Calendar girls dare to bare for animals
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 21, 2007 1:46 PM
The unseasonable 70-degree weather made it hard to think of Christmas earlier this month, but for the two ladies stripping off their clothes at the Stepping Stone Therapeutic Riding Center several Saturdays ago, the warm temperatures were a welcome surprise.
"I was worried it would be cold," said Monika Barkley, one of the Wayne County Humane Society's Dare to Bare: Petals and Paws calendar models. "This is nice."
They were at the riding center for the 9th and 10th photo shoots of the 18-month calendar that will run from July 2008 to December 2009.
The calendar, which will go on sale mid-spring, is part of a $150,000 fundraising effort by the humane society to help pay for the county's new $1.8 million animal adoption and education center -- the only project, both women said, that could provide enough motivation for them to take their clothes off.
"My neighbor mentioned it to me. She couldn't do it because she's a Sunday School teacher, but it sounded like a fun idea," said Janet Presson, the other model. "Still, I look much better with my clothes on.
"I probably wouldn't do this for anything else."
"Where's the wine?" Mrs. Barkley asked, only half-jokingly as she stood in grove of trees behind a field of horses wearing a blue and white University of Kentucky Wildcats warm-up suit.
Later, she admitted that despite her earlier bravado she was slightly nervous as she stood waiting for the photographers to finish adjusting the platinum-colored 1999 Chevrolet Corvette, surrounded by people waiting for her to disrobe.
"It was that initial unzipping ...," she said afterward. "But I was on Extreme Makeover and on Dr. Phil, so a little local calendar isn't going to show anything more than I've already shown. And it's for one of the best causes I know of."
Also waiting was her modeling partner, a 10-year-old beagle named Adolph Rupp, who seemed eager himself to get things under way.
"He's my baby," she said. "He goes with me everywhere. He's not a hunting beagle. He's a mommy's beagle."
Finally, when it was time, Mrs. Barkley, 46, slid into the tan leather seat, behind the black steering wheel, and peeled off her warm-up top, exposing her bare skin.
"I'm like Brittany, I'm not wearing underwear," she laughed, taking her bouquet of roses and inviting the dog to jump up into the car.
"It's just like the paparazzi are after her," said photographer Vanessa Woodlock as she and Vance Allen shot frame after frame, Mrs. Barkley strategically hidden behind her flowers and dog.
Then, after nearly an hour and several hundred pictures later, she was done.
"It was a lot of fun," Mrs. Barkley said. "I can't wait to see it."
Lacking Mrs. Barkley's national exposure, Mrs. Presson, 46, was, understandably, a little more uneasy about her photo shoot.
Of course that also may have had something to do with her sitting on a splintered wooden post with several horses at her back, instead of a comfortable, plush convertible.
Fortunately, though, as she shrugged off her thick, cream-colored robe, her bare shoulders peeking out from behind Poke, the electric fence behind her was cut off.
Posing with her son's therapeutic training horse, she, too, seemed much more at ease once she began -- even if he wasn't as cooperative as Rupp and had to be physically maneuvered into position several times.
"I can cover up a lot with a horse in front of me, and I'm comfortable around Poke. He's such a good horse," she said with her arms around him.
Plus, she added, all the "hard work" of constantly smiling and turning to look at the next camera kept her mind off the fact that she was exposed on three sides.
"I was just so busy paying attention to what I was supposed to do ... I was OK," she said.
"But I am going to go home and have drink," she added, once done. "This is going to be really interesting. I think it's going to be really neat."
For both ladies, it was their animals that motivated their participation.
"I love my animals. I don't have kids. My animals are my kids," Mrs. Barkley said.
The current owner of four dogs, she explained that she has had at least one pretty much ever since she was a child.
"They bring me peace of mind," she said. "It's the unconditional love that you get from your animal and that's rare for these days."
Each one of her dogs has been rescued, whether from the shelter or from the streets.
They include Pepper, a female black lab, Hooch, a Chesapeake mix, and Kobe Bryant, a "Heinz 57" chow mix.
"It breaks my heart to see how these dogs were treated," she said. "Hooch is the most loving dog I've ever seen. It's like he's just grateful to have a home.
"And with my health issues, Pepper is my hero. If she can go through all that (diabetes and cataract surgery) then I can do it (recover from heart surgery)."
It was those same feelings that also drove Mrs. Presson to take her clothes off.
"We just love animals," she said.
For her, though, that love goes beyond her own three dogs -- strays that she kept safe from the pound.
"They're bigger dogs and I think they have a harder time than the smaller ones. We were afraid they'd be put to sleep," she said.
That love also is part of the reason her special-needs son became involved in therapeutic riding -- an activity she calls a "small miracle." It's the reason she opened the Stepping Stones center.
And, she continued, knowing that the county needs a state-of-the-art facility for not only unwanted animals, but also for spay-and-neuter and pet-ownership programs, she figured this was one of the best things she could do to help.
"We plan to give a sizable donation, but this sounded like a fun idea," she said. "I'd been to the pound before and was just horrified at the conditions. It's just so awful. I don't know how I didn't come out with every animal out there.
"We need to treat our animals well. We just want to have a good place for them."
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