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10-year-old takes journey to pet owner responsibility

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Anne-Lise Bisio, Ella Bisio, 10, and Constanza Bryant show off Bryant’s poodle Milou, named after a Belgium comic strip character. Milou led Bryant to the Florida Poodle Rescue group and, in turn, an introduction to Ella, the rescue organization’s newest and youngest foster “parent.” Islander Photo: Mark Young

Ella Bisio, 10, sits atop the Florida Poodle Rescue float for the Fourth of July parade. Ella helped spearhead the group’s participation in the parade to bring awareness to the plight of homeless poodles. Islander Courtesy Photo: Constanza Bryant

Many parents will eventually hear “I want a dog” escape the mouth of their child. Many also will discuss the responsibility of pet ownership, but few will ask the child to prove they are ready for that responsibility.

For Ella Bisio, 10, the desire to own a dog started typically enough when she would see other people walking and playing with their pets.

But Ella’s approach to asking for a dog was far from typical.

“I got a lot of facts about dogs and created a portfolio about all different types,” said Bisio. “I got a lot of information off the Internet and put it all together with pictures.”

Ella’s mom, Anne-Lise Bisio, said she knew something was up when her daughter began writing essays about dogs, “and the benefits of having a dog or leave pictures of dogs with that puppy dog face.”

Ella eventually asked the question and her mother insisted that she talk to their neighbor, Constanza Bryant, who fosters poodles for Florida Poodle Rescue.

“I never had a dog growing up,” said Anne-Lise. “I knew Constanza fostered dogs and that fostering might be a good way to get to know a dog before committing to adopting it. It’s a little like dating before marriage. You get to know each other. It’s the perfect situation.”

Anne-Lise said Ella needed to know more about dogs before owning one and fostering was perfect — in case “it doesn’t work out. Not every dog is the perfect fit for someone and fostering is a good first step before jumping and going out and buying a dog and not knowing if it will work.”

Fostering a dog requires a high level of commitment and, as desperate as rescue organizations are for foster homes, animal advocates aren’t willing to put a rescue animal into an unsafe environment.

Screenings, contracts and even home environment checks are sometimes required. Just showing up at Bryant’s door saying she wanted to foster a dog wasn’t going to earn Ella a foster position.

“I thought it was remarkable that such a young girl was interested in fostering a dog,” said Bryant. “She had to go through the same screening process as everyone else, and had to fill out a detailed application.”

That was just the first step.

“I also thought it was remarkable that she wanted to see if she was responsible enough to have a dog,” said Bryant. “It’s something that everyone should do.”

Ella spent her two-week spring vacation with Bryant helping with rescued poodles. From bathing to feeding to grooming to learning how to approach a dog in a non-threatening manner, Ella spent each morning and evening of her vacation committed to the process.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do all that stuff at first, but I thought about it and if I really wanted a dog, then I realized I have to do this,” Ella said. “I learned all about how fostering gives the dogs a second chance, and I realized that’s what I really wanted to do.”

Ella received her first foster dog May 23, a 7-year-old poodle named Nina. It’s been an experience for both Ella and her mother.

“Nina is very friendly and very easy to have as a first dog,” said Anne-Lise. “She’s been a really good match for the family and nice to have in the house.”

Ella has been devoted to Florida Poodle Rescue and spearheaded the effort for the organization to be in the annual Fourth of July Parade.

Ella helped decorate the float and personally printed and taped 700 small photos of poodles to 700 lollipops to be given away during the parade.

“She showed a lot of leadership and was the force behind the parade effort,” said Bryant. “She helped bring everybody together to make that happen.”

Bryant said Ella also comes up with fundraising ideas and is preparing to launch a “Pennies for Poodles” campaign by asking local merchants to place a change jar in their stores.

“Ella has been very proactive about learning about dogs,” said Bryant. “She really got involved in the process. That is ideally what we want fosters to do.”

Ella said the experience with Nina was not as hard as she thought it would be, mainly because she took the time to do her homework before welcoming a dog into the home. It is a process she would recommend to her friends when making a decision about dog ownership.

“It depends on the friend what I would say,” said Ella. “I can tell if they are responsible or not. I have a friend that wanted a dog and I think she would be OK. Not the best dog owner, but not bad either. It just has to be something you really want to do.”

Ella recommends to foster first, but when asked if it was all worth it, her smile said much more than her wording of, “I like having a dog.”

For more information on Florida Poodle Rescue, visit www.floridapoodlerescue.org or email info@floridapoodlerescue.org.

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