By Chuck Strouse
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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When The Bitch schedules her peregrinations around South Beach to include three parties and some holiday shopping, it is not possible to be fabulously late to each soiree. Paws need to hit the buffet table at the early end of the 7:00-to-10:00 p.m. spectrum if The Bitch is going to dance till dawn. The Bitch wasn't interested in the decadent bonbons (because she hates chocolate) touted at this past Thursday's Saffron Trading International party at the Astor, but there was the promise of champagne and plenty of food, so the pack which had been whiling away the evening pleasantly enough at The Wolfsonian-FIU Museumand trailing a favorite attractive shopaholic-but-cashier-challenged boy around the Urban Outfitters on Washington Avenue was damn indignant to not find any food or champagne or even chocolate when arriving at the hotel mid-evening. "Are you here for the party?" Saffron founder Daniel Espinosa asked. "It's really not going to get started until later; it's Miami, you know. You should come back."
Um, okay. Couldn't the dude have even offered a panting dog a bowl of water? Even when The Bitch, ever a completist, returned later, there was still no food or chocolate to be found. And trying to snag a glass of champagne was like fighting for the last Slurpee Maker on the shelf during the Christmas Eve rush at Target.
Even though Andrew Cunanan used a .40 caliber Taurus to take down beloved designer Gianni Versace in 1997, the irony of Casa Casuarina (formerly the Versace mansion) hosting a Smith & Wesson fragranceparty this past Saturday night had The Bitch up in arms. While clipboard-holding Zakarin PR reps and beefy security men stood on the steps where the Italian designer took his last breath, lanky models decked in black vinyl and sunglasses were packing heat in the form of flashy cologne bottles strapped into holsters. Nearby, a Speedo-stuffin' male model puckered and posed with hips gyrating as he lifted a giant bottle of the rare, volcanic lime-inspired scent above his head.
As party people stuffed themselves with sushi and pink, coconut-covered snowballs, a typical, surgically enhanced South Beach couple performed an act that would be familiar to those who recall Jennifer Connelly's final scenes in Requiem for a Dream (to The Bitch's rising disbelief and horror, only inches from the food), and no one seemed to remember that the former owner of the party mansion was killed by, you know, a gun.
Apparently We Don't
"Things are looking pretty damn apocalyptic for South Florida's wildlife." The Bitch howls this all the time out windows, into wells, across causeways. But this is not just the incessant barking of a green hound. These words come from someone people should actually listen to: Pat Knox, director of the Wee Care Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Homestead. On December 31, Wee Care the only place in the county that takes in abandoned baby raccoons and crippled opossums is closing down because of a lack of funding and volunteers.
Not that Wee Care which at its peak in the late Nineties nurtured 2000 at-death's-door animals in a given year ever got much in the way of support. Although the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission governed and licensed the animal sanatorium, and the Humane Society, Miami-Dade County Animal Control, law enforcement agencies, and veterinarians referred many animals to Knox, none of those agencies contributed funding. Even those with kind hearts apparently had shallow pockets: "Nine out of ten people who brought animals did not bring a donation," says Knox.
The center has had some significant guests over the years, from a trio of endangered mastiff bats in 1993, to endangered key deer injured by automobiles on U.S. 1 and imperiled by flooding in the Nineties, to more common but no less embattled Nile monitors, kinkajous, and potbellied pigs abandoned by owners.
The 23-year-old center also made sure animals received safe passage after being cured of their ills. Knox took pains to release the animals in places where repeat accidents were unlikely. Birds were let go on-site. Squirrels would be taken to areas with sheltering oak trees. Raccoons traveled by airboat out to the Everglades reservation of the Miccosukee and were deposited on hammocks where they could climb trees and root through bushes unharmed.
Knox taught environmental education at St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School in Kendall for more than 30 years. "Sometimes I would bring nursing baby raccoons with me to school because they had to be bottle-fed every four hours," she recalls. But after her husband Tom had a stroke three years ago, she began running the center alone and retired from teaching.
Her back yard in Homestead, which was once a jungle of cages, is now empty but for one screened structure. Knox refers to it as her "disaster area." Beginning this past September, to make the property more attractive to potential buyers, Knox dismantled the network of habitats she had constructed. The cages where healing squirrels and raccoons were nursed are now gone. Their former inhabitants, The Bitch hopes, lead happier lives in the wild, their onetime sleeping places now marked by patches of dead grass. Other animals domestic rejects, including 24 parrots have been placed in responsible homes.