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News Maryland Anne Arundel County

Anne Arundel seniors party for pets

The South County Senior Center invited some four-legged guests to a party, and a few of the critters left the festivities for new homes.

The center in Edgewater staged its annual SPCA fundraiser and adoption day last week. Members raised money with a raffle, a book signing and a stuffed-animal sale that came complete with birth certificates for purchasers.

The SPCA, based in Annapolis, showed off four of its potential adoptees, all on their best behavior, and representatives spoke of the wealth of health, safety and emotional benefits derived by those who share their homes with pets and demonstrated how a trained dog can assist people with disabilities.

Proud owners strutted around the room with their pets, some outfitted in the latest doggy fashion and wearing glitzy collars — quite an auspicious change of fortune, given that several of those cosseted canines were rescued from a life on the streets.

SPCA staffers paraded around the center's community room with several dogs wagging their tails and straining on their leashes.

"They are just hanging out here, looking for a new home," said Kim Teter, volunteer coordinator for the SPCA in Annapolis.

Numerous studies detail how pet owners have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and less stress than people without pets. Simply petting a dog or stroking a cat can have a calming effect — and then there is the unconditional love an animal provides.

"For a senior, a pet can be a great idea," Teter said. "That special dog can help keep them active."

She took charge of a frisky Jack Russell terrier, still a puppy and new to the shelter. The friendly pooch seemed a lock to find a new owner.

"There will be no problem finding him a home," she said. "He's young, friendly and easy to handle."

Teter did find homes for two pets after last year's event at the center and received four applications from attendees this year. The most interest was in a Westie, a bit older and calmer than the Jack Russell puppy.

The center's 2011 fundraiser ended with donations totaling $1,000, as well as many pounds of pet food and piles of blankets. The final tally this year will probably exceed that, organizers said.

The SPCA plans its own event July 21. The 13-hour community adoption program will even allow potential owners a chance to take a run with a pet.

"These events help us get the word out," Teter said.

With 87 dogs and 203 cats in its care this month, the shelter constantly seeks the public's assistance, she said.

Sales of "That Cat Book," a children's tale by Doris Dunker, also added to the donations. The author, a Severna Park resident, rescued a black-and-white stray cat from the shelter 15 years ago, then found a brown stray in the woods. The two felines quickly inspired her to write, and her daughter illustrated the story. The book, which sells for $10, has sold about 2,000 copies and is now in its second printing. She donated $5 from every sale Wednesday to the SPCA.

For a $5 donation to the SPCA, attendees could choose from among at least 100 stuffed animals in a number of breeds, shapes, sizes and colors, all donated by the Hardesty family of Severn.

"We love animals, and we love raising money for them," said Monica Hardesty, mother of 9-year-old twins Heather and Hunter. "I just came up with this idea to help the SPCA, and we do the sales wherever we can."

The family usually arrives at church bazaars, senior centers and occasional flea markets with large plastic bags filled with stuffed critters, some purchased and some donated to the cause. They have raised several hundred dollars for the shelter in the past year, she said.

Heather does last-minute grooming with a brush and, with help from her brother, sets up a display.

"A stuffed animal doesn't bark, eat or need a walk," said Annie Owen, urging guests to take a chance on a life-size version of a black Labrador retriever.

Myrna Cottle and Rosemary Heinz decided to play along with the stuffed animal theme. Cottle "adopted" a golden retriever.

"It brings back memories of a real golden I had that was one of a kind," she said.

Heinz, who shares her home with a cat adopted from the SPCA, choose a Chihuahua stuffed animal, a gift for her daughter, who loves the breed.

Nancy Janelle brought her beagle, Sadie — also a rescue animal — to the party.

"I am a real animal person," she said. "I always contribute to their cause."

She bought a stuffed black cat as a toy for Sadie or for the family cat.

"It will be for whichever one gets it first," she said. "They don't share."

If anyone needed more convincing, Marcia Davis offered the tale of the perky Yorkshire terrier cuddled in her lap. Davis found the pet in a Dumpster a few months ago. She took the 5-pound pup to a veterinarian and did a bit of grooming. Now the inseparable pair are a great advertisement for pet adoption.

"At first, I called her DD for Dumpster Dog, but now she is just Yorkie," Davis said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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