Pay It Forward for Pets founder Georjette Thomas wanted to honor and remember her dad, a former Akron fire lieutenant, in her annual calendar for the nonprofit animal rescue she loves.
"How often do you get to honor a deceased parent eight years later?” she said of her dad, Ralph Speck, who worked for the Akron Fire Department for at least 30 years and died in 2010.
The calendar is first and foremost a fundraiser.
“But No. 2, it's a way for us to bring awareness to rescue animals in Summit County,” she said. “No. 3, it's our opportunity to profile people we believe are important in the community.”
Last year was the first year the nonprofit put together the calendar, featuring the Akron Police Department. The “Back the Blue and Shelter Pets Too” calendars raised $10,000.
Thomas again wanted to recognize first responders — and her dad — so this year’s “Fire Trucks and Rescue Pups" calendar features the Akron Fire Department.
The calendar features several of the department’s 363 firefighters at locations around the city, including fire stations and the department’s training academy. The dogs are all either rescues or clients at the nonprofit’s boarding and day care facility. All have homes.
The front of the calendar features Akron Fire Chief Clarence Tucker and his “granddog,” Tiger.
His adult daughter, Tiffany, who works for a trucking company in Mogadore, brought the mixed-breed rescue dog home about three years ago. Tucker said he and Tiger get along great.
“Tiger feels like he's at home at my house anytime he's there. He loves to come and stay,” Tucker said. “And my wife treats him like he's our dog, so he has everything.”
When Thomas came to Tucker with the idea to feature the Akron Fire Department in this year’s calendar, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.
"I think people have a warm place in their heart for firefighters in general, and so you combine something like dogs and firefighters, and it's a win-win, all the way around,” he said.
September features firefighter Ron Fast and a small, white pup.
Fast, who’s been on the department more than five years, said his puggle, Apollo, passed away last November — he has a tattoo of Apollo on his left forearm — and he recently got a Cavapoo puppy.
When he found out about the calendar, he eagerly volunteered to pose for some photos.
"I love dogs, and I love the fire department, and it's an awesome organization,” Fast said of Pay It Forward for Pets. “It was awesome of them to come up and want to do something like this."
Fast’s photo features the grinning Green resident lying on a wooden park bench outside Station No. 7, where he works, with his arm wrapped around the pup, which he said looks just like one of his sister’s three poodles.
"Everybody kind of got a chuckle out of this one,” said Fast, who noted proudly he’s one of the only firefighters to get an individual month photo.
Thomas founded Pay It Forward for Pets in 2013 and opened a boutique doggie day care and kennel in the Merriman Valley in 2017. It includes room for 13 boarders and 21 doggie day care dogs a day. The space also includes a resale shop.
Pay It Forward for Pets includes six programs: canine behavioral assessment and enrichment, a humane education curriculum, a critical care assistance fund, Senior Pets for Senior Citizens, Pets for Vets - No Buddy Left Behind and shelter pet photography for new intakes at Summit County Animal Control.
Thomas said 500 calendars were ordered. They cost $20 each, with 100 percent of proceeds supporting animal rescue. The nonprofit puts 85 percent of its efforts into the government-funded Summit County Animal Control. Calendars can be purchased by going to payitforwardforpets.org or visiting Pay It Forward For Pets at 1496 N. Portage Path.
“Anything we can do to help the community, we look for ways to try to participate,” Tucker said of the fire department. “I think this will really get out and touch people's hearts and they'll buy this calendar because not only is it a good representation of the fire service, but I think it's for a fantastic cause. And every time I look at it, it makes me smile."
Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.