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Keeping the shelter dogs warm at night

Girl Scouts donate 100 blankets and towels for local animal shelters.

Posted: April 1, 2008 6:00 p.m.
Updated: June 2, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Standing next to dog cages at the Castaic Animal Shelter, the group of Girl Scouts was about to realize the impact they had made by collecting blankets and towels from the community.

After a tour of the shelter, the 12 girls from Troop 512 met with a couple of puppies getting comfortable on the big bundle of donated blankets.

The hope was that the linens placed inside the cages of the Castaic shelter would prevent the dogs from sleeping on the cold, hard cement floors every night.

The donations were part of a community project initiated by Eileen Smulson, founder of Operation Blankets of Love.

In January Smulson established her blanket and towel drive, and since then has collected 5,000 of the linens to donate to Los Angeles County shelters and various animal rescue groups.

"I saw a need and wanted to make a difference," Smulson said at the shelter. Smulson recently began giving presentations to schools and local organizations interested in teaming up with her for her community project.

Not too long ago, a Girl Scouts parent, Jane Carson, heard about Smulson's project and decided it could be a way for the troop to earn a community service badge.

From there, Smulson met with the troops and the project began.

After a couple of weeks of collecting blankets and towels from donation boxes placed at local pet stores, Troop 512, made up of 12- and 13-year-olds from Placerita Junior High School in Newhall, became the first Girl Scouts troop to participate in Operation Blankets of Love.

The girls made their first donation of nearly 100 linens to the shelter on Tuesday, where they were greeted by Jesse Larios, an animal control officer, who led the girls and parents on a tour of the shelter.

Larios also answered questions from the youngsters, ranging from the importance of microchipping pets to how to properly take care of an animal.

The next stop was meeting a bunch of the dogs staying at the shelter.

Larios told the girls that the blankets will not only keep the animals warm, but will also remind the puppies of home.

"It helps them adjust," he said, as excited dogs jumped and barked from their cages in the background.

The project, which was described as a "kickoff" as the troop is continuing its collection efforts, was able to teach the girls about volunteering.

"They learned how to organize and plan things," said Tracy Bruckner, troop leader. By organizing a project from start to finish, the girls learned what it takes to execute a plan.

Smulson, a Granada Hills resident, sees the community service as a way to expose the youngsters to volunteering at an early age, so they can continue their efforts as they get older.

She also added that volunteering "makes them feel good."

McKenna Carson, 12, was one of the Girl Scouts getting acquainted with the dogs at the shelter.

Although Carson, who has two dogs, said it felt "really good" to help out, she still feels bad for the dogs.

"I get sad because all the dogs don't have a home," said Carson, a Saugus resident, referring to the dozen or so caged dogs at the shelter.

The donations have already been put to use. Sgt. Carlos Pineda of the Castaic shelter said Thursday the blankets have "made a difference" especially with the recent drop in overnight temperatures.

Although the animals are unable to go in the outdoor area of the shelter at night, Pineda said the blankets will prevent the dogs from sleeping on the cold cement.

Along with keeping blankets in the cages, Pineda said the linens will be used to keep injured or sick dogs warm.

The shelter has seen donations before, but Pineda said that this was his first encounter with the high number of blankets and towels.

Because the linens are not always included on regular supply lists, Pineda said the shelter depends on the community for help.

"They do make a difference, big time," he said.

To find out more about Operation Blankets of Love, contact Eileen Smulson at


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