Jackie Hobe said she doesn’t really know why she’s getting an award from a statewide veterinary organization.
“There are many, many people who do what I do,” Hobe said as she showed a couple of visitors around her oak-shaded Nipomo yard filled with winding walkways, grass, plants, signs, bird houses and a fountain.
What Hobe does is rescue dogs, and she’s become well known for it around the community.
“When I go into town, people — especially little children — will say, ‘Look, it’s the Dog Lady of Nipomo.’ I’ll (forget and) walk into town with leashes around my neck, and people will be staring at me and I’ll wonder, ‘What are they looking at?’”
Now 84, Hobe has been rescuing dogs since she worked for Animal Allies in Van Nuys in exchange for room and board while she was a student at UCLA.
“Like all kids, I’d have a little dog that would follow me home,” she said. “I’d want to keep it so badly, but my parents wouldn’t let me. I never grew out of that.”
After taking a break to start a family, she moved to Nipomo 46 years ago and went right back to saving dogs.
She doesn’t know exactly how many she’s rescued over the years.
“I stopped counting at 200,” she said. “Here in Nipomo, I’ve rescued maybe 300, maybe more. ... I would say my adult life has all been with doggies.”
To say Hobe simply rescues dogs might be misleading, because she does much more than take them in and board them at her Nipomo Pet Camp.
If the dogs are simply lost, she finds their owners. Sometimes she knows who they are just based on a dog’s description and where it was found.
Other times, she uses a microchip reader purchased for her by the employees of Nipomo Dog & Cat Hospital.
In fact, hospital veterinarians Robin Shroyer and Maggie Wagner nominated Hobe for the Meritorious Service Award she’ll receive tonight from the California Veterinary Medical Association.
“The reason I nominated her is because she’s been here since the beginning of time rescuing animals, returning them to their owners, talking about spaying and neutering and yelling at people for not keeping their animals in,” Shroyer said.
Hobe admitted she gets upset when people allow their dogs to run loose, especially if they don’t have tags and aren’t spayed or neutered.
“I will give them a piece of my mind,” she said. “I try to be nice, but sometimes I get emotional.”
If the dogs are abandoned, she has them spayed and neutered at her own expense. If they’ve been abused, they may stay at her pet camp for two months or more to overcome psychological and medical problems.
But sooner or later, she finds them homes.
“The best gift I can give a dog is a family of its own that will love and appreciate it,” she said. “I can’t understand how dogs that give love can be betrayed by people who just toss them out or even abuse them.”
One of Hobe’s own two dogs — a slow-moving 16-year-old German shepherd named Jelly — was rescued from euthanasia at a dog pound.
Her other dog is a rambunctious golden retriever puppy she’s training to visit hospitals as a therapy dog.
“I named him Toddy because I like hot toddy, and I thought he was intoxicating because he’s so beautiful,” she said of his almost pure white color.
Hobe said she’s not a dog hoarder and is quite happy owning just two. But she does board other people’s dogs to help cover the cost of dog food and medical care for the rescued animals.
Her county permit limits her to keeping 12 dogs on her 1-acre property, but during emergencies, she’s allowed to take on more.
During a recent Santa Barbara wildfire, she cared for 22 dogs belonging to evacuees.
Hobe said she rarely leaves her home and pet camp — except to go skydiving on her birthday each year — but she plans to attend the Pacific Veterinary Conference in Anaheim to receive her award.
“I wasn’t going to go, but I thought, ‘This is a big award. This is from the veterinary association,’” she said, noting her daughter, who lives in Orcutt, will take over while she’s gone.
One thing Hobe doesn’t plan to do is retire from rescuing dogs.
“That would be like retiring from life,” she said. “It’s not a job. It’s what I do. I’ll probably be rescuing dogs after I’m gone, if there’s a doggie heaven.”