The Malibu-based nonprofit Chiquita’s Friends, together with Meade Canine Rescue, held a fundraising event at the ocean-view, 250-acre Rancho Chiquita Estate in Malibu last Saturday night, with “Evening Under the Corral Canyon Sky” as the Mexican-style theme.
The sold-out crowd of over 200 guests — presumably all animal lovers — enjoyed live mariachi music under the stars, as well as live music by Luna Iztel, an artist flown in from Mexico; open bars featuring Mexican beers, tequila and margaritas; Mexican food; a large silent auction and celebrity sightings.
The evening’s hostess was Geraldine Gilliland, a longtime Malibu resident, chef and owner of two Santa Monica restaurants (Lula Cocina Mexicana and Finn McCool’s Irish Pub), as well as the Rancho Chiquita Estate. One of her passions in life is rescuing shelter dogs about to be euthanized, and to that end she founded her non profit organization “Chiquita’s Friends.”
The founder of Meade Canine Rescue, Charlotte Meade, has been working closely with Gilliland on a joint effort to rescue more dogs from the L.A. area. They’ve just finished converting an old horse barn on Meade’s 12-acre property into housing for six dogs that includes a kitchen/food prep area, warming room and large outdoor runs.
“Ninety-nine percent of the dogs I get look like they have about a week to live,” she said. “Every one of the dogs I have looked like it was on its last legs when it first came in — sometimes they can barely stand, their teeth are rotten, they’re oozing blood, they have patches of bare fur, fleas, mange ... But I give them a second chance.”
As part of the evening’s festivities, Chiquita’s Friends gave out two “PAL Awards” to honor work being done in Southern California to help animals. Actress Arielle Kebbel, who’s been in several horror movies, including “The Uninvited,” and also a regular on TV series including “Ballers,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “90210” and “Gilmore Girls,” served as the event emcee.
The first honoree, Alison Eastwood — daughter of Clint Eastwood and an actress herself — founded the Eastwood Ranch Foundation, which rescues domestic animals from area high-kill shelters and cares for them until a home can be found. She’s also been a spokesperson and advocate for numerous other animal rescue organizations.
“Rescue means everything to me,” Eastwood said while accepting the award. “We have a huge problem in Southern California — our shelters are overflowing and it’s a huge atrocity. In our organization, we foster and rescue animals, and spaying and neutering is at the top of the list. I don’t do this to get accolades; I do this because I love it.”
The other PAL Award honoree, Warren Eckstein — a pet behaviorist and therapist for 35 years — has contributed to “The Today Show,” “Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee,” the Discovery Channel, the Disney Channel and Dog TV, among others, and hosts the syndicated radio show: “The Pet Show.”
His award was presented by his nephew, actor Michael Rosenbaum, probably best known for playing Lex Luthor in the long-running TV series “Smallville.”
One of the celebrity sightings at the party was actress Paula Malcomson, who plays Ray Donovan’s wife on the eponymous hit Showtime series. She and Gilliland are friends; both are natives of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Malcomson donated a walk-on part for the show as one of the silent auction items.
Chiquita’s Friends supports organizations that “strive to stop cruelty to animals and give hope to forgotten, rejected and neglected” dogs.
Meade Canine Rescue group is the all-volunteer animal welfare organization designated to receive the proceeds from the gala event. Meade specializes in rescuing special-needs and senior dogs from high-kill shelters, then obtaining veterinary care and providing sanctuary and a real dog’s life for them. A number of Meade volunteers were on hand at the event, letting rescued dogs on leashes mingle with guests.
What really breaks her heart, Meade said, is the owners who have had a dog all of its life, and then surrender it to a shelter as soon as it gets sick. She is now caring for a 15-year-old dog abandoned by its owner.
“I can’t quite figure out how people can abandon their own dogs ... I mean, this is your buddy! This is your friend! People who love their dogs should keep them until the very end,” Meade said.