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Social Work Intern Helps Pets and People in Crisis

Millie Gonzalez
Social Work student Millie Gonzalez interns with the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals'; Helping Pets and People in Crisis pilot program. (Photo by Siobhan Healy)
by Millie Gonzalez

My name is Millie Gonzalez and I am a Social Work student at Lehman College, currently doing my internship with the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals’ Helping Pets and People in Crisis pilot program.

When I began my journey to become a social worker, I had every intention of dedicating my future career to working with young children and their families. I took the classes, did the research, and was ready to get started. In the last few years, however, I began to move in a different direction. My experiences as co-organizer of our dog run in Harlem illustrated to me that there is a real need for someone to help pet owners who were going through tough times. I quickly realized that I wanted to find a way to combine my passion for animal welfare with my interest in human welfare. As for my internship, it was a perfect match when I learned about the pilot program at the Mayor’s Alliance.

Since September 2011, I have served as an intern twice a week where I am exposed to issues related to the human-animal bond. In this short period of time, I have begun to develop my social work skills with pet owners facing a full range of difficulties, including domestic violence, illness, and housing problems. While one might think my internship is playing with cats and dogs all day, just like traditional social workers, much of my time is actually spent engaging with pet owners, assessing needs, developing solutions, and planning for emergencies. My days include making home visits, escorting pet owners to low-cost and free services, researching additional help, and offering referrals and counseling to those in great need.

My training here at the Mayor’s Alliance has taught me that if a person is in crisis, then their pet is probably in crisis as well. Unfortunately, animals don’t have voices, but they do have us. I have every intention of taking the lessons learned here and using them to make a real difference.

If you would like to help by fostering a dog or cat enrolled in the Helping Pets and People in Crisis pilot program, please e-mail jenny@AnimalAllianceNYC.org.

About the Author
Millie Gonzalez is a Social Work major at Lehman College in the Bronx. She was recently honored with the distinction of Presidential Scholar for her outstanding academic achievement. In her free time she can be found walking Mr. Marbles — her four-year-old Beagle — in Marcus Garvey Park, where she is an active volunteer and advocate for the local dog run.