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AIDS Walk Poster Dog Is a Money-Maker

March 01, 1992|SUSAN PATERNO

Picture this: An overweight, one-eyed 6-year-old Shar Pei with so many wrinkles she looks like a 300-year-old pit bull. Now stick rabbit ears on the dog and give her a tiny toy drum like the bunny in the Energizer ads.

Take a photograph and turn it into a poster with the caption: "She just keeps going and going and going."

The pooch, Sharleen, has become the poster dog for AIDS Walk Long Beach, a 10-kilometer walk to raise money for local charities that help people with AIDS. She brought in $2,000 in donations last year.

"It's hard to ask people to sponsor you," said Ilse Benz, who shares ownership of Sharleen with her roommate Jan Kurashige. "It's much easier to say 'Would you sponsor my ugly dog?' "

Sharleen will trot again this year wearing her familiar sun visor in the fourth annual AIDS Walk Long Beach on March 15, joining 5,000 people and more than 100 animals. The walk begins at 8 a.m. at Shoreline Aquatic Park.

This year, organizers hope to beat last year's effort, which raised $136,000 for 11 AIDS services organizations.

"If you saw Sharleen, you'd see she's not the athletic type," Benz said in a telephone interview. "She's a little heavy; she's got all these wrinkles; she huffs and puffs when she walks. She's only got one eye. (She lost the other as a puppy.) She's always running into everything. People look at her in the poster and figure there's no way she can make the 10-K. So they agree to pledge."

Sharleen was the first pet to walk three years ago. Last year, a cat walked along with 75 dogs, said organizer Joyce Griesser. This year, "one woman wanted to bring her horse, but we couldn't let her," Griesser said. "We'd have to get a parade permit."

Benz, a Long Beach bar manager, and Kurashige, owner of Mane Design hair salon in Belmont Shore, entered Sharleen because "she loves everybody. She needed a purpose for being. So we figured we'd give her one," Benz said.

Although Sharleen always finishes the walk, she sometimes proves embarrassing, Benz said.

At the end of last year's walk, at the pet drinking fountain, Sharleen trotted "right past all the dogs politely drinking and lay down in the middle of the fountain and wouldn't budge," Benz said.

"She's very upset for a month after the walk. She lays around letting you know her paws still hurt."

Benz and Kurashige acquired a bird recently. "So maybe next year we'll go with the bird. Why not? If it helps the cause," she said, "we'll drag anything out there."

Participants will meet at Shoreline Aquatic Park across from Shoreline Village at the end of Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach. The walk, which is accessible by wheelchair, follows the beach bike path east to the pier at Belmont Shore, then up the ramp to Ocean Boulevard where it loops back to the downtown park.

In conjunction with the walk, a large part of the Names Project Memorial Quilt, sewn in honor of those who have died of AIDS, will be displayed in the Queen Mary Exhibition Hall. The complete quilt, housed in San Francisco, is as large as 20 football fields, Griesser said.

The quilt exhibit is free. AIDS Walk will provide free bus transportation from Shoreline Aquatic Park to the Exhibition Hall. For more information on the walk or exhibit, call (310) 495-2330.

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