HSWM's annual tail wagging event

The Happy Tails annual event doesn’t guarantee that every adopted animal will be living life on a chaise lounge by the pool, but it is the meat and potatoes event that ensures the shelter can take care of the 100 or so animals they take in each month.

LAKESIDE — There was a time when the Humane Society of the White Mountains (HSWM) was heavily in debt and their needs exceeded their basics. But, those days are behind them thanks to the generosity of the community, volunteers, board members, Director Deena Pace and a jackpot fundraiser called Happy Tails.

It was sixteen years ago that Happy Tails began — on a dare. The organization had just completed a dessert auction which was a hit, but board member Mark Sterling threw out some ideas to make the event even better and more profitable. The reply to his suggestions was, in essence, if you think you can do better, prove it.

You just don’t say that to the successful business owner of High Five Design, and a member of the Sheriff’s Posse, because he is one who will take the dare and raise you five, as they would say in a poker game.

Sterling and his partner Michelle Carter, also a board member, did prove it, again and again. Though they are no longer on the board, they left a legacy that has been the meat and potatoes that changed the direction of this non-profit.

It has been two years since the last in-person, long-awaited fundraiser has taken place due to the pandemic. The 16th Annual Happy Tails Auction & BBQ will be at Charlie Clark’s Orchard on Saturday, Aug. 28, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine because it’s for the animals.

This year Board President Mike Bosley will be the auctioneer and he will be very busy. There are 45 to 50 live auction items. To whet your appetite, because people are not selfish about donating auction items to the cause, some of those items include a 2006 Suzuki Boulevard Motorcycle with less than 1,200 miles; Springfield MIA SOCOM 16 Rifle; a Traegar Grill; Polaris generator; golf packages; binoculars; 2,500 yards of cinders; a STIHL chainsaw; camping equipment; and a mountain bike.

New this year is the blitz auction. They will sell a set amount of tickets for six to eight quality items and once they are gone, they will immediately draw for the items.

There will also be many raffle baskets and innumerable opportunities to help HSWM raise needed funds to support the shelter.

The BBQ tickets are $18 in advance and can be purchased at the Dog House Thrift Shop or the Humane Society or if you know a board member, they will be happy to sell you a ticket. Tickets will be $20 at the gate.

The Dog House Thrift Store is the bread and butter that goes with this meat and potato fundraiser. It is a big reason the shelter is able to run as efficiently as it does, making up the difference it needs to operate.

There is no cost to attend the Happy Tails event but there is a charge for the BBQ and those that have had it say they will be getting BBQ tickets.

Currently the HSWM is averaging around 100 animals per month in the shelter. As of Aug. 10, they had 39 dogs and 60 cats. They worked two hoarding cases which increased their number. One was spilled over from last year. It included 30 dogs and they were brought in five at a time. One dog in one of the groups was pregnant and delivered 10 puppies a week later.

Pace said that hoarding cases are hard because the animals usually have had no socialization, haven’t been vaccinated, never been on a leash or had a collar and have trust issues. These situations take additional emotional and financial support and time. Though their turn-around rate is about 95%, there is that 5% that are a danger and never adjust.

In spite of all the sad stories they encounter, there are the happy ones that keep the volunteers and employees coming back with hope for every animal.

Recently one of the puppies that came in with the group of five was pre-adopted. Unfortunately, when they went to do her surgery before she was released, the vet discovered a heart murmur. She needed a cardio ultrasound which is not available on the Mountain. With no openings in the Valley until December for this test, Pace called her contacts and managed to get her in at the Phoenix Veterinary Referral and Emergency Clinic. The cost for the test was $456.75 and Pace and others ponied up the funds themselves. The test revealed she had a Grade 6 heart murmur and if she didn’t have surgery, which was expensive, she would not live. The good news is the vet who examined her said if she fit in with his dogs at home, he would take her and give her the care she needed. She was a fit and is now living the life of Riley.

The shelter always needs money, volunteers and so many other things to take care of animals, and then they have to do their due diligence when adopting to ensure the animal and the family are a fit.

“We never want to set the animal or adopter up for failure,” said Pace.

The adoption process may seem strict but the intent is to ensure they go to a “furever” home.

Happy Tails makes the hard job of taking care of all the animals that come in to the shelter possible. It is one of the most waited for and talked about events of the year — you do not have to tell repeat attendees that, but for those that have not been — if you go this year, you will go again.

More information on the event and items available can be found at https://hswm.org

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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