In last month’s column, Janice Fast brought us through the beginning of our community’s animal rescue history up to the late 1980s. Some of us fondly like to imagine that the next chapter started when a flame-haired, leather-clad woman roared into town on her Harley-Davidson, her saddlebacks stuffed with cats and dogs. But, according to Jane Stonehill, the woman on the motorcycle and also founder of Animal Rescue Friends, that’s not exactly how it happened.
From Jane’s first visit to the Hill in 1986, she knew this was where she wanted to live. But, it wasn’t until 1990, after her husband passed away, that she moved from La Jolla to Idyllwild. Jane didn’t know anyone here, so it was only her concern for animal welfare that nudged her out of a reclusive lifestyle.
She learned about a group of stray cats being fed at Elliot Pope Prep School (now Astrocamp). Using live traps to catch them, she had them altered, vaccinated and brought them back to the school.
Similar projects, as well as other like-minded folks, seemed to find their way to Jane. By November 1994, she was part of a loosely organized group of people who came together in the effort to rescue a lost Scottie that belonged to visitors, Patricia and David Lane. Spearheaded by volunteers Valerie and Art Canfil and George and Nancy Appel, the search involved two weeks of tracking the little dog, who had run away from his owners’ car accident on Dead Man’s Curve.
He was finally coaxed into a live trap and returned to his frantic humans. Jane identifies this event as the birth (or beginning) of ARF as an organization.
Understandably grateful, the Lanes gave a generous donation for another live trap to help in future rescue attempts. With this gift, the group became known first as the Animal Rescue Fund and then the Animal Rescue Foundation. However, since they thought of themselves as just a group of friends helping animals, they finally decided on Idyllwild Animal Rescue Friends.
By this time, Jane was receiving unsolicited donations to help her with animal care expenses that she was paying out of her own pocket. She opened her first bookstore, Stonehill, next to what is now Café Aroma, and had rescues available there for adoption. Residents and even visitors knew they could call on her for anything related to the well-being of animals.
In 1997, one such visitor, Tawny Crist, who later became a key ARF volunteer, met Jane for the first time at the bookstore. It was snowing as Tawny drove into town and spotted two dogs running along the highway. The bookstore seemed to be the only shop open, and when Tawny entered and asked for help, Jane didn’t hesitate to say, “Let’s go!” They found and rescued one of the dogs; Amazing Grace lived in Jane’s care for the rest of her life. Only in Idyllwild!
Finally, in 2004, Andy Jacobson and Kent Steele waded through the massive 501(c)(3) documentation requirements, and Idyllwild Animal Rescue Friends became an official nonprofit public benefit organization. Although they have faced many challenges, for almost 19 years ARF volunteers have continued without interruption to rescue, reunite, adopt and care for Idyllwild dogs and cats.
From her home with friends in Hemet, Jane was happy to tell the story of ARF’s origins and grateful to report that her health has improved. We thank you, Jane and Janice, for your stories and for all you’ve done on behalf of the animals.