Adopted Dog Encourages Pet Mom to Teach from the Heart

As teacher’s pet, Carmella helps Abby turn her passion for animal advocacy into purpose.

Abby + Carmella

Carmella is more than a canine best friend — she also provides support, instills joy, and inspires her teacher mom Abby to show youth that they can make a difference for animals, too.

"As teacher’s pet, Carmella helps Abby turn her passion for animal advocacy into purpose."

I locked eyes with Carmella’s deep brown almond eyes the weekend after my first week of teaching. There have been few times in my life that I’ve felt that what I was doing was completely right, but this was one of those times. I brought Carmella home, and my life changed.

My first year of teaching, like all teachers’ first years, was tough. I came home crying nearly every day, questioning the five years of college I completed to become a teacher. However, after I adopted Carmella, I could bury my face in her yellow fur after a long day and immediately get the strength to keep trying. I wanted to be the best teacher I could be. Somehow, this shaggy and spunky Terrier-mutt from the shelter was helping me to do just that.

As teaching got a little better and the days (and years) went by, my passion for animal rescue grew. How amazing was this little dog who changed my life? Did everyone know how special shelter dogs were? I combined both my interests, teaching and animal rescue, and decided I would do something to help: I created an animal rescue club at my middle school. We had monthly meetings where we learned about animal rescue efforts through guest speakers, videos, and shared stories. My students painted pictures of shelter animals who needed homes. We volunteered, walked dogs, and cleaned cages. We even made treats for the dogs.

I taught my students about the need to help shelter animals and what they could do. They completed a project-based learning activity where they researched an animal welfare issue and presented their findings. We attended the Humane Legislature Day at the state capitol. My students wrote books and read them aloud to the shelter animals. My love for teaching was never greater than on those days, and I was so proud of my students. Teachers will tell you they feel destined to teach; like they were almost born with the gift. And many of them are. It’s like magic to watch them. But I wasn’t a natural. I struggled. I questioned my purpose in the classroom and on this earth. Carmella, the deep brown almond-eyed, scraggly yellow Terrier mutt… she changed that for me. She gave me the strength to get through my insecurities of that first year. Then she not only renewed my teacher spirit, she gave me another purpose as well.

I just finished my tenth year as a teacher. I am also an animal foster, an advocate, and a  volunteer — and of course, I adopted another scraggly Terrier mutt. I am never more at peace, more fulfilled, or happier than I am when I’m involved in animal rescue in some way. Carmella (and now Lucy, too) are at my side, giving me strength — and giving me purpose.

Each year, the Petco Foundation Holiday Wishes campaign invites adopters to share stories of how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Abby won Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association in Charleston, West Virginia a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.