West Rowan junior volunteers at dog rescue

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 28, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Thor is a lap dog who likes to go for car rides. Apparently the 215-pound Anatolian Shepherd doesn’t realize he has a massive frame.
Houdini, a rat terrier, has a personality far bigger than his tiny body. He was named after the famous magician because of his ability to escape from his pen.
Then there’s Blitzer, a laid-back mix who rolls around on his back as his brothers and sister play around him.
Dani Burris knows the 52 canines at All Dogs Great and Small Rescue well, calling each of them by name and rattling off facts one would only know after spending hours bonding with the canines.
“They all have their own personality so that’s really fun,” she said.
Burris, a junior at West Rowan High School, has been volunteering at the rescue for about three years.
Every day after school she heads to the rescue to feed the dogs, clean their pens and give them a bit of tender loving care by simply petting them.
She also gives them any medication they need, helps repair fences as they get bent by wind and fill up holes when escape artists like Houdini try to get out.
Burris said the routine takes at least an hour and a half each afternoon, sometimes two.
She arrives at the rescue, located in western Rowan county, after completing practice for various sports including tennis, swimming and track.
And she hasn’t missed more than two days with the dogs since she started volunteering at the rescue, which is owned by Terri Welch and Harry Welch Jr. Harry Welch is Rowan County’s register of deeds.
Terri Welch said she’s happy to see a teenager get so involved.
“(Dani) does a great job,” she said. “We could not do it without our volunteers.”
Burris said her work at the rescue comes before most everything else.
“I love it,” she said. “I cancel plans with friends so that I can be here to feed the dogs.
And while most teenagers take advantage of sleeping in on the weekends, Burris is up by 8 a.m. so she can get to the rescue by 9 o’clock. She cares for the dogs twice on both Saturday and Sunday.
Most days, Burris doesn’t do it alone. Her mother, Vicki Horn, helps out.
“I could do it without her, but I wouldn’t want to,” Burris said.
Burris, the president of West Rowan’s Junior Civitans, also recruits members of the club to help her out.
“My Junior Civitan club went from 60 members to 140 this year because I’m so pushy,” she said. “I feel like everyone can volunteer, they just need a little nudge.”
Burris also solicits the help of the Junior Civitans to clean up Neel Road, which she adopted three years ago. She sells any recyclables they find along the way and uses the money to buy dog food.
“She saw a need,” Horn said of Burris’ decision to adopt the road. “If you ride up and down this road you see trash all the time.”
Horn said her daughter’s volunteerism began when she took her children to help out at Rowan Helping Ministries.
“I thought this is something my children need to see,” she said.
Burris has since taken it upon herself to adopt Neel Road and volunteer with the Special Olympics.
She also “lived on the roof” at Mario’s Diner in November to raise money for developmental disability research. That fundraiser brought in more than $2,800.
But Burris said the dog rescue is still her first love.
“Coming here is peaceful,” she said. “The dogs don’t care what I look like and they don’t talk back … I just like being around them.”
Burris said after the work is done, she enjoys just hanging out with the dogs, playing fetch or simply giving them kisses.
“They give me attention and I give them attention, I can just sit in the middle of the kennel and they all swarm around me,” she said. “They are so fun.”
The Rowan Rotary Club and Rowan County United Way recently recognized Burris for her volunteer efforts with the rescue, giving her first runner-up in the high school division of the Service Above Self youth awards. The awards are given out annually to children ages five to 18 who value service to others first.
“I was totally shocked,” she said. “I was really happy even though I don’t expect an award for doing this.
“If people need help, someone should be there to help them and if I can do it, I should.”
Find out how to volunteer, contribute or adopt from All Dogs Great and Small Rescue by visiting the website at www.helpsavedogs. com or by calling 980-234-2995.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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