|Once More this Year, More Than 1,200 Walkers Set Out on SPCAs Multi-Species Stroll
By Kim Cammarata
In 2000, we strolled with two-legged walkers, four-legged walkers, hoppers, fliers and slitherers. We'll be walking again this year because you never can tell what kind of characters you're going to meet. Or how they'll get around.
photo by M.L. Faunce
As soon as we turn into Quiet Waters Park, Maddie, our three-year-old German shepherd, pants and paces with excitement in the back of our CRV. My husband Mike and I are doing the same, in human fashion. We're about to start our favorite social event of the year, the SPCA of Anne Arundel County's annual Walk for the Animals.
We adopted Maddie in 1998 through the Anne Arundel County shelter and the local rescue group Partnership for Animal Welfare. Seeing her picture on the Internet, Mike had fallen in love.
"When I saw her mournful eyes, I felt an instant connection. I just knew she was the dog we were destined to have," he says.
Sure enough, when we went to the shelter to meet Maddie, this shy and reserved dog took to Mike immediately. She came home with us that day.
Mike and I were so grateful to shelter Director of Operations Sue Beatty and the rest of the staff that we wanted to support their organization. When we heard about the Walk for the Animals, we jumped.
Last year, our second year at the Walk, gray skies and misty rain hadn't dampened our collective enthusiasm, but we did worry that the weather would lower turnout for one of the shelter's major fundraisers.
We should have known better than to doubt the dedicated crowd of animal lovers: Before the day was over, more than 1,200 human walkers and 600 four-legged walkers had ambled through one of the 1-mile, 2.5-mile or 5-mile courses that wind through the park. In the process they raised over $128,000 to benefit 5,000 needy animals that end up at the Annapolis shelter every year. Walk 2000 turned out to be the most successful in the event's history.
Of course, we didn't know that when we set off with Maddie to cover the five-mile loop. All we knew was that we wanted to meet some walkers and their animals, hear a few good pet stories and have a great time.
photo courtesy of Kim Cammarata
Kim and Mike Cammarata with their adopted German shepherd Maddie.
Bigger and Better
Things sure have changed since the first fund-raising walk in 1992, which was inspired by a former SPCA board member's attendance at a similar event in another state.
"It started out so small," remembers Ginny Nicolson, co-chair of the Walk for the Animals 2001 Committee and a former SPCA board member.
The first year, no more than 200 people walked, raising a couple thousand dollars, says Joyce Tenney, Nicolson's fellow co-chair and a 15-year SPCA volunteer who has donated her time for this event since its inception. They ran the whole event with about 30 volunteers.
"Initially, we started with just one little loop around the park," she recalls. "Then we began adding rest stations as the walk grew." Before long, they expanded to include seven veterinary/rest stations and the three loops that walkers can now choose from.
They've always seen a variety of animals, though. Tenney particularly remembers the big, burly man who came to the registration area with an iguana on his shoulder.
"Is your buddy going to walk with you?" she asked.
He replied, "Well, I got him from you guys, so I thought he should help."
While many dedicated volunteers have contributed to the Walk's success, both Nicolson and Tenney agree that this event kicked into fund-raising high gear when JoAnn Lamp, who chaired the Walk committee solely for the previous three years, accepted the challenge to organize it. Lamp is energetic and well organized, they say, and she pursued more high-level business sponsors.
"JoAnn Lamp turned the walk into a huge moneymaker," enthuses Tenney.
Meant for Each Other
As we set out, we're exhilarated to see canines capering about in every direction. Dogs are definitely in the majority at this walk, but you're likely to see all kinds of animals, including alpacas, cats, cows, donkeys, ferrets, lizards, llamas, pot-bellied pigs and rabbits. It's worth coming to this event just to see the panoply of creatures parading through the park like they own the place.
About half a mile into our five-mile walk, we catch up with Gale Mahler, of Pasadena, and Krinella, an eight-year-old shepherd mix with a thick black coat and a big doggie grin. Like my husband, Mahler also credits providence in her decision to adopt.
Mahler was still grieving the recent loss of her beloved dog when she met Krinella in January 2000. She chose the dog sight unseen after learning about her from one of the regular e-mail messages that Anne Arundel County SPCA sends to its volunteers listing animals that need homes.
"I'm a Christian, and I really felt the Lord talking to me to pick this dog for some reason," explains Mahler.
At first she decided to foster Krinella, providing a home until a permanent guardian could be found.
"I felt like I wanted to do something to help another dog. I wasn't prepared to adopt. I didn't even know if I'd ever adopt a dog again after what I went through with my other dog," she says.
For the first week or two after she took Krinella into her home, the dog exhibited no personality at all. When petted, she would turn and walk away. Soon, though, she opened up, becoming a loving and intelligent companion, and Mahler found herself welcoming the dog into her heart as well as her home.
"I've only had her since January, and I can't even imagine parting with her," she says. "Krinella has turned out to be one of the greatest blessings in my life."
A Little Help from Friends
"Without our volunteers, this event couldn't happen," says Nicolson, herself a 12-year volunteer with the Anne Arundel County SPCA.
The Walk Committee begins planning in September. Their nine-month endeavor includes everything from securing business sponsors and volunteers to designing brochures and T-shirts, with a thousand details in between.
On the day of the Walk, when the human walkers and their furry (or feathery, or scaly) friends are still enjoying coffee and kibble, the corps of 200-plus volunteers gathers at Quiet Waters Park. Mike Murdock, Quiet Waters Park superintendent, or one of his staff of park rangers is there extra early to open the gates for them.
"They're super people to work with. The SPCA is well organized, so we mostly just observe and help out," he says. "We look forward to it every year."
The first arrivals begin setting up the tables, tents and chairs for the registration area, the seven veterinary/rest stations, the "Ask Me" table that offers information about the SPCA, the checkout and prize tables and the booths in the Walk Festival area. During the walk, volunteers direct parking, register walkers and collect donations, pass out T-shirts and bandannas, greet walkers and hand out clean-up bags, staff the veterinary/rest stations and much more.
Sue Richardson, a 10-year SPCA volunteer, has been involved with this event for the last five years. This year, her responsibility was coordinating the Best DogGone Walk Festival at the Blue Heron Center parking lot.
"We're there at the crack of dawn to greet people [who will man booths at the festival], get them set up in their assigned space and make sure things are running smoothly," she says. And that's just the culmination of months of work.
Why give away so much time and effort?
"For the animals," says Richardson.
"Solely for the animals," says Nicolson, "to raise money for them to have a better life."
"I love the animals," says Tenney.
I'm beginning to detect a theme here.
Two for the Road
photo by Kim Cammarata
Winnie, a nine-year-old basset hound, walked last year with David Spokely and his father Dave.
Before long, I spy Winnie, a basset hound, snuffling along with her nose to the ground. She is escorted by Dave Spokely and his nine-year-old son David, of Hillsmere. Some may say Spokely Sr. and Winnie look a little alike - both built for comfort, not speed.
The Spokelys walked for the animals for the past four years, ever since they rescued a basset hound/Dalmatian mix.
"We just saw that dog," I exclaimed. "She's built like a basset with a white coat "
" and black spots," added Spokely. "We named her Roo. So we have Winnie the Pooh and Roo. We used to sing a song."
Spokely and son treated us to an impromptu performance:
Winnie the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh. Winnie's got a puppy and her name is Roo.
Winnie the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh.
Silly, funny, basset old hound.
Spokely tells me that Winnie doesn't do any tricks, then quickly changes his mind.
"Well, her trick is to snatch a loaf of French bread off a high counter pretty quickly," he amends.
Nine-year-old Winnie has enjoyed renewed energy since Roo joined the family. They love to run around the back yard and chase each other. But mostly they like to relax. Spokely estimates that a basset hound's life consists of about 23 hours of sleep a day.
The Spokely family hopes that Winnie and Roo will enjoy many more days of playing and snoozing together. As owners of a senior citizen dog, though, they face the hard fact that no matter how long a pet shares your life, it's never long enough.
"Winnie's getting old. I hope she sticks around a little longer," says Spokely, glancing down fondly at his doggie girl.
These Doctors Make Park Calls
The SPCA of Anne Arundel County also wants pets to live long and healthy lives, which is why organizers provide veterinary/rest stations at regular intervals along the way. These checkpoints are staffed by around 20 veterinarians and veterinarian technicians who volunteer their time and expertise to ensure the animal walkers finish as healthy as they were when they started.
"We've been good at heading off any problems from the start," says veterinary technician and professional pet-sitter John Villareal, who has donated his services since the first walk in 1991. Villareal says that from the beginning, Walk organizers recognized the need for veterinary assistance on site. The first year he rode around the grounds on a bike, keeping an eye out for animals in distress and offering help when needed. The following year, the vet stations were added.
Veterinary professionals at the checkpoints ask walkers how their pets are doing and visually inspect every animal that passes by. Very old and very young animals are more vulnerable to problems, so they get an extra careful look. Because heatstroke is the major hazard at this event, they also pay particular attention to any animal that seems listless or is panting excessively.
If an animal appears to be in distress, the veterinary professionals take its temperature and perhaps check respiration and heart rate. They advise owners if a pet is in danger and have medication on hand should it be needed.
Also at the checkpoints are water and snacks for humans and animals. Wading pools offer a refreshing dip, for those so inclined.
Villareal's rewards for his work are many. The walk has become a mini-reunion for Villareal and his former clients from Greater Annapolis Veterinary Hospital, where he worked for 12 years. He also gets to visit with many current clients from his pet-sitting service and from VCA Squire Veterinary Hospital, where he serves as office manager.
The former biology major also gets a kick out of seeing the different animals that parade through the checkpoints, and he gains the satisfaction of knowing he's providing a valuable service for a good cause.
"Anything that deals with animals, I want to be a part of it," he says.
photo by Kim Cammarata
Galen Irving-Sachs and dad Joel Sachs with Alfalfa and Spanky.
We didn't have long to wait to meet our next team of walkers. Young Galen Irving-Sachs of Annapolis found us.
"I raised $585!" he announced proudly as he ran up to me.
Eight-year-old Galen had good reason to be proud. He would end up being the 14th highest fundraiser of the day. Plus, he exceeded his own goal of raising $500.
"That's excellent," I told him. "How did you raise so much money?"
"We went around my neighborhood, and we used the phone," explained Galen. "I told people that they could help some poor animals by sponsoring me in the Walk for the Animals. I told them that I personally pledged $25."
Galen was accompanied by his father, Joel Sachs, and two blue-point beagles named Spanky and Alfalfa. Galen doesn't have a dog, so he borrowed the adorably sad-eyed, floppy-eared beagles from a family friend. Next year, Galen plans to get a snake and a chameleon of his own and bring them to the 2001 Walk for the Animals.
Amazingly, Galen has been a walker/fundraiser at this event since he was just a toddler.
"He saw a poster promoting the Walk in a store when he was little and wanted to do it." said his father. "And he's done it for five years."
Galen already decided that his goal for the 2001 Walk for the Animals will be to raise $1,000. Something tells me he'll do just that.
Walkers like Galen make the Walk for the Animals one of the most effective fundraisers on the Bay. These dedicated folks solicit sponsors on pledge sheets, then collect the money and turn it in the day of the event. Many of these pledge sheets contain 20 to 30 individual sponsors, proving that this event's supporters are willing to work hard to help the animals.
"It's really terrific the way the community has gathered around and supported this event," says event co-chair Tenney.
Dora Nasyrova is one of those hard-working supporters. She walks the five-mile course every year with Argo, her 10-year-old cocker spaniel, and Star, her 13-year old Pomeranian.
"They're just like puppies," she says fondly. "They love that event."
Nasyrova raised $700 for Walk 2000 in a little over a month. As the eighth highest fundraiser by the end of the day, she would win two tickets to Six Flags amusement park and a billiards party for 48 people at Jillian's in Annapolis, among other prizes.
For Walk 2001, Nasyrova has set a fund-raising goal of $1,000. How does she raise so much money?
"A lot of my customers are animal lovers," say Nasyrova, who works as a nail technician at Alexander's of Annapolis Salon and Day Spa. "I have a great relationship with them, so they don't mind participating. A client today donated $100, but every single penny is appreciated."
Nasyrova's employer has promised her an additional $100 if she meets her goal. She is 100 percent confident that she will.
"Why do you go to all that effort?" I ask her. "Do you love animals?"
"I adore animals," she replies.
Dora Nasyrova, right, walks Argo, her 10-year-old cocker spaniel, and Star, her 13-year old Pomeranian. With $700 Nasyrova was the eighth highest fundraiser at last years Walk and has this year broken her goal of $1,000. To the left walks Jeffrey McMullen with his cocker spaniel Duke.
The Walk for the Animals' business sponsors are also key to its success.
"Our business sponsors are absolutely invaluable," Tenney adds, "not only for cash donations to cover up-front expenses but also for prizes and in-kind services."
"A president or owner of a business who is an animal lover can make a difference," adds Nicolson.
Alexander Westmoreland, co-owner of Alexander's of Annapolis, proves her right. In addition to the $100 incentive offered to employee Nasyrova, Alexander's of Annapolis has been one of the Walk's top Platinum Sponsors since 1998, donating $5,000 worth of gift certificates to be distributed as prizes for Walkers.
"We're very sympathetic to pets and their care, and we like to give back to the community," explains Westmoreland of the business' generous support.
The salon occupies a booth at the Best DogGone Walk Festival. The beautifully groomed dogs there belong to Westmoreland's business partner, Jeffrey McMullen. The cocker spaniel is Marmaduke ("his friends call him Duke"), and the Old English sheepdog is Maxwell ("his friends call him Max").
Westmoreland enjoys seeing the people he knows come by.
"I see a lot of my clients. Our staff gets involved, and our clients donate money for them," he says. In fact, Alexander's of Annapolis' clients contribute year round to the SPCA via collection cans at the salon.
We spot our final group of SPCA supporters in the prize pavilion at the end of the three walking courses. Clyde Lee Roland and his daughter Katie, from Edgewater, are watching over a rolling tower of animals. They've stacked two crates one on top of the other and placed both in a wagon. With them, in the cages, are three cats and a rabbit. A puppy named Puppy waits patiently nearby.
"Wow. These are all your animals?" I asked Katie.
"Yes. And we have more," she replied.
She's not kidding. With nine cats, nine rabbits, the puppy, a ferret and four hamsters around to liven things up, there's never a dull moment in the Roland household.
One of Puppy's favorite games is to chase the rabbits around. When she catches one, she flops down beside it.
Katie says she'd like to volunteer for the SPCA someday, while Katie's dad good-naturedly says, "No, it will bring more animals."
Considering that the Rolands have adopted nearly all their animals from the SPCA, and, as Katie says, they "do all the SPCA stuff," most would say they've already done their part.
With our five-mile hike behind us, Mike, Maddie and I are ready to browse at the Best DogGone Walk Festival. We enjoy shopping for dog accessories and chatting with sponsors and animal welfare groups.
We march to the Blue Heron Center parking lot to find a few remaining volunteers packing up tables. We stopped to talk with so many people and to admire so many animals that we missed the whole thing.
Returning to the car, we observed that Quiet Waters Park doesn't look any worse for the wear.
Park Superintendent Murdock, who walks the course every year with his dog Flowerpot ("Queen of Quiet Waters Park"), concurs. "The organizers of this event are stringent about making people pick up after their pets. They're very good," he says.
On our way home, tired and satisfied, we're already looking forward to next year's walk. See you there!
Walk for the Animals Sunday, May 20, from 8amnoon, rain or shine at Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis: 410/268-2659.