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Bowling dog stars in Bowl-4-Animal Rescue event to help local animal groups

Rigby, the Detroit rescue dog, has mastered the spare, thanks to his trainer and pro bowlers Aleta Sill and Michelle Mullen.
Rigby, the Detroit rescue dog, has mastered the spare, thanks to his trainer and pro bowlers Aleta Sill and Michelle Mullen.
Bowling-4-Animal Rescue

Look out, funny cat videos: There’s a new game in the D. And since it stars a local dog, it’s catching on like wildfire.

That game features Michigan Animal Adoption Network (MAAN) rescue dog, Rigby, who learned to bowl after expert coaching from two area animal supporters, professional bowling champions Aleta Sill and Michelle Mullen.

And, Rigby can also pick up his spares, oh, mere humans.

He will make his official public debut Saturday at Country Lanes, Farmington Hills, at the 8th Annual Bowl-4-Animal Rescue fundraiser. Hosted by Sill and Mullen, co-owners of Aleta Sill’s Bowling World pro shops in both Farmington Hills and Warren, the 2013 event goal is $40,000, bringing the grand total raised to date to $150,000. The ongoing beneficiaries of the event are MAAN and Friends for the Dearborn Animal Shelter (FFDAS), who share 100 percent of all funds raised.

The combined bowling knowledge and expertise of the ladies, as well as total-to-date ownership of eight cats and dogs, not only establishes them as stellar in their chosen sport, but also figures largely in the Detroit fight against abandoned animals. Together, they bring their “A”-game to the forefront in each.

“The idea of teaching Rigby to bowl came from one of our fundraiser volunteers,” said Mullen. “We are walking the talk and teaching our own rescue how to bowl. How much better does it get than that?”

She and Sill enlisted the aid of professional dog trainer Ina Herbert, who now refers to Rigby as “Rig-a-Bowler” since his success encompasses learning to pick up a spare, which many humans haven’t yet mastered.

“Rigby has gone from a rescue in need to a canine good citizen, and from an empty food bowl to an accomplished BOWLer,” added Herbert.

Saturday’s event offers ongoing music and lots of activity to watch, including a visit from the official Detroit Tigers’ PAWS mascot and a chance to win a Datsyuk 2014 Red Wings Winter Classic jersey, as just one of many generous prizes.

"You can register to bowl, raise pledges, become a lane sponsor or make online donations,” said Sill. “All of the proceeds will go to animals in need."

With the event’s financial goal growing each year, the ladies say they need “more hands on deck,” and offer these methods for participation: individuals buying tickets to bowl, people pledging to get online donations, businesses being official event sponsors and/or lane sponsors and generous people donating items for the auction.

“We have some really affordable marketing opportunities in conjunction with this event, not to mention that sponsors will be making a huge difference for two local charities," said Sill.

The reasons are legion in Motown — or in most urban areas where kitten population explodes this time of year and animals have been abandoned due to problems with economical upkeep or irresponsible owners.

“The homeless animal population in southeast Michigan continues to be an epidemic, and we want to continue to do everything we can to alleviate the problem — including to adopt, not shop, for pets,” added Mullen.

Sill’s June 16 appearance on the newly revamped “All-New Bowling for Dollars” show in Detroit resulted in an impressive strike that won the debut show jackpot of $1500, all of which also benefited these two causes. Record numbers turned out to watch the 2013 version of the show, helmed by local celebrity Bob Allison, and take part in the audience at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park.

The 50-year-old left-handed bowler and member of the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame, was the first female bowler to earn $1 million and only the seventh of her gender to be accepted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. As a member of Detroit’s Dream Team of all-time sports greats, she holds 31 prestigious tournament titles.

She and Mullen, both Livonia residents, are certified USBC Gold and Silver coaches with a combined expertise of more than 50 years and 25,000+ satisfied clients. Mullen, an outstanding youth and collegiate performer on the lanes, holds four national titles among her many, was chosen as PWBA Midwest Player of the Decade for 1990-1999 , and is a successful author with her recent book, “Bowling Fundamentals.”

In recent years, the partnership of Sill and Mullen has worked tirelessly on establishing an even greater public awareness of animal need and securing a raffle assortment for their event that already includes the best prizes to be won locally. Patrons can now access the new online system and will have opportunities to win sports memorabilia from every Detroit team, NASCAR paraphernalia, entertainment packages, jewelry items, pet items, televisions and other electronics and much more in an assortment of on-site auctions, door prizes and raffles.

Karaoke and a cash bar will also be available.

Those choosing to bowl can also opt to have one of the professional bowlers throw a strike for them.

Following the stunning hoarding news of a few years ago and the dozens of animals that were cast onto the Dearborn Animal Shelter taxing its resources, Sill and Mullen jumped in to help raise funds through the recommendation of their own veterinarian. Those efforts have grown with help now being extended to MAAN. Today, they share the following info:

• $10 provides formula to an orphaned puppy or kitten for 10 days

• $40 provides litter for all of Dearborn’s shelter cats for one week

• $50 feeds all of Dearborn’s shelter dogs for one week

• $100 provides straw for about 60 outdoor dogs that are visited by the MAAN street teams

• Each Bowl-4-Animal Rescue event pays for MAAN to host two annual vaccination clinics that help thousands of animals

The Bowl-4-Animals Rescue kicks off at 7 p.m. (registration at 6) Saturday, August 10, at Country Lanes, 30250 W. 9 Mile Road, west of Middlebelt Road in Farmington Hills. For more information, call (248) 615.9060.

Be there and maybe you can look into adding Rigby to your bowling league this fall. Or, at least arrange a guest appearance.

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