Going to the Dogs

Going to the Dogs

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

Going to the Dogs

If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.

Thomas Edison

One day my mom and I were sitting in her office looking at a magazine called Humane Society News. We read a very sad story about a New Jersey police dog named Solo that had been sent into a building to catch an armed suspect. The last thing Solo did before entering the building was to lick his owner’s face. A few minutes later, Solo was shot and killed in the line of duty. I knew how sad that officer must have felt because my own dog, Kela, had recently died. I felt like my world had ended when I lost Kela. She had been my best friend since I could remember.

The article went on to tell about a fund-raiser that was going on in New Jersey to help buy bulletproof vests for the police dogs there. I thought, Every police dog should be protected just like the police. I may be a kid, but why can’t I do a fund-raiser to help save the dogs in our area?

Then I found out that a bulletproof vest for a police dog costs $475. My mom thought it was a lot of money for an eleven-year-old girl to raise, but she told me to go ahead and try anyway.

We called our local Oceanside Police Department and found out that their dogs needed bulletproof vests. At that point, I realized that I needed a name for the fund-raiser and thought since I was trying to protect just one dog’s life, I would call my program Vest A Dog.

I decided that veterinarian offices and pet stores would be really good places to go with donation boxes and Vest A Dog flyers. I used little green Chinese take-out boxes, decorated with a picture of Tiko, the dog I chose to vest, and me. I wrote on each box “Help protect the life of a police dog by donating a dollar.”

One afternoon, after all the boxes had been distributed throughout our community, I got a call from a local newspaper reporter who had seen one of my fliers. The reporter decided to do an article about Vest A Dog. That ought to spread the word, I thought. I asked K9 Officer Jim Wall, who is Tiko’s partner, if they would have their picture taken with me for the article and they did.

After the article came out, I waited for a few days before checking to see if there were any donations. I was really nervous when I finally went to collect the money. Would there be anything in the boxes? I wondered. I really wasn’t sure that I could raise enough to buy the vest. But when I collected the first box, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I realized that there are many generous animal lovers out there. The box was practically overflowing with dollar bills! I kept checking back to collect the donations every few days. After about three weeks, I counted the money from all of the boxes. It totaled over three thousand dollars! I was so excited and totally amazed at the amount of money that I had raised. Not only was there enough money to buy Tiko’s vest, but Vest A Dog had raised enough to buy vests for the other five unprotected dogs on the Oceanside Police Department. I couldn’t believe it!

When the officers from the K9 unit found out that they were going to be able to protect all six of their dogs, they couldn’t stop thanking me. They decided to put together a presentation ceremony where I would give the six vests I was donating to the department’s dogs. That’s where I got to meet all of the other police dogs and their handlers. I was actually a little scared of them, but the officers assured me that the dogs were very friendly. I learned that these were not just police dogs, but also the officers’ family pet. Again, I thought of my dog Kela and also about Solo. I wanted even more to make sure that these police dogs didn’t die while trying to protect people.

Once I began presenting the vests at the ceremony, I kept seeing television reporters come in and set up cameras. I never expected to see so many news stations there! I was excited to talk with them about what I was doing. When they asked me if I was going to continue my Vest A Dog program to help protect the other fifty dogs in San Diego County, where we live, I replied, “Yes! We need to protect these dogs because they protect us every day.”

Soon the phone was ringing off the hook! Each day, reporters from newspapers and television stations called with interview requests. They wanted more information about my Vest A Dog program and also wanted to know where donations could be made. The media is so powerful! People began to mail donations to Vest A Dog!

Looking back, the success of Vest A Dog totally surprised me at first. Then I realized that it wasn’t unusual that a lot of other people felt the same way I did about these dogs. They just didn’t know how to help before Vest A Dog got started.

So far, Vest A Dog has raised more than twenty-five thousand dollars and has supplied all of the law enforcement dogs within San Diego County with a protective vest! Then, just when I had achieved what I thought was my highest goal, people from all over the country began to call me to find out how to raise funds to vest dogs in their areas. So now my fund-raiser is continuing nationwide, and I have a Web page to tell other people how to organize a fund-raiser like the one that I did.

Knowing that more and more dogs are being protected is really rewarding. It has made all my efforts more than worth it.

Then, one day after school, my mom told me that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) wanted to honor me for the work that I had done to protect police dogs. They invited my mom and me to New York so that I could receive an award and a check for five thousand dollars! That vested another ten dogs!

I’m so proud and happy that the money I have raised is all going to the dogs. I’m still amazed that I have vested so many dogs when I really wasn’t sure if I could vest even one. Even though some days I was tired from schoolwork, I knew it was important to continue fundraising to help save these special dogs. It was a lot of hard work but I learned that if you just keep going, you can accomplish anything. Don’t think that just because you are a kid that you can’t make a difference. Even if you think something is impossible, it can be done.

Stephanie Taylor, eleven

[EDITORS’ NOTE: For more information on how to start a Vest A Dog program in your area, log on to www.dogvest.com.]

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