It’s always refreshing to see groups working together, helping each other and showing appreciation. More about that later.
Saturday’s heat and sunshine were brutal. Almost as brutal as the horror stories that resulted from the infamous Michael Vick fighting dog compound. The summer’s microwave conditions were searing and no sign of rain anywhere. It was even too hot to think of having a car wash. That is, unless you were an old pro at summer outdoor activities like this, you needed to raise some $$ for a good cause and you’re Dawn Rizos.
The animal-loving Dawn, who has raised more than $200,000 for local animal causes, wasn’t going to let a little thing like blinding heat stop her from fundraising for Best Friends Animal Society, the group that took possession the Vick-tory dogs in 2007 and rehabbed many of them. A driving force was Sunny Hunter, who works for Dawn. She and her husband Richard had adopted Mel, one of the Vick-tory victims, nearly two years ago. After meeting Mel, you could see why Dawn was bound and determined to get the dough for the dogs.
At Vick’s facility, Mel had been a bait dog. In the canine fighting world, a bait dog is used to trained the aggressive dogs. They are put in the arenas with their mouths taped for those in training to tear apart. That was the life Mel knew from puppyhood. Even now after round-the-clock rehab, he’s still tentative about what is around the corner. No, he shows absolutely no signs of aggression. According to the Hunters, he’s never even barked. When he needs to go out, the five-year old pit bull quietly sits by the door. If it’s nighttime, the Hunter’s other dog, Pumpkin, will bark to let the humans know the little guy needs to go “to the bathroom.” According to Richard, Mel also helps Pumpkin. For example, the “rawhides” they like are too tough for 16-year-old Pumpkin to chew on his own. So Mel chews them until they’re soft enough and then turns them over to Pumpkin.
Since this car wash was not Dawn’s first rodeo, she and her kids and ex- had it all organized and ready to face come what may. Good thing! Folks dropped off their cars, motorcycles and even a hearse at her company’s front door along with a $20 donation. While the cars
were being handwashed meticulously, guests wandered to the back of the building to play games (dunk booth, toss games, etc.). Then they strolled across the street to the parking lot that had been converted into an oasis of a never-ending buffet, dining area with
beautiful floral arrangements and a drying area for the vehicles. How did Dawn stave off the heat and blistering sun? She had white tents topped with fluttering lines of blue and whiteballoons. As an added precaution, she arranged to have portable A/C units everywhere. Amy Childers shared one of the units with her young lab, Princess. Lydia Pritchett made sure her Pomeranian Pebbles had plenty of water. Gavin Cook flirted outrageously with all within eyesight. When you’re two-years old, you can easily get away with it even if your mom and dad are laughing.
By 1:30 p.m. Best Friends regional gift advisor Nora Della Maddalena reported that $5,000 had been raised
in just the first hour-and-a-half. When asked if she had ever raised money at a car wash before, Nora said, “No.” Was it what she expected? “”I had no idea what to expect,” Nora said.
As the guests ate and drank water and Red Bull, Dawn’s staff hand-dried the cars. But that’s not to say there were no surprises.
Big SUV’s and pickup were a bit of a challenge for itty-bitty Jernae, but she didn’t let that stop her. And then there was that hearse.
When Georgia transplant Erica Moss started drying it off, she thought it was going to be a snap until its lady passenger “ET” opened the door to reveal a “for-real-looking-corpse” in the
back. It, like ET’s fangs, were not the real thing.
While the outside activities were moving smoothly, it was wild and crazy inside. On the second floor a doggy day care had been set up, where the pooches partied hardy and wore out their human caretakers.
Pet psychic Sandra Larson was giving readings to help raise the day’s total. In working with Mel, Sandra reported that “Being aggressive was never in him. That’s why he wound up a bait dog. He is beautiful. He has a peaceful energy. He doesn’t mind sharing the story. He just doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him. The day he starts barking, you’ll know he’s” made it.
By 3 p.m., the take had increased to $11,000. The sun and heat continued their onslaught outside, but people and vehicles kept coming. Madeline and Ed Bark were joined by Rawlins Gilliland, who got a face wash, not kiss, by the pit bull sitting next to Richard at the next table.
Oh, you were wondering about how local groups work together to fit in with this tale. Well, Dawn’s business is The Lodge, a gentlemen’s club. The people providing the car wash, the food and the babysitting of pooches were members of her staff and her family, who pitched in. Since 100% of the day’s proceeds were going to Best Friends, they all put in extra time and effort to break past records. . . and they did just that.
Just the week before members of the New Friends New Lives, an organization that helps women who have been victimized by the sex industry, had dropped by The Lodge to share information about their organization and provide gifts for staff members. When Dawn, who had not been at The Lodge at the time, learned of the visit, she and the girls wrote thank you notes to NFNL. You see, Dawn realized that she and NFNL were both on the same page — the prevention of the victimization of the vulnerable, whether they’re women or animals.
BTW, the car wash raised $17,000 — and Mel’s spirits. We’re still waiting to hear him bark.