An amazing and unique animal shelter is tucked away on a rural palm tree lined road in the city of Coachella. THE PET RESCUE CENTER IS THE ONLY “KENNEL FREE” SHELTER IN THE COACHELLA VALLEY, WITH A DESIGN THAT ALLOWS THEIR 24 SMALL DOGS TO ROAM FREE MUCH OF THE DAY. A large brick wall encloses the one acre property containing a cozy 3 bedroom home, a large backyard, and a larger side yard. Fifty-year-old Eucalyptus trees provide welcome shade. The Dorothy Ruttman misted patio adjoins the house, providing additional play space and respite from the outside heat. There are no sad faces peering from kennel bars when you arrive to adopt a dog, just happy tails wagging to greet you. In the evening, the dogs go inside where each has a cozy playpen with bedding and toys. Indoors the animals are surprisingly calm and quiet. A mixture of lavender and ylang ylang soothing herbs, is sprayed through the house. Soft music plays in the background.
Dogs are social creatures. They are healthier and happier when they can thrive in a homelike environment in a pack with an alpha human leader. Christine Madruga is that alpha. She is pictured here holding Julia, an adorable black and white poodle terrier mix, a stray found at the Coachella Valley Unified School District grounds. The dog appeared to be abandoned, desperately trying to get into passing cars. School staff contacted Christine who went to pick up the dog. She quickly noted the small animal not only had fleas, worms and bite marks on her body, but possible signs of pregnancy. The sad reality is that stray unspayed animals contribute to the pet overpopulation problem that causes even more to be homeless. Julia will receive medical treatment before being available for adoption.
Christine Madruga founded The Pet Rescue Center 14 years ago. Christine used to work for the Valley Animal Clinic in Indio where veterinarian Dr. Gary Homec treated the County animal shelter’s sick and injured dogs. Christine was troubled by the reality that many of these adoptable animals were returned to the shelter, never got homes, and were euthanized. She started out operating 4 cages in the back of the clinic. Determined to save more animals, she moved to a 1200 square foot building. In 2006, she spotted a “For Sale by owner” sign outside a property on the corner of Avenue 51 and Calhoun in Coachella. It turns out Christine knew the owners. They called their home Rancho La Juantas which means “friends and family gathering” and the phrase was incorporated into the sign that now adorns the Center.
Supported by a team of faithful volunteers, Christine is a one woman show who describes herself as a “tough wingnut” in the world of rescue warriors. She is outspoken and brutally honest, but those who know her best know her kind nature and heart of gold when it comes to protecting the animals she rescues. She explains, “The feeling I get when I give an animal a second chance at life is a feeling of euphoria I’ve never before experienced. The joy I bring to the animals and the people who adopt them is priceless”.

Many of the dogs at this private “no kill” facility are rescued from the high kill City of Indio shelter. A few come from San Bernardino and Los Angeles shelters. In recent years there are more owner relinquishments, as folks losing their homes desperately seek to re-home their pets. The Center partners with Forever Meow Cat Rescue to save cats. An amazing 7,078 dogs and 6,000 cats have been rescued and re-homed. To ensure safety while the dogs interact, the program only takes dogs under 24 pounds. All the animals are vetted, spayed & neutered, and socialized. Every Thursday, dog trainer Val Masi of Best Paw Forward provides obedience training while a large group of volunteers handle the dogs.
So many wonderful rescue “tails” to tell. Petroleum Pete, also called Petie, has a rags to riches story. This wirehaired terrier was deemed aggressive and unadoptable at a public shelter, and had a date with the grim reaper. With just hours to live, Petie was rescued and taken to the Pet Rescue Center, which must have felt like heaven. In a new environment, the dog proved to be mild mannered and comical. He went to an event at the well healed Hideaway Golf Resort. Petie was a hit with the guests, and even danced cheek-to-cheek with Christine on the dance floor. In a fairy tale ending, Petie now lives a life of luxury at his Hideaway home, riding around on a golf cart with his owner Frank Kozel when he’s not traveling around the world in their private jet.
The Pet Rescue Center’s next project is a dog agility center in the training center’s date grove. Boy Scouts of America will help build the ramps and jumps while earning Eagle Scout badge credit. Unfortunately, this project is on hold right now due to County “red tape”.
The creativity of The Pet Rescue Center does not stop with their shelter design. Fundraising efforts recently included a “Poker run” by Harley Davidson riders. Each partcipant, some with dogs on board, rode to five locations to pick up their cards in competition to see who had the winning 5 card stud. Money raised was donated to the charity. Instead of the usual large banquet luncheon, future fundraising will focus on small intimate events where private donors open up their homes.
Mark your calendars now for the Pet Rescue Center’s open house on Saturday, Novemeber 10, 12 noon to 4 pm. This shelter relies on donations. Any donation is appreciated and can be sent to Pet Rescue Center, P.O. Box 6570, La Quinta, CA 92248. To see their adoptable animals, check the website at .
Adoption hours at the Center, located at 83496 Avenue 51 in Coachella, are Monday through Friday 9am- 4 pm and Saturday 10am-2pm, (760) 398-7722.
SUCH A HAPPY PLACE! So many happy tails. What an amazing sight to see the little dogs jumping and running for joy, chasing balls, and playfully wrestling with each other. The Pet Rescue Center is a model for future animal shelters, a lovely place where homeless animals live happily and freely while awaiting adoption.

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