Pam Tobin Talks To The Animals (And They Respond)

For this realtor and water industry official, rescue and recovery are intertwined

Pam Tobin isn’t letting a little thing like turning 70 slow down her 24/7 life of rescuing and restoring abandoned animals to vibrantly affectionate life, selling and developing real estate, and serving as president of the Association of California Water Agencies (whose clever acronym is ACWA).

Her home, a licensed kennel, is both a pet sanctuary and the nerve center of her nonprofit, Sierra Pacific Great Pyrenees Club Rescue. It’s not a petting zoo but just try to avoid doing so when you encounter her menageries of dogs, cats, miniature horses, one donkey, one coyote and innumerable waterfowl.

I visit Tobin one recent morning at the home she shares with Jim, her husband of 43+ years, as well as a traveling army of drop-in rescue volunteers. Their grown sons and four granddaughters are also frequent visitors to this five-acre property in Granite Bay.

Granite Bay, in the city of Roseville, is a community 27 miles east of California’s State Capitol. Its ruggedly rural history has been overshadowed in recent decades by the building of McMansion homes with multi-car garages, private tennis courts, and swimming pools which may be deemed too large for the Olympics.

That is neither the scene nor vibe of the house that Pam built, perhaps in homage to the authentic country life she experienced growing up in New Hampshire and spending “most of the time” on her uncle’s farm with her 10 cousins. Consider the roll call of today’s resident clients (if I miss anyone, Pam and Jim, please blame it on writer’s cramp):

  • 13 extraordinarily beautiful, very white, very large and very loving dogs who give her sanctuary its name. Their names, which Tobin recites from memory over coffee at her kitchen table, are Delta, River, Chunk, Cleo, Caesar, Connor, April, Sonny, Falco, Levi, Sully, Marley Man, and Martha Stewart (“We thought it’d be hilarious hearing her name called out when she’s competing in a dog show,” Tobin says). A 14th dog, Breezy, was adopted the day before our visit;
    10 previously unwanted miniature horses whose bangs bring to mind the early Beatles, if they’d been blondes: BJ, Lollipop, Boogie, Sweet Pea, CG (for Cover Girl), Sabrina, Diamond, Rocko, Preacher, Ember and Sammy;
  • A coterie of ducks, swans and geese who loiter in a segment of slough running through one of Tobin’s side yards;
  • Four very grateful cats (Simon, Raisin, Cheetos and Cleo);
  • One visitor-wary coyote named Indy (for Indiana Jones), whom Tobin rescued when it was a starving pup and nurtured back to life. Such is the wraparound warmth of Tobinville that Indy is known to pal around with the rest of the menagerie and not try to thin its numbers; and
  • One donkey named Don Juan, who hangs with the miniature horses. I wanted to ask how he came to have that name but also wanted the column to retain its PG rating.

“I remember all of the animals’ names,” she says. “Not so much all of their owners’.”

As we tour her facilities, I ask if she keeps before and after shots of the animals she rescues and resurrects. “I do,” she says. “But when I see animals in need on the SPCA channel, I turn off the TV. It makes me so sad and mad and sick—mainly because I can’t do anything to help them. But here—” She pauses and gestures at her four-legged customers in their various living quarters, then resumes. “But here—here, I can.”

Not surprisingly, Tobin was a 4H leader for 14 years, welcoming children to her spread and teaching them to love animals. “Their needs are pretty basic,” she says (referencing the animals, not the kids). “They want love, being clean, feeling safe and a good meal.” In fact, Tobin and her husband prep most of the food for her houseguests. “I used to think of myself as Auntie Pam around the animals,” she jokes. “But really, I’m just Mama Feed.”

In Tobin’s “spare” time (pause for laughs), she’s been a member of the San Juan Water District’s board of directors for 19 years, which included three terms as board president. She also served a number of terms as chair of both the Sacramento Regional Water Authority (which gave her its Distinguished Service award in 2018) and the Sacramento Groundwater Authority.

I’ve abbreviated the list slightly so I could also mention that Tobin has raised more than 30 champion dogs and that she, Jim and the honorees travel the country to numerous shows throughout the year. The RV they pilot, which Pam loves to drive, is perhaps larger than my condo: it sleeps nine, has a washer/dryer, numerous TVs, a fireplace (I’m not kidding) and an Olympic pool (okay, now I’m kidding. Those are in Granite Bay McMansions).

This month, a donation challenge begins, hoping to raise money for Tobin’s nonprofit. It will run through December. You can donate here.

Asked about some regional animal shelters currently under fire for mismanagement, Tobin is expectedly candid. “Many of the dogs in the shelter are smarter than the people they hire to take care of them,” she says.

Tobin says she’s aware that she won’t be able to keep up her pace forever but says, without a trace of self-pity, “There’s no succession planning in what I do, and the alternative—not doing it—is unacceptable.” And with that, she sees me to my car and turns back to face the many loves of her life.