By Sean Barron
Rachel Hayes was devastated when she lost Vincent, her beloved 2-year-old lab mix, to cancer last year, but it wasn’t long before she channeled her grief into action.
Thus, “Love, Vincent” was born.
“I never thought this is what we’d be doing,” an emotional Hayes said, referring to having founded Hartford-based Love, Vincent, a new nonprofit organization that supplies and distributes care packages to dogs and cats that have been diagnosed with cancer.
In addition, providing love, emotional support and comfort to the animals and their families going through such difficulties are main goals of the organization, she noted.
Hayes, who’s also its president, was among the vendors at the fifth annual Adopt-a-Palooza in Boardman Park’s Lariccia Family Bocce Pavilion on Sunday.
Sponsoring the four-hour event were Boardman Park and Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC.
A driving force behind the family-friendly community gathering was to bring greater awareness of the need to adopt and find permanent homes for rescue and shelter pets while stressing the importance of spaying and neutering, noted Chris Anderson, Sweeney Chevrolet’s social-media director.
Some animals are adopted then returned to shelters and other facilities largely because their companions move, get divorced or lose a job and can no longer afford to provide for their needs, Anderson explained. He added that the pets for adoption Sunday were up to date on their shots.
Typical care packages Love, Vincent distributes to people across the U.S. include pet treats, beauty products, bandanas, blankets, stuffed toys and picture frames. The contents also are based on the animal’s likes, activity level and diet, said Hayes, who added that 24 such packages have been given away.
Also assisting Hayes was her husband, Cory Hayes.
Angels for Animals Inc., F5RS Rescue & Sanctuary, Every Dog Matters Rescue Group, Armstrong Healing Heroes Donation Service Dogs, The Platinum Paw Barkery and West Side Cats were among the vendors at the Adopt-a-Palooza. Also on hand was Megan Ellashek, Armstrong’s MyWire’s community-marketing director.
“The veterans are taking less medication, acclimating better into society, doing better in the workplace, and they have a happier family life,” said Ellashek, referring to the Healing Heroes program, which donates service dogs to certain veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic-brain injury, seizure disorders and other maladies.
Healing Heroes is a partnership with Williston, Fla.-based Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, which selects qualified veterans after they fill out applications, said Ellashek, who explained that such a pet saved the life of a serviceman in Pittsburgh on the verge of committing suicide.
The event also featured a demonstration by officer Daryn Tallman of the Boardman Police Department with his partner, Sumo, a Dutch shepherd. During a simulated traffic stop, the animal excitedly jumped and extended its front legs on the car to show how it would react if suspected narcotics were in the vehicle.
That type of reaction “gives us probable cause to search that car,” said Tallman, who explained that Sumo received 12 weeks of pretraining and six weeks of further work with him after having been trained extensively in Holland.
Hubbard High School friends Amber Lissimore, Victoria Edelston and Marshall Sarisky, all 17, were interested in seeing what animals were available. A medium-sized dog such as a border collie was the type she hoped to adopt, said Amber, an animal lover who also has a Boston terrier.
Victoria seemed content merely to accompany her friends and browse, perhaps because she already has four dogs that range in size from a husky to “a wiener-sized one.”
“I have a terrier at home, and he’s 10 years old. I’ve had him since I was little. He’s kind of like an old man that sleeps a lot but is always happy,” Marshall said with a chuckle.
Marshall also performed volunteer work for West Side Cats that included sorting donations and doing general maintenance work, he continued.
Hayes, Love, Vincent’s president and founder, listed toys, treats and gift cards as among items her organization needs. To make a donation or request a care package, go to www.lovevincent.org or call 330-979-0451.