Cheryl Cook (Continued)
Her own spacious, sunny home is a menagerie of happy pets. Enter the front door and you are greeted with introductory squawks from Tequila, her beautiful Sun Conure parrot, radiant in his shades of orange and red feathers. An unexpected "hello" and flutter off to the side gets your attention; Shadow, a large, talking African Grey parrot cocks his head and stares at you.
Cheryl's four-legged pets have their own section in her beautiful home. She opens a door, and you are greeted by a bevy of happy, friendly animals of all sizes. Here a variety of dogs and cats eat, drink, sleep, and dream as well as freely access doggy/cat doors to explore large outside areas.
The first ones to greet Cheryl with tail wags and kisses are Mars, her Golden Retriever and Rosie, her peppy Yorkshire terrier.
Observing it all is a foster pet called Big Mama, the boldest of her felines. This beautiful tortoiseshell cat strolls across the kitchen to greet Cheryl with a "meow." Her complex of dark brown to tan fur seems to change color as window light strikes her coat.
Big Mama then saunters over to Mars with a greeting. The large, long-haired, tan retriever wags his tail furiously and sports a "What's up?" grin. Mars plops his chest and front paws flat on the tile floor, his face a couple of inches from Big Mama. They tap noses. The Golden Retriever's raised haunches give him an almost comical pose. Rosie, the Yorkshire, scampers around them.
Meanwhile, in Cheryl's bedroom, No Nose (another rescue) a big, fluffy long-haired Persian reclines regally on her own pillow near the head of the bed. Sebastian, a Siamese, "rescued from death row at the South L.A. Shelter," overlooks the scene contentedly from atop a tall cat tree.
The happiness of all these pets is evidence of Cheryl's love of animals. She has enough dramatic rescue stories to fill a book. Where did it all begin? You have to go back to a warm June day many years ago.
A Dog Named India
"I received a call from a lady who got my name and number from the Sheriff's Department, where I was a volunteer," Cheryl relates. "I got in my car and drove to Centinela and Sprinkpark Avenues to see a young beagle mix she had found.
The woman also had invited a man over who she thought might want to adopt the dog. The young dog tried to jump on him to say "hello," but he immediately tried to shoo the dog away."
"I was not going to let anyone with that attitude take this sweet dog, so I agreed to take her home," Cheryl continued. "She was a great dog, well behaved, plus she got along with my other dogs and cats. I named her India.
I fostered her for about a month, before I found a great family in Upper Ladera to adopt her. They kept the name India and still have her to this day. They say she is the best doggy in the world and love her very much. This makes all the hard work of rescue so worth it."
The Young Rottweiler and The Homeless Man
"I was driving down La Tijera on my way home from LAX and right before the Westchester post office, I saw a homeless man with a shopping cart and a Rottweiler. A rope was tied around the dog's neck. She looked underweight. I asked the man if I could run home and get water and food, as well as a collar and leash. He agreed, so I quickly went home and grabbed everything, including an old dog collar.
Not only was the homeless man waiting for me, he was sleeping on the sidewalk with the dog tied to the shopping cart. I couldn't get the rope off the poor dog's neck. Fortunately, a nearby United Parcel driver had a knife and I cut the rope. The Rottweiler ate all the food I put down and lapped up the water. The homeless man and dog seemed to get along well together, so I left her with him, along with some tips on caring for her."
Two weeks later, Cheryl was at dinner with a girlfriend when her husband called to say there was a Rottweiler tied to a front post at their house. A woman had found the animal at Florence and Manchester with Cheryl's address stamped on an I.D. tag on the collar. Cheryl had not realized, in her rush, that she had placed an old collar with an I.D. tag on the Rottweiler that had belonged to her own deceased dog.
The woman had called the telephone number on the animal's tag. When there was no answer she had taken the dog to the address on the tag. No one had been home, but she had run into Cheryl's neighbor. The neighbor had not thought Cheryl and her husband had a Rottweiler, but when he saw Cheryl's address on the I.D. tag, he had agreed to tie the dog to the post at the front of Cheryl's home.
Cheryl told her husband to walk the dog to his parent's home on Garth since she did not want to risk introducing the dog to her collection of pets, without knowing her temperament. She sent an e-mail to the community and at the same time contacted Rottweiler rescue. They took the dog for placement and found her a great home in Westchester about a year later, complete with a friendly Golden Retriever.
This L.A. woman, by way of a Korean mother and an American father in Seoul, Korea, started her community activism by spearheading the movement to install a wrought iron fence that separates Centinela from little Centinela and runs from Wooster to Springpark Avenue. She later worked with the County for the planting of new trees, bushes and vines along the fence after the original trees died from disease.
Cheryl's need to contact a growing number of people during her community projects led to the birth of a great concept. She wisely requested each person's e-mail address when she and others petitioned to have the Ladera community moved to the Culver City Unified School District. The effort did not succeed, but out of it blossomed the original e-mail tree, providing valuable community information and news. When she served as editor of the "Inside Ladera" newsletter, she added a space for email addresses on the dues envelopes and received even more email addresses.
Cheryl commented, "By collecting all those emails, it led to the beginning of a large neighborhood email tree, years before laderaheights.org came into existence." she said, "Reuniting lost pets with their owners or finding them new homes became a lot easier and faster."
But, at the rate that neighbors lose their pets through an open door or a backyard gate ajar, this Doctor Doolittle of Ladera's work never will be done. "I.D. tags and I.D. microchips on all pets would make rescue work so much easier," she commented.
The "Ladera Pet Project" A.K.A. Ladera Cat Project was born from her pet rescue efforts. The organization also traps, neuters, and returns feral and stray cats to their regular habitats. This curtails unwanted litters facing uncertain futures, while placing many lucky kittens in loving homes.
We are fortunate Cheryl is here to help make all that happen. She noted, "It's very heartwarming to make a difference in the community."