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Rocket Dog Rescue Needs Help

I am asking for your help with my friend Pali Boucher in San Francisco.

Please visit her website: www.rocketdogrescue.org

Pali lost everything and is now homeless along with her 11-12 dogs.

Her cell phone number is: 415-756-8188. Any help you could give would be incredible.

http://www.sfgate. com/cgi-bin/ article.cgi? file=/c/a/ 2007/12/23/BAFIU3KC0.DTL

For most of her life, Pali Boucher lived on the streets, in the grip of alcohol and drugs as HIV settled in her blood.

It was a dog who saved her, giving her a reason to clean up and get a life.

She then set about saving dogs, founding San Francisco's Rocket Dog Rescue in 2001.

But fate threw her out on the street again Friday as a fire raged through her home, killing three fostered animals and threatening her ability to save more shelter animals sitting on death row.

It was just before noon Friday when Boucher, 42, left her Bernal Heights home after tending to her three foster dogs, making sure they had food and water before heading out the door. About a half hour later, she got a call from a friend.

Her home, the top floor of a duplex, was on fire, and firefighters were breaking through the door.

She rushed back, only to find the three dogs on the sidewalk, each covered by a blanket: Daisy, a just-rescued, emaciated pit bull; Stewie, an ornery Chihuahua; and Guthrie, an aged and mellow shepherd mix.

All three died in the fire, as did an injured pigeon she was nursing back to health and Boucher's beloved and talkative parrot Chester, with her since he hatched 10 years ago.

Her own three dogs had been out of the house at the time of the fire and were safe.

"I lost everything," Boucher said Saturday afternoon. "But the thing I had of most value was the animals in the house."

As a child, Boucher grew up with her hippie mom on the streets, bouncing from communes to foster homes and even a Mexican jail cell.

She remembers begging the cops not to arrest her drunk or drugged-out mom.

When Boucher was 10, her mother died. Within a couple of years, the streets called her back. It was the only home she knew.

As an adult, drugs and alcohol lured her as they had her mother.

Then she met Leadbelly.

He was a hound dog she adopted from the local pound, lying about her address to take him home.

Leadbelly saved her, giving her a reason to get clean and get a life.

When she got on her feet, she started fostering other dogs and found her life's calling.

Rocket Dog Rescue has helped about 3,000 animals over the years - the vast majority saved as they were scheduled for imminent euthanasia at various shelters across Northern California.

Boucher's duplex was often the first stop for those animals, many with urgent health needs.

As Boucher talked, she clutched an old, one-eyed dachshund named Darby, one of her recent rescues and now in foster care with friends at Kosita's Pet Grooming, where Boucher is temporarily staying.

Also destroyed in the fire was Boucher's artwork, irreplaceable paintings and photographs that melted in the blaze.

Yet it was the animals that Boucher kept talking about.

Chester was a character.

He loved being part of a household full of rescued and family animals. He could swear like a sailor and mimic Boucher's friends, even the one who spoke Portuguese. He would initiate new foster dogs by calling them over with kissing sounds, biting them on their noses, and then laughing.

"I don't know where he learned that," Boucher said, a sad smile on her face.

But her face lit up when a friend arrived with Boucher's bloodhound in tow, a large, wrinkly dog named Lightnin' Hopkins, after the blues guitarist.

Boucher grabbed the large dog's saggy face and kissed him on the mouth.

Her other two dogs, pit bull Memphis Minnie and pit bull mix Muddy Waters, were being cared for elsewhere.

"Everything was so stable and strong," she said scratching Lightnin's jowls, her mind returning to the fire. "My home was my stability."

Friends and Rocket Dog volunteers have come to Boucher's rescue this time, giving shelter to her dogs and helping with the daily needs of the 50 or so rescued dogs now in foster care.

"We take the dogs other people won't take," said volunteer Laura Beck. "They're not the perfect little dogs that everyone wants."

Many are older dogs or those that are injured or sick.

They had all been scheduled for euthanasia and were rescued with just hours to spare.

The nonprofit organization spends about $150,000 on veterinary bills every year - money raised through donations, annual fundraisers and the $175 fee from adoptions.

Many of the rescued animals went to Boucher's house first. She gets them stabilized and calm, so she can evaluate what kind of foster home or permanent family they need.

She doesn't know if she'll be able to move back into her duplex or will need to find another home.

That she was homeless yet again didn't matter as much as the fact that there were animals that needed a home.

"We can't stop the business of rescue," she said. "What about the dogs they're calling about now?"

There's a black Lab whose days are numbered and who needs a foster home, she said. And a Chihuahua, too, she added.

"I was their safety net," Boucher said. "I don't know how long I'll be without the ability to do that."

To help

Rocket Dog Rescue is looking for long-term foster homes for animals as well as a large, permanent sanctuary with living quarters for Boucher. For more information, go to rocketdogrescue. org.

Those interested in fostering animals, or with leads on housing should call Paul Gigliotti at (415) 846-2023 or e-mail Laura Beck at: laura@rocketdogresc ue.org (at rocketdogrescue. org).

E-mail Jill Tucker at jtucker@sfchronicle .com.

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