Seeds of Hope: Friend to the Four-Legged

Ken McKeel, a tough, retired state corrections officer, says he gets a “warm fuzzy feeling” from helping dogs through the Monmouth County Society of Cruelty to Animals.

Ken McKeel
Ken McKeel says he gets a “warm fuzzy feeling” from giving dogs a new lease on life.
Photo by John Emerson

Ken McKeel had never heard of Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals until an acquaintance frantically posted on Facebook for help finding an adopted dog from MCSPCA that was loose. After days searching, McKeel found both the dog and the MCSPCA.

Touched by the organization’s mission, McKeel began to volunteer, handling tasks like cleaning kennels and walking dogs. Soon McKeel was making the two-day drive to South Carolina and other southern states to transport dogs from crowded shelters to MCSPCA’s headquarters. Once a month, he also drives to Newark Liberty Airport to pick up dogs rescued from Puerto Rico, a region struggling with pet overpopulation. These days he’s the society’s official pet pantry manager and transport coordinator. McKeel, a tough, retired state corrections officer, says he gets a “warm fuzzy feeling” from giving these dogs a new lease on life.

McKeel’s commitment rose to new heights after Hurricane Sandy. He borrowed a van and drove into hard-hit Shore towns like Union Beach, Sea Bright and Belmar, delivering food and blankets for pets and people. “We were in places the military didn’t want to take their vehicles,” McKeel recalls. People often came crying to the van, saying MCSPCA were the first responders.

One of McKeel’s proudest achievements was finding a home for Tyrus, a stray pit bull who would get overexcited and smash against the walls of his enclosure when potential new owners visited the Eatontown shelter. Tyrus’s behavior spurred McKeel to start Call Ahead Canines. Under this program, McKeel was able to let Tyrus work off his pent-up energy in play before the appointment. Tyrus was finally adopted after 352 days.

McKeel describes pit bulls like Tyrus as “foo foo dogs in a big version.” To give them a future, he spearheaded a volunteer group to socialize and mentally stimulate pit bulls and pit-bull mixes that come to the center as animal-cruelty cases.

“If Tyrus didn’t have Ken, he probably wouldn’t have lasted,” says Lisa Mulhearn, MCSPCA spokeswoman.

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