It was love at first sight. He was strikingly handsome, with a roguish smile and charming demeanor. When I extended my hand, he kissed it. I was smitten.
His name is Gunny, and he is a 10- year-old English Bulldog. We met at the third annual Bow Wow Ball at the Wyndham Hotel, Norfolk VA, last Saturday evening. Gunny attended the event with his humans, Kerry and Mike Asher of Virginia Beach. The event raised over $6,000 for Lady’s Grace, a local 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, which provides a variety of services to assist military spouses, children, and pets, who are the “heroes at home,” of service members in the Hampton Roads area.
According to Kelly O’Clair, Executive Director of Lady’s Grace, the Bow Wow Ball is the only indoor fundraising event in Hampton Roads that includes dogs. “There are other dog-friendly events in the area, but the Bow Wow Ball is the only local opportunity to get dressed up for a fun evening and bring your dog,” said O’Clair. Gunny was one of nearly 40 well-behaved, well-dressed canines in attendance at this fun-filled fundraiser, which featured a buffet dinner for humans, along with dog treats, a deejay, canine talent contest, silent auction, and guest speakers, Karin and Mike Pettinger.
The Pettingers attended the Bow Wow Ball with Emmet, their golden retriever rescue, and Bailey, an Australian shepherd living with them temporarily through Dogs on Deployment (DoD). The couple spoke about volunteering with DoD, a national nonprofit that matches families and individuals willing to board pets with members of the military who are unable to bring their furry (or scaly or feathered) family members with them on deployment. The Pettingers also foster dogs through a local Golden Retriever Rescue organization.
Karin Pettinger shared the sad story with a happy ending of how Emmet’s original owner, a deployed serviceman, reluctantly surrendered his beloved pet when a family member could no longer care for the dog. “We were told the owner had only request, to please not put him in a shelter where he might be euthanized.” She continued, “Emmet was one of the lucky ones. Instead of a shelter, he was taken to Golden Retriever Rescue, and we became his foster family.” The Pettingers and their two children immediately fell in love with Emmet and adopted him. Emmet was the Pettingers’ inspiration for joining DoD several years ago.
O’Clair pointed out that DoD is one of several local nonprofits that partner with Lady’s Grace. O’Clair expressed gratitude to DoD and the other nonprofits, stating to thunderous applause, “When [nonprofits] have similar missions and don’t help one another, it is like shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Although the Bow Wow Ball highlighted its services for canine family members, Lady’s Grace also provides crucial confidential assistance to children and spouses of servicemen and women. Group counseling services help spouses and children adjust to daily living while loved ones are deployed, as well as re-adjust upon their return. Dr. Kara Coe, Clinical Director, said, “The services and programs provided by Lady’s Grace make a huge impact on local military families. In an overwhelmed medical system, Lady’s Grace allows folks to access needed care and provisions with no obstacles.”
O’Clair also expressed Lady Grace’s appreciation for the generosity of various local sponsors who make the annual Ball Wow Ball and other fundraising events a success. One of those sponsors, Dave Johnson of Virginia Beach Law Group, explained why he supports this nonprofit, “We support Lady’s Grace because we appreciate the opportunity to give back to our community on a scale that matches our ability to be philanthropic, and through an organization with which we have a personal connection.”
The evening concluded with “Fund a Cause” to support two of Lady’s Grace’s five programs, the Caring Kibbles Program, which confidentially provides nutrition and care for pets of military members, and the Backpack Program, which donates backpacks The evening concluded with “Fund a Cause” to support two of Lady’s Grace’s five programs, the Caring Kibbles Program, which confidentially provides nutrition and care for pets of military members, and the Backpack Program, which donates backpacks filled with school supplies at two Virginia Beach elementary schools. According to O’Clair, Lady’s Grace, now in its third year, is focusing on setting up new programs and expanding existing ones. He said, “Events like Bow Wow Ball enable us to provide additional much-needed services to our Heroes at Home.”
For more information about Lady’s Grace, visit their website below.