Question: When is a dog a cat's best friend?

Answer: When it will take a bath.

That's the basic premise of what will happen during an open house and dog wash Saturday, Aug. 25, from 11 to 3, at Cannondale Animal Clinic on Route 7.

There will be games, prizes, food, and lots of soapsuds during the fund-raising event that will support the clinic's feline rescue work. There will also be kittens and adult cats up for adoption as well as perhaps a dog or two from Passage East Rescue.

Large, small, hairy, smooth, pedigreed or Heinz 57, local dogs are invited for a suds and rinse for a donation of their owner's choice. Clinic director Dr. Paula Belknap has set up a series of kiddie pools to run the dogs through assembly-line fashion. Hula hoops will be set up as drying stations the dogs will go through à la musical chairs, with the last dog in getting a prize.

"We are getting lots of volunteers," Dr. Belknap said, "and kids who own the dogs can get involved, too."

"We'll have hot dogs, popcorn and drinks," she said. Contributions of dog food, shampoo, flea repellents, and more have been donated by Pfizer, Hills Science Diet, and others.

The free-will donations will support the low-cost spay and neutering work on feral and homeless cats done by Dr. Belknap and her associate, Dr. Stephanie Boggess. The clinic, she said, "rescues about 500 cats every year poviding subsidized spay and neutering, vaccines and basic medical care," she said. Some animals have health problems or are injured and require more advanced medical care.

"We are putting together a nest egg for the animals," she said.

"It's dramatic how many we have done," she continued, adding her rescue work has been going on for 12 years. That works out to about 6,000 cats.

"I have no idea how many kittens we've adopted out," she said.

Many of the cats come to her in traps from groups like Operation Spay. She also helps out Animals in Distress in Wilton (see story on page 1), PAWS (Pet Animal Welfare Society) and TAILS (The Alliance in Limiting Strays).

Cats that are too wild to be adopted go back to their original territory. This actually has a positive impact on the stray cat population since cats are territorial. Spayed and neutered cats returned to their home turf will protect it from being encroached upon by other cats, which may be able to reproduce.

Sometimes, however, stray cats are adoptable and some have incredible stories.

One of these cats is Nana, a female Dr. Belknap estimates is two years old, that will be available for adoption at the dog wash.

Nana was "quite pregnant" when she was brought to the clinic in March and very friendly, Dr. Belknap said. She kept Nana, who had her kittens two weeks later but sadly, only one survived.

"The night before she had her babies I got a call from someone who had a newborn" that was an orphan, Dr. Belknap said. Dr. Belknap said to bring it in and she gave it to Nana. "That was her first orphan," she said.

Two more motherless kittens came in. They were about three weeks old, and Nana took them.

Then came Myla, also up for adoption, an eight-week-old black and white kitten with a broken leg, which Dr. Belknap splinted.

"She took that one, too," she said. That made five kittens. They were all growing up and two more came and went in with her. Finally, Dr. Belknap had before her a three-week-old kitten with a ruptured eye. It could not have weighed more than half a pound, she said.

She anesthetized him, took the eye out, put in some purple stitches and when he woke up, he too was welcomed by Nana.

"At one point she was nursing eight kittens," she said. All have been adopted out except the six-toed Myla, now 12 weeks old, who is no worse for the wear and tear she went through.

All the kittens came from rescue groups. "They get the name 'crazy cat people', but they are really just people with big hearts," Dr. Belknap said.

Kittens adopted from Cannondale Animal Clinic are all tested for feline leukemia and have whatever shots they need for their age.

"The more support we get, the more animals we can help," Dr. Belknap said.

Information: 203-834-8855.