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Have a senior dog? Throw him a Bark Mitzvah fundraiser to help pets!


A few years ago, my Toy Poodle Digger turned thirteen. Being raised a Jewish dog, my family felt that we should mark his adulthood by throwing him a Bar(k) Mitzvah. To honor the meaning of his Bark Mitzvah — and to not be viewed as completely insane by our neighbors — my family decided to make the event a fundraiser for our local shelter, the Animal Lovers League of Glen Cove, NY.


Digger in his yarmulke and tallit.

It was a success! Digger got to show off his senior-pet pride and, even better, we raised nearly $2,500 for shelter pets.

Do you know a dog that’s about to turn thirteen? Make it a lucky thirteen for shelter pets near you by creating a Bark Mitzvah fundraiser. Here are a few tips:

Send out formal invites. First, we sent out evites to about 150 of our friends, family and their dogs, not expecting almost everyone to RSVP “yes.” Turns out, pet parents love bringing their dogs with them and will rarely give up an opportunity to do so. (Just keep that in mind if you have a limit to how many people you want to show up.) We even had guests fly in from across the country!

Ask for donations in lieu of gifts. We asked people not to bring gifts, just to make a donation of their choice to the Animal Lovers League. Many people that didn’t even come ended up making donations!

Offer food and refreshments. We bought a lot of food from Costco (mainly hot dogs, of course)! Digger’s Bark Mitzvah was on a hot day in June, so we made sure to have plenty of refreshments. Remember, having water available for the dogs is important to avoid dehydration, especially on a hot summer day. Make sure to put out a few bowls of water and continue checking to make sure they’re full.

We also hired two people: one to handle the barbeque and another to serve the food.


Centerpieces at Digger’s party.

Find a location (and a theme) that best fits your party. We hosted Digger’s Bark Mitzvah in our backyard and rented a few tables and chairs from a party store nearby. If you think you’ll need more space, check out local venues. has some tips for choosing a fundraising location here.

We also chose a theme for the party — balls. On one table we had basketballs, another we had  baseballs, etc. It was a fun way to keep things playful.

Ask your shelter about giveaways for people and pets. Let your shelter know about the event beforehand. When we told the Animal Lovers League what we were doing, the shelter  provided us with pledge cards, magnets, and doggy bowls to give away in gift bags.


A guest cuddles with her friend.

Take pictures to send out post-party. Who doesn’t love a picture of themselves and their pet? If you know someone that’s a good photographer (doesn’t have to be professional), ask them if they can get pictures of everyone with their dogs.

My mother and I are both photography people, so we acted as a photo team for the party. We made sure to get a picture of everyone with their dogs and ordered copies of all the pictures to send out in thank you notes.

Send out thank you notes to show appreciation. Time for thank you letters! Whether you do them by email or send out cards, thank yous are always a must. Make them as personal as you can so you can say “thank you” in the most meaningful and specific way.

Determine costs and budgets ahead of time. Since we were planning on throwing Digger’s Bark Mitzvah whether we did it as a fundraiser or not, we did not include the costs of what we spent in the total donation amount. However, if you plan on including the costs, make sure you don’t spend more than you raise. Budgeting ahead of time will help you keep costs low so more money can go to pets in need.

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