Hungry pets, helpful hands

Imagine having to make the choice of feeding yourself or ensuring your pet has food. What would happen if you couldn’t provide that basic need for your pet and you had to give her up?

According to Carol Higgins-Taylor and Rob Crone, staff members at Eastern Area Agency on Aging, 450 Essex Street in Bangor, that’s the reality many seniors and people with disabilities face when they’re looking at keeping their furry friend at home and healthy.

EAAA assists seniors and caregivers navigate myriad issues spanning the gamut from Medicare Part D, to housing assistance, food resources, and safety. EAAA also oversees the Furry Friends Food Bank, which provides supplemental pet food for seniors and people with disabilities. This service enables the owners to appropriately feed their pet, to keep themselves well-fed, and enables them to keep Fluffy at home rather than surrender their friend.

And it’s important for the owners as well. Studies have proven that owning a pet can lead to better physical and mental health, help a person reduce doctors visits and medication use, recover faster, deal with stressful situations better, and reduce feelings of isolation.

That’s why the Furry Friends Food Bank is so important. EAAA’s Furry Friends Food Bank relies on donations of money, pet food, and cat litter to assist the pet owners currently served by FFFB in Penobscot, Piscataquis, Hancock, and Washington counties. The money is used two-fold: to pay volunteer drivers and to buy additional food as needed.

But presently, the pantry walls are bare.

Crone, EAAA’s director of nutrition noted recently that the program has a hard time keeping up with the demand. Recently EAAA has implemented a $1 charge for each time a client receives food from Furry Friends Food Bank. That charge is not enough to sustain the program and offsets costs minimally.

I have a soft spot in my heart for this organization and its mission. Over the past four years I have witnessed the people (and pets) assisted by the Food Bank. The people are not moochers or poor at budgeting. They are simply having a difficult time making ends meet and want to do the best thing for their pet.

And at some point, we’ve all been there. No pet or their owner should go hungry if there are alternatives. And for clients of the Furry Friends Food Bank, the service provided once a month is imperative to keeping that bond in place.

I recently delivered a donation collected at the “Ready for my Close-Up” Open House on July 12 of $200 and 65 pounds of pet food donated by people in the community. Higgins-Taylor told me that the money and food would go a long way to ensuring people have access to pet food. In fact, $50 can buy lots of cat food and dog food from the dollar store. It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference.

But the food bank can’t do that without help from the community. Please consider making a donation of cat or dog food (dry food goes further), cat litter, gas gift cards, or cash. Donations can be dropped off at 450 Essex Street, Bangor. Or call 941-2865 or 800-432-7812 for more information on how to get involved.