In case you haven’t figured it out by now, we love all of the older adults we serve, and we enjoy sharing their experiences with you. The story of Dawn and her family of cats is a particular favorite of ours that demonstrates the importance of having love in our lives from our family and friends – both human and animal alike.
That’s the reason that Meals on Wheels supports our clients to help them stay together with their pets: Because we all know those pets can bring an endless supply of unconditional, spirit-lifting love, even on the most difficult of days.
Dawn, who is almost completely blind, has had cats for the past 16 years. These cherished family members have loved her through challenging times – the death of her husband, the loss of her job at the Department of the Blind due to a COVID-19 shutdown, struggles to make ends meet on a fixed income and sheltering in place during the pandemic, alone. And they’ve also been by Dawn’s side during the good times, providing love, companionship and familiar (furry) faces.
“On most days now, my cats are my only companions. My favorite thing is that they love me. But, they not only keep me company – they keep me moving,” said Dawn. That’s one of our favorite things, too: Research proves pets keep their owners healthier, lowering cholesterol, slowing a resting heart rate and decreasing cardiovascular disease.
Whenever Dawn comes home, her cats all come running to greet her. Since she can see only shadows, she asks them who they are, and they help her to distinguish who is who. Each cat sits perched in front of her, patiently waiting for her to bend down and check for the obvious differences that she can discern, like a black nose or other easily distinguishable features.
Dawn now receives food and other support for her cats from her local CHEER Meals on Wheels program in rural Delaware. Before Meals on Wheels, though, Dawn had to walk to the store to get the food the cats needed, since she can no longer drive, meaning she and her cats wouldn’t always know when they might eat next.
“Sometimes, the Meals on Wheels meal is the only meal I eat during the day.” And often, that’s true for her cats, too.
Now, Meals on Wheels alleviates those worries for her. In fact, when the Meals on Wheels volunteer pulls up in front of the house to bring food to Dawn and her cats, she says, Ittybitty – one of Dawn’s feline family members – rubs up against her leg in a way that convinces her the cat is thanking her for caring for Dawn and her family.
And Dawn is not alone in being able to depend on Meals on Wheels. Research conducted with PetSmart Charities revealed that 4 out of 5 (81%) of pet-owning clients believe that Meals on Wheels' support has made it possible for them to keep their pet.
An innovative partnership between Meals on Wheels America and PetSmart Charities® has helped nearly 17,000 Meals on Wheels clients who have furry or feathered family members – like Dawn – to remain at home and together with their beloved companions.
This is just one more way Meals on Wheels supports our senior neighbors to ensure they can live nourished, healthy lives.