LE MARS, Iowa -- To say Brooklyn Bockelmann loves dogs might be an understatement.
Dressed in leggings covered with dog images, socks that feature dogs and a hoodie promoting animal adoption, the 14-year-old Le Mars eighth-grader leaves no doubt about her love for dogs.
She knows that other people are just as crazy about their four-legged family members as she is and would be devastated if something were to happen to them. It's why Brooklyn is working to provide pet oxygen masks to every fire department in Iowa -- more than 600 -- so that firefighters can treat and revive pets rescued from house fires.
"If it has to do with dogs, I'm going to do it," said Brooklyn, who has a German shepherd named Bear and a German shorthaired pointer named Jake.
She's launched Operation O2 Fur Pets to raise money for her cause, which started with the modest goal of providing masks for the Le Mars Fire Department, then each department in Plymouth County.
"Once I got that done, I thought it would be a good idea to do it for all of Iowa," the daughter of Jennifer and Donald Bockelmann said.
Where does a middle schooler get the idea for such a project? Facebook, of course.
Earlier this year, Brooklyn and members of the Stanton Lucky Clovers 4-H club had done random acts of kindness. Brooklyn enjoyed the community service project and wanted to do more. At about the same time, a news story popped onto her mother's Facebook page about a dog that had been saved in a California house fire by firefighters using a mask that had been donated by Girl Scouts there. Jennifer Bockelmann showed the story to Brooklyn, and the light bulb immediately lit up above her head.
"I thought this would be a good idea for our county," Brooklyn said.
The masks, sold by Wag'N O2 Fur Life, in Vancouver, Washington, sell for $90, plus $30 for shipping. How was she going to raise the money?
At a middle school dance this spring, she sold root beer floats and raised nearly $300. She bought chocolate paw prints and paw-printed bracelets, then sold them at Woofstock, a Plymouth County Historical Society fundraiser in the spring. She set up a GoFundMe site on the internet.
It didn't take long until she was able to buy masks to stock all of Plymouth County's fire and rescue services in Le Mars, Akron, Hinton, Kingsley, Merrill, Remsen and Oyens.
Goal achieved. But Brooklyn, who volunteers at Noah's Hope Animal Rescue in Sioux City and hopes to someday have her own doggie day care center, decided to keep going, setting her goal higher.
"I had money left over, and I just love dogs," she said. "I decided to do Iowa."
Brooklyn has continued to operate the GoFundMe site, and at the Plymouth County Fair this summer, she set up a booth selling bracelets and homemade dog treats. For a 4-H project, she did an educational presentation at the fair. Her presentation was chosen to advance to the Iowa State Fair, where she presented it again. She recently sent out fundraising letters to local animal-related businesses.
She's since donated masks to fire departments in Moville, Lawton and Sergeant Bluff, bringing the total to of masks given away to 12.
"I feel that everywhere there should be one of these masks," Brooklyn said.
She's got her public awareness campaign down. According to Brooklyn's research, 40,000-150,000 animals die each year in house fires in the United States. She pulls out three masks from a kit and a stuffed toy dog to demonstrate how the masks fit over the animal's muzzle. Each kit contains large, medium and small reusable masks that can be used on animals ranging in size from ponies to gerbils -- even birds -- and just about everything in between.
Her daughter's passion for the project is not surprising, Jennifer Bockelmann said. Her desire to continue doing public service projects once her 4-H club had completed them showed her compassionate side.
"We're proud. I've seen her grow so much," Jennifer Bockelmann said.
For Brooklyn, she just wants to help spare other animal lovers the pain of losing a pet in a fire, an event that's already tragic enough.
"It makes me happy knowing that I'm saving someone (from) grief," she said.
She's got money on hand to buy three more masks, and two more fire departments have told her they'd love to have one.
If she had a tail, it would probably be wagging furiously with excitement, knowing that more firefighters will soon have another life-saving tool.