Early last year, members of Girl Scout Troop 3400 of Nassau County in Long Island, New York found themselves wondering how in the world they could turn the 300 misprinted T-shirts they were given into something useful. The T-shirts had all been printed incorrectly, so the troop was asked not to sell them or give them away. Luckily, the scouts were planning their Bronze Award project, which is an activity Girl Scouts do to learn while helping others. Because they all loved animals, the girls wanted their community service project to involve helping and caring for dogs and cats in animal shelters.
Twelve-year-old Girl Scout Brianna Matos remembers wondering if they could turn the T-shirts into something. Finding a different use or purpose for an item is called repurposing. For ideas, she and other Troop 3400 members looked online and found that unwanted T-shirts could be made into dog toys called “pullies,” so named because dogs like to pull on them while playing tug-of-war. The pullies could then be donated to local animal shelters and used by dogs waiting to be adopted by families.
The girls planned a big in-person event for March 2020 called “Pullies4thePaws” and invited lots of Girl Scouts and animal lovers to help them make the toys. Then the COVID-19 pandemic stopped everything. All in-person events were canceled, animal shelters were not accepting homemade donations, and the girls were asked to wait.
After about a year of waiting, the troop adapted the project so that anyone wanting to help make the pullies could do it safely in their own home. Brianna and her seven-year-old sister Taylor created a how-to video showing others how to make the pullies using only a pair of scissors and a T-shirt. Volunteers picked up the misprinted T-shirts, made the pullies in their homes, and then returned the finished dog toys to Troop 3400. Brianna and Taylor’s mother Allison Matos estimates that about 150 Girl Scouts, aged 5 to 17, participated!
Over a year after the project began, the pullies were finally delivered to area pet rescue organizations and animal shelters during the summer of 2021. The shelters told the girls that the pullies were safer for small or medium sized dogs because bigger dogs were more likely to get sick from trying to eat them! The scouts were also surprised to hear that the pullies were not only enjoyed as dog toys, but they were also used to keep lonely cats company.
Brianna, Taylor, and all of the girls in Troop 3400 were super happy with the outcome of the project. Girl Scouts from all over their area were able to keep 300 unwanted T-shirts out of the landfill and help numerous dogs and cats — all during a pandemic!
Taylor noted, “It makes more sense to use what you have to make things rather than buying much better for the planet.”
Brianna agreed. “It was really cool to see the dogs enjoying the toys,” commented Brianna. “Our environment is changing faster than ever, and there are always little things we can do to make a change. If everyone makes a little change, it will make a big difference!”
You can watch Brianna and Taylor’s fun, instructional video to see exactly how to make dog pullies from old T-shirts here. For safety, do not leave dogs alone with a pullie or any other homemade toy.
For more inspiring stories about people working to help care for the earth, or to submit your own story, visit the Keep America Beautiful Do Beautiful Things website.
Photo of Cookie with a pullie courtesy of Allison Matos