Archives for posts with tag: We All Love Our Pets

My biggest learnings were about how hard it is to transition a program you run to others who may or may not want to do it and definitely will do it differently.  The transition of the pet food program described below in a column for the local paper was in the works for a year. Sometime you may need to hand off some of your projects that you care too much about to just say “bye” when you’re done. Plan way ahead, be willing to compromise and celebrate if it happens are my best nuggets of advice.

 

After thirteen years of monthly deliveries, the We All Love Our Pets program will end in December. It has provided monthly deliveries to elderly and disabled people with low incomes, under the auspices of the Eau Claire County Humane Association. Over the years the program has grown from five households to thirty-five. Tons of cat litter, cat and dog food and food for a few parakeets and a guinea pig have been delivered. Our team of volunteers has been like the Postal Service, through heat, cold, snow and ice, and car trouble the deliveries have gone on. We’ve mourned the passing of a few of our human customers and some of their pets, but have also rejoiced at the new pets that have entered the life of an elderly or disabled individual.

Our sponsor, the Humane Association of Eau Claire County is initiating a new program where individuals can stop by the shelter and pick up the food and litter they need. This will meet the needs of many of our current customers and others not currently on our program with much less need for volunteers. My volunteers and I are getting older and needed to transition the program to something different before anybody broke a leg and everything fell apart. I’ll miss my volunteers, the customers and their pets.

It’s hard to put into words what I’ve learned over the years from the volunteers, customers and animals, but a few things stand out:

  • One can be happy without being well off financially. A homeless man who dearly loved his dog and rejoiced in their adventures together exemplified this.
  • One can be generous, even if one doesn’t have much. Most of my customers helped out in the community somehow, watching their grandkids, volunteering at Community Table and even handing us volunteers a home-baked goody from time to time.
  • People are resourceful and resilient. Volunteers borrow a truck when theirs breaks down. Customers take care of each other’s animals when someone has to be in the hospital.
  • Volunteers who show up, do the job and have fun doing it are a joy! We’ve laughed and cried with our customers, prayed for them when asked and celebrated a marriage, a move, a new pet and milestone birthdays.

I hope that as the We All Love our Pets program ends and the Community Pet Food Pantry program begins our donors and the public in general celebrate with us the fact that in Eau Claire we do love our own pets, as well as the pets of those who are elderly, disabled and low income.

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This month the We All Love our Pets program turned thirteen. A few of our human participants and several of our animals have died over the years. This month one human, a cat and a parakeet from the program died. In the human’s obituary it said:

“Her most devoted friend, companion and longtime roommate was Ringo her tabby cat and often Garfield impersonator.” The animals we take food and cat litter to are beloved family members of the people we serve. So are our volunteers who get many thank yous, occasional home-baked goodies and the satisfaction of knowing people and pets are better off for the volunteering they do.”

I read Take this bread by Sarah Miles for one of my book clubs. I was so impressed I read two of her other books Jesus Freak and City of God. Sarah was a war correspondent and an atheist.  She moved to San Francisco. One day, on a whim, she walked into an Episcopal church. She became a Christian and organized food pantries inside the church and around the city. Her zeal for feeding the hungry and finding God in all things made me reflect on the parallels with my experiences in the thirteen years I’ve spent doing the We All Love our Pets program.

I’ve learned three things for sure from this program:

  • The poor have as much to give as the rich. It may be time and energy rather than money, but it’s giving. People tell me about taking care of their grandchildren and others’ animals while their neighbor is in the hospital. Pet food recipients who get most of their food from the food pantry bake and share goodies with us volunteers.
  • God is everywhere: in the love between animals and humans, in the shared joy of hearing about a pet’s antics and in the sorrow of pet loss and human illness and death. I get to witness and am sometimes asked to say prayers aloud for healing and hope.
  • God challenges me to grow through this program. Sometimes I don’t “feel” like doing the calling about needs or the delivering of the food and litter. God tells me to do it anyway and maybe in the doing of it, I’ll get over myself.

Why do I have a harder time loving the rich than the poor? I get angry when I encounter people who have a lot of money and are not generous. It’s hard to dig deep and realize they may be hanging on to what they have because they feel “poor” in some way.  Deliver me from self-righteously judging them and open my heart to see the good in them too.

So this Litter Lady keeps delivering pet food and cat litter and learning from the people she serves!