April Volunteer Spotlight: Al Smith and Sydney Van Horn

by Jennie Baxla, Volunteer Coordinator

Al Smith

Al Smith

Great photos are essential for the adoption of all of SICSA’s animals. These photos help complete the animal’s story. While the animals often come with stories guaranteed to pull in potential adopters, it’s not the same as seeing the animal’s adorable, fluffy face. The right photo can push a potential adopter to make the trip to SICSA and help the animal find a forever home. Two volunteers, Al Smith and Sydney Van Horn, are responsible for all the photos of adoptable animals that appear on SICSA’s website. Through their work, they help complete each animal’s story.

Al, a five-year volunteer, came to SICSA because he loves animals and he agrees with SICSA’s mission. In fact, when he moved to Dayton, he brought his dog, Max, with him. Max had been very happy in their old neighborhood but found he just couldn’t adjust to confined life in the Kettering suburbs. After Max had more than a few run-ins with the police, Al was forced to find him a new home. Al took him to SICSA and Max eventually found a new home at a farm outside of Dayton. Al has never forgotten the experience.

Al stays at SICSA because it gives him a chance help those who have no say in their own lives. He believes that every life matters and what he does to help those at-risk lives is important. His favorite thing about volunteering at SICSA is working with the animals, particularly watching them morph from frightened and withdrawn to trusting and socialized.



Fittingly, Sydney came to SICSA because of a photo someone posted on Facebook. She stays because the staff and volunteers are welcoming and kind and the animals are so sweet. She enjoys having the opportunity to help so many cats and dogs, being a part of helping the animals find forever homes, and giving them the love they need until they find them. She loves the atmosphere and says, “SICSA is such a wonderful environment for both people and pets. I’m so glad to have found such a great place to volunteer!”

While Al and Sydney have made an indelible impact on SICSA, SICSA has left its mark on them, as well. Al says that so many animals have made an impression on him during his time at SICSA that he can’t pick just one favorite. He’s fallen in love with so many dogs, only to have another one take his or her place. He marvels at SICSA’s commitment to senior, handicapped, or otherwise hard-to-adopt animals. While he is concerned when a dog or cat stays for a long time without finding a home, he knows that SICSA will stay the course until a match is made.

Sydney often finds herself forming quick attachments to SICSA’s resident cats. She recently fell in love with a cat named Milkshake, who was dumped at SICSA and had to have her ears partially amputated due to frostbite. Sydney says Milkshake slowly stole her heart through snuggles and the way she gives kisses when you make kissy faces at her. To no one’s surprise, Milkshake is now a permanent part of Sydney’s family!

Not only do Al and Sydney take the remarkable photos that appear on the website, they also photograph special events. Al also works with off-site events and Pet-Facilitated Therapy, while Sydney spends her extra time giving SICSA’s cats some additional TLC. Says Al, “To enjoy being a part of SICSA, I choose to see it as more than a job. It’s a small way to make a difference in the community I live in. Helping those who can’t help themselves is something that matters.”

Throughout their time here, Al and Sydney have photographed and helped find homes for hundreds of animals. We thank them for donating their time, and their talents, to SICSA and our animals!

To see Sydney and Al’s work, please visit the SICSA website. Interested in volunteering? Visit to complete our volunteer application.

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