This past week while I was exhibiting at the Animal Care Expo in Las Vegas, I received startling news that Judy, a dear friend and amazing animal advocate from my home state of Michigan, had passed away. I am saddened that her bright light is no longer on this earth, but she left behind an amazing legacy in protecting animals.

I met Judy in 2004 when she asked for my legal help in a pound seizure campaign she was leading against her local animal control shelter. After speaking by phone with her, I immediately joined in to help. For the next two years, I saw how dedicated Judy was to ending the barbaric practice of pound seizure in her county shelter, and to ensure that other best practices for the animals were put in place. I was amazed at her tenacity and her creativity. She never backed down or flinched, even the face of staunch adversity and opposition.

Judy demonstrated to me and everyone around her that it does not take a lot of money or even time; it simply takes heart and determination to make a difference… both of which Judy had! Judy’s leadership to end pound seizure resulted in success in 2006. It even earned her a much-deserved award from the Michigan State Bar Animal Law Section. I featured her work in my book How Shelter Pets are Brokered for Experimentation: Understanding Pound Seizure to show how one person can make a difference.

But she did not stop there. She went on to provide other assistance to her local animal shelter, even at times when it was not welcomed. She hosted booths at community events to raise awareness, raised money to purchase cameras for the shelter to take photos of the pets for online posting, helped to create better dog kennels, wrote letters to the editor, educated people in her community about animals, and much more.

Judy was always thinking of ways to make the lives of animals in her community better, even when she wasn’t feeling her best. With her own dogs, some of whom had health issues, she went above and beyond what most people would do. She was dedicated to their wellbeing even in her final days. I remember when Judy told me of her illness in late 2011 and she was full of hope and plans. She had a wonderfully supportive husband and her primary concern was for her dogs, especially when she was away for a few weeks receiving treatment. Simply put, Judy put animals before her needs and left a legacy to inspire the rest of us.

So on this Memorial Day as we honor our service members and those who have passed on, let’s all consider what legacy we will leave behind. Does it involve helping animals, being a good parent, a good friend, or some other noble cause? If tomorrow were your last day on Earth, what would you leave behind? Before it’s too late, spend a little time thinking about your legacy and what you would like to leave behind and then take action to make it happen. For every person born into this world, we should leave it a little better than when we arrived, don’t you think?

Judy was a hero in my world who never backed down in the face of adversity or opposition. Above all, Judy was my friend. She will be dearly missed and her legacy will live forever. Rest in Peace Judy.