From tragedy comes purpose: Benefit concert aims to address valley vet shortage

A non-profit dedicated to educating the public about the danger pets face from predators is getting help from some local icons to solve a daunting issue.

The sudden loss of a beloved animal companion three years ago spurred one desert resident into action, hoping to spare others from the grief she experienced. Now she’s getting help from a Coachella Valley icon.

DeAnn Lubell lost her beloved rescue terrier, Amy, to a coyote attack in Yucca Valley three years ago. She says the experience had a lasting impact.

“I went outside with my two dogs and left just for a couple of minutes to go inside to get a cup of tea,” she says. “When I came back, I saw three coyotes tearing Amy up. It was the most traumatic thing I ever experienced in my life.”

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Her grief was profound. “I loved that dog,” she added. “He was the cutest damn thing you ever saw, my soul dog.”

The tragedy moved Lubell to start Amy’s Purpose, a non-profit dedicated to educating the public about the danger pets face from coyotes and other predators, and how to protect them from that danger. In addition, the organization also offers grief counseling to those who have lost their beloved animal companions.

The organization recently turned its attention to a related issue: The shortage of veterinarians in the community. Joining those efforts is Bruce Fessier. The long-time Desert Sun entertainment writer and editor unfortunately knows all too well the grief Lubell experienced.

Last December, Fessier was walking his Jack Chi Gracie near his home in Rancho Mirage when tragedy struck after she suddenly broke free from her leash.

“She ran about 200 yards onto Frank Sinatra Drive, and I ran after her waving for cars to stop or change lanes,” Fessier recalls. “One guy swerved around me and barreled into Gracie, without stopping.”

As the shock wore off, Fessier sensed Gracie’s death may have had a deeper meaning.

“I realized Amy’s Purpose didn’t have anyone in its organization with experience producing concerts,” Fessier explains. “So, I felt Gracie’s death was the universe telling me I needed to become more involved in it.

“If she had not died immediately, I wouldn’t have been able to take her to the nearby VCA because they don’t have enough veterinarians to see patients without an appointment. I would have had to drive all the way to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital in Indio.”

John Garcia and his group The Band of Gold will headline a concert benefitting a scholarship fund for future verterinary assistants. (Photo: Katrin Saalfrank)

On Sept. 17, Fessier’s wide array of talents will be put to full use to benefit Amy’s Purpose: He’s producing a benefit concert for the organization, planned for the Annenberg Theater at Palm Springs Museum of Art. He will also moderate a question-and-answer session between acts. Proceeds will go toward providing scholarships for those studying to be veterinary assistants.

John Garcia was known as “the voice of desert rock” as lead singer of Kyuss, an internationally acclaimed ’90s band. He’ll be performing at the benefit concert titled “Pet Love and Rock & Roll.” Garcia, who has also sung with the bands Crystal Method at Coachella and Slo Burn at OzzFest, will join his group The Band of Gold as they headline the event.

Garcia is no stranger to the needs of pets and their parents. He supervises the veterinary technician staff at Palm Springs Animal Hospital. His wife Wendy works as a veterinary technician.

“There is a crisis in veterinary care in this desert” says Garcia. “Many veterinarians and veterinary hospitals are not accepting new patients. We are all overwhelmed by the demand for our services.

“We must do something to relieve the pressure on veterinarians and put more veterinary assistants in the field to care for people’s pets and help our veterinarians.”

More information: Tickets for the benefit concert start at $50 and are available online here or through the Annenberg box office by calling 760-325-4490 Thur.-Sun. For more information on coyote and predator pet safety awareness go to Amy’s Purpose here.

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