like that at all. It was a falling-down barn that was actually in better shape than the three-story-tall, cereal-box-shaped house that was built with the cheapest of materials available in the early 1940s. The driveway, if you could call it that, was a 3-mile-long series of dusty pot holes in the rare months that rain wasn’t falling. … Not far from where we lived was a slaughterhouse, and not far from that was a livestock auction house where live auctions were held every weekend. Farmers from near and far would bring in their livestock to be sold in the auction ring. Often, for various reasons, the animals were too old, too sick or too injured to be able to respond to the prodding methods used to force them into the ring, resulting in them not being sold and not finding a new owner and not being worth it for the old owner to take the trouble to take them back where they came from. At the end of the auction, most of the owners would simply send these animals to the slaughterhouse.

Well, my mom had a better idea: She agreed to take them all, regardless of health condition, or (regardless) if it were a chicken, a duck, a goat, a calf, a horse … and once, we even got a bison. … Week after week, the trucks were loaded with the sick animals and brought down our dirt road. That was the start of what was called Flemings Funny Farm—my maiden name is Fleming—and that was the end of the minimum amount of housekeeping my mother ever did. … We had herds of various kinds of cattle, horses, turkeys, peacocks, goats, sheep—you name it, it was somewhere on that 2,300 acres. … The bison did regain its health, and it ruled over all creatures.

Mom and the boys ran their make shift animal hospital, and I, being the only girl, was assigned all the housework, which wouldn’t have been so bad, except mom kept scouring calves in the kitchen, baby chicks or turkeys or ducks in the shower, rabbits in my brothers’ bedroom, and I can’t tell you how many times I would find a bunch of newborn piglets laying on top of the freshly dried clothes in the clothes dryer. … As you can see, my passion for animals is part of my breeding, it’s in my genes.

How long have you been involved with animal organizations? What motivated you to start your own?

Like a lot of kids of my day, the 4-H club would be the first organization. As a young adult, I did very little with four-legged animals, as I had my hands full dealing with my two legged critters, namely my son and my daughter, and later the five children of my husband. As our children left the nest, I filled the empty space with exotic birds, which we never had on the farm. I then belonged to a few bird clubs. Upon moving to the desert, I wanted to become active with The Living Desert, but between my own exotic bird flock and starting up the Angels for Animal Samaritans group, I never got the time to do that. I later was honored to be on the board of directors for Animal Samaritans and served with that organization until I resigned. Again, I was honored by being invited to serve on the board of directors for PetSmart Charities and enjoyed seeing the animal world from a national viewpoint.

Starting Loving All Animals was actually motivated by two profoundly important things in my life. Family: Tabitha Lindsay Loftis was my granddaughter who moved in with me at the age of 15. She worked on almost every animal event I was involved with, and at age 17, she left for school on a Monday morning and never came home. She was killed in an automobile accident, and losing her left an unbelievable void in my life. I found myself with absolutely no useful purpose. … Knowing that my life depended upon getting busy doing something worthwhile, or (letting) my sadness continue to destroy me, starting Loving All Animals and working for the animals was a natural.

(Second), friends: I love my friends, and my friends love animals, too. I had the memories of all the fun and productive hours we had spent doing things for the animals. Forming Loving All Animals to give us a venue to work together again was a natural.

What do you feel could and should be done to stop euthanasia in our shelters?

There is only one answer to this question: Get the supply and demand in balance.

The old saying, “If people knew better, they would do better,” screams the truth in this situation. I truly think most people are good, I mean really good, and would never knowingly allow these beautiful, God-made life forms have their lives snuffed out. We as a society have been dumbed-down to accept it. Can you for one second imagine society saying it was OK to go into overcrowded schools and euthanize those over the capacity of the building? We don’t even do that at our jails; instead, we build more jails. Go figure.

The solution is truly a very simple one. … The real question is: Why don’t we do it? First: Spay/neuter, so as to stop the production of unwanted animals. Second, adopt: Get society to understand that they need to adopt shelter animals and drastically cut back commercial puppy-mill operations. If people don’t buy (the animals), they will diminish the breeding. Third: Support the animal-welfare organizations that are working so hard to get us to being a no-kill nation. … Right now, more than 50 percent of the dogs and 80 percent of the cats are being put down in one of our local shelters, and it is even worse with some of our neighboring shelters.

If citizens (only) knew that it cost an average of $426 for every animal entering our public system; it doesn’t matter if they come out dead or alive. That is what it costs for facility, staff, dog-catchers, trucks, equipment, administration, etc. One doesn’t need to be a mathematician to see that government-paid spay/neuter for low-income people would cost the taxpayers less. So again, we need to ask: Why don’t we do it?

You’re very active with adoption fairs and even transport some of the animals in your limousine. Where did the idea come from?

Yes, adoption fairs give people who don’t or won’t go to shelters an opportunity to see the beautiful creatures that are available. We, at LAA, are trying to get humans to see (shelter animals') beauty and get rid of the stereotype that shelter animals are bad, rejects, ugly, dirty and undesirable, but instead see them as the beautiful, loving, adorable creatures that God made them to be. They are not mutts, but premium blends. In fact, did you know that 30 percent of shelter animals are purebreds? We take an animal out of the shelter, spay/neuter, vaccinate, microchip and, if necessary, take care of other health issues. We groom them, spray them with perfume, give them a fancy name (and) a fancy collar, and take them around in the limo. Animals that no one would ever look at find people fighting over them. We love it when that happens.

The idea for the limo is a very special story. As you know, some of the dogs rescued from Duroville might even fit the description of “undesirable.” I have to admit: Some of them were pretty bad. Well, we were invited to the very prestigious event known as (the Palm Springs Art Museum’s) “Day in the Garden,” and we took three Duroville dogs. … Two of the cute dogs obviously found loving homes quickly, and next on the auction block was a great big, shaggy and ugly “Bear Dog”—silence. Silence, that is, until the lady stepped up and said, “Here is $1,500. I WANT THAT DOG.” … It really was a sight I will never forget. I watched as she left with her … over-priced, untrained companion, and as they walked through the front door, I saw the driver of a great big black limo opening the door for her and Bear to enter. He took his place next to her on the seat, and he looked regal in that car—and believe me when I say making him look regal was a challenge. Anyway, ask and you shall receive: We (then) wanted a limo; it took a while, but one was donated.

How would someone become involved in your volunteer program?

We have 1,001 volunteer opportunities, everything from office work, public relations, walking/training dogs, loving on cats, fostering and event work. Please call 760-834-7000, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Why do you believe in microchipping? Do you think microchips are dangerous?

I have been a serious supporter of microchips for the last 20-plus years, and I would stake my life on the fact that they are NOT dangerous. I am hoping to live long enough to see our government see that dog licenses are useless to the dog and to the dog owner. … (Governments) need to phase out the license requirement and replace it with mandatory microchip for all companion animals, and then use the database as a retrieval system. This could be done where it would be cheaper for the citizen, give animal services (departments) a meaningful income program, give animal owners a value for their money, and get a whole lot more of lost animals back home.

You’re known as the “Bird Lady,” and your beautiful home in Palm Desert is like a tropical oasis filled with egrets, cranes, exotic parrots and macaws. Did you have a parakeet when you were a little girl? When did your love of these feathered friends take flight?

I don’t think I ever had a parakeet as a small girl. My daughter bought me a couple of finches which died, because I didn’t know how to care for exotic birds. That was in the early ’80s, which is when I started reading about them and accumulating more and more each year. Now my bird library must contain well over 100 books, and I have over 50 exotic birds under my care—and, yes, most came to me because they had no other place to go.

How do you keep your heart from despairing when there are only so many animals you can save?

I don’t. (I have) many sleepless nights (and) many frustrating, helpless emotions to deal with. Sometimes I want to quit and have to remind myself that thousands of us are dealing with the same pain that I am, and for the same reason. We are stronger in greater numbers and must stick together and keep trying. “United, we stand; divided, we fail the animals.”

What is your ultimate goal for Loving All Animals?

I want to see us all working together to create a no-kill community, and then move on to creating a no-kill nation. I want us to figure out how we can provide FREE spay/neuter services to low-income families. I want to create a huge database of willing foster homes that can be available to all the shelters, plus (help) individuals who need short-term care of their pets while they, themselves, are homeless or when they need to be in the hospital, or (have) other short-term reasons that would require they give up their pet. … I hope to see the day where every companion animal has a microchip and a working retrieval system that gets lost pets home, and I hope to see the day when people really understand that the love of an animal is of great value, and the quality of the love isn’t increased because you pay a big price for a purebred dog. Rescues are really the greater lovers.

Published in Local Issues