WINSLOW, Maine — Carlene Shank already had a dog and a cat when her friend passed away recently and left her another dog to care for.
Making sure her friend’s dog was taken care of was an easy decision for Shank, even though she was unsure whether she would be able to afford the food. Then she noticed a flier at the Spectrum Generations Center in Waterville advertising something called AniMeals, a sort of Meals on Wheels for pets.
“It makes a big difference once you’re retired and on a fixed income,” said Shank. “I’ve got one dog who eats you out of house and home, so [AniMeals is] a big help.”
According to Lynda Johnson, who has run AniMeals out of the Spectrum Generations Cohen Center in Hallowell for the past 8 years, there are a total of about 90 pets being served in the Hallowell and Waterville areas. The food is distributed by an already existing network of Meals on Wheels drivers who deliver sustenance to some 400 senior citizens and others who are confined to their homes by circumstance.
Earlier this month, the AniMeals program received a major boost in the form of a $5,000 grant from the Banfield Charitable Trust, which through its Seasons of Suppers program has a long history of funding for pets and humans across the country. The trust has awarded more than $350,000 in grant money to support pet food programs. The recent grant in Maine was split evenly between the 8-year-old program in Hallowell and a similar program in the Waterville area that is just a few months old but already flooded with pets to feed.
“Our clients love the AniMeals program because it helps them with their budgets,” said Johnson. “All of this money from the Banfield Charitable Trust is going right to food, and maybe a container or two to keep it in.”
Users of the program receive about two pounds of dry dog or cat food per week, depending on the number of pets they have. The program has occasionally served other pets, such as birds, but that is rare, said Johnson. Just like Meals on Wheels, Johnson said she knows AniMeals is a resounding success because of the ease with which she collects donations. There is also no waiting list for either program, which is a point of pride for the program.
“We’re having good luck, which is a good thing because it does cost a lot of money,” said Johnson. Among the businesses who have supported the program are Pet Life, Pine Tree Veterinarians, Tractor Supply and the Riverview Psychiatric Center. Johnson said she buys pet food from a variety of local retailers, many of whom usually pitch in a little extra.
The rationale behind the program is making sure people who don’t have a lot don’t have to let go of their pets for lack of money.
“If you’re on Meals on Wheels, you’re already in a scary place anyway,” said Johnson. “Anyone who’s on that program qualifies for AniMeals. I don’t look at how much money they make.”
Johnson said the AniMeals program in the Hallowell area was among the first of its kind in Maine, though it has been spreading.
According to Shank, the pet food distributed by the program is of just as high quality as the people food distributed by Meals on Wheels.
“Whatever kind of food they’re buying, the animals love it,” she said. “We’re all happy here.”
To inquire about AniMeals or Meals on Wheels, or to make a donation to either program, call 800-639-1553.