Josh Shaffer

Shaffer: Kids’ lemonade stand helps save sick bulldog

A month ago, Pearl the bulldog mix lay seriously ill from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency – a tongue-twister of a digestive disorder that stole half her weight.

Pearl’s human, Jen Marion, ferried her to five different veterinarians with no improvement until she decided to throw fiscal caution to the wind and take Pearl to N.C. State University, where the vet school nailed down the diagnosis and doted on the ailing pooch.

“They literally brought her back from the edge of death,” Marion said. “I’ve never been into sports or cared about celebrity, but to me, these people are just heroes.”

The trouble is that heroism can be pricy, especially when it involves two weeks of intensive care. Total tab: $12,000, a fortune for a second-grade teacher in Wake County, and a major stress creator for a woman getting married in 52 days.

Marion’s worry was so bad, she said, that it affected her wedding planning. “This was just overshadowing everything.”

I can’t tell you that a fairy swooped down and magic-wanded Pearl’s debt away. I can’t tell you that Clifford the Big Red Dog sent down a slice of his royalties. But I’m here to report an act of philanthropy so adorable that it may just collapse under the weight of its own preciousness.

Five of Marion’s second-graders from Root Elementary manned a lemonade stand and raised $120 – a staggering amount for anyone who has ever tried to sell cold beverages from the sidewalk.

Their families baked pastries. They decorated the stand with fresh-cut sunflowers. They carried a sign that read, “Fight Like a Pearl.”

They kept it open for three hours on Sunday, waving at cars, flagging down runners, insisting on dog charity and brownie consumption, said Tiffany Lund, mother of Grey Lund.

“I cried the whole weekend,” Marion said. “I’m a big crier. The kids all know that. They were like, ‘Did you cry? Did you cry?’ ”

Marion and her fiance, Jim, have four dogs in all, and the second-graders know them all from the pictures plastered across the classroom. They use them in writing examples. On occasion, Marion sneaks Pearl into school, but don’t tell anybody that.

As rescue dogs, they act as living examples of perseverance, and having overcome sepsis and missing enzymes they make triple-digit subtraction seem like a manageable adversary.

The $120 may make a small dent in Pearl’s bill, but it marks an important and symbolic one – the kind that can only inspire more. One of Pearl’s vets at N.C. State worked to find the cheapest days and hours of the week for treatment, and to make the dog’s care part of the school’s educational materials – a favor that scored Marion a $1,200 discount. A GoFundMe page has racked up more than $2,000 in donations.

But who is counting? Pearl has recovered, taking about 13 medications per day and B12 shots once a week. “She’s starting to act like a puppy again,” Marion said. “It’s so wonderful to see her destroy things.”

Best news: the wedding is on for June 25, with Pearl as a bridesmaid, flowers in her fur.

How to help

Information to assist teacher Jen Marion with Pearl’s care can be found at