Ellen Troth and Connie Ruys of Sonora are hardcore advocates of recycling, and not just because it is good for the environment they do it for animals.

Ruys, an admitted lover of any animal, started the Can Fund for the Humane Society of Tuolumne County in the early 90s. She found there were many people who were down on their luck for whatever reason and needed financial assistance when a beloved pet got hurt or sick.

Ruys started collecting recyclables and turning them in for cash. It seemed easy, Ruys said, even though collecting, sorting and bagging recycled cans, bottles and glass is a time-consuming job. But the money went directly to help animals, and that is what Ruys cared about.

Troth took over the job four years ago after Ruys retired, and this year the Can Fund helped out about 30 people with $1,900 worth of recyclables.

Ruys, who will be 81 next month, became an animal humane officer for the county in the 1970s. Among her many duties, she was responsible for picking up pets that belonged to people arrested for being under the influence.

After a few after-midnight calls, she decided to charge for her services. So when the DUI offenders were released from jail, Ruys would require them to pay her $3 or $5 for picking up their dogs depending on whether Ruys had to go out before or after midnight.

"I never forget the time I was asked to pick up Thor, the biggest, blackest pitbull I had ever seen," Ruys said. "The dog was inside a man's truck and the deputy told me to go get him.

"Well, I just said 'Thor do you want to go for a ride?' and Thor practically licked me to death. He was just a real sweetie."

Ruys also became acquainted with quite a few non-inebriated people in the county.

Some of them could not afford to pay for veterinary care and had nowhere to turn. Ruys said she thought there had to be a way to get some money to help.