Charlie's Birthday Bash

Charlie, 9, poses with shop co-owner Cindy Elzey at Rich’s Auto Shop. Charlie’s Birthday Bash will benefit Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry.

It’s 5 o’clock on payday and Charlie wanders in through the side door of Rich’s Auto Center. It’s been about a year since his hip surgery, and his gait isn’t as free as it was in his younger days.

Cindy Elzey, who co-owns the shop along with her husband, Rich, dotes on Charlie, a mix of hound and Rhodesian ridgeback.

Regulars at the garage just off Bluffton Road know Charlie as an easygoing dog. Cindy Elzey knows him as her “best bud.”

Charlie’s 9th birthday is at hand and he will be the guest of honor at the 2nd annual Charlie’s Birthday Bash on Saturday at 2135 Sand Point Road.

The celebration from 1-4 p.m. will benefit the Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry. The first 20 pets can be microchipped with a donation to the food pantry, which is in need of dry food or cash donations. Adoptable pets will be on location, courtesy of the Fort Wayne Pitbull Coalition.

Human companions also can find refreshments and photo opportunities, and perhaps win door prizes.

Elzey says Charlie loves being around other animals, whether they be cats or dogs. He used to be a regular at Pawster Park before his surgery.

“He comes to work with me every day, travels home with me at night,” she says. “I went on vacation a few weeks ago. We went down to Panama Beach for a week. So he truly is my best bud.”

The shop owners give Charlie credit for the fundraiser. “Charlie loves to be around furry friends and cares that their basic needs are met, like food, safety, shelter and most of all love,” reads a news release.

That sentiment mirrors the owners’ attitude toward community.

The shop has been in business for 18 years, handling all automotive repairs except body work. Rich’s frequently does reprogramming for other other automotive shops. A customer might find they need a $110 update instead of a $2,000 transmission job, Elzey said

“I think what goes around comes around,” Elzey said.

The Elzeys follow that philosophy outside the shop, too. “Part of our community involvement is we do classes for Big Brothers Big Sisters, for the Boy Scouts to earn their badges,” she said. “We do classes for kids coming out of the foster care system to learn about automobiles.”

She said a customer from the pet food pantry met Charlie and asked to put up a donation box at the shop. “I said our shop just isn’t big enough but I’d like to have a birthday party,” she explained.

That was last year. This year’s party will be a little bigger.

“I like doing something. Otherwise life gets boring,” Elzey said.

Elzey suggests that more people put their free time to use helping their communities. “They could be a big brother or big sister or work with kids in the schools,” she said. “There are so many ways to help people who need it.”

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