CARIBOU, Maine — When 14-year-old Isaiah Belyea of Caribou began volunteering for Halfway Home Pet Rescue three years ago, he never imagined that his love for animals would quickly turn into a budding career.
But that is exactly what has happened to the dedicated volunteer.
“When I started, I pretty much did the basics like cleaning kennels and litter boxes and feeding cats, but then things progressed the more I volunteered,” Belyea said.
Belyea, now a freshman at Caribou High School, is a regular volunteer for Halfway Home’s spay and neuter, vaccination and surgical clinics for cats and dogs. He assists veterinarians during procedures and ensures that all animals receive the same comfort and affection they would get from their owners.
While volunteering at Halfway Home’s latest clinic Thursday, Belyea said that helping rescued animals recover from injuries is especially rewarding.
“I like seeing the huge turnaround that they go through,” Belyea said. “It’s satisfying to know that I helped them through that.”
As he progresses as a volunteer, Belyea hopes to use his skills and love for animals to pursue an even more rewarding career.
Starting in his junior year, Belyea plans to pursue certification as a veterinarian’s assistant, which will allow him to work alongside professionals in the field. He hopes to later study veterinary medicine and become a veterinarian.
Those who have worked alongside Belyea feel that the young animal enthusiast is well on his way toward his goals.
Portland-based veterinarian Beth Sperry has been a longtime partner with Halfway Home, providing free spay and neuter clinics in Aroostook. Belyea has become such a regular presence at those clinics that by now he feels more like a colleague and friend than just a volunteer.
“His caring personality and passion for animals has been a huge asset to us,” Sperry said. “We all think he has great potential [as a veterinarian] and will be excited to see him go through his education.”
Norma Milton, Halfway Home president, said that Belyea has become one of the rescue’s most dedicated young volunteers.
“Watching Isaiah grow into adulthood has been fantastic for all of us,” Milton said. “He has grown from being a shy youngster to being a confident, compassionate and responsible young man.”
For Belyea, working with the Halfway Home animals has meant more to him than just a guaranteed career track. Belyea has learned to embrace his kindness and empathy in ways that help others while also becoming more confident in himself.
“I feel like I’ve discovered myself more and found what I actually love and enjoy,” Belyea said.