There was a stampede for snacks at Window Tree Preschool in Farmington on Thursday morning – and it wasn’t a group of hungry preschoolers.
Fifteen students at the preschool raised more than $300 along with a collection of pet toys and other essentials for Speak St. Louis. Judy Duhr with the not-for-profit shelter was on hand Thursday morning to accept the donation.
Duhr was noticeably emotional as she looked over the donations displayed at the school – noting a donation of this type is not typical for the shelter, which has been in operation for around a year and a half.
“Our dogs are all the dogs other rescues do not want because they are special needs,” she said. “We take on high-dollar, expensive surgeries…our medical expenses are crazy,” she said.
Terry Harvey, co-director at Window Tree, knows first-hand the work of the shelter. Her dog, Bonnie, is one of those rescues.
“I became acquainted with the organization through Bonnie,” she said. “Then, when Judy came out to visit my home…we talked and I watched her—how she was with the dogs—and that got me interested in the organization.”
Harvey noticed there was not a lot of talk about donations for the shelter, something she said bothered her and led her to lead the students in making a difference for the animals.
Harvey, along with co-director Tammy Moriarty and teacher Gina Contagi, guided their students in making fleece blankets for the animals, creating bandanas with fabric squares and baking dog treats to give as well.
Duhr said the shelter is run by volunteers and rely on donations.
“We take dogs from all over the country and all of (the volunteers) have rescue experience and have been doing rescue for a long time,” she said. She noted the shelter focuses on “quality” of care, rather than the “quantity” of animals brought in.
“A huge part of our mission is education,” she said. “All of these disabilities they have are preventable.
“We give them that chance to live happy, healthy lives.”
According to the website, Speak St. Louis is a 501(c)3 foster-based Australian Shepherd rescue specializing in double merle awareness.
She explained the blindness and deafness these dogs are born with comes from breeding two merle dogs together.
The website says the term "double merle" refers to a dog bred by two merle colored parents. The term “merle” refers to a color patter, not specific color. The animals are born with excessive white coloration and are born with eye abnormalities, hearing impairments or both, according to the shelter’s website at speakstlouis.com.
“You breed two merle dogs together, there is a 25 percent chance the dog is going to be deaf or blind,” she said. “So, a lot of our goal is to educate people. One of our things we go by is education is key, so we hope to reach more people and get the word out.”
The website, speakstlouis.com, explains the most common variations are the red and blue merle. According to information on the website, the blue merle is genetically a black dog carrying the merle gene. The merle gene breaks up the black color into a pattern of black patches onto grey. The red merle is genetically a red dog carrying the merle gene. The merle gene breaks up the red color into a pattern of red patches onto beige.
Common breeds with the merle trait include: Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, Catahoula Leopard, Chihuahua. Collie, Dachshund, and Great Dane among others.
After the presentation, Duhr was still at a loss for words for the items presented by the kids.
“This is pretty amazing,” she said, holding back the tears. “And, they’re not that big of a group of children to be able to pull this off.”