The grounds are abloom with roses selected by Cini because of their names: “Evelyn” after her mother and “Just Joey” for her late father

At Home With Cini and Ira Robb

Posted on June 9, 2020

At the entrance of Cini and Ira Robb’s sprawling estate in Rancho Santa Fe, a simple sign says it all: “Life is better with a dog.” In fact, the couple has several dogs and a dozen birds, including an African grey parrot named Cosmo. It is an understatement to say the Robbs love animals. They are so passionate, in fact, that in 2006 Cini (with Ira’s support) co-founded FACE, the Foundation for Animal Care and Education, a nonprofit that provides funding for the care of critically ill pets whose families cannot afford medical costs. Since then, the foundation has provided 2,750 financial grants, totaling more than $5 million, to pay for lifesaving emergency care.

Cini and Ira Robb at home in Rancho Santa Fe with a few of their beloved dogs: Glory B, Rica, and Bogie

Cini and Ira Robb at home in Rancho Santa Fe with a few of their beloved dogs: Glory B, Rica, and Bogie

It partners with 173 veterinary hospitals throughout San Diego County which discount their services for qualified animal patients. To date, those discounts have topped $2.5 million. FACE also offers caller assistance and resources to concerned pet owners and education for students. The foundation’s vision is “to create a world where no family pet dies due to financial hardship.”

In the pool, the family dogs like to relax on the floaties that include an inflatable parrot and a turtle.

In the pool, the family dogs like to relax on the floaties that include an inflatable parrot and a turtle.

Like so many nonprofits, FACE is confronting special challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are getting slammed with cases,” Cini says, as families, faced with economic hardships of their own, struggle to care for their pets. Owners are typically low-income, seniors, veterans, military families, students, and the disabled, many living paycheck to paycheck. In one recent case, a family couldn’t afford insurmountable veterinary bills for their dog Rocky’s back surgery. Without it, the beloved pet risked permanent paralysis. John Abate, Rocky’s owner, applied for a foundation grant and was accepted. “With the help of the FACE Foundation and all of its donors, we’re so happy to tell you that the surgery was a success,” says Abate. “We’re able to afford the bill to keep Rocky here with our family.”

The grounds are abloom with roses selected by Cini because of their names: “Evelyn” after her mother and “Just Joey” for her late father

The grounds are abloom with roses selected by Cini because of their names: “Evelyn” after her mother and “Just Joey” for her late father

The need for services is greater even as fundraising is harder in these times of social distancing. For the past ten years, the Robbs have hosted hundreds of people at their estate for FACE’s signature event, Bags & Baubles. Guests spilled out onto the courtyard and tennis court, sipped wine poolside, and bid on new or gently used designer handbags, jewelry, eyewear, and other items. This year’s show will go on, but online. Now set for September 13, the virtual event will have dozens of items up for bid, including designer bags by Goyard, Fendi, and Gucci, a Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra mother of pearl necklace, and a century-old gold purse from Tiffany & Co. studded with sapphires and diamonds. “She loves our work,” says Cini of the registered nurse who donated the Tiffany bag. “She knew it was worth thousands but wanted us to have it to save lives. There are so many stories like this.”

Lunch is served al fresco on the poolside patio

Lunch is served al fresco on the poolside patio

FACE has adapted quickly to the new reality of fundraising now that people can’t yet gather in large groups for the galas, black-tie dinners, charity luncheons, fashion shows, and concerts that have been such a staple of philanthropy. The foundation marshaled its small staff and an army of volunteers to offer virtual auctions in April and again in May for Mother’s Day giving. The bulk of its support comes from animal and family foundations and private donors.

In the pool, the family dogs like to relax on the floaties that include an inflatable swan

In the pool, the family dogs like to relax on the floaties that include an inflatable swan

Without financial support from the foundation, euthanasia often is the only choice. But whatever the future holds during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Robbs have unwavering faith in FACE and its crucial work on behalf of beloved pets with life-threatening conditions. “I have been with FACE as co-founder since day one and am as passionate about the mission today as I was then,” says Cini. “Never did I dream that 14 years later we would be looking at saving 3,000 lives.” 858.450.3223, face4pets.org   Andrea Naversen

In the courtyard, 400-year-old pavers were reclaimed from Tuscan homes

Photography by Vincent Knakal