Glancing down at her English bulldog, Stanley, sitting listlessly on the floor beside her, Deborah Pack let out a sigh. He looked so forlorn. “I wish we could go out there too,” she said wistfully, as she patted his head.
Born with birth defects, including a cleft lip, Stanley had been operating as an ambassador for Smile Train, which helps raise money for cleft palate surgeries for children all around the world. Deborah’s daily schedule often revolved around taking him to hospitals, schools, and events to help fight bullying and shed light on the needs of children with cleft lips — just like Stanley himself.
But when COVID-19 sent everyone into lockdown, Deborah, Stanley, and his deaf bulldog brother, Oliver, suddenly found themselves inside all day. “Even during this pandemic, there has to be a way we can help,” Deborah told Stanley. “Our usual hospital visits and events might have been canceled, but I know there’s still more we can do!”
There are so many essential workers and first responders still working on the front lines, Deborah realized as she tried to think of out-of-the-box ways she and Stanley could still make a difference during the quarantine. What can we do to show them our gratitude?
Just then, an idea struck Deborah: How about a hopeful note from Stanley? Deborah got to work on her computer creating a thank-you note — complete with a heart and a paw print — to print and pass out to essential workers all across her community. She even colored in the heart for a personalized touch from Stanley himself.
“We’ll call it ‘Paws Up!’” Deborah cheered, as she grabbed her first finished batch and Stanley’s leash. “Come on, boy — let’s get out there and show our thanks!”
Wearing a mask and taking safety precautions, Deborah took Stanley to local post offices, grocery stores, police stations, restaurants, gas stations, and hospitals, handing out the encouraging notes as a simple way of bringing hope — and smiles — to those who needed it most.
By the time they got back home, Deborah’s heart was overflowing with joy, and Stanley’s eyes sparkled with excitement. They had both finally found their purpose, once again, in spreading love.
“I know, I know,” she smiled at her pup, sitting down at her computer once more. “We have to keep this going!”
Joy is Contagious
As word of the “Paws Up!” initiative spread around the community, Deborah worked hard to ensure she could get a note to as many local essential workers as possible. But as she realized a few weeks in, coloring in all the notes on her own was an impossible challenge.
So she reached out to the Caring Hands Montessori school, which had remained open during the outbreak, and asked if the little ones there could help Stanley. Not long after, Deborah and Stanley picked up dozens of beautifully colored thank-you notes ready and waiting to hand out — much to the frontline workers’ delight.
“This made my day,” one Smithfield Police Department officer beamed as she opened Stanley’s card. “I know my other officers will love it too!” “This means so much!” said another officer excitedly, a wide smile on her face.
As more and more frontline workers shared their own gratitude for Stanley’s little gift, Deborah was shocked at how far a little gratitude could go … and how much hope and joy it could bring to her own life.
“People sometimes feel like if they have a challenge, they can’t do things,” Deborah says. “But when they see Stanley, with all his challenges, out there making a difference and teaching acceptance, it inspires them. We just wanted to show our thanks and bring encouragement to our local essential workers. Even though we aren’t on the front lines with them, we are definitely there beside them in prayer, support, and love. It doesn’t matter if you have four legs or two: We all can do our part to make a difference!”
3 Easy Ways to Support Your Local First Responders
Deliver a home-cooked meal.
Visit GrabAndGoRecipes to browse delicious meals that are easy for first responders to eat on the go. Prefer baking? Drop off cookies or treats in individual baggies that can be enjoyed on the job.
“Pens, pads of paper, small flashlights, and AA batteries come in handy for our officers,” says administrative head of Kansas police Dora Furlong. Other quick, handy goodies? Snack bars, 5-hour energy drinks and hand sanitizer.
Write a note.
Pick up a pack of thank-you cards from the dollar store and write notes starting Dear Hero to your local first responders. Many police stations have bulletin boards to post messages of support, so mail your note to lift their spirits!
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.