More than 100 businesses gathered to support Grateful Rescue and Sanctuary’s first annual Grateful Fest at the Delaware County Fairgrounds Aug. 14. The event included live music performances, a pet parade, food trucks, business vendors and a variety of events.
The creation of Grateful Rescue and Sanctuary came after founder Pamela Terhune’s visit to an overcrowded animal shelter. She said the dogs were kept in various parts of the shelter where they were visibly stressed and desperate to be freed from their cages.
This sight inspired Terhune to create her own sanctuary for dogs — first, in her own home and then, a 38-acre property on North County Road with no cages and plenty of rooms and outdoor space for dogs and cats to enjoy. Terhune opened Grateful Rescue and Sanctuary in the spring of 2019, where she makes sure animals are comfortable before they find their forever homes.
“What makes Grateful Rescue and Sanctuary different is that we provide adequate space for our animals to live comfortably until they are adopted or fostered,” Terhune said.
The sanctuary’s mission is to rescue and save the lives of all animals that come to the shelter and to love and care for them while they wait to find homes or continue to live at the sanctuary.
Grateful Rescue and Sanctuary doesn't stop at getting its animals adopted. Terhune also said her organization provides education and advocacy programs to the City of Muncie.
These programs include an animal-assisted reading program that lets registered therapy dogs volunteer with local schools, libraries and at the sanctuary to become reading companions for children. This program lets children develop confidence in themselves as the companion dogs are lying their heads on children’s laps or watching them read.
Grateful Rescue and Sanctuary also works with Muncie veterans to help them cope with PTSD by matching them with pets at the sanctuary. The shelter also provides boarding for pets of current military officials who need a place to care for their pet while they are deployed.
Veteran support was on display at Grateful Fest, as one of the attendees was Dixie the Praying Dog of Indianapolis — a trained therapy dog who comforts veterans, children with disabilities or anyone else who needs support.
Brian Calvert, Dixie’s owner, who stars in the Amazon Prime series “The Pack” with Dixie, said he takes her to honor flights for veterans, memorial services and public appearances like Grateful Fest. In April 2021, Calvert said he took Dixie to a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Indianapolis FedEx facility shooting.
“One of the families she bonded with lost their son in the shooting and she stuck with that family all day,” Calvert said. “It was like she knew.”
Dixie posed for pictures with Muncie locals attending Grateful Fest and led the pet parade in her customized child-size Jeep. Calvert said he enjoys taking Dixie to events like Grateful Fest because she is able to comfort more people and put smiles on their faces.
“I don’t have a bunch of money to give people, but I have a dog that can help people,” Calvert said.
Calvert had a tent with Dixie the Praying Dog merchandise, alongside other local vendors that were selling dog treats, toys and pet-themed clothing and decorations.
Also at Grateful Fest were bouncy houses and kids’ activities, as well as food trucks. Teams of 10 people signed up for the fire truck pull — a contest to pull a 33,000-pound backup fire truck used by the Muncie Fire Department. The team that pulled the fire truck across the 50-feet finish line marker the fastest was Big Dog Construction in 19.9 seconds.
Robert Mead, Muncie Fire Department chief fire investigator, was in charge of coordinating the fire truck pull with the animal rescue.
“[Terhune] reached out to us about the availability of one of our fire apparatus for use in a charitable event,” Mead said before Grateful Fest. “This event is going to be a lot more fun than the normal day-to-day operation of what we have to see in our daily jobs.”
Terhune said watching a fire truck pull on the Special Olympics inspired her to set one up. Gordon Shell of “The Dog Fighter” — one of Grateful Fest’s celebrity guests — joined the Yorktown High School fire truck pull team, which pulled the fire truck 50 feet in about 23 seconds.
Another celebrity guest was Indianapolis PetPals TV host Patty Spitler, who said she hosts her TV show to help people understand, promote and encourage responsible pet ownership.
“We celebrate the bond between pets and people,” Spitler said. “I have always loved animals and now have the opportunity to share my enthusiasm with others.”
After meeting Terhune, Spitler said she could tell her heart was in the right place and she was as passionate about helping pets as Spitler was.
“She is genuine and I am pleased to say, even with [COVID-19] and all the obstacles she faced, she's never stopped pushing forward with a strong sense of purpose,” Spitler said.
Terhune took the stage a few times during Grateful Fest to introduce various performing artists and thank people and business sponsors for coming to the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
"We are thrilled to bring the community together to support a wonderful cause — the animals," Terhune said. "We are so grateful for the volunteers, the sponsors, the donors and those who have come forward to offer help where needed. "