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'Whisker Walk' fun for pets and owners

Dawn Law
| Monday, Oct. 31, 2005

There weren't any tricks -- just treats -- during the Humane Society of Westmoreland County's "Whisker Walk," held Oct. 23 at Lynch Field in Greensburg.

About 50 pet owners carried, towed or led their furry friends, in costume, along a path that led to HSWC's soon-to-open dog shelter, next door to its headquarters on Route 119, where refreshments were served.

Annette Poska of Greensburg walked with her 4-year-old Pomeranian, Duke, aka "The Duke of Casa Vita," and her granddaughter, Deanna Poska.

Duke wore a crown and royal red robe, and earned his title, taken from the condo complex where he lives, "Because he thinks he owns the place," Annette said.

"Funniest Costume" awards went to Cocoa, a 2-year-old Shih Tzu dressed as a cowboy, owned by Chuck and Sharon Dompa, and Tessa, a dachshund owned by Cyndi Metz-Bone and her daughter, Alex Metz.

Mary Himmler and her dog Brandy came as clowns to take home the "Look Alike" award, and Luke, a 5-year-old Great Dane owned by Tim and Kathy Daily, won "Most Unique." Luke wore a racing saddle and Morgan Stout, 11, posed as his jockey.

"Best Group" awards went to cats Meeko, Sheila and Sheba, who were dressed as bees by owners John Uleski and Lori Uleski-Foster and the superhero dog trio, Bentley, Angus and Maynard, owned by Dan and Wendy Perkins.

Bonnie Weissinger and her dog Dobie won an award for raising the most money, $235, and Becky Brawdy, with her dogs, Missy and Rocky, won an award for having the most sponsors.

Also seen: Barb Walkinshaw and her daughter, Kelsey, with their dog, Grover; Kevin Stout; Lorraine Stout; Linda Morrison with her children, Jamie, Jaydyn and Landon, and their dogs, Cola and Oreo; Keri Burkley, and 3-year-old Novalie Vesely, who dressed as an animal doctor.

The walk benefited society programs and services, such as those received by Frodo, a 5-year-old dachshund mix brought to the Humane Society with mange, complicated by a yeast infection, and Emma, a cat found Oct. 17 near a ballfield in Fort Allen. Emma's tail had been skinned, and a subsequent infection required that the tail be amputated. After two operations, Emma is recovering and should be available for adoption in about eight weeks, said Kathy Burkley, the Humane Society of Westmoreland County's executive director .

On Oct. 18, a cat with a severed tail was found near Roseytown Road. It is in the care of the family who found it.

"That kind of thing happens all the time," Burkley said. "I think it's worse at Halloween."

Board members from the Humane Society and Action for Animals in Derry Township have put up a $400 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the mutilations.

Anyone with information is requested to call the Humane Society at 724-689-9468.

Colleen Robinson, owner of Academy of the Wagging Tail in Greensburg, is offering a separate reward of $1,025.

Snow on the scarecrows is a first in Ligonier

Colorful leaves clung to the trees as entries were erected for Ligonier's "Scarecrows on the Diamond" contest.

But Mother Nature had a surprise in store Tuesday, leaving several inches of snow clinging to the scarecrows.

Salt trucks patrolled, the wind and snow blew, and the diamond was empty -- except for the 26 scarecrows on display through Nov. 1.

"I think this is the first time in 14 years that we've had snow on the scarecrows," said Rachel Roehrig, director of Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce. "But didn't we pick the best weekend for Fort Days?"

By the end of the week, the snow had melted and the scarecrows, having weathered the storm, were ready for judging.

First place in the contest is "Halloween Magic," by Dream Maker Weddings and Events, featuring a giant dragon and white-haired wizard; second place and community favorite is "The Junkyard Jugheads Band," by Laurel Mt. Horse and Pony Club, sponsored by Betsy's of Ligonier; and third place is "Prehistoric Preschool," by Woodbridge Preschool.

"Prehistoric Preschool" includes a huge, grinning Tyrannosaurus Rex, carrying a pumpkin container.

It just goes to show you're never too big to trick or treat.

Spooky tales at Compass Inn

Darkness settled on 200-year-old Compass Inn Museum on Friday, as a bonfire cast eerie shadows and grinning jack o' lanterns served as guides for the first annual Halloween storytelling event.

At the inn, on Route 30 in Laughlintown, Lynne Norris and Nancy Young read "Too Many Pumpkins," by Linda White, to youngsters while the inn's outbuildings were staged for tours and spooky tales.

In the barn, near a stagecoach and glowing candelabra, Ginny Leiner read "Captain Murderer," by Charles Dickens, and David Marr, 14, a student at Ligonier Valley Middle School, read "The Curse of the Compass Inn," a short story he penned himself.

Before a blazing fire in the cookhouse, Kathleen Ashbaugh spun a yarn about Wicked Jack, a blacksmith who misused three wishes from St. Peter to thwart the devil, and ended up unwelcome in heaven or hell.

In the blacksmith shop, Jim Koontz, his countenance defined by a single candle, told the tale of Black Jack, who in the 1700s was tried and hung for murder. After he was laid to rest in unhallowed ground near Laughlintown, folks witnessed "strange lights and eerie voices" at the site. A resident named Jacob scoffed at the stories, but one night, for a bag of gold, Jacob vowed to quiet Black Jack by driving a stake into the soil where he was buried. Jacob didn't return, and the next morning, a search party found him dead atop Black Jack's grave.

Koontz knew the story to be true, he said, blowing out the candle, and speaking into the dark: "When I was alive, they called me Black Jack. Now be gone and let an old ghost rest in peace."

Seen at the event: Malcolm and Shirley Stasiowski; David and Cindy Purnell; Ron Nicely; Kellie Bellas and her son, Justin, and Kathy Koontz.

Event raises funds for Community Dinner Fund

During "Autumn Fest" on Saturday, Unity Township-area residents listened to the Greater Latrobe Wildcat Marching Band, warmed by a crackling bonfire, and took a free hayride -- or two.

Proceeds from hot dogs, hamburgers and other items sold at the event will benefit the Community Dinner Fund, a nonprofit group formed two years ago to provide holiday dinners to families in need.

Working with referrals from local schools and churches, the fund last year provided 400 turkey dinners at Thanksgiving and 400 ham dinners at Christmas, as well as treat bags and a picture with Santa for 120 children.

Dinner fund committee member Marlene Berg, of Whitney, remembered some faces on the receiving end: A single father with a disabled teenage son, and a mother of three who had been abandoned by a husband who took the family car when he left.

The recipients' gratitude makes the committee's work worthwhile, Berg said.

"They didn't have anything. To see the looks on their faces -- it just gets to your heart."

Saturday's event was hosted at the municipal building on Beatty County Road. Township supervisors Jake Blank, Tim Quinn and Mike O'Barto, a member of the dinner fund committee, coordinated.

Blank and Ligonier Township supervisor Grover Binkey, and his son Wesley, drove tractors for the hayride. Chris Kondrich, Jack Noonan, Mike Emanuele and Jack Murtha and personnel from the Lloydsville and Marguerite volunteer fire departments assisted throughout.

The bonfire was fed with stacks of pallets donated by Acme Plastic Enterprises in Whitney, and Latrobe Brewing Co.

Other dinner fund committee members are Dana McDowell, Sharon Sweeney, Dave and Shelly Baum, Emily McDowell, Laurie Wiser, Randy Reese and Cliff Long.

Donations may be mailed to: The Community Dinner Fund, P.O. Box 389, Pleasant Unity, PA 15676.

Seen at the fest: Wesley Raymond Markiewicz; Scott Balliett; Selena Sweeney; Paul and Betty Lenhart and Cathy Sarraf, with her daughter, Samantha, 7, and friend, Claire Fratto, 7.

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