BIDDEFORD, Maine — Scotland native Kirstin Mininni says she was born with a love for animals.  "I mean I just always had animals in my life. Back in Scotland I had cats and dogs growing up and horses in my teenage years. And then I moved over here in 1999 and started volunteering, first at an animal shelter and worked at an animal shelter as a manager there for 10 years. And also then volunteered for the last 10 years. Volunteered with a couple of the different rescue groups."

When Kirstin was diagnosed with breast cancer, she says her volunteering took on an even deeper meaning, and her work to save the animals actually ended up being a lifeline for herself.  "It really was huge because I couldn’t work. This is a full-time job -- the cancer treatment and therapies and surgeries and everything. It really is a full-time job. You just get told to go to certain appointments and you just have to go with the flow," she says, "But I needed to have something that I could kick back from and take my mind to other places and it had to be animals for me."  

Kirstin's own pets have also been a great sense of comfort and distraction. While she and her husband have had as many as ten cats and ten dogs at a time, they are currently down to four dogs and six cats. "So being able to be home and be here with the laptop and answering any mails and inquiries, and setting up adoption meetings for families with dogs, and all of that goes with the crazy rescue world of correspondence. I could do that right here sitting comfortably with my own pets too."

In the end, by having something meaningful to focus on other than her illness, Kirstin felt a sense of purpose and satisfaction that helped her to face each new day, "Just to give them forever comfort and love and everything that they need. It’s just so rewarding. I never had children. They are my babies."