Think back to what you were doing when you were 10 years old… For me, my days were filled with chorus practice, soccer, playing with dolls and of course, school. It was a fun time in my life, without a care in the world and I certainly wasn’t thinking of or finding ways to help others.
But Saoirse, a 4th grader from Sunland Elementary is a bit different and seems to have a higher purpose. And that purpose happens to be dogs. For the past few years, she has been watching all of the Hope For Paws and Rescue From The Hart‘s rescue videos non-stop. The dogs in the videos have become heroes to her and those who volunteer/work in rescue are way cooler than any celebrities you might find posters of on most 10 year olds bedroom walls.
I first met Saoirse several months back when Sunland Elementary’s Third Graders challenged our village to see who could raise more money for RFTH. Though Saoirse wasn’t in 3rd grade anymore, she was eager to participate. And she did! She raised a BUNCH on money on her own and the pride radiating from her face when she delivered it to me at her school was undeniable. She felt proud to have been a part of something that mattered.
With each return to her school, there was Saoirse. Happy to see us and eager to help out. She even asked if there was a way she could volunteer for us! This was a new idea for our rescue, but with her parents on board to come along and help her volunteer, we figured “why not?”, and thus began our “Jr Rescuer’s Program”.
Saoirse and one of her parents began attending our adoption events. Her job was to “Administer Cuddles” to the dogs (of course with parental supervision) and she took this job quite seriously. With her sweet and innocent demeanor, Saoirse was able to put even the most nervous of dogs at ease. And with each event, the smile on Saoirse’s face grew bigger. She loved this newfound purpose and began talking more and more about helping dogs with her parents, teachers and friends. She told everyone around her that she wanted to help foster a dog. Her parents wanted to be sure she was serious about it, so they asked her to think hard about it and all the responsibility she and her family would be taking on. And if in 30 days she still wanted them to foster, the family would work together and make it happen.
During this “waiting period”, Saoirse found a stray dog walking along the street on her way home from school one day. Having watched HUNDREDS of Eldad’s videos, she knew just what to do: She went to the Hope For Paws website and called the number at the bottom. Though Eldad was out of town, his assistant Lisa Arturo answered the phone and spoke in depth with Saoirse. Lisa then put a plan into action to help and she sent our mutual friend Mike Noon out to search for the dog with Saoirse (and her parent’s OK of course). In no time at all, Mike and Saoirse found the dog and they were able to reunite it with its owner.
I don’t know many kids who would give up an afternoon of video games or playing with their friends to help a lost dog find its way home. And to me, that make Saoirse pretty cool.
But back to her wish to foster…
She marked her calendar with a big “X” everyday and on the 30th day, she went back to her parents and asked them to fill out a foster app. She was more eager than ever for her family to take in a foster dog! Seeing the pure joy being involved in dog rescue brought Saoirse, Mom and Dad happily filled it out.
I must admit, I have never been so excited to receive a foster application! There was something magical about a ten year old genuinely caring and wanting to make a difference for dogs, So much love and compassion and with parents that wanted to help nurture it! It had hit me hard and gave me HOPE for the future.
After reviewing Saoirse’s family’s app, it was time to figure out who the right dog would be for their family to foster. Definitely a special dog for this special family. Someone mellow and sweet that would get along with their slightly bossy shih tsu. It just so happened that around this time, Eldad and Lisa Arturo had just rescued A LOT of new dogs. After receiving all their necessary medical care, they then needed help from good rescues and fosters to take them in. Knowing that Saoirse was a huge fan of Hope For Paws, I figured what would be more perfect than for she and her family to foster a dog Eldad had saved?
Sure enough, they had the perfect match. A slightly older poodle mix named Tucker, who was very much the Sean Connery of dogs: Gentle, charming and a total ladies man! And having just had cataract surgery to restore the vision in one of his eyes, he needed a foster family willing to put the time and energy into giving him eye drops and helping him heal.
When I told Saoirse she was going to get to foster a joint Hope For Paws/Rescue From The Hart dog, she positively squealed with delight! Would they use Eldad’s trademark “Lucky Leash” to walk him? Or RFTH’s leash? How about BOTH? Lol!!!
It’s been a week since Tucker joined Saoirse’s family to foster and what a wonderful week it has been! Her parents are blown away by how seriously Saoirse takes her responsibilities of helping out with him and just how much she enjoys it! She rushes home after school to see Tucker and she is even teaching him some cool tricks! Tucker is soaking in all the love and attention and he has even charmed their other dog into cuddling with him. And when it’s time for bed, Saoirse lays down next to Tucker, talks to him and pets him. Letting him know he is loved.
At just 10 years old, Saoirse has found her purpose. She has found a way to make a difference in a world that can sometimes feel hopeless. And in doing so, not only are the dogs benefitting from her love and compassion, but she is too. She is HAPPY! Her heart filled with love. And there is nothing more important, more powerful than that.
Thank you to Saoirse’s parents and to her teacher Mrs. Barneck for nurturing this Jr Rescuer’s newfound passion. The rescue community needs many more kids like Saoirse to ensure the future of animal advocacy looks bright.
Click and share with your loved ones and fellow animal lovers!