Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Baskets for the Homeless

The winter season has arrived.  As if thrusting frozen daggers, brisk winds stab you through your worn and dirty clothes, seemingly clear through to your bones.  Your usual favorite spots for resting are only hardened more by the onslaught of cold wintry weather; concrete, even the wooden benches, might as well be iced steel.  Your daily walks wandering through town in hopes of a purpose are shorter now.  The legs stiffen from the cold, making it difficult to go far. Disapproving glares are increasing as you try to borrow a few moments of warmth here and there inside shops and food joints.  Passersby on the sidewalks only stare briefly now, as they rush toward their destinations.

You try to not think about what you once had.  The house, the car, the job, the wardrobe, the gadgets ... and the family.  When the memories angrily force their way to your conscience, you push them back. You tell yourself a story, or sing, anything to change the thoughts in your aching head.  You try to not think about the lives of those people in the cars waiting at the stoplight.  But those thoughts invade, just the same.  Are they going to or coming from their job?  How nice is their house, how warm and full of furniture, food, family?  Is that woman going to stop off at the mall on her way home, browse through racks of clothing and then take home a few new items?  Is that man going home to park the car in his heated garage, kiss his wife, ask what's for dinner, and enjoy the aroma of her cooking?  All those people driving in cars will probably be eating something delicious tonight, filling themselves with all varieties of good foods, perhaps drinking a glass of wine or having a beer.  They'll go to sleep tonight in a soft bed, with layers of covers, and wake in the morning to walk barefoot to the bathroom for a hot shower.  Then they'll eat breakfast, drink some hot coffee, and get dressed up in clean clothes to go about their day.

You stop those thoughts, admittedly repeatedly throughout the day, because you know there is no purpose to such fanciful thinking.  Not with this life you have now.  You must be practical, pragmatic; you must tend to securing whatever little you can from this day.  And so you head to the shelter, that dreaded place where you will at least get a cot to sleep on, inside a building sheltered from the wind, cold, and possibly snow.  Or you head for the soup kitchen, again dreaded, but at least there will be something to eat there.  This is your life for now.  You have cried, you have mourned, you have bitterly shouted to the heavens for answers to your questions of why you must be so tormented now, what you can do to make this misery stop.

There is but one bright spot in your life, literally one.  Your dog.  He has been your constant companion through this horror you are forced to call your current situation.  He has been your loyal friend and confidant.  He has never wavered in his adoration for you.  His respect and love, his bond with you, have been all that have kept you from going over the brink, from signing off on life, from completely giving up. Others may call you foolish, but you keep him with you.  You will keep him with you always, forever, and regardless.  And when you score that bit of something ingestible, there is no doubt that he'll get half, maybe more.  As far as you're concerned, he deserves at least that much.  You only wish you could  give him more.                             
The Pongo Fund, award-winning local organization
According to Pets for the Homeless, anywhere from 5% to 10% of homeless folks have furry friends (and in some areas, as much as 24%).  Reading an article about the UC Davis School of Vet Medicine, and a program offered by the student-run Mercer Veterinary Clinic, prompted me to consider this.  The Vet Clinic is requesting donations for help in filling holiday baskets for pets of the homeless.  That struck me - Holiday Baskets for pets of the homeless.  I recently wrote in Feed the Kitty about the need for donations of pet food, in addition to the needs of their humans, to assist those who are struggling in these hard times and have a pet.  I hadn't even thought of those who don't have a home, yet their pets are certainly in need as well.

Pets of the Homeless, an organization with locations throughout our country, as well as in Canada and Australia, coordinates with distributors, volunteer collection sites, veterinarians, donors and volunteers to provide food, vet care, blankets and crates for those without a home.  Across our country, in fact throughout much of the world, there are organizations, businesses and food pantries that collect and hand out food for such pets.  I'm  not aware of many, though, yet the need is great.

Although I'm  not familiar with the organization, it seems to be a great one, and certainly based on a truly caring mission.  The website is fantastic; there you can find the locations of collection and distribution sites, various ways you can help (there are quite a few!), and suggestions for how you might approach local businesses to request they get involved.  And kudos to the students at Mercer Clinic, for their tradition; this year they plan to fill 130 baskets for homeless-but-loved pets!

I can't think of a more important thing to do this holiday season, than to donate or volunteer on behalf of pets who don't need to be adopted, they just happen to not have a home.

Do you know of a program in your area?

For more information about these programs, please visit:
Mercer Clinic Holiday Pet Baskets, Bay Area, California
Pets of the Homeless, US, Canada and Australia
How You Can Help
National Coalition for the Homeless

                                           There but for the grace of God, go I.  (John Bradford)

photo source:


  1. Guess we spend so much time on helping those (pets) find good owners and homes that we forget those that have good owners just no home. I need to pause and think about this now..... Thank you for the post

  2. This was a great post! I've heard of groups like this who help. Thanks for sharing the site!


  3. This is a wonderful post and an eye opener.
    I do not know of any organizations in our area that does this, but now I am on a mission to find one:)

  4. Thanks for your comments! I, too, hadn't thought about it. I'm always concerned about pets needing a home with someone to love them.

    Jen, check the site; if collection/distribution locations aren't in your area, the site also gives you tips on enlisting businesses to become one.

    I can't imagine just how much it would mean to these people and their pets, especially a holiday basket!

    And Mary - I cried while writing this!

  5. You so made me cry....This was beautiful, but so, so sad....especially since those furry creatures are all these people have....

  6. Your post gave pause.

    On rare occassions when we travel near, or in, some of the larger southeastern cities we have seen homeless people standing on corners with signs.

    In our area neighbor looks after neighbor and churches and local businesses help those in need. You don't see homeless in this unique and very rural area.

    Hawk aka BrownDog

  7. Thank you for taking the time to talk about this issue. It's a vital one that affects all of us, whether we like to admit it or not. I am definitely going to look into the programs in our area.

  8. this was beautiful.

    Thanks for this most important post

  9. Thanks, everyone. - you're so right, it definitely affects us all.


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