For the Love of a Pet seeks to keep animals with their owners
Pantry will provide pet food to owners in need
By James Kinsella
Social service agencies work to keep families together.
For the Love of a Pet is seeking to keep another kind of family together: people and their pets.
Carol Eklund of Sandwich, who was aware that the worsening economy was putting strains on families with pets, started For the Love, the Cape's first pet food pantry, about three months ago.
With people on Cape Cod losing jobs or looking to cut back on expenses to compensate for reduced income, they face the hard decision of whether they can afford to keep a pet.
It's a decision they don't make lightly. Often a pet or pets effectively have become part of the family.
Eklund's idea: to provide pet owners under financial strain with pet food so that their pets can continue to stay with their families, and not be brought to shelters or given away to other owners.
On Sunday, Dec. 14 from 1 to 5 p.m., the pantry will hold "Fun 'Fur' All," an event to raise funds for the pantry. The fundraiser will be held at Classic Kitchens, 127 Airport Road, Hyannis.
According to the pantry, the fundraiser promises to be fun "fur" everyone, with food sampling, a wine tasting, unique crafts, demonstrations and a raffle.
Raffle prizes include a diamond watch donated by Hannoush Jewelers, a hard-to-find Wii video game console, and a two-night stay at the Seacrest Resort in North Falmouth.
People are invited to bring a camera and children, as Santa plans to attend. The event also will include a balloon pop where each balloon will contain prizes (valued between $25 and $500) donated by local merchants.
Pet food or monetary donations will be accepted at the door.
Tickets are $10 each or three for $25. Tickets are available in advance at Agway on Route 6A in Sandwich and at the Grateful Dog at 58B Corporation St. in Hyannis. (Both stores are also are functioning as continuing drop-off locations for pantry donations.)
Eklund, who works in real estate, said she had become aware several months ago that money troubles were leading some Cape residents to give up their pets, or to lose their homes and not be able to bring their pets along to their new abode.
For example, she would see Craig's List notices in the area seeking new homes for pets that were seven or eight years old.
In Eklund's eyes, the separation would be at least as tough for the humans as the animals.
"They need to have these pets," she said. "They're part of the family."
So she came up with the idea of a food pantry for pets, a way to at least tide over a household in a transition or a tight spot and keep the animals in the family.
That led her a few months ago to walk in the door of the Agway store on Route 6A in Sandwich.
Donna Kutil, who co-owns the store with her brother, Jeff, saw Eklund walk in with a briefcase and immediately turned cautious.
"When you see someone walk in the door like that, they're either going to try to sell you something or ask you for something," Kutil said.
She knew Eklund had shopped at the store for pet and gardening supplies, though she never had spoken to her at length.
But Eklund's pet food pantry idea quickly appealed to Kutil.
"We just thought it was a fantastic idea," Kutil said. "I could see it expanding through the South Shore and in the rest of Massachusettts. We immediately signed up."
Since then, word of mouth, flyers and the Web have been spreading the news about the effort.
"We've gotten a ton of food donations," Kutil said. "We're busting at the seams with food.
"It's become so much more" than just collecting food, she said. "It's the passion for the animals. It's the passion for people in the community. You want to help out more."
At present, For the Love doesn't have a central location. People in need may visit the organization's Web site to download a request for pet food, and then arrange to pick the food up at locations including the Sandwich Agway, the Grateful Dog and Cape Maid Farms on Falmouth Road in Hyannis.
Eklund is asking that people donate time to the effort in return for accepting the pet food.
She hopes eventually to open a central location where people not only could get food, but buy new and used pet-related items in a boutique that would generate more pet-food purchases.
For the Love also plans to bring a veterinarian on board who would spay and neuter pets.
"We'd love to see as many people as we can on Sunday, so people don't have to give up their animals," Eklund said.
"We have the food," Kutil said. "We're ready to go."
Monetary donations and cents-off pet food coupons from Sunday newspapers may be mailed to Agway, P.O. Box 319, East Sandwich, MA 02537. More information is available by e-mailing Eklund, the director of the effort, here or calling (508) 472-9175.