YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – On a typical day, you’ll find Maria Morales loving, walking and caring for dogs at the Mahoning County Dog Pound & Adoption Center.
“It is definitely one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, but I can’t seem to step away,” she said.
It’s tough because she, like anyone, hates seeing loving dogs sit in a kennel by themselves at night. And it’s tough watching the new dogs come in — some of which have a hard time adjusting.
“I’ll work with them and just kind of sit in front of the cage and talk to them and let them know that they’re safe,” Morales said. “It’s kind of hard, but I try to help with animals like that and just reassure and let them know that it’s going to be OK.”
Morales — this week’s Valley Hometown Hero — is at the pound at least five days per week. She also works as a hairstylist and uses that skill to help others — specifically, kids with autism.
“I do kids’ hair at home that are autistic,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to allow them to come to the salon, you know? It is a bit of a challenge.
“Every year I get involved in the Autistic Prom. I volunteer and I do a lot of the girls’ hair and sometimes some of the boys need a haircut for the event.”
Morales also visits nursing homes and does hair for clients who are no longer able to come to her. She visits with people who don’t have anyone else, as well.
“I still want to make a difference,” she said. “I’m not going to serve just to hang out. I just wanna make a difference while I’m here. And that’s what I enjoy doing”
That’s the reward for Morales — knowing she is making a difference. And knowing she’s helping our four-legged friends find homes.
“They’ll have pictures on Facebook to show us how the dogs are doing,” Morales said. “And that’s awesome. To see them in a nice warm bed — and it’s not loud anymore and they’re able to be themselves — that’s kind of exciting and that, I love.”