Natalie Geissler, 14, of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, an eighth-grader at Portsmouth Middle School, travels for 45 minutes to a rescue animal shelter every other Sunday to care for quarantined dogs that have been transferred from overcrowded or kill shelters in other locations. Natalie first began volunteering when she joined the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls in 2017. As a member, she tie-dyed T-shirts for families with sick children, built picnic tables for a summer camp, participated in numerous fundraisers, and took part in other service activities. Later, she volunteered to send off and welcome home soldiers in Portsmouth. “The feeling I got from helping others inspired me to look for even more volunteering opportunities,” said Natalie.
That’s when she found out about a shelter called Mary’s Dogs Rescue & Adoption. “I love animals and want to be a veterinarian someday,” said Natalie, so she was immediately drawn to the prospect of caring for the canines there. “I have a special love for these animals because they come from bad circumstances and do not choose where they end up.” For four hours at a time, Natalie plays with the puppies, walks older dogs, measures food and medicine, helps with feeding, cleans cages, washes dishes and folds blankets and towels. Many of the dogs she cares for have been abused or mistreated. “The cases of animal cruelty I have seen have astounded me,” she said, “but it has made me realize that heroes are not always those who perform extraordinary acts. People can be heroic by performing little, ordinary acts of kindness each day.”