It must be puppy love: Rushmore girl raises money for humane society

RUSHMORE -- Every time Layne Kuhl visits the Sioux Falls, S.D., Area Humane Society, she wants to take a dog -- or two or three or four, and perhaps a kitten or two, too -- home with her.

Layne Kuhl, 11, sits with her family's two dogs, Lily and Charlie, on the front deck of their Rushmore home.(Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)

RUSHMORE -- Every time Layne Kuhl visits the Sioux Falls, S.D., Area Humane Society, she wants to take a dog -- or two or three or four, and perhaps a kitten or two, too -- home with her.

But with two dogs already inhabiting their Rushmore home, mom and dad Melanie and Kris Kuhl have firmly said no. They just don't have the room, time and resources to provide for another pet.

"You just always hope they go to a good home," said Melanie, admitting that she also has a soft spot for the abandoned animals. "If we had the space for them, I know we'd take more home."

The Kuhls have gotten into the habit of visiting the shelter once a month or so, and Layne, 11, and her younger brother, Levi, 8, walk the dogs and play with the other animals. But Layne wanted to do more to help, so she began brainstorming other ways to help, specifically by raising funds.

"Last year, we had a garage sale, and I sold some cookies and stuff and made $80," reported Layne.


This year, Layne expanded her efforts by selling Schwan's products. Customers can buy the same items they normally would for the same price, but a portion of the proceeds get donated to a good cause. She also expanded the cookie-baking effort.

"I baked 100 cookies and got $100 for that," Layne said.

"Our postmistress was retiring and wanted cookies for her retirement party, so Layne made them," further explained Melanie, a teacher at Prairie Elementary in Worthington. "And then a teacher from school was going on a trip and didn't have time to make any, so Layne did that, too."

Her parents donated the ingredients for the cookies, allowing Layne to fully profit from the endeavor.

"We've made chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies, but we'll make any kind," Layne said.

According to her mother, Layne has become quite proficient at making cookies, and Melanie -- who claims not to be a good baker herself -- gladly lets her tackle those duties. A few of the treats are usually designated as taste-testers for the family.

People who order the cookies generally write out a check directly to the humane society so they can take advantage of the tax deduction.

When their town celebrated its Rushmore Days last month, Layne saw it as another opportunity to raise funds and disperse information about the humane society and put together an entry for the parade.


"She handed out a pamphlet and a wish list of what people can donate if they don't want to donate money," said Melanie. "When we said we'd like to go through the parade, (the humane society staffers) gave us pamphlets and banners to use. They're just in such need."

Layne recently delivered her amassed donations -- $328, more than four times what she collected last year -- to the animal shelter. While there, of course, the Kuhls took time to visit with the animals.

"There are lots of dogs and lots of cats," described Layne. "They've also got snakes, rabbits, guinea pigs."

"So many are strays, or people don't realize how much work it is to care for a pet," lamented Melanie.

"They're in bigger kennels, like in bigger rooms," said Layne about the dogs' quarters. "If you walk in, they all start barking."

"If you're carrying a leash, they think they might get picked to go for a walk," added Melanie.

Layne and Levi have to get mom's approval before they pick out a dog to exercise, and even then Melanie usually takes the first turn with the leash.

"It has to be kid-friendly," explained Layne. "They have a card on their gate saying the age the dog would be good for."


"They also have a sign saying the last time a dog has been walked, so we try to pick one that hasn't been walked for a while," said Melanie, adding, "I think they'll purposefully pick a big one so they can watch me get dragged around first. It's entertaining for them."

It's always difficult for the Kuhls to leave the humane society empty-handed, but waiting at home are 13-year-old poodle, Charlie, and Lily, a 1½ -year-old Yorkie. Charlie was Kris and Melanie's "first kid," acquired when they were newlyweds, but Lily is a more recent addition, one that was inspired by their visits to the shelter. They first spotted another Yorkie named Lily at the Sioux Falls facility, but she was on medical hold and couldn't be adopted until she was deemed healthy.

"We called to check on her every day," explained Layne. "But so many other people did that, too, so we didn't get her."

But the Kuhls were able to locate another similar dog and brought her home.

"The kids were set on naming her Lily because that was the name of the one at the humane society," said Melanie. "Lily keeps Charlie young. He was just another old dog sitting around, and he's sparked up, just having to keep up with her."

Visiting, volunteering and raising the money for the society has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for the Kuhls. Layne compiled all the information about her fundraising effort into a booklet for her 4-H citizenship project, an entry in this week's Nobles County Fair.

"I've learned that so many puppies, all these puppies and kittens and birds, all need a nice home," said Layne.

"It's just been a good life lesson," Melanie said. "It's a good community service project. We're such a society of takers, and it's teaching kids to give rather than take."


Layne plans to continue baking cookies and her other fundraising efforts, but she's also starting to think about how she can promote the humane society even more next year. One idea they are considering is a walk around Lake Okabena -- for both people and pets.

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