Lake Norman & Mooresville

17-year-old’s dog toys help area rescue group

Emma Hewson, 17, wanted to create a no-cost item she could sell to benefit the animal rescue she has volunteered for throughout the last year, Catering to Cats and Dogs. By combining her ambitions of a future in the fashion industry with her passion for helping animals, Hewson began recycling donated T-shirts into dog toys she now sells to raise money for the animal-rescue group.

Since May 2014, Rescue Ropes, Emma’s organization has been braiding strips of T-shirts into durable dog toys and selling them through a website ( and at various events in the Lake Norman area. She donates all of the proceeds to the local rescue organization, which works to find foster homes for animals who are abandoned or who have run out of time to be adopted at three area kill shelters.

Rescue Ropes are similar to the braided toys made of string that are sold at pet stores, but Emma said the string can cause a lot of problems for animals when swallowed, so she considers her T-shirt version better for dogs.

Emma, who lives in Davidson and is in her senior year at the Community School of Davidson, raised about $1,000 when she sold the toys at the Davidson Farmers’ Market this summer, once in July and once in August. The second time, Catering to Cats and Dogs rescue dog Boone – a pit-mix breed who was found after being hit by a car – joined her to greet patrons. The proceeds from that day went to help with Boone’s medical treatment, which saved him from needing one of his legs amputated.

In August, Emma also sold her Rescue Ropes at the Pageant Pup canine pageant event in Mooresville.

Emma has two dogs at home herself: a yellow lab named Roxy and a coon hound named Dempsey. She said her mother used to keep her from animal adoptions events because “I would get upset and want to adopt them all.”

She searched for an animal rescue to volunteer with, but struggled to find a place that would permit her to work one-on-one with the animals because as a teenager she was too young. Then Emma found Catering to Cats and Dogs, based in Cornelius, which has junior volunteers help with adoption events held at the Huntersville PetCo store on Saturday mornings. Emma also fostered a litter of three boxer puppies for two weeks until they were adopted over the summer. One of her neighbors adopted one and now Emma is able to pet sit for the puppy she fostered and found a home for.

“I love dogs just because I feel like they really are man’s best friend,” Emma said.

“There’s not enough laws about how you treat them. I believe in spaying and neutering and if you get a dog, take care of it.”

She also objects to the language used by shelters that kill animals after a period of time.

“They call it euthanasia, but it’s really not because there’s no reason to kill them,” she said of the healthy animals that are put down. She spends an hour to two hours each day helping bring publicity to animals that need adoption or foster and running Rescue Ropes out of her family’s garage. Her parents and two younger siblings are very supportive of her efforts.

She would like to expand the operations of Rescue Ropes to also support other rescue and fostering organizations, and is looking for other volunteers to help her cut T-shirts into strips and braid them into toys.

“I’m looking for people who are as passionate as I am about dogs,” Emma said. Teenagers who need community service hours for school programs would be welcome to help.

She also is always in need of donated T-shirts, especially colorful ones. Emma may begin to dye white T-shirts because she gets so many. She has already experimented with tie-dying shirts before braiding them into Rescue Ropes.

Emma also hopes to start the process of becoming an official nonprofit organization and said she will be soliciting donations in the near future to help. She hopes to continue Rescue Ropes throughout her college years and to expand it to other states.

“If I could do this and get paid, a little bit, I’d do it my whole life,” Emma said.