Humane Society's Fur Ball matches animals, people for Valentine's Day

Saturday, February 9, 2013 | 9:05 p.m. CST; updated 9:31 p.m. CST, Saturday, February 9, 2013
The Central Missouri Humane Society united 34 pets with new homes during its second annual Fur Ball on Saturday.

COLUMBIA — Sara Apel meandered two hallways of the Central Missouri Humane Society looking to add one more dog to her family, but hadn’t found any luck.

“They mostly have big dogs, and they have some sweet ones,” Apel said over the phone to her roommate, who has two canines of her own. “But they probably wouldn’t fit in our little doggie family.”

Apel's criteria: a small, short-haired, preferably house-trained male. She wanted to find the Luke to her Leia, named after the Star Wars character, and decided to look for him at the Humane Society’s Fur Ball event on Saturday.

For the second annual Fur Ball, shelter workers dressed in formal wear and some animals did too. Cats and dogs of all ages could be adopted for $50 from noon to 5 p.m., with a $14 adoption special from 2 to 3 p.m., in honor of Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14. The event took place despite a parvovirus outbreak earlier in the week.

As Apel turned to exit the dogs’ wing of the shelter, a Chihuahua named Agatha caught her eye. She knelt down, and Agatha’s paws pressed against the glass separating them. The Chihuahua, dressed in a tuxedo jacket, quivered with excitement and nervousness.

“I know I was looking for a boy, but she’s stinking cute,” Apel said. “There will be a Star Wars name to be had. I will find one.”

Apel tracked down a shelter worker so she could take Agatha outdoors to interact and get to know her personality. Before she could do so, Apel was instructed to return to the lobby and fill out an adoption application.

The application listed questions about what characteristics the adopting person cared about most in an animal. Then, an adoption counselor asked Apel about her preparedness to adopt a dog and her experience with pets.

According the humane society's website, this conversation allows the counselor to assess a potential pet owner's ability to care for an animal.

Apel attributed her knowledge about dogs to her previous employment at PetSmart and to living with two different dog groomers, one of whom was also a breeder.

“I’ve learned a lot over the years, about dogs and the different breeds,” she said.

After filling out the application and answering the interview questions, Apel was back in the kennel area to finally meet Agatha.

At that point, a shelter worker informed Apel that Agatha was already being adopted by a different family, who got there just a little earlier.

Cats and dogs were being adopted faster than at last year’s Fur Ball, shelter operations manager Kimberly Newberry said. Ten adoptions were finalized in the first 45 minutes on Saturday, There were 34 pet adoptions in total, compared to 28 at the last ball.

Apel was quick to accept the news of Agatha's adoption.

“I feel like the timing isn’t just right,” Apel said. “I think I’m going to call it a day.”

Apel said she will consider looking at some of the shelter’s dogs that are currently in foster homes to find the Luke she came looking for—and left the Fur Ball without a companion.

Newberry conceived of the Fur Ball in 2012 as an event that would help lonely individuals find company for Valentine’s Day.

“Sometimes you may not have that perfect mate, but an animal can fill that void of loneliness,” she said. “Not only is it a benefit to the person who is adopting the animal, it is a huge benefit to the animal.”

Newberry said the event highlights the relationships between people and animals. The focus is on the special companionship the caregiver and pet provide one another. This companionship is something that she found with a pit bull named Bennett.

Supervising editor is Emilie Stigliani.

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