SEBRING — When Shirley Bryson’s family throws a birthday party for her, everything goes to the dogs, and cats, literally. Bryson recently turned 101 on July 10 and celebrated the milestone with friends and family from all over the state. Family also came in from as far away as Tennessee for the July 13 party.

Bryson is an animal lover, so she asked her friends and family to buy dog and cat food instead of birthday presents for her. They complied with her wishes, buying wet and dry cat and dog foods as well as many toys.

“I stopped counting at 420 pounds,” her daughter, Sharlene Landers, said.

Bryson and Landers presented an estimated 500 pounds of pet food and toys to the Humane Society of Highlands County on Wednesday morning. Board President Judy Spiegel, her staff and volunteers were thrilled to receive the food. Great-grandsons Alex and Jacob Teijelos lent their muscles for loading and unloading the food.

This is not the first year Bryson has helped the animals, which she calls “babies.”

“Instead of gifts, we could all feed the babies,” Bryson said. “I grew up with animals all my life. I have had dogs and cats and a guinea pig. I just want everyone to give food to the babies; they need it.”

She still owns a rescue dog, a terrier mix.

Not only is Bryson an animal lover, she’s pragmatic. She told Spiegel, “I’m 101 years old; how many pairs of slippers do I need?”

Landers said this is the second year she has donated her birthday gifts to the Humane Society. Bryson said she intends to see them next year with another haul of food and toys.

“I hope that Mom doing this brings awareness to others,” Landers said. “I hope others donate. There are others who can’t give and need the help also. But so many times we spend money on things we really don’t need. It’s funny, Mom used to say she was celebrating the anniversary of her 39th birthday. Then she hit 100. After that, she would say, I’m 100 and a half.”

“We are grateful for the gifts,” Spiegel said. “When people ask for things for the Humane Society for their birthdays, it really helps us out. I cannot wait to see her next year.”

Anyone can donate money or time at the Humane Society or adopt an animal. The shelter is at 7421 Haywood Taylor Blvd. in Sebring. Call 863-655-1522.


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