Article published - Sep 24, 2006

Dylan and Dean De La Montanya, shown with their dog, Rosie, raised more than $1,000 for the Healdsburg Animal Shelter by selling bottled water at their parents' winery. JEFF KAN LEE / The Press Democrat


It took the De La Montanya brothers two whole years, but recently they found they couldn't jam even one more dollar bill into the extra-large wine jug they'd been using to collect donations for the Healdsburg Animal Shelter.

Selling bottled water for 50 cents to visitors at their family's De La Montanya Winery & Vineyards in Healdsburg, Dean, 11 and Dylan, 7, said they did it for the love of animals. "If we didn't adopt animals, they'd be alone and sad. They could use our help sometimes. And because we're Christians, we help," said Dean De La Montanya, a sixth-grader.
The boys have grown up surrounded by pets and tame animals. Their dog, Rosie, is not only the boys' alarm clock, licking their faces to wake them up, she is also described by Dylan De La Montanya as an all-around great baseball infielder.

In addition to Rosie, the boys love their 19-year-old calico cat, Miss Kitty; their 6-year-old goldfish, Blackie; their bunch of chickens; and their flock of homing pigeons. "You should see the car when we go up to Clearlake," said their mom, Tina De La Montanya. "We take the dog, the cat and the fish in a container. They're family," she said.
The beneficiary of the boys' pet-loving largesse was the animal shelter, which is just a short drive from the family winery. Executive director Ann Joly is accustomed to unusual donations, even piggy banks, being handed over the counter. But the carboy brimming with bills was a first.

"We're fortunate that a lot of kids want to help the animal shelter. Some kids sell lemonade, some walk for us in the Human Race. One girl even made calendars featuring our shelter pets for us to sell as a fund-raiser," said Joly, who counted the boys' donation. The total: $1,073 and change.

In the seven years that Joly has been at the shelter, it is the largest single donation from a student she can remember. "It is a lot of money. Over a thousand dollars can buy probably more than one hundred packs of dog food," third-grader Dylan De La Montanya speculated. Joly concurred. "That donation will help pay for dog food, cat food, vaccines, medicines, the lights, heat bills, paper towels - the list goes on and on," she said.

Dennis and Tina De La Montanya have encouraged their children to help at the family vineyards and winery and to look for ways to serve others. "We tell them that they are very fortunate, often. That they have so much, so they should be giving," said their mother. It seems to be sinking in.

"The idea ... came entirely from the boys. They asked permission to collect money at some of our events and I was happy to help out," said winery founder and dad, Dennis De La Montanya. "We are very proud of their selfless work and contribution to the shelter."

The boys recently devised a new way to raise a little more money for the shelter by hosting a carnival-style coin toss during wine-tasting afternoons. "We sprayed Pam on the plates like they do at the carnival. We didn't really have to, because everybody just gave the money anyway," said Dean De La Montanya, who hopes to one day to be a firefighter. His brother Dylan hopes to be a professional baseball player and "a very professional artist. And I would give half of my salary away to shelters," he said with an earnest gleam in his eye.

The Healdsburg Animal Shelter handles about 600 animals per year, including dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, turtles, iguanas, ferrets and whatever else is left on the doorstep. "People leave everything on our doorstep. One morning there was a litter of coyote pups. Of course, they went right to Wildlife Rescue," Joly said.
Established in 1960, the Healdsburg shelter is trying to secure a new site on which to build a state-of-the-art facility. Joly hopes that the example of the De La Montanya family will inspire others to support the shelter as it evolves.

Last changed: Sep 24, 2006 © The Press Democrat.