Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

As one would expect from a pet columnist, I love animals. I love to talk and read about them, and I always watch shows about them.

I am far from alone: Many of the people I know also have a deep love for animals. They care for their animal babies with extraordinary love and tenderness. As we know, that treatment turns those animals into the rulers of their families’ lives—they become our home bosses.

I wanted to hear from others about their pets. I’d seen someone else on Facebook pose a question: What would your animal have in his/her/their pocket? So, I decided to ask some of our friends and neighbors that question, as well as their pets’ type, age and quirkiest trait.

Tim O’Bayley, CEO and Creative Director, O’Bayley Communications

Abbott, part husky, with two different-colored eyes. He's 2 1/2 years old—and absolutely adorable and full of life. Quirkiest thing: He likes to sleep/nap mostly on his back, with one leg up against a wall or a piece of furniture. In his pocket: one of his many toys. He likes to have them close by at all times.

Siobhan Velarde, Coachella Valley Chanteuse

Pickles, 8-ish years old, and Doctor, 6 years old. Quirkiest thing: Pickles wants all the pillows … literally ALL of them. Then she burrows into the center, throwing half of them on the ground. Doctor howls to specific theme songs. No. 1 is Jeopardy! and also Golden Girls. In her pocket: Pickles would have her leash. Nothing gets this kid more excited than her daily walk, although she moves at a snail’s pace. Doctor keeps her mommy, daddy and big brother in her pocket. She totally owns us!

George Nasci-Sinatra, Major Gift Officer, Martha’s Kitchen

Luigi Morkie and Gioia (Joya), Maltipoos. Quirkiest thing: Luigi must sleep on top of at least two pillows, and they must be a certain height—like Princess and the Pea. Gioia can only sleep if one of her back legs is propped up, and she is on the back of the sofa or a pillow. In their pockets: Luigi would have unlimited treats; Gioia would have every squeaky toy she owns.

Vickie Burnett and Pam Crocker, Happily Retired

Flo is a miniature dachshund who is 13 years young and full of life. Quirkiest thing: She loves to play ball all day long and will fall asleep with the ball in her mouth slowly squeaking. In her pocket: a ball.

Michelle Bergeron, Animal Angel and Rescuer Extraordinaire

Einstein is a 2-year-old cat. Quirkiest things: He knows how to climb, and open and close curtains, and has even made some of those fancy "Starry Night " curtains due to his antics. In his pocket: Shock Top beer bottlecaps.

Emily Nine, Veterinarian Assistant, Carter Animal Hospital

Lilly is a 2-year-old basset hound. Quirkiest thing: She likes to jump on me when I am not expecting it, and she is like a tree log! In her pocket: She would have ladybugs or crickets.

Kristen Dolan, Director of Community Relations and Resource Development, United Way of the Desert

Cats: Wally, 12; Tiki, 10; and Bodhi, 9 months. Quirkiest things: Wally likes safe places to hide, so you'll likely find him squished in some sort of small space. Tiki loves morning and nighttime snuggles, but doesn't want anything to do with you during the day. Bodhi does this spider-cat thing across the carpeted rooms in our house where he sprawls out on his side and pulls himself across the carpet by his claws. In their pockets: Wally would have snacks; Tiki would have a measuring tape to make sure you were keeping six feet away from him; and Bodhi would have a Swiss Army knife, because he gets into all sorts of adventures.

Stacy Eder, Real Estate Broker

Sammy is a Maltipoo, 4 years old. Quirkiest thing: She uses a toy from a fur kid that has passed away to knead when we think she’s stressed out. She was dumped twice prior to coming to our home, so we don’t know her history. Our thoughts are that she was taken from her mother and littermates too early. In her pocket: A container full of cantaloupe. Sammy is obsessed with it!

Rachel Reedy, DVM, Carter Animal Hospital

Uno is a 7-year-old horse. Quirkiest things: He’s a total escape artist, and he’s a ham for the camera. In his pocket: Granny’s Horse Cookies—he loves his horse cookies! Spud is a 3-year-old Boston terrier. Quirkiest thing: He is obsessed with puppies. He loves them! In his pocket: It’s empty, because he would eat whatever is in there.

Janeen Bahr, President, S.O.A.R. (Society’s Outkast Animal Rescue)

Harley is an 18-month-old rottweiler. Quirkiest thing: At 110 pounds, he’s afraid of my three-pound foster dog. In his pocket: any toy that could be thrown and returned.

Felix Tipper, Events Manager, F-10 Creative; Bartender and Fitness Promoter

Bam Bam is a 14 1/2-year-old pug. Quirkiest thing: He is very judicious about his kisses. Although he is the biggest snuggler and love bug, his kisses are rare; they are a very quick and short semi-lick. He also does not like the camera lens. In his pocket: treats. Like most pugs, he’s food-obsessed.

Joni Padduck, Happily Retired

Bella Rosa is a 4 1/2-year-old Chihuahua/Jack Russell/miniature pinscher mix. Quirkiest thing: She's afraid of small children. In her pocket: her daddy! She'd bring him everywhere with her.

Sharon Ollenburger, Search and Rescue, Riverside County Sheriff

Sally Ann is a 12-year-old cat. Quirkiest thing: She is very vocal, especially in the morning or if I have been gone a long time. In her pocket: She would have a picture of me or chicken Greenies treats.

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

Desert AIDS Project’s Dining Out for Life Breaks Records

If anyone ever needs proof that the residents of the Coachella Valley are a rather generous lot, look no further than the results of the Desert AIDS Project’s Dining Out for Life (DOFL) fundraiser back in April.

First, a recap of how DOFL works: On one chosen day per year, restaurants across the Coachella Valley agree to donate at least 33 percent of their sales—from one particular meal, or from everything—to the Desert AIDS Project.

On April 26, 75 local restaurants participated, raising a whopping $280,000 for DAP—an increase of $50,000 from last year. An estimated 10,000 valley residents went to these 75 restaurants that day.

“You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing someone wearing a ‘badge of honor’—the ‘I Dined’ stickers given to diners at participating locations,” said event manager George Nasci-Sinatra, according to a news release.

That’s impressive. However, it’s even more impressive when these numbers are put into context.

Dining Out for Life is a nationwide (plus Canada!) campaign held the last Thursday in April every year by various HIV/AIDS service organizations. Representatives of all of these campaigns gathered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the North American Dining Out for Life Conference in July to compare notes. Well, it turns out that even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smallest markets participating in Dining Out for Life, we rank No. 2 (!) in terms of money raised.

“Only Denver, which had three times more participating restaurants, raised more funds this year,” said Darrell Tucci, the chief development officer for DAP. “To be the smallest market in population driving the second-largest results is absolutely extraordinary and something we should all be proud of. Other markets have more participating restaurants, but no other market can boast the level of commitment shown by restaurants in greater Palm Springs.”

The main reason for the local Dining Out for Life’s success is the sheer generosity of local restaurants: In fact, the Top 3 restaurants in the country (plus Canada!) in terms of the total amount of money donated are here—Spencer’s Restaurant, Lulu California Bistroand Trio Restaurant, in that order. They raised a combined total of $61,679.

It’s also worth noting the sacrifice of some smaller restaurants that elected to give 100 percent or more of the day’s proceeds to DAP: Townie Bagels, Holiday House, The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge, Ristretto and Rooster and the Pig. Heck, the wait staff at Rooster and the Pig even donated their tips for the day to DAP.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I’m personally a supporter of the Desert AIDS Project; the Independent does business with DAP; and George Nasci-Sinatra and Darrell Tucci are good friends of mine.)

Will the Coachella Valley be able to top these fantastic results during the next Dining Out for Life, on Thursday, April 25, 2019? Stay tuned.

For more information as the 2019 date draws nearer, visit

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club Celebrates Its Annual Craft Beer Weekend.

It’s become a summer tradition for Southern California beer-lovers: The Ace Hotel and Swim Club's Seventh Annual Craft Beer Weekend will take place Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 4 and 5.

The weekend’s big events are a Craft Beer Festival from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, featuring entertainment, food and unlimited tastings (!) from some of the top craft breweries from SoCal and beyond; and a beer brunch at 11 a.m. on Sunday, featuring six beer-inspired and beer-paired courses—plus starting and ending beers, too.

Passes for the Saturday festival are $35, and the Sunday brunch will set you back $55—or do both for just $70. Attendees who book a room for the weekend get into the festival for free.

Get tickets and more info at

In Brief

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has announced it has adopted new technology from a company called ORCA Digesters, Inc., that turns food waste into water. This will keep an estimated 624 tons (!) of food out of landfills each year. Awesome! … The Libation Room is now open at 73750 El Paseo, in Palm Desert. The new cocktail bar promises a speakeasy type of vibe; check it out Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 p.m. on. For more information, call 877-869-8891, or visit … The Manhattan in the Desert in Palm Desert, at 74225 Highway 111, has apparently closed. The Palm Springs location, at 2665 E. Palm Canyon Drive, is still alive and kicking. … One of the most happening outdoor-dining spots in downtown Palm Springs has been temporarily closed for a “facelift.” The patio at Tropicale, at 244 E. Amado Road, was closed on July 9 for a remodel that “should take about three weeks,” although the indoor bar and dining room remains open during construction. Depending on how that goes, and when you’re reading this, it may have reopened already! Call 760-866-1952 with questions.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

New: Pho Lan Vietnamese Restaurant

Pho Lan Vietnamese Restaurant has opened at 330 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in the downtown Palm Springs space occupied until recently by Kimy Sushi.

While we have not yet had a chance to check out Pho Lan, the restaurant’s Facebook page offers some details about the place: The restaurant opened in September, and offers the appetizers, pho dishes and entrées one would expect to find at a Vietnamese joint—at reasonable prices. For example, a large bowl of pho will only you back $8.50.

We’ll offer a more detailed report when we have a chance to try out the restaurant in person. In the meantime, call 760-778-1473, or visit the aforementioned Facebook page for more information.

Hacienda Hosts a Benefit for Meals on Wheels

The newish Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, located at 1555 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, will be the location of Playa de los Muertos—a Dia de los Muertos Celebration, at 11 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 1.

The event will feature an open sangria bar, tray-passed appetizers, great DJ music poolside, and all sorts of Day of the Dead-themed activities, like sugar-skull face-painting.

Sounds fun, yes? Well, there’s even better news: The event is a benefit for Meals on Wheels Coachella Valley.

“We wanted to honor and capture the color and vibrancy of Dia de los Muertos celebrations and combine it with a beach party like only Palm Springs can offer,” said event coordinator George Nasci-Sinatra in a news release.

Admission to the event is $45. Visit, or call 760-323-5689, ext. 112, for tickets or more info.

Citron at the Viceroy Gets a New Executive Chef

The Viceroy Palm Springs has hired a French-born chef with impeccable credentials to lead up the hotel’s well-regarded Citron Restaurant.

Patrice Martineau is a native of Champagne, France, who trained at several Michelin-starred restaurants before becoming the No. 2 chef at Daniel Boulud’s eponymous Daniel, in New York City. He also served as the executive chef at London’s Savoy Hotel, and was most recently at the Belmond El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara.

“I look forward to adding some international flair to Citron’s menu and sharing my interest in regional California cuisine with Viceroy Palm Springs’ gastronomically minded guests,” said Martineau in what has to be one of the most ho-hum press-release quotes in recent memory.

New menus should have been launched by the time you read this.

For more information, call 760-320-4117, or visit

Restaurant Musical Chairs in Cathedral City

The spot they optimistically call “downtown Cathedral City” will soon be the home of two new restaurants.

Bontá, a Latin-European restaurant, is slated to soon open in the space that used to house Picanha Churrascaria at 68510 Highway 111. Practically next door, in the spot once occupied by Big Mama’s Soul Food, Taqueria Los Arcos is scheduled to open.

Watch this column for details.

Also: Last month in this space, we noted that a new “art bar and live music” venue called Bart Lounge was coming to the valley, perhaps in Cathedral City. Well, a lease has been signed, and Bart Lounge is indeed coming to Cathedral City—specifically, the old Level 2/Elevation/Sidewinders space, at 67555 E Palm Canyon Drive. Watch for updates.

In Brief

Congratulations to Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, located at 71800 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. The valley’s oldest microbrewery took home a silver medal from Denver’s 2014 Great American Beer Festival for Babe’s Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale. … Dish Creative Cuisine remains on hiatus as its new home at 1107 N. Palm Canyon Drive—next to Ernest Coffee and Bootlegger Tiki—gets constructed. A Facebook-page update from Oct. 20 states that restaurant management is keeping its fingers crossed for a mid-November opening. … Also in downtown Palm Springs: Brandini Toffee just celebrated the grand opening of a store at 132 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Brandini is in the spot formerly occupied by the Red Black Café; last year, the prospective owners of what was to be the Gin and Juice Bar announced they’d be taking over the space, but that obviously never happened.

Published in Restaurant & Food News