Ever since she was a little girl, Floral Park resident, Maria Santangelo has had a way of making animals feel at ease. The 19-year-old college student worked with abused animals as a kid and currently volunteers as a kennel helper at the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington. She also has her own pet care and dog walking business in the village.
“I like making all dogs feel comfortable because every one of them has their own temperament,” said Santangelo who started her business two years ago with the help of her stepmother, Anne Marie. “I don’t push them but let them sniff me first so they get used to me.”
She gave the example of a local Border Collie named Kobe, who is one of five dogs she has walked in the village.
“At first he was very shy and didn’t want to walk with me so I let him sit on the floor until he wanted to go out. I wasn’t forceful with him or pulled on his collar because I knew that wasn’t going to work.”
After awhile Kobe slowly warmed up to her and now lets Santangelo walk him up and down the residential streets. The two had a ball this past Winter, with Kobe running and frolicking in the snow.
“I call her the dog whisperer,” said Anne Marie, “because when people are out walking their dogs she always stops to talk to them and the dogs really take to her.”
Along with Kobe, she also walks a Maltese/Poodle named Tinkle and a Yorkshire Terrier named Jane Ray. She also walked neighborhood dogs, Ginger and Shamus until they became too crippled by old age to venture outside.
Santangelo began volunteering at the North Shore Animal League this past October and said she loves to take care of all the animals who are housed there.
“I’m cautious with animals but I’m not afraid of them and I don’t mind putting in the hard work like cleaning their cages and checking their feeding and medicine schedules,” said Santangelo.
Her stepmother said that when she picks her up from her volunteer work every Friday, “she is smelly and dirty and the first thing I tell her when she gets home is to jump in the shower.”
Unlike a lot of other girls her age, dirty and smelly is not something she minds as long as she knows her hard work is benefiting the animals.
Santangelo’s love of animals started when she lived upstate with a friend of her stepmother. She worked as a stable hand in Saratoga, helping to clean and muck the stables and taking care of the horses. When she returned to Long Island she took a similar position at Lakewood Stables in West Hempstead.
She has also worked at the North Shore Equestrian Center at C.W. Post University and the Jamaica Bay Riding Company in Brooklyn.
Santangelo graduated Floral Park Memorial High School in 2012 and is currently a full time student at Nassau Community College. She was recently invited to join the ‘Honors Program’ at the college. She said that her goal is to be a veterinary technician. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about Santangelo’s dog walking services.