How a 12-Year-Old Cancer Survivor Pays It Forward to Shelter Animals

Mckenzi Taylor started PoundWishes, which grants lifesaving wishes to sick and injured dogs waiting for homes.


When young Mckenzi Taylor asked her father why there wasn’t a Make-a-Wish Foundation for dogs, Curtis Taylor knew that his kindhearted and compassionate daughter’s idea was inspired by personal experience.

Mckenzi was diagnosed with leukemia at age two, and at age four, the Make-a-Wish foundation granted the little girl’s wish to be a princess for a day during a three-day trip to Disneyland while Mckenzi was undergoing chemotherapy. The experience positively impacted the now healthy 12-year-old.

Because of her illness, Mckenzi knows just how important it is to feel cared for and supported in times of need, and she wanted to do something to help others as she was helped by hospital staff and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

A big animal lover, Mckenzi knew she wanted to pay it forward for animals who needed help the most: sick, injured, and abused shelter pets.

“That realization stayed with me, and when I visited a shelter looking to adopt a dog, it hit me how shelter pets are so helpless and that the really sick or injured pets had almost no chance of getting their wish of a second chance in a happy home,” Mckenzi said about how she was inspired to help shelter animals.

With her parents’ help, she started PoundWishes, a nonprofit effort that connects shelters and animal rescue groups with pet lovers all over North America to grant the wishes of dogs and cats in need of surgery, rehabilitation, medication, and other lifesaving intervention. Their mission is to get these animals as healthy as possible in order to save them from euthanasia and to facilitate adoption.

Between three to four million animals are euthanized every year in shelters in the United States, and those who come in sick, injured, or with behavioral issues are the first ones to be put down in order to keep spaces open for animals deemed more adoptable. Mckenzi wanted to reach out and give these pets in need a second chance at a happy, healthy life.

Since launching the website in March 2014, PoundWishes has raised more than $40,000 for shelter pets and their rescue groups, funded more than 1,112 PoundWishes, and has more than 225 shelter partners, according to Kim Coutts, the director of communications for PoundWishes. And in the first six months following the website’s launch, PoundWishes was able to collect enough donations to fully grant 150 shelter pets’ PoundWishes.

PoundWishes works on the crowd-funding concept. On the website, every dog and cat listed has his or her own profile explaining the animal’s story and the amount needed to fund the PoundWish. People can donate as much or as little as they would like, to help pay for everything from critical surgery to treatment for skin conditions to prosthetic limbs. Some dogs, though physically healthy, need intensive training and rehabilitation to overcome the psychological effects of abuse and neglect before being able to find a forever home.

And to help these deserving animals even more, the PoundWishes website also posts adoption listings for shelters all across the United States with a searchable database for available pets.

“It’s hard for us to keep an accurate record of the PoundWish pets that are adopted because it would be up to the our very busy shelter partners to track and report those numbers separately,” Coutts explains. “But we do keep pretty close tabs on our Wish pets’ progress, and it’s always a really great day when we see their pictures posted with their new forever families on social media or the shelter’s website.”

And while PoundWishes aims to fund critical lifesaving wishes for shelter animals, it also helps collect donations to provide routine care such as dental work and vaccinations as well as spay or neuter surgeries for the cats and dogs. Visitors on the PoundWishes website can see rescued shelter animals in foster homes who require simple procedures such as sterilization in order to find a forever home.

“Many people don’t realize that the most common reason people relinquish pets to a shelter is their inability to pay for this kind of care, so we continue to help fund these requests knowing it will increase stability for many pets once they are adopted,” says Coutts.

PoundWishes’ success is not only due to the fact that it’s the only website of its kind that raises money for shelter animals who have little chance of adoption — or survival — without donations for lifesaving interventions, routine care, or rehabilitation, but also because of how much heart its small team, including Mckenzi, puts in.

“Pets suffer as much as people do, and we need to help,” the inspiring 12-year-old says. “I really want people to get involved and volunteer at their local shelter or donate through PoundWishes.” Mckenzi hopes the foundation will be able to raise more than $50,000 by the end of 2014 to help fund the shelter pets’ wishes, and she also wants people to consider adopting pets from the PoundWishes website.

PoundWishes is focused on expanding its network of supporters and animal rescue partners in order to help as many sick and injured shelter pets as possible.

“The next big challenge is building a strong, national community of pet lovers and crowd funders who are willing to help,” explains Coutts. “I think [our current success] really speaks to the value of Mckenzi’s mission and what we can accomplish if we unite all the pet lovers out there behind a common goal.”

If you would like to help grant a PoundWish for a shelter pet in need, please go check out the animals’ profiles on the PoundWishes website. The foundation also features photos and information about the shelter pets on its Facebook page.

All photos courtesy of PoundWishes website and Facebook page.

Meet more Dogster Heroes:

About Crystal Gibson: A child-sized Canadian expat in France who is fluent in French and sarcasm. Owned by a neurotic Doxie mix, a Garfield look-alike, and two needy Sphynx cats. An aspiring writer and pet photographer with a love of coffee and distaste for French administration, she can be found as @PinchMom over on Twitter.

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