My story: New York volunteer Dale Musselman
The first time Dale Musselman volunteered with Best Friends in New York, it was at a super adoption event, where he was in charge of manning the front entrance. At one point during his shift, it started to pour down rain, but did Dale abandon ship? Not a chance. You see, Dale will gladly get drenched from head to toe if that’s what it takes to help New York’s homeless pets.
“I’ve been heavily invested as a volunteer with Best Friends ever since that day,” says Dale, who today is a team leader at adoption events.
Like many apartment dwellers in the Big Apple, Dale lives in a building that doesn’t allow pets, which is all the more reason for him to volunteer with Best Friends. He’ll adopt a pet someday, but until then, Dale is perfectly content to help the homeless cats and dogs that come to Best Friends–New York from Animal Care Centers of NYC find the homes they deserve.
In the following Q&A, you’ll see why he decided to become a volunteer, learn about his inspiring visit to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and discover how he once fused his passion for wine with his passion for saving lives.
Why did you decide to volunteer with Best Friends?
I first learned about Best Friends as a volunteer at a shelter in Pittsburgh where I used to live. When a few other volunteers took a trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, and told me what a wonderful place it is, the idea of visiting the Sanctuary was planted in my mind. Then, a few years later, I moved to New York City and was very excited to learn that Best Friends had a presence here. That’s when I realized that I could be involved with the organization without having to go to Utah to do so.
I’m greatly motivated to continue being involved with Best Friends, because the mission falls right in line with my personal beliefs when it comes to animals. I share the view that animals are sentient beings that deserve to be treated humanely and with respect and dignity.
What inspires you most in your volunteer work?
Knowing that I can make a difference in the lives of companion animals in the New York City area through Best Friends is a great feeling. They’ve been at the forefront of the no-kill movement, and when I see the progress that’s been made in New York City’s shelters, as well as nationwide, I’m inspired to continue to be part of the solution ― even if it’s just a small part in the big picture.
What would you tell others who are thinking of volunteering?
I would strongly encourage anyone to become a Best Friends volunteer. It’s a great organization that does amazing work for animals here and across the country. The Best Friends staff is wonderful and a pleasure to work with, and I’ve formed great relationships with our New York staff throughout my years of volunteering. It’s easy to get involved and there are opportunities for people with all types of skills. It’s not just working with dogs and cats.
In fact, my video production background came in handy at a gala event last year. I never expected that my TV production background and audio/video skills would come into play as a Best Friends volunteer, but I’m glad they did.
Since becoming a Best Friends volunteer, what have you learned and do you see things differently now?
Having visited the Sanctuary and being a regular reader of Best Friends magazine, I’ve come to appreciate just how innovative this organization is and how they are leaders in the animal welfare world.
I particularly enjoyed attending two emergency response training sessions conducted by John Garcia. These sessions delve into the details and logistics involved in conducting large scale rescues during natural disasters or other emergency situations. I aspire to get all the necessary training and certifications so that I can participate in these rescues in the future. That’s when I’ll truly feel that I’m making a difference.
In terms of your volunteer work for Best Friends, what are you most proud of?
A few years ago I became a team leader and I’m very proud to be in that role. As team leaders, we’re entrusted with a great deal of responsibility at events, particularly at Strut Your Mutt and super adoptions. I take my role very seriously for that reason. It’s really gratifying when I’m at a major event from setup to tear-down, and leave with the feeling that I’ve made a meaningful contribution to its success.
The Best Friends staff and team leaders are a very close-knit group, and I think we work very well together, despite being a ragtag group from all walks of life.
Tell us about your favorite volunteer moment.
My favorite experience as a Best Friends volunteer was visiting the Sanctuary for the first time a few years ago with about a dozen other NYC volunteers. The New York staff put together a special itinerary for us, including a VIP tour with founder Faith Mahoney, dinner in town with Utah staffers, a picnic lunch and presentation from emergency response manager John Garcia and other special activities. We met several founders along the way. And a few of us also had the opportunity to meet Lucas, one of the Vicktory dogs.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I’m a part-time wine professional and a full-time wine enthusiast. In addition to my day job in IT with NBC Universal, I occasionally get paid to pour at wine events here in New York City. In fact, wine and dogs are two of my greatest passions in life. I once merged those two passions by co-organizing a series of recurring wine tasting fundraisers at the shelter where I used to volunteer in Pittsburgh. We called it “BYOD” (bring your own dog). Guests could sample wines with animal-themed names, while hanging out with their dogs on the grounds of our shelter.
Besides volunteering for Best Friends, how else do "give back" to your community?
In addition to volunteering for Best Friends, I volunteer with Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC). I primarily volunteer at ACC’s mobile adoption events — working with the dogs, promoting and advocating for them, meeting and greeting the public and facilitating the adoption process. And when we’ve had a lot of dog adoptions at a given event, I enjoy spending time with the cats and kittens. I’ve also volunteered a handful of times with the Mayor’s Alliance and Town of Hempstead.
What does volunteering mean to you?
I think it’s important to give back and help others in need, particularly the more vulnerable members of our society ― human, animal or otherwise. Financial donations are always important, but one’s time is valuable commodity as well. I believe that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few ― or the one.” (I learned that from Star Trek!) In other words, I believe that the needs of society outweigh the needs of the individual.
In my case, I have a great love for animals and share Best Friends’ desire to Save Them All. So I try to do what I can to help achieve that goal. My volunteer work with Best Friends and other animal welfare organizations is more meaningful to me, more rewarding to me than any job I’ve ever had, and likely any job I ever will have.
Photos courtesy of Dale Musselman