Contact Wendy Sinicki
Telephone 231-924-9230

November 22, 2018

Fremont, MI, November 22, 2018–What happens when you mix a unique portrait of a Chihuahua, a second grader with a huge heart, and a Kent City veteran? A heartwarming event that left few with dry eyes.
River Botten, a second grader at Fremont Christian School, loves Chihuahuas, mainly because her aunt, Natasha Valmont, currently has three, two of which she adopted through Bellwether Harbor. The pair attended a reception at the Artsplace with paintings of dogs and cats that had been adopted through Bellwether Harbor and featured on their annual calendar. River loved the portrait of Coco, a cute Chihuahua mix and asked her aunt to purchase it.
When River found out that Coco was adopted by a veteran, she contacted Bellwether to see if she could give the portrait to the veteran to thank him for his service.
That exchanged happened Tuesday before Thanksgiving and just a week after Veterans Day.
River made a card that said: “I bought this picture of Coco and I thought you would like it. Also I want to thank you for fighting bad guys for our country so we can have freedom.”
Irv Byxbe and his wife, Marci, arrived at Bellwether Harbor Animal Shelter in Fremont with Coco and a bouquet of flowers for River. He explained how much the picture meant to him and why Coco is a big piece of their family.
“Coco keeps me calm. I have a disease from being a veteran,” Irv said. “Whenever I come home, he gets excited to see me and rolls around and is cute to watch.”
He further explained that he wouldn’t have a dog if it wasn’t for the K9 Camo Companions, a non profit based in Sparta, whose goal is to give back to Veterans who served in the United States military by matching them with a companion dog that is rescued and trained under canine good citizen standards.
“I came to Bellwether because K9 Camo thought a terrier here would be a good fit. It wasn’t but the people here (Bellwether) brought in another dog. I picked him up and he cuddled with me and I knew it was the one,” Irv said as he petted Coco. “Still is.”
“I wanted to give this (picture) to the veteran because you served our country and gave us freedom,” River told Irv.
“It was an honor to serve you and my country,” Irv replied.
Bellwether Harbor Shelter and Training Facility is a 501(c)3 organization whose 16-year mission is to help animals and people make a connection through education, training and adoption.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Wendy Sinicki at 231-924-9230 or email at

Seven-year-old River Botten said to Veteran Irv Byxbe: I wanted to give this picture to you because you served our country and gave us freedom.
See the picture and meet Coco here: K9CcByxbeCocoPic