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Heroes of The Drake Center: Richard Cone

Heroes of The Drake Center: Richard Cone

animal doctor

Here at The Drake Center, we’ve got some amazing clients. These people are not only wonderful pet owners, but go above and beyond to give back to the animal world—and we’d like to give them the recognition they deserve! This month, meet Richard Cone, a volunteer with Rancho Coastal Humane Society's Animal Safehouse Program. The program seeks to end the cycle of domestic violence by providing temporary shelter for the pets of abuse victims.

TDC: How did you get involved in the Animal Safehouse Program at Rancho Coastal?
RC: I began working at the shelter in 2005 as a dog companion, walking and exercising dogs. About three years ago, the founder of the Animal Safehouse Program at RCHS, Christine Hartline (who, sadly for all of us at RCHS, passed away last month) asked me if my wife, Ann Quebedeaux, and I would be willing to foster a dog for a few days. That first foster experience showed us how important this program was. Since then, we have fostered 29 dogs and every one of them was special in their own way.
TDC: What else do you do at RCHS? 
RC: I conduct orientation tours at the shelter for new classes of volunteers and I mentor volunteers one-on-one after they have completed the first training stage. I work on special events like the Encinitas Street Fair, the Ugly Dog Contest and the annual Adoption A’ Fair event, which is coming up on May 19. I also serve on the Endowment and Legacy  Committee, which works to grow the RCHS endowment to ensure future funding.
In my “spare time” I do some gardening and landscaping at the shelter. I also recently started working in the RCHS thrift store, which manager Brian Cook has amazingly turned into the nicest thrift store in all of North County.
TDC: Is it true that RCHS is in your will? What led to that decision?
RC: Yes, my wife and I have named RCHS as a beneficiary in our wills. We’ve become familiar with RCHS operations and their professional staff and there are not enough words in the English language to describe how loving, caring and dedicated they are. Everyone is on the same page: It’s all about the animals.
We have learned how prudently their funds are spent and the high level of service they deliver in providing quality shelter care, adoption services and education programs. RCHS relies heavily on volunteers in order to carry out its mission and does not receive funding from any government agency. We love animals and believe strongly that RCHS is very worthy of our current and future donations.
TDC: What motivates you to keep volunteering?
RC: Our love for animals and our fondness of—and respect for—the dedicated staff and volunteers at RCHS.  Plus, it just feels good to know that no matter what task I’m doing, it all helps the animals find forever homes. That’s why we are there.
TDC: What is the hardest part of the job? What is the easiest part?
RC: For me, the hardest part is fostering a dog that is not house trained. It’s a challenge, and we’ve learned to use inexpensive rugs, which we seem to buy as often as we buy bread and milk! As any dog owner knows, the process can be frustrating and requires ongoing patience and optimism. But when they finally catch on, we praise them to pieces!  
Another difficult part of fostering is the day our latest foster dog goes home. We are happy the dogs are being re-united with their real owners, but after being with us for three or four months sometimes, it’s sad when they go home and we miss them—until the next day, when there’s yet another foster dog to bring home!
The easiest part is the pure pleasure we derive from having the dogs with us. They are such wonderful creatures and adapt so easily to new environments when they are treated with affection and understanding.  Also, as former dog owners, we know the worry that the owners experience in having to allow a stranger to care for their pet, and it’s nice for them to know that their dog is being cared for in a loving temporary home.
TDC: Tell us about a touching volunteer success story. 
RC: Sometimes the dog’s owner is able to have scheduled visits with the dog, and one case I remember involved an owner who had to relocate to Riverside. Almost every weekend, she drove to Encinitas to spend an afternoon with her dog and several times she wrote to us to say how much she appreciated the care her dog was receiving and that it relieved the stress she felt at having be separated from her dog in order start a new life away from her abuser. That letter was worth its weight in gold to us! And it was great when her dog finally went to her new home.
TDC: How can others get involved in the Animal Safehouse Program?
RC: Contact RCHS at (760) 753-6413 or online. On our website (look for "Volunteer" and "Fostering") you will find a complete guide to everything you need to know about fostering pets in your home. There is also an online application you can submit and you’ll be contacted by our staff to get the ball rolling. New foster parents are always needed, and if you have the time and the space to foster dogs, the love you get in return will come back tenfold!
If you would like to donate to RCHS, please visit the website at www.sdpets.org.

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