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Long Beach Grand Prix Assn. Project : Offer for Totally Free Pets Finding Few Takers

December 10, 1987|TERRY SPENCER | Times Staff Writer

If Sharrie Dyer were giving away cars instead of dogs, cats and rabbits, no one would believe her factory maintenance program for those who qualify.

Free food for six months. License fees, as well as spaying and neutering costs, taken care of. A lifetime of veterinarian care and grooming, not to mention free transportation to and from the vet's office.

Yet, she has few takers.

Dyer is the organizer of the Long Beach Grand Prix Assn.'s third Adopt-a-Pet Christmas program, which seeks to pair needy senior citizens and children 12 and under with pets who might not otherwise see the holidays. Held in conjunction with the Long Beach Animal Control Department, pets are given away with the Grand Prix picking up all of the fees. This is the first year that children have been eligible.

Even though the program is designed for those who normally couldn't afford a pet, Dyer said there are no guidelines as to the financial need of the applicant. "We don't want to embarrass anybody," Dyer said.

The pets will be presented at a party on Dec. 12 at the city's pound. Lunch, entertainment and transportation to and from the event for senior citizens will be provided, according to Dyer.

But as it stands now, things might be pretty lonely for Dyer and the animals. Only six potential adopters had signed up at the beginning of the week, which is far short of the 100-plus that Dyer hopes to have by the Dec. 7 deadline. She said the group needs the one-week notice to pick out the right pet for each applicant, and those interested in adopting can call 436-7727.

"We have the money to pay for as many as we can get," Dyer said. She said all fees are paid with money collected at the annual Ugly Dog Contest that is held in April in conjunction with the race.

Corporate sponsors have provided the supply of food, while local vets and groomers have volunteered their services. A cab company has even agreed to provide transportation to and from the vet. The Navy, Long Beach Police Department and Wilson and Lakewood high schools also provide volunteers.

Roger Hatakeyama, an animal control superintendent, said the shelter became involved in the program because it saves the lives of a few animals and brightens the existence of senior citizens who might otherwise be by themselves for the holidays.

"It's rewarding when you see people who have been alone for years get a pet and there is an instant bonding," he said.

Pat Brandt and Norman and Peg Tortenson received pets from the program last year. Brandt, who adopted a poodle-mix, said the anticipation was like awaiting the birth of a baby.

"For a month I knew I was going to get a dog and I would write down different names," Brandt said. "I would sit there and call out different ones. I went through many, many sheets of paper. But when I saw him, I knew he was a Binky."

The Tortensons met their cat, Wow-Wow III, at last year's function after two of their previous cats had been killed by neighborhood toughs. They admit Wow-Wow III is totally spoiled .

"He was the skinniest, scrawny cat," said Norman Tortenson. "He was lucky if he weighed a pound. But today he weighs 16 pounds. He is black and white with long white whiskers and little hands. I call them hands because he's my little boy."

He said he built the cat a canopy bed, which Wow-Wow III has all but outgrown.

"I screwed up on the dimensions," Tortenson said. He said that he no longer takes advantage of the Grand Prix's care program because he wants to provide for Wow-Wow III himself.

"He is worth his weight in gold," Tortenson said.

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