OLEAN — We’re lucky to live in an area where there are so many people who love animals and treat them kindly. Megan Mahoney goes above and beyond in her love of animals — with a special focus on dogs — and her efforts to be sure they are trained with compassion, are happy and safe.
As a little girl she had a dog named Mickey and two cats, Friday and JJ.
“I called them my siblings,” Meg said. “I was fairly young when I learned that many dogs were victims of abuse and and neglect, and this made me sad and angry. I remember thinking that if there was anything I could do to change the lives of those dogs, I’d want to do it. And so my passion for helping homeless animals began.
“I started volunteering at the SPCA in the fall of 2006. I googled colleges close to no-kill animal shelters and found out that St. Bonaventure was very close to the Cattaraugus County SPCA. I practically lived at the SPCA for a handful of years,” she said.
She felt a special tie to dogs with “special needs,” those who had behavior problems, often due to abusive treatment, and began working with them, visiting daily, taking them for walks, grooming them and working to gain their trust. One of her key tenets is to be sure that the dogs in her care have fun, as this not only enhances their lives, but builds trust and leads the way to effective training.
Meg went on to become a certified professional dog trainer, knowledge assessed.
“I obtained my CPDT-KA through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. The certification council requires hands-on work with dogs and their guardians, volunteer work with dogs, passing a written test and an ethical commitment to ensure no dog is mistreated under the guise of training,” she said. “Dogs are emotionally, mentally and physically impacted by the way humans interact with them, and the impact should always be a healthy and happy one.
“Another thing I have learned over the years is to let dogs be themselves and express themselves,” she said. “They love to have fun and learn new things and play. Dogs are so smart, and they have so much to say.
“I came up with the idea of an ‘agility field’ in 2016, as it’s an awesome way for dogs and people to bond,” Meg said. “Whether it’s competition agility or just navigating obstacles, agility is lots of fun. I wanted the shelter dogs to have access to that type of fun on a regular basis.”
So Meg set about raising funds for the agility field.
“The majority of the money came from Tractor Supply customers,” she said. “Tractor Supply made it very easy for me to fundraise. I asked if as an SPCA volunteer I could bring a shelter dog to their store, along with a donation jar and a poster, and they welcomed me. I greeted every customer by saying, ‘Hello, this is an SPCA dog looking for a home,’ and explained about homeless dogs and the agility project.
“I can’t say enough good things about the way Tractor Supply staff treated me and how generous the customers were. It really gave me hope for a more compassionate world.”
Before Meg started the agility project she would raise funds to help pay for expensive medical care animals needed, like dental extractions and tumor removals, along with spay/neutering. She was also welcomed by Mix 101.5 WMXO and D.J. Bobby O, along with Bill Timberlake, who was committed to helping homeless animals and whose idea it was to have the SPCA on air.
After four years and countless hours of volunteer time raising the funds, and with an extra financial boost at the end by the Allegany-Limestone Friends of Rachel school club walkathon, Meg’s Agility Field became a reality. It’s there for the dogs to use for play or for training, and as things open up again, it will be available for others in the community.
Meg continues to visit her old friends at the SPCA, and has begun a new venture.
She purchased an 85-acre property in Ischua last year in order to open her own sanctuary, Celebration of Canine Lives Sanctuary. There is a barn on the property that needs to be renovated before she can take in any dogs.
It’s a non-profit organization and she is working on the website. She aims to find loving homes for dogs she can adopt out, and a lasting home for dogs with special needs.
Her professional training and endless compassion will serve her well, as it does her current human and canine clients. She can be contacted at Mahonemt@bonaventure.edu.
Many lucky dogs have been befriended by Meg Mahoney over the years, and her childhood wish to help dogs in need has been more than fulfilled, with many fortunate dogs come.
The SPCA in Cattaraugus County, 2944 Route 16 North, near Pleasant Valley Nursery, Olean, N.Y., 14760, 372-8492. During the current crisis the shelter is open by appointment only. Check out the pets available at www.spcacattco.org where you can fill out an adoption application before your visit, and look at their listing on petfinder.com for an idea of who is looking for a home.