These pups strut their stuff to benefit the shelter

| 22 Feb 2012 | 02:10

Hewitt, N.J. — Pugs and poodles, mastiffs and Labs, chihuahuas and beagles. They all came out with their owners to help support the West Milford Animal Shelter on Sunday, Oct. 17, for its annual walk-a-dog-a-thon in Wawayanda State Park. The day was beautiful and the enthusiasm was contagious as the owners made their way to check in with the shelter volunteers while the pups made a few new friends themselves. Jason Ploger of Oak Ridge did all he could to keep his 230-pound English mastiff, Max, from dragging him down the route just so he could register. Enter Molly, a 1 1/2 year old pug owned by Pam Toupence. Molly made a little noise and got Max’s attention for a while, giving Ploger some time to get the paperwork done. And there were even some reunions. Twelve-year-old Sarah Clark brought her 10-week-old black Lab, Lady, to her very first Walk-a-dog-a-thon. Lady was soaking in the attention when she saw her birth family, mom Abby, and sisters Princess Leia and Cinnamon Buns. Sarah and her family adopted Lady just a couple weeks earlier. The puppies had some fun together before going on their walk. Lady placed second in the Pucker Up contest for best kisser. The shelter is all volunteer-run so the Walk-a-dog-a-thon is vital to its survival. With over 130 kittens and cats and 10 dogs, it takes a dedicated group and some very generous donations to keep the shelter afloat. And they are always looking for volunteers. Ava Liebau is one of those special people who makes it happen. For her 10th birthday, Ava asked her friends to give her cash instead of gifts so she could donate the money to the shelter and another animal organization. Ava came to the walk with her mom, her sisters Amber and Amelia and their dogs Buddy and Blaze, and she presented $50 to the volunteers. She wanted to know where the money was going, said her mom, so she came here to give it herself. The volunteers were touched by Ava’s selflessness and gave her a t-shirt in return. Kim and Bill Visser came to support the shelter along with their very unique dog family. Wedgie, a six-year-old, 2 1/2 pound chihuahua, came with his new baby brother, Rolan, a nine-month old, 123-pound (and growing) Great Dane. Kim, who spends her professional life with lots of dogs at her Garden State Barkway Grooming Salon in Ringwood, brings Rolan to work with her most days. “He’s so sweet and gentle,” said Kim. And there was the ever-popular costume contest. Many owners dressed their pups up for the occasion. There were pumpkins and a grape, super heros, a skeleton and a native American warrior. Stella Bella Donna, a five-year-old yellow Lab came with her owner, Roberta Wurdemann, a volunteer at the shelter. Stella knows too well how tough shelter life can be. She came to the West Milford Animal Shelter to live when she was just a pup. Wurdemann, who raised the most money for the walk-a-dog-a-thon this year, fell in love with her immediately and the rest is history. “She is a great dog,” said Wurdemann, who donated her $400 grand prize back to the shelter. In all, it was a great day for both the shelter and those who came out to support it. To see more photos from the West Milford Animal Shelter Walk-A-Dog-A-Thon, go to and click on photos. To make a donation, volunteer or to find out more about adopting a pet from the shelter, go to or call 973-728-2859. And the winners are Best Behaved: 1st Place: Queenie, owned by Donna 2nd Place: Diesel, owned by Michelle 3rd Place: Max, owned by Corina Smallest by Size: 1st Place: Wedgie, owned by Kim 2nd Place: Dolce, owned by Stephanie 3rd Place: Chloe, owned by Jason and Mary Best Trick: 1st Place: Ozzy, owned by Christine 2nd Place: Max, owned by Corina 3rd Place: Fetch, owned by Rachael Largest by Size: 1st Place: Max, owned by Jason 2nd Place: Rocco, owned by Miss Heusser 3rd Place: Diesel, owned by Michelle Pucker Up: 1st Place: Shiloh, owned by Shannon 2nd Place: Lady, owned by Sarah 3rd Place: Fonzie, owned by Farah Grand Prize: $400-Roberta and Ardeth Wurdemann, who donated their prize to the shelter 1st Prize: $300 ShopRite gift certificate donated by Inserra Supermarkets: Victoria Reinstra 2nd Prize: $230 iPod Touch donated by Greenwood Lake Animal Hospital: Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Horodnik 3rd Prize: $100 Target gift card donated by Evergreen Farm: Cyndi Babula