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A young boy in South Dakota shelter asks for dog and cat food for his birthday

An AP Exchange shared by the Capital Journal

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — That’s the way he wants it. For four years in a row, this youngster from Sioux Falls has told his family and friends that instead of toys and gifts, he wants dog food and cat food.

Then his family makes the trek to Pierre so he can donate everything to the Paws Animal Shelter. He and his family delivered a dozen bags of food.

His father, Randy, said Ryder has been an animal lover from the start. When he was 3, he told his parents he was disappointed that Santa hadn’t brought him a puppy, the Capital Journal ( ) reported.

This came as a complete surprise to his parents, so they made sure to fix that. Abraham, a beagle-basset mix, was welcomed into the household a few days later.

Then, just before Ryder’s fourth birthday, Randy had a rather grown-up conversation with him.

“We asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday, and we were kind of joking about how,

‘You kind of have everything you need from Grandma and Grandpa, and uncle Johnny and your parents. You really don’t need any more toys,” he recalled.

The two of them thought about it for a while, and they both hit on the idea that during his birthday party, his friends could bring pet food. Then Ryder could donate it to the local animal shelter.

“I think I brought it up, and he thought it was a great idea. He jumped on it,” Randy said.

Ryder’s grandmother, Kathy Coulter, said that the first year he collected the pet food; he brought it to the animal shelter in Sioux Falls. But when he went there, the workers showed almost no enthusiasm for what he had done. Instead, they barely looked at him and simply told him to put the food in the corner.

It just so happened that the following year, Pierre was opening its Paws facility. Coulter is friends with Paws volunteer Julia Jones, so she knew about the new shelter and suggested that the family come to Pierre.

Ryder told the story in his own way

“It started, like, I like dogs, and then my Dad came up, like, saying, “Hey, do you want, instead of doing presents, we should do, like, dog and cat food. And then, I agreed with him. And then, as soon as I liked the idea, I put it on my birthday cards to bring dog and cat food,” he said. “And then we get to come to Pierre and we get to bring the dog and cat food and we get to visit my Grandma’s friend Julia.”

Jones said it was Coulter’s suggestion to come to Pierre.

“She said, ‘You know, I bet Julia has some dogs and cats that can benefit from those goodies.’ So that’s how we got this all started,” Jones said.

“You guys are so much nicer to him,” Coulter told the Paws volunteers.

Jones was equally thankful.

“You all have been so awesome each time,” she said.

So for the past three years, the family makes the trip on or close to his birthday, which is actually Sept. 9. This year, he brought along Randy, grandma Kathy Coulter, and his 10-year-old brother, also named Coulter.

That’s not the only reason. Although the Sioux Falls facility let him see the animals, Paws is more “interactive,” Randy said.

“He gets a lot more out of it. He always enjoys coming up here,” Randy said as he watched Ryder.

Ryder, meanwhile, was paying no attention to his father. Instead, he was busy with the cats.

“Their claws are so sharp,” Ryder said with a giggle as black-and-white Maggie played with him. “This cat likes this.”

Ryder described the best part of what he does.

“Probably looking at the cats and dogs,” he said. “These cats are great.”

Randy said the family has two dogs now. No cats yet.

Jones was impressed with what Ryder’s work.

“I think it’s awesome to have volunteerism and paying-it-forward and compassion start this young. And generosity and stewardship of what we have start this young is the seed for greatness for the future,” she said. “There is a bright future in our young people, no doubt.”

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