BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Visionary founder Paula Fasseas and can-do chair Nancy Santi promise that the November 12th Fur Ball showcasing the twentieth anniversary of PAWS will be a night that four-legged and two-legged guests alike will never forget.
The premier pet-friendly black-tie event at the Drake Hotel invites guests to dress their pet in formal attire and walk the red carpet to celebrate the life-giving message of PAWS, a national model for animal sheltering dedicated to bringing an end to the killing of homeless cats and dogs.
It is through Fasseas’s efforts that Chicago’s kill rate of 90 percent of homeless pets has transformed into a 90 percent save rate: “I had asked a friend who was an alderman to take me to a city shelter. There was massive killing at that time that no one knew about. I knew I couldn’t rest until I did something about this—I called every friend I had. Our local pounds are now 100 percent on board, and we are there three or four times a week taking as many as we can as well as going to the scene of national disasters to take animals in shelters there.”
“What am I the proudest of when I look back? It is the fact that we are an ongoing organization addressing pet homelessness beyond adoption,” she continues. “At our Lurie Clinic in Little Village, we have prevented hundreds of thousands of animals from being born through free spaying and neutering. It is a model for the country, being the only high-volume clinic in an underserved neighborhood of a large city. We have 14 vans that bring in pets as well from the city pound and other shelters and from other animal care facilities across the country. After our pets are neutered they are adopted. We have a Medical Center on site as well with seven full-time vets.”
PAWS focuses on addressing root problems, not solely on adoption. About 40 percent of their resources go into prevention and outreach. Fasseas herself has fostered litters of kitten, numerous other animals and currently has two dogs: “I often try to foster the most scared animal I see,” she says.
She was five years old when she got her first pet, Daisy, a beagle mutt her godfather won at a golf game. He left the dog at her front stops and says it was love at first sight.
Nancy Santi, chair of the Fur Ball, grew up with a menagerie: “I have always been an animal lover and even had a boa constrictor as a child—I unfortunately also loved the mice it was supposed to eat! My father and I would find rabbits and ducks and bring them home as pets. When I first came to Chicago, I began to rescue and adopt animals as well as work at animal shelters. I called PAWS in Lincoln Park to volunteer and found it was such a positive, happy, and energetic place. I had a chance meeting with Paula and she got me involved.”
For this very special Fur Ball, Santi is forming a host committee to expand the event. “We are calling it the Emerald Fur Ball and we are inviting a group of civic-minded Chicagoans who are passionate about our city to get involved. Our medical center in the Back of the Yards is state of the art always filled with animals we can help. We want to create a greater awareness,” she explains.
Santi says that the four-legged guests at the Fur Ball are remarkably well behaved. The evening’s list of pet indulgences includes a special dog buffet, pawdicures, massages, and pet-friendly spritzes in the dog spa.
She will be bringing her “granddog,” a PAWS pup her niece fell in love with at the medical center: “My PAWS dog is a spunky beagle who would probably spend the evening barking at the other dogs. But I have found that all the dogs I have rescued are so dedicated to the person who brings them home.”
Fasseas echoes this, remembering a particular rescue story that stands out: “About two years ago, I heard from animal control about a dog who had been run over and bleach thrown in his eyes. We took the dog to surgery, but there was no saving his sight. He was so scared. We took him home for two weeks, then his foster parents adopted him. He came to the next Fur Ball and wasn’t afraid. His owners keep in touch and send photos. He is doing very well.”
The Fur Ball celebrates the important work PAWS does and the many happy endings they help create through their efforts. The evening also includes amazing auction items, such as the opportunity to ride on the PAWS Thanksgiving float, a box for 10 people to the Elton John 2022 concert, and a Napa Valley trip.
For further information about the Fur Ball and PAWS, visit pawschicago.org.