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Vickroy: Bed donation means sweet dreams for shelter dogs

Stephen McGinnis Chicago fireman carries some Kuranddog beds he other firemen from Engine 123 Tower Ladder 39 donated Animal Welfare

Stephen McGinnis, a Chicago fireman, carries some Kuranda dog beds he and other firemen from Engine 123 Tower Ladder 39 donated to the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Update on Michelle Black

Several weeks ago, an anonymous reader sent me $100 and a short note instructing me to give the money to Michelle Black.

You may recall that Black was the subject of a column I wrote about a year ago. The Frankfort resident was left paralyzed by a freak car accident 15 years ago, just two weeks after her wedding. Though she received a settlement, enough to pay for her house, she had no idea about the astronomical medical expenses that awaited.

When her husband was laid off his job, finances got really tight. After my column ran, Michelle called to tell me she was being evicted from her home. She owed back taxes and didn’t have the money to pay them. That was the last I’d heard of her until the cash letter came in the mail.

With no return address to which I could return the money, I felt obligated to find Michelle. Luckily, I found an old email address. Even luckier, she answered. Last week, I visited her in the same Frankfort home.

The news was somewhat better. Her husband had been called back to his security job and they were able to get a loan to pay the back taxes. She is still wrestling with myriad health issues, including kidney stones, diabetes, and, of course, her paralysis. She recently was hospitalized for pneumonia.

But when I handed her the letter and the cash, her smile grew as wide as a child’s at Christmas. Then, when she learned that a SouthtownStar employee threw an additional $50 into the mix, she started to cry.

“Wow, do you know how much food I can buy with this?” she said. “I might even get some pizza.”

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Updated: October 21, 2012 1:18PM



Fifty-five dogs are sleeping more soundly at the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge, thanks to a donation of lightweight, durable Kuranda beds that were installed Wednesday by firefighters from Chicago Fire Department Engine Co. 123.

“It’s the difference between sleeping on cold cement or sleeping on a bed,” league executive director Linda Estrada said. “The dogs will get a good night’s rest on these beds. And they’re indestructible.”

Coupled with earlier donations of 33 beds, this week’s gift, made possible by a Las Vegas woman with Chicago ties, was enough to add a bed to all of the cages in the shelter’s adoption area. The AWL’s “Four Off the Floor” drive has a mission to also add beds to cages in the stray and observation rooms. It needs 150 more beds to achieve that goal.

The beds, which cost about $85 each, are made of aircraft aluminum and 40-ounce vinyl that has some give to it.

They are easy to clean and are guaranteed by the manufacturer to last a year.

“It’s much easier on them orthopedically,” Estrada said. Before this, dogs were given blankets, which often ended up being torn to pieces and sometimes swallowed.

Shelter volunteer Teri McGinnis spearheaded the mission.

McGinnis and other volunteers first experimented with four beds. When they realized the dogs were sleeping better and that the devices held up to typical canine behavior, including chewing and licking, they launched a social media campaign to raise money for a total of 250.

When Nevada resident Kathy Beehn, a friend of AWL volunteer Joan Fay, heard about the project she donated enough to pay for 55 more beds.

McGinnis enlisted the aid of her husband, Stephen McGinnis, a lieutenant at Engine House 123, to put the beds together and then deliver them to the shelter. He quickly recruited the guys at the station to help.

The men at Engine House 123, in Chicago’s New City community, developed a soft spot for the Animal Welfare League in June after their beloved fire station dog, a Rottweiler puppy, got out one day while the men were on a call. He went missing for six weeks. Finally, Dolton police found the animal and brought it to the Chicago Ridge shelter.

Volunteers and staffers, already on the lookout for the pup, immediately recognized it and called McGinnis.

Hogan is fine now and back with “his heroes,” McGinnis said. The experience endeared the firefighters to the shelter.

“All the guys helped put these beds together,” McGinnis said. “It was an important thing to do. These dogs don’t have homes but we can give them a decent bed.”

Shelter spokeswoman Terri Sparks said, “These beds enable the dogs to stay warm and dry while they wait for a forever home.”

The beds, she said, actually have changed some of the dogs’ dispositions, making them more fun and lovable. A good night’s sleep can have that effect.

The “Four Off the Floor” campaign is ongoing to get the 150 more beds.

People can donate toward the purchase of a bed through the shelter’s website. She also said the facility is in desperate need of cat food and kitty litter, to name a few items.

“These are desperate times for animal shelters,” she said.

The Animal Welfare League is at 10305 Southwest Highway, Chicago Ridge; (708) 636-8586;
animalwelfareleague.com

To make a donation, visit animalwelfareleague.com/donate or kuranda.com/donate.



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