If anyone doubts Autumn Dixon of Fort Wayne is an animal lover, any trace might be erased by what she wore to Saturday's Deck the Howls open house at Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control.
The 10-year-old Fort Wayne resident came in her holiday llama pajamas.
With llamas wearing scarves and reindeer antlers frolicking across her clothing, Autumn was up to her knuckles in peanut butter and dog biscuits.
“Mom, I'm all peanut-buttery,” she exclaimed to Dawn Dixon, while putting together bone-shaped sandwich-cookie-style treats for the shelter's canine residents.
Dawn Dixon said her daughter loves llamas so much the family has considered getting her involved in a 4-H program in which children raise llamas.
“They're kind of the new trend,” she added.
Little lovers of llamas, guinea pigs, hamsters, bunnies and more traditional feline and canine companions turned out Saturday morning to help the shelter brighten up potential pets' lives during the holiday season.
Spokeswoman Holly Pasquinelli said the first-time event filled up with about 25 registered children. The idea came from a similar event sponsored by a shelter in Missouri to get children involved in shelter animals' lives, she said.
During the Howl, the shelter closed for adoptions, and kids split their time reading to potential pets and making treats or decorations.
“We are reaching a lot of new families that we normally wouldn't reach,” Pasquinelli said.
The shelter also was promoting a free pet reading program it runs 3 to 5 p.m. on the fourth Monday of every month.
Gabriella Stroh, 10, of Fort Wayne was sitting on the floor reading to a black-and-white kitten named Socks. Socks seemed more interested in the multicolored tinsel decorating Gabriella's pajamas than the storybook.
Meanwhile, debate perked along as to whether a slightly older, long-haired cat with black-and-white fur should be called Preston if a boy or Milkshake if a girl.
“I really like animals. I have 16 pets at home,” Gabriella said, naming sugar gliders, hermit crabs, a dwarf hamster, a dog and a cat “and other random animals” among the menagerie.
“No bunnies,” the Whispering Meadows Elementary School fifth grader said. “We wouldn't have room.”
Working at volunteer Clinton Lawrence's assembly line, Jayden Hyndman, 10, of Fort Wayne wasn't having much luck turning lumps of peanut butter and oats into treats.
“Well, that was a disaster,” he said as one treat crumbled.
But that didn't keep him from persevering. He was happy he came.
“You get to do things for the animals, and you get to help out,” Jayden said. “I like helping.”