A goodwill cocktail | VailDaily.com

A goodwill cocktail

Cassie Pence
AE Martini2 PU 11-3-06

VAIL ” The number of charities in the Vail Valley can be dizzying for the philanthropically minded. Should I ring bells, snowboard with urban kids or undress for cancer, one might ask. It’s impossible to help them all, so decisions must be made on where to donate time. For most benevolent souls, those choices are influenced by which benefactor tugs hardest at their heartstrings.

Those crafty little creatures who often tug at yarn strings are what persuaded Ann Loper to volunteer with the Eagle Valley Humane Society for the past 11 years. Ann, along with her husband, Bill, who is the Humane Society’s board president, are very fond of animals. More specifically, they love cats.

“Cats are very independent, so when they love you, they really love you,” Ann said. “A dog is a pack and social animal. Cats have this lone spirit, so when you can get through to them, it’s quite a success.”

Ann, who has served as president of the Humane Society and is currently on the board, started out once a week at the shelter helping to socialize cats, petting and talking to them to prepare the cats for adoption. Some of those cats, who left the house and lost themselves in the wild, have domestic memory. Others are feral cats, and working with these wild felines is what inspires Ann most.

“If you get kittens early enough, it’s quite easy to bring them around. A four-week old kitten will hiss and spit. It’s really scary. But in two days, they are purring in your lap,” she said. “They don’t trust people. The idea is to gain their trust and make them realize you’re not going to hurt them. Food works miracles.”

A soft spot for the cuddly and floppy-eared isn’t the only reason people are reaching out to help the Humane Society. When forced to choose between two charities because her personal life grew busy, Patricia Esperon stuck with the Humane Society. She loves animals, but what really draws Esperon to the organization is its long-term success and cooperative staff.

“The Humane Society is proactive in trying to stop the problem with animals in the community before it gets too out of hand,” Esperon said.

She cited the bite-prevention program in schools and the free obedience classes for adopted dogs as two Humane Society programs with long-lasting effects. For bite prevention, Humane Society Director Char Newman Quinn teaches kids how and when to approach animals using coloring books. For those adopting dogs, the society and Mark Ruark, “the dog whisperer,” offer six free training sessions for the owner and the dog to make sure the pet adjusts quickly to his or her new home.

Esperon’s current role with the Humane Society is to help raise funds to support all these programs, including the Humane Society’s very successful spay/neuter program. On Saturday, she’ll be at the Tap Room in Vail running the silent-auction table for the Humane Society’s Martini Ball fundraiser.

Anyone who’s been to the Martini Ball knows it’s as much a fundraiser as it is an opportunity for mountain folk to dust off the fancy digs in their closets and reconnect with their winter friends before the ski season begins. Locals emerge from mud-season hibernation ” or return from their very long vacations ” to dance and sip martinis for a good cause.

Absolut Vodka is this year’s sponsor, and ball-goers will receive one free martini with the $40 ticket. A DJ will spin top-40 music and requests. The silent-auction table boasts Karats gift certificates, a voucher for an outdoor deck and a condo in Costa Rica, among other top-shelf items.

“It’s a fun party because there are not a lot expectations on it,” co-owner of the Tap Room Steve Kaufman said. “It’s a nice time to get dressed up and have a good time knowing that the money you’re spending goes toward a good cause.”

When asked if he was an animal lover, Kaufman simply replied: “I have a dog, a cat, a bird, a bunch of fish and a couple horses.”

Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 748-2938 or cpence@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado

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