Between speeches and prize draws, staff and volunteers at Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS) deked into the animal control offices, taking turns bottle feed a litter of three nine-day-old kittens brought into care a few days earlier.
Content and full, the babies then dozed in and out of sleep despite the ruckus going on right outside their door. It was a party, with 140 people â€“ most dubbed LAPS heroes â€“ invited to the shelter Friday for an annual thank you wine and cheese event.
The event was two-fold in purpose, explained executive director Sean Baker. It was a chance to express gratitude to all who give and help the community animal shelter â€“ whether by donating time, money, or both.
The other reason for the late spring event, Baker joked, is to force himself and his crew to do a little house cleaning. It forces them to move the furniture and catch all the stray dust bunnies seeking refuge in the shelter.
â€œThis is our opportunity to thank you for all that you have done to help animals in the past year,â€ Baker said, calling the night a â€œhuge success and a lot of fun.â€
â€œThe responsibility that we have to take care of Langleyâ€™s stray, lost, and unwanted animals is a big one, and we could not do what we do without you. Thank you for being heroes for animals.â€
Among those in attendance were Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese and Councillor Grant Ward, along with former Township mayor Kurt Alberts, so Baker took the opportunity to offer a little history and sprinkle a little thanks their way.
â€œAs many of you may already know, the Township of Langley was our first partner and has been by our side every step of the way. There is no way that we would be here tonight, in this amazing building, without the commitment made to Patti Dale by mayor and council 11 years ago,â€ Baker said, acknowledging the work of Alberts and his team of the day, as well as the current members of council.
â€œThat commitment was a promise that Langleyâ€™s animals would always receive the best care possible and Langley would be a beacon for others to follow. And thank you for keeping that promise,â€ he added.
In the past year, the shelter has cared for more than 1,300 dogs, cats, and large animals.
â€œThatâ€™s a lot of help we provided,â€ Baker insisted, sharing credit with everyone gathered in the front lobby of the Patti Dale Animal Shelter that night.
â€œThe past year has been great,â€ he said, putting a spotlight on one effort in particular that has been garnering LAPS some international attention via the Internet.
The shelter now shares its successes â€“ and the occasional heartbreak â€“ with the world thanks to what he described as â€œsuper foster momsâ€ Shelly Roche and Shannon Underwood, who have been broadcasting the lives of several cats over the past year plus.
â€œWho would have every thought it. Using this amazing invention of computers connected by cables and a $69 camera that captures images and video, the magic of LAPS has been shared with the masses,â€ Baker commented.
â€œAnd who would have thought that watching a cat that you have never met, in someoneâ€™s home that you donâ€™t know, in a place that you have never been to, do nothing but sleep, would attract the attention of so many people around the world?
â€œAnd if watching for hours non-stop was not amazing enough, who would have thought that so many of these people would proceed to send us money and lots of marvellous gifts? The concept is truly mad and the amount of stuff we have been receiving is mind blowing,â€ Baker said.
â€œWith no word of a lie, we get so many gifts that UPS has a dedicated truck that comes here daily. We are on a first name basis with the UPS guy and he and his wife are even coming to the gala.
â€œIn truth, the more that I think about it, the less crazy it seems that people would want to watch a sleeping cat that is half way around the world. Thatâ€™s because it isnâ€™t the sleeping cat that draws people to keep watching. No, because you can watch a sleeping cat any day of the week, in every corner of the world. What people are drawn to is the hearts of the people who are caring for the cats. Shelly, Shannon, and our animal care team have truly shown the world [LAPS founder] Patti [Dale]â€™s spirit. That is the uniqueness that keeps people glued to their computer monitors. What they want to see is more of the love and commitment that our team gives to each and every animal that needs us. They want more of LAPS.â€
At Friday nightâ€™s wine and cheese, Baker â€“ who never misses an opportunity to promote the LAPS fundraising initiatives â€“ also announced this yearâ€™s Wizard of Oz-themed gala is set for Nov. 1.
It will be the seventh annual Furry Tail Endings gala, once again being held at the Coast Hotel, and Baker said he expected â€“ like in past â€“ that the event will sell out.
Thatâ€™s fortunate, because LAPS is responsible for fundraising about $300,000 [a third of the shelterâ€™s annual budget] each year, and fundraisers like the gala are key.
â€œA really big part of making sure that we do it this year is by making Furry Tail Endings gala part 7 a huge success,â€ Baker said, describing it as one of Langleyâ€™s premiere social event of the year and a one-night event responsible for generating upwards of $100,000 towards their annual total.
They kicked off sales Friday by selling 134 tickets. Baker said that puts them at the 1/3 mark, already.
In addition to selling tickets to the gala, staff and volunteers also sold tickets for the organizationâ€™s dream vacation lottery, accepted a few table sponsorships, and had a few members of the crowd sign up to be monthly donors â€“ bringing in a total of more than $20,000 from Friday nightâ€™s event, which Baker reiterated was meant as a thank you not a â€œshake down.â€
â€œWe are a team and are in this together,â€ Baker concluded, expressing thanks again to everyone in the room and beyond who has helped make the Patti Dale Animal Shelter and LAPS a model organization when it comes to quality care for domestic animals.