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Pet rescue goes glam at first Almost Home gala

SOUTHFIELD — It was early in the morning Aug. 30 when an employee of Southfield’s Almost Home Animal Shelter heard a faint whimpering coming from the back of the facility.

She looked around, and near the outdoor kennels she found him: Champ, a senior dog, obviously used for fighting, abandoned at the shelter on the brink of death.

“She (the employee) was hysterical, and she called me, and I said you have to get him to the vet,” said Almost Home cofounder Gail Montgomery. “He was lethargic, and so weak, but he was still able to cry a little bit. It was awful.”

Champ was anemic, dehydrated and had wounds all over his body — some more than three inches deep. The veterinarian wasn’t sure the dog was strong enough to survive surgery to repair the injuries, but he knew he certainly didn’t have a chance without the procedure.

Somehow, Champ made it through.

“They think he’s going to be all right, but he’s going to need lots of medical care. I’m very hopeful, and the last time I talked to the doctor, he sounded more upbeat,” said Montgomery. “It’s unbelievable how sweet (Champ) is. They were all sitting on the floor — the doctor, vet tech and an employee of ours — because they didn’t want to lift him because he was so uncomfortable. And they were all hugging him, and he was giving them kisses. He’s got a great temperament.”

It’s suspected that Champ was once a fight dog that, once he was deemed unsuitable to fight other dogs, was tossed into pits as bait to train stronger animals. It’s not known who brought him to Almost Home, but if they hadn’t, Champ surely would have died. Even now, his future is uncertain. Every day, doctors battle to heal the infection in Champ’s body, brought on by severe and long-neglected wounds.

Each day, Almost Home works to care for animals from around metro Detroit like Champ — some who are sick, abused or neglected, and others who just don’t have a place to call home. Montgomery said the shelter takes animals other rescue groups won’t, no matter the circumstance and no matter the cost.

“Our medical bills can be up to $100,000 a year,” said Montgomery. “Some vets give us discounts, but they still have to charge us something. And we have to pay people to work here. Some people don’t understand why we don’t just get volunteers. Our employees are here working their behinds off, cleaning cages, taking dogs out, socializing them, bathing them, feeding and watering them, driving them 40 minutes away to go to the vet hospital. There’s so much to do.”

The list of demands is staggering, and the lot of resources available to save animals in need is never great enough. That’s why Almost Home is hosting its first-ever fundraising gala at the end of the month, to garner the donations they need to continue doing their work.

“We do a lot of fundraising because we don’t receive any kind of funding besides donations,” said volunteer and event coordinator Laura Ochab. “We had the idea for the gala probably about a year ago. It’s something different to bring awareness to Almost Home and a great way to raise a fairly significant amount of money in one evening.”

The Rescue Me Gala will take place Sept. 21 at The Historic Players Club in Detroit. Ochab said that guests will be treated to a night of drinks, appetizers, live music, dancing and more, all to benefit the furry friends in Almost Home’s care.

There will be a silent auction with prizes to bid on, ranging from tickets to local sports events to a gold necklace adorned with over a carat worth of diamonds. A highlight of the auction will be a “Modern Family” fan package, with a signed script, autographed photos and four passes to see a live taping of the hit ABC comedy and meet the all-star cast.

Ochab added that with all of the generous sponsorships they’ve been able to collect for the gala, all of the ticket proceeds will go toward the shelter’s care and adoption efforts.

“It’s going to be a wonderful evening. It’ll be fun and really nice, but it’s going to raise money for Almost Home, a 100 percent no-kill shelter,” said Ochab. “That’s the whole reason I volunteer there, because we continue that no-kill mission and take in animals that other rescues won’t.”

Montgomery said the glamorous event will be a first for the shelter, which is used to more casual fundraising opportunities like golf outings and bowling tournaments. That, however, shouldn’t deter anyone from heading down to Detroit to have a good time for a good cause.

“It’s really black-tie-optional. I’m a blue jeans girl, myself; I don’t like getting dressed up. But I’ll do anything for the animals. As long as you’re there, I don’t care if you’re in jeans, really,” she said.

The Rescue Me Gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. for VIP guests and 7 p.m. for other ticket holders. Regular admission is $75 per person, and VIP is $100 per person. For more information, visit www.AlmostHomeAnimals.org or call (248) 200-2695. The Historic Players Club is located at 3321 E. Jefferson Ave. in Detroit.