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A visit from Evie: Retrieving dog shares lesson on littering

More than 100 Jonesborough first-grade students went home with a “pawprint on their hearts” Monday, thanks to a very special visit from Evie, the Litter Dog.
“Evie is 8½ years old and has been doing this since she was 6 months old,” Susan Harp, Evie’s owner and “mom,” told children at Jonesborough Elementary School on Oct. 19.
Evie, Susan, dad/owner Steve and brother “Biscuit” all currently live in Evansville, Indiana.
But this week, Evie, a golden retriever with a penchant for cleanliness, was in Jonesborough to teach children about the importance of keeping their communities beautiful.
“It’s all about litter prevention,” said Jeff Thomas, executive director for Keep Jonesborough Beautiful, as well as director of solid waste and recycling with the Town of Jonesborough. “When you touch base with the children and you instill an idea in their heads, it will be a lasting idea.”
Plus, he said with a smile, “nobody is going to forget the dog.”
Thomas met Evie and the Harps at a recent Keep Tennessee Beautiful conference. He is also on the Keep Tennessee Beautiful Advisory Council.
“I met them when they did a program for us,” Thomas said. “It was absolutely wonderful. I fell in love with the dog.”
And he fell in love with the message, illustrated not only by the Harps and Evie, but also the two Evie books Susan Harp has written — “Retrieving with Evie” and “Evie Goes Clean and Green,” all emphasizing the importance of picking up litter.
“If Evie can do it, there’s no reason we can’t do it too,” Thomas said.
Evie, by the way, stands for Every Volunteer is Essential.
Thomas was delighted to find that the Harps would be in nearby Sevierville in October. The litter-busting family soon agreed to visit Jonesborough as well.
“They don’t charge a fee, they just do it out of the kindness of their hearts,” Thomas added.
Evie arrived in Jonesborough late Sunday night, but was up bright and early and ready to meet the children Monday.
Susan read “Retrieving with Evie” to the children, then Evie traveled around the room, picking up litter and delivering it into the trash can held by her “dad.” At the end, each child got the chance to greet Evie and pet her.
“Evie is familiar with school rooms, and very comfortable within them,” Susan said. This four-legged advocate also loves retrieving trash and showing off for the young audiences. And she has been instrumental in helping to raise funds to purchase pet oxygen masks for Indiana fire departments.
They make quite a team, Susan admits – a team she never quite imagined when she came up with the idea of a book about a Labrador retriever that battles litter.
And by the end of her visit in Jonesborough this week, Evie had already won over a whole new group of kids – and those kids, Thomas believes, are the real hope of maintaining Jonesborough’s beauty.
“We’ve already been doing a recycle program for Keep Jonesborough Beautiful,” said Carla Anderson, who teaches one of the first-grade classes at Jonesborough Elementary.
“Now they are going to have something they really enjoy – Evie – to go with this.”