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I was discussing the importance of the human-animal bond today with my PetPAC colleague, pet photographer Patrick Nau. We noted the current expansion plans for the business Chuck & Don’s Pet Food Outlet, where Nau’s beautiful pet portraits are on display and for whom he does newsletter and advertising photography.

I wondered what might allow Chuck & Don’s to achieve success like this in the midst of the Great Recession, then I answered my own question. Studies have shown that pet-related businesses are one of the few recession-resistant ventures. Many people, myself included, will sacrifice their own comforts to provide for their animal companions. Why is this, when so many of us are losing sleep at night over our climbing levels of debt and dwindling incomes? It’s certainly not “rational.”

What I decided must be a motivating factor is the fact that our companion animals are our “anchors to sanity.” (Patrick really liked that phrase.) With them we find a relationship wherein we get out of it much more than we give, no matter how much we give. What work or interpersonal relationship can consistently boast that? Being around our animals lowers our blood pressure, reduces our stress, makes us feel unconditionally loved and accepted, gives us a sense of being necessary to another living being, etc. Is it any wonder we place such a high value on this relationship?

When the rest of our lives may appear to be spinning out of our control, we know we can still go for a walk with or play fetch with our dog, sit quietly in a rocking chair with our cat, talk to our birds, and so on. We are reminded by our animal companions of the simple pleasures, of the joy to be found in living in the moment. We may not be able just now to shell out money for expensive trips to Cancun, all the latest in techno-gadgetry, or visits to a high-priced psychiatrist to diminish our stress, but as long as we have our dearest four-legged (two-winged, etc.) friends with us, we just may not have as great a need for any of those things. —Sid

My husband, Anthony, with Blanche and Oliver

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Big idea of the day: Creative FUNdraisers can involve kids.
Anybody old enough to remember Muscular Dystrophy Carnivals? I hosted some in my backyard to raise money for “Jerry’s Kids” back in the 1960s!Why not host your own retro-style carnival? It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. And you can charge people one entry fee (in dollars or pet food/toys/litter, etc.), or you can have them buy tickets to use at your “booths.”
THE DUCK POND: I remember we set up a wading pool with water and floated plastic ducks with numbers on their bellies and had little kids use a pole to “fish” out their duck for a prize (something small like a piece of candy or trinket from a multi-pack of toys at a dollar store will do) corresponding to the number.
CAKE WALK: We baked cookies, pies, muffins, and cakes and laid out numbers on sheets of paper in a circle on the grass (weighted with rock so they wouldn’t blow away) and had people walk around as music (the Jackson 5, as I recall, was a favorite) played (on a portable 8-track player) and when it stopped, participants froze at the number they were at. Someone in charge drew a number from a hat and whoever was on the corresponding number on the ground won his/her choice of the baked goods.
SPORTS: We played competitive bocce games, badminton, volleyball, kickball, etc. Go with whatever games you think will appeal to the kids’ age range in your neighborhood.
SCAVENGER HUNT: Send kids out in teams to locate a list of oddball items. Instead of going into strangers’ homes, however, you can make the list be unique, readily identifiable items on the houses themselves or in the front yards of houses on your block. Just have the teams find the items listed and record the address where they spotted it in order to get credit. For instance, you could have written “A pair of concrete lions” and they’d jot the number of the house where these sat out alongside the front steps in a blank next to it. You get the idea. They’re still having to hunt, but there will be no lugging back the items or involving neighbors who value their privacy. The team that gets the most items correctly noted in an allotted amount of time wins.
TALENT SHOW: Get everyone involved displaying their virtuosity on the harmonica, magic acts, song-and-dance routines, puppet shows, outstanding stupid human tricks, etc.
Why have I taken you on this sentimental journey into my fund-raising past? I want to urge you and/or your kids/students/younger relatives/neighbors organize to host a backyard (or National Night Out Block Club) carnival for all their friends—with a wide variety of games, relays, contests, cake walks, lemonade stands, etc.—to raise $$ and/or pet food donations for The Pet Project! All donations go to providing pet food and products to families in need through local food shelves. Help people keep their beloved animal friends with them throughout this recession and other unforeseen life changes such as the owners’ illness or disability. Shelters and rescues are flooding over with pets who, while not neglected or abused, are being surrendered by anguished owners who can’t afford their upkeep.

Kids are often passionate about pets. Why not nurture their generosity and creativity and get them involved in this worthy cause—and have a FUNtabluous time, too? Please, please, please send me any photos or stories of your fund-raising efforts for the Pet Project and I’ll post about it here and on my Facebook Fan Page! Heck, send in a video of your event to fellow animal-lover Ellen Degeneres and get a national trend going! —Sid

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The Pet Project is designed to help people keep their pets by offering food to those who are struggling. The Pet Project is working to expand these services to include assistance in finding housing with a pet and basic veterinary care.

Everything is so interconnected, an environmental tragedy of the magnitude of the Gulf Coast’s coupled with our continued economic recession is hitting hard even our nonaquatic friends. Do all you can to help people continue to keep and feed their pets. On my website’s Buy the Book page is a link to The Animal Rescue site, a free site from which pet food is donated with every click. Bookmark the page and click on the link every day to keep the food supply steady. And keep all the families and animals affected by the Gulf Coast disaster in your thoughts and prayers. Everything helps. —Sid

The oil spill’s forgotten victims—Gulf Coast pets

July 11, 10:46 AMFt. Myers Gulf Oil Spill ExaminerTereza Marks

Pets, forgotten victims of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Pets, forgotten victims of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Tereza Marks

When the economy began to turn sour a few years ago, humane societies and animal shelters across the country started to see an increase in pets being abandoned or relinquished because owners could no longer afford to care for them.  Unfortunately, many familes were faced with difficult choices– food for themselves and their families or food for their beloved pets. In the Gulf region, economic hardships continue to mount for families who depend on fishing or tourism– increasing the urgent need for assistance to help the area’s pets.

Stories about owners having to surrender beloved pets at shelters have become all too common over the last few years– not just in the Gulf region but around the country.   As an example, a man, living in his car after losing his home, showed up at up at an animal shelter in Virginia with two purebred Welshi Corgi’s.  He could no longer afford to even feed his loving companions that he had for over 5 years.   Unfortunately, in the Gulf region these scenes could continue to be played out due to the long term economic effects of the oil spill.

Over the last few years, as food pantries stocked shelves to help feed the newly homeless and unemployed, animal welfare organizations created pet food pantries to help these pets stay with their families until their caretakers were able to recover from economic hardships.   In the Gulf region, these donations of pet food may be all that allows pets to stay in homes, especially as the decline in  tourism and lack of  fishing continue to affect all aspects of the local economies.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, based in Kanab, UT, recently delivered 20 tons of donated dog food to Gulf Coast Region.  Best Friends, according to a recent article on their website, is teaming up the with Louisana SPCA to set up four regular food distribution sites, in St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Orleans and Jefferson parishes.  According to Beth Brewster, director of the St. Bernard Parish Animal Shelter, her shelter has recently taken in many more pets than this time last year and fishing families with large dogs are most in need. These families do not want to give up their pets but lack of income due to the oil spills is forcing them to do so.  Donation programs such as this can help keep these pets in their loving homes.

The Louisiana SPCA has also started a Gulf Coast Companion Animal Relief Program to help those affected by the oil spill.  The program provides services such as spay/neuter surgery, microchipping, annual vaccinations, and a three month supply of food.  The goal of the program is to help 1,000 companion animals in Plaquemines Parish, St. Bernard Parish, lower Jefferson Parish (Grand Isle and Lafitte) and Terrebonne Parish.

As the oil spill continues to affect tourism and the fishing industry throughout the Gulf region, demand for pet assistance programs will likely increase.  Residents throughout the region, including those in Southwest Florida, may see more owners no longer able to afford to keep their pets.  You can help by donating to programs, such as those at Best Friends and the Louisana SPCA, and by contacting your local humane society, animal shelter, or food pantry to see if there is a  program to provide food or veterinary assistance to low income pet owners.

Also, if you are in the position to add a new four-legged member to your family, please adopt from a shelter or rescue group.  Sites, such as Petfinder, allow you to search both locally and nationally for pets looking for homes.

I was at the Pet Project’s MN Pet Food Drive to supply local food shelves with food for hungry four-legged family members who are suffering right along with their humans during this recession. One of my co-vendors there was The Dog Perk, creators of fun, unique T-shirts, sweatshirts and other products for dog lovers.

My personal favorite (for which I’ve put in a Christmas gift request with my hubby) is “Dirtiness is next to Dogliness.” Give them a look-see, as well as the pet portraits of Sarah Beth Photography, personalized products of Personalized Pooch—more about these two on my blog’s Pet Loss Memorial Products page—and the touching, profound book, 8 State Hurricane Kate, (below) by Jenny Pavlovic. My thanks to them all for supporting the Pet Food Drive.

I’ll be sure to let you know when I learn how much food was collected at this event.

Here’s what I learned from Lisa at Fetch Delivers, one of the event’s sponsors:

Looks like we just met our goal of 10,000#’s (American Agco gave me 3000+lbs for the event) And over $800 raised and counting, as Fetch will donate some proceeds from the promo we offered to the event goers.

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