Dealing with the grief that followed his father’s death took Mike Post’s life straight from the hounds.
Post, 42, of Lower Burrell is the shelter manager at Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley in New Kensington. This is not where he thought life would take him after graduating from Burrell High School in 1998.
“It’s funny how long-term life is,” he said. “Sometimes things happen for a reason. Where you are meant to be is where you end up.
After high school, Post trained as a surgical technician at UPMC and began working as a travel nurse in 2005. This took him across the continental United States, to Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands.
In 2015, he found himself in Boston and planned to settle there permanently. However, he returned to Lower Burrell to help care for his father, David Post, when he fell ill with heart disease. He died in November 2015 at age 62.
To deal with his grief, Post said he decided to stay in the Lower Burrell for a bit. He adopted a dog, Yogi, an American Staffordshire terrier, from Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh.
“He really helped me deal with my grief and bring me back into the world,” Post said. “I knew then that I wanted to do something with animals in the future.”
Post was also watching an Animal Planet reality show, “Pit Bulls & Parolees,” and his stories about rehabilitating people and dogs. He started thinking about how dogs can help people deal with depression, like he had.
“I wanted to get into the realm of animals and explore it more,” he said.
Believing that his medical history with people could transfer to animals, Post attended the Vet Tech Institute in Pittsburgh and earned an associate’s degree in 2018.
After working at a few clinics and gaining experience, Post stopped by Animal Protectors in February 2020 to see if they needed any help. At the time, the organization occupied a small building on Linden Avenue.
Turns out they needed a new medical coordinator.
“I felt it was definitely up my alley,” he said.
At the end of 2020, Animal Protectors moved into their new, much larger shelter on Church Street.
When the shelter’s former director left in November, Post went to the organization’s board of directors and said he would be happy to do anything he could to help. They asked him if he would consider taking this job.
“I never really wanted a management position,” he said. “When the opportunity presented itself, I decided to take up the challenge.”
Dr. Betsy Kennon, a retired veterinarian and volunteer with Animal Protectors, said Post was a boon to the shelter.
“He really did amazing things for the shelter,” she said. “He’s been a real gift.”
Post wears two hats for the shelter. He works as a shelter manager while also being a medical coordinator. As director, he oversees the day-to-day operations of the shelter and its staff of 12 employees and a handful of volunteers.
Reviving the volunteer program and making it work after the setbacks of the covid pandemic is something Post is working on.
Post said his job as a shelter manager is harder and more time-consuming, but he’s ready for it.
“The best part is watching an animal go home forever,” he said. “There is no such thing.”
The vision: a cornerstone of the community
Post sees Animal Protectors as the cornerstone of the community, where people can access resources, education, and services they couldn’t otherwise afford.
This includes low-cost neutering and neutering, training classes, a support group for those grieving the death of a pet, a low-cost euthanasia program, and education about vaccines and the best diets to keep pets happy and healthy.
Animal Protectors president Katie Martinez said it’s been an exciting time at the shelter and the board is on the same page as Post.
“He works incredibly hard to make the shelter the best it can be,” she said.
Post still has Yogi and a second dog, Annie, a pit bull mix, whom he adopted in 2017.
He recommends adopting pets for those who suffer from depression.
“They give you a sense of purpose,” he said. “And they will get you moving and force you to be active again.”
Post said his dad was an animal lover and had every pet imaginable growing up. He thinks his father would be happy with what he is doing today.
“It was a unique journey, but I’m glad it ended where it did. I can do what I love every day,” Post said. “Sometimes life throws curveballs at you. You just have to deal with it.”