The an­i­mal gifter

Girl swaps birth­day presents for shel­ter do­na­tions

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— Most 7-year-olds get toys for their birth­day. Tessa Pao­letti got cat food, and she couldn’t be hap­pier.

That’s be­cause in­stead of presents, the Elk­ton first-

CH­E­SA­PEAKE CITY

grader asked peo­ple to give her do­na­tions for the Ce­cil County An­i­mal Ser­vices shel­ter. The sim­ple gesture re­sulted in her re­ceiv­ing roughly 500 pounds of dog food, 100 pounds of cat food and lots of treats and pet beds, all of which amounted to one of the big­gest do­na­tions from an in­di­vid­ual that shel­ter em­ploy­ees can re­call.

“That’s re­ally gen­er­ous

com­ing from a child,” said Kay­lyn Barnes, shel­ter su­per­vi­sor. “It’s amaz­ing for some­one so young to do some­thing so great.”

Tessa is no stranger to the an­i­mal shel­ter though — or to an­i­mals. She fre­quently comes to the shel­ter with her par­ents, Nick and Amanda, to play with the dogs and cats, and the fam­ily is cur­rently fos­ter­ing a mother cat and two kit­tens. Those three are in ad­di­tion to the two Ber­nese moun­tain dogs, a rat ter­rier, a chi­huahua and two snakes they al­ready have at home.

So, with Tessa’s birth­day com­ing up, her par­ents asked her whether she wanted more toys or whether she wanted do­na­tions for the an­i­mal shel­ter. Both ad­mit to be­ing sur­prised — but proud — when she chose the later.

“We’re re­ally proud of her,” Nick said. “Not a lot of kids would think of the an­i­mals, only them­selves, but she’s very un­selfish.”

For Tessa though, the mo­ti­va­tion to ask for do­na­tions in­stead of toys was sim­ple.

“The an­i­mals don’t have homes, and I want to help them,” said Tessa, who wants to be a vet­eri­nar­ian when she grows up.

And shel­ter em­ploy­ees are grate­ful for the do­na­tion. The shel­ter cur­rently has 200 an­i­mals, over 130 of which are cats and kit­tens, and de­pends on do­na­tions from the com­mu­nity to help fill in the gaps in its bud­get, said Sarah Bensinger, a vet tech at the shel­ter.

“With­out (the com­mu­nity), we wouldn’t be where we are,” she said. Tessa Pao­letti poses with a cat at the Ce­cil County An­i­mal Ser­vices shel­ter.

Any­one wish­ing to fol­low Tessa’s ex­am­ple and make a do­na­tion, can stop by the shel­ter, which is lo­cated at 3280 Au­gus­tine Her­man High­way near Ch­e­sa­peake City. The shel­ter is open six days a week (closed Mon­day) with var­i­ous times each day, but some­one is al­ways there from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The shel­ter also has a wish­list on Ama­zon and also lists re­quested items on its Face­book page.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JES­SICA IANNETTA

Tessa Pao­letti plays with a cat at the Ce­cil County An­i­mal Ser­vices shel­ter. In­stead of birth­day gifts, Pao­letti asked for do­na­tions for the shel­ter.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF AMANDA PAO­LETTI

Tessa Pao­letti poses with the do­na­tions of dog and cat food she de­liv­ered to the county an­i­mal shel­ter this week.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JES­SICA IANNETTA

Tessa Pao­letti plays with two cats at the Ce­cil County An­i­mal Ser­vices shel­ter.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JES­SICA IANNETTA

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