Friday, 19 July 2024


New Flotilla 8-8 members for 2008 include, from left, Commander Betty Strach, outgoing Commander Rich Thomas and Vice Commander John McEwen; along with CPO Scott Greenlaw from the US Coast Guard's LORAN Station in Middletown and Lt. Scott Parkhurst from the Coast Guard's Group Humboldt Coast Guard Station. Greenlaw and Parkhurst installed the flotilla's new officers, who assume their new duties Jan. 1, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



KELSEYVILLE – One of Lake County's most important volunteer organizations has selected new leadership for the year ahead, with plans to continue expanding its critical safety services to the public. {sidebar id=43}

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 8-8 held its annual “change of watch” ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 1, at Zino's Restaurant in Kelseyville.

Gary Jolley, the flotilla's aids to navigation officer and the ceremony's master of ceremonies, explained that the term “change of watch” is used in the flotilla for a transfer of authority, responsibility or leadership. “Change of command,” he said, would be used if the flotilla had a rank structure.

The flotilla may not be well known to all of the people who enjoy Clear Lake and other lakes within the county.

However, the group provides a variety of services to the public, from boating safety classes to support on search and rescue missions; just this past year members spent nearly 300 hours on recovery, according to a county of volunteer hours provided by the flotilla.

The group also is working on a program to help prevent the infestation of the county's lakes by the quagga and zebra mussels.

The US Coast Guard Auxiliary's members – 27,000 strong nationwide – are called “America's volunteer lifesavers.” According to the organization's Web site,, Congress formed the auxiliary in 1939, with its motto being Semper Paratus, “Always Ready.” Today the group – which is under the auspices of Homeland Security – reports that it provides more than two million volunteer hours annually.

That preparedness and dedication is apparent in Flotilla 8-8's membership, which includes 53 members – some with previous military experience, some without – who contributed 9,237.65 volunteer hours by Dec. 2 of this year, according to Anita Farnholtz, the flotilla's information services officer.

Their service isn't limited just to Lake County. During the Saturday ceremony, flotilla member Jeremiah Collins gave a presentation on a trip he made to Florida where he and other US Coast Guard Auxiliary members helped patrol the waters between the US and Cuba.

At Saturday's ceremony, Flotilla Commander Rich Thomas of Middletown handed over the group's leadership to Cobb resident Betty Strach, the commander for the coming year. Named vice commander to succeed Strach, who held that position this past year, was John McEwen of Lakeport.

Thomas said he has appreciated the opportunities the flotilla has given him, from meeting an astronaut to serving around District 11, which includes California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

Leaving his term as commander, Thomas said the flotilla is strong thanks to the giving of its members. “The flotilla does not serve us. We serve the flotilla,” he said.

Strach said the flotilla's members possess a great wealth of experience; her officers alone have more than 100 years of knowledge and experience among them, she said.

In the year ahead, Strach said she plans to continue working to strengthen the flotilla in order to offer greater service to the community.

Flotilla members give a phenomenal amount of service, said Strach. They'll likely have to offer even more service, in the form of classes, if the state legislature decides to pass a bill requiring boat operators to be licensed.

Education is extremely important, said Strach, because of the number of tragedies that happen on the lake that are based on irresponsibility, lack of knowledge – even arrogance.

Strach said she has made the words “How can I help?” her motto for her year ahead as flotilla commander.

“The sky is the limit for us,” she said.

Awards and certificates were given out to flotilla members. Collins received a special US Coast Guard Auxiliary Commendation Medal for service as rear commodore in Region 11 from January 2005 until December 2006. In that time, Collins oversaw an astounding 470,000 volunteer hours districtwide. He thanked fellow auxiliary members for making the award possible.

Strach was named Auxiliarist of the Year, with Jolley named 2007's Most Inspirational member.

Collins and the flotilla made sure to give Thomas a good roasting to show their appreciation for his service to the flotilla over the years.

Incoming staff officers for 2008 are Gary Jolley, aids to navigation and materials; John McEwen, communications; Deana McAllister, communication services; DA Butts, finance; Anita Farnholtz, information services; Catalina Gumatoatoa, marine safety; Betty Strach, member training, operations and public education; Allan Bride, public affairs; Chris Ruttan, publications; Rich Thomas, personnel services; Charles Rester, program visitation; Karen Wilson, secretary of records; and Dane Hayward, vessel examinations.

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BLUE LAKES – A Redway woman was injured after she lost control of her vehicle and hit another vehicle Sunday.

Sara Champie, 21, was hospitalized after the crash, which took place t about 6:10 p.m., according to California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia.

Champie was driving a 1997 Nissan Altima eastbound on Highway 20 east of Blue Lakes Road, said Garcia.

The weather was rainy, and a preliminary CHP investigation into the rash's cause indicated that Champie was driving at approximately 65 miles per hour, Garcia reported.

Due to her speed and roadway conditions, Garcia said Champie lost control of the vehicle as she entered a right curve in the road.

The car went into the highway's westbound lane and hit a 2007 GMC Yukon driven by 38-year-old Diane Ogden of El Dorado Hills, said

Garcia said Champie sustained major injuries that were not life-threatening. She was transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital before later being transferred to UC Davis Medical Center.

Ogden and her passenger, Celina Chouinarg of Elk Grove, were not injured, said Garcia.

CHP Officer Robert Hearn is investigating the incident.

With the rainy season having arrived, Garcia said it's important to remember to take special weather precautions when driving.

He said the CHP is reminding drivers to always give themselves extra time when traveling, increase their following distance and remember to slow down during inclement weather. They also should remember to check their tires and windshield wipers.

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BARTLETT SPRINGS – Another fire struck the county's remote Bartlett Springs area Friday afternoon.

Local firefighters, US Forest Service and Cal Fire responded to the quarter-acre wildland fire reported at about 2:20 p.m. Friday, according to Cal Fire.

According to radio transmissions, a passing motorist spotted the fire and reported it from Highway 20 near Bartlett Springs Road.

Cal Fire sent one battalion chief, three engines, one fire crew, one bulldozer and a helicopter, the agency reported.

Cal Fire did not have information on county resources dispatched to the scene.

The fire was quickly contained by 2:40 p.m., Cal Fire reported.

Scanner traffic indicated that officials spotted two to three vehicles leaving the area of the fire, including a silver Jeep and a male subject on a motorcycle who raced by firefighters as they made their way up the hill to the fire.

Tobie Edmonds, a fire investigator with Northshore Fire Protection District, said he planned to join fire investigators for Cal Fire and the US Forest Service at the fire scene Saturday.

“We are going to go up and investigate the cause and origin,” Edmonds said Friday evening.

In recent months, Bartlett Springs has been hit by a series of fires that the Lake County Arson Task Force continues to investigate, said Edmonds.

Edmonds estimated that there have been eight fires since the summer. Earlier blazes claimed the Bartlett Springs Resort Lodge, the resort's historic gazebo and another building in the area, as Lake County News previously reported.

Regarding Friday's fire, Edmonds said he didn't expect the full Arson Task Force – which includes representative members from all of the county's fire districts and law enforcement agencies – would be called out to look at it.

Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.

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LAKE COUNTY – A task force formed to enforce sex offender registration requirements recently held an operation in Lake County, according to a Wednesday report.

On Nov. 28 and 29, members of the Region II Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Task Force met in Lake County and conducted a two-day operation, according to Lt. Cecil Brown of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Agencies that assigned personnel to participate in the operation included the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Probation Department, Lake County District Attorney’s Office, Lakeport Police Department, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, Solano County Sheriff’s Department, California State Parole and the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force, Brown reported.

California State Law requires persons convicted of certain sex crimes to register with the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction where they reside. Brown said the sheriff’s office conducts compliance checks to ensure that sex offenders register when required by law, and to verify information provided during the registration process.

The enforcement operation that occurred on Nov. 28 and Nov. 29 resulted in four arrests for violations of terms and conditions of parole, said Brown.

Five additional investigations were initiated for violations of sex offender registration laws, narcotics violations and a weapons violation, he said.

Several parole and probation searches were conducted, according to Brown. Agents from the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force were able to perform on-site forensic searches of computer equipment for child pornography or other material which would violate the terms of probation or parole.

A primary goal of the SAFE Task Force is reduce the number of noncompliant registrants in each county, said Brown.

In January, the Megan’s Law database listed 28 registrants in Lake County who were known to be out of compliance, reported Brown.

Megan’s Law now lists 12 noncompliant registrants in Lake County, said Brown. Warrants have been issued for six of the 12 noncompliant registrants; seven of the 12 are believed to be in Mexico or San Salvador.

Brown added that most of the registrants contacted were found to be in compliance.

The Region II SAFE Task Force was created to improve communication between the agencies in this Office of Emergency Services region, to reduce the number of non-compliant sex registrants and to increase public awareness, Brown reported.

Region II SAFE Task Force operations are funded by a grant administered by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department secured the grant funding, and distributes funds to the participating agencies.

Brown said the Lake County Sheriff’s Office is grateful for opportunities created by this grant. Sheriff Lori Smith of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office qualified for this grant and devoted her resources to managing the grant.

Sheriff Smith chose to use grant funds to benefit 11 counties in addition to Santa Clara County, said Brown. Without this grant, sex registrant compliance checks must be completed by patrol deputies while they are not committed to other criminal investigations.


UPPER LAKE – Quick thinking by some individuals and a quick response from Upper Lake firefighters helped save a home from being destroyed in a Friday night fire.

Between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. a house fire was reported at 1320 E. Highway 20, according to Ken Petz, a battalion chief with Northshore Fire Protection District.

Passersby spotted the fire and called for firefighters, then began putting the fire out with a garden hose, Petz said.

The landowner reportedly was away at the time of the fire, which Petz said started because of fireplace ashes that had been placed outside of the home, against one of its exterior walls.

The fire moved up into the eaves and attic, said Petz. Firefighters got to the scene quickly and hosed down the attic to stop the fire's spread.

Two engines, one each from Nice and Upper Lake, as well as a water tender, an attack unit and between 10 and 12 firefighters responded, said Petz.

Petz said thanks to the quick action of the people who reported the fire, the house's fire damage was minimal. “That was a good save.”

The fire was out about 20 minutes after firefighters arrived, Petz said.

Officials remained on scene until the owner returned home from a trip to Willits.

“We were there probably an hour and a half total,” said Petz.

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James Deback is going to state prison for molesting a 10-year-old boy. Lake County Jail photo.

LAKEPORT – A man convicted of molesting a 10-year-old boy was sentenced to state prison on Friday.

Senior Deputy District Attorney John R. DeChaine reported that Judge Richard Martin sentenced Lakeport resident James Michael Deback, 45, to the upper term of eight years in prison for child molestation.

DeChaine said the investigation began in March, when a neighbor witnessed what was believed to be inappropriate conduct between Deback and the child.

Jail records show that Deback, a painter, was arrested on March 28.

Formal charges were filed by the Lake County District Attorney’s Office on April 2, according to DeChaine, who prosecuted the case.

On Nov. 2 Deback pleaded no contest to one felony count of committing a lewd or lascivious act with a child under the age of 14 and one misdemeanor count of annoying or molesting a minor, DeChaine reported.

Both crimes, said DeChaine, require Deback to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life.  

When Deback entered his no contest pleas on Nov. 2, he admitted a special allegation that the felony charge involved “substantial sexual conduct,” according to DeChaine.

DeChaine noted that the admission of this special allegation served to prohibit Deback from being granted probation, thereby ensuring a prison commitment.  

DeChaine said the case was investigated by a team of officers, including Mark Hommer and Jim Bell of the Lakeport Police Department and Investigator Von Morshed of the Lake County District Attorney’s Office.

Both Bell and Morshed have specialized training in conducting child forensic interviews in cases involving child sexual assault, DeChaine added.
Morshed and the victim’s family members were in attendance when Deback was sentenced, DeChaine said.

The family prepared a victim impact statement which was read by Denise Johnson of the Victim-Witness Division of the District Attorney’s Office prior to Judge Martin handing down the sentence, according to DeChaine.  

DeChaine said the felony county for which Deback was convicted is a violent strike in California, meaning Deback will not be eligible for parole until he serves at least 85 percent of his prison commitment.  


SACRAMENTO – At its annual conference this week, the California State Rural Health Association is discussing a $22 million federal grant the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) awarded to California for the improvement of rural health care through expansion of telemedicine technology.

The grant was awarded to the California Telehealth Network, a coalition led by the University of California, in partnership with government agencies and healthcare providers, including the California State Rural Healthcare Association, according to a statement from the office of state Sen. Patricia Wiggins' office. The group will work together to bring modern health care services to rural, underserved areas of California.

Telehealth and telemedicine services provide patients in rural areas with access to critically needed medical specialists in urban areas through video conferencing, Wiggins' office reported. With this new technology, urban doctors can monitor patients, make diagnoses and assist in treating patients in rural areas from long distances.

As members of the California Legislative Rural Caucus, Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) and Assemblymember Patty Berg (D-Eureka) actively supported the California Telehealth Network’s grant application by working with Congress and contacting the FCC to ensure California received its share of the federal funding.

The two legislators say they were very pleased by the news of the award.

“This federal grant will help us to expand broadband networks for telemedicine, which will enable us to connect medical experts to clinics in some of the most remote regions of California,” Berg said.

Wiggins agreed, saying that “it is critical that our state sets the standard with this new technology, which will enable us to save time, save money and, most importantly, save lives.”

Rural Caucus Chair Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) commended Wiggins and Berg for their hard work on behalf of rural Californians, noting, “I have been very impressed how the members of the Rural Caucus pulled together to fight for this funding. The senator and assemblymember have been tireless advocates for this important grant. I am grateful to have them as members of our team.”

The $22 million grant award comes on top of the $200 million allocated in Proposition 1D to build telemedicine capacity around the state, Wiggins' office reported. The award will build upon existing networks and connect approximately 300 health care providers that are currently unconnected to telemedicine services.

The California Legislative Rural Caucus is a bipartisan group created to protect and promote rural California and its interests. It is comprised of 45 members from the California State Assembly and Senate that represent rural areas throughout California.

David Miller, Wiggins' spokesman, reported that over the next three years the grant would be distributed to a number of North Coast health care providers, including several in and around Lake County.

In year two, Sutter Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport would receive funds, as would Potter Valley Community Health Center and Round Valley Indian Health Center.

The following year, the Lake County Tribal Health Consortium in Lakeport, and Mendocino Community Health Clinic in both Lakeport and Ukiah, would receive funds.

Miller did not have information at this time on the amount of grant money each local health care provider would receive.


THE GEYSERS – A string of 32 small earthquakes – capped by two larger quakes, one measuring 4.0 and a second 3.0 in magnitude – shook the area of The Geysers, Anderson Springs and Cobb Saturday.

The US Geological Survey reported that 4.0 quake occurred at 12:50 p.m. It was centered one mile northeast of The Geysers and four miles west southwest from Cobb.

There were 24 reports made to the US Geological Survey from individuals who felt the quake from Kelseyville all the way to San Francisco. Ten people in Middletown reported feeling the quake.

At approximately 12:57 p.m., a 3.0 quake occurred three miles north of The Geysers and four miles west of Cobb, according to the US Geological Survey.

There were nine reports from people who felt that quake, five of them in Middletown, one in Lower Lake and other reports coming from Healdsburg, Petaluma and even San Francisco, according to the US Geological Survey.

The last time an earthquake over 3.0 in magnitude was felt in Lake County was Sept. 17, when a 3.5 quake was recorded by the US Geological Survey nine miles northeast of Hidden Valley Lake, as Lake County News previously reported.

A quake of 4.0 magnitude hasn't occurred in the county since a 4.4 magnitude quake hit The Geysers area on April 24, based on US Geological Survey records.

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KELSEYVILLE – A Kelseyville woman suspected of drinking and driving was arrested after she crashed her car into a residence.

Lisa Anne Tragiou, 45, was arrested by California Highway Patrol Officer Dallas Richey after the crash took place just before 3 p.m. Thursday in Kelseyville, according to CHP spokesman Officer Adam Garcia.

Tragiou was driving her 1986 black Ford Ranger pickup northbound on State Street, south of Gaddy Lane, when the pickup drifted right off the roadway and clipped a telephone pole, which escaped structure damage, Garcia said.

The collision caused the pickup to travel left across the roadway, Garcia reported, where it struck a cyclone fence, continuing through the fence and over a grass lawn.

Tragiou's pickup finally struck the front steps and overhead awning of a mobile home, said Garcia. CHP logs reported that the home was in the 2000 block of N. State Street.

The home's occupants, and Tragiou and her passenger, 46-year-old Jennifer Engstrom of Kelseyville, escaped injury, Garcia reported.

Tragiou was booked into the Lake County Jail, with bail posted at $1,740. She has since posted bond and been released, according to jail records.

Garcia said Richey is investigating the incident.

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LAKE COUNTY – During the winter holiday season, homeowners must be aware of the increased fire hazards present in their homes during this festive time of year.

Fire dangers increase throughout the home during the holiday season. Many homes are decorated with seasonal garlands, electric lights, candles, banners or displays.

Probably the most popular addition to the home during the holiday season, and a significant fire hazard, is the Christmas tree. Dried-out fir and pine Christmas trees ignite easily and can accelerate fire growth by spreading rapidly to nearby combustible materials in the home.

This happens because as the winter holiday season progresses, live or cut Christmas trees and greens will eventually die. As plants die, they dry out and become more combustible.

Statistically speaking, each year in the United States, more than 200 residential structure fires occur where Christmas trees are the material first ignited. I have been a firefighter for a long time and it seems like every year, we respond to a fire involving a Christmas tree.

Sometimes these fires are devastating and destroy the entire home. Other times the fire is relatively minor and only involve the tree and the contents of the room, including new gifts and presents. Shortening the time the tree is in the home and keeping the tree watered can prevent some of these fires.

Here are some other Christmas tree safety suggestions.

  • When purchasing a live or cut tree, check for fresh, green needles. Do not purchase a tree that is dry or dropping needles. The use of fire-retardant artificial Christmas trees will also reduce the chance of tree fires in residences.

  • Choose a sturdy tree stand designed not to tip over. Try to keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily.

  • Make sure the tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source, such as fireplaces and radiators. Try to position the tree near an electrical outlet so that cords are not running long distances. Do not place the tree where it may block exits.

  • When decorating Christmas trees, always use safe tree lights. (Some lights are designed only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both.) Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to use tree lights. Any string of lights with worn, frayed or broken cords or loose bulb connections should not be used.

  • Check your strands of lights to determine the number of strands that may be connected. Connect no more than three strands of push-in bulbs and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs. Always unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to bed.

  • Never use lit candles to decorate a tree, and place them well away from tree branches. Never use electric lights on a metal tree.

  • Safely dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.

All of us in Lake County must be aware of the increased fire hazards present in their homes during this festive time of year. During the holiday season, as fire danger inside a home increases, efforts should be made to make your home fire-safe. Especially tragic are those fires caused by Christmas tree decorations.

So please, be careful, and be safe. We don’t want any tragic fires this holiday season.

For more information visit the United States Fire Administration at

Robert MacIntyre is a firefighter and a member of the South Lake County Fire District Board of Directors. He lives in Hidden Valley Lake.


HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – A Friday night crash caused many Hidden Valley Lake residents to be without power for more than 16 hours.

A vehicle colliding with a power pole caused the outage, according to Pacific Gas & Electric spokesman JD Guidi.

Guidi said the outage began at 8:32 p.m. Friday after a vehicle hit and destroyed a power pole at 17179 Knollview Drive in Hidden Valley Lake.

It took PG&E crews until 12:46 p.m. Saturday to finish repairing what Guidi called “extensive damage.”

“They had to replace the pole,” said Guidi.

A total of 1,855 customers were affected, Guidi said.

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Animal Care and Control Officer Morgan Hermann visit with Deja following the Thursday surgery to remove the dog's right front leg. Photo courtesy of Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic.

CLEARLAKE They work long hours, see a lot of sad stories and often get criticized in the course of doing their work. {sidebar id=40}

Despite all of that Animal Care and Control officers remain in incredibly difficult jobs because they love animals, said agency Program Director Paula Werner.

They often encounter situations of need, said Werner, and are forced to think with their heads even when their hearts are involved.

But every once in a while they get challenged in a way that throws practical thinking out the window, which is what happened this week.

Katie Bennett, who works in Animal Care and Control's front office, said they received a call Monday from Clearlake resident Michael Sims.

The 60-year-old Sims said he needed to surrender his dog and have her euthanized because he couldn't afford treatment for a tumor that had grown up on one of her legs, Bennett explained.

Bennett said they told Sims they could pick up the dog at 4 p.m. that day. Sims, however, said he couldn't, because he had an appointment at the mortuary to plan his wife's funeral.

Two days earlier, on Nov. 24, Sims lost his 52-year-old wife, Evelyn, to cancer. The couple, who had been married 17 years, have a 15-year-old son, Justin.

The family loved its animals, which included many birds and their two dogs, a 6-year-old Rottweiler named Deja – short for Dejavu – and Wiener, a 10-year-old Dachshund.

But they had to get rid of the birds in order to move into a rental after their home was foreclosed on, said Sims.

“It's been a real rough year,” he said.

Both of the dogs, said Sims, were rescues, animals that came into the lives of his family after their previous owners moved or could no longer keep them.

The aging Wiener was blind, deaf and suffering, said Sims, so he had already surrendered him to Animal Care and Control to be put down. “He knew his way around the yard, but it was time.”

But the younger Deja – “she's just beautiful, a sweetheart” – had only been with the family three years, said Sims.

Compounding the family's sorrow, in the past month, Sims said Deja's tumor appeared on her leg, seemingly, out of nowhere. “It came on real fast. I thought she was snake bit.”

Not thinking it was a tumor, Sims took Deja to the vet only to find out she required $2,000 worth of treatment, which included amputating her right front leg. That, coupled with seeing her in pain and his already stretched finances, led Sims to his heartbreaking decision.

Determined to get help

Animal Care and Control arranged to come and pick Deja up Wednesday. Sims – who has had dogs all of his life – said he got “a little emotional” when Officer Morgan Hermann arrived to take the dog.

The emotion quickly passed to Hermann and other Animal Care and Control staff as they learned Sims' story.

Bennett said they see a lot of sad stories come through their doors, but this one struck them especially hard.

When Hermann arrived back in Lakeport with Deja, Bennett said the staff concluded, “We've got to figure something out.”

On Wednesday, they took Deja to Clearlake Veterinary, which is their contract vet when seeking grants from the Cobb-based Acme Foundation, which gives grants to help seniors and the disabled pay for veterinary care for seriously ill pets.

Deja's prognosis, however, wasn't good, said Bennett.

Deja, who is young and in otherwise good health, is suffering from bone cancer, with treatment not likely to gain her much time. Because of that, the Acme Foundation's strict funding criteria didn't allow them to help, despite the fact that the group wanted to, said Bennett.

The staff at Animal Care and Control weren't ready to give up, said Bennett. The story had broken their hearts and given them a firm resolution, that they wouldn't put Deja to sleep.

Next, they turned to Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic, and Dr. Chris Holmes, a vet there for the past 13 years.

Bennett said Wasson works closely with Animal Care and Control, frequently giving them discounts when treating animals in need.

Holmes said Hermann brought the dog to him, heartbroken over the situation. “I hate seeing Animal Control officers crying over a case,” he said.

The emotion shown by Hermann and her coworkers, said Holmes, told him there was a bigger story behind Deja's case.

So Holmes took on the case, which he said he was happy to do.

Before they even knew the cost, Bennett said Animal Care and Control staff were determined to get Deja help in order to reunite her with her family. “No matter what, we're doing it. Even if all of us here have to pay for it.”

Just after noon Thursday, Holmes completed the surgery to amputate Deja's leg, with its softball-sized tumor.

Speaking with Lake County News just after surgery, Holmes said Deja was recovering just fine.

“She looks good,” he said. “She's going to be instantly pain-free compared to where she was.”

Deja's condition, bone cancer – or osteosarcoma – is extremely painful, said Holmes. The cancer eventually will eat right through the bone, causing it to break.

Osteosarcoma often appears in the larger breeds, said Holmes, including Rottweilers and Great Danes.

While the surgery got rid of the tumor, Holmes was candid in saying that the cancer already had spread. “We know that it's elsewhere.”

The amputation buys Deja about six months, with three scheduled chemotherapy treatments – one of which started within a few hours of surgery – adding six more months to that, Holmes said.

“We're basically buying her a year of a good quality of life,” he said.

In the coming weeks, Deja will receive two more chemotherapy treatments of Carboplatin, drug also used on human cancer patients, Holmes explained.

The surgery and chemo treatments will cost about $2,500, said Holmes, after Wasson initially discounted the care by $500 as its donation.

Holmes also discovered Deja has heartworm, a condition Wasson will treat at its own cost, he said.

The issue of cost preventing a family from saving a pet isn't new, said Holmes.

“We often see cases where you get an older animal and it's a big problem and they do have to weigh the costs of treatment versus how much life they may actually buy them,” he said.

Some people use medical issues as a reason to get rid of pets, said Holmes. At the same time, “There are plenty of people who would spend all the money in the world and we still can't save them.”

Staff starts fundraiser effort

“I can't recall a case like this,” said Werner, who added that Animal Care and Control Staff have been “in a big fat puddle of tears” for the last few days over Deja's plight.

“This one just got to us, that's all I can say,” she said.

The closest case to Deja's was in 2006 involving “Hero,” a German shepherd found emaciated at a Lakeport home. Bennett said the community donated so much money that it easily covered all of Hero's treatment, again provided by Wasson Memorial.

Werner said about eight staffers so far have signed on to donate their own money “on our county paychecks, I might add.”

Community members also have started helping, said Bennett, with a Clearlake business donating $200.

Werner said Animal Care and Control staffers wanted to give Michael and Justin Sims back their dog for Christmas.

Holmes added, “Maybe his Christmas will be a little bit better.”

After a “rough year” – a decided understatement after what he's been through – Sims said Thursday the help he's received from Animal Care and Control and Wasson has given him “a different point of view.”

It's also given his teenage son some hope.

When he told Justin on Wednesday that Deja was getting help and may be coming back home, “He just lit up,” Sims said.

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