Dogs Have Day For The Military

Spa Raises Funds For Service Canines, And An Abandoned Animal Gets A Lucky Break

July 20, 2009|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

Last week, Rocky was living in an abandoned Baltimore rowhouse, where Joan Bosmans' son had found the border collie after the tenants had moved out the previous week. Neighbors in the Patterson Park neighborhood told Bosmans, whose family owns the house, they had seen Rocky jump out of a second-floor window, hit the street and find a place to relieve himself.

It took an Italian sub sandwich to entice Rocky into Bosmans' car. By Sunday, he was getting a bath, courtesy of the Dogtopia spa in Clarksville, where Bosmans and 15 other dog owners brought their pets to a charity event benefiting military canines in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I think it's absolutely wonderful," said Bosmans, who regularly takes her own border collie, Campbell, to the Route 108 location. "He [Rocky] came to get a bath so he would look handsome so that someone will want to adopt and give him a good home."

The inspiration for the dogwash is a very personal one for Dogtopia's founder, Amy Nichols. The daughter of a Vietnam War veteran and the wife of a former Navy radioman, Nichols established her K-9 Support charity five years ago and said it has donated more than $30,000 and "thousands of pounds" of supplies to military dogs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nichols said she first thought of a dog wash fundraiser on Independence Day in 2006, the year after she opened her first Dogtopia in Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia.

"I said, 'Wouldn't this be a great time to give back to the country?' " Nichols said in an interview last week from the company's location at White Flint Mall in Montgomery County.

According to Nichols, there are more than 1,000 military dogs deployed worldwide, including around 700 in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the supplies being sent are protective goggles that the dogs wear while sniffing out roadside bombs, cooling beds, and more traditional items such as chew toys.

Sunday's dog wash in Howard County - one of several held this weekend at various Dogtopia locations around the country - certainly struck a note with David Cabrera and Anke Sullivan, since both have ties to the military.

Cabrera is a former Navy corpsman from Riverside, Calif., who was stationed at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center working with veterans returning from hospital stays in Germany. Sullivan grew up in Germany when her father was stationed there in the Army.

Sullivan, who brought three dogs she recently rescued, said that many are unaware of the presence and role played by military dogs.

"Most people are concerned with the local issues, and rescues and all that," said Sullivan, who lives in Laurel and is involved with two animal shelters, Tails of Hope in Mount Airy and the Cattery, a rescue center for felines run through Howard County Animal Control. "I don't think they worry about military dogs. I think it's super."

Said Cabrera, an Elkridge resident who brought his rescued yellow Labrador, Penelope, for a bath, "It's absolutely fantastic."

It turned out to be something of a dog-day afternoon at Dogtopia. After last year's wash cleaned up more than 50 dogs and raised about $1,000, the dropoff Sunday was noticeable to Sue Deitrich, who bought the Clarksville franchise with her husband two years ago.

Deitrich said that the donation from customers this year would be around $300, but she would "kick in" a few more dollars.

"From what I've heard, other [charity] events in the area have not been that well-attended," she said. "I don't know if it's the economy or people not just getting out to things. But collectively [with the events at the other Dogtopia locations], I think it will help."

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