Students give time, compassion to animals in need

Yoon Kim, a&e editor

From dogs and cats to turtles and rabbits, GBS graduate Jessica Balinsky’s family has adopted almost every animal in the pet spectrum. According to Balinsky, growing up with a house full of pets has spawned her love for animals and has led her to volunteer at the Heartland Animal Shelter. Along with Balinsky, several South students take part in animal service organizations.

According to Balinsky, she takes care of cats at Heartland, introducing them to potential adopters and maintaining their living environments. Balinsky remembers her passion for rescuing animals being instilled in her when she had adopted a cat as a child.

“My first animal that I actually went with my parents to get was my cat Sassy, and I [adopted] her when I was three,” Balinsky said. “She was getting [beaten] up by another cat at the shelter and was really sickly. […] My family has always had a soft spot for sick animals and injured animals, so I named her, and I chose her, and we got her, so that’s how it all started. Seeing that I could save a life like that, to take it into my own hands and really make a difference in her life, that meant a lot.”

During her middle school years, incoming junior Kenna Tripple spent several months volunteering at the Prieser Animal Hospital, a local veterinary clinic located in Northbrook, Illinois. According to Tripple, she considers her time at Prieser as an overall enjoyable experience but remembers encountering emotional moments.

“There was a puppy that I saw once, and it was its first vet visit,” Tripple said. “It was eight weeks old, and they had just gotten the puppy; it was really cute, it was a little black lab and he was so tiny. I was there when it first came in, and then about three weeks later they had gotten a call that the puppy had passed away. […] That was heart-wrenching.”

Similar to Tripple, Balinsky says that her experience at Heartland has lent itself to several emotional memories, due to her desire for the animals to be properly cared for and looked after. Specifically, she recalls spending time with a cat named Cinnamon who had not yet found a permanent home.

“What’s really sad about it is that [Cinnamon] has been returned three times in the past,” Balinsky said. “I got to witness the most recent return. […] I saw her face and it just broke my heart [because] all these animals are amazing, and we just want to see them put in good homes, and it really breaks your heart when that doesn’t happen.”

According to Tripple, she had always dreamed of becoming a veterinarian as a child and is currently hoping to pursue the career in her future. Tripple says that although she realizes the emotionally difficult procedures being a veterinarian may necessitate, she remembers encountering similar situations at Prieser and believes in acting upon what she thinks is appropriate for the animal’s overall health.

“One of the dogs there had four types of cancer, and it was just not good,” Tripple said. “[Putting the dog down] was really just best for the dog, and you don’t want to make one suffer if one is in such incredible pain. […] We put [the animals] down peacefully, and it’s not violent at all. It’s very sad obviously, but I think it’s what is best for them.”

According to Balinsky, her experience at Heartland has been an overall meaningful experience and has taught her many things. Balinsky mentions that most importantly, Heartland has given her a renewed perspective on service itself.

“At the end of the day, there’s always going to be a little bit more you can give, and there’s always going to be somebody who’s giving a little bit more,” Balinsky said. “There’s never a limit or amount to how nice, and how good, and how giving you can be to others and to the world around you, and I think that’s what Heartland is teaching me.”