By Alicia and Ava Dziak
As we head into the final stretch of the school year, my daughter, Ava, and her friends are wrapping up their months-long project, Kids Can Make a Difference. The project, assigned by her social studies and ELA teachers, was to find an organization and cause to work with throughout the year. Four to six service hours were required, as well as other components along the way. Ava chose to work with Empire Animal Rescue Society (EARS) since she wants to be a vet some day and has always loved animals of all kinds.
Ava quickly completed her service hours by volunteering at adoption events, helping transport animals to and from appointments, and of course, fostering them.
As any parent knows, the older your child gets, the faster time seems to move. I’ve found that these middle school years are flying by, and can’t believe my oldest baby is about to come to the end of her seventh grade year. This school year, like all of them, has brought about many changes for Ava and for our family.
Since Ava started her project in October, we have fostered 12 dogs. We have had two “foster failures” and added Tucker, a three-year-old lab mix, and Rasta, a 10-week-old feist and mountain cur mix, to our fleet that currently also includes Scarlet, our yellow lab, and Rosalina and Flower, our two cats. Sadly, in April, we lost our 14-year-old dog Marley, and it got me to thinking about rescue dogs.
Marley was a black pitbull-chow-lab mix. I spotted her behind the bars of a city animal shelter before I even had kids. While pitbulls and chows can get a bad rap, what I didn’t know at the time is that black dogs are the hardest to get adopted. Had I listened to the naysayers warning me against adopting such a dog, I would have missed out on 14 and a half wonderful years with my faithful companion, who followed me everywhere until the very end. I am thankful that we could take her out of that shelter all those years ago, and give her a good home and a good life.
Fostering dogs is a stepping stone to giving them a better life. While we wish we could adopt them all, there is a great sense of accomplishment in seeing them go off to their new homes, their new families full of excitement as they hold their new pup for the first time.
This project has been an amazing experience not only for Ava, but for our entire family. We have learned so much about each dog, traits and behaviors of certain breeds, the rescue process, and that saving each animal is truly a team effort. I can’t say enough positive things about Courtney Valent and all of the other volunteers who run EARS. It’s pretty much a 24/7 job, but you never hear anyone complaining because they believe in what they’re doing, and that is saving these animals one at a time.
As the school year and Ava’s project come to an end, our involvement with EARS surely will not. We plan to continue to foster and help in other ways, and my younger daughter, Lily, is already planning on working with them for her seventh grade project in another year.
Dear Foster Dog Diary,
My name is Ava Dziak and I am a seventh grade student at Springville Griffith Middle School. I am doing a project called “Kids Can Make a Difference” in English and social studies. The purpose of this project is to help make a difference in the world through community service or volunteer work.
Mozart’s mom was abandoned in a Kentucky shelter while pregnant, and she had four puppies who ended up with EARS. Mozart is a mountain cur and feist mix. After we had him for only one day, we fell in love with him and decided to adopt him. We renamed him Rasta.
About a week later, we got Ramona, who is Rasta’s sister. She was much bigger than him and had bigger paws. At first, when we’d pick her up, she was a little scared and shy, but the longer we had her, we’d find that she’d be running around and as soon as we’d pick her up, she’d be calm and cuddly. She and Rasta would play all day.
My aunt and uncle and two cousins loved Rasta so much and wanted to meet his sister. They loved Ramona as much as we did and ended up adopting her!
Since I started this project in the fall, we’ve been able to foster 12 different dogs, and we ended up adopting two of them. Fostering dogs has been a very good experience because we can see all the different breeds of dogs and see how they interact with people and with other animals. Fostering saves lives by giving animals a second chance.
My 14-year-old black lab-chow-pitbull mix, Marley, passed away recently. It was a very emotional time for me and my family. She was a rescue that we were able to help and to me, knowing that we gave her this amazing life, helped me cope with losing her.
I’ve also learned that certain breeds, like chihuahuas and pitbulls, and even any black dogs, are hard to get adopted. That is crazy to me because Marley was the sweetest dog ever and she was black. All dogs deserve a chance, no matter the color, the breed or the age.
Since this has been such a great experience for me and my family, we will continue working with EARS to help as many animals as possible.
Things I’ve Learned:
• There are so many animals out there that need help.
• Certain kinds of dogs get a bad reputation, but are really good dogs!
• Volunteering and helping others is a really fun way to spend time when it’s for something you really care about. You’re never too young to get involved.
Ways You Can Help:
1. Like the EARS Facebook page and check out their wish list.
2. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can foster an animal or would like to volunteer in other ways.
3. Consider adopting a furry friend! Visit empire.petfinder.com to see all the animals they have up for adoption.