My name is Joyelle. I am 15 years old and live in Maine. I was born with Apert Syndrome, which is basically that my bones didn’t form properly so I look a bit unusual. Two summers ago, I had a mid-face advancement to move the bones in my face forward so I could see and breathe better. I worked very closely with the team Psychologist, Dr. Elise Bronfman. She followed me through the whole procedure then afterward nominated me for a “Dream” with the Dream Factory of Maine.

My dream was to volunteer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. It is the largest no-kill sanctuary in the U.S. and a model for other animal shelters. I heard about Best Friends when I bought a book on its history at a silent auction for Puppy Love, a local dog rescue in Maine. For some reason my heart told me to go there someday, so I always had it on my radar. I was thrilled that my dream was going to come true. To have a dream come true after going through a big operation was truly the best part to end a painful procedure. I have never experienced a vacation that could beat this one. It was the best “Dream” ever.

I volunteered during my week at Best Friends with dogs, horses, cats and pigs. My favorite section in the sanctuary was Dog Town. I enjoyed playing with the puppies in puppy socialization class, hand-feeding very shy dogs, doing obedience and agility training, changing bedding, scooping poop, and being with the world’s most snuggly pit bull, a male named Bomber. He loved me so much that he climbed and kissed me all over. I did not know that pit bulls were so sweet and lovable — I have finally found a favorite breed. I also met some of my heroes from the Dog Town series and the Champions film: Rescuers and lead trainers who rehabilitated the pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring.

My love for animals started when I was nine years old, volunteering for Puppy Love. Every month a transport of dogs from high-kill shelters would come to Maine. My job was to help unload them, comfort them and settle them in before they met their forever families. Around the age of ten, I met the owners of Mahoosuc Guide Service, who take clients on overnight dog-sledding trips. I went on one and loved it. Now I volunteer with off-season chores caring for huskies. I also attended rallies and became involved with Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills. There I learned how much dogs were mistreated and wanted more than anything to stop these puppy mills.

At age twelve, I became a volunteer for the Coastal Humane Society and have been with them since. On weekly shifts, I perform enrichment with shy and frightened dogs, unload and settle rescue dogs and even go on rescue transport! I love holding puppies and chatting with my favorite staff! I hope to continue learning and working with animals in the future. My parents and I are grateful for the surgeons and caregivers at Boston Children’s Hospital, who brought me through many surgeries. I am especially grateful to Dr. Bronfman for nominating me for the “Dream” trip and for all the opportunities that life has opened up for me.

To all the wonderful animals and the people who love them. — Joyelle