The holidays are upon us. But it seems that every day the economic news gets worse. Folks are losing their jobs, losing their homes. Seniors are watching their retirement savings dwindle. Area food banks are reporting record requests for help and rapidly emptying shelves.

Many of these people, who can barely take care of themselves, also have pets.

Area shelters report that the number of relinquished dogs and cats has been increasing every month. Animal Control is called in to pick up animals left behind, abandoned by their owners after the home has been foreclosed on, or the owners evicted. Some pets are just turned loose to run the streets. Adding to this difficult situation, adoptions at area shelters are down. In uncertain economic times, people are less likely to add another furry mouth to feed.

While our area food banks do an excellent job of obtaining and distributing food donations for humans, they do not address the needs of our four-legged friends.

That’s where Steve Monahan and Meals Fur Pets stepped in.

Three years ago, Steve noticed that many people were struggling and forced to give up their pets because there just wasn’t enough money left at the end of the week to feed and care for them.  Steve wanted to find a way to get these people food and supplies for their pets, in hopes of enabling them to keep their best buddies. If the owners were able to keep them, fewer of these guys would end up in the shelter, likely to be euthanized.

In addition, volunteers at Meals on Wheels organizations have known for years that many of their clients split their delivered food, which they need, with their pets.

Study after study has shown the health benefits of having a pet for seniors or those with chronic health problems. But if keeping a pet involves making a decision to go without your own food or other necessities, the benefits of pet ownership are clearly diminished.

Meals Fur Pets (www.mealsfurpets.com) was organized to collect pet food and distribute it to those who need it for their animals. They get some of their food from companies who donate damaged bags and cans – and also donation bins, filled by good people like you.

In 2007, Meals Fur Pets collected and donated more than 25,000 pounds of food in Cobb, Cherokee and Bartow counties. Currently, distribution is limited to those three counties, but Meals Fur Pets hopes that one day they can expand to serve other areas as well.

Some of their donations go to selected agencies and food banks to be distributed. Meals Fur Pets is also associated with Cherokee Senior Services’ Meals on Wheels program. Cherokee seniors get the help they need – and also get the help they need to care for their unfailing companions.

So this holiday season, even if you can’t adopt another pet, help someone keep theirs. Cumberland Animal Clinic is proud to have a donation bin in our lobby. (We’re at 1860 Spring Road in Smyrna, between Atlanta Road and Cobb Parkway.) Bring by a few cans or a great big bag of food. We will make sure it gets to Meals Fur Pets – who will make sure it goes to someone who needs some help.

If we all chip in, we can keep more pets in their homes with the people who love them. What better way to celebrate the spirit of the holidays?

From the veterinarians and staff at the Cumberland Animal Clinic, we wish you and your four-legged family members safe and happy holidays. Woof