Birthday with a purpose: 11-year-old uses her special day to shine spotlight on animals’ needs

Published 6:56 am Friday, October 19, 2018

Natalie Spencer says she gives back to the local spay/neuter clinic and animal shelter for a  simple reason: Because they need it.

Natalie turned 11 recently. When she and her parents, Lori and Keith Spencer, began party-planning, Natalie decided she didn’t want new stuff for herself.

Instead, she asked her friends to bring donations for Happy Paws, a low-cost clinic providing spaying and neutering services, which is always in need of help with funding and supplies. She and her big sis, Isabella, 14, alternate Thursdays volunteering at the clinic, so they see first-hand what the real needs are.

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“My friends brought paper towels, collars, toys, food …” Natalie says, seated on the arm of her mom’s chair. She says she really didn’t even miss getting any presents for herself.

“They don’t have as much as he does,” Natalie says, pointing to one of the family’s dogs, Boo —

Photo contributed
Natalie stands outside of Happy Paws with bags of goodies for donation to the clinic.

a Mutts with Manners graduate, a program where volunteers work to assign shelter dogs to prisoners at Northpoint Training Facility for socialization and training. Mom Lori says it was incredible how well-trained he was; she says, “He even came with a journal …”

Natalie says dogs are very lovable, and Boo and their other dog, Gia, are both from the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society. When asked why they are so important to her, she looks sideways at her mom for help.

“What do they do when you’re in one of your moods?” Lori asks her.

“They still love me,” Natalie says, a huge smile spreading across her face. She takes a little prodding to get answers out of, and is a bit shy and timid when talking about why she asked for donations instead of presents.

Later, Lori explains, “She’s always been a kid who just likes to do nice things … I realized today (after our interview), that she never really thought of it as something unique to do.”

But Natalie says it did make her really happy and proud to bring all of the supplies out to the clinic. “Anyone thinking about donating their time or supplies, they should do it, because they need it. They probably need the stuff a lot more than we would,” she says.

She also helped by gathering some of the shelter dogs to join SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church for its animal blessing recently.

Mom Lori also attributes her girls’ love of and comfort with animals to their neighbor, Cathy Jerome, who is like part of their family. She says when Isabella was about 7, she put fliers in all the neighbors’ mailboxes saying she’d “walk dogs as far as they wanted for a quarter. Best deal in town!”

Miss Cathy, as the girls call her, let them walk her dog Freckles.

“For eight years, I have volunteered most every weekend for DBCHS at the PetSmart store in Brannon Crossing, trying to find homes for puppies and dogs,” Miss Cathy says. She also fosters cats and kittens for Hal’s Haven Inc., a non-profit animal rescue in Danville.

Lori says Miss Cathy recruited her daughters to help socialize the many kittens that have passed through her home.

Natalie says if anyone ever asks her why to adopt from a shelter, she says, “Because they need to be taken care of. And they bring a bunch of joy to your life.”

Bobbie Curd Lori Spencer, from left, sits with daughters Isabella and Natalie, and one of their dogs, Boo. Isabella began a pet-sitting service a while back, and Natalie is following in her footsteps as an animal-lover.

Lori points to Gia, and says, “That crazy girl there, we hadn’t even planned to adopt.”

Both of their shelter dogs have made Natalie think more about animals, and just how much they need humans. And how much she needs them.

“They’re always there, and if they’re not, and you call them — they’ll come,” she says.

Natalie says one morning this week, they were about to set off for school. “Gia sat at the door and whined and whined and whined. Mom finally gave in and let her ride to school with us.”

Natalie says animals also teach you patience and responsibility. She and her sister get up in the morning to feed both dogs and take them out for walks.

“And for families with little kids, shelter dogs are good for them, too. It’s never too early to start responsibility, and that will help you,” Natalie says.

Lori reminds Natalie about what good companions the dogs have been to her, too. Natalie throws her head back, giggling when she recalls “a phase” she went through.

“I used to bring them both up to my room, I called it school. I had tiny books I read to them, and they sat and listened,” Natalie says, still giggling.

Lori jokes and points to Boo. “This one got better grades than the other.”

“I plan on volunteering for the clinic for as long as they need us,” Natalie says.

Lori says she and husband Keith are “hoping she’ll go to Auburn for veterinarian school. We’ve kind of put the bug in her ear.”

Celebrate the month

Fizzy Ramsey, president of the DBCHS board, says it’s lucky to be supported by such generous youth. “We can learn a lot from these kiddos. They’re crafty in their fundraising endeavors and giving of their time and talents. Numerous small acts like these make big differences to our organization.”

And another big difference has been made this month in the form of support from Caldwell Banker VIP Realty, which Fizzy says made some discounted rates possible in celebration of National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. “We’re beyond thankful for the support, and we hope to do this on an annual basis to celebrate the joy in adopting love.”

During the month of October adult dogs may be adopted at the humane society for $50, and puppies for $65. These fees include spay/neuter services, the first round of shots and de-worming, as well. Discounts do not apply to dogs adopted at PetSmart.

Regular adoption fees as of Nov. 1 will be $125 for puppies; $100 for dogs 6-months and older; and $75 for cats and kittens. The shelter will also be microchippping all animals up for adoption in the very near future, a benefit to both animals and the pet owners.

“October is a great time to celebrate a giving community who chooses to adopt love, volunteer their time and resources, all for the love of dogs,” Fizzy says.

Bobbie Curd
Natalie Spencer tries to hold Gia, left, and Boo still for a picture.


If you want to give to the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society or Happy Paws Spay/Neuter Clinic, call (859) 238-1117; email; or visit