Gisela Campagne's journey toward rescuing unwanted dogs led to a seemingly unlikely solution: wine.
She has put her years of experience behind her ever-growing dog-saving wine-tasting event. Campagne worked for the Huntington Beach Planning and Community Services departments for 37 years and knows a thing to two about hosting get-togethers.
"I've done a lot of fundraising for the city and event planning," the Huntington Beach retiree said. "Somehow I was always the party planner wherever I was."
When she needed to come up with a fundraiser for her dog rescue program, it didn't take Campagne much time to come up with Wags N' Wine.
In its fourth year, the wine-tasting event helps to keep Waggin' Trails Rescue Foundation up and running while finding canines a new home.
The event can be traced to 2009 and a small gathering at the historic Newland House, where a friend of Campagne's cooked pasta dishes and bottles of wine were donated to the cause, even before her foundation had been officially created. Now more than 10 wineries from Napa Valley are represented at the event, held at the Waterfront Hilton in Huntington Beach, and a major sponsor is Five Points Plaza, she said.
"People come and they have such a good time," said Campagne, who is the Southern California director for the foundation. "I think it's because we offer such an amazing value."
People have the option of purchasing a general admission ticket for $45 or VIP admission for $60 online. Tickets will be sold for $50 and $65, respectively, at the door.
All tickets include unlimited wine tasting and a souvenir wine glass. Those choosing the VIP option get an upgraded glass, a swag bag and access to premium wine tastings, according to the event website.
Featured wineries include Rutherford Wine Company, Anantaah, Peju and Charles Krug.
"I walked door to door in Napa Valley just to get this wine donated. I really did," Campagne said. "I went from one winery to the other and that's how I got this amazing premium wine donated."
Waggin' Trails transports dogs that are unwanted or slated to be euthanized to reliable rescue shelters across California. The foundation also sends canines to Washington, Oregon, Idaho and even Vancouver.
Campagne started Waggin' Trails with her daughter, Ingrid Campagne, two years ago when they realized California had too many dogs that weren't being adopted or taken care of. At the same time, they found out that neighboring states were seeing a demand for smaller dogs. The two figured they could get more pets adopted if they worked with these out-of-state shelters.
"Our focus is on small dogs because that's what they're lacking in their shelters," Ingrid said. "We were getting requests from folks in Idaho, Washington and Canada for small dogs."
The Campagnes have been working with Bonnie Whiting, founder of Alternative Pet Rescue in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, for the past two years to help small dogs find homes in the Potato State.
Gisela Campagne said Waggin' Trails transports around 30 to 35 dogs a month to Idaho.
People don't realize that most shelter pets are puppies, Whiting said. "It's not just old dogs there."
If You Go
What: Wags N' Wine
When: June 23, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. for VIP, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. for general admission
Where: Waterfront Hilton, 21100 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Cost: General admission is $45 online, $50 at the door; VIP is $60 online, $65 at the door