JONI AVERILL

Friends of Kindred Spirits helps elders and infirm keep pets at home

Posted March 15, 2011, at 3:33 p.m.

This week I received an e-mail from Mary Jude of Orrington containing important information for senior pet owners as well as pet owners who may be in, or are facing the prospect of, hospice care.

Mary wrote to let me know that Friends of Kindred Spirits, of which she is the executive director, has received its 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit organization and, in addition to its purpose of providing elders with the support they need to help care for their pets, is hosting a series of free informational meetings that will cover a variety of topics related to pet care.

That first event is 11 a.m.-1 p.m.  Saturday, March 19, at the Sea Dog Banquet Center on the Bangor Waterfront.

And while the meeting is free and open to the public, donations to help support the work of FOKS will be gratefully accepted.

The event features Mary’s husband and FOKS co-founder, Dr. Mark Hanks of Kindred Spirits Veterinary Clinic in Orrington, offering the opportunity for “A Chat with the Vet,” which will focus on Lyme disease in dogs, the Parvo virus and methicillin resistance.

Friends of Kindred Spirits grew out of a need that Mary, who is a nurse practitioner, and her husband became aware of through their respective careers.

They had found, Mary told me during a telephone interview, that many of the elderly among us were in need of support to continue to care for pets in their homes.

The importance of companion kinship for the elderly or chronically infirm has been well-documented, Mary explained, and the continuation of that bond is especially important for the elderly and those in hospice care.

Friends of Kindred Spirits, an all-volunteer organization, was established to help older pet owners, or the infirm, do some of the things they might be unable to do on their own.

For example, if an elder pet owner needs to take his or her pet to the vet, a volunteer can provide that transportation.

“They can also do needed grooming or take animals for walks,” Mary said of FOKS volunteers.

“We’re set up to help support individuals who need those sorts of services, and we’re inviting people to join us to help build this intentional community of caring individuals who are willing to help in a variety of ways.”

Everything from providing food and medications to yard and litter box cleaning is available, along with assistance in interim or permanent pet placement, if that becomes necessary.

Asked how people become beneficiaries of the work of FOKS, Mary said some are referred by veterinarians who know someone is having difficulty paying a vet bill, for example, or who know a person may be having difficulty keeping the pet at home because the person is unable to  perform some of the many tasks involved in the pet’s care.

“We provide, optimally, any support that an elder needs to keep their pet, and it might mean up to 50 percent of their vet bill,” Mary said.

“There is a needs test, so if a vet gives them my card, they contact me” and the process is begun to determine what is needed and what FOKS can provide.

Mary said that because FOKS is strictly nonprofit, all donations go directly to pet care.

And as much as FOKS is about helping the elderly keep their pets with them for comfort and continuing that special bond, FOKS also helps those who need to find new families for their pets.

For example, Mary told me about an elderly lady who was diagnosed with a terminal illness and was worried about what would happen to her small dog, who was only a couple of years old. “She kept asking, what am I going to do?” Mary said. “So we actually hooked her up with an individual who wanted to adopt a dog and they met, the dogs played, and the woman was so relieved, knowing that when she passed away, her dog had a new family.”

FOKS also works to provide “forever families” for homeless pets and provides free spay/neuter and essential immunization services for feral cats.

For more information about Friends of Kindred Spirits, or to make a donation to help support its work or to become a volunteer, visit its website, www.friendsofks.org, e-mail info@friendsofks.org, write FOKS, P.O. Box 63, Orrington 04474 or call 949-7878.

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; javerill@bangordailynews.com; 990-8288.

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