Pet Expo raises money for helpline

By Tracy Douglas

Most expos are targeted toward people, but Saturday’s Pet Lover’s Expo was for the dogs, as well as a few other four-legged friends.

Citizens of all ages gathered at the expo that was held in the Atrium of the Veterinary Medicine Basic Sciences Building, 2000 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana.

The Champaign County Humane Society gave out kits from Hartz that included toys for dogs and cats. The Humane Society brought cats, guinea pigs and a dog that they were hoping to have adopted.

Gourmet dog biscuits from Dog Lover’s Delight in Bloomington were sold, and Companion Animal Related Emotions (CARE) Pet Loss Helpline sold ClayPaws, a product to make a cast of a pet’s paw.

The expo was a fundraiser for the helpline with all proceeds going to it, said Renee Mullen, College of Veterinary Medicine assistant dean for advancement. She said the helpline is a free nationwide service for people dealing with the death of a pet.

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“About 3/4 of the clients come from outside the area. It is largely word of mouth,” Mullen said. She added that the helpline has grief packets for people that include poetry and other literature about the deaths of pets.

Grad student Elizabeth Ferguson said she works for the helpline as part of a class she takes.

“We learn how to comfort people,” Ferguson said.

The college decided to have the expo to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the helpline and increase awareness of it, Mullen said. She said the college partnered with the Humane Society to put on the expo.

The Behavior Club distributed pamphlets on the behavior of animals. Graduate student Joanna Proszowska said the club was working on getting behavior back into veterinary medicine.

“We need to understand pets by their behavior,” said Connie Dorsett, club president and graduate student. She also said the club was able to get an elective on animal behavior started and next year, they are hosting a weeklong course for trainers, veterinarians and other animal professionals.

“We would like to be able to reach out into the community and teach basic things to Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts,” Dorsett said.

The college demonstrated its animal physical therapy. Kim Knap, a certified veterinary technician, said animals often get limb injuries and have trouble recovering.

“It’s hard because we can’t explain to the dogs why we want them to do it,” Knap said. She showed some of the things they use for therapy, such as cavaletti rails that force pets to use many joints as they run through them and balance balls that allows therapists to direct weight on injured areas.

Knap said the rehab program began in Dec. 2003 and is open to the public.

The Wildlife Medical Clinic showed several birds that could not be released into the wild. Rose Ann Meccoli, veterinary resident specialist, said the clinic usually wants to release the animals into the wild again but they could not release these birds because they cannot fly.

Meccoli said anyone can bring an injured wild animal to the clinic if they find one.

Graduate student Josephine Rodriguez said she enjoyed the expo and had not expected to see the birds.

Rodriguez also won one of the gift basket raffles.

“It’s a pet lover’s expo,” she said, adding that she has a dog.

Mullen said she was pleased with the turnout and that she hoped they can expand it and make it an annual event.