Highlands Elementary students collect coins for Kendall, a rescue dog with multiple defects

A Tarentum foster dog born with his intestines wrapped around several organs is on the road to recovery thanks in part to efforts by Highlands Elementary students.

Kendall, an 8-month-old terrier mix housed at Tarentum-based Paws Across Pittsburgh, has undergone three surgeries to fix a multitude of birth defects, including a hole in his diaphragm, a misshaped front paw and a mislocated liver and gallbladder.

“To hear about him, he sounds like some sick, hopeless puppy, but he is really just full of energy,” said Diane Raible, co-vice president at the animal rescue.

“When the doctor heard his catalog of illnesses, he wasn’t sure he could do much. But, after meeting him, he wanted to give him a chance.”

Fundraisers by Highlands Elementary students have helped to cover more than $2,000, or 20%, of Kendall’s overall medical expenses.

“They helped substantially,” Raible said. “Their efforts were very important in helping to provide him the care he needed.”

Highlands teacher Victoria Nania introduced the idea to an afterschool group called Girls on the Run. Though fitness-based, the program also seeks to teach students about decision-making and teamwork.

“The girls wanted to do a service project, and they thought Kendall was as adorable as can be,” Nania said.

“We brainstormed ways that every class could help and came up with a coin collection called ‘Cans for Kendall.’

“It didn’t matter if someone put 2 cents in. It all helped.”

Fiona Zewe, who will be a fifth grader in the fall, said it was exciting to rally the whole school for a good cause.

“I really liked seeing everyone trying to help Kendall,” she said.

For one week before school ended, each classroom in the building received a container to pitch their coins into.

“Not only were coins being dropped into buckets, but the 25 students in the Girls on the Run program also starting asking friends and family members,” retired teacher Jody Shumaker said. “Two girls even had a bake sale in front of their home and, boy, was it ever a success.”

Principal Stan Whiteman praised the students’ efforts and cited the Girls on the Run program for being an impetus for good.

“It is much more than promoting physical fitness,” Whiteman said.

“It provides a platform for the coaches and female leaders within our building to cultivate positive relationships with students outside of school. The precious time spent with students will not only build a stronger rapport but enhance student’s self-esteem and strengthen their leadership abilities.”

Paws Across Pittsburgh, which operates from a house along East Sixth Avenue, is an all-volunteer group that rescued more than 1,000 pets last year.

The group has grown a list of 230 foster parents to care for homeless, abused or otherwise unwanted dogs and cats.

Raible said it felt great that Highlands students embraced the cause.

“It’s one of those things where it’s an awful lot of money, but we committed to him and we had to give him a chance,” she said.

Kendall is continuing his recovery and in recent weeks has regained the energy of a puppy.

“He is allowed out of his crate now and has been running around and playing with the others,” Raible said. “He’ll be ready for his forever home soon.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, tpanizzi@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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