Friday afternoon started with orange and white balloons, and 30 minutes later a giant check for $30,000 was unveiled at the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center.
Staff from the national organization ASPCA -- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals -- flew in for the presentation.
ARL got $25,000 for winning the Community Engagement Award. In addition to getting the most online votes -- 25,921 -- the ARL "did the best job of getting its community involved in saving more animals in the 2012 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge," said Janice Iannelli, ASPCA director of institutional giving. Fifty shelters competed.
The Larimer shelter adopted out 2,176 cats and dogs during the contest in August, September and October. Those numbers won another $5,000 because that was 533 more animals adopted than in the same period last year when ARL finished 15th nationally.
Employees at the Larimer shelter and volunteers and "community supporters" spent many hours holding events and adoption drives that ASPCA officials described as "fun" and "effective" in gaining community support and increasing adoptions.
Countless animal lovers used their Facebook pages and other social media to get online votes and to boost adoption events.
Ms. Iannelli proposed a toast to all of the animals, "including dogs like Cody," who attended the check presentation party and represented the shelter animals. The well-behaved 75-pound black and white dog wagged his tail and seemed especially excited when staff and volunteers cheered when the check was unveiled.
"Cody's been here a long time, and he helps at adoptions," said Joe Tedesco, adoption manager at the shelter.
ARL executive director Dan Rossi said, "Every staff member, board member and volunteer really rolled up their sleeves." But he noted that marketing assistant Levi Hahn was a key player by using his social networking skills to get large numbers of page views and votes.
A number of dogs will join more than 2,000 people leaping into the Ohio River at Heinz Field on Sunday to raise money for Special Olympics. They call it The Pittsburgh Plunge, and nearly $300,000 was raised last year.
This is a team event, and many teams include state police and officers from Pittsburgh and local municipalities.
Fundraising leaders earlier this week were Pittsburgh Police -- Zone 6 Polar Police and the Port Authority Police with more than $23,000 each. Zone 6 (West End) Commander Scott Schubert alone raised more than $10,000. For information or to make a donation: www.specialolympicspa.org/pittsburgh-plunge-about, click on "Sponsor a Plunger" and "Pittsburgh Plunge."
Here's one of the most unusual events ever: Holiday Hops and Hoppers Beer Event with Rabbits. That's how Animal Friends describes the fundraiser Friday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at its Ohio Township shelter, 562 Camp Horne Road, 15237. Participants "enjoy a variety of holiday ales and light fare as our rabbits romp and play," according to the news release. Tickets are $20. Space is limited, so advance registration is needed for guests 21 and older. Go to www.ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org or call 412-847-7055.
Florence Henderson stars in a movie about a lonely foster child who finds a lost injured rabbit in the woods on Christmas Eve. "The Christmas Bunny" is showing at 2 p.m. Dec. 9 at The Hollywood Theater, 1449 Potomac Ave., Dormont, 15216. Doors open at 1 p.m. for a silent auction. Admission is $10 to benefit Rabbit Wranglers, a local nonprofit that helps abused and abandoned rabbits.
Petagogy, the natural pet supply store in Shadyside, is hosting the second annual food drive for the Animal Rescue League. For every pound of pet food purchased next Saturday, the store donates the same amount of food to the shelter. Last year, Petagogy donated more than 350 pounds. The store is at 5880 Ellsworth Ave., 15232. Saturday hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Here's a great Christmas present for you, your pet and homeless animals: book a pet session with Nicole Begley Photography, get a reduced rate of $79 (the regular fee is $95) and Animal Friends gets 100 percent of those fees. Sessions must be booked by Dec. 31, but sessions can be scheduled through April 2013. She's one of eight photographers who shoot for the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society's Our Best Friends' Calendar. The 2013 edition is $20 in that shelter's gift shop.
Visit with therapy dogs while volunteers wrap your presents at The Mall at Robinson. Donations go to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Adoptable dogs, cats and rabbits will visit the wrapping station at Center Court. The project, in its seventh year, runs through 5 p.m. Christmas Eve. Panera Bread helped purchase several thousand dollars worth of paper, boxes and bows.
Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-3064.