Pets improve our lives in so many ways. They bring us joy, companionship, and unending love — not to mention the fact that they’re good for our health!
Not only does caring for animals teach us a ton about compassion and patience, but it can even help the most vulnerable among us find a sense of purpose. For homebound seniors, especially, owning a dog or cat can do wonders for their mental health. The only problem? Many older folks can’t afford pet food and vet bills.
It’s an issue that came to Adelle Taylor’s attention nearly a decade ago. She learned from a friend who worked at the Senior Source, a Dallas nonprofit which offers many services to elderly people, that some clients on fixed incomes were going without food or medical care to provide for their pets. That’s what inspired the late Taylor’s legacy, the Seniors’ Pet Assistance Network (SPAN), a nonprofit now run by her daughter, Laurie Jennings.
In a nutshell, it’s a “Meals on Wheels” program, but for pets.
“It’s something you don’t think about,” Laurie told Dallas News. “The individual who is living on a very limited fixed income loves their pet as much as you and I love our pets.”
But now, thanks to the nonprofit, seniors in Dallas County don’t have to worry about how they’ll be feeding and caring for their furry friends.
SPAN serves elderly people 67 and up, with incomes of $1,200 or less per month. Made up of about 30 volunteers, the organization delivers pet food, cat litter, and other supplies to help seniors keep their animals healthy and happy. They even transport pets to vet visits and cover the bill! And in some cases, Laurie works with local groups to ensure pets will find a home should their owners pass away.
Last year, SPAN delivered 662 bags and 3,804 cans of pet food, 64 buckets of kitty litter, and provided veterinary assistance for more than 60 animals. And while they’ve received tearful messages of gratitude from the people they serve, they’re just happy to help. They know how important it is for seniors stay with their animals — the other heroes in this equation.
“We’ve had children of clients tell us that the animal is what’s keeping their mom or dad alive,” Laurie said.
Indeed, James Evans’ two rescue dogs, Renny and Rex, are the light of his life. They’re what keeps the 83-year-old smiling, and thanks to SPAN’s support, he doesn’t have to worry about giving them the best care possible. Volunteer Jeanne Marie Boyne delivers dog food from SPAN’s pet food pantry to James every other month. She also takes his dogs to the vet every year, keeping them up-to-date on all their checkups and vaccinations.
“It doesn’t take a lot of time,” she said. “And it can make a big difference for the animals and in someone’s life.”
It’s easy for older people to start feeling isolated and lonely when they live on their own. But with the constant companionship from their pets and regular visits from SPAN volunteers, they’ll never have to be alone.
Private donations are the reason SPAN is able to help so many seniors and pets in Dallas. If you can, consider helping their mission by donating here. Either way, please share this story to help spread the word!
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