Pet Paradise

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Pet Paradise

Hilary the Chihuahua is one of the lucky ones. Fearful and snippy, the dog was recently in residence at the Pima Animal Care Center. She was most likely on the road to being euthanized, since her behavior had her marked unfit for adoption.

Jacque Thompson, director of animal rescue at the local nonprofit Saving Animals From Euthanasia, picked up the dog and fostered her. After a short time at Thompson's house, the dog became friendly and relaxed. Hilary was then quickly adopted out into a permanent home.

"The lady who adopted her wrote us a letter," says Thompson. "She said (Hilary) is the most adorable thing she has ever gotten. The dog is running the house and is the most affectionate dog there ever was."

There will be many rescued animals like Hilary available for adoption at the sixth annual Arizona Animal Fair, taking place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Reid Park dog-training area, near the corner of 22nd Street and Country Club Road. The free event will feature animal-rescue groups, animals to adopt, entertainment, educational demonstrations, vendors, food and a beer garden. For more information, visit safeanimals.com.

SAFE is in the business of rescuing animals who are about to be euthanized. About 85 percent of the animals come from the Pima Animal Care Center, Pinal County Animal Care and Control, and Fort Huachuca. The organization takes in animals left behind by military personnel who are deployed away from the area. The other 15 percent are retrieved from the public.

"In 2005, we adopted out 409 dogs and 235 cats," says Thompson. "We have 160 animals in foster care right now. From the summer to November, that number goes up: Add another 200 in the summer.

"We are limited in what we can do by the number of foster homes. We have to turn animals down, because we have nowhere to put them."

Many of the animals in SAFE's foster homes will be available at the fair for adoption. Other rescue groups will also be present.

"There will be about 35 different rescue groups with dogs, cats, ferrets and rats," says event coordinator Roxanne Dingman. "Sanctuary groups will also bring burros, horses, pigs and mini-horses. (Birds will also be at the fair.) All proceeds are returned to SAFE and the rescue groups. There is something for everyone. It's a very positive, upbeat event."

Part of the fun at the event will be watching the various performances. One of the more well-known groups is Rockin' Ray and the Amazing Skyy Dogs. Ray and his agile canines have been on ESPN, PBS and Good Morning America and were featured in a Coors Light commercial. The dogs catch discs, jump rope, balance items on their heads and do other entertaining tricks.

The Miniature Horse Association's "Petite Elite" driving team will also entertain the crowd. They were recently one of the highlights of the Tournament of Roses Parade. Other performers include Southwest Rescue Dogs, Online K-9 Flyball and Saguaro Scramblers. You can also paint with your pet, get your pet blessed, have a caricature done of your pet and see what a pet psychic has to reveal.

If you are looking for more than entertainment, there will be various services to choose from. Animal Birth Control of Tucson will provide a low-cost vaccination clinic for dogs. The Veterinary Specialty Center of Tucson and the American Red Cross will run a pets and people blood drive. Microchipping services will also be available.

"The event does not focus on one philosophy," says Dingman. "It supports key values of adoption, spaying (and neutering), vaccinations and microchipping. We welcome different types of philosophies. Our objective is to present them to the public and allow (people) to make decisions. It is a great place to get educational information."

SAFE President Reagen Kulseth says trainers and animal behaviorists--who will be at the fair--can provide simple and basic methods to provide relief from common and uncommon problems.

"Pet owners don't understand pets are not people. They say, 'He knows he is not supposed to go to the bathroom on the floor.' But no, he doesn't know."

Kulseth recalls a time when a trainer helped correct a more dangerous problem.

"A 2-year-old black lab mix ... had been taken to a facility to learn how to be a guard dog. When the dog exhibited aggressive behavior, the owner would punish the dog. The dog's reactions were unpredictable. The dog was damaged."

At last year's animal fair, SAFE networked with Sasha Alexander, a trainer and behaviorist with Paw Print Pet Services. Alexander worked with the dog to correct its behaviors. "It took eight months to undo the negative training. The dog found a home and is happy now," says Kulseth.

"The fair encourages networking. It's a way to contribute to the community. It provides help and assistance to the public and to rescue groups who have the same (problems) we face."

So if you are looking to adopt a dog--or even a rat--the Arizona Animal Fair will have plenty to choose from. Kulseth recommends considering your lifestyle before you start the adoption process. With dogs and cats living up to 15 or even 20 years, it is truly a lifetime commitment.

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