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Ballroom dancing and horseback riding: How head of Pets on Wheels in Harford County spends her free time

Gina Kazimir is executive director of Pets On Wheels. She is photographed with Macy, who is one of her two dogs, at her home in Bel Air.
Gina Kazimir is executive director of Pets On Wheels. She is photographed with Macy, who is one of her two dogs, at her home in Bel Air. (Barbara Haddock Taylor)

She joined Pets on Wheels 25 years ago, a volunteer with her dog bent on brightening the lives of nursing home residents in Harford County. Routinely, Gina Kazimir and Somerville, a mixed-breed husky, visited the elderly eagerly awaiting their arrival.

“Somerville was very gentle with the seniors; he would sit in front of their wheelchairs, rest his chin on their knees and just stay there,” she said.

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For six years, Kazimir, of Bel Air, has been executive director of the therapy pet organization that began in 1982, a nonprofit with 500 volunteers that serves 400 institutions across much of Maryland.

“This is my passion,” said Kazimir, 56, a graduate of Rutgers University who also owns a public relations firm. For seven years (2001-2008) she was editor of Harford Magazine.

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Here are three things you might not know about Kazimir:

She can cut a rug with the best

“As a kid, I danced, and 11 years ago I took up competitive ballroom dancing. I love the creativity and artistry. I’ve won events in Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey, doing routines to the music of everyone from Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga.

“Hopefully, when the pandemic eases, I’ll get back into it — but I’m looking for a new partner. My husband [Philip Hosmer] is my biggest supporter and a great athlete, but he is delighted that I do not ask him to dance.”

Her own pups come up short as therapy pets

“I’ve had three dogs [since Somerville], but none have qualified [for Pets on Wheels]. I’d love to have one in the program but mine don’t measure up; they jump or bark too much. The running joke is that since I couldn’t get back into the program as a volunteer, I became the director.”

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She’s an avid equestrian

“I’ve always loved riding, which is strange as I grew up in central New Jersey, where horses aren’t part of the landscape. I’ve competed in equestrian events and I take lessons. It’s an incredible partnership with an animal that large and if there’s a time, in a jump, when you get it right — a moment of absolute calm, power and joy — you’re willing to spend God knows how many hours trying to do it again.”

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