Every morning, La Costa Heights Elementary fourth-grader Zander Hebert walked to his classroom with his trusty service dog Bree by his side. Zander, who is 9 and has autism, depended on Bree to help him stay calm and make friends, and she always made sure he crossed the streets safely.
All of that changed December 4. After suffering from an aggressive form of cancer called histiocytic sarcoma, Bree died just a few days before her 3rd birthday.
Bree’s sudden death has been devastating, says Zander’s mom, Sophy Chaffee. She recently watched a documentary about how Earth would become unstable if our moon were ever to disappear from the night’s sky, and says “that is what our world feels like without Bree, especially Zander’s world.”
But Zander and his family are now choosing to celebrate the time that Bree did spend in this world. With help from the school they have organized Fill Bree’s Bowl, a pet food drive that was first suggested by Zander’s sister Audrey, a seventh-grader at The Grauer School.
Now though March 2 the students at La Costa Heights Elementary will be collecting food for dogs, cats and rabbits at Rancho Coastal Humane Society — which was chosen as the beneficiary because Zander likes to go visit the cats there and because his former educational aide, Lizzie Hart, is now a humane educator there.
“We're proud of these students at La Costa Heights Elementary School and we're honored that they trust Rancho Coastal Humane Society to use their food donation wisely,” Hart said. “They're learning valuable lessons about the importance of helping others, and our responsibilities to the animals. They've seen, first hand, how Bree helped Zander. These students will be our leaders in a few years. What they're learning through this pet food drive will serve them, and us, as we step into the future together."
The La Costa Heights’ Student Leadership Team has spearheaded the effort with help from principal Leighangela Brady, sixth-grade teacher Wendy Bram and parent advisor Debbie Pinter. Fifth and sixth-grade classes are promoting the pet food drive on campus, and collecting donations. If you’d like to help, you can find a list of collection sites at the bottom of this story. Zander’s sister Audrey will also be organizing another Fill Bree’s Bowl drive at The Grauer School in March.
Zander, meanwhile, will soon have another trusty service dog by his side again. Trainers with Love Heels are preparing his next service dog, a 6-month-old puppy named Dancer, who fittingly, is also a half-sister to Bree.
If you’d like to help Fill Bree’s Bowl, you drop off your pet food donation at the following locations now through March 2:
- La Costa Heights Elementary School, 3035 Levante Street; (760) 944-4375
- , 389 Requeza Street; (760) 753-6413