Valentine's Day has gone to the dogs, and Wag-A-Grams are being delivered to dozens of people in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area.
These are no ordinary Valentine's Day treats. In the fundraiser for the Midlands Humane Society in Council Bluffs, each Wag-A-Grams is delivered by one of a dozen four-legged volunteers.
All day Thursday, these canine cupids dropped off Valentine cards, cookies and roses to surprised recipients, and they will be out again Friday.
Gordon, a 3-year-old rescued boxer, marched into the lobby of Hiland Dairy with a gift for Kathy Stratman and quickly drew a crowd.
When she saw the dog, Stratman asked, “Do I get the boxer?” Everyone laughed and she seemed happy to settle for her card and treats from husband Jason and daughter Jordan. Stratman said Jason, who also works at the dairy, “always goes crazy for Valentine's Day.”
Gordon, who was accompanied by Margo Young, a volunteer, and his owner, Anna Varn, came from the Northern Plains Boxer Rescue. He didn't seem to mind his costume of a sporty Valentine-red vest and black felt top hat, and he took all the petting and photographing in stride.
Has anyone reacted negatively to the deliveries?
“Sometimes people are a little stand-offish at first, but once they realize what's happening, everything is fine,” Young said. “Everyone loves a dog.”
The holiday activity is in its sixth year.
Wag-A-Grams has grown every year, said Terri Gach-Mils, secretary for the society's board and the Valentine project's director. This year there were 102 orders, including one they had to fit in on Wednesday.
“We had to cut them off,” Gach-Mils said.
Angel, Gordon, Jackie, Jager, Jethro, Mila, Mojo, Nina, Powder and Riley were the first four-legged volunteers called upon for delivery duty. Harper and Harli stepped in to help at the last minute because there were so many orders.
The dogs — ranging in size from tiny (pug) to large (lab mix) — are all owned by volunteers, and most were adopted from rescues or shelters.
Each delivery costs $30, but it's all for a good cause.
The Midlands Humane Society has been raising $3.2 million needed for a new building, a no-kill shelter, and is close to its goal. It hopes to begin construction in spring, with completion in the fall.
“We couldn't do this without the volunteers and donations,” Gach-Mils said.