What a year!
Today I celebrate my one year anniversary with the Michigan Humane Society. It has been an absolutely amazing year. I am humbled to be a part of this community – a true family who is so committed to their mission, who makes a difference, who saves lives.
I did not, however, always see myself here.
Early on, as a student at Grand Valley State University, I saw myself with a very different future. I was two years into a degree in advertising and public relations when a little too much time watching Animal Planet – specifically the “Crocodile Hunter” – turned me 180 degrees. I decided I wanted to make a difference, and that I wanted to work with animals. So, I changed my academic focus and graduated with a degree in wildlife biology.
The spring of my junior year, my parents relocated to Wisconsin. I spent the summer there and found a job at the local Humane Society of Kenosha County (now the Safe Harbor Humane Society). When I went back to Grand Valley State, I began working with the Humane Society of Kent County (now the Humane Society of West Michigan) and the Kent County Animal Shelter. I loved every minute of it. I struggled emotionally with the more difficult times, but found incredible joy in the great moments – I was hooked.
That was roughly 17 years ago, and I haven’t looked back. I have had the honor of a career in animal welfare and have met some incredible people along the way who continue to tirelessly push themselves every day on behalf of the animals. I have seen the many faces of animal welfare and the ever-evolving atmosphere around it all throughout the country.
There are many different ways for people to find happiness in this world – this is mine. I lay my head down every night and find peace that I have made a difference, that I am committed to something important. Animal welfare is an emotionally taxing profession. There are times that we have to deal with the worst of humanity. That said, those times are far outweighed by the moments of compassion and joy.
I started cleaning kennels in Kenosha, WI. I ran ambulance calls and served as an animal control officer in Grand Rapids, MI. I worked in leadership roles in Louisiana, Tennessee and New Mexico – and now I’m back here, home, with the Michigan Humane Society. Every role I have held served a purpose and had incredible value in making the lives of the animals in each of their communities better. Every day I am energized with the prospect of going to work. I love my job. I am eternally grateful and proud to serve as the President and CEO of the Michigan Humane Society and to be a part of all that we make possible and all that we do to save lives.
A career in animal welfare is a life filled with great stories. Each day is a different day and brings the promise of making the world around you just a little better. There are very few professions that offer the incredible sense of value that come with a career in animal welfare.
If you’re interested in writing your own animal welfare story, we have several openings within our organization that can be an opening chapter to your amazing career.
– Matthew Pepper, President and CEO