A Year After Disaster: Ruth and Maggie Thriving at AlmaVia of Camarillo

Ruth Cook was an unlikely celebrity. Before the Woolsey fire, she had lived quietly in her Seminole Springs home for more than 40 years. Her daily companion was her beloved dog, Maggie. The fire changed everything.

Rescued by two off-duty sheriff’s deputies, Ruth was evacuated with Maggie but had trouble finding a shelter that would accept her dog. But at 93 years old, she wasn’t about to part with her faithful friend of 12 years. She finally landed at the Pierce College Red Cross shelter. As the days went on, most of the occupants left for other accommodations. Ruth was one of the last remaining.

When ABC7 heard of her story, they ran a segment about her on the evening news. While there were many offers of help for housing, none followed through. Then a call was placed to AlmaVia of Camarillo, an assisted living community down the 101 corridor. Even though they were virtually full, they found a place for Ruth and Maggie and began the long, sometimes winding journey of helping Ruth put her life back together.

KTLA did a follow-up story about Ruth being reunited with the two deputies who rescued her. The story was picked up and posted on social media by Ellen DeGeneres and others. Many people and organizations stepped up to help with Ruth’s various needs. The Malibu Foundation funded part of her rent through a generous anonymous donor, and the Little Angels helped with the medical care of Maggie, as did Dr. Battier, a local veterinarian. Countless others called into AlmaVia to find out what they could get for Ruth, and packages arrived daily with the basic necessities of life. Even the other residents of AlmaVia wanted to help their new neighbors with clothing and other sundries.

When the celebrity wore off, Ruth was left to make a new life, and that’s exactly what she’s done. She now happily calls her new apartment “home.” Although she lived alone for a long time, she now enjoys eating in the dining room with the other senior residents. The staff at AlmaVia have also taken Ruth into their family. They bring things in from their own homes to decorate Ruth’s room and provide daily care for her as if she were their own mom.

Even Maggie has found a new life. With the staff caring for her, making sure she gets the right kind and amount of food, taking her for walks, and getting her to her vet appointments, she has thrived, too. Just recently, Maggie had her checkup at the vet, and she has lost 15 pounds in the past year, making her more energetic and happier than ever.

It’s wonderful to see what can happen when the community comes together to help those in crisis. Many generous hearts have given Ruth her life back, and her heartfelt thanks go out to everyone.

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