By Kathryn Prerost, Age 13, Naperville, Illinois
The first full question I believe I ever asked was, “Mommy, can I have a dog?” Ever since I learned that phrase, I never stopped repeating it.
She got me fish. I was very excited, named all 12 of them, and gave them way more food than they should have had. After a while, all of the fish died. I was devastated but moved on pretty quickly. I asked again if I could have a dog. I’m sure all of you know what my Mom said after that. “No!” So instead of asking for a dog, I moved onto dreaming I’d be a veterinarian.
This was a big dream for a second grader. I’d pretend that my imaginary dog was sick, and I’d help her out and we’d be best friends. This phase lasted a long time but I eventually started to forget about it, along with the idea of having a dog. Then suddenly, all my friends started getting dogs. I was stuck with nothing. Everyone else was getting a dog,I told my Mom. She just kept returning to the same point, “It’s too messy to have a dog in our house.” Eventually, after a bunch of research, my Dad and I found a dog in a foster home that was rescued from a kill shelter in Kentucky. Her name was Maggie and my whole family instantly fell in love with her, even my Mom. Without telling my Mom, my Dad scheduled an appointment to see her at her foster home and eventually, we adopted her. It was the best day of my life!
Fast forward a bit, and I’m in sixth grade. I trudged into the school thinking it would be any regular, boring day. But when I turned into the Learning Commons, something was different. There was a very fluffy collie dog named Rosebud, and let me just say, that dog was more popular than Michael Jackson! I squeezed my way to the front of the crowd, bent down, and patted Rosebud’s head. She immediately started kissing my face.
Later, her owners gave a talk about Rosebud, their other dog, Sophie, and their senior dog charity, “Lizzy’s Fund.” I sat down and saw three girls, one I knew, holding Rosebud’s leash and leading her around. I wondered if I could actually do that one day! My dream about helping dogs could come true!
My friends, Lauren and Evelyn, asked if I would like to be a junior handler for Lizzy’s Fund with them. I was willing to try. We went to a nursing home with Rosebud and her owners. I had butterflies in my stomach but they immediately flew away when I touched Rosebud. Petting her made me feel instantly better. I learned how to hold the leash, handle the dog, and how to make sure the residents were comfortable with their four-footed visitors. I also learned how to make friendships with the residents while they were petting the dogs. After the day was done, I got my wristband because I passed the test! I was so excited!
When the next visit came, I was jubilant. While driving there, I asked what we’re doing that day and my friends said we’re helping out with a party. I thought it was one of the resident’s birthdays but later found the celebration was for a dog! The small dog’s name was Pixie amd I felt connected to her since I’m the smallest in my grade too. I ended up holding Pixie the whole time. I met more people who welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like I belonged there even though I had no clue what I was doing half of the time. I was looking forward to seeing everyone next time and being part of the team.
Rosebud’s owners later sent me an email inviting Lauren, Evelyn, and I (along with our moms) to come over to their house to help set up for the Thanksgiving party, I knew it was going to be fun. We spent the night making turkey cutouts for the nursing home residents, eating barbeque pizza, and laughing! It was such a happy atmosphere, I never wanted to leave.
Today, I’m a junior handler with some amazing friendships and have had some great experiences. One thing I noticed on our trips to the nursing home was that whenever residents see one of the dogs, their faces light up and they immediately start calling the dogs over. I never imagined that dogs could have that kind of impact on people. They pet the dogs, then they start having conversations with us too! It’s like their days have suddenly gotten much better. I totally understand. Dogs are fun to be around! Some of our junior-handler pictures with the residents are hanging up in their rooms! Lizzy’s Fund isn’t just for senior dogs, it’s for everyone.
Rosebud’s owners may not realize that they created a chain reaction. When people are happy they want to spread the joy. When they spread that joy, it makes other people happy, and so on. So just think of that happy chain reaction whenever you see another dog, and try and spread the happiness that dogs bring into people’s lives.
Kathryn is an 8th grade student at Madison Junior High School in Naperville, IL She still volunteers as a junior handler at nursing homes and for Lizzy’s Fund senior dog charity events. She is also active in music with local musical productions.
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