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Organizers barking about benefits of annual Pet Expo

Lori Ember Montozzi Hebr(l-r) make there way in2013 Pet Expo with their Australian Shepherds' Beau Toby  during 2013 Lake

Lori and Ember Montozzi of Hebron (l-r) make there way into the 2013 Pet Expo with their Australian Shepherds' Beau and Toby during the 2013 Lake County Pet Expo held at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Saturday May 4, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media

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For more information on the Lake County Pet Expo, log on to lcpetexpo.org.

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Updated: May 8, 2013 12:55PM



CROWN POINT — By afternoon, Forest the Treeing Walker Coonhound, had had enough of his newfound celebrity.

Forest, captured by Hammond-based Houndsong Rescue on April 27 after 59 days of trying to coax him out of Gibson Woods, had people lining up to meet him during the sixth annual Lake County Pet Expo at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Saturday afternoon. The pup, likely abandoned by his previous owners, wasn’t used to the in-person attention but didn’t want to disappoint his public, so he fought napping even though a broken leg was wearing him out.

Katie Leach, one of the expo coordinators, had heard about Forest on the expo’s Facebook page but had no idea his backstory at first.

“People have been talking about him all day,” Leach said.

Expo President Vivian Vallone of Crown Point started the expo shortly after she opened her pet-sitting service, Luv For Animals. But her want for all animals to find homes was the real inspiration.

Since then, she and her board — Leach; Leach’s husband, Mark; Debbie Cabrera and Carla Stanisich — have brought together rescues and vendors alike to reach that goal. The rescues never change, but new ones are always brought into the fold; this year, Sunshine Paws of Crown Point, 2x2 Rescue of Merrillville and Fairy Dogmother of Munster were among the new crop.

Since the expo doesn’t encourage on-site adoptions, Vallone and her team won’t know for a few weeks how many take place. As of Saturday afternoon, however, nine rescues reported 15 applications had been submitted.

With the attendance well over 800 people by 1:30 p.m., thereby crushing attendance in years past, the group was excited by the day’s events. Vallone and Leach expected they would raise more than $4,000, all of which will be divided among the 27 rescues represented.

Roberta and Darin Lee, who run Houndsong, understand Vallone’s passion. The two inadvertently became a rescue 18 years ago and haven’t looked back.

“When we started in rescue, a hound dog in a shelter was a death sentence. It was never going to get adopted, it was never going to go anywhere, it was going to die in that shelter,” Darin Lee said. “For every dog that’s adopted, we’re able to help two, so a dog is adopted and goes to a safe home, and we’re able to bring in another one. Like Forest: We tracked him for 59 days, and as a rescue, nobody else has the manpower for that. We can help dogs that nobody else can.”



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