BARCS Pays Tribute to Director of Veterinary Services Dana Hersl

| March 8, 2023 | 0 Comments

BARCS posted the following to Facebook yesterday: 

“I can still remember the first day I met Dana when I interviewed her for a vet tech surgical assistant position,” remembers Laura Cos, former BARCS staff member. “I asked her if she had any medical experience with animals, and she replied in the most confident yet sweet, melt-your-heart-kind-of response, ‘I walked dogs at a local shelter!’ So naturally, I hired her.”

Dr. Barbara Press, long-time BARCS veterinarian, remembers the same, “Having never worked in the veterinary field, Dana began working at BARCS as an assistant to the surgery team. She soon proved to be one of the hardest working people, learning quickly and showing her drive. She moved through the ranks to surgery assistant, surgery tech, surgery manager, and then finally assistant director of veterinary services. This was an enormous accomplishment considering she had no prior experience!” Dr. Press went on to say, “She truly believed in what BARCS could do and was an integral force behind many of the programs that were started and have grown.”

For nearly a decade, Dana Hersl’s bright, positive voice could be heard in the hallways of BARCS. When you followed that voice, you would find a sunny smile and joyful disposition. Whether she was sitting at her desk with a 90lbs dog in her lap, riding on a cart alongside an immobile senior dog, gently and confidently holding the most scared, fractious cats, or curled up in a sea of blankets spooning with a scared dog coming out of anesthesia, Dana was central to giving the greatest care to the animals most in need. She would laugh that her scrubs were almost always soaked in pee and “hopefully chocolate…” and she loved the cheesy smell of dermatitis. The more flawed an animal was, the more she adored them–and the more they were likely to put all their trust in Dana.

And yet, somehow, Dana also extended her full heart and attention to the humans around her. Her peers would often joke that there must be two Danas or that she had somehow beat the time-space continuum. How could she always go above and beyond in her duties at the shelter and be involved in so many rescue efforts after work while also carrying the emotional weight of the animals and people around her?

Dana was the person who would be in the medical wing with a hoarding case until 10 p.m., leave with an overnight emergency foster, and manage to show up the next morning at 7 a.m. with homebaked goods and handwritten cards of gratitude and encouragement for her team.

“…She’d go home and bring the surgery room homemade cookies or fruit kabobs the very next morning,” said Laura.

Her coworkers echoed this sentiment:

“I’ve always felt secure knowing Dana was near, as she was immediately willing to take on any needed task and especially because she was forever willing to lend a listening ear.”

“Dana, always supported my outside-of-BARCS hobbies, either buying cakes from me or buying supplies for me to make diaper creations.”

“Dana was one of those magical people who just makes everything bright. Even on the worst days, she would be seen smiling and asking what she could do to help others even while her own plate was so full. Even the simplest ‘Hi, how’s it going?’ in the hallway from her could turn your day around. The way she treated every living being with so much grace and compassion is something we can all aspire to do.”

When she wasn’t with us at work, Dana was volunteering with other animal rescues in our community, sharing with them all the wisdom that she had learned at BARCS. She even traveled to Puerto Rico with fellow staff member and dear friend Amanda Nastalski for a spay-a-thon event!

She was always finding time to also help friends, family and even strangers with their pets. BARCS volunteer Amanda Wolfe shared, “Dana was one of the first people I ever interacted with at BARCS. Before I became a volunteer, I had no idea what to do with this friendly cat I caught and messaged the first person that worked at BARCS on Facebook I could find. She was so eager to help me, a random stranger (and said kitty), and was an inspiration for me becoming a volunteer.”

Dana was a helper; she was a listener; she was a doer; and she was a good person to all creatures—every single one of them and every single day of her life.

On February 28, Dana unexpectedly passed away at only 41 years old. Our hearts are with her longtime partner, Animal Control Officer Aaron Howard, their beloved pets, the Hersl family and all of Dana’s friends. Her passing is an enormous personal loss to each and every one of us at BARCS.

Dana leaves behind a legacy of true goodness. She made both BARCS and Baltimore a better place. She showed selflessness, kindness and patience to humans and animals alike every day she lived on this earth. Her sunshine was infectious.

We are honored to have known Dana and called her our family.

BARCS employee Seneca Hill eloquently put our collective feelings into words, “Dana’s time was cut way too short, but she made sure to never waste a minute and did much more in that short time than many people would do in several lifetimes. Her genuine, kind heart and dedication to animal welfare has absolutely made a lasting impression on my life and the lives of many others.”

❤️ We will miss you tremendously, Dana.

Photos from the BARCS Facebook post

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News releases from various sources around South Baltimore.