Seniors’ best medicine: a furry friend
While Krista Putnam was volunteering for Sammie’s Friends, which provides medical care for rescue animals, a woman came in with an unsettling story.
The woman, who delivered free meals to home bound seniors, said that one of her clients was splitting her meals with her dog because she couldn’t afford pet food. Putnam was already aware of the fact that many Nevada County seniors were forced to give up their beloved pets due to lack of funds or the ability to care for them, but this pushed her into action.
“I realized we had to do something,” said Putnam. “I approached Jake Jacobson, who is the executive director of Gold Country Community Services, the organization that distributes the free meals.”
Jacobson discovered there was a grant offered by Meals on Wheels America specifically for pet support, but coincidentally, the application was due the following day.
“I’d never written a grant before, but Meals on Wheels was offering $2,500 a year, so I jumped on it,” said Putnam, who was instrumental in founding the Pet Food Pantry to aid pet owners in need. “We were thrilled when we got it.”
That was four years ago, and Putnam and Jacobson have just learned that they were once again granted $2,500 for the program, which is supplemented by private donations and the Grass Valley Host Lions Club.
“We feel truly fortunate to have this kind of support for our seniors because caring for your pet can be financially burdensome,” said Putnam.
Research shows that seniors with pets tend to fare better than their peers without pets. They are 36 percent less likely to report loneliness, have 21 percent fewer doctor visits and tend to stay more active. They’re also a reason to get up in the morning.
Putnam said thanks to several large food donors, including the Gold Country Kennel Club and Simply Country (formerly Ridge Feed Supply), a greater portion of the grant funds can now go toward pet medical bills, check-ups and much-needed surgeries. But funds remain limited, so Putnam and other volunteers are put in the difficult position of having to prioritize needs — something they desperately wish they didn’t have to do.
“Sometimes I just take clients’ pets to the vet myself — we have crates,” said Putnam. “Sometimes vet visits are tough because elders just can’t get out or they can’t afford teeth cleanings and thyroid or heart worm medication. Regular checkups keep pets healthy.
“Thanks to the generosity of Meals on Wheels America and Krista’s dedication as a volunteer, we are able to continue keeping our clients and their pets together, staying happy and healthy,” said Jacobson.
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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