Birthday Surprise: Husband Builds Animal Shelter in Wife’s Name

Life With Dogs is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

Sonia Breslow thought she knew what she was getting for her birthday this year. The Phoenix woman said she was so sure her husband was buying her a convertible that she called around to local dealerships trying to see if she could find out which model it would be. None of the salespeople she talked to had an answer for her. She assumed that they were just doing a good job of keeping a secret. They weren’t, but as she would soon learn, half of the town was – and she could have never guessed the surprise that awaited her.

On Saturday, John Breslow surprised his wife of more than 30 years with an astounding present: The Arizona Animal Welfare League’s new shelter.

The Sonia Breslow Adoption Center

Breslow, a former business investor, says he was watching the CBS Morning News about two years ago when inspiration struck. Anchors were discussing The Arizona Animal Welfare League and mentioned that it was the state’s largest and oldest no-kill animal shelter. He called the AAWL to ask if they could use financial assistance. When they said yes, he offered to build them a new shelter in honor of his wife’s 60th birthday.

For two years, John and those involved in the project kept the plan a secret. He provided $2 million, and fundraisers added another $1 million in construction funds as the AAWL quietly built a beautiful new expanded shelter on 40th and Washington streets.

When the big day arrived,  John loaded friends and family on a bus and drove them to witness the center’s opening for Sonia’s birthday bash. They toured the expanded shelter’s new kennels, a state-of-the-art area for cats, and a new hub for volunteers. Sonia was blown away. “I love animals,” she said, beaming.

Moved by her husband’s generosity, Sonia said she could have never imagined a better surprise. She thought she was getting a car: instead, her husband had given countless animals the gift of life in her name. And speaking of life, the new, larger shelter means many more lives will be saved.

“We were saving about 3,100 dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens a year at that time, and now we’re hoping, with this addition, to double that,” said Judith Gardner, CEO of the AAWL.

Thanks to the Breslows and an incredibly generous gesture, thousands of homeless animals will now escape euthanasia, a cause dear to Sonia’s heart.