Homeward Pet Blog

Behind the Scenes of the Fur Ball

Stella’s volunteering career began when a pregnant feral cat chose her backyard as the birthplace for its kittens. Soon, she found herself bottle-feeding babies so tiny they fit in the palm of her hand. She brought the kittens inside, giving up the space she dedicated to her hobby—stained glass-making—to the homeless litter. Now, one grown-up kitten—Pickles—still roams her house along with four feline friends.

Since then, Stella’s volunteering has morphed into a specialized but much needed area: event registration, event data entry, and post-event reconciliation.

What brought her to this aspect of volunteering? Stella says, “I love the cause itself, seeing some of the same patrons and volunteers year over year, checking out the items being auctioned, and seeing how many fellow animal lovers and supporters there are in our community makes me feel better about the world in general.”

Data entry isn’t what jumps to mind when you think of volunteering for an animal shelter. But Stella and her dynamite crew of entry aficionados—Rachel, Jennifer, Michelle, Sheila, and Peg—keep Homeward Pet’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the Fur Ball Auction & Dinner, running smoothly and successfully despite the massive amount of data generated throughout the evening.

Homeward Pet Event Manager Lindsay Roe says that you can’t overstate the team’s importance. Some nonprofits are forced to spend thousands on a data entry team for their events: “Data entry at an auction with 500 guests is a huge undertaking. Bid numbers, contact information, credit card details, and winning bid amounts have to be entered, checked, and double-checked to ensure we are not charging any attendees incorrectly and that everyone is going home with the items they successfully bid on. We are really lucky to have Stella and her team handling this portion of the event.” 

That monumental task list isn’t exhaustive. After checking in 500 guests at the beginning of the evening, Stella and her team are just getting started. While the wine is being poured and food served, the ladies are entering the winning bid numbers and amounts into the data management program. The silent auction consists of around 100 individual items—not to mention 150 raffle tickets, 125 spirits roulette entries, 300 heads or tails entries, and numerous other bid amounts all before the live auction even begins.

All that needs to be entered one by one.

It’s thanks to the quick work of Stella and her team that we are able to announce the total raised at the end of each auction and send off the night on a triumphant note. Stella’s tenth anniversary handling this important aspect of the Fur Ball is coming up this May. Her second year, when Jennifer joined her for the first time, they spent the auction squirreled away in the Marriot coat closet. Stella assured us, however, that this was actually a good thing—it meant her team wouldn’t be distracted while entering data. (Since then, the coat closet has been upgraded to a curtained-off area.)

All the members of Stella’s team work in IT and database management. She says she loves this underrepresented “social side” of IT. It’s not all number-crunching and silence; it’s also chatting and laughter and the gratification from helping Homeward Pet continue to save homeless animals through the biggest event we hold each year. “We really do have a blast throughout the night,” she says. “It’s like a roller coaster with excitement, fancy clothes, fabulous prizes, and happy donors.”

What did it take for her and her team to become one of the most valuable parts of the Fur Ball? All she did was ask.

Get your tickets for 2018’s Fur Ball Auction & Dinner or learn more about volunteering for Homeward Pet. All niche skillsets welcome!



Smudgy, a senior cat, is famous in the Homeward Pet community for his gravelly meow and willingness to chat at all hours. Soon, he’ll join another group of distinguished felines: those we have treated with a dose of radioactive iodine.

It may sound like something out of science fiction, but the procedure is familiar to our veterinarians. Smudgy lives with hyperthyroidism—his thyroid produces too much hormone due to a benign tumor. With a single dose of radioactive treatment, Smudgy will likely be cured of his condition forever. Other courses of treatment require risky surgery or frequent pills. Though expensive, the iodine treatment will allow Smudgy to live a happier, stress-free life. Several of our other feline alumni have undergone the process and continued on to healthy lives in their forever homes.

Mary Ann Boffey, a Homeward Pet foster, is helping Smudgy prepare for the treatment—and assisting with his care afterward. “He’s a fantastic cat, just a big lover boy,” she says. “He meets me at the door in the morning, and when I get home from work, he’s all over me wanting love.”

Thanks to supporters of Whoopi’s Fund for Special Needs Animals, we can provide Smudgy the best veterinary care available and get this quirky boy ready for his forever home.

In Memoriam: Patricia O’Hanley

Animals always instinctively knew they’d be safe with Patricia O’Hanley. Lost, shy dogs would approach her, sniffing cautiously. Feral cats roamed her yard, and rescued roosters strutted about. Once, when she returned from grocery shopping to her Carnation farm, she found an injured hawk in her driveway, its wing crooked and bent. Pat went inside to drop off her groceries before setting out to help her avian guest. As she unpacked, she took a glance toward the back door: there was the hawk, waiting expectantly on the mat as if asking to be let inside.

It knew, somehow, that it had found refuge and hope of a better life with Pat’s help.

Pat’s legacy has been far-reaching in the animal world. She never met a dog she didn’t love—and who didn’t love her. A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Pat’s parents instilled in her a love of animals at an early age. Perhaps the magnetism that drew animals to Pat was genetic—it’s said that her father, walking home across the neighborhood, sometimes found himself the ringleader of a pack of friendly local dogs.

Pat’s family found success in the days of Pat’s childhood. As an only child, her hardworking parents played a large role in the woman Pat would become. Her father’s family hailed from Belfast, and her mother was an English immigrant, proud of her heritage. A professional golfer, her father made his own golf clubs and was skilled in craftsmanship. To keep young Pat safe, he fashioned a custom collar with a child-sized handle for the family’s Airedale terrier, Mickey. He placed Pat’s hand on the collar’s handle and said: “Wherever you go, Mickey goes with you.” Thus did a life of animal companionship begin and Pat learned that a dog at her side was the best feeling in the world.

As Pat grew up—graduating high school early and earning her Master of English at 22—she always knew she wanted her legacy to benefit Washington’s animals. Beginning in the 1960s on just a high school teacher’s salary, Pat began investing in real estate throughout Washington. Her intentions for the properties were not secret: she wanted to donate the proceeds from the sales to animal welfare organizations.

“She told everyone,” says close friend Julie Gaisford. “Even the postman knew.” Although property values in the Seattle area skyrocketed, Pat continued her mantra: “I’m not selling. This is for the animals.”

Though she loved all animals, Pat held a special place in her heart for dachshunds and hounds of all breeds. Pat’s favorite dachshund, BJ, revealed an extraordinary talent for show. After entering a local competition for fun, BJ kept winning—and winning and winning, culminating in a trip to the 2009 Westminster Dog Show. Though he didn’t place there, he’d already amassed several regional and national titles and continued to take trips around the country afterwards. (Continuing to demonstrate her natural magnetism for canines, she once had to leave an obedience ring because too many competing dogs were becoming distracted by her presence, wanting to snuggle with her rather than show off their obedience training.) The show circuit allowed Pat, a passionate and driven personality, to develop a strong network of animal advocates, which she called on to help rescue dogs.

In addition to ferrying BJ to shows, teaching high school, and earning a law degree in the evenings, Pat also ran an informal hound rescue network using her contacts from show business and her
natural power of persuasion. Her business card reads “Any hound, any time”—and she meant it.

Though Pat was a notably private person according to her friends Julie Gaisford and Sherry Grindeland, she was always willing to fight publically for what she believed in. She was “small in stature, but big in personality,” enabling her to accomplish things others would only dream of doing. She traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, to help register Black voters during the civil rights movement. Unsurprisingly, she later worked for a civil rights law firm in Seattle. She was one of the first teachers to cover Japanese internment in Washington State, bringing a local resident into her classroom whose family had been impacted by the practice. Later, she would have the opportunity to fight injustice in her literal back yard.

The land that Pat called home spans over one hundred acres and sits next to a popular and far-flung hunting site. For years, she battled hunters chasing pheasants and other wild game onto her property. Undeterred by No Trespassing signs and barbed wire, she found herself the target of ire from hunters pursuing their quarry onto her property.

“She told me at least one of the men pointed a shotgun at her when she confronted him,” Julie says. That’s the kind of person Pat was—unwilling to back down when a challenge presented itself. Her stance against hunting is now written into the law of her land—her property has a no hunting in perpetuity clause attached to it.

Though Pat passed away in late 2017, her lifelong love of animals and insistence on bettering the world even in the face of opposition lives on. Homeward Pet and other animal organizations are some of the beneficiaries of her will.

According to Julie and Sherry, Patricia had two major dreams for the future of animal welfare: “She hoped all animal shelters would become no-kill, and that animal lovers would consider giving to causes they care about.”

It’s safe to say that Pat’s example is inspirational. The dogs and cats in our care will be forever grateful for her generosity and life’s works. Homeward Pet Board President Michael Ziock puts it like this: “With her amazing bequest, Patricia O’Hanley will live on in the stories of every animal saved and every Homeward Pet family made complete. With unending gratitude—thank you, Patricia.”

A Happy Ending

You probably recognize Max’s face. To say he’s memorable is an understatement—between his sweet brown eyes and single-tooth underbite, he’s the model of a friendly face.

You may also remember his story, which we recounted last fall. Max came to us in the throes of heatstroke, nearing death. Only because of a dedicated team of supporters, including you, were we able to stabilize him in our oxygen chamber and then send him to a foster home while he recovered. Once Max’s health had stabilized, Ashley, our Assistant Shelter Manager, took Max home for additional rest and recuperation.

Once there, he never left.

Fostering our younger or recovering animals is something of a routine for Ashley. Litter after litter of kittens have spent their early days in her loving home. And now, with the addition of Max, those kittens have the chance to meet a dog in a low-stress environment. Thanks to Max’s gentle nature, kittens are able to become comfortable with other furry, four-legged animals.

“He adores all the foster kittens,” Ashley says. “Even when they’re using him as a trampoline.”

When Max isn’t being the mellow playmate of a bundle of rambunctious kittens, Ashley says you can find him napping in the sun, chasing tennis balls, or pleading to go on yet another car ride (riding shotgun in the front seat, of course).

Last year, Max was just one of 1851 animals who found loving homes after receiving care at Homeward Pet. Dogs and cats like him are given the chance to thrive thanks to dedicated supporters like you. From volunteering to donating to sharing adoptable animals on social media, there are countless ways to make a difference in the life of a homeless animal. Thank you for being the backbone of our mission. We can’t wait to see what happy endings 2018 will bring!

Contact Information
Adoption Hours:
Our Address:
Wed - Sun, 12 - 6pm
P.O. Box 2293
13132 NE 177th Place
Woodinville, WA 98072
Homeward Pet Adoption Center is a non‑profit, no‑kill animal shelter. Our mission is to give homeless animals a second chance through rescue, shelter, and adoption.