Volunteering: Feeding Hungry Pets of Meals on Wheels Recipients

The Labrador Retriever is known for eating until…well, you know. My dog, Buster Bro, has a very accurate internal clock, or “internal food clock” as my family calls it. Of course, we don’t ask him what time it is, because he is a dog, but Buster’s food clock never starts alarming more than an hour before the time he is fed his breakfast, lunch, or biscuit dessert. We have always fed him, even though his whining may sound like he is close to starvation. He’s a good actor. Imagine yourself with a pet who also has an accurate food clock, but you have nothing to feed the animal. Imagine the worry and guilt an elderly and/or disabled person must feel when they are unable to feed their pet. The relationship of the human and the pet is designed to be mutual: the human provides the pet a home and its basic needs, while the pet brings happiness to the human. It’s simple, but this companionship can be hard to maintain when the human is unable to supply the pet with the essentials. This is where AniMeals steps in. Starting in 2000 as an organization run by church groups then taken over by the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, AniMeals is a volunteer-run organization that keeps Meals on Wheels recipients and pets together by supplying the owner with food for their pet. AniMeals removes “logistical and financial obstacles to ensure that clients will always be able to provide nutritious meals for their beloved pets,” as explained by the Animal Rescue League. AniMeals has partnered up with the Des Moines Obedience Training Club and Wesley Retirement Services in West Des Moines in order to help store and deliver food for pet owners in need. One question raised by pet owners who are unable to feed their pet is, “Do I eat my entire meal, or do I give it to my pet?” said Joy Talmon, the Volunteer Coordinator at the Animal Rescue League. “Delivering food for the animals gives the owner peace of mind knowing that their animal has food to eat for the week.” “Packaging Parties” are held monthly at the Animal Rescue League, located in Ankeny. Six to eight volunteers are all that’s needed to get the party started. Volunteers then pack up the amount of cat and dog food needed for Meals on Wheels to deliver. Each zip-seal plastic bag is equivalent to one week’s worth of food for an animal, while one Packaging Party can package enough food for one month of deliveries. According to “Tails of Love” from AARP.com, the relationship between human and pet, “…is one of the strongest and most beneficial friendships in history.” Because of the limits that the elderly and disabled face due to physical conditions of the body, the pet could be the only outlet to happiness the human has. “AniMeals helps keep the elderly (and disabled) and their pets together, letting both live happy and healthier lives,” Talmon said. This bond, for any age of human, is one that should never be broken. There are several ways to take part in AniMeals. Group parties, along with individual sign-up, are common ways to help the pets of Meals on Wheels recipients. If interested, contact Joy Talmon at the Animal Rescue League by logging onto www.arl-iowa.org and clicking on “Volunteer”.