Dogs join their voices at pet rescue fundraiser

2013-07-20T19:30:00Z 2013-07-20T21:24:06Z Dogs join their voices at pet rescue fundraiserSusan O’Leary Times Correspondent
July 20, 2013 7:30 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | The yipping and barking in Central Park Plaza on Saturday evening was enough to drive anyone crazy.

Yet Noah wasn’t excited by the din as he sat calmly in the grass. That’s because Noah, a 2-year-old pit bull-American bulldog mix, is deaf.

Noah, and hundreds of other dogs and their owners, gathered in the park for the Pup Crawl, a fundraising event hosted by local pet rescue Lakeshore PAWS.

The event was designed to adopt dogs without permanent homes, like Noah, who is cared for by Brenda Olthoff, a Lakeshore PAWS "foster mom."

“He’s just like any other dog,” said Olthoff, who uses sign language to give Noah commands. “He gets excited around treats and food.”

Other pet rescues, including the Porter County Animal Shelter and All Breed Rescue Angels, brought their own adoptable dogs and cats. Healthi Paws and The Broken Bone offered dog treats and toys, while local restaurants Hungry, Inc., Designer Desserts and Tommy B’s provided food.

A downtown dog walk kicked off the event, and the band Crawpuppies provided the evening’s entertainment while folks relaxed in the beer and wine tent.

Lakeshore PAWS founder Jeanne Sommer said the rescue moved the event from Sunset Hill County Park to Central Park and focused on a dog walk this year.

“We wanted to have a presence here in town,” she said.

Vendors donated a portion of their sales to the rescue, which hopes to use the funds for a physical space for the organization.

“We have an opportunity to get a building,” Sommer said. “We are talking with Coco’s Canine Cabana for a portion of their building, separate from their business. It is looking really good for us to have our own adoption center, which is such a long time coming.”

When an agreement is finalized, the rescue hopes to renovate the space and open its doors by October, with room for 30 dogs on a regular basis, Sommer said.

“The cool thing is we’ll have a place for people to meet and greet the animals and a place for all the people who want to volunteer,” she said. “That’s why we’re hoping this event tonight is really successful.”

Rae Benson and her daughter, Baylie, 15, brought Juanita, their 3-year-old Chihuahua, and Pablo, their 3-year old rat terrier, to the walk.

“We saw it on Facebook and I said, ‘That looks like fun,’” said Benson, of Valparaiso.

Jeff and Tracy Smelser joined the walk with Fletcher, a 6-month-old pug-dachshund mix, and Rocco, a 4-year-old brindle boxer they adopted from Lakeshore PAWS.

“This is our family ... we don’t have kids,” Jeff Smelser said.

Across the park, Noah made friends with other dogs and humans alike.

Olthoff, who has three dogs of her own, said Noah’s deafness makes him more docile.

“He’s very affectionate, likes to snuggle and likes to play with other dogs,” Olthoff said. “He’s excellent on a leash, too.

"He’s just so zen."

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