By SHERIDAN ROY
Eight year old Mia Phinney is on a mission: Mia’s Mission. Mia and her father Denny are making waves around the state and beyond by making and donating dog toys to police K-9 units.
Back in March, Mia and Denny crossed paths with Berlin officer Aimee Kryzkowski and her police dog Casner during a Hartford Wolf Pack hockey game where a fundraiser was being held for officer Kryzkowski. She was overcoming cancer for a second time.
“We met Aimee and Casner at the game, and then we went to the store later and my dad picked out a dog toy for Casner and cookies,” said Mia. “We brought them to the police department, and then I wanted to keep giving Casner more toys.”
Mia said her father contacted Kryzkowski afterwards and they came up with the idea to build toys for police dogs. In just over a month, Mia and Denny have visited nine different police departments around Connecticut to meet with officers and their K-9s.
“It makes me feel happy, and the dogs feel excited. I get to play with the dogs with the toys after,” said Mia. “I am an animal lover, and it’s really fun to play with them.”
Denny makes the dog toys with a piece of boat rope, a lacrosse ball and a small piece of electrical tape. He ties the rope in the center and fuses the knot together, and the brightly colored lacrosse ball sits on the end of the rope. Recently, Play It Again Sports in Southington donated three dozen lacrosse balls to the mission, and a couple in Maryland donated 100 feet of boat rope.
“We use red balls, blue balls and tie die but the best color for the dogs is blue because that’s the color they can see really well,” Mia said.
Mia remembers each dog’s name, which department they came from, and a little bit about their personalities. She shared stories about several of the dogs she has met.
“She is very observant and really pays attention to what’s going on,” said Denny. “She’s got a grasp on it all, especially at a young age.”
Mia has been around first responders and military her whole life.
“It’s awesome that she’s doing something that she’s passionate about. I know how much she loves animals and I know how much of a connection she has with the first responder community,” said Denny. One of his close friends was in the marines and Mia remembers him going away. Denny himself is also a first responder.
Mia also spent four years volunteering at the Meriden Humane Society, and said she has great experience from that.
“Through this mission, she gets to see how the police dogs actually work and learn, too,” said Denny. “We’re able to see them do more than just what people think they do—get to see them up close and see the other side of the work dog.”
The mission has only just begun, but already has a strong start.
“We’re going to keep plugging away like we’re doing, between work and school, and spread it around the state,” said Denny. “The K-9 units are a very surprisingly intertwined community and all these officers and handlers seem to know each other. A lot of them train together and go to the same training facilities. It was easy to branch out to other people right off the bat.”
Mia said she hopes to be a role model for her baby sister, and teach her how a simple act of kindness can go a long way.
“When my little sister grows up to be one or two then she could maybe learn lessons of how to act and how to treat people,” said Mia. “Not, like, have me tell her everything to do, but to have her understand how to be nice to people and just to be a role model for her.”
Mia’s Mission has a strong social media presence that continues to grow as the message spreads. Follow the page on Instagram at @MiasMission19.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.