LAKE VILLA – John Fanizza was fighting a losing battle.
The second annual Petpalooza, hosted by 102.3XLC, was in full swing Sept. 23 on the sweeping lawn of Lake Villa’s Lehman Mansion, but the buzz of the crowd faded away beneath the tent of K9s4U for Fanizza, his wife and his daughter.
Daughter Dana was cradling Fumble in her arms. The 2 1/2-month-old beagle, Australian shepherd mix was snoozing in her arms, occasionally turning her big, blue puppy dog eyes in Fanizza’s direction.
Fanizza’s wife, Sandy, spoke up: “John, do you want to get her?”
“What? You want to get her,” Fanizza cried, laughing. “You guys are nuts.”
The Lake Villa resident turned, speaking conspiratorially: “One of the family members has pure reality, the others have the big hearts. ‘Do you wanna get her?’ We haven’t even looked around yet.”
Fumble and her brother, Punt, were the remaining two in the “football litter” at K9s4U. Their brothers and sisters – Tackle, Blitz, Rush and Touchdown – already had been adopted earlier that day by new forever homes.
Suddenly, Fanizza flipped sides.
“We have to take her brother, too,” he said, motioning to Punt. “We can’t split them up.”
He laughed, shaking his head. “This is unreal. I’m usually the one talking everyone off the ledge.”
Suddenly, a volunteer from K9s4U broke the news: Fumble had been adopted by a gentleman who had been by earlier and spotted her.
Whether Fanizza was more relieved or disappointed was unclear, but the day was young and there were several other organizations at Petpalooza with more dogs looking for new families.
This was the second year K9s4U had attended Petpalooza, and Vice President Meghan Wightman said events such as these are amazing for her organization.
“It’s great,” she said. “It’s about the exposure: We are a foster-based rescue, so not only are we adopting dogs out, but we’re also finding fosters so we can continue to save more. The larger our foster base, the more we’re able to save.”
K9s4U is a nonbreed-specific organization that takes in dogs and cats of any age and places them with foster families, so the animals are “not living behind a fence in a cage.”
Fostering is a perfect opportunity for families to decide whether they want to add another four-legged member to their pack, she added.
“It’s a free trial run,” she said. “You can take the dog in for free, no out-of-pocket cost to you, you can decide, ‘Do I really want another one?’”
By the end of the day, K9s4U would find forever homes for nearly 30 dogs and cats they’d brought with them to PetPalooza.
Beyond the K9s4U tent, entertainment abounded for both human and canine visitors. Children bounced gleefully in the free bounce houses set up in a shady corner of the property, while other families stood by watching the four-legged competitors at Pier Pups.
Diving dogs sprinted down the 40-foot dock and leaped into the air in hot pursuit of a toy their owners would toss in the air.
Wisconsin-based Pier Pups began in 2007 and is partnered with North American Diving Dogs, “the only dock diving organization whose titles are recognized by the American Kennel Club.” The organization hosts a yearly event at the Wisconsin K9 Sports Show and welcomes novice competitors to “pro jumpers.”
Back at the K9s4U tent, Wightman cheered as a young boy came up to her and said his family was adopting a white kitten.
“Oh, you’re adopting Sheba?” she asked happily, placing a hand to her heart. “That’s one of my fosters.”
Beyond finding new homes for her fostered cats and pups, Wightman said she’s really had an amazing time at PetPalooza.
“It’s fun just to meet so many people, and it’s nice just because it’s community-wide,” she said.