How a chance encounter with a shelter in India helped one board member find his passion for animal welfare
In November of 2008, Pete Segall and his wife, Heather Dolin, were planning a three-week trip to India. Looking for ideas of places to go while they were in the area of Udaipur in the state of Rajasthan, they stumbled across Animal Aid, an animal shelter local to the area, in one of their guidebooks. Pete contacted the shelter and discovered they accepted drop-in volunteers from anywhere at any time. Twenty-four hours later, they were on their way to spend the day at Animal Aid.
“It was just one super, shockingly impactful day, and I’m still in regular touch with the founders,” says Pete.
Founders Erika Abrams and Jim Meyers are originally from Seattle, but fell in love with Udaipur after several trips and decided to relocate there permanently with their daughter, Claire, in 1994. As they settled into their new home, they noticed many animals around the area that were in dire situations. Locals wanted to help, but did not have the resources or space to care for them. That’s when, in 2002, Erika and Jim decided to start Animal Aid. They still run the shelter today along with a now grown-up Claire.
After returning home to Seattle, Pete was struck by how it had taken an international adventure to show him that there is work in animal welfare to be done everywhere.
“It kind of hit me at that point, ‘Gosh, why did I need to travel to the other side of the world to volunteer in something I’ve always been passionate about?’ A lightbulb went off and it ignited this passion and I wanted to get more involved.”
Lucky for us, that’s when Pete found Seattle Humane.
“Right when I came back from that trip, I started looking to see how I could get involved in animal welfare, and Seattle Humane came up and that’s when I started volunteering.”
He started in the Adoption Support Program (ASP) in 2009, and has been with us ever since. He joined as a board member in 2019. His wife, Heather, a fellow animal advocate, is a regular volunteer with Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation.
Pete and Heather, who grew up in Richland and Woodinville, Washington, respectively, met at the University of Washington. Outside of animal welfare, they are passionate travelers, typically planning one major international trip a year. They also love exploring Seattle’s food scene, hosting dinner parties, playing cards, and Pete likes to get in some softball when possible.
They have always been animal lovers and pet owners. The first animal Pete and Heather adopted together was a rescue dog named Angel who lived to be over 18 years old. Angel is an outlier in an otherwise strong tradition of P-named animals spanning from Pepper, Puck, Pascha, Peelar, Purr-cee, Parker, and most recently, Porter, a deaf and blind dog whom they adopted at age 12. Sadly, they had to say goodbye to their beloved Porter in early August.
Pete gets teary eyed when he thinks about his experience with the animals he saw and interacted with at Animal Aid, especially a dog named Mini to whom he felt a strong connection.
“The spirit of those animals, dogs especially, despite all the terrible things that had happened to them, their outlook, how positive and loving they were. The spirit of those dogs really impacted me.”
Pete hopes that someday Seattle Humane and Animal Aid can find a way to partner in working toward bettering the lives of animals and celebrating the human and animal bond. He also wants to encourage more people to take action in getting involved in issues they feel passionately about.
“One reason I wanted to share my story is because I’m hoping more people will realize, you don’t need huge life experiences to drive getting involved.”
You can learn more about Animal Aid on their website. You can also hear cofounder Erika Abrams speak about how she started Animal Aid in her TED Talk.