Boy gives his heart and his birthday presents to the dogs

Drake Stearns pets Chance the dog as Wood County Dog Warden Andrew Snyder watches.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

For the third year in a row, Drake Stearns’ birthday present list has included unlikely items like dog food, leashes, blankets, bowls and dog toys.

When he and his mom, Chris Stearns, dropped off the birthday presents to the Wood County Dog Shelter recently, it took several trips to deliver the loot.

There was nearly 100 pounds of dog food (including some mistakenly purchased cat food.)

“We’ll mix it in,” Wood County Dog Warden Andrew Snyder said. The dogs will never know the difference, he said.

There were 15 boxes and bags of Milk Bone treats, some Pup-peroni, some peanut butter stuffed treats, and bags of squeaky dog toys, soft blankets, and other items.

“I think the dogs deserve a birthday, too,” said Drake, who just turned 10.

Drake’s tradition of sending out birthday invitations listing dog treats for his gift ideas, seems to have caught on. A classmate of his at Elmwood, Ryken Zeigler, also dedicated his birthday gifts to the dog shelter this year.

“You’re a trendsetter,” Snyder told Drake.

Drake has his own little pet menagerie at home – with two dogs, two cats, one tortoise and one hamster. One of this dogs (Pawsy) came from the county dog shelter, the other (Puggles) from Santa.

Drake can’t exactly pinpoint what it is about dogs that he loves so much – other than “everything.”

His mom admits to being an enabler for Drake’s love of animals. An employee at Wood Haven, she happened to stop by the neighboring dog shelter one day.

“I didn’t want a dog,” Chris Stearns said. But then she saw the little dog looking longingly at her.

“She was in the very last kennel, shivering, looking up at me,” she said.

So Stearns brought Drake over to see what he thought of the dog.

“They sat down on the floor, and Drake pulled on her ears, and she just sat there,” Stearns said.

That was six years ago.

This year, as Drake dropped off his birthday stash, he got to spend some time with Chance, a newer resident at the dog shelter. It wasn’t long before Drake was covered in slobber, and Chance was making all kinds of happy dog noises.

“He’s like a squeaky door,” Drake said. “I don’t want to leave.”

Snyder presented Drake with a certificate of appreciation for making the dogs the recipients of his birthday gifts.

“What he does is very impressive, and now he’s got a following,” Snyder said. “We really appreciate all you do for us. There are going to be some happy dogs.”

Not to mention a happy boy, covered in slobber.

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