PRESQUE ISLE and CARIBOU, Maine — The need for meaningful companionship is universal, but for older people who often live alone or far from family and close friends, fellowship is a key to living happier and longer. The COVID-19 pandemic has isolated many from family, but many rely on their pets to keep them company.
A local collaboration has stepped up to see that those pets are cared for during the pandemic.
According to the Aroostook Agency on Aging, conversations with people who are especially isolated have a common theme: they are lonely and sometimes scared and confused.
Fortunately, it has been found that people with pets are often faring better than those who have no one. However, these furry and feathered friends are also affected by COVID-19 and the social and economic disruption it has caused.
While getting nutritional food out to those who are unable to cook or shop for themselves has been successfully carried out without lapse since early March, there is also an ongoing need for pet food and supplies in northern Maine. In some cases, people are sharing or going without their meals because there is no pet food left in their cupboards.
Recently those who administer the Meals on Wheels program reached out to animal care providers and shelters in northern Maine for help in meeting this emerging need. The call for help was answered recently by a hardworking volunteer organization in Caribou. In fact, they’ve been focused on pets and their counterparts in the wild for several decades.
Halfway Home Pet Rescue and Rehabilitation, a small volunteer-based, Maine licensed no-kill pet rescue with 501c3 nonprofit status, has teamed up with Aroostook Agency on Aging to purchase and deliver pet food and supplies through the existing network of staff and volunteers who provide and transport nutritional meals to older and homebound consumers each week.
HHPR volunteers recently donated and delivered nearly $600 worth of free dog and cat food and supplies to the Aroostook Agency on Aging’s Stephen Farnham Gathering Place in Presque Isle, and bags and cans of pet food were immediately packed up for distribution.
For those who do not receive Meals on Wheels, a supply of free pet food and cat litter is also available from police agencies in Caribou and Fort Fairfield.
Organizers plan to continue the free pet pantry while it is needed.
The free pet food and cat litter, as well as free spay-neuter surgery for cats, are supplied due to support from the Maine Community Foundation and the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation. HHPR’s founder and executive director, Norma Milton, said this generous financial assistance has made these programs possible.
“Both of these foundations have invested heavily in the animal welfare issues of Aroostook County as well as other Maine communities,” Milton said. “HHPR works well with these groups and they are totally responsible for the highly successful free Spay-a-Rama clinics HHPR is currently providing throughout the county as well as the free Pet Pantry.”
Officials with the Agency on Aging called the new partnership a “dream come true.”
Nutrition Services Manager Erin Casey said both organizations share the same vision.
“When it comes to feeding the most vulnerable in our communities. This project is a win-win on every level – our clients will continue to be able to feed their companions and we will continue to be able to focus on feeding our clients,” said Casey.
“It will relieve that worry that our clients often face of how they will feed their pets and themselves.”
For more information on the free pet food and cat litter program, please contact Casey at 207-764-3396 or Halfway Home’s Milton at 207-999-1075.