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Drink wine, save a pet
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Don and Deborah Theall recently had to have their 3-year-old cat, Beauregard Davis, put to sleep because of an inoperable heart problem.

The fuzzy, blond Maine coon feral eventually warmed up to Deborah, who took him into their home with loving arms.

"This cat had so much personality," Theall said, "but he was born with a bad heart valve."

Beauregard's health began to decline, and after many trips to local veterinarians yielded no answers about his condition, the Thealls took him to the University of Georgia Teaching Veterinarian Hospital.

Doctors informed the Thealls Beauregard needed heart valve replacement surgery, which has been performed on four dogs but no cats. Since no other treatments could amend Beauregard's condition, the Thealls had him put down.

After they lost Beauregard, their kitten Elvis began to have brain seizures. This time the staff of the UGA TVH was able to treat the parasitical disease the kitten was infected with, and he's doing fine.

Because of the hospital staff's sensitivity concerning Beauregard and expertise in treating Elvis, the Thealls decided ticket sales from the 4th annual Wine-d Down at the Lochwolde development would benefit UGA's College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital Building Fund.

The event will be hosted by the Theall's catering business Tara Foods Elite Cuisine and the Lochwolde neighborhood, as well as Sigman Bottle Shop.

"There's nothing better to raise money than food and wine," Theall said.

Tracy Giese, public relations director for the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, explained how much the teaching hospital has grown since 1979.

The veterinary college was founded in 1946 and the teaching hospital was added in 1979. Since that year the annual caseload has grown 37 percent, enrollment in the college has grown 20 percent and the full-time staff has increased 339 percent.

With all the growth the teaching hospital has seen, the square footage of the building has only grown 4 percent, according to Giese.

Last year the hospital treated nearly 18,500 animals.

Annually, an average of 540 students apply to the veterinary school, which can only accept 96 students per class.

"We would like to enroll more students to meet the accelerating shortage of veterinarians nationwide, but there simply isn't enough room," Giese said.

She also said the hospital's staff wants to provide the most advanced technological resources, meet caseload demands, reduce client's wait times and provide adequate work space for all the faculty, staff and students.

"To build the facilities necessary to meet our needs, we have embarked on a fundraising campaign to provide for a new teaching hospital," Giese said. "With the help of friends, alumni and other private donors, our goal is to raise approximately $32 million required by the state of Georgia, which will provide the remaining funds."

Deborah Theall said she hopes the Wine-d Down will raise $25,000 for the building fund.

In addition to attracting attendees with delicious food and fine wine, Theall expects auction items will draw a crowd as well as raise money. Items for auction include UGA memorabilia; private dinners cooked by a chef in the highest bidder's home; round-trip airline tickets for domestic flights and spa treatments.

Fox 5 investigative reporter Randy Travis will emcee the event.

Theall said she wants everyone to know what great work the teaching hospital is doing and hopes the Wine-d Down will increase Newton County residents' awareness of its resources and needs.

"These people at UGA are just phenomenal," Deborah Theall said. "It's run like a people hospital, they have visiting hours, and they make rounds and call with updates - the concept is just fantastic."