Selena Schulz turns 9 years old on Saturday, when she will be preparing for perhaps the biggest day of her life. On Sunday, the pint-sized author — whose current fame started with a birthday party a years ago — will meet a likely audience of hundreds as she sets up shop for a book sale and signing at the Florida Gulf Coast Clusters Dog Show, east of Brooksville.
The venue is appropriate: the largest American Kennel Club-sanctioned dog show in the Southeast, a 12-day run with more than 18,000 canines in temporary residence at Florida Classic Park.
And Selena's self-published book is all about dogs: A Bed A Buck A Buddy, a true tale of the celebration of her eighth birthday, with the subtitle, Cici's Amazing Birthday.
It was the day before that occasion, according to her book, when she and her mother spied a lost, or maybe abandoned, dog, "the most magnificent thing in the world!" Unable to find a collar or tag on the tail-wagging mutt, Cici, Selena's nickname, wants to keep him.
A family conversation ensues, followed by a visit to an animal shelter, and Cici's discovery of lots of dogs without beds, food shelves bare and a donation jar holding only a smattering of coins.
"She began to think about what she could do to help the animals," the book reads.
With her birthday looming, Selena/Cici, along with her parents, Jomary and Kurt Schulz, quickly organized a party, asking her friends to bring, not gifts for her, but pet food, leashes, chew toys, anything that could ease life for a pet still seeking a "forever home."
Last week, Selena explained her reasoning for the party, which netted more than 230 pounds of pet food and treats, plus bedding, bowls, toys and other items: "I love animals, and they were more in need than I was."
She wrote the book recounting her experiences "because I wanted to inspire kids like me to help animals." More than 100 books have sold to date.
Selena's campaign is ongoing. The third-grader at Countryside Montessori in Land O'Lakes has collected food, pet accessories and money for SPCA Suncoast in New Port Richey and Pasco County Animal Services in Land O'Lakes. She volunteers with Cindy's Pets, an ancillary of Pasco Meals on Wheels that provides pet necessities for elderly owners.
She has continued to spread her message — "Shelter animals make great pets" — and has promoted her book at nearly a dozen venues and addressed 82 first-graders at Pine View Elementary School in Land O'Lakes on "what it takes to write a book," she said.
Along the way, Selena has "prerescued" animals. She and her mom came across a tiny black kitten huddled by the side of busy State Road 52. Fearing for its life, they scooped it up, took it home and discovered it wasn't yet weaned. Selena kept it in a crate and handfed it until it was old enough to be adopted by one of her friends.
On his routes as an independent plumber, her dad has encountered needy critters — a gull with a broken wing and a pair of bedraggled poodles, on separate occasions. The family took the bird to a veterinarian for repair and finally handed off the puppies to a poodle rescue organization, though, of course, Selena wanted to keep them.
Said Kurt Schulz: "I was proud of her because she knew it was best for them."
One dog did find his "forever home" with the Schulzes. A customer of Kurt's admitted that a ball-of-fur puppy she'd adopted not only had literally outgrown her expectations, but also was too frisky a mate for her pair of chihuahuas.
Selena to the rescue.
The white-coated lab-shepherd mix, which Selena named Snowy, has gained more than a loving home. He and his owner have graduated from two obedience courses at Stillwater Dog Training in Brooksville, where owner-instructor Mary Peter awarded the duo blue-ribbon top honors for greatest accomplishments.
Selena also took Snowy to veterinarian Carlos Campos in Shady Hills for immunizations and a checkup. When he learned of the youngster's work for the rescue organizations and her career goal as a veterinarian, Campos invited Selena to shadow a veterinary technician in his practice, San Francis Veterinary Hospital.
Campos, named America's Favorite Veterinarian in 2013 by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, wrote the forward to Selena's book.
Snowy will accompany Selena at her book sale and signing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday and again on Jan. 18 at a booth near the judging rings. All proceeds from the $10 book will be given to the rescue and animal aid agencies with which Selena is involved.
Selena says her work isn't done.
"I would like to write a second book, about Cici meets a boy and they team up and rescue animals along the side of the road," she said.
"You can make a difference. Show that you care."
Contact Beth Gray at email@example.com.