Speaking for the Dogs
Animal Activist and Artist at 16
›› Although the under-20 set is often criticized as too self-involved, they are actually part of a generation that cares deeply about its community and isn’t afraid to take action. Annie Blumenfeld, a junior at Fairfield Warde High School, is a very determined young activist who exemplifies this. Three years ago, after losing a dog to old age, the Blumenfeld family sought to adopt another. They wanted what every family wants–a sweet, loving and healthy pup who needed a home as much as they wanted him. They also had a penchant for shaggy dogs and it was fate when they discovered online Kathy Wetmore of Houston Shaggy Dog Rescue who found them their ideal match—Teddy—except for one thing. The otter hound/bearded collie mix pup was suffering from heartworm, and though he would recover he would need medication for 30 days and follow-up treatment. The Blumenfelds loved him already and committed to adopting him despite the illness. Even though he made a complete recovery, Annie was vexed both by the severity of heartworm disease and the apparent lack of prevention, and she was compelled to take action to raise awareness. “It is incredible to think that this condition can be avoided by giving a simple monthly preventative,” explains Annie. “Teddy is such an incredible dog and he made me aware of all the other innocent animals that are at high risk.”
Not only would widespread heartworm medication use prevent illness and deaths, it would also facilitate more successful adoptions since so many people will turn down a dog that has heartworm. Out of her unwavering concern and considerable smarts, Annie created Wags 4 Hope, a non-profit devoted to raising awareness and giving funds for medication and other animal supplies to shelters in need. So far, she has raised over $20,000. Kathy Wetmore of Shaggy Dog Rescue was really impressed with this young woman with a mission, and helped get her started with information and contacts. “I think she is doing an amazing job of educating the general public and if it prevents just one dog from being infected she has done a wonderful thing,” says Wetmore.
Now this remarkable Fairfield teenager is the head of her own organization, and in this role she has connected with pet-related organizations around the world. But here in her hometown she’s received special recognition, beginning with the First Selectman’s Office who held a formal ceremony to thank Annie for her dedication to the cause, and with the support of State Representative Tony Hwang. Together Hwang and Annie are supporting HB-5422, An Act Concerning Awareness of Heartworm Disease and the Standard Dog licensing form, which they hope will be passed by the State legislature. This would require every standard Connecticut dog licensing form to carry a check box for heartworm prevention, just offering another layer of awareness.
For April’s National Heartworm Disease Awareness month, Annie created and designed an educational flyer, which she disseminated through animal welfare organizations, companies and universities in the United States, as well as parts of the UK, Australia, and West Africa. She also wrote an article for the New York Daily News and has been featured in several magazines including Dog Fancy. Recently, renowned dog trainer Cesar Milan named Annie among its “heroes making a difference in the world for animals.” But if you think Annie is only an activist, you’ve got that wrong. She is also an accomplished artist, and ever resourceful, she accepts commissions for pet portraits and donates the proceeds back to Wags 4 Hope as well as other dog rescue organizations. “I am very excited because I just got to write a big check to Shaggy Dog Rescue,” Annie beams. Her website wags4hope.org and her Facebook page Wags4Hope showcase some of her whimsical oil paintings.
Also in the pipeline is a collaboration with a small Boston-area publishing company to create a board game about rescuing dogs. She researched and pursued the idea without any guidance. “I found the company and then made a proposal,” explains Annie. If all goes well, it will be available by holiday time at the Martha Stewart Marketplace online.
College is fast approaching, and Annie plans to study business and politics. “I would like to work in product development and marketing, and maybe start my own animal-related company one day.” No doubt, she will achieve those goals and much more.