Turnage, a volunteer with Care Connection for
Aging Services, delivers both a meal and pet food
to a client in Warrensburg, Mo., on Wednesday,
Feb. 11, 2015.
Mo. ó In an old trailer at the edge of a cemetery
lives a little dog who loves meatloaf.
it down with tail wagging and then begs for more.
lies the problem.
meatloaf isnít meant for Andy, a 7-year-old schnauzer.
Itís for his owner, Jack Patrick, a 73-year-old
like many senior citizens with pets, Patrick often
shared his home-delivered-meal with his dog because he
canít always afford pet food.
was I supposed to do ó just eat in front of him?"
Patrick asked one day last week.
canít do that. Heís my best friend."
no longer has to choose. Folks at the Warrensburg Senior
Center now include pet food in their version of
meals-on-wheels. Every Wednesday, the driver brings a
plastic bag of dog food for Andy ó a weekís worth
ó along with Patrickís hot meal for that day.
idea is spreading across the country as officials learn
more about the prevalence of seniors sharing food with
pets. Many simply canít fit a $20 bag of dog food into
a fixed income.
nearly 100 meal recipients along six routes in
Warrensburg, a fourth or so are pet owners.
dogs and cats, but we do have one bird we take food
for," said Melissa Gower, the county services
director at the center in Warrensburg.
program sponsored by Banfield Pet Hospital, an
Oregon-based company that operates veterinary clinics in
many PetSmart stores, now provides pet food for more
than 400 home-delivered meal organizations, including
the one in Warrensburg. Another in Hiawatha, Kan., is
preparing to add pet food delivery, too.
these seniors are giving their meals to pets, they are
not getting the proper nutrition for themselves,"
said Keith Greene, the chief membership officer for a
national meals-on-wheels organization. "So this is
a big issue."
Warrensburg, Gower said some seniors share their stories
ó how they donít have money or just canít get out
to shop. For many, the petís face is the only face
they see all day.
mate is gone and the children gone," Gower said.
"But that pet is still at their feet."
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heading out on his route one cold day last week, Bill
Turnage carefully scanned the sheet in the kitchen at
the Warrensburg Senior Center, matching names with the
hot meals in a large box.
took care, too, to read the labels on the three plastic
bags of pet food. When satisfied, he announced, "Weíre
Buick was soon rolling through the southeast part of
Warrensburg. He didnít dally. One woman gets testy if
her meal doesnít arrive precisely at noon.
who is retired, started doing this when the senior
center announced it could no longer pay drivers.
saw an ad in the local paper asking for volunteers and
thought that was something I could do," he said as
was the longtime sports information director at the
University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. Just when
he got used to the new gig, they threw pet food at him.
was different," he said. "But these people
really appreciate it. Their pets are so important to
them. And given a choice of them eating or the pets
eating, some have a hard decision.
were surprised when I first showed up with dog
first "pet stop" was the home of Ramon Lopez.
The house is a red ranch in need of paint. Lopez is in a
wheelchair from polio. He has two dogs, King and Ginger,
both typically hungry.
they beat me to the door," Lopez said.
Warrensburg plan was set in motion by Andy Poslusny, 76,
a retired Air Force man. Heíd heard about seniors
sharing meals-on-wheels with their pets, and the more he
learned the more he wanted to do something.
have had to give their pets away," he said.
"Thatís not right. So weíre helping them out.
We even have a cockatiel we take food for."
said that before grant money from Banfield came in,
Poslusny for several months funded the pet food program
out of his own pocket.
I kicked in a little on that," Poslusny said.
ideas, born in the abstract, at some point need to
did just that on the floor in Jack Patrickís kitchen
when Andy went to work on a bowl of dog food.
little dog is all Patrick has. Heís divorced and the
children gone. His friends live elsewhere.
has taken his ability to paint. He has had both hips
replaced. He has bad knees and degenerative arthritis.
cold days he sits in his trailer surrounded by paintings
he cannot see. They show sleek Cadillacs and sports cars
cruising busy streets lined with bright lights.
really donít have anything or anyone except
Andy," he said. "He came to me as a pup and
never left. I donít want to sound senile, but heís
like my child."
much as anyone, Jack Patrick is the reason that senior
citizen organizations are increasingly adding pet food
to the meals-on-wheels menu.
Gower had a quick response when asked about critics who
think that money for dog food could be better spent.
say theyíre not pet lovers."