Dave Mason, midday host at XHBCE-FM (105.7, a greatest-hits station popularly known as The Walrus), took in the information with a seasoned animal-lover’s perspective, the good news fueling a mix of memories within his activist’s track record. The Jack Russell terrier (now Mason’s dog Jack) found wandering the streets of La Jolla after the Fourth of July fireworks five years ago; the two dogs kept in a garage for at least seven years amid the owner’s contempt; the disfigured midsection of a canine burn victim: Mason reflects on them with equal passion.
His love of animals is a cause and a calling, his normally upbeat, cultivated DJ voice halting at the thought of it.
“There’s no reason to shoot a dog,” he understated to San Diego Pets. “There’s no reason to keep two animals locked in a garage. It’s—it’s sad. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. Maybe it’s a dysfunction of what’s going on with society.”
But even as Mason bristles at each of the 1,500 animal cruelty reports that cross humane society desks each year, he takes enormous pride in the happy endings, a good number of which he’s helped engineer.
Stories of abuse and rescue come with the turf when you’re as visible as Mason is. He’s a staple at Helen Woodward Animal Center fundraisers, telethon benefits for the San Diego Humane Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and pet adoption and humane education programs too numerous to count. He reports that this year’s humane society telethon, which he hosted on March 17, took in $263,000—that’s not a record, but the money was raised in only three hours. Last year’s benefit, which netted just under $200,000, lasted five.
Mason is quick to add that the money is a product of an enlightened local climate.
“San Diego is one of the best, if not the best, [animal care] cities in the country,” he said. “When you see the [humane society’s] Gaines Street location, you see that many of the habitats are apartment-like, with carpeting and furniture. The reason for that is that animals can become better accustomed to a home environment as opposed to a kennel environment. Even the animals that need to be quarantined and aren’t ready for adoption are handled with heat and light and as many comforts of home as [officials] can think of.
“I’ve been involved with the humane society for most of my time here,” Mason continued. “I’ve seen animals here treated so much better than I saw when I worked in Pittsburgh, for example, or all over Allegheny County. The conditions there were just awful. Just awful.”
Mason, 64, also saw time in Rochester, N.Y. (his hometown), Buffalo, Cincinnati and Binghamton, N.Y. before landing in San Diego in 1999 at the defunct KJOY-FM. He’s been with The Walrus since it went on the air in 2008. He lives in Scripps Ranch with his registered-nurse wife Diane and has two sons, Jon, 24, and Adam, 19.
Jack the terrier and a bird round out the household—and for Mason, the animals may be the key to something bigger than themselves.
“I am thrilled,” he explained, “that my two children, who have been in a house with animals all their lives, are so compassionate. The younger one has brought home no less than three dogs he saw running in traffic. Fortunately, we found the owners for all three. He’ll go out of his way to find an owner.”
In fact, Mason said, Adam isn’t that far removed from an institution in which animals could take on life-changing roles.
“There needs to be space for all of us,” Mason continued. “I think it’s very sad that if someone grows up with the capacity to harm an animal, it’s probably because the person was treated that way as a child. What I’d like to see done in schools is, ‘Here’s how you go through life. You go through life getting along with your fellow man and your fellow woman. And here’s why animals should be a part of your life.’ If schools could take kids and animals and put them together, I think we’d have nowhere near the trouble we have in schools today.”
After all, he said, animals are as much an extension of our personalities as we are of theirs.
“When I see a dog or a cat or a kitten or a raccoon or a fox,” he continued, “I’m just fascinated. Maybe it’s because of the crummy zoo we had in Rochester back in the ’50s. Or maybe it’s because I’m married to a nurse. I see how she interacts with people with all sorts of medical conditions. And I’ve been to the hospitals. I’ve seen kids 3 and 4 years old walking down the hallway with IV trees, four and five bottles hanging off the tree. The kids are, ‘Hey; it’s me. Just another day.’ Animals are the same way in facing adversity, whether it’s the dog who was so badly burned or whether it’s Chance. Get ’em up and running, and it’s like nothing ever happened.”
But something has. For Mason, it started in his Rochester boyhood when a drunk driver hit and killed an Irish setter in plain view. It continued in Cincinnati when he, “like an idiot,” accidentally let a pet parakeet escape (incredibly, the bird was found five miles away). Heartwarmingly, it came full circle as an elderly couple adopted the burn patient.
And so it goes for Chance, who’s happily marking his turf in a brand-new yard. Just as he’s claimed his owners’ hearts, there’s at least one local media figure who has his back.
For more on the San Diego Humane Society, see sdhumane.org. For further information on San Diego County Animal Services, visit sddac.com. Visit www.1057thewalrus.com/mason, for more info on Dave Mason.
North Park family welcomes new member
On Monday, March 19, San Diego County Animal Services announced that Chance, whose brush with death held the area’s attention for several days in late February, has been adopted by a North Park family—Sean and Adria Cavanaugh and their two children, Finn, 6, and Molly, 3. Animal Services had received hundreds of applications for Chance’s adoption, fielding several requests even before it had begun accepting them.
On the morning of Monday, Feb. 20, Chance was shot through the torso and left for dead in a state of shock on the side of an East County road. The county’s Department of Animal Services rushed the animal to the VAC emergency animal hospital in Mission Valley, where luck and quick thinking saved his life.
The Cavanaughs were chosen from three finalists and welcomed Chance to his new home on Wednesday, March 21.