Political Animal

Against the odds: Despite booming economy, Rocket Dog Rescue, other nonprofits see donations shrink

Pali with adopted Rocket Dog Babyface Brutus, once tagged ‘vicious and dangerous’ by the shelter. Photo: jane richey

I have opined often on these pages and on KGO radio about the lack of generosity in this latest generation of tech elite. Three years in a row, Second Harvest Food Bank has been over 1,000 turkeys short just days before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Meanwhile, companies like Twitter, which received multimillion-dollar tax breaks from Mayor Ed Lee, were throwing lavish holiday parties and handing out stock options like candy canes to those possessing the rare skill set required to work in the industry (if you’re a white guy under 30 and a software engineer, life is good).

Twitter’s P.R. folks boast about spending $300,000 for a community computer center (and Mayor Lee is there with bells on to cut the ribbon), but the mid-Market area they promised to make shiny and inclusive is in worse shape than ever. Some social media entrepreneurs (who are, ironically, often socially inept) have taken to their own medium to complain about having to step over “the stinky crazy homeless people” on their way to work. In 2014, Twitter announced plans to build an eight-story sky bridge to connect its two buildings at 1 10th Street and 1355 Market Street to save employees from those exhausting elevator rides and having to cross the street by foot. If the bridge is approved, Twitter workers will no longer have to step over the great unwashed — instead they can skip along high above them, intoxicated by that new carpet smell.

Mayor Lee also promised that Twitter employees would patronize local businesses. As someone who worked at Apple, I knew that wouldn’t happen. Tech companies don’t want you leaving the office. That’s why they provide free gourmet meals, espresso machines, beer on tap, wine tastings, cocktail hours, rock climbing walls, office scooters, swing sets, bike repair, hair cuts, log cabins, yoga classes, gyms, spa treatments, massage therapists, someone to pick up your laundry, and foosball tables.

Recently, I received a text from Pali Boucher, founder of Rocket Dog Rescue. She informed me that even in these times of economic riches, her 15-year-old grassroots dog rescue has seen donations dwindle to the lowest levels in years. Rocket Dog’s mantra is “Leave No Dog Behind.” They pull from high-kill shelters, often taking hard-to-place dogs and nurturing them into wonderful adoptable pets. With constantly overflowing kennels, however, high-kill shelters don’t discriminate, which means Rocket Dog also has plenty of purebreds, puppies, and perfect pooches of all ages, shapes, and sizes.

Pali has been featured on two Animal Planet specials, she was recognized for her work by CNN Heroes, and received the Points of Light Award for outstanding volunteerism, but her life wasn’t always something to cheer about. Born to a homeless, drug-addicted mother in San Francisco who died when she was 10 years old, Pali grew up on the streets. She was in and out of jail, addicted to drugs, raped, beaten, and contracted HIV.

Looking for a place to keep dry one rainy day, she wandered into the SF/SPCA, a “kill shelter” at that time, where she followed the mournful bay of a bloodhound. Pali connected with the dog in a way she’d never experienced and began visiting him regularly. When the big hound’s time ran out, Pali faked an address, adopted him, and named him Lead Belly after the once-imprisoned, influential folk and blues musician. Pali almost lost Lead Belly on another trip to jail, and that’s when she decided things had to change. She got sober, got housing, and got Lead Belly back. Since founding Rocket Dog Rescue in 2001, Pali and her dedicated band of volunteers have saved over 7,000 dogs.

Before Lead Belly’s love set her on the right path, the tech elite could have been stepping over Pali, never knowing that she would go on to make a far bigger social impact than 140 characters about Kim Kardashian’s backside. Perhaps some of the current fortunate few will become conscious of the world around them and donate to Rocket Dog’s efforts, or fund a food drive for Second Harvest, or help build housing for the homeless. The cynical journalist in me says this boom will go bust before that happens, but I hope they prove me wrong.

For more about Rocket Dog Rescue or to make a donation, please visit Donations can also be mailed to: Rocket Dog Rescue, P.O. Box 460826, San Francisco, CA 94146.

Meet Pali and some of the available Rocket Dogs at the first annual Tails of the City Adoption Festival, Saturday, August 15 from noon to 5 p.m. at Wolf & Lion Pet Supplies (2460 Lombard Street). Wolf & Lion is also celebrating their first anniversary, and The Dick Bright Orchestra will perform around 4 p.m. at this fun, family friendly event.

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