GULFPORT -- Wendy Kennedy puts in about 60 to 80 hours of work each week to help pets get adopted at the Humane Society of South Mississippi, but she never punches a time card or receives a paycheck. The volunteer, a disabled Air Force veteran, works tirelessly with large dogs and pooches that have been in the shelter for long periods of time to find forever homes, said Maren Slay, marketing specialist at HSSM.
"Wendy is invaluable to our organization," Slay said. "She does so much for us. She's a selfless person and is very dedicated."
Kennedy's time and dedication to the shelter is giving HSSM a chance to win $10,000 from Hill's Science Diet. The dog food company's online contest, Hill's Shelter Heroes, invites the public to select their favorite "hero" by voting for their hometown shelter's video on their web page.
Slay produced the nearly four-minute video of Kennedy, describing why she plays a vital role at HSSM. The video is a finalist in the competition, and Slay said Gulfport's shelter is currently in second place to win the grand prize.
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Kennedy said she's always been an advocate for animals.
"I don't eat meat or anything," she said. "I'm one of those crazies, and my mom said I've been like that since I was itty bitty."
Kennedy moved to the Coast three years ago and first went to HSSM to adopt a new dog after her long-time fur child, Bella, passed away.
"I walked in there and said, 'Whoa! This place is nice.' I'll volunteer," Kennedy said, after adopting a pooch she named Angel. Kennedy said she originally planned on doing data entry for the shelter because she feared if she worked with animals, she would bring more of them home.
"That did not last long," Kennedy said.
Now, the volunteer is a house photographer at HSSM and runs a social media page, Prints For Paws, to help older, large dogs get adopted. She also helps raise money for Roxy's Fund, which pays for heartworm treatment for dogs.
"Instead of spending $500 to $1,000 (for medication) for a dog, they just buy two month's of preventative (treatment)," Kennedy said.
Kennedy spends about five hours in the shelter every day, but she spends countless hours at home, editing photos and making Facebook posts.
"On a typical day, I don't know what to tell you because I go in 50 million directions," Kennedy said. "I don't even have a plan anymore. I don't know what's going to come at me."
Kennedy lends her hand to anyone and everyone at the shelter, although her primary focus is to get as many photos of dogs as she can while she's in the building.
She puts in a lot of time at the shelter, but Kennedy said she would not trade it for anything.
"I can't even say it's my job because it's fun," she said.
People can vote for Wendy Kennedy and the Humane Society of South Mississippi once every day until Sunday when voting ends.