COMMUNITY GEMS: Pink tennis balls honor area couple’s dog

Michael and Morgan Garrison remember their blue heeler by distributing her favorite toy

Michael and Morgan Garrison’s blue heeler loved playing with all types of balls, but pink tennis balls were by far her favorite. Sarah Lynn played with them inside and outside and would even sleep with one.

“That was her favorite toy in the entire world,” Michael said.

So when their beloved dog died in February after she escaped their yard and was hit by a bus, they knew just how they wanted to honor her memory.

Within a few days, the Middletown couple had launched a GoFundMe page to purchase and donate as many pink tennis balls as possible. On April 11 – what would have been Sarah Lynn’s third birthday – they visited six shelters and adoption centers throughout the Dayton and Cincinnati area, providing hundreds of dogs with the toy she loved best.

“It made my heart feel so full to be able to share that joy that she had,” Morgan said.

They raised about $450 – enough to purchase 480 pink tennis balls. Each shelter they visited received enough for every dog with some leftover. The Garrisons told Sarah Lynn’s story to staff and showed her photo.

“It helped us heal a little bit too,” Michael said. “Not only did we share a ball, we shared Sarah with people.”

The Garrisons were nominated as Dayton Daily News Community Gems by Lisa Garrison, Michael’s stepmother. She described Sarah Lynn as a “ball of energy” and “full of life.”

Michael and Morgan delight in being in one another’s company, and their love for each other spills over onto their pets, she said.

“They’re both very giving and very caring people,” she said.

The giving continued even after the visits to distribute the tennis balls, she said. Michael keeps some of the extra in his car to give to others.

Michael, 35, and Morgan, 26, also each got tattoos the day after the accident that incorporate a pink tennis ball, and the donations from family, friends and strangers began shortly thereafter.

They chose to pass out the balls to shelters and adoption centers since the animals there don’t always get a lot of attention, said Michael, whose business, That Airport Guy, offers transportation services in the Dayton area.

“This seemed the right thing to do to honor her and show love to the dogs who need it the most,” Michael said.

The Garrisons have two cats as well as two dogs. Fred Rogers, a chihuahua and dachshund mix, prefers rope toys. Their shepherd mix, Lou Ann, was more recently added to their family and showed some interest in a pink tennis ball she discovered under the couch.

The couple welcomed Sarah Lynn into their home as an eight-week-old puppy, and Morgan said she was her “baby from day one.” But all dogs are worthy of extra patience and time.

“Every dog deserves love,” Morgan said.

Michael would like to continue to raise money and distribute pink tennis balls to remember Sarah Lynn.

“There will be a whole new set of dogs next year that will need balls,” he said.

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