Many people living on a fixed income rely on the Meals on Wheels services in their area. But they’re not eating the food – their animals are. That’s why many distributors are now bringing people’s pets their own meals.
“Many of our homebound senior clients who live alone depend on their pets for companionship but providing food and veterinary care while living on a limited income can be a challenge,” said Charlie Ring, executive director of Meals on Wheels of the Palm Beaches. “Through our new Animeals program we’re able to help relieve some of the burden on our clients who love and care about their cats and dogs so deeply.”
Approximately 25 percent of the people receiving meals have at least one pet. Having the companionship of an animal shouldn’t be reserved for only the well-to-do, especially when a dog might be the only creature in this world they have to love. Most will gladly sacrifice a full belly to make sure their animal has one.
“Meals on Wheels is about helping seniors stay in their home and live a high quality of life,” said Debbie Emerick, director of volunteer services for Meals on Wheels of the Palm Beaches. “Being able to keep their beloved pets at home with them is an important part of that quality of life.”
Jack Patrick, a 73-year-old disabled artist watches his 7-year-old Schnauzer Andy happily gobble down a plate of meatloaf. He’d love to be the one eating it, but refuses to let his boy go without.
“What was I supposed to do – just eat in front of him? I can’t do that. He’s my best friend,” Patrick explained to the Kansas City Star.
Thankfully now he no longer has to make that decision. Every Wednesday a week’s worth of dog food is brought to Patrick’s Warrensburg, Missouri home. And he’s not the only one getting this treatment.
“Their mate is gone and the children gone, but that pet is still at their feet,” said Melissa Gower, the county services director at the center in Warrensburg. “Mostly dogs and cats, but we do have one bird we take food for.”
The program is sponsored by Banfield Pet Hospital, an Oregon-based company that provides animal food for more than 400 home delivery meal organizations.
“If these seniors are giving their meals to pets, they are not getting the proper nutrition for themselves,” said Keith Greene, the chief membership officer for a national Meals on Wheels organization. “So this is a big issue.”
The Warrensburg program was launched when 76-year-old Air Force veteran Andy Polusny learned that many seniors were sharing their food with their hungry pets.
“Some have had to give their pets away,” he said. “That’s not right. So we’re helping them out. We even have a cockatiel we take food for.”
When the Warrensburg Senior Center announced it could no longer afford to pay drivers to deliver meals, Bill Turnage offered his services for free. This is a blessing for people like Patrick, who lost his ability to see due to glaucoma, and can no longer do the painting he so enjoyed.
“I really don’t have anything or anyone except Andy,” he said. “He came to me as a pup and never left. I don’t want to sound senile, but he’s like my child.”