As Briella Vanus’ eighth birthday was approaching, her mom, Emily, kept asking her how she wanted to celebrate her big day. Emily suggested zip lining, renting a bounce house, or getting their nails done at the salon, but the second-grader had only one request. She wanted to go to the Humane Society of Johnson County (HSJC) to give food to the animals, and spend some quality time with the doggies and kitties.
“I want to have my friends bring gifts – not for me, but for the dogs and cats,” Briella told her mom. “And I want to go to the shelter and help make the old dogs’ hearts happy.”
Her birthday wish was granted as family and friends donated $250 cash, which Briella and her mom used to buy dog and cat food, toys and treats. After hauling in the donations, Briella was given a private tour of the facility where she learned that the HSJC has two barns, one that’s filled with cat food, treats, toys and litter, and another that’s filled with dog food, treats, toys, collars and leashes. Once a month, community members who can’t afford to buy these items can pick up donations so that they do not have to surrender their pets.
After the tour, Briella was invited to stay and play with some of the dogs, cats, puppies and kittens.
“It was great,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave.”
“Honestly, she would have stayed for another four hours if given the chance,” Emily says.
While there, they learned of a three-day summer camp that will take place at the HSJC called Purrs & Barks. It runs from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., from June 7 through 9. Campers get to do crafts, make a T-shirt, socialize with the canines and felines, and learn about animal enrichment.
The Vanus family has two dogs of their own, Stella, a Weimaraner mix, and Remi, a boxer/golden retriever mix.
In addition to adoring animals, Briella also loves participating in gymnastics.
“Gymnastics and puppies are her life,” Emily says.
There are other good-hearted young souls in Johnson County who want to make a difference in the lives of furry, four-legged friends. Four years ago, a group of third-graders were sitting around a table in their school’s cafeteria when the conversation turned to their collective love of dogs.
“We thought it would be cool to start a group to help local animals,” says Madelyn Osborne. Ultimately, they came up with the name Animal Life Savers (ALS). Today the group members include Wren Davis, 12, Roxie Davis, 9, Madelyn Osborne, 12, Caroline Osborne, 9, Adriana Sichting, 12, Juliann Ott, 12, and Addison Bergman, 12.
Several times a year the girls make items, which they sell at different markets around town. They then donate the proceeds to the HSJC. In the past they have made dog and cat treats, cat scratchers, pet bandanas, dog ropes and Christmas ornaments.
“We like to sell things before the holidays so people can buy Christmas presents,” says Wren Davis. Last year they sold at the Winter Market in downtown Franklin, setting up shop in front of Middle Davids Artisan Candles. To date, they have donated $1,300 to the HSJC.
“We love giving to the Humane Society because there are a lot of dogs in shelters and we felt bad for them,” says Addison Bergman. “We wanted to raise money to help give them homes.”
Madelyn says a positive byproduct of loving animals is the strong bond the friends have formed by working with ALS.
“We’ve become a closer friend group,” she says.
Around the time the ALS had their first sale, they came across a puppy who had no fur. Wren and her sister, Roxie, talked their mom, Erin, into adopting the boxer mix, whom they named Popper.
“Our other dog, Bruno, we adopted because the previous owner worked so many hours that she was hardly at home,” Roxie says.
Not surprisingly, all of the group members have pets of their own, and most have been adopted from the HSJC.
During the group’s first sale, the girls recall a memorable transaction when they received a $100 tip from a patron.
“I remember looking at Addison’s face and she was smiling so wide,” says Adriana Sichting. “It was a moment that helped me know that I wanted to do more of this in the future.”
The Humane Society of Johnson County is located at 3827 North Graham Road in Franklin. For more information, call 317-535-6626, email email@example.com, or visit hsjc.org.