Saving Animal Lives One Birthday at a Time

9-year-old Olive’s animal welfare advocacy began with one little dog named Julia.

Olive + Julia

Julia the dog found a family, and inspired her two-legged sister Olive to start a movement: dedicating her birthday to raising funds for The Animal Foundation.

"At an age when most kids are begging for everything they see on TV, she chose to forego all gifts to help animals in need."

When we walked into The Animal Foundation in Las Vegas in 2013, we had no idea our lives were about to be transformed. My daughter, Olive, was four at the time, and she fell in love with a beautiful long-haired Chihuahua. As soon as Olive scooped her up, we knew she was ours.

Julia the dog

We named our dog Julia because she was our little jewel. In the days that followed, Olive couldn’t stop talking about the other animals in the shelter. She went on and on about how she wished she could give all those poor doggies and kitties a home (we’ve since adopted two more rescue dogs). Her fifth birthday was fast approaching, and she asked if we could do something special for the animals on her special day. We said we’d ask the people coming to her party if they could make donations to The Animal Shelter, but she had a better idea. She wanted us to ask everyone to spend nothing on her and to give their money to the shelter instead. At an age when most kids are begging for everything they see on TV, she chose to forego all gifts to help animals in need. Her generosity brought me to tears and filled my heart with pride.

Julia the dog

Each year since then, Olive has made her birthday a fundraiser for The Animal Shelter, sacrificing her presents to support the shelter. She turned nine this past May, marking half a decade of selfless devotion to animals. Her parties get bigger every year, and she raises more money and secures more in-kind donations. Last year she raised $2,232 and a trailer full of much-needed items for pets. Her parties are famous among our friends and family, and many people begin saving items for the animals months in advance.

Birthday card

Our friends and family aren’t the only ones taking notice of Olive’s generosity. This April, Olive received the Channel 8 News “Random Acts of Kindness” award, which included an $800 cash prize. For half a heartbeat, I wondered if she’d ask to go on a shopping spree to make up for all the birthday presents that she hadn’t received over the past five years, but true to form, she donated the entire prize to The Animal Foundation. I never should have doubted her.

Julia the dog

It’s easy to become jaded as an adult, to think that the world’s problems are for other people to solve, but Olive has inspired new hope. She has motivated hundreds of people in Las Vegas to join together to end the suffering of animals, and she has shown me how philanthropy can transform a community. And as if that’s not enough, when she turns ten, she wants to volunteer her time at a local mission that provides meals for the homeless. Her compassion seems limitless.

My daughter is a naturally generous person, but I doubt we’d be writing this letter if we hadn’t found Julia. That little doggie inspired the girl who inspired a community.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Beth won The Animal Foundation in Nevada a 2018 Holiday Wishes award.

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