Nov. 27, 2003 – The spirit of Thanksgiving, especially the part about "giving," was illustrated by the students of Leonard Dober Elementary School on Wednesday when they gathered on the school's play yard in the morning sun to make some cuddly new friends and donate a feast of pet food to the island's less fortunate furry citizens. Thanksgiving, it seems, is not just for humans.
The students had spent the last two weeks getting ready for the event, gathering hundreds of pounds of cat and dog food, scores of towels and, of course, lots of love, all of which they donated to the animals who'll spend this year's holiday in the shelter at the Humane Society of St. Thomas.
According to Dober's principal, Elise Warner, the idea for the pet supplies campaign came from the school's student council when it met several weeks ago to decide upon this year's service project.
"For the last two years, the students have worked on beautifying the school grounds, but this year they wanted to do something different," Warner said. Doing something for the Humane Society seemed like a natural choice, as most of the kids have pets themselves.
Student Council President Hosea Ottley, a sixth-grader, used economics to explain the council's decision: "The Humane Society isn't like the government," he said. "They have to make their own money. So, we decided to have this food and supply drive to help them out."
The council's vice president, Laquesha Charleswell, and secretary, Gemelia White, agreed wholeheartedly with Hosea before the three rushed off to meet Pixie, a rescued Chihuahua who attended the event with her owner and Humane Society board member, Darr Conradson.
Conradson and Pixie are regular visitors to the island's school yards, where they deliver spirited lessons in the hardships of life for the territory's abandoned animals and teach the kids about how to care for their own pets properly.
After Conradson and Pixie's presentation, the student body was treated to a pet-and-cuddle session with a half-dozen of the society's rescued animals.
Squeals of curious delight and eager shouts of "Let me hold him!" — peppered with the occasional, well-intentioned woofs and meows — were the order of the day.
The students' enthusiasm was contagious, and it wasn't long before the whole school, teachers and staff included, had gathered in circles around the overwhelmed but still-happy kittens and puppies, everybody eager for a chance to hold one of the rescued pets.
"It's good to have the elementary students doing this kind of work," Warner said, taking a break from the pet-powered melee. "This is their community, and this is the age when they have to start learning about sharing, about giving back to that community."
The Dober "Bulldogs," as they call themselves in honor of the school's mascot, will continue collecting food and supplies for their new friends at the Humane Society throughout the school year. If you want to join them in their efforts, you can find out how at the Humane Society Web site, or call 775-4455.
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