MARION – Since 1995, Dr. Gordon Rhine and the Central Hospital for Animals run an annual fundraiser in southern Illinois.
This year was no exception.
When “Flea Festival” began, Rhine said the fundraiser consisted of “a single plunge pool, back when dogs were dipped for fleas, and about five or six people on a Saturday afternoon”.
Since then, the fundraiser has grown to several hundred participants.
“Two years ago we had around 400 customer entries, these are the animals,” said Rhein. “Some people bring two or three animals and really use this as an annual check-up for their animals. We get a lot of good prices so we can offer the services at a discounted price.”
Like everything else, the pandemic affected what Rhine and its employees have built for years.
“Unfortunately, I think COVID will hurt us this year,” he said. “We don’t do a general check-up, but we do offer vaccinations, heartworm checks, microchips and care. Our suppliers give us a real break that day so we can lower the price.”
Rhine said the staff were a big part of the success of the annual event.
“The employees love to be a part of it,” he said. “In fact, people who have left the hospital have told me, ‘I’ll be back to help at the animal health fair.’
Rhine described the event as “a big deal and it’s a fun day for us. All of the clinics up to Marion, Herrin, Carbondale and Harrisburg all come here and work that day, including the doctors.”
Despite COVID, Rhine says the event has grown over the years, and as they started offering more and more, it grew a lot more. This growth has increased the usefulness of the fundraiser.
Lesley Cutler from Makanda brought her Great Dane Andonis t to the Pet Health Fair. Cuttler described the event as wonderful and a great outing for the community.
“It means so much … it’s huge,” she said. “I love this place.”
Already a customer, Cuttler said she’s been bringing Andonis since he was a puppy. This year was even more special.
“This is the coolest thing,” she said, “not only because we’re all getting out of COVID-19 and everyone has to get out and feel like life is going to be real, but also the opportunity to save a little money while also to help the clinic that takes such good care of my dog. “
Cuttler said she was glad Rhine and his staff continued to host the annual event, especially as a Great Dane owner, as everything goes in multiples of 100 pounds to 100 dollars.
“Today alone I’ll probably save at least $ 100, which is a huge deal,” she said. “I’ve always lived in small communities, be it on an island, west of Nashville or now south of Illinois, it’s nice to be part of that community and see everyone helping as they can.”