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Too Young to Die: Alexandra Brown

The 10-year-old asked people to sign her petition to ban puppy mills.

Nate's Honor Animal Rescue was a second home for Alexandra "Lexi" Brown, 10. When she had free time, she went to the local shelter in Bradenton, Fla., with her mother for an hour or two to play with the dogs and cats. Before her death, she registered her parents and siblings as volunteers in the Rescue's new Open Paw Program, a reward-based training system that focuses on teaching animals behaviors that might help them get adopted. In her memory, the shelter recently named the children's portion of the program "Lexi's Paw Pals." "There was no doubt in my mind that she was going to grow up and do great things," said Karissa Mayer, director of operations at the shelter. "She was going to make an impact."

Lexi had an effect on the human population, too, said her mother Nikki Lowe: "She was the person who cheered everyone up." For at least a year, Lexi had been asking neighbors and friends to sign her petition to ban puppy mills. She planned to send the request to President Obama. With $240 in savings, many children would buy the newest electronic gadgets or toys, but to Lexi that money meant the chance to start her own animal shelter or the ability to purchase a longed-for pot-bellied pig. She earned money by walking and bathing the neighborhood dogs with her friends.

She enjoyed science and dreamed of working with aquatic animals as a marine biologist. She often explored the turtle population in a friend's backyard pond then researched online for additional information about the reptiles. Last year for a school science project Lexi wanted to bring a rooster and several chickens into her backyard. Her hypothesis: The chickens would lay eggs from the sound of a rooster. But when she realized roosters weren't allowed in her neighborhood, she settled on a different experiment involving plants and fish. When she found spiders or lizards in her home, she carefully gathered them and set them free outdoors. "Anything that lived--an ant, insect, anything--you couldn't kill anything or it would make her sad," said her older half-brother Tyler Sambucci.

Lexi was found shot to death next to her father inside a vehicle on Jan. 14 near Toledo, Ohio.

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