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AWL hosts photo session for animals, companions

VIENNA — Even though Santa Claus’s travel itinerary and appearances tend to tighten as Christmas approaches, he still found time to warm the hearts of some nonhuman friends on Saturday.

“He is my best friend. I take him everywhere I can, and I have a million pictures of him at home,” Renee Richards said about River, her 3-year-old Jack Russell terrier.

One of the places the Cortland woman took her beloved dog was to the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County, which hosted a photo session St. Nick held for animals and their companions at the shelter, 812 Youngstown-Kingsville Road SE.

Attendees paid $10 per picture. The proceeds will be used to fund the facility’s operations, noted Lori Shandor, AWL chief executive officer.

The four-hour gathering was special for Richards also because it came nearly one year to the day after she had adopted River from the shelter.

Also pleased to meet Santa was Mary Swift of Vienna and Mulligan, a 16-month-old standard poodle that she got more than a year ago from a shelter in Cortland that works in conjunction with the AWL.

“He loves lots of treats, lots of toys, lots of running with his brothers and sisters,” Swift said, adding that she has several other dogs, as well as two feral cats. “He’s fun-loving and very loyal — and smart. You could teach him something daily.”

Loyalty was abundantly on display when the animal obediently posed for several pictures with Santa.

In addition, Swift had nothing but praise for the work AWL staff and volunteers perform on behalf of dogs, cats and other animals.

“They’re phenomenal. They do so much for animals; it’s unbelievable,” she continued.

At several points, Santa Claus displayed his talent for multi-tasking, such as when he held and posed for photos with Ava and Enzo simultaneously.

Ava and Enzo, 6 and 8, respectively, are about the same size but have quite different temperaments and personalities. Enzo, a Yorkipoo, tends to be on the quiet and shy side while Ava, a Yorkshire terrier, is more gregarious and outgoing, said their companion, Kim Ross of Cortland.

“They are like family. We’ve always had dogs,” said Ross, who added she bought Enzo in 2011 at an area auction and got Ava from her daughter in San Diego.

The nonprofit AWL was founded in 1969 to protect, treat and house unwanted, abused, neglected, sick and injured animals while trying to find loving homes for them.

The 45,000-square-foot shelter has capacity for up to 200 dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and other companion animals, along with much more space than its original location, Shandor said.

Included inside are cat “condos” that have four levels with holes in each of them, which gives the animals easy access to bedding, food, toys and litter. Also available are more spacious enclosures with scratching trees and other toys for cats that are more sociable, Shandor noted.

Most of the dogs can use a 600-square-foot indoor run to exercise and interact with one another. The AWL also has four large indoor pods that lead to large fenced-in outdoor areas for some dogs, she continued.

“Shelter life is not the best life for a dog, but we’re trying to make it as painless as possible,” Shandor said.

In addition, the shelter has a partnership with Kent State University at Trumbull, and students who are studying to be veterinarians use the AWL’s medical/surgical area to fulfill their clinicals, learn surgical as well as spaying-and-neutering techniques, insert IV lines and take animals’ vital signs. Also available are animal-shaped mannequins on which they can practice, Shandor said.

The AWL’s hours are noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. To adopt a companion animal, call 330-539-5300.

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