For some, birthdays can be all about themselves, the gifts, the cake, the fun, but one Conway girl has decided to forge a different path.
Emily Naylor is 10 years old.
Her mom, Kari, told the Log Cabin Democrat that when it came time to start planning her daughter’s 11th birthday in June, Emily expressed her desire to go a more-creative, less-typical route.
Kari describes her daughter as incredibly empathetic to all creatures. So, when the young girl told her mother she wanted her party to be a dog adoption event, Kari wasn’t surprised in the least.
“I contacted Last Chance and said, ‘Can we do it?’ and they said, ‘Absolutely,’” she said, excitedly.
Kari found a fitting venue and date to do it – from 9-11 a.m. Saturday at Laurel Park in Conway.
She said Emily got the idea from a similar event she saw in Little Rock.
“She saw how that worked and said, ‘That’s what I want,’” Kari said, expressing her daughter’s matter-of-fact wishes.
The Naylors have also played foster parent to several canines over the years. Most recently, in October.
Kari said her daughter previously asked for a second dog and she said no because of time constraints but with the mom’s flexible schedule, the family decided fostering was the way to go, keeping that commitment to having a permanent dog, far away ... or so they thought.
They took in a dog in October and by December, the group had officially adopted the female, a “foster fail” Kari called it, laughing.
“We do now have an extra dog but we kind of eased into it so it worked out perfectly,” Kari’s resolve evident in her tone.
Kari said sometimes the fostering-to-adopting process is easy because it’s a great dog and finding it a forever home is important but it can be difficult if attachment is formed. She said one thing that has helped with the four or five dogs they’ve taken in, is Emily getting to meet the families they go to.
“To see their face when they get to pick up their dog ... it makes it easier than you think,” she said.
Both Kari and Emily are rather introverted and admit that sometimes, it’s easier to talk with dogs than it is other people.
“I think it’s just getting to know ... it’s another relationship,” Kari said. “I know that sounds kind of weird because it’s a dog. You develop a new relationship. You’re giving a dog a chance to be a dog.”
The Naylors created a Facebook event for the party and have put up fliers advertising the day all around town. Kari said close family and friends are coming to celebrate Emily, of course, but they hope a lot of people come for the cause as well.
“It’s a party that gives back but at the same time, it celebrates her birthday,” Kari said.
As far as her daughter is concerned, Kari said she has mixed feelings about the matter.
“Extreme empathy, there’s two sides of it,” she said.
On one hand, Kari loves seeing her daughter care so much.
“Along with that comes ... sometimes that pain that you feel, it’s really hard to cope with,” she added, noting how she loves when Emily loves but hurts when her daughter hurts as well.
She said she has had that “expectation conversation” with her 10-year-old, her original dream being that every single dog that comes would get adopted and end up going home that Saturday after the party – there is still an application and reference process that has to be done.
“I think her dream is still that all the dogs right now that are ready, get a home, but, she also understands that they’re probably not all going to their forever home [on Saturday],” Kari said. “Really, it’s designed to get exposure to the dogs and we want the public to come out and see the dogs.”
The mother-daughter duo have even gone as far as to put together some little toys for the animals coming to the party, excited and looking forward to Saturday event.
“We’ve been making dog toys for all the foster dogs,” Kari said. “They’ll get to go home with a party favor.”
To learn more about the event, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/events/618838161952302/?active_tab=discussion.