From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

For the Love of Animals

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Anne Frank

I have always loved animals. Even before I learned to write, when I watched TV specials that showed animals from around the world that needed help, I drew the shapes of the phone numbers you were asked to copy down from the screen. I would take what I had copied to my mother and tell her, “We need to call here. They need help. We need to help them.”

For my fifth birthday party, instead of my friends bringing birthday gifts for me, my mom suggested that there was a way we could have my party help the animals in our community. We asked my friends to bring donations of cat and dog food that we could then give to a local animal shelter.

When I first saw the big pile of pet food, I was amazed. Together, my friends and I can help an awful lot of animals, I thought. An awful lot.

Afterward, when we went to the shelter, we told the volunteer, “We’ve brought some cat and dog food that we’d like to donate to the animals here. Could you open the back door so we don’t have to bring it in through the main entrance?”

The shelter worker thought for a moment and then said, “Okay,” but you could tell she thought opening the back door was unnecessary. She met us around back, and when we opened the van loaded with food, her mouth hung open.

“Wow! You sure do have pet food! What’s all this?”

I told her my story about asking for pet food at my birthday party instead of presents, and she almost cried.

“You and your friends are so amazing! Thank you so very much from all of the animals, and for being so thoughtful and generous and kind.” Her words made me feel very proud to realize that even as little kids, we could do something really important.

She let me go through the shelter and visit with all of the animals, holding kittens, and offering some of the treats I had brought to many of the others. It really made my heart fill with love and joy.

There was no doubt that I wanted to do the same thing again on my next birthday. Even though I didn’t get all the presents that I might have gotten if I didn’t ask for pet food, I really don’t need more “stuff.” Besides, the feeling I get from doing this is better than any toy I might have gotten. And so I have done the same thing for each of my birthdays since then.

I just turned eleven, and I have been doing this for seven years and collected over 1,400 pounds of food for donation. I still feel very special each time I take that food to the shelter.

I started to think about other ways I could help besides just through my birthday parties, and I began selling lemonade at an art show. Soon, I added some of my own art—pictures of dogs and cats that I had painted. Many people bought them because they wanted to support my cause.

I also began making beaded bracelets that I called “Buddy Bracelets” because the money I made from them went to my animal buddies. I packaged them with a tag that explained what they were, and how by buying them people were helping the animals, and so anyone who received one as a gift would know that it was an extra-special bracelet.

I continue to make things to sell, and when people buy them, I love to tell how together we are helping the animals. When I am able to help the animals in the shelter, I am reminded of all the pets I have at home, my two dogs and one cat, my goats, and chickens. They are happy and healthy and safe and loved. They inspire me to continue to bring people together to help animals that aren’t so lucky.

EMyles Cuthbertson, 11

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