Plunge for pets

Testing the water as a prelude to the upcoming Polar Bear Plunge are (from left to right) Neal Zalagens, Carrie Miller, Geoff Guenther, Richard Bird, Jack and Luna. 

Looking to do a good deed? Join the brrr-ave animal lovers in the Madera Highlands on Feb. 15 for the Polar Bear Plunge 2020 – an event to benefit The Animal League of Green Valley.

“We hope to have a lot of brave people take part in this year’s inaugural event,” said Neal Zalagens, who is organizing the event with his partner, Carrie Miller.

For the uninitiated, Polar Bear plunges are events where people jump into freezing cold water, usually on New Year's Day.

They have morphed into year-long affairs, attracting participants for both the thrill and for a good cause. Plunges in the United States have benefited charities like Special Olympics and Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Zalagens and Miller decided to host a plunge in their backyard pool in an effort to see more animals find permanent homes, like their own rescues, Jax and Luna, and the dogs recently adopted from TALGV by their neighbors Geoff Guenther and Richard Bird. 

They hope the event will become an annual fundraiser to support the non-profit organization.

Most of the proceeds will go to TALGV. The person who stays in their pool the longest will also get a cash prize.

The couple has long admired the work of the no-kill TALGV. They pitched the idea of the plunge to TALGV president Kim Eisele at the recent Bark-A-Rama, hosted by Sahuarita Parks & Recreation.

"I thought, 'What a fun idea!'" Eisele said. 

While the experience will be decidedly cold, the fundraiser warms the hearts of the management and volunteers at TALGV, who keep seeing the costs rising to help the animals in their care. 

“To say that Green Valley is full of animal lovers is an understatement,” Eisele said.

The need is great as more animals make their way to the facility, she added.  Eisele said any money raised will help fund sheltering, spay/neuter, veterinary care, training and adoption.

The organization also will have a table with fliers at the event.

A crew from the Green Valley Fire District will be on hand for anyone who can’t handle the cold. “I don’t think anyone will last more than a minute or two” in the pool, Zalagens said.

“We’re already getting a lot of emails and Facebook messages and a fair amount of phone calls,” Zalagens, a Raytheon employee said, hoping for a good turnout.

While southern Arizona isn’t known for its frigid winter weather, the current water temperature of the Zalagens/Miller pool is 48 degrees, so expect a bracing plunge. No dry or wetsuits are allowed and participants/spectators must be 18 and older. Oh, and do bring a towel.

Steve Sinovic | 520-547-9728


Steve Sinovic is an Oregon native who has worked as a journalist all over the western United States.

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