When we think of pet adoption drives, we think of Saturday mornings in a Petco parking lot, not tattoos, cocktails, and auctions. But the latter is what you'll get Friday night, as Laura Gretch of the San Francisco SPCA will get a tattoo -- one that's chosen by the highest bidder on an eBay auction. (Last we looked, the high bid was $172. Update: The auction has ended -- and the winning bid is $550!) Ken Een of Frisco Tattoo will administer the winning design -- although Gretch will choose where it goes.
The Friday event marks the start of the two-day Be Mine Valentine's Adopt-a-thon drive that includes food, drinks, lowered adoption fees, a puppy-kissing booth, and a "cat whisperer." Een will also do more tattoos, each for around $30.
As tattoos often do, Gretch's speak to her passion -- in this case, animals. (She's known as the "Feral Cat Wrangler.") Her left shoulder is adorned with the image of Toby the cat, one of her earliest inspirations for becoming involved with animal welfare, and ultimately the San Francisco SPCA.
"I've been getting tattooed more than half my life," Gretch says. "A lot are animal-themed, some from passed-away animals -- from sharks to cats."
The idea of auctioning off her skin -- permanently -- is nothing new.
"It's another way that I live and breathe what I do," she says "It's another way of expressing that and showing what this organization means to me and the animals of San Francisco."
Several SPCA staffers have body art that illustrates their dedication to the feral population of our city. But this is the first time Gretch (or anyone that we've heard of) has gotten ink for charity. If the weekend is successful, it might be the first in an ongoing series.
The SPCA has a contest on its Facebook page where your own pet-inspired body art could win a gift certificate to the SPCA and some one-on-one time with Animal Planet's Jackson Galaxy (My Cat From Hell), who's on hand for the benefit Friday night and might unite you with your next best friend.
Galaxy has built his reputation as something of a "cat whisperer" after a late-night encounter with rowdy cats living in the high-stress shelter at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, Colorado, where he worked for eight years. Galaxy, according to his website, was deep into Anitra Frazier's book, The New Natural Cat, near a part where Frazier describes a feline eye-blink of affection -- an "I love you" blink. So he tried it. Within an hour, Galaxy found himself in the dark corner of a room filled with sleeping cats. He'd found his calling.
A compelling draw to this weekend's adopt-a-thon are the dramatically reduced adoption prices. Every holiday season, the San Francisco SPCA partners with Macy's for its seasonal adoption drive (you know, when all those cute cats line the window on Union Square), which finds homes for hundreds of homeless animals each year. Afterward, adoption numbers drop.
The average price to adopt a kitten with all shots plus spay or neuter is about $85-$100, while a puppy can be more than $300. This weekend, that price will be less than $15. (You can also get your existing pets spayed or neutered during February for free.) The goal of this event is not so much fundraising as it is to keep the adoption numbers high.
Other highlights include a kissing booth where attendees can get a little puppy love from Pepper, food (try the fried mashed potato balls) from local "dirty sex rock" band Flexx Bronco's Voodoo Van, an animal behavior seminar with behaviorist Jeannine Berger, plus a live broadcast from Univision Radio's Recuerdo 100.3 FM featuring host Gloribella Orellana.
But for now we're most interested in Gretch's new tattoo. Asked about where it will go, she wouldn't say.
"I've chosen a few potential locations, depending on what the design will be," Gretch said, "They'll all be publicly viewable."
The Be Mine Valentine's Adopt-a-thon starts at 4 p.m. Friday (and continues through Saturday) at the San Francisco SPCA, 2500 16th St. (at Alabama), S.F. Admission is free.