Mutts to Models
2018 Mardi Paws Charity Gala

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The sequins and rhinestones were out in force when I had the pleasure of attending the Models to Mutts benefit for the Ian Somerhalder Foundation on January 20th in New Orleans. Ian Somerhalder is an actor and advocate who starred as Damon Salvatore in The Vampire Diaries (CW), based on the novels by L. J. Smith.

As an animal advocate and permitted wildlife rehabber, this organization is close to my heart. I went to the gala as a representative for my publisher and event sponsor, Vesuvian Books, who donated one hundred books to give to guests. Novels ranged from YA Dystopian and Horror, to Adult Paranormal Suspense and Sci-Fi. Current releases and Advance Reader Copies of titles coming Spring 2018 were given away. Books included were ISAN by Mary Ting, It Takes Death to Reach a Star by Stu Jones and Gareth Worthington, Blackwell — The Prequel and Damned: Book I in the Magnus Blackwell Series by Alexandrea Weis with Lucas Astor, The Immortal Gene by Jonas Saul, Jinxed by Thommy Hutson, Beneath the Lighthouse by Julieanne Lynch, and Sam Shearon’s Creepy Christmas Coloring Book.

Ian stopped by our table before the event and perused our selection. We chatted about books, animals, and our excitement for the evening’s festivities. A gracious host, he thanked Vesuvian Books for sponsoring the event and was touched by our donation.

But it was the pooches, and a few cats—yes, it was a feline-friendly crowd—who stole my heart. A kick-off to the crazy carnival season in the city, swank canines got to hit the runaway in frilly, fashionable, and over-the-top costumes with local celebrity handlers. With the furry mingling among the formally dressed, it was a lively, heart-warming evening. They strutted their stuff on an Astroturf-covered runway, and even though there were one or two minor accidents, everyone had a great time. The costumes ranged from bedazzling capes of silver, gold, and the traditional Mardi Gras colors of yellow, purple and green, to formal pink dresses worn by the fairer sex. Gold crowns, scintillating tiaras, and even a few brilliantly banded colors glinted beneath the bright lights.

Every animal on the stage had a story, and listening to the master of ceremonies, Ian Somerhalder, share those experiences with the audience brought tears to the eyes of many—including me. Some of the dogs had come from abused homes; many were saved in the nick of time from kill shelters, and a few were found wandering the streets. Every dog had found a home, and the cats even seemed happy for them. Amid all the fanfare and revelry, the message of help for neglected, abused, or sheltered animals was not lost. The four-legged were the focus of the night, and the lesson shared by each strutting pup—and kitten—was that second chances do come true.

No biting, scratching, or ferocious fights took place on or off the stage, setting a fine example for their human companions to exercise compassion in all avenues of life. So even if an uptight Pomeranian or testy Siamese crosses your path, we can all get along if we try.

The evening closed with a great party—what else would you expect in New Orleans. I had a wonderful time and met so many readers and fellow pet lovers. If you ever get a chance to attend any of the Ian Somerhalder Foundation fundraising events, I thoroughly recommend you do. A great time and a new fluffy friend are guaranteed.

~Alexandrea Weis