Vet Employee Provides Food and Hope to Homeless Pets
One homeless dog inspired me to nourish thousands of pets - and protect their families.
I got quite a scare on Halloween two years ago. That day, the police brought a 13-year-old dog they found collapsed under a bush to the veterinary clinic where I work. Named for his warped rear legs, Twister the dog was suffering from a broken spine, a coat full of fleas, and malnutrition so severe he could barely lift his head. I didn’t know how Twister reached this sad state, but I was sure when he licked my hand and gave me “the look” that I’d be taking him home with me for good.
It turns out Twister’s owner lost her main source of income and was struggling to provide for her children. They begged her to keep Twister, but she couldn’t afford his food and the local food banks didn’t provide pet supplies. Rather than put Twister in a shelter, she let him loose, hoping neighbors would feed him. The police built an animal cruelty case against her, in which I testified. When the state found her guilty, I found myself asking, “Why couldn’t she get help feeding Twister, and would his life have been different if pet food had been available to her?”
Fate Strikes Again
Inspired, I started planning a pet food drive at our veterinary practice. Then, out of the blue, a pet owner who runs a breed rescue program e-mailed us. She was seeing wanted dogs turned over because people couldn’t afford to feed them, and she hoped we’d set up a pet food bank.
She and I met that weekend and started the Pet Pantry of Central Pennsylvania (PPCP). Our plan: provide pet food to as many needy people as possible. We started with the eight human food banks in our county—all with a high demand for pet food but a low supply. Each food bank director agreed to distribute pet food if we supplied it.
I had no idea what to expect, but I learned fast. Our county needed more than 5,000 pounds of pet food a month just to help those already receiving people food. To keep all wanted cats and dogs at home, we needed at least 10,000 pounds of food monthly. So we called local businesses and all the animal-loving folks we knew. Turns out everyone in the community had seen the need, they just didn’t know how to help. With word out about the PPCP, the donations poured in.
Good Fortune Falls to All
Six months since opening the pet food pantry, we’re starting to reach beyond food banks. For example, we’re talking with local women’s shelters, senior living coordinators, and Meals on Wheels to see what part the PPCP can play in keeping families connected. Each of the community animal shelters directs people to us, and dog wardens hand out our contact information to people at risk.
My goal is to open pet food banks in each county so pet assistance is as available as that for people. I know now that Twister’s name doesn’t represent his legs but rather the fact that his love twisted into my heart and kept me from walking away.
How’s Twister Now?
After about a year and a half with me, Twister can walk short distances unaided and longer distances when tail-walked. His favorite activities include riding in cars, watching TV while perched on a lap, and helping in the garden—he’s a digger.
How You Can Help
- Ask the team members at your veterinary practice whether they provide pet food to needy families.
- Contact local food banks to inquire about whether they accept pet food donations.
- Search the Internet for pet food banks in your area—more are opening all the time.