‘SNL’s’ Melissa Villaseñor on Why Adopting a Dog Is No Joke

Clear the Shelters

Melissa Villaseñor gets paid to make people laugh on “SNL.”

While her work as an “SNL” cast member is quite enviable, it’s still a job. And at the end of the day, it’s nice to have “a little pal” to come home to.

At the suggestion of her co-star Cecily Strong, she decided to adopt a dog from the same shelter that Strong got her dog, Lucy, Best Friends Animal Society.

Before even meeting the dog in person, Villaseñor fell in love with a photo of a little puppy that was found on the street. “I immediately was like, that’s my doggie,” she said.

In March, she brought Penny home.

Having grown up with all kinds of dogs at home, from a lab mix to a german shepherd to a schnauzer, the breed wasn’t something that mattered. It was important, however, to adopt a dog.

“I think there’s just so many dogs out there that need a home and they’re all sweet and they just all deserve a home, Villaseñor said.

As part of her commitment to finding animals a good home, Villaseñor partnered with Clear the Shelters and designed a t-shirt starring her and her dog Penny. 100% of the net proceeds go to Greater Good and Clear the Shelters funds.

Villaseñor is a self-described “yarn fanatic.” For the t-shirt design, she drew a yarn-like version of herself to represent how she felt “messy and wonky.” Penny is seen as herself as she’s what “grounds” her and serves as her comfort and is her “little protector.”

In these challenging times, she’s grateful that Penny’s always there. “There’s one day you’re feeling good and the next you’re like, boom, I’m a mess today,” Villaseñor said.

Recently, Villaseñor dealt with the passing of her uncle, and she described how Penny somehow knew that she was grieving and offered her comfort by placing her head on her knee.

“She can really feel when something is gloomy and I think that’s just amazing,” Villaseñor said.

Penny has also taught her to appreciate life more, in general. When they’re out walking together, Penny will often stop to smell the flowers. Penny also loves to hop and run in the grass. Seeing how fun it is for her, she now walks barefoot in the grass and notices how nice it feels on the bottom of her feet. Villaseñor also says Penny helps her to be present and even spontaneous.

“I just love seeing Penny run around, especially at a dog park or my parent’s backyard. Just seeing a dog jump for joy gives me the most warmth and happiness,” she said. “I think that’s something that I’d like to see every day.”

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COMMON ITEMS YOU CAN DONATE


  • Towels and blankets - Shelters are often cold and animals like to have a blanket to curl up on. Towels are a big help to dry animals off after being bathed or if they come in wet. Towels can also be used to line the bottoms of cages. The towels or blankets don't have to be brand new or in perfect condition. The animals won't mind, as long as they're usable.
  • Canned and Dry Food for Cats and Dogs-Healthy - Healthy pet options for nourishment
  • Kitty litter and cat boxes - Cats go to the bathroom- a lot. Shelters are constantly using bag after bag of litter. Their supply runs out fast.
  • Puppy or kitten formula and nursing bottles - Sometimes there are situations where a young puppy or kitten who is not weaned gets separated from their mother. In these situations they need puppy or kitten formula to survive.
  • Old newspaper - When you're done with your newspapers you usually just throw them away or recycle them, right? You could help animals at no cost to you if you just save up your old newspapers. Newspapers are used in the bottoms of cages. They get soiled quickly, so they're in constant demand.
  • Collars, harnesses, and leashes - Dogs who are taken out on walks need a leash and collar or harness. The shelter loses some because adopted dogs often go home with their leash or harness.
  • Grooming supplies - Grooming supplies can include shampoo, brushes, combs, haircutting scissors, etc. Dogs and cats often come in dirty or end up getting dirty. Grooming supplies can keep them fresh, clean, and adoptable.
  • Toys - You would get bored if you had to lay in a crate alone all day, wouldn't you? Animals in shelters get bored, too. It keeps the animals from being so lonely and bored and allows them to get exercise. You could go out and buy new toys, or you could donate toys your pets or children may have not gotten much use out of. It's as simple as that.
  • Crates and carriers - Animals need to be transported somehow, and the cost of multiple crates and carriers can add up quickly. You can donate ones you stopped using that are still in good condition or you could go buy one for a decent price. This helps the shelter tremendously.
  • Paper towels and cleaning supplies - There are a lot of situations that get messy, so paper towels are a big help.
  • Hand wash and hand sanitizer - People who work at shelters need to keep their hands clean for their and the animals' health.
  • Laundry detergent, fabric softener, and bleach - Towels and blankets get soiled often so the washing machines are being used a lot
  • Dog and cat beds - this can offer the animals a soft place to lay instead of a kennel or cage floor.
  • Heating pads - Many animals come in cold or are young and need warmth. Heating pads can replace a mother's warmth.
  • Copy paper and pens, pencils, post-it notes and staples - You can't forget about all the paperwork that has to be done. Donating these items makes it so the shelter doesn't have to buy them on their own.
  • Garbage bags, mops, brooms, and sponges - The shelter uses these every day and clean up supplies can get expensive.
  • Food bowls - As new animals come in, the shelter needs new places to put food. Having an adequate supply could mean life or death for an animal in a shelter.
  • Rubber and latex gloves - A lot of messy stuff happens and gloves are necessary to lessen the spread of germs.
  • Plastic shopping bags - Plastic bags can be used to clean up dog mess and to store things in.

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