When Kaden Rutherford’s dog disappeared in August, he looked everywhere for her. After going door to door and hanging fliers all over his neighborhood, the 12-year-old made a last-ditch effort to find Suki at the Humane Society’s North Campus in Oceanside. His dog wasn’t there, but Kaden made a different discovery as he toured the kennels.
“I noticed that all the dogs weren’t sleeping on blankets,” he said. “Sometimes there was a small blanket, but two dogs would be using it and there wasn’t room for the third one (in the kennel).”
Saddened by dogs curled up on cold floors, Kaden asked his mom, Kedda, if their family could donate blankets. She agreed, so Kaden set out to raise money for 100 blankets to fill the kennels.
“I used some of my allowance money. All of it, actually,” he said. “I had a giant crayon full of money, and that all went to blankets. I took money out of my savings account. And my mom helped a little.”
Once he had raised $410, he shopped at Goodwill and Salvation Army stores for used blankets. He even contributed a blanket from his own bed.
“I knew I wouldn’t really feel the difference at night, so I threw it in the pile,” Kaden said.
Kaden made his delivery to the Humane Society the Monday before Thanksgiving. A TV news crew was on hand to capture the moment.
Kaden opened the first kennel and placed the blanket inside. The first dog sniffed it and then immediately curled up on it.
“Everyone was crying — my mom, the people at the Humane Society,” Kaden said. “I was trying not to cry.”
Inspired, he decided that all the shelter dogs in San Diego County deserve a blanket, so he set out to make that happen. He and Kedda placed collection boxes around North County, and the TV news story generated some interest. But they were disappointed with the results.
“People come up to him and say, ‘You’re the blanket boy; we saw you on the news,’” Kedda said. “But it’s frustrating because they say what he’s doing is awesome, but nobody’s donating.”
Kaden combined what was left of his savings with the few dollars he did receive and made another shopping trip to the Salvation Army, where the manager — who had heard Kaden’s story — made him a bulk deal of 100 blankets for $60. He delivered those to the Humane Society’s Central Campus on Gaines Street in San Diego. In early December, he dropped another bundle of blankets off at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Encinitas.
“He’s bound and determined,” Kedda said about Kaden’s goal. “My mom sent him money for Christmas and he said he wants a video game and one other thing, and then most of that money will go to blankets.”
Kaden recently received the Compassionate Citizen award from his school, Calavera Hills Middle School in Carlsbad. He said this is just the beginning of his work with animals — he hopes to be an animal shelter volunteer when he reaches the required age of 14, on his way to possibly becoming a veterinarian.
“I’ve always had a passion for animals. This is just making my passion bigger,” he said.
To help Rutherford, donated blankets can be dropped off at either Ranch and Sea Realty location:
- 2963 Carlsbad Boulevard Carlsbad, CA 92008
- 316 Mission Avenue Oceanside, CA 92054
Christy Scannell is a freelance writer for San Diego Union Tribune.