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Dogs at Oak Street shelter eased volunteer’s pain after her father’s death

The dogs at the Oak Street animal shelter made Buffalo feel like home when Ashley Acevedo needed one. She returns the favor and walks five to 15 dogs a day during the summer break of her University at Buffalo orthodontics residency.

“It gave me something to do – not just be by myself,” she said. “It made me feel like I belonged somewhere. The dogs, they understand you. They don’t care what you do, what you’re wearing. I had a purpose other than school ... Who is more understanding than a dog?”

[Related: The priest and pit bull: fast friends who take care of each other]

The 29-year-old New York City native has trim looks and a sunny nature that make her seem more like a yoga instructor than an orthodontist.

When she started volunteering last year, things were especially tough. She was away from her father, who was very ill the last couple of years.

[Related: Dog-walking volunteer takes on the tough cases]

“They made me feel better, and I didn’t even have to tell them what was wrong.”

A month after her dad died in September, she adopted Wally, a short stocky pit bull stray with a big head and smile who had confidence issues and was skittish around things like a Christmas tree at the curb.

“Seeing him just become so much more relaxed and comfortable it just made me so happy,” she said.

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Now as she walks shelter dogs, she stops at the flower bed by the church or the big shade tree by the post office to train them to sit and stay and become more adoptable. She has high hopes for Tank, a dark coffee colored pit bull, who grabs a toy from the shelter bin to carry with him on his walk.

“He is just so proud and so happy,” she said. “I just love his attitude. It’s so infectious. I don’t think he can have a bad day if he’s in the shelter for the next month.”

email: mkearns@buffnews.com

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