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Lost Animals Nuzzle Up to Denise Harrison When They Decide It's Time to Find Home

June 03, 1986|Herbert J. Vida

It's as if Denise Harrison, 28, of Orange sends a signal to dogs and cats. "I don't quite understand it myself," she said. "Lost animals seem to find me. My friends think this is kind of odd."

Since the beginning of the year, nine lost dogs have nuzzled up to her.

That also mystifies Jacque Keener, also of Orange. "I don't know if there is a logical answer about Denise," said Keener, office manager of the Animal Assistance League of Orange County. "She's a magnet to lost animals."

And that's fine with Harrison, who also serves as a telephone volunteer on Saturdays for the League, locating animals that owners have lost and vice versa through the league helpline(978-PETS). Sometimes she beds them down in her apartment while trying to find the owner.

"She's truly one of the best detectives we've ever had," said Keener, whose nonprofit group headquartered in Orange also investigates animal abuse, runs educational programs about animals and provides dogs as companions to lonely senior citizens. "Sometimes she finds an owner in a matter of minutes."

Although the league is 12 years old, Harrison and the other members believe that the public isn't all that aware of who they are or what they do despite advertising in newspapers and through word of mouth by the league's 600 paid members.

"I first got involved last Thanksgiving when I saw this car hit a German shepherd and then keep going," Harrison recalled. "I picked the dog up and I didn't know what to do." She said it took her three days to locate the owner, and, in the process, she learned about the assistance league.

Many people who find a dog, she said, believe it is a stray and keep it, although the law requires the animals to be turned over to the animal shelter within 24 hours.

Besides dogs and cats, the league also finds other wildlife, such as a turtle that was found walking down a street and a wild duck that laid its egg in a second-floor planter.

But finding owners of lost dogs and cats would be much easier if the animals had licenses. The league reports that 97% of animals with licenses are returned to their owners compared to 7% without licenses.

"I get a real exhilarating feeling when we find the owner of a lost animal," said Harrison, an account executive for an Irvine public relations firm, "but we also cry a lot when dogs are put to sleep because we can't find a home for them."

Mike Ditka, coach of the champion Chicago Bears football team, is a funny fellow. He showed up at the recent Amigos de los Ninos fund-raiser in the Anaheim Marriott Hotel wearing sunglasses to cover a black eye. He said he got it while he and his players were playfully celebrating the receipt of their Super Bowl rings.

His talk to the sold-out crowd of 300 Orange County businessmen, which raised $30,000 to benefit handicapped children, according to chairman Robert Christensen of Laguna Beach, was highlighted by a series of humorous tales, including the one about his free-spirited and controversial quarterback Jim McMahon.

After one game, said Ditka, in which McMahon performed badly, "I asked him, 'Are you ignorant or apathetic.' "

He said McMahon replied, "I don't know and I don't care."

You know how kids dream about being firefighters?. Not so with Fire Division Chief Rodney R. Farley, 54, who will retire June 30 after 30 years with the Fullerton Fire Department.

"I never really thought about being a fireman. I was raised on a farm in Iowa and I only wanted to be a farmer," said Farley, who lives in Fullerton and, except for some recent surgery, has only taken one day off for sickness in all those years. "I didn't have the money to start a farm and a fireman friend told me about his life, so I became a fireman."

Farley remembers he also took an unscheduled day off when his son, Mark, was born. That was 28 years ago.

Wine-cooler judging will be a new competition at the county fair this year, according to John A. Hardman of Cypress, because of its popularity with the younger generation looking for a less heavy alcoholic drink.

"If it wasn't for the sale of coolers, actual volume sales of wine itself would have done down this year in California," said Hardman, Orange County Fair wine show supervisor who has 80 judges to taste and rate an estimated 2,600 bottles of wine during the July 11-20 fair.

The wine cooler, a blend of white wine and another flavoring such as fruit juice, will be judged separately, as will wine made at home.

Hardman said the judging will be closed to the public. "It's very difficult and demanding to judge that many entries," he said, "and we're trying to keep them (the judges) from tasting more than 50 a day."

It's not because they would get tipsy. "They taste the wine, but they don't swallow any of it," he said. "It's a difficult job.".

Acknowledgments--Mission Viejo Co. corporate affairs manager Jo Schetter, 38, of Irvine, who has a long list of accomplishments in the business world and volunteer services, was named Woman of Achievement by California Press Women Inc. It is the group's highest award.

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