'Pure Love': Middle Schooler Raises Money for Local Animal Shelter By Letting People Pet Her Dog

·3 min read

Courtesy of Jason DeCesare

Everyone always wants to pet Edith.

In fact, so many people want to pet the 4-year-old schnauzer-terrier mix on her walks that her owners—daughter Haleigh Flowers DeCesare and dad Jason DeCesare—have a running joke: "You could make $1 million if you charged everyone a dollar," DeCesare says.

That gave Haleigh an idea.

For the Warren Walkabout, a six-week-long small business and art festival on fall weekends in Warren, R.I., Haleigh decided to organize a fundraiser that would benefit a local animal shelter. She decided to open a petting booth for Edith and ask for donations.

"You see those really, really sad commercials and it kind of puts you in a sad mood. But to know that you're able to help those pets, it really feels nice," she tells Daily Paws.

Haleigh, who's 11, teamed up with her artist neighbor to make a sign for Edith's petting booth, topped by a portrait of Edith the pup herself. She set the booth up outside her dad's house.

They were only hoping to make $20 the first day. Instead, they raised about $160. "It was unbelievable," DeCesare says.

Since their October start, Edith's petting booth has brought in more than $500. "The generosity of people really came out since we've been out there," DeCesare says.

All proceeds are donated to the Potter League for Animals, Newport County's primary animal shelter. It provides everything from animal shelter and adoption to training and veterinary services, including the only full-service, nonprofit veterinary clinic in Rhode Island, Potter League CEO Brad Shear says.

He says what Haleigh's doing is special, not only because she's taken the initiative to help animals in need, but because she's bringing some cheer to the community.

Courtesy of Jason DeCesare

The shelter runs mostly off donations. Shear says the money Haleigh's raised is "fantastic for us to support the work we do," he says. With everyone going through some difficult times the past year, "this girl put a smile on a lot of people's faces. That's really making a difference."

Haleigh certainly deserves the credit, but she shares it with Edith.

"She puts a smile on everyone's faces," she says.

Haleigh and her dad adopted the pup, originally from Texas, when she was 10 months old.

Edith was being fostered nearby, but, for some reason, no one was adopting her, DeCesare says. He wasn't too interested in getting a dog at the time, but he gave the foster parent his phone number. "I told him, if no one adopts her in a week, just please call me. And so, lo and behold, he called me a week later."

Even though she was not yet a year old, the schnauzer mix looked like a much older dog, DeCesare says. They were trying to think of an old-fashioned sounding name when Edith popped into one of their heads.

"[As] soon as we thought it we're like, 'Oh my God! You know what? She is an Edith,'" he says.

To DeCesare, a dog is "pure love." Luckily, he and Haleigh have been able to share that love with their neighbors, all in the name of helping other animals in need.

"Edith is an amazing dog," Haleigh says. "Honestly, she makes you happy."