Family turns dejection into donations

schandler@newsobserver.comDecember 26, 2013 

When Wendell Middle School eighth-grader Michaela Shirley and her mom, Alyse Shirley, went to the Wake County Animal Center recently to adopt a dog a friend had told them about, they got some disappointing news.

The dog they had come for was reclaimed by its owner, so they had to leave empty-handed that day.

But then they came back – bearing armloads of beds, food and toys for animals that were waiting for adoption and could use a little love.

“My daughter was crying, I was crying, there was such a need there and we just felt compelled to try to do what we could,” said Alyse Shirley.

When they asked the center’s staff what they could do to help, they were told their cats were in the most need. So “we just went on a mission to find all the cat stuff in Wake County,” Alyse Shirley said with a chuckle.

In addition to food, they bought cat beds, treats, toys and blankets to donate.

“It was fun” to go shopping for the felines, said Michaela. And it also went a long way toward making her feel better about the dog they missed out on.

“It made me a lot happier that (the cats) would be protected and comfortable in the shelter,” she said.

It’s not just the cats that ended up feeling happier; last week, Michaela and her mother were back at the Animal Center again, this time for a successful adoption.

They added an adult black Lab named Ike to their family – which already includes three other rescued dogs and two cats. So far, they reported, he’s fitting in just fine.

“He’s a really sweet dog. He’s really fun to be around,” Michaela said. “He’s shy right now, but I really like him so far.”

While this adoption was driven by a family tradition of doing “something special at Christmas to give back,” Alyse Shirley said, being a friend to animals is a year-round mission, especially for Michaela, who said she has wanted to be a veterinarian since she was 4.

“I’ve always had a thing for animals, and I would pretty much do anything to help an animal,” she said.

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