Gabriella Lloyd loves dogs.
She loves them so much, that when it was time to decide on a mitzvah project she decided to help abused and abandoned dogs.
“Animals have it really hard in the world right now. It’s not fair they get abused,” says Gabriella, now 14. “There are a lot of strays out there and they deserve to have good homes.”
For her mitzvah project, she raised $400 for the nonprofit K-9 Lifesavers, which rehabilitates mistreated and neglected dogs so that they can be adopted.
When adolescents look to do a good deed, many want to do it for animals. That’s not a surprise, says Cantor Larry Eschler, of Temple Beth Ami in Rockville.
“When a child is developing, the first person he or she will unite with and come to acknowledge is the parents. The second one is the family pet,” he says. “Thirteen is a transition year and the animal is the person that gives unconditional love. I think there’s a need for that as kids are trying to find their way in the world.”
Eschler says that about a third of mitzvah projects focus on animals. (The other popular projects focus on sports and working with kids with special needs.) He’s seen a lot of animal-related projects over the years. His favorite was a child who raised money to buy bulletproof vests for police dogs.
“It really brought home a new aspect to this whole animal love,” Eschler says.
Zachary Lewis, 13, wanted to be face-to-face with the animals he was helping. So he went to his local Humane Society and read to the dogs.
“It was one of the only places where I could be with the animals, because at other places you had to be 18 and up,” says Zachary.
While he read, the dogs nuzzled up to the door of the cage, and stuck their legs out. He visited for up to an hour each time. Once he started coming regularly, the dogs stopped barking.
Brady Cohen, who celebrated his bar mitzvah on Feb. 9, also helped his Humane Society for his mitzvah project.
He raised almost $300 by selling water bottles and handmade picture frames outside a pet shop. He also collected pet food, leashes, toys and blankets.
When he was in fifth grade, Brady worked with a sanctuary that rescues abused and neglected farm animals, including cows, chickens, horses, geese, peacocks and pigs.
“I really like animals,” he says. “They give you unconditional love. They’re nice to have around.” he said.
After he dropped off his donations at the Humane Society, he spent a couple of hours with the animals.
“It was the best day of my life.”
If your child is interested in working with animals, there are plenty of options out there, including local ones. Here are some suggestions.
African Wildlife Foundation
Protects and works to end the hunting and trafficking of African wildlife.
Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter
BARCS operates Maryland’s largest animal shelter and pet adoption center. As an open-admission shelter, it grants refuge to every abandoned, neglected, abused, lost or surrendered animal that comes through our door.
Baltimore Humane Society
An animal welfare organization serving Baltimore and Baltimore County, helping animals find safety, love, quality care, loving homes and a new chance at a happy life. A privately funded no-kill shelter.
CHAI (Concern for helping animals in Israel) Online
CHAI strives to prevent and relieve animal suffering in Israel and to elevate consciousness about animals through education. The organization works to foster empathy, respect, and responsibility toward all living beings, and to inspire and empower people, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian, to recognize the interconnectedness of all life and to make compassionate choices for the good of all.
Dogs for People
Dogs for People is a nonprofit where at-risk or disabled children and youths in Israel are treated while working with dogs. These patients are diagnosed by leading caregivers and healers, after which they are matched with suitable dogs and train them for agility and other nationwide and international competitions
Israel Guide Dog Center
Phone: 011-972-8-940-8213 (to call from the US)
The Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind is dedicated to improving the quality of life of visually impaired Israelis. The center provides them with mobility, independence, self-confidence and companionship through the faithful assistance of guide dogs specially trained in Hebrew.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Works with the public and private sectors to protect fish, wildlife, plants and habitats in all 50 states and U.S. territories.