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Life & Work with Kella Manfredi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kella Manfredi.

Hi Kella, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
17 years ago I adopted my first dog Truman at the young age of 23. I was young and selfish, I did not do right by him- I wanted to party, sleep in, and enjoy being in my early 20s. In the end, I relinquished my dog to MaxFund. I was absolutely brokenhearted and very disappointed in myself.

I begged the shelter to keep me updated on his status. 16 years went by, and I heard nothing. Until June 5th, 2022. The wonderful owners who adopted Truman years ago contacted me to share that he was crossing the Rainbow Bridge and wanted me to know he lived a beautiful life.

Truman was the catalyst for my rescue crusade. When I matured a bit, I wanted to honor him by righting my wrongs. I got involved in animal rescue in 2007 first by volunteering at Dumb Friends League as a foster, then went back to MaxFund and fostered through them until 2013. In 2013, I became an inaugural member of the Non-Profit animal rescue, PawsCo.

I have been with PawsCo for 9 years, serving as an Adoption Coordinator, Shelter Relations Director of Dog Placement, Educational Director for Youth, and an active foster. In my animal rescue tenure, I have fostered 76 (and counting) dogs. I’ve taken in every kind of dog you can imagine- Chihuahuas, Bullies (my favorite breed), Labs, Saint Bernards, Mastiffs, Danes, Poodles, Greyhounds- you name it.

My latest phase is taking in socialized, medical cases. I’ve recently fostered 3 different Chow mixes who came from neglect and trauma. These stories have been my greatest successes. Watching a dog transform into your care is truly the most beautiful and rewarding experience. It takes patience and love, and lots of treats, but for a dog to finally trust you enough to let down their guard, wag their tail, and find comfort on your couch, is inspiring.

I often pull dogs from situations that are time-sensitive. I have saved 20+ dogs from a euthanasia sentence with hours to spare. You have to take a risk sometimes, not knowing anything about a dog, if it means saving a life.

As a high school theatre teacher, I am very fortunate to be able to bring my foster dogs into my after-school rehearsals. Not only do the students benefit from the good ole fashioned dog cuddles, but the fosters, especially those that were not quick to trust, get to experience love in all its forms. It is a beautiful way to give back to both my students and the dogs.

The bonds that have been formed between our “Theatre Mascots” and our students have been life-changing. In 2016 I fostered a Pitbull named Bruce Wayne. His poor ears were cut with scissors, and he came to me in rough shape. He had hours to spare in a rural holding cell down South. He spent his first 4 nights crying and unable to get comfortable.

I took him to a rehearsal one day, and the students are a bit terrified of him. By the end of the rehearsal, they were all affectionately loving on Bruce and many had a change of heart about their initial perceptions of pit bulls. A year ago I received a text from a former student introducing me to his first dog- a Pitbull. He told me that he fell in love with the breed after meeting so many of my fosters throughout his time in my program. That just melted my heart!

Overall, animal rescue has been a large part of my identity. I look back on my journey and feel so much joy knowing that so many dogs have blessed my life. Some came at a point in my life where I needed them far more than they needed me. The work is not easy. I have watched many dogs suffer, I am not able to save them all, and sometimes I receive dogs who are so broken, but I will always remain determined to do what I can when I can.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Besides the carpet cleaning, destroyed pillows, curtains, etc., the hardest part of fostering is often times the goodbye. I hear a lot of people say, “I could never foster. I would keep them all.”- Sure, I feel like I want to keep them all, and I grow very attached to my fosters. I have dogs in my home anywhere from a month to a year, depending on the needs of the animal.

They become a part of my family. But, I have to look at it like this- I am willing to let my heart break a little, so theirs never has to break again. I am only a small part of the dog’s journey- the goal is to get them all into a loving forever home, where they spend the rest of their lives in peace. I am only the pitstop- I am the “coming attractions”- I give them a glimpse of the life they deserve. Saying goodbye always ends in tears. But they are happy tears, bittersweet, happy tears.

I did my part, and I always ask adopters to keep in touch and provided updates. There is always a day or two of mourning when they leave, but I just get onto my email, see the long list of dogs who are in need of the same second chance, select a new dog, and repeat the journey. It is a revolving door of building trust, providing love, watching the transformation, and saying goodbye.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a high school Theatre Teacher/Director/Choreographer. I have been at the same school for 16 years. I built my program from the ground up, and I am very proud of the culture and community expectations I have built. I love to push the envelope and provide meaningful and impactful works of art to my student performers.

I am certainly known for selecting works that most high schools won’t touch. I am very fortunate to have a supportive administration and community to put on such sophisticated works. We’ve produced Cabaret, Be More Chill, The Producers, Something Rotten!, Spamalot, Hello Herman, and Bright Star- to name a few. Most of these works are not in rotation in surrounding high schools.

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