The 1st Annual Mutt Strut Brings 4-Legged Talent to the Fashion Runway in a Unique Fundraiser for Friends of the Animal Shelter

Posted In:   From Issue 621   By: Robert E Martin

31st August, 2006     0

As I walk into Patricia O'Brien's office at Audio Central Alarm, the piercing, joyous, and activated yelp of her twin Schnauzers instantly greets me.  "That's our office alarm system!", she jokes as the pair of attentive canines quickly investigate and then find places in their respective baskets.

It is said that animal lovers tend to be passionate people, and Pat is no exception to that rule.  Joined by her cohort Jan LeCoureux this dynamic duo, along with 25 other pivotal members of Friends of the Animal Shelter of Saginaw County have concocted what will truly be one of the most novel and memorable fundraising events of the Fall Season - the 1st Annual Mutt Strut Fashions on Paw-rade, which will be held on the evening of September 30th at 7:00 PM at Saginaw's Pit & Balcony Theater.

Designed to help support homeless animals of Saginaw County, Friends of the Animal Shelter works with the Saginaw County Animal Care Center in order to provide many necessary items needed to process homeless animals and prepare them for adoption.

Each year the Saginaw Animal Shelter will get approximately 3,200 homeless animals brought into its doors, yet thanks to the efforts of Friends, the group last year managed to find 800 of those animals healthy and happy homes.

"The bottom line is that we're always requiring funds and wanted to come up with a fun way to conduct a fundraiser," explains Jan. "We've done several 'dog walks' in the past, so thought given the work involved with any fundraiser, this type of event would be truly unique.  It's been kicked around for awhile and a lot of your bigger Metro areas like New York City have adopted this approach, so we're right up there with NYC now," she laughs proudly.

Together for 16 years now, Friends event organizers intend to assemble a divergent array of canine 'models' for what they hope will become an annual 'fur filled evening' of runway fashion excitement.

"In terms of our format, we won't be featuring a Paris runway but are inventing something special for Saginaw," continues Jan. "So far we have 20 dogs that have sent in applications requesting to be in the show - everything from Fluffy Foo Foo Ballerinas to tuxes and formal attire.  Hopefully, the owner bringing their dog across the stage will dress appropriately to match the attire of their pet.  We're inventing the wheel here to a large degree, so its hard to say what will transpire; but I'm going to be the Master of Ceremonies and realize I'll have to be flexible if Fido decides he doesn't want to walk across the runway.  Myself, I think I'll be dressed in feather boas."

Money raised from the Mutt Strut will be used to pay for emergency medical expenses for injured or sick adoptable animals, purchase plastic pet carriers for safe transportation of animals, purchase antibiotics and vaccines, flea treatments for cats & dogs, acquire Parvo and feline leukemia test kits, and purchase 200 bales of straw to give away free to outside dogs. With annual expenses of $10,000 per year, the group hopes their endeavors will witness a significant outpouring from the community.

"I intend to bring my dogs as 'Flapper Girls' replete with garter belts," smiles Pat, referring to her movable security team that greeted me upon arrival.  "People can make or purchase their outfits and we will also have 'Lucky', a rescue dog that survived the 9/11 attack and was brought back to health in attendance at the event."

"We'll also have a couple that came from the Saginaw shelter and have lovely homes now, so wish to showcase them in a segment," she continues. "We'll compartmentalize it all somehow and have entertaining dogs, dancing dogs, freestyle pets, and even dogs that help answer doors and the phone for people incapacitated."        

"Patton will also be present," interjects Jan. "Twelve years ago Friends of the Animal Shelter named him in memory of one of our members that passed away and Patton literally lives at the Vet's Hospital all day, on his own, riding the elevator and going to the shop for treats. We're bringing him to this event so that he can say hello to everybody, as he's getting old and gray now."

When asked about the origin of Friends, Jan recalls the moment as clearly as the day is long. "When I first started I'll never forget it. This friend of mine was a County Commissioner and that time the shelter only adopted 70 animals a year in Carrollton, which is where it was located. 

Over the last two years we've averaged 800 animals that get adopted. They stay at the shelter and are in the care and custody of and control of Saginaw County, but our volunteers help place them and find them homes.  We have an 'adoption area' that Friends paid for back when the new shelter on Gratiot was built and our volunteers stay there all day, cleaning cages, feeding the animals, and taking care of medical bills."

"In most cases, we have no idea where a dog might have come from, notes Patricia. "They give the initial puppy shots and we test cats and kittens for feline leukemia, but always recommend a vet check afterwards.  If a dog was hit by a car over the weekend and has a minor injury we can address that, but if the County didn't have Friends the dog would have to be put down. We authorize emergency medical expenses, but not for major surgery. It needs to be something that is easily and financially feasible to deal with. There are so many variables to every situation."

"One of the biggest hurdles Friends faces is that we are not The Humane Society," emphasizes Jan. "People often confuse the two organizations. We do not have a shelter and we don't take in animals, which is why we don't have a phone number on purpose, as there is no place to drop the animals other than the County Shelter.  Mainly, we try to find them homes once they wind up there.  This is why our theme for the Mutt Strut is Caged and Homeless But Not Forgotten."

"Last Spring we got a new exercise area for the dogs, which is so cool because we received a donation of equipment for a play yard. These animals are in cages 24/7, so we designed an enclosed outside area at the back of the shelter where they can have an outside run.  When the County bought the property a stipulation came with the City that no dog could be housed outside. So now he can get some exercise and fresh air. If a dog goes outside it's with a shelter volunteer."

"It's a sad job to be there," sighs Jan, "because in many cases the dog may not be able to stay for more than five days. But while he is there, it's the most humane and comfortable setting for them that we can make."

"I'm proud to be involved with Friends," she continues. "Before my day volunteers fought against this practice that Gladwin County just made headlines for of selling the animals for research projects. These same initial volunteers also got rid of the decompression chamber in Carrollton.  This was a very inhumane and sad practice that would literally suck the oxygen out of the animal like a gas chamber. Fortunately, that is all history now."

In addition to dogs on a fashion, entertainment, and dancing parade, music will accompany each runway display with appropriate music to groove by such as Who Let the Dogs Out.  Additionally, there will be plenty of appearances by surprise guest celebrities.

People or businesses wishing to support this grand endeavor can also make purchases in the Mutt Strut Program.  A T-Bone level sponsorship at $1,000 will earn a full page ad and four tickets; a 'Chopped Sirloin' sponsorship at $500.00 will garner a 1/2 page pad and four VIP tickets, and other sponsorship levels range from the 'Special Cut' $250.00 package to $25.00 'Dog Walker' sponsorships.  All donations are tax deductible.

Tickets for the 1st Annual Mutt Strut Fashions on Paw-rade are $20.00 per person and available at Saginaw County Animal Care Center, 1312 Gratiot; Veterinary Health Center, 305 N. Center near Gratiot; and Audio Central Alarm Co., 810 S. Washington across from MMR.  You can pre-pay your mail orders for tickets through cash, check, or money order to Friends of the Animal Shelter Saginaw County, PO Box 5715, Saginaw, MI 48603. 

For additional questions, call Pat O'Brien at 989-790-0991.

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