With a rallying cry of "Help us help them," staff, volunteers and friends of the Rifle Animal Shelter stepped in front of a camera Tuesday morning to film a promotional video for the shelter's annual fundraising dinner this weekend.
The video will be part of the entertainment at the Saturday, Oct. 13, event, which will also include comedy by Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald of Animal Planet's "Emergency Vets," and a silent auction.
According to shelter director Heather Mullen, all the funds from the video portion of the fundraiser will be used for Diego's Fund, moneys set aside specifically to help animals with special medical needs.
"The fund provides extra care for animals who need medical attention beyond spaying, neutering and shots," explained Mullen. "The video will show some of those special needs shelter animals, and explain why some of our volunteers and friends give to the shelter."
For animals like Two Feet, a beautiful blue-eyed Persian cat, found with both back legs severed, funds like the shelter's Diego's Fund save lives and provide an opportunity for a new life. Shelters are not traditionally set up to provide intensive medical care or rehabilitation services for animals with special needs.
"It seems like we're getting more dogs and cats with special needs," Mullen said.
Those animals, like Willie, a 4-year-old Lhasa Apso with neurological problems related to distemper from a puppy mill, can become loving, caring family pets.
"Willie is my 2-year-old daughter's best friend," Mullen said. "She follows her everywhere."
For the shelter's volunteers and supporters, the benefits of being involved in the work of the shelter extend far beyond the hours they spend walking dogs, cleaning kennels, or bringing in donated supplies.
Volunteer Stephanie McFarland started as a dog walker in February, after she saw a friend's Facebook post about the shelter. Today, she takes most of the adoption photos for the shelter.
"Volunteering gave me the confidence to open up my own photography business," she said.
Others donate financially or with supplies, or open their homes to foster dogs waiting for adoption.
For some, like Malinda Isenhart of Glenwood Springs, rescuing shelter dogs is a lifestyle. Isenhart, who recently adopted a pit bull mix from the shelter, "can't even count" the number of shelter animals she's adopted during her lifetime.
"It's part of my life," she said. "We almost always have an adopted greyhound, too."
The Rifle Animal Shelter is a no-kill shelter that averages 23-27 animals on site. Some are strays, some are transfers from other shelters, some are abandoned, and some are surrendered by owners who can no longer care for their pets, Mullen said. Like Ella, an 8-year-old Dachsund/Lab mix who has special needs because of her age.
"It's really the responsible thing to do," volunteer Barb Clifton said of those who surrender their pets to shelters like the one in Rifle. "It gives the animal a chance to find a new home."
Tickets are still available for the fundraiser on Saturday, which will be held at Grand River Hospital. Tickets are $50 in advance or $65 at the door. Call 625-8808 for more information.