We are starting up a new weekly series that highlights some of the stories of the good work we have done with Harley's Haven and Pennridge Animal Hospital - read on to hear more, and be sure to tune in on Sundays for more stories!
The story of Harley’s Haven starts in April, 2003. I was a freshman in college, and was working at a local vet hospital as a technician part-time during school for experience. I was there one day when we took a call from a woman who was calling to complain about her 9-week-old puppy. She was concerned that he was not learning appropriately and might have something wrong with him. He was ‘peeing on the floor daily’ and ‘still having accidents despite her husband hitting him to show him he was wrong’. As the conversation progressed, I became more and more concerned about the welfare of this pup and how he was being treated. She sounded very overwhelmed, so I convinced her that perhaps there was something wrong and she should surrender him to the vet hospital so we could work with him and try to find him another home. Thankfully, she agreed.
I will never forget that first meeting. She carried him in and set down this adorable brown ball of fluff, who huddled against her legs, shaking. Terrified. I knelt down in front of him saying, ‘It’s ok buddy, come here. I won’t hurt you.’ He slowly slinked over to huddle against me, and that was the end for both of us.
From that moment forward, Harley was my shadow. I fostered him first, since I was living in a dorm at college and wasn’t allowed pets there or at home. I had never had a dog growing up, so my experience at the vet hospital, and then fostering this little guy was my first with having a dog of my own. I loved this little dog so deeply. At the time, I was considering changing from pre-vet to another major, and having him in my life solidified for me that this was my path. Veterinary medicine was where I was and am, supposed to be.
I believe strongly that everything happens for a reason. There’s a reason I was there that day to take that call, and that I was there to be the first to greet him with kindness. We bonded immediately and he prompted me to move off campus the following year, and start down the path that eventually led to me to veterinary school, small animal medicine, working locally, starting a rescue in his name, and then starting my own practice. I honestly believe that my life would be wildly different, if not for that sad scared puppy who creeped into my life that day.
For almost 10 years we have run a rescue in his name. We have adopted out 1452 dogs through 2020. We ran a free clinic in Philly where we spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and addressed medical concerns on 486 animals. We have travelled to a remote island off the coast of Nicaragua 4 times where we have done the same, in a clinic that we built and funded with all our own supplies and people. We have helped at least 2472 animals there, and have started a cultural shift in proper care of animals for the people of the island. Our vet practice, Pennridge Animal Hospital, has also grown in the past 7 years from just myself and Dr Heller, to 8 doctors and over 40 employees – all with the same mindset and focus of helping as many local people and animals as we can by providing excellent care and compassion.
I am sharing all of this, because I think that sometimes we forget that a small group of dedicated people can create ripples, that lead to waves of change and good in this world. I think that what we have accomplished with Harley’s Haven is amazing, and that our stories should be shared so people know we are so much more than just a rescue. And in the hopes that our stories may inspire others to also find ways to be the change they wish to see in this beautiful world of ours.
Welcome to #InspirationalSundays – a weekly post in which I will highlight stories from our adventures in rescue, veterinary practice, mission work, and life!