Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Patsy Conner with her dog, Destiny, at their Decatur home. Destiny is not really the dog to beware of, but is one of two at the home. Conner gets free dog food through the Animeals program.
Newspaper In Education: Recommended reading
By Danielle Komis Palmer
Hello, Patsy,” said Myra Cook in a singsong voice as she approached Patsy Conner’s home Friday morning.
A chain-link fence surrounding Conner’s Decatur home contained her two dogs, Puddin’ and Destiny, who started barking excitedly.
Cook’s brother and fellow volunteer Kent Bogle placed a bag of dog food near Conner’s door as Cook stopped to chat with Patsy and pet her two dogs.
“Oh, look at Puddin’,” Cook said, admiring the dog happily wagging her tail. “She is such a sweet dog,” she cooed.
Once a month, Cook and three other sets of volunteers set out on assigned routes in Decatur and Hartselle to drop off a month’s worth of pet food and litter to Animeals recipients.
The Animeals program is available for Meals on Wheels recipients who need help providing their pets with cat or dog food.
The volunteer-run program has filled the bellies of local miniature schnauzers and tabby cats since the effort was launched in February by Animal Friends Humane Society in Decatur.
“They’ve really been wonderful,” Conner said of Cook and Bogle. Along with dropping off dog food for her two pets, AFHS volunteers have also picked up Conner (who doesn’t drive) and her dogs to have the animals spayed as part of their local low-cost spay and neuter assistance program.
“If it weren’t for Animal Friends ...” Conner said, and trailed off, shaking her head. Conner says she enjoys the company of her two canine friends and also feels protected by them.
AFHS started the service when its volunteers realized that many seniors were feeding half their meals to their best buddies — their pets.
“That’s not good for the people or the pets either” because people food is not usually right for dogs’ and cats’ delicate digestive tracts, said Cook, who is the volunteer coordinator with AFHS.
Volunteer Myra Cook asks Wilbert Scott how he is as she visits to bring him food for his dog. Animeals brings pet food to Meals on Wheels participants who sign up for the free service.
Wilbert Scott of Decatur, another Animeals recipient on Cook’s route, used to regularly feed his dog — which he simply calls “Dog” — scraps his wife brought home from her job at Big Bob Gibson BBQ.
That is, until a few months ago when “Dog” was placed on a more healthful diet of Sportmix Premium dog food on the Animeals program. Scott said he likes having the dog because it brings his young grandchildren around more often.
Meals on Wheels recipients discovered the Animeals program after AFHS placed informational stickers on the free meals distributed daily. Since then, Animeals has averaged about 25 dogs and 20 cats in the program.
Animeals is run on donations, so it can be difficult to raise money to keep it going, Cook said.
Fortunately, Meow Mix in Decatur donates all of the program’s cat food, Cook said.
“They have helped us more times than we can count,” she said.
Also, the Alabama Farmers Co-op furnishes all the dog food at wholesale cost, while the cat litter is furnished by AFHS.
While Animeals is a name commonly used at other shelters across the country that perform similar services, the independent groups are not affiliated with one another or with the Meals on Wheels National Association of America.
However, when MOWAA noticed these groups taking off a few years ago, President Enid Borden said they were “pleased as punch” about them.
“(These programs) have a huge impact not only on that senior but on that pet,” she said.
“The only comfort they have is that little animal, so this is a great thing.”
MOWAA, in conjunction with Banfield Pet Hospital, recently launched a program called We All Love Our Pets that will distribute grants for similar pet programs that are part of the MOWAA.
To donate money, to volunteer for Animals Friends’ Animeals program, or for more information about AFHS’ low-cost spay and neuter program for Morgan County residents, call AFHS at 351-2347.
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