The cats have plenty to howl about, and Danielle Larsen-Wheeler, head of the Humane Society, has plenty to be proud of after the hugely successful Dancing with the Stars event held at the Veterans Hall on May 10. I caught up with Danielle later and asked her whose idea the event was. She said she learned about it from some people who did it in Medford. “I wanted to add to our auction which is normally kind of boring.”
And how did it sell out so fast? Senior Sleuth first saw it in the paper Thursday, and by Friday it was sold out. “I had been selling tickets for a month already through Facebook and word of mouth. It came out briefly on the pet page in the paper a couple of week-ends before the event, and Rene Shanle-Hutzell had advertised it on the radio a lot. I could have sold another 50–100 tickets if the building had a bigger capacity.
“To get people to participate, I had to call a lot of them and beg. I called people that everyone would want to see dancing. Many of them said no, but I just kept asking. I was born and raised here, and I know almost everybody. I asked the Wakefields, and they said no, but they (Northwoods) did all my food for free. I asked Baird and Jean Rumiano. They also said no, but they gave me 15 pounds of free cheese. Devon and Michelle Morgante, owners of Vita Cucina, were last minute substitutions and did a great dance after only a week of preparation.
“Once I got five couples, I decided I really would do it. Then Mike Sullivan had to back out. He had hernia surgery on the 30th, and the doctor told him to take 2–3 weeks for recovery. We told everyone he had hemorrhoid surgery. Mike and I grew up together, so I gave him a lot of grief over that. Mike, normally a really good dancer, came onstage and stood in the background while his partner, Andre Carpenter, did a solo version of “The Evolution of Dance” that I showed her on YouTube. She was amazing! She won the competition and the trophy.
“Kevin Hartwick was spectacular as the announcer. He and his daughter Leah wrote an hilarious script. Also Leah and his other daughter, Deja, won the Peoples’ Choice Award with their tap dance. Doug Wakefield and Stephanie Alexander were really good. Dan and Lisa Sedgwick, first grade teacher at Pine Grove, got a huge round of applause. Chris and Lisa Howard, speech teacher at the high school, were excellent.
“Randy Hatfield, with wife Phyllis, came onstage with a walker, but soon put it aside and did a formidable jitterbug. Chris Doehle and Steven Wakefield, as well as Mark Ahsinger and Heather Sterns, were joined by the rest of the dancers in the “Chicken Dance.” We made $12,000 (auction and $6,000 ticket sales) and spent less than $400–$500 on everything.
“Our Humane Society originally started almost 30 years ago. I started there about 18 years ago. We had to move from our property on Washington Boulevard when the airport expansion started. We had been paying $1 a month. Since we moved to our property at 821 Elk Valley Road, our property payment has been $1,217 a month. In 2½ years, the property will be paid for. Our building is in need of a new roof, new stairs, and flooring. It’s just an old mobile home that we fixed up. But it’s very clean, and we take good care of it.
“The dog pound is on Washington Boulevard and has a paid staff. It’s a county-run facility and has no connection with the Humane Society. My staff of 13 is all volunteers, and we get no money from the city or country. Rather, we rely on fundraisers, occasional grants and some nice people donating money. The $50 adoption fee includes spaying/neutering, first shots, dewormed, flea and ear mite treatment. Plus, our local vets give a free well-pet check with an adoption from the Humane Society or the dog pound.
“We’ve fixed approximately 8,000 animals over the past 8 years. Most of us are also working full-time elsewhere. I work at Turning Heads Salon at 432 E. Harding. We deal with owned animals, feral, stray and shelter animals. Anytime I’m doing a spay/neuter clinic or anything like that, I call Rene, and she puts it on the radio. We’re on Facebook and all over the place, like the farmers market and the fair. There are about 20 cats with us right now, and we can handle up to 50 cats. They get adopted pretty fast. We don’t have dogs, and the dog pound doesn’t handle any cats. We work by appointment. Call 464-1686.”