Darius’ bow ties help pets find fur- ever homes
Twelve-year-old Darius Brown has always loved bow ties… so much so that he learned how to sew them for family and friends. And then, Darius got the idea to spiff up a few furry pals at the local animal shelter with his colorful handmade accessories, and an amazing thing happened: More pets were adopted. Now, he’s made hundreds of bow ties with the mission to help dogs and cats find fur- ever homes!
“Can I help?” 8-year-old Darius Brown asked his older sister, Dazhai, as she worked at the family sewing machine. Wanting to make some spending money, Dazhai, a Newark, New Jersey, high school student, had started making and selling hair bows to sell to friends and neighbors.
Dazhai was grateful for the help. And their mom, Joy, especially loved the idea. When Darius was two years old, he’d been diagnosed with delayed speech, comprehension and fine motor skills. Joy read to Darius every night, and she enrolled him in a weekend performing arts class where he sang to help his enunciation and danced to improve his movement skills. But he still had difficulty using his hands. Measuring and cutting fabric will be a great way for Darius to strengthen his fine motor skills, Joy realized.
And she was right. He quickly became an expert assistant. Then, one afternoon, as he admired one of his sister’s creations, Darius noticed something interesting.
“This would make a great bow tie,” he said, holding the bow at his neck. Darius has always adored bow ties and wore them with almost every outfit.
Thrilled, Darius begged Dazhai to teach him to use the sewing machine so he could make his very own bow ties. He was a quick study and soon had a collection of colorful neckwear. “These are great— can you make me one?” family and friends
raved. So Darius happily spent his free time filling orders.
There was just one other thing he enjoyed doing as much: going with his big sister to the local animal shelter to play with the pups. One afternoon, in September 2017, he noticed the shelter was more crowded than usual. Workers explained they’d been flooded with displaced animals from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
“What if they can’t all find homes?” Darius fretted and a shelter worker gently explained that sadly, some would be euthanized. Darius’ heart broke. That can’t happen! he thought fiercely. And suddenly, an idea popped into his head.
“I’m going to make bow ties for the dogs to wear on their collars!” he excitedly told his mom. “They will help them stand out and look more friendly and adoptable.”
Dressed to impress
As soon as he got home from the shelter, Darius got to work making a special batch of bow ties in all kinds of colorful patterns and sporting a small clip attached to the back that could easily hook onto a dog collar.
When he and his sister returned to the shelter, the workers were overjoyed and eagerly attached the ties to dogs’ collars.
“You look ready for the runway,” Darius told one collie mix as she was glammed up in a sparkly bow tie.
“You look so cool,” he grinned to a bulldog festooned in a tie-dyed bow tie.
Senior dogs looked more distinguished as they sat proudly displaying their stylish
neckwear. Puppies rolled and playfully batted at their ties.
“Look how cute!” Darius heard families cooing, and his heart soared. These pups are going to a new home today, he thought proudly. And sure enough, he watched more dogs than ever trot out of the shelter with loving moms and dads.
Labor of love
Inspired, Darius began donating his bow ties to other area shelters, and the workers reported the same instant rise in adoptions. “It’s amazing what a little pop of color will do,” says Mody Shehab, Development Manager at Mount Pleasant Animal Shelter in East Hanover, New Jersey. “The last time Darius visited, he decked out an Anatolian shepherd, named Amber. She was our longest resident of over two years, but right after she started wearing her bow tie, she was adopted!” So far, Darius has sewn nearly 300 bow ties for shelter dogs and cats. He’s also started a Beauxandpaws Facebook page and company to create custom matching bow ties for people and their pets. He uses the money from sales to buy supplies—though he also receives many generous donations. Darius’ profits also fund travels to other states so he can spiff up even more adoptable dogs and cats. “As soon as I give them a bow tie, boom! Adopted!” Darius beams proudly.
Darius, now 12 years old and an honor student, has a single, simple goal. “I want all dogs and cats to find loving homes… wouldn’t that be great?” he smiles.
Many people think Darius is pretty great himself, starting with his mom and big sister. “He motivates and inspires us,” they share, breaking into proud grins. Even former President Barack Obama sent Darius a letter congratulating him on his work.
But for Darius, helping animals isn’t work at all: It’s a labor of love.
“If you have a passion for something you do and can do good and help others by doing it, go for it!” he encourages. “It’s the best feeling in the world!”
“I want all dogs and cats to find loving homes…wouldn’t that be great?” cheers Darius