Stories like this truly warm my heart. It's no secret that times are tough and sometimes we forget that some people don't have enough money to feed their pets. Sure it's easy to say "well, just give Fido away" UNLESS you've ever had a beloved pet. I'm telling you right now that I'd personally go without a few meals a month before letting Betsey and Ross starve or giving them away. Pets are calming and soothing. They love us unconditionally. Ross gives massages when I have migraines (really). They are good company. Dogs give their owners good exercise when they have to be walked (the dogs have to be walked, not the owners).
After reading the story below, drop off a bag of dog or cat food at Pooch Pantry (part of B.C. Dog Training Club) in Mundelein.
Chicago, suburban pet owners look for place to turn when food runs out
The worsening economy means many animal owners can no longer afford the cost of food and care for their four-legged companions.
Tribune Staff Report, February 20, 2009
When his health-care consulting business dried up, George Olsen applied for the state's food stamp program, but didn't count on the difficulty in feeding Oliver and Gracie.
State aid doesn't cover food for his two golden retrievers, cherished family members for Olsen, of Vernon Hills.
After learning of his plight, dog trainer Cathie Sabin provided him with a 20-pound bag of dog food for free, and then was motivated to take it a step further by opening the Pooch Pantry in Mundelein.
"That animal in itself gives them comfort, gives them unconditional love," said Sabin, who hopes to keep her pantry stocked with dog and cat food, treats, used collars, and other supplies.
The food bank for pets, run out of Sabin's B.C. Dog Training Club, opened almost a month ago and is accepting dog and cat food donations, which it distributes at no cost to people suffering a financial crisis. With little publicity, she has handed out 12 to 15 bags of food every Saturday morning, mostly to senior citizens on fixed incomes, and expects the numbers to grow as word spreads.
Woodland Primary School in Gurnee has started collecting pet food to donate to the pantry.
There are several pet food pantries in Chicago, including a "foreclosure program" at PAWS, which has doled out 2,100 pounds of cat food and 2,240 pounds of dog food to needy families since September, a spokeswoman said. PAWS also offers foster care, pet food and emergency medical care and has about 40 people on its current recipient list.
Sabin believes her Pooch Pantry to be among the first in Lake County—reflecting a growing need during the economic downturn.
Nationally, animal shelters have reported rising numbers of people who are giving up their pets, skipping veterinarian visits and buying cheaper pet food. The evidence is largely anecdotal, but there's no doubt among advocates in the field.
"I think we are going to see more of these kinds of things if the economy doesn't turn around," said Steve Dale, a nationally syndicated pet care journalist.
Pet pantries have become a necessity in some areas, Dale said. "People are just opening their doors, letting [pets] out, or in some cases leaving them in foreclosed homes," Dale said.
Other owners, he said, are trimming their budgets and agonizing over how to keep their pets.
At Save-A-Pet in Grayslake, executive director Frank Corbi said he has seen about a 20 percent increase since last year in people relinquishing their cats or dogs.
Corbi described a man who had to return a pet because "he was literally living out of his truck."
Afterward, "he went outside and actually fell on his knees and cried," Corbi said. "I will never forget that."
At PAWS Chicago, the pet food bank is available only by appointment, said spokeswoman Susan Robinson. Most who need help are in foreclosure or unemployed, and their stories are heartbreaking, she said.
"We have had a couple of people whose animals have had a medical crisis," she said. "Now they can't afford" to feed them.
The hope, she said, is to try to help people for three to six months, with the understanding that they are trying to get back on their feet.
Sabin delivers a similar message. On a recent weekend, she explained to several people who dropped by her Mundelein pantry for food that she would do her best to help, but added a caveat.
Sabin also runs a non-profit dog rescue education group, and she talks to each pet food donor about the organization's mission and goals, allowing contributions to be tax-deductible.
Mary York, 57, of Round Lake Park, stopped by the Pooch Pantry to pick up some dog and cat food. She lives alone, if you don't count her Dalmatian mix, Oreo, 10; a beagle mix, Barley, 8; and a 9-year-old cat named Morris.
York, who is on a fixed income and has health problems, also has been trying to find a home for two strays a neighbor left with her.
"I have a full house," she said with a sigh. "They're my family. They are alarm clocks and everything else."
Another visitor to the pantry was Linda Plier of Waukegan, who donated food.
"People shouldn't be without their best friends," said Plier, who no longer has a pet of her own but appreciates their companionship. "I am lucky enough to still have a job."
Before he was referred to Sabin, Olsen, 60, said he was surprised to find so little help available for struggling pet owners in the suburbs. He figured he called 20 places as he tries to get his family through a tight spot after his consulting business soured.
"The thing that was disappointing and irritating to me is that when I called a few of the pet stores . . . their response was, 'No we don't do that. Maybe you should consider giving your pet up.' "
That would be a last resort, said Olsen, who hopes he can reciprocate the kindness shown him and help other pet owners.
"This is such an important piece of people's lives," he said.
Where to find pet food assistance