Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Comforting Power of Pets

This article appeared in our 2019 Wings of Hope magazine

James Herb is grateful for the Hope for Pets program. So are his nine cats. Once a month, Hope volunteer Barbara Hartnett delivers two 20-pound bags of food and three 20-pound containers of kitty litter to help James care for his pets.

And while there are nine felines in residence, James’ Schipperke Jackie clearly presides over the home, with bright eyes gleaming and a shiny medallion dangling from his collar to honor St. Francis, the patron saint of animals. “It’s all about the love,” said James as he patted Jackie’s head.

A hip replacement surgery at 76 set off a series of setbacks and deteriorating health. When he was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital after a checkup, James pleaded to be let go so he could return home to care for his animals. “They are great company and comfort to me,” said James.

Now 80, James spends most days at his Lehigh Acres home. Knowing Hope is there for him, and his pets, is also a comfort to James.

 “I can’t believe how much Hope has helped me. Their staff are such good people,” said James. “They’ve been with me since day one helping me through this trip I’m taking.”

Hope’s community partnerships with organizations such as Bayshore Animal Hospital and Gulf Coast Humane Society help people who, like James, want to keep their animals nearby, but need a hand caring for them.

In addition to providing care for animals, Hope for Pets will also rehome pets if necessary.

“We want to help be supportive to people at the end of life, and people’s pets provide comfort to them right until the end,” said Jennifer Galloway, Gulf Coast Humane Society’s executive director. “Hope does an amazing job finding placements for pets,” she said, “We sometimes help them with adoptions, or if they see an animal in need of medical care, we get them taken care of at the clinic.”

Jennifer said GCHS likes to work with organizations that provide much-needed services to the community. “Many of us on staff have had family members who have used Hope Hospice,” said Jennifer, whose father was with Hope before he passed. “What they do for the community at that time in someone’s life is so important. We want to help in any way we can to be supportive, and pets often provide their owners such comfort up until the end.”

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