West Side Alumna Dedicated To Aiding Animals

Gabrielle Daley, Features Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Imagine spending your free time at an animal shelter, and even after all your work was done, you stay until there was absolutely nothing left for you to do. You stick around to wash, fold and put away laundry, clean dishes, organize a cat room and a dog room, clean a small animal and bunny room, sweep, mop, give animals new water and food after you finish your job of washing and packing surgical instruments. All of this work for absolutely nothing in return except the fact that by putting in extra time, it meant the homeless animals could be more comfortable. Melanie Carballo, a 2017 WS grad and avid animal lover, did just that. She wasn’t your typical high school student by any stretch of the imagination. At the age of two, Melanie moved to West Springfield with her mother from Uruguay, a Spanish speaking country southeast of Argentina. Carballo is the only daughter of five children who grew up in a very family oriented and animal loving household. Currently their house is filled with seven petite dogs, most of with come from troublesome pasts, or had life threatening medical problems. Being brought up by a mother who brought stray animals back to her home in Uruguay growing up, Carballo was destined to be around dogs and cats as a child. “My mom taught me how to not always think about myself, but think about the animals, how to love them,” the 18 year old said. The West Springfield High alum, however didn’t quite decide she was willing to dedicate her studies, time and life to animals until she visited her home country various times in her youth. In the United States, dogs and cats are viewed as beloved pets, creatures in need of love and respect. Around the world, in many countries like Uruguay, they are viewed as wild animals. They can be victims of torture and even seen as food in some countries in Asia who take part in the Yulin Festival, which is essentially The Purge: Pet Edition. At the age of 13, Melanie was a witness to a horrific sight on a bus in South America and saw a dog left to die on the road. The fact that no one seemed to care is what hit her, it was then she decided she wanted to change that. “I want to make a difference. I want to be known as something, and for people to know my story so they can help animals, and see what I see, to think what I think,” Carballo stated. While in Uruguay when she was 16, Melanie Carballo not only witnessed animal cruelty, she witnessed human nature at its finest. A woman who her grandparents donate to named Christina Enrique used the money she inherited by her father to buy land the size of two football fields in Montevideo to convert into an animal shelter called “Liga Bichera.” She feeds her animals chicken and rice, nurses their tormented lives and bodies back to health, and fixes them with her partnered vets who perform low cost spays and neuters. In need of money and food for her animals, Enrique disclosed her location, something most shelters can’t do in foreign countries because of the overflow of animals that with result. Therefore, in doing so “Liga Bichera” started receiving boxes filled with puppies, and in no time Enrique, alone, was in charge of sheltering over 200 animals of all sizes and species. In addition, people began releasing and stealing the creatures she had on the farm in April. Struggling to stay on her two feet while trying to keep hundreds of animals on their four paws or hooves, Enrique was forced to move far into the boondocks. In May of 2017, on her final month of her senior year, Carballo organized a fundraiser for “Liga Bichera” through the school’s Key Club. However, senioritis and end of the school year carelessness, got the best of it. Carballo received very little help except that of her best friends. The West Side senior was to be seen at every spring varsity game or meet, yelling “A Dollar Feeds a Dog!” with a good hearty grin stretched across her face. She sold snacks, water and raffle tickets for a 50/50 raffle for a dollar. She raised over $300 for Enrique’s shelter and her family donated $250 out of their pockets. In doing so, Cristina Enrique was able to connect electricity cables to her farm in the backwater. She can now provide the animals with heating, fires, lightning, cooked chicken for food, and she also can perform emergency surgeries. With the leftover money, Enrique purchased food to feed her abundant amount of furry, homeless friends. Carballo saved hundreds of animals lives with the help of her friends, again not something you’d expect your average 17 year old girl to be endeavoring on her last few days of high school. Although her experiences in Uruguay made Melanie decide she wanted to be a leader, she derives her strive and determination to be a hero from a special beagle named Phoenix she had from the time she was eight to her junior year. In December of 2016, her family’s beloved dog was diagnosed with lung cancer. “She influenced my life in every shape and form,” Carballo said. Even when Phoenix couldn’t breath and lost her appetite, she still appreciated the little things like going for a walk, a trip to the park, pets and hugs even could put her at ease when she had a coughing fit. “She was my first pet, my first animal that taught me how to love other people that weren’t my immediate family. She was special in the way that she changed my family and made us value life. She taught me how to appreciate the little things too like going out with my mom or a friend for lunch because you never know when you’re going to see them again.” Carballo explained. Phoenix always seems to be the reason for Carballo’s selfless gestures and efforts. Phoenix allowed Carballo to open her heart again and adopt an 11 year old beagle named Bella who was on the verge of death with severe bronchitis, an enlarged heart and liver, bacterial infections, kidney issues, displaced hips, a history of abuse. Carballo’s family was able to save another life that no one wanted. “When I get tired while I’m studying, I always think of Phoenix and think of how I can make a difference. I just have to work hard, and stick with it. By being a veterinarian, I can save other dogs, I feel like it may help me get over the fact that I couldn’t do enough for Phoenix,” the university student stated. On that note, Melanie Carballo applied to five colleges in hopes of getting a degree to become a mixed practice veterinarian. The University of California at Davis, Cornell University, Elms College, Florida Atlantic University and UMASS Amherst all accepted the 17 year old girl with big dreams. Currently, Melanie is at UMASS and will transfer to Cornell since she was accepted there for the 2018-2019 year. Cornell’s specialty is in a variety of genetic studies, so Carballo wants to go there seeing that she wants to work with in animals in water, on land, and in the wild. Cornell will give her the opportunity to double major in marine biology and get her residency in zoological medicine. Carballo hopes to also get the chance to attend her dream school, UC Davis, for her graduate degree, because the school didn’t originally offer any financial aid when she was accepted. Before heading to UMASS this fall, Carballo was offered a job as an adoption counselor at Dakin Animal Shelter in the summer. Seeing that she spent every second she could aiding animals and cleaning the facility since she turned 16, it was obvious the West Springfield alum was more than capable that taking on the responsibility of counseling and helping specialists take and test blood at the shelter. Only with the job would she receive the complement of payment, not just the relief that she made the animals more comfortable like she had in the past. Juggling fundraising, saving hundreds of animals on a different continent, her work at a shelter, school and preparation or college, Melanie Carballo seems to be capable of anything and everything. She’s still undecided of what she wants to do when she graduates college, but she has a plenty of ideas. Maybe she’ll work with the government making sure the welfare of animals on farms is acceptable, or she’ll speak on the United Nations board about animal cruelty laws, or work in a private practice. There’s always the possibility that she’ll follow Cristina Enrique’s footsteps and open up a rescue and low cost vaccine and spay/neuter clinic in South America. All in all, this 2017 graduate of West Springfield High School exemplifies the idea that “anything is possible if you put your mind and heart to it,” in an extreme degree.