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Former Red Wing Shoots and Scores for Wyandotte Animals

Detroit Red Wing legend John Ogrodnick drew a crowd to Solero Cafe to raise needed funds for the Wyandotte Animal Pound.

John and BettyAnne Ogrodnick say they’ve always had dogs. During John’s playing days with the Detroit Red Wings, they had multiple German Shepherds. These days, they have three Yorkshire Terriers.

The Red Wing legend was the host of a Saturday night benefit at for the , which needs extra funding to treat animals with illnesses. The event raised $715.

Joining the Ogrodnicks were animal shelter employees, volunteers and dozens of other patrons, including Hall of Fame Red Wings announcer Budd Lynch and Wyandotte Mayor Joe Peterson.

“We’ve always loved dogs,” said Ogrodnick, who was one of the top left wings in the National Hockey League during the 1980s. He played 14 seasons in the NHL–nine with the Red Wings–and scored more than 35 goals six seasons. His best year was 1984-85 when he had 55 goals and 105 points.

Ogrodnick said that his household has never been without dogs. Throughout the years, the family had five different German Shepherds. When a pet passed away, the dog was replaced by another. He said his younger daughter Breanne, now 20, was an influence in moving from larger German Shepherds to much smaller yorkies.

BettyAnne Ogrodnick remembers a time when her husband drew odd looks from neighbors while inline skating accompanied by two German Shepherds and a yorkie.

Not to be outdone, older daughter KelseyAnne, 27, loves cats–although Ogrodnick said he is allergic to felines.

The Wyandotte Animal Pound houses displaced pets in the city–more than 800 annually, according to Kim Skidmore, who established the nonprofit organization Pound Pals to collect donations that support the shelter.

“The donations are for the injured animals that come into the animal shelter,” Skidmore said. “It gives the pets the opportunity to be adopted instead of euthanized.”

Skidmore said the shelter has implemented a vaccination program and a spay and neuter program and promotes adoptions, working with a group of volunteers from the rescue group P.A.W.S. of Michigan.

When the city had a smaller shelter and didn’t have volunteers, donations or the ability to post photos of stray animals online, shelter staff ended up euthanizing up to 80 percent of the stray animals. Animal Control Officer Chuck Gillenwater Sr., who oversees the shelter, said that number has since decreased to about 2 percent–and most of those are feral or are too aggressive to be petsl.

Because of the need for donations, Wyandotte resident and shelter volunteer Jennifer Howey coordinated a fundraiser to secure money for medical treatment of animals, including medication.

“You and I both know nothing is getting funded any more,” Howey said. “Everything’s in trouble. Our schools are in trouble. Everything is getting cut. I honestly don’t think that people think about the animals unless somebody puts it in front of you and makes an issue out of it.”

Gillenwater confirmed that the while the pound is part of the city’s budget, there are not enough funds to cover veterinarian bills, even at the discount rate provided by Angel Animal Hospital in Southgate and Pet Care Clinic in Lincoln Park. He said animal shelters are often at the bottom of a city’s budget.

“I’ve got to twist arms and pull teeth,” Gillenwater said. “I have to say ‘I need this for the shelter. I need that for the shelter.’ I’ve got 23 years on the job. It’s been rough. A lot of times, the city has come through for us. But we need money to offset the expenses not covered in the budget.”

A December event at the raised $1,000. This time, Howey talked to Solero Cafe owner Jim Marangos, who agreed to donate 10 percent of the day’s receipts and all of the tips from patrons at the bar.

Howey also talked to Flat Rock police Officer Craig Natt, who is a 21-year hockey referee and skates with the Detroit Red Wings Alumni Association. Natt made the connection with John, who agreed to serve beverages and visit with fans.

“It never hurts to ask for anything,” Howey said. “Sometimes really good things come of it.”

Howey, who has two dogs and two cats–all rescues–said high-profile fundraising events “help bring awareness to the problem. The more we’re out there, the more people become aware.”

Marangos said the event not only raised money for the shelter, but it also promoted the availability of animals in the city.

At the end of the night, shelter employees and volunteers were pleased that funding would be available to provide Troy, a stray Staffordshire terrier at the shelter, immediate heartworm care.

The mayor said the night at Solero was a reflection of the caring and generosity of Wyandotte residents–especially the volunteers in the city.

“Events like this are positive; not just for the people, but for the animals,” Peterson said. “This is a great environment. It just shows you what can happen when sports and athletics and the city of Wyandotte dog pound are all intertwined. I can’t say enough about our volunteers. Without the volunteers, we would not have the festivities we have in our city. That’s what makes our city.”

Peterson has a Siberian husky named Sky–calling the pet his “best friend.” He praised the service provided by the animal shelter.

“They get the animals their shots and get them all ready to go,” he said. “When you adopt a pet, they’re already checked for all kinds of illnesses. When you get a pet, you’re getting one healthy pet.”

When Peterson walked through the door, he was recognized by John–an indication of the Ogrodnicks’ affinity for Wyandotte, the mayor said. The Ogrodnicks are no strangers to Downriver and are regularly involved in charity work.

“We love animals,” BettyAnne said. “John and I do a lot of charity work, whether it’s for humans or animals–anything we can for the community. We live here; John’s career was great here. We just like to support and help out. That’s why we settled here. We have a lot of friends here who we consider family. We like to give back.”

Alyssa Stafford, a part-time assistant at the shelter, called the fundraising event a success.

“These events not only enable us to fund vet bills and take care of hurt animals, they also let people realize there is a shelter in Wyandotte,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know to come there to adopt animals. That’s why I like events like this. You can’t lose with them.”

Mary Gregory, a Huron Township resident, volunteers at the Wyandotte shelter seven days a week. Karin Pigott of Wyandotte is a veteran volunteer who helps evaluate the strays who arrive at the shelter and then provide medicine to the pets who need them. Both were present for the fundraiser and both agreed more volunteers are always needed.

Volunteers clean the shelter daily, provide grooming and take animals for walks, among other duties.

Howey thanked everyone who came out to support the fundraiser at Solero Cafe and said she and her son Nicholas will continue volunteering.

“It breaks my heart,” Howey said. “If we don’t have enough volunteers, the dogs won’t get walked and the kittens won’t get hugged. We can’t always say ‘We want to take them all home.’”

To adopt a pet, view the animals, volunteer or make a donation, stop in the pound at 1170 Grove, visit its website or send an email to wacvolunteers@gmail.com. Tax-deductible donations also can be mailed in.

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