There's no doubt Cindy Wigdahl is an animal lover. She has six dogs, seven cats and 19 horses. For years she has donated her time and energies to various shelters, only more recently connecting with Animal House Shelter in Huntley. It was Animal House's impressive record over the last 10 years -- 23,000 pets adopted out -- that made Wigdahl want to support the no-kill shelter.
On Sunday, Wigdahl and her husband, David, hosted the second annual Polo for Pets Tailgate Charity Match in Elgin to raise funds for the shelter.
Besides polo, the event featured pony rides, a petting zoo and a silent auction on the sidelines. The halftime entertainment included performances by Andalusian horses dancing and bowing with riders and performers from Medieval Times.
"We do the traditional stomping of divots, but we wanted to do something different," Cindy Wigdahl said.
The horses trained in classical dressage offered a far different brand of equine entertainment than the thoroughbreds groomed for polo and a treat for the mid-match break.
Morgan and Phil Johnson, of Naperville, had their two dogs with them Sunday. They got Spencer, a Beagle Boxer mix, from Animal House in 2009. The couple attended last year's match as well, enjoying the tailgating opportunity and the chance to watch a fun sport and support a worthy cause at the same time.
Phil Johnson has been watching polo for years because his uncle plays but recognizes it's not the most common pastime.
"It gets people exposed to a sport that isn't everywhere," Johnson said of the charity match. "And it's good money for the shelter."
Lesley Irwin, owner of Animal House, said she hopes the event can continue to grow each year and draw more people. The funds raised Sunday will help cover medical costs for animals brought into the shelter. Many of the pets Animal House treats have conditions that need more attention than a standard adoption fee can cover. It's charity events like the polo match that cover the difference.
"It helps us tremendously," Irwin said. "With the medical bills alone this will make a huge difference."