Personal tragedy leads to new life, career for Animal Protectors’ shelter manager Mike Post

Coping with the grief that followed the death of his father took Mike Post’s life straight to the dogs.

Post, 42, of Lower Burrell is the shelter manager at Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley in New Kensington. It’s not where he thought life would lead him after graduate from Burrell High School in 1998.

“It’s funny how life turns out in the long run,” he said. “Sometimes things happen for a reason. The place you’re supposed to be is where you end up.”

After high school, Post trained as a surgical technician with UPMC and began working as a travel nurse in 2005. It took him across the continental United States, to Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands.

In 2015, he found himself in Boston and considering settling there permanently. However, he came back to Lower Burrell to help care for his father, David Post, when he fell ill from heart disease. He died in November 2015 at 62.

To handle his grief, Post said he decided to stay around Lower Burrell a little while. He adopted a dog, Yogi, an American Staffordshire terrier, from Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh.

“He really helped me deal with my grief and get me back in the world,” Post said. “I knew at that time I wanted to do something with animals going forward.”

Post also was watching an Animal Planet reality show, “Pit Bulls & Parolees,” and its stories about the rehabilitation of both people and dogs. He started thinking about how dogs can help people deal with depression, like he had.

“I wanted to get into the animal field and explore that more,” he said.

Figuring his medical background with people could transfer to animals, Post attended the Vet Tech Institute in Pittsburgh and earned an associate’s degree in 2018.

After working in a few clinics and gaining experience, Post stopped by Animal Protectors in February 2020 to see if they needed any help. At the time, the organization occupied a small building on Linden Avenue.

As it turned out, they needed a new medical coordinator.

“I felt that was definitely right up my alley,” he said.

By the end of 2020, Animal Protectors moved into its new and significant larger shelter on Church Street.

When the shelter’s previous manager left in November, Post went to the organization’s board and said he would be happy to do anything he could to help. They asked if he would consider taking that job.

“I never really wanted a leadership position,” he said. “When the opportunity came up, I figured I’d take on the challenge.”

Dr. Betsy Kennon, a retired veterinarian and volunteer at Animal Protectors, said Post has been a godsend to the shelter.

“He has really done amazing things for the shelter,” she said. “He has been a real gift.”

Post is wearing two hats for the shelter. He is working as shelter manager while still serving as medical coordinator. As the manager, he oversees the shelter’s day-to-day operations and its staff of 12 employees and a handful of volunteers.

Getting the volunteer program back up and running after the covid pandemic setbacks is one thing Post is working on.

Post said his work as shelter manager is more challenging and time consuming, but he’s up for it.

“The best part of it is watching an animal go home to its forever home,” he said. “There’s nothing like that.”

The vision: A community cornerstone

Post sees Animal Protectors as a cornerstone of the community, where people can access resources, education and services they otherwise could not afford.

That includes low-cost spaying and neutering, training classes, a support group for those mourning the death of a pet, a low-cost euthanasia program, and education on vaccines and best diets for keeping pets happy and healthy.

Animal Protectors President Katie Martinez said it’s an exciting time at the shelter, and the board is on the same page as Post.

“He works incredibly hard to make the shelter the best it can be,” she said.

Post still has Yogi and a second dog, Annie, a pit bull mix, who he adopted in 2017.

He recommends pet adoption for those facing depression.

“They give you a sense of purpose,” he said. “And they will get you up and moving and force you to be active again.”

Post said his father was an animal lover, and he had every pet imaginable growing up. He thinks his father would be happy with what he’s doing today.

“It’s been a unique path but I’m glad it ended up where it did. I get to do what I like every day,” Post said. “Sometimes life throws you curveballs. You just have to go with it.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, or via Twitter .

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