Best Friends' 27th birthday

Best Friends is turning 27 years old, and we're especially proud of the amped-up efforts and lifesaving work being done across the country to help as many animals as possible. From our work at the Sanctuary (click here to watch our Birthday video) and beyond, we're looking forward to the next 27 years with more lifesaving strategies than ever!

Our outreach programs are targeting some of the most at-risk animals who often don"t find their way out of the shelter system. We"re saving more lives than ever, and one of the main reasons we are able to make such a positive impact on animal welfare is thanks to the tireless work of our dedicated volunteers! We share our birthday celebration with all the people on the frontlines making a difference every day for pets in need.

Here's a look at just some of the people who are helping our hard-hitting programs, projects and events pave the way to No More Homeless Pets. You can help make our Birthday Wish come true by either donating or volunteering!

Part 1: Pup My Ride Volunteers and New York Programs

Pup My Ride from our puppy mills initiatives and L.A. programs most often targets puppy mill dogs and whisks them away to the safety of sanctuaries, foster homes and rescues.

5965285605 fb97a17b91 oBill Splitter (pictured) has been volunteering with Best Friends since his first stint during Hurricane Katrina. He is a staple of the Midwest to the Northeast Pup My Ride transports and shares some of his insights into why volunteering makes such a difference. He says that knowing that the animals are going to have a better future and will be well cared for is what makes his day!

His most memorable animal?

"Brynn the Boxer that came through with us and had had her eye removed and sewn shut with a piece of regular twine [while in the puppy mill]," Bill says. "She went to Best Friends and I saw a picture of her with her eye all fixed up and looking great; that made me feel really good. That"s why I do what I do!"

Sarah and Buck Newman are also Pup My Ride regulars, and they share a similar sentiment. Their favorite part of volunteering is "knowing that they are helping to end the suffering."

"It's an unimaginable feeling to know that the scared and grungy Yorkie you've slowly coaxed to come out of her crate and sleep on your lap has left her dirty puppy mill behind and is on her way to a loving home."

Kerry Dahlheim (pictured below sharing a moment with her animal loving colleagues during a Pup My Ride) has been an animal lover her whole life, and 10 years ago she decided to devote herself fulltime to helping animals. She"s a pet sitter, she teaches training classes at her local pet store, and she"s running her own dog rescue, JRT Rescue. She loves to see how animals develop over the time she has with them, how they learn to trust and become your friend. That sounds like the fixings of a perfect Pup My Ride volunteer!5965858570 b0dcced290 o

What's her favorite part of volunteering?

"Everything!" she exclaims. "I get very energetic and excited getting involved in volunteering. The people are fantastic, the animals are fantastic, I cannot say one bad thing about volunteering. You learn each time you volunteer."

What"s her greatest inspiration?

"All the volunteers that I work with on the project inspire me. They all have something to teach me, and I learn from them also. I have helped out with Pup My Ride many times, and I still find the puppy mill dogs so inspiring. Especially the very shy dog that won"t come out of the kennel and then sits in the back and shivers, but by day three that dog is playing agility in the stall and very excited to see people. Just to think that the few days we spend with these dogs we can change their attitude about people - that all people aren"t mean. And they start to trust us, and you can see the darkness leave their eyes, and they are replaced with shiny beautiful brown eyes!"

Big Apple Animal Advocates

Best Friends New York programs helps the animals of the tri-state area.

Marti Wheat (right) with NY Programs manager Jamie Lyn RubinOne of our amazing volunteers Marti Wheat (pictured holding a rescued puppy mill dog with Jamie Lyn Rubin, manager of NY Programs) has been instrumental in making the Pet Super Adoption go off without a hitch and has assisted in many other events, including Strut Your Mutt, Whiskers in Wonderland, PrideFest and Yappy Hour, to name a few. Marti got involved with animal welfare on the heels of the Michael Vick dog-fighting scandal. She got involved so she could help animals victimized by people like Vick, who only see animals as a paycheck and not as creatures who deserve a life without fear and pain.

Her favorite part of volunteering is knowing that she's making a difference in an animal's life and meeting other like-minded people who care so much for animals. She's made friends via the Best Friends family that will be a part of her life beyond volunteering.

Then there was Huckleberry, a large beagle mix. When Marti was volunteering at the Super Adoption, she brought him out to meet a potential adopter. The dog didn"t react well to the would-be new guardian and kept jumping into Marti"s arms. Marti realized that there was something not quite right with this fit. She was amazed at how animals are able to communicate and is thrilled she gets opportunities to help perfectly match pets with their new people!

5965933950 12b7549e05 oCaroline Loevner (pictured with Beau) is another stalwart at Best Friends" events in New York. She loves being a voice for the animals and says that no effort is too small to help get animals into their "furever" homes. She counts her volunteer colleagues among her closest friends.

The work she has done has been completely inspired by Beau, her Delta Society-registered therapy dog, whom she adopted from MaPaw Siberian Husky Rescue. He is a prime example of why being involved in animal rescue is so important. Found tied outside, he was picked up by animal control and put on the kill list. Beau can regularly be found at almost all Best Friends' events, and he makes the rounds helping people at Ronald McDonald House, Beth Abraham Family of Health Services and Rivington House (a 24-hour care facility for HIV/AIDS patients). This pair really exemplifies what it means to pay it forward!

New Yorkers know a thing or two about hard work, and there are few people who bring as much enthusiasm to animal rescue as Brenda Reider. According to Tammy Heeber, Best Friends staff for New York programs, "Brenda is always available to help us, no matter what is needed!"

5965330415 b828984d7a oBrenda"s a lifelong pet lover, but she didn"t volunteer with animal welfare for the longest time because she was afraid the sadness would be too overwhelming. Then she heard the story of the Starfish. She realized she could make a difference in one animal"s life, even if it was only for a short time by taking a dog out of his kennel to go for a walk or snuggling with a kitten before she found a forever home. Brenda stopped focusing on how the animal got where he was and focused on where he could go with just a kind word or touch.

The most inspirational animal for her is her failed foster, Carley. Brenda was volunteering at New York Animal Care and Control and had recently taken a bottle baby feeding course. The shelter asked Brenda to work in the nursery, where there were seven litters (fortunately six of them had a momma cat). But there was a 3-week-old kitten who was a true orphan. The little girl just crawled up and snuggled in Brenda"s neck. Again. And again. Carley is now 2 years old, and to this day continues to crawl up Brenda"s arm to get some snuggle time! We"re overjoyed that Brenda has brought her experience and know-how to New York programs!

Images by Best Friends staff and Marshall Boprey