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Burbank Animal Shelter volunteer helps keep pets alive

Denise Fleck — a longtime volunteer at the Burbank Animal Shelter who owns a business teaching people how to perform CPR on dogs and cats — is a finalist for "Woman of the Year" honors by a national pet industry organization.

The Oregon-based Women in Pet Industry Network received more than 60 nominations across the country to recognize women working in the pet industry as groomers, dog sitters, veterinarians and pet advocates.

"Regardless of who wins, I hope we'll leave a combined legacy of improving the lives of animals and the lives of the people who love them," Fleck said.

Fleck, who lives in Shadow Hills, once worked in publicity at Paramount Pictures but abandoned that career to establish her business, Sunny-dog Inc., in 1999. The company was named after her golden retriever Sunny, who was adopted from the Burbank Animal Shelter.

Since then, Fleck has taught adults how to administer first-aid and CPR to their pets.

In some cases, participants have told her how they later saved a dog from choking, which commonly occurs when dogs chew on rawhide, bones or sticks, Fleck said.

In 2011, Fleck began teaching classes at the Burbank Animal Shelter to students within the Burbank Unified School District interested in working with animals in their future careers.

She has also written a children's book, titled "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover," about a girl named Mary-Alice who gets to choose a pet at an animal shelter.

From Fleck's experience, pets with black coats and those with gray-colored faces can be more difficult to adopt when they are looking for homes.

She hopes the book will teach children and remind adults to treat animals equally, no matter their breed or appearance.

"The more I'm able to let people know what I'm doing, the more I'm able to get other people excited about helping the animals," she said.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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