THE ANIMAL SHELTER REPORT
By Thetis Reeves
Geoffrey Kaye, born and raised in England, has lived in Monte Carlo and the U.S before moving to Ajijic in 1998. He’s best known in our community for establishing the Animal Shelter, but also for contributions to the Technical School, Love In Action, an orphanage, and other worthy causes. El Ojo del Lago arranged for this dialogue between him and Thetis Reeves.
TR: Your parents both came from families with a lot of kids. Yet you’re an only child.
GK: My mother was 16 when her mother died in child birth. That tragedy left my mother to care for all nine of her younger brothers and sisters. When my parents married her two youngest siblings were still in her care. Maybe only one more kid in the house seemed like enough. Also by the mid-1930s, there was a war brewing in Europe, probably another reason to keep the family small.
TR: Your father had six grocery stores when you were a kid?
GK: Yes. He started in the grocery business in 1930.
TR: Did you work in the store as a boy?
GK: I did. I remember the heavy metal doors I’d push up in the morning and pull down at closing. Also keeping my hands warm over the stove when I worked at the outdoor stalls in the winter.
TR: After completing your education, you joined the family business.
GK: Right. And when my father passed away in 1966 I became the youngest chairman of the board of a public company in Great Britain. I ran it for seven years before I sold out to British American Tobacco in 1973.
TR: During this time, you married.
GK: I married in 1968. We had two girls whom I’m very close to. The marriage ended in divorce, but I’m still on very friendly terms with my ex.
TR: You and KiKi, your second wife, met on a blind date?
GK: I was living in Monte Carlo at the time enjoying a busy bachelor’s life. A friend set up the date. She was a young divorcee with a child. We hit it off from the start and have been together for over 32 years.
TR: You still maintain a home in Arizona.
GK: We lived there for many years before settling here and like keeping a place there. My daughter Gemma is a real estate broker there. My daughter Jennifer lives in London. We visit her once a year, as well as KiKi’s daughter, Jacky, and her young family in Paris.
TR: The Animal Shelter is admired for the high standard of care the dogs and cats receive. You established it in 2001 at your own expense. Would you say that your merchandising background came into play in making the shelter self-supporting?
GK: The pet food store was an obvious good idea. And, yes, I certainly know how to run a store. As for creating the art gallery—I’ll admit I wasn’t sure that would work, but it has. It came about when we had to find a better place for our dog shelter. The new space gave the dogs great outdoor areas for running around as well as penned-in shelter. But it also had more indoor space than we actually needed. I’m sure in the back of my mind was the fact that my wife, who is an artist, often had difficulty in finding a local gallery to display her very large pieces. So I thought if we could use this space as an art gallery, that could be great. Now my wife and other good artists in the wider community have a beautiful place to exhibit their work. The Shelter earns a commission on each piece sold.
But remember, our Shelter is customer-supported; that is, we rely on pet owners and now art lovers for their business, with all profits or commissions going to the Shelter. Many Lakesiders go out of their way to shop at Our Store.
TR: You and KiKi both love animals. I’ve met your dog, cat and exotic birds on visits to your home. Midnight, the gorgeous hyacinth macaw, I recall with no hard feelings, bit me.
GK: Midnight adored only KiKi. Rode around on her shoulder or followed her everywhere. A stupid neighborhood brat shot Midnight with a bee-bee gun and he couldn’t be saved. It was sad. As a boy I raised budgies. I’ve always had a love for them. Many of the exotic birds in the Animal Shelter sanctuary were first housed on our property. I cared for them daily.
TR: Would you agree your name is not exactly revered by some people?
GK: You could say I have a critic or two. I’m not even sure on what grounds sometimes. In the case of other animal welfare groups, I’ve offered help to every one of them—pet food donations and more—and it’s always been accepted. But some grumbling goes on. I’ll just do what I do and I wish everybody the best.