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February 1, 2006 

The following article courtesy of Riverbend Books and may not be reproduced without permission.

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Speed Dating For Pet Owners

 

Valley Animal Hospital in Roanoke, Va., helped abused animals—and people looking for love—by hosting a "Speed-Dating for Pet Lovers" night. The fundraiser was for the clinic's SPIRIT fund, which defrays veterinary care expenses for abused animals. "We hosted it as a typical speed-dating setup but participants had to have a pet, and the admittance picture had to be of the owner and pet together," says owner Dr. James Poage.

Promotions included on-air spots on a local radio station, which sent one of its most popular disc jockeys to the event. The local paper ran an ad at no charge, and the hospital mailed fliers to all nearby veterinary clinics, pet shops, and boarding facilities.

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Spirit, a Jack Russell terrier, whose recovery inspired the SPIRIT fund.

"We had food and nonalcoholic drinks and drawings for prizes," says Dr. Poage. "We used various spaces in the hospital to give the participants privacy. People said they enjoyed the quiet atmosphere, fun people, and the food. A veterinarian (not from our clinic) and the DJ actually hit it off—he said he may have met his wife at the event—and one other couple made a match."  

The SPIRIT fund is named after an abused Jack Russell terrier the hospital treated. "The animal-control office brought her to us with first-, second-, and third-degree burns over 40 percent of her body," Dr. Poage says. "Animal control personnel debated euthanizing her because of her extensive injuries. She was treated and responded dramatically to care and skin grafts. Her personality was so great—she never tried to bite during the whole ordeal. We renamed her Spirit, and she's been the pseudo-mascot and goodwill ambassador for Valley Animal Hospital ever since."

Living up to her name, Spirit even got into the fun on the speed-dating night, picking the prizes herself by pulling numbered tennis balls out of a basket. As for her luck in love, she found a home with Dr. Poage and his wife, Denise. 

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