By Conrad Dudderar
A benefit gala celebrating Pets & People animal rescue efforts was the Canadian County humane society’s first evening event since before the COVID-19 pandemic – an auction in November 2019.
“Pawsh Paws for a Cause” was the theme of the celebratory banquet presented on Veterans Day Nov. 11 inside the Dale Robertson Center, 1200 Lakeshore.
More than 100 people attended the festivities, which featured a guest speaker, silent auction, door prizes, and catered Italian dinner. The gala was sponsored by Kalidy Kia.
Louisa McCune, executive director of the Kirkpatrick Foundation, stressed the importance of the next generation of animal advocates during her remarks.
“So often, leadership in caring for animals — at a personal, local, state, or even national level — begins at home, in personal experiences, and extends from one generation to the next,” McCune told the audience.
Pets & People’s guest speaker told attendees that “we need you” – and not just as donors, adopters or fosters.
“Who will be the future animal leaders, to stand for animal wellbeing as an intrinsic part of community wellbeing?” she said. “It’s up to each of us to encourage and model the leadership for our children and families and friends to bring new people to world of animal protection.”
McCune’s grandparents, Louise and Bill Rucks of Oklahoma City, were good friends with Kirkpatrick Foundation founders John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick. The Kirkpatrick family has a rich history in Yukon that continues today with the Mollie Spencer Farm.
Louise Rucks wrote a popular weekly column titled “Hound Hill” published in The Oklahoman. Her career in animal writing and storytelling gave her life purpose after the death of her child, Sallie, in a tragic 1946 accident.
McCune described Louise Rucks and John Kirkpatrick as midcentury animal advocates, through the zoo and other mechanisms, and how that leadership has continued through the generations.
Louise Rucks’ daughter – McCune’s mother Peggy – became Enid’s animal advocate during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
“She would help deliver litters of puppies,” McCune shared. “We had four or five dogs and three or four cats, and fish and birds. My mother imparted that to me.”
John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick’s daughter Joan and McCune’s mother became very good friends, sharing a love of cats. In 2011, Joan’s son Christian Keesee – great-great grandson of Mollie Spencer – asked McCune if she wanted to change careers (from publishing to philanthropy) and become director of the Kirkpatrick Foundation.
Within about 48 hours, it was a done deal.
Joan Kirkpatrick had died in a 2009, and large portion of her estate was coming to the Kirkpatrick Foundation.
“A hundred percent of those dollar would go toward our grant distributions for animals,” McCune shared. “We really increased our animal welfare giving – from about 15% of our overall grants to about 28% of our overall grants annually.”
The Kirkpatrick Foundation’s Safe & Humane program debuted in July 2012. This is a 20-year initiative to make Oklahoma one of the safest, most humane places to be an animal.
“It’s a very ambitious goal, but it has been something that we have worked on literally every single day in those 11 years,” said McCune, who serves on the board of the Patrons of OKC Animal Shelter.
“And we’ll continue to – at least through 2032, if not longer.”
FOR THE TOUGH AND STRONG
Gala emcee Amy Young, a dedicated Pets & People volunteer and supporter, talked about the organization’s efforts to find loving homes for dogs and cats who had been in peril.
“Animal rescue is for the tough, the strong and the ones that believe one small action can cause a ripple effect,” Young said. “Animal rescue can take your heart on a wild ride from heartbreak to incredible joy, hope and inspiration – sometimes in just minutes.
“Animal rescue also makes you look at humanity different. Animal rescue changes you as a person.”
The Pets & People benefit gala celebrated those incredible moments when lives are saved as a great animal and great human find each other, Young pointed out.
Young’s family has fostered about 300 dogs, saving some just hours before they were going to be euthanized.
“As fosters, we help animals and teach them they are worthy. That they belong and are going to have a wonderful forever family,” she said.
Pets & People Humane Society operates a no-kill shelter and adoption center at 9733 N.W. 4th in Oklahoma City.
Young credited the adoption center’s staff for getting pets ready for adoption – making sure the animals are matched with the right humans.
“It’s a long, hard job,” she said. “They work incredibly hard. They just have this amazing kindness and compassion.”
Since beginning its mission in 1992, Pets & People has saved about 58,000 animals.
This volunteer-based group rescues dogs and cats from municipal animal control facilities before they are euthanized, providing safe harbor for these pets until responsible “forever” homes are found.
“As an organization, we do not shy away from ‘hard’ cases,” Young pointed out. “We take the dogs and cats that other rescues have passed on.
“We say ‘yes’, so we can do the work that we know we need to do. Not the work that would be easy.”
All animals are vet checked, microchipped, tested for diseases, and spayed or neutered while being sheltered by Pets & People. They receive appropriate vaccinations and preventative medications before being adopted out.
Pets & People adopters, foster families and volunteers – along with veterans in attendance – were recognized for their service at the Nov. 11th Pawsh Paws for a Cause gala.
For more information, visit petsandpeople.com or call (405) 367-7156.