MAIN LINE - Most weekdays you'll find me inside a small stone building with a fire-engine-red entrance door in the affluent Philadelphia Main Line suburb of Gladwyne. Just outside Cleopetra's Grooming, suds spurt from a small ground space and take flight.


Lehigh Valley Humane Society's Second Annual Garden Party Benefits 'Addie's Fund'

All day long, soapy poufs burble up, then split off like tiny clouds adrift in air. Inside, a trio of aproned women navigates a large room filled with varying sizes and breeds of dogs. Hand dryers roar. Large steel tubs contain hoses that deliver shampoo and water for bathing and rinsing. Squeaky-clean is the wash objective; achieving that goal is a skill-based endeavor, rendering works of art when accurately delivered. Trust me: I know. And that's just the bathing portion of the process. The actual grooming involves razor-sharp scissors wielded with a deft, masterful touch. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you an expert groomer is an artist in the truest sense of the word.

~~ for Lilyaulait Kozden (end of mouse patrol, 7/24/17)

“Of all the special things we choose to do for our planet, let one of them be of service to animals."  ~~ Paul Oxton

“People look at you peculiar if you talk about the feeling you got for animals, saying animals have no souls, no sense of good or bad, no value up next to humans," he said. "I don't know about that. Sometimes I think animals are the ones who should be saying such things about us." He shook his head. "Animals can tear your heart out. They can maim you. They can kill you dead on instinct alone and saunter into the next minute like it was nothing. But at least you know the ground rules with animals. You never know with people. Even the good can hurt you bad, and the bad, well, they're going to hurt you but good." He dropped his arm from the window to rub his gnarled hand. "It's why I keep choosing animals.” ~~ Lynda Rutledge

On the daily, the bark goes on. Clients' pets sometimes enter bedraggled with earthen stench but exit smelling fresh and looking photo-shoot ready. The work involved in dog grooming is exceedingly labor-intensive. Daisy, the Golden Retriever doesn't actually jump with joy into a tub. And Peggy, the large Goldendoodle protests mightily before I am able to cajole her onto a groomer's table. Bubba, the black Labrador, had a coat so dense and unctuous that he required assiduous bathing before any shampoo would penetrate his skin. "Tinkles" and "makes" come and are immediately snatched out of sight into plastic blue doggie bags or mop-squeezed into a bucket. It's a dog's life, for certain, and I say that with the immense pride and satisfaction derived from working with passion.

As this article's preamble quote states, I am living and working in the service of animals. I love them all. While I'm paid an hourly wage, I often (and with beatific grin) teasingly ask clients on checkout, "Can you believe I'm actually paid for this?"

But there are other individuals who live "in the service of animals" with much more commitment and selfless devotion than what I've just described. They are on another level altogether. I had the pleasure, on one recent perfect spring day in May, of engaging with these lovely and loving folks at Bell Gate Farm (Coopersburg, Pennsylvania) for the Lehigh Valley Humane Society's Second Annual Garden Party.

It was my second successive year attending the garden party, so I knew the lay of the land for both venue and event. While some of the "players" also were familiar, I met plenty of new folks and made additional canine friends. On check-in, I was warmly greeted by Lehigh Valley Humane Society's Director of Development, Jackie Folsom, who remembered me from the previous May. We chatted a bit before I slipped into my photojournalist role and proceeded to photograph scenes and scenery, while chatting up guests and engaging with some very sweet dogs. Knowing that I would be eating some luscious foodstuffs, I arrived with empty belly and a bit parched, fully prepared to imbibe the featured specialty cocktail and other drinkables.
 
The Big Barn was in full swing when I entered and met my invited plus-one (sister). Super-friendly mixologists granted my request for a B.R.F (Black River Farms) Sparkling Raspberry wine (I would try the mango version later). I could really kick myself for not getting a photograph that quenchable because it was so very good--as light, refreshing, fruity and sparkling as the name suggests. The ever-popular Tito's Vodka, Samuel Adams beers and more Black River Farms (Bethlehem, PA) wines (Hatch, Tilly and Trolley Barn Raspberry) rounded out the bar menu. A wine pool station was warmly and invitingly decorated and offered a mix of whites, reds and roses at twenty bucks a pop.
 
When I discovered edibles would be provided by Diana's Cafe and Catering (a Center Valley-based, family-owned and scratch kitchen-serving eatery), I knew our collective bellies were in good hands. Diana's is a staple in the area, known for downhome and attractively presented cooking using fresh ingredients, home-roasted coffee and an on-site bakery. I've eaten there on many occasions and can attest that the many five-star review ratings are spot-on. Diana herself even posed for a snap (see below), despite being super-busy.
 
There was no lack of variety in the comestible offerings. Most were light bites that included several types of finger sandwiches--ham and cheese and chicken-salad sliders on buttery croissant rolls, warm tidbits such as sauce-coated meatballs, cheesy croquette balls, pastry puffs with delectable fillings, the always welcome and perfect wine-accompanying cheese platters, a gorgeous Caprese salad and my favorite, a cous-cous salad, which was akin to a mini-meal in a cup. See what I mean about plentiful options? Attendees who still had room for sweet treats enjoyed confectioners' sugar-dusted lemon squares, assorted saucer-sized cookies and the creme de la creme, a smooth pink confection that appeared pudding-like and oh, so tasty-looking. Well done, Diana's Catering. You never disappoint and always impress.
 
While nibbling and sipping, guests moved through Bell Gate Farm's Big Barn, where many could be found at the silent auction table, admiring the offerings while attaching names and bids to paper. Some articles were so large they were parked outside of the barn--a Schwinn bicycle with an affixed basket bursting with flowers as well as a posh pet home displayed on a trailer-hitched flatbed. It was one upscale abode--a modern condo featuring a pool and massive plush bed. Additionally, one very lucky couple was the highest bidder for a luxe seven-to-ten-night stay in tropical St. Lucia. Catherine Keys of Tom Hall Auctions, Inc. did a splendid job as auctioneer; she's a major supporter of the non-profit organization to boot.
 
Back outside, I delighted in photographing the adoptable dogs as well as the other pups on hand. And just as guests were decked out in springtime finery, the pooches were equally festive with accessorized collars. Gents sported casual ware, including bow ties, straw hats, khaki shorts and cheerfully colored and patterned shirts; ladies knocked it out of the park with a diverse array of stunning floral-themed attire.
 
My favorite moment during the event came when I met the guest of honor, a dog named DJ. You can read more about his story in the photo series accompanying this article; however, suffice to say this doggo honors the description of "man's best friend." His trial-and-tribulations-turned-survival story will melt your heart. I was honored to meet the young couple who adopted DJ as well as to photograph the exemplary family. DJ posed for my camera in such a way that he oozed gratitude and love. I think of DJ and his owners often and am reminded of the "Who Rescued Whom?" phrase I often see on bumper stickers of cars driven by animal-rescuing or adopting parents.
 
After being fed, watered and socialized, the humans settled in for ... no, not a nap ... rather, they sat on command when it was announced that principals would be taking to the microphone. Well-trained, said humans. LVHS President and CEO Hal Warner spoke eloquently about the organization's mission, achievements and more. Andy Knapp had the audience's attention from start to finish, service awards were doled out and a framed artistic rendering of the "old" building was presented. While the shelter will remain at its present location, a four-million-dollar renovation and expansion will add 10,000 square feet to the existing building and will contain a community vet clinic among other essential upgrades, animal living spaces included.
 
Warner previously reflected on the phenomenal level of need for a community vet clinic seen in the past few years. He said of the demand, "It just keeps growing, and growing, and growing." A core tenet of LVHS's dog-ma [sic] is the conviction that those who meet the criteria for good-home provision for an animal should have the opportunity to own one, socio-economic status be damned. And with veterinary care being pricey along with a high demand for pets, the non-profit organization is determined to see its philosophy realized.
 
In fact, the Garden Party, through the contributions of attendees and other supportive givers. raised an impressive $42,520.32. That's some magnanimous giving, every penny of which was deposited into "Addie's Fund," the account established to assist in defraying sky-high costs of pet ownership for those who, despite dearly loving their animals, simply cannot keep pace with rising care fees and overall expenses. Addie was a senior woman who appealed to the shelter when she became unable to keep her dog because of the aforementioned reasons. Addie was in good company with her struggle, hence the fund's conception and ongoing success.
 
I am already looking forward to the 2023 Garden Party. Until then and Maker-willing, I remain your Gladwyne-based writer-photographer as well as one soapy-sudsy dog bather, wannabe groomer apprentice, poo- and pee-clearing, fresh-water bearing and ball-tossing, cat ears-adorned noise-reduction headphone-wearing (oh, the irony of cat ears in a dog-grooming shop), love- and affection-giving one who "keeps choosing animals." Shout out to Tillie Rose, Kaiaulait (Mister Kai-Kai) and Belle du Joule (Baby Joule, never forgotten) Kozden, my motley brood, my world.
 

Look for more changes and updates to come in 2022 for the Lehigh Valley Humane Society (formerly Lehigh County Humane Society), such as the community veterinary clinic (a first in the Lehigh Valley), upgraded, modernized living areas for the dogs and cats as well as a new look in both the lobby and adoption center. For more information and to follow the exciting progress at LVHS, visit lehighvalleyhumanesociety.org.

 

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