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OktoberPets now more fun - and important - than ever

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By Stephen Knapp

With August fading fast, pet lovers from Floyd Hill to Foxton are trying on their lederhosen, polishing the family steins, and making plans to hoist fork and flagon at the Evergreen Animal Protective League's rootin'-Teuton banquet and benefit, OktoberPets.

Kicking off at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 11, the league's fifth annual Bavarian-style blowout will feature all the food, fun and fellowship for which OktoberPets is rightly famed, plus a little more room to polka. Bear Creek Tavern owners Chuck and Martha Koch, who've hosted the event from the beginning, are taking a richly deserved break, and the gala's moved up the canyon to the Elks Lodge on Iris Drive.

"It's central, is spacious, and the Elks have been great supporters," says Ginny Reiss, the longtime EAPL volunteer in charge of the bash. "It's the same German menu, but volunteers will be doing all the cooking. And since it's inside, we don't have to worry about the weather."

While recent economic reversals have left most nonprofits gasping for air, EAPL credits unflagging community support for keeping its head above water. OktoberPets, for example, has never enjoyed greater local encouragement.

"Organizing this hasn't been nearly as hard as I was afraid it was going to be," Reiss says. "We have more corporate sponsors than we ever had in the past. Even people who've had a really hard year went ahead and wrote us a check."

And that kind of big-hearted generosity will be on display and up for bid on Sept. 11. Competition should be spirited for local craftsman Dan Hilliard's beautiful wooden hope chest, and any bed would be proud to wear the stunning full-size quilt donated by nimble-fingered artist Sharon Paradis-Sharp. Live-auction swag will include tempting prizes like vacation packages, fly-fishing lessons and a six-pack of Coors Field clubhouse tickets. On the silent side, folks can make a play for everything from professional pet portraits to dinner vouchers good at some of the mountain area's finest gaststattes.

"Mountain Hearth and Patio donated a large barbecue center for the silent auction,” Reiss says. “It's got a fridge, an oven and everything. It's amazing."

As it happens, the increased local munificence couldn't have come at a better time for an all-volunteer organization that rescues, treats, fosters and places hundreds of castaway animals every year. Even as community support rallies, financial uncertainty has increased EAPL's burden considerably.

"We weren't sure we could do OktoberPets this year, but our volunteers knew that we had to because the number of people coming to us for help has grown," explains EAPL president Jackie Bell. "Just this July we received 26 calls from cat owners for financial help with their pets, and 45 calls to come and take cats out of the home. That's more than twice the number we got in July last year, and it doesn't even include calls from dog owners, which are also way up.

"A lot of the calls are from people who've lost their home and can't take their pet into an apartment. Every animal we take has to be tested, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and fed and housed until it can be adopted. But adoptions are down because a lot of people are hurting and can't take on the additional expense of a pet. Our need has never been greater."

And the opportunity to aid some of the mountain area's most vulnerable hunde und katzen has never been more delicious, harmonious, or refreshing.

"Great food, live music and beer," says Reiss. "OktoberPets is always one of Evergreen's best parties."

OktoberPets tickets cost $20 per person and are available at Chow Down in the Evergreen North Shopping Center, at the EAPL Thrift Shop on Bryant Drive, or at the door on the night of the event. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.eapl.com.