Pet Tales: A helping paw makes all the difference




The love between a boy and his dog is always a joy to behold, and the bond is even stronger for Joseph Leckenby, who waited two years to get his first dog. Kim and Julie Leckenby are happy to share the story of the yellow Labrador retriever that changed their son's life. The Mt. Lebanon family hopes to help more children and adults get dogs like Inga IV, an assistance dog trained by Canine Companions for Independence.

Joseph, 13, and Inga, 4, have been together for two years. They'll be at Peterswood Park in Venetia next Saturday for the first Canine Companions DogFest featuring Snoopy and Friends. It costs $45,000 to raise and train dogs like Inga, but people with disabilities get dogs for free, thanks to donations from companies, foundations, individuals and fundraisers.

Joseph, who has cerebral palsy, walks with two canes. Inga picks up pencils and other dropped items, opens and closes doors and drawers, and turns lights on and off. But her most important job is providing love and companionship.

"Inga wears her blue-and-gold vest, and people are drawn to her and to Joseph," Mrs. Leckenby said. "Inga is an icebreaker."

Minus the dog, many people tend to avoid contact with people with disabilities, she said. Now people ask Joseph about his dog, and he's happy to talk to them.

Inga does not accompany Joseph to St. Margaret of Scotland school in Green Tree, where he is in eighth grade. Children get "skilled companion" dogs, trained to be part of a team that on public outings always includes the dog, the child and an adult, which in this case is Mrs. Leckenby.

Because mom doesn't go to school, Inga hangs out with her during the day, "though Inga would really rather work than loaf," Mrs. Leckenby said. She walks Inga 60 minutes a day.

Since 1975, Canine Companions has been training dogs to assist people with a broad range of disabilities and to assist wounded military veterans. Some companions live full time in medical and rehabilitation facilities. Each dog is professionally trained to meet the specific needs of their partner. Inga trained for nine months at the headquarters in Delaware, Ohio. The list of people who want dogs is longer than the list of available dogs, which is why it took two years for Inga to arrive in Mt. Lebanon.

The organization also needs more people to raise puppies for 12-18 months. Puppies in training will be at the event, which includes a 1-mile walk, pet and people costume contests, auctions of Peanuts comic strip items, trick-or-treating, music, and refreshments. People who raise more than $50 in pledges get a Snoopy T-shirt because the late comic strip artist Charles Shulz was a major supporter of Canine Companions, and his widow, Jean, is on the national board.

Go to www.cci.org/PittsburghDogFest for information and to register online. The event is 1 to 4 p.m. next Saturday in shelter 4 at Peterswood Park, 700 Meredith Drive, Venetia (15367).

Help Deuce walk again

Bring your dogs to a Howl-O-Ween costume party and fund-raiser next Saturday at Woody's Dog Wash & Pet Boutique, 5843 Brownsville Road, South Park, 15236.

Owner Ann Cipriani is providing beer and wine for people during Yappy Hour, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For dogs, there will be prizes, raffles and a noon costume party and parade.

Proceeds go to the Help Deuce Walk Again fund. The 120-pound mixed-breed dog was rescued several years ago from a local shelter, where he was scheduled to be euthanized. When Robert Cavill and his family brought Deuce to their Bethel Park home, the dog flinched every time they tried to pet him. It took six months for the formerly abused dog to learn to enjoy the touch of a human hand.

Now his family is trying to save him again. Deuce can't walk because he has torn ACLs in both hind legs. The family will pay as much as they can but can't afford $8,000 to $10,000 for surgery and rehabilitation. A Google search for "Help Deuce Walk Again" brings up the donation page, which already has $700.

Woody's is a self-service dog wash, and proceeds of all Oct. 27 washes go to Deuce. For those who would rather party than wash their dog, volunteers will do the washing for you.

Walk for pit bulls

Well-behaved dogs of all breeds are invited to Hello Bully's Pit Bull Awareness Day Dog Walk from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. next Saturday at the Boyce Park ski lodge in Monroeville. Registration is $30 at 9 a.m. Save $5 by registering in advance at www.hellobully.com.

The walk starts at 10 a.m. A pet costume contest is at 11 a.m., followed by winners of raffles and the pumpkin carving contest. Testing for the Canine Good Citizen degree is 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Hello Bully is a local group that educates the public about the much-maligned breed and rescues, rehabilitates and finds permanent homes for pit bulls.

Spaghetti for cats

The Kopy Kat Sanctuary is holding its main fundraiser of the year next Saturday at Holy Angels Church, 201 Caldwell Ave., Wilmerding.

"All you can eat" spaghetti is served -- to people, not to cats -- from 3 to 7 p.m. Takeout is available. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students. They're sold at the door, but it would help if people order tickets in advance by calling Janet Dunsworth at 412-559-7074 so the cat ladies know how much spaghetti to make.

Kopy Kat, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, helps feral and abandoned cats. The sanctuary in Delmont is full, so cats are not being taken in. The sanctuary works with Petco in Monroeville, and since February 70 street cats have been adopted.

Petrifying Pet Walk

The Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center reaps the benefits of Paws Over Pittsburgh Petrifying Pet Walk next Saturday at the North Park Ice Rink. Prizes will be awarded for best pet costume, cutest pet and pet-owner look-alike. Walkers can get goody bags and T-shirts.

The walk starts at 9:30 a.m. Come earlier to register the day of the event. Cost is $15 for the first pet and $5 for each additional animal. This event is linked to runs for people, so go to www.PittsburghMarathon.com and click on "Run For Your Life" to register in advance.

Bargain adoption rates

Three Allegheny County shelters are offering a "$30@3special." Dogs over 2 years old can be adopted for $30 through the end of the month. The goal is to ease crowding at Animal Friends, Animal Rescue League and Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

The always full shelters have been affected by the Oct. 1 shutdown of Triangle Pet Control Services in McKees Rocks, where Pennsylvania officials found unsanitary conditions and improper record keeping. A Dec. 4 hearing will be held in Harrisburg. More than 20 dogs were moved to Animal Friends and Animal Rescue League.

Low-cost shots, chips

Animal Friends has four dog and cat clinics coming up, with shots that are $10 each for rabies, distemper, bordetella and FVRCP. Also available are $5 flea treatments and $20 microchips. Payments must be cash.

The next clinic is 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Ohio Township shelter, 562 Camp Horne Road, 15237. The other clinics are 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 15, 29 and Dec. 13.

Voting For dollars

A simple computer click could help win $25,000 for the Animal Rescue League. The Larimer shelter is competing in the national ASPCA Rachel Ray $100K challenge. The shelter with the most online votes wins the $25,000 Community Engagement Award. Go to http://apps.facebook.com/aspcavotingapp/ to vote for your favorite shelter. You can vote once a day through Oct. 31. ARL was in first or second place earlier this week.

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to petpoints@post-gazette.com. It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.




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