Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone;
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.
Young children hear nursery rhymes growing up on numerous shows and in books that span generations, the tale of “Old Mother Hubbard” included.
Although her dog did not fare so well in the rest of the poem, one local boy gave up what many would not to make sure that Huntsville’s cupboards were full for at least a day.
Mason Smith, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at New Waverly Middle School, asked his family and friends to give him rather odd gifts for his birthday: dog food, cat food, treats and a few bucks to donate to the Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter in Huntsville.
So, why would a 10-year-old want to give up gifts on his birthday?
“It was just Christmas and I had all these presents,” Mason said matter-of-factly. “I didn’t know why I needed more so I decided to just donate.”
He received the donations Saturday at his birthday party. On Tuesday he delivered the goods and money to the shelter.
Mason, whose birthday was Monday, opened the Rita B. Huff doors with dog and cat food bags tossed over his shoulder, set them down and made a trip back to his grandmother’s truck for the second load: dog treats and more food.
“(I wanted to donate) just to help the animals that needed the food and care,” he said. “They’re cool and loving.”
According to Marjolein Lemmon, executive director of the Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter who has been there 28 years, Mason’s donation will make a small dent in the shelter’s overall need; it was the gesture that was more special.
“It’s been done before by adults but this is the first time a child decided to give his birthday money to the shelter,” Lemmon said. “We have a fund set up where we do half-price adoptions for people that can’t afford it. We’ll put (Mason’s) money in that fund to make it easier for some people to be able to adopt animals.”
That’s what Mason wants, too.
“I hope people decide that they want a pet from the money that I donated, and for the dogs so that they don’t have to buy more dog food,” he said.
Lemmon said the donation, which was around $200, will help roughly four animals find a permanent home through the adoption program. The food could help sustain the needs of the shelter for about a day as well. Lemmon said they use about 10 pounds of cat food and 50 pounds of dog food per day.
She gave Mason a certificate and a belated birthday card as a “thank you” for his donations.
Mason’s family is familiar with shelters and rescue animals. They’re animal lovers with dozens of horses, chickens, seven dogs and four cats, according to Mason and his mother Melissa.
“We have a soft spot for dogs and cats,” she said mentioning one of their newest dogs: a pit bull named Rosie. “On Thanksgiving we found a dog by the side of the road that had a broken leg. We spent a small fortune on him.”
She said most of the dogs that she and her husband Dean have were rescued, which is part of the reason she isn’t surprised at Mason’s decision.
“He has a soft spot for rescue animals,” she said. “I think it’s an amazing thing, a sacrifice like this.”
Part of Mason’s compassion for animals stems from his involvement with rodeo competitions. In 2012 at 9 years old, he was named the National Little Britches Rodeo Association’s Pole Bending and Flag Racing National Champion, Goat Tail Untying Reserve World Champion and the Little Wrangler Finals All-Around and World All-Around Champion.
But he humbly won’t tell you any of that – just that he likes the rodeo and “rides horses and ropes cattle.”
Mason came up with birthday idea all on his own, Melissa said.
“We were throwing around what he might want for his birthday,” she said. “Mason got a little more than he needed for Christmas and that’s what he came up with (by himself). We wrote on the (birthday party) invitation, ‘No gifts. We are donating to a local animal shelter.’”
They weren’t sure which shelter to donate to until his grandmother Kathy Beauchamp, also of New Waverly, helped come up with the Huntsville shelter.
Beauchamp adopted her 75-pound Catahoula Cur, Katie, from the shelter last year after Gomer, her other dog, died.
“My husband kept saying, ‘Oh we’re just looking. We’re not getting one today,’” said Beauchamp, who accompanied Mason to the shelter.
“We did this three times and I said, ‘Let me get her out and see how she is with kids.’ We let her out and made our rounds again. When I got back around the corner, she was in this box full of puppies. When she saw me walk up, she popped her head up, got out of that box and came straight over to that gate (and started pawing at me). I was like, ‘Get her out of there. I’m taking her home.’”
She hopes Mason’s story will prompt further donations from both children and adults. Lemmon agrees.
“(It is a) pretty neat idea,” Lemmon said. “Maybe some will follow. Every bit helps.”
After dropping off the donations, Mason toured the shelter’s dog cages. He also played fetch with Rocky, a dog owned by a shelter volunteer, and walked Rambo the Great Dane — who nearly matched Mason’s height — around the facilities.
Those interested in donating to the Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter, or other shelters, should call ahead.
“We get inundated with one certain thing,” she said. “That way we can tell them something we might be needing at the time, whether that be paper towels, cat litter, dog food, cat food, cleaning supplies.”
For more information on the Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter, call the staff at (936) 295-4666, or visit the website at www.ritabhuff.org.
Student, 10, gives up birthday presents to help shelter
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