Young Lives, Big Hearts

French Bulldog and Child

Are you sick and tired of hearing holiday music non-stop ever since Halloween? Me too. Tired of trudging for hours through the malls only to stand in line just as long, tired of haggling with relatives about who’s going to travel farther this year, of shelling out a few bucks for a photo of your dog on Santa’s lap only to have your dog pee on the jolly ol’ man? Don’t worry, there is hope for the holiday season.

Children. Two recent incidents really struck a chord with me — not only did they demonstrate just how much children can care about pets, but these stories are also eerily similar to a couple of events in my childhood.

As Itchmo reported on Thursday, nine-year-old Tommy Monahan died while trying to save his pets from a house fire. It was both heroic and tragic — heroic that he loved his pets so much that he risked his life for them and tragic that his compassion for animals would lead to his death. It must be difficult for some parents to understand why a child would risk his life over a dog, a lizard and a fish but I can tell you from first-hand experience that I would’ve done the same thing.

When I was nine years old my beloved dog Westie, Penny, bolted out the front door and ran down our driveway to the road. Fearing for her life I chased after her, almost certain that she was going to get killed by a car on the two-lane country highway that ran past our house. I caught up to her but she was too busy pursuing some unknown scent to bother listening to me (of course!) as she obliviously wandered into the roadway. I jumped out onto the centerline and held up my hands to stop traffic, by this point sobbing at the thought of losing Penny.

Imagine my mom’s shock when she saw me standing in the middle of the road alongside cars that zoom along at 55 mph! She dashed out to retrieve me and managed to grab Penny and herded us back inside the house. I was relieved that Penny was alive while my mom was likewise relieved about me. I was given a heartfelt lecture about how no child is worth a dog, yet I replied that Penny wasn’t just any dog — she was MY dog.

Luckily Penny and I were unhurt; sadly, Tommy was unable to save his pets or himself. He had started saving money to donate to non-profit animal groups - whatever amount he had saved up can hopefully be magnified by the very courage that tragically prevented him from making that donation. If Tommy inspired you, please consider making your holiday donation to an animal charity to honor Tommy. Not just Tommy, but all kids who understand the importance of pets in our lives.

Such as the 11-year-old girl I was lucky to meet last week who donated $50 of her own money to Vicky’s Pet Connection. Fifty bucks! All year long she had been allocating 10% of her allowance for charity. Finally she decided it was time to make her donation and I was there to witness Vicky’s jaw drop to the floor. This girl’s mother was deservedly quite proud.

Ironically, back when I was 11-years-old I did the same thing. After years of earmarking 10% of my allowance for charity I chose the Humane Society of Huron Valley — where my family had adopted the Sheltie-mix Gyro, our second dog — to be the recipient of my $25. (Apparently inflation is at work here; it took me several years in the 1980’s to save up half of what the young girl saved in 2007 alone!)

If young kids can see the benefit of donating significant portions of their income to pet-related charities, hopefully adults with deeper pockets can still see what these children understand. It’s probably impractical for your own household to contribute 10% of your earnings, but every dollar helps. In fact, even pennies can add up to huge donations!

Even if you can’t spare any money this year, I encourage you to take some time to think about what your pets mean to you, and more importantly, find out what those pets mean to your children. Chances are that pets are a HUGE part of their lives — so much that they would sacrifice an iPod Shuffle, a nice LEGO set, or even their own life.

If any of these stories inspired you, please share with us what impact they had. We’d also love to hear your own stories — feel free to tell a tale in the comments! Happy howlidays. :)

Photo: Flickr user bullmarketfrogs

9 Responses to “Young Lives, Big Hearts”

  1. Nancy G. says:

    My mother’s life was saved by her family’s Boston Terrier when she was a little girl; she almost fell headfirst over a high retaining wall from her front yard, down onto the sidewalk below, but the dog caught her skirt and held on till her mother came running and got her. I too was saved by a dog, a neighbor’s Airedale who hung around with me when I was a toddler. I was running toward the alley and a trash truck was barreling down it. Prince got between me and the alley and stopped me; my mother saw it. My sister’s husband and son were awakened from a house fire by their big lemon and white hound Bud, who saved all their lives as well as the house [the fire was quickly put out]. The bond between humans and animals is a very deep and abiding one, a beautiful thing to experience.

  2. Michelle says:

    Nancy G, I agree with you completely. Though so far, I do not have any life-saving stories such as yours or the ones in post, I have always felt that the bond between humans and animals is incredibly deep, comforting, and fulfilling as well.

  3. Carolyn & Maggie says:

    Inspiring article with a refreshing seasonal message. Charity Navigator helps you check out a charity (animal or otherwise) you might be interested in contributing to at:


  4. Claudia says:

    What a terribly tragic story. Yet, it sends an incredible message of hope that the younger generations value the lives of animals equally to those of humans. They are not just things that share our space — they are family. My heart goes out to Tommy’s parents, and any sibliings, who have had their family decimated. I hope they can find peace in the fact that they raised a very kind, caring and loving son. My late husband risked his life one year to comfort a deer which had been hit on a very busy highway until conservation could come and put it out of its misery. Years later, he died in a single vehicle rollover, likely swerving to avoid hitting a deer himself.

  5. Stefani says:

    This year, my Christmas good deed will be to participate in a Cat-a-van to get a kitty to her new furrever home. I encourage everyone to reach out to one– or more — animals this Christmas and make a difference.

    Sometimes, all we hear — it seems overwhelming. So much euthanasia, so much cruelty. But we can make a difference, even on a small scale.

    Like the story of the boy who took a starfish washed up on the beach, and threw it back. We may not be able to make a difference to them all. But we can make a difference for one. Or two, or three . . .

    May we all find our inner Tommy this holiday season.

    Merry Christmas/Happy Chanukah/Kwanzaa etc. . . one and all


  6. Stefani says:

    PS —

    Can we take up a collection for a Tommy Monahan Animal Rescue Fund for Disasters?

    You know, to help rescue/house/treat pets in disaster scenarios, including fires.

    Is anyone doing something like this?


  7. Jill says:

    Please consider adding volunteering and donations to your regular routine. My family ALWAYS has one foster dog. We’ve had 40 over the past 6 years and they are very little trouble. We stick to small short-haired dogs. You can set any parameters you want. There are many rescue groups and shelters in your community who will honor your limitations and be delighted with your generosity. Or you can volunteer time at your local shelter. Or help with transports. Or help with fundraisers. It takes a lot of effort to rescue dogs and every offer of help is gladly accepted. You can donate old linens and towels to your local shelter - even newspapers and they will be so appreciative.

    I personally believe in human compassion, too, so I have selected a local non-profit that I support. I know them and they are the real deal. This one happens to help uninsured get prescriptions at no cost and provides diabetes supports.

    I don’t like to give regionally or nationally - I like to support and give locally after I have ascertained that the group I am supporting is legitimate and uses their resources wisely, with no duplication, and no waste.

    I have asked my husband to quit exchanging Christmas presents, and at Christmas time we write checks for the kids, the grandkids, the local shetler, the local rescue group, and the local non-profit we support. Its so much better than the old Christmases spent buying stuff, wrapping stuff, shipping stuff, and exchanging stuff. The money we save on shipping and wrapping goes to a good use. :o)

  8. mittens says:

    if you dont have the money to give there are plenty of things rescues and shelters can use- including a little of your time. i know of feral rescues who need people to come over and play with kitties and get them used to humans-how fun is that? playing with kitties and giving them a chance at adoption which they would never have as ferals in a regular shelter environment.

    i know they always need old blankets and old towels -things we might throw away which would be very useful to them. just call up your local rescue or go to their website where the usual list the items they need.for instance if you get a new digital camera for christmas most places that use things like petfinder sure could use the old one to take pictures for the web of their adoptable animals.

    i do not celebrate any of the traditional judeo-christian winter holidays but the pagan roots of what is celebrated at christmas included the reversal of social roles( in ancient rome masters would serve their slaves) and the lifting of social restrictions that allowed all to be treated as equal. isnt that what is still celebrated at least in words inside christmas cards and in the songs- goodwill toward all, giving of yourself to others and particular those less fortunate? this time of year is one of the most universally celebrated, longest held holidays no matter what it is called. how is this concept possibly maintained by mere often thoughtless commercialism? where is the good cheer in the road rage filled traffic to the mall? i can think of no creatures more deserving of some good human will then those pets who have been abandoned and neglected by those charged with their care. it doesnt take all that much to make a very big difference and i think you’ll find you benefit too.

  9. MaineMom says:

    FieldHaven Feline Rescue in Lincloln, CA, is always looking for more volunteers and foster homes. If you live in the Rosevillle, Rocklin, Loomis or Lincoln area please see or call 916-434-6022 to see how you can help. It will make your Holidays happier!

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