Hungry Pets, Helpful Hands

Imagine having to choose between feeding yourself or ensuring your pet has food. What would happen if you couldn’t provide that basic need for your pet? What if you had to give them 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 looking at keeping their furry friends at home and healthy.

EAAA helps 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 feed their pets appropriately, keep themselves well-fed, and keep Fluffy at home rather than surrender them. It’s vital for the owners as well. Studies show that owning a pet can lead to better physical and mental health, help a person reduce doctor’s 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 buy other food as needed.

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. These people are not moochers or poor at budgeting. They are only having difficulty making ends meet and want to do the best thing for their pet.

At some point, we’ve all been there. No pet or their owner should go hungry if there are alternatives. 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. $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 donating pet food (dry food goes further), cat litter, gas gift cards, or cash. Donations can be dropped off at 450 Essex Street, Bangor. Please call 207-941-2865 or 800-432-7812 for more information on how to get involved.

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