Oct 04, 2022

Teen Scene

By Lori Draz and Julietta Onofrietti

Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is 18-year-old Julietta Onofrietti, a sophomore at Middlesex College studying dental hygiene. This is Julietta’s story of helping animals. Julietta has been in the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore since kindergarten. Now, 13 years later, she is a registered adult Girl Scout with plans to continue being part of the gold and silver Girl Scout award committee. Julietta’s heart is full of love for animals, and she knows making a difference requires work. On Feb. 25, Julietta completed her project, “Doghouse Peace,” which helped the Toms River Animal Shelter recover its housing areas which had become neglected during the pandemic. Julietta created a team, raised the funds and got to work – and her paycheck was delivered by the wagging tails of those pups waiting for forever homes. Here is Julietta’s story.

For me and so many others, there is a sure constant source of support that helps me feel better, makes me smile and brings happiness to my life like nothing else: animals. The beauty of animals, especially our pets, is their unconditional love. They are simply so excited just knowing we exist. They do not ask for much in return for their love other than a treat or some water. My wise mother once told me that if we all loved others like a pet loves us, we’d feel ultimate peace in our lives. As I grew up, I journeyed through a wide world of pets in so many homes, seeing along the way that that love was everywhere. I also have another love, Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore. I have been a scout for 13 years and feel so much love there too – in the friendships I’ve made, the support of leaders and fellow scouts as we tried new activities and the love of community we learn through scouting. When it came time to work on my Gold Award project for Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, I knew I had to help animals and so I developed “Doghouse Peace.”  

The Toms River Animal Shelter had gone through some rough times during the pandemic, including the collapse of their outdoor dog shelter. I learned so much about the lives of shelter animals and about how much joy, socialization and exercise dogs get from an outdoor doghouse. “Doghouse Peace” was going to help that.

I knew I needed to make the doghouse special and different. Mine would be an active playhouse that could accommodate dogs of different needs and sizes. It started with the design. The roof is slightly slanted downward in one slab and had planks surrounding it for safety. This is for the detachable ramp on the side of the doghouse which allows the dogs to run up and down and jump on the roof to sunbath or escape for a moment of peace. The roof paper on top is lined with artificial grass to protect it from water. The doghouse has a small porch covered in artificial grass with an extended roof overhead so the dogs have a place to hang out in the shade or stay dry in the rain. The ventilation was enhanced by adding a hinged side door as opposed to only a front opening. This allows more airflow in the summer and more protection in the winter, plus the dogs love to run in and out. The director of the animal shelter said this was a unique and useful design that could be used in shelters across America.  

It took me about seven months – including calls, team recruitment and meetings – to get plans made on the doghouse. I had a team of 12 and it cost $710.29 total, which would have been more if not for the gratefully appreciated donation of the wood and parts. I must say we had a lot of fun working on the project and even more fun watching the dogs enjoy it. 

“Doghouse Peace” taught me so much too. I learned better budgeting, leadership skills, business communication and scheduling solutions, but it was the lessons I learned about myself that really changed me. Life will always have its challenges, but working to overcome them comes with rewards and only makes us stronger. I began to adjust well under the pressures of deadlines, team issues, supplies being delayed and snowstorms delaying building. Our team endured eight snow delays as we were finishing the building and painting of the doghouse. The team tackled the challenge by bringing it in my garage where we worked with heaters so the paint would dry and not bubble.  

These lessons of adjustment and finding quick solutions helped me to find other solution methods for life’s bumps and how to deal with challenges with more patience and understanding.  “Doghouse Peace” has helped me to find more peace in my life, and I dedicated my time and knowledge to bring more peace to dogs. That was my way of thanking the dogs who have brought me so much happiness and paying it forward to all the dogs who will share their lives and love with everyone in the future. The project also raised awareness of the needs of shelters nationwide to give these animals a space where they can be more active, stay healthy, be less isolated and enjoy some shelter while outdoors. It is amazing how each part of life takes you in different directions and comes with different emotions, but the love of animals always manages to make everything better!