By Janet McAfee

On June 25, 2023, the world lost a beautiful, amazing spirit and friend to many of us. Rebecca and Mario Pikus were pioneers, movers and shakers, and they changed the world. Tragedy first struck on June 18, 2018, when Rebecca suffered a hemorrhagic stroke that left her paralyzed on the right side. I visited her in a local assisted living center where one of her beloved dogs lay by her side. Eventually her son Steven Plant arrived to take his parents back to her native Michigan as Mario was now having memory problems. The couple were supported by loving family while they resided in a Yale Michigan assisted living home.

Rebecca was vivacious, charming, talented, multifaceted, and queen of the dance floor. She hosted an empowering woman’s club where women could talk about their careers, hobbies, and network. She was a staple at Studio 54, a muse of Andy Warhol, fashion model, legal assistant, psychotherapist, and real estate agent. Finally, she opened Rebecca’s Fine Art Gallery in Cathedral City showcasing the work of Mario and other local and world talents. Rebecca loved people and seemed to welcome everyone, but she never bragged or made the focus about herself. Rebecca’s memorial celebration will be in New Orleans on her September 23 birthday. You can read her obituary and additional information on her Facebook page where Steven referred to her as “my bad ass Mom!”.

Rebecca lived happily in Rancho Mirage for many years with her equally famous husband, painter and sculptor Mario Pikus ( Mario’s sculptures made from motorcycle parts are local landmarks. Their lovely home was a colorful inviting museum where the parties they hosted were legendary. I was blessed to be on their guest and met a variety of interesting folks while musician Prince Fleet Easton entertained.


Rebecca and I bonded in our mutual love for dogs and advocating the rescue of those homeless. In 2015, Rebecca spotted this tiny Terrier puppy on Facebook on a San Bernardino City Shelter networker’s Facebook page. She contacted Loving All Animals with an offer to foster him if we would rescue him. When someone offers to be part of the solution to save an animal’s life through fostering, we spring into action. Rebecca recalls, “I fell in love with the Facebook photo showing his scruffy adorable little locks, and his intense incredible hazel eyes.”

This pup was a 7-pound package of fun and frolic the moment he exited his kennel cage. His tiny size belied his mega bigger-than-life personality. When I delivered him to the Pikus’ studio home, the confident dog pranced around happily as if he’d never lived anywhere else. I was surprised when Rebecca advised me her husband Mario did not know they were getting a foster dog, but she assured me she knew her husband well, and this was the best way to proceed. Guess who was the first to fall in love with the new dog? Within a couple days Mario sealed the deal to adopt declaring, “There is no way he is going anywhere. He is my dog.”

The couple named the dog Sparky because he’s like a sparkplug full of energy. Sparky was an instant hit with the Pikus’ other two rescue dogs, Shadow and Whitecloud. Mario Pikus is an award-winning painter and sculptor, and Sparky loved his colorful, love filled life at their studio home.

A month later, Mario and Rebecca learned of a teacup Chihuahua puppy abandoned in the desert and offered to foster her as well. Sparky was overjoyed with the arrival of another canine, and the two twirling joyous animals were the subject of dozens of entertaining videos on Facebook. Leila Blue, the adorable teacup, had other horizons awaiting her. Rebecca’s son, an artist in Berlin, Germany, recently lost his dog, and his mom who was planning to travel to Berlin for his birthday decided to include Leila Blue as a birthday present. This pup is now the toast of Berlin.

Back in California, spunky Sparky quickly got over his grief at Leila’s departure. He had a beautiful half acre estate on which to run around chasing his brother pups, Shadow and Whitecloud. The trio chase after the birds that flock to the grounds in the early morning and run after tennis balls in the afternoon. They ran with abandonment and joy, making wide circles around the trees and around Mario’s sculptures that dot the landscape.

Sparky’s humans were recipients of a Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars for their activism, humanitarianism, and promotion of the arts. If he could, Sparky would surely put his paw print in the cement in the fashion his paw print is embedded in everyone’s hearts. Today he lives with Rebecca’s sister in Southern California. Mario continues to reside at the assisted living home in Yale, Michigan.

Our army of rescuers has lost another soldier. Coachella Valley’s shelter dogs deserve more Facebook and more media attention. Volunteer Cheryl Hounts takes quality photographs at the county Coachella Valley Animal Campus that capture the animals’ beautiful souls and touch the hearts of potential adopters. You can locate our county shelter’s volunteer application online and see their animals at Adopt, foster, or volunteer at Loving All Animals at 760-834-7000. The snowbirds have left the Valley, and the number of fosters and volunteers dwindled.

Visit an art gallery this week. Dress up in your best clothes and go dancing somewhere new. Make a new friend or contact an old one. Visit someone in a nursing home and take them a little gift. Adopt a shelter dog or cat this week. Think of Rebecca or someone else you love and play her favorite song by Aretha Franklin, “I Say A Little Prayer for You”.