Senior Pet and Animal Rescue

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“Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.” – Sydney Jean Seward

My dad is fond of saying that “rescued pets love you more.”  He believes they truly appreciate the face that you took them from a situation where they were not receiving the care and attention they needed and gave them a good home.

For some reason I have always felt like his idea was a little bit silly.  It’s not that I really disagreed with him, I guess I just hadn’t spent much time thinking about it.  That changed one recent morning when I had the opportunity to speak with Jennifer Pease, a founder of Senior Pet and Animal Rescue (SPAAR).  SPAAR’s founding was the result of two friends, who were experienced volunteers in animal shelters around Pittsburgh, comparing notes and realizing there was a real need for helping families to keep their senior pets and helping to rescue senior pets that no longer had a home.

What do they do?

SPAAR’s mission, in simplest terms, is to make sure that senior pets (6+ for dogs and 8+ for cats) are being taken care of by a family that loves them.  sometimes that means helping a family that cannot afford to care for their senior pet by assisting with medical bills and supplies via a program called Ferdiand’s Fund.   Other times it means helping to find a foster home or new adoptive home for a senior pet when a local shelter hasn’t had success in finding a willing family.

Additionally, a unique aspect of SPAAR’s mission is to provide hospice care for pets that have been given a terminal diagnosis.  As these cats and dogs are often especially difficult to find a match for, SPAAR seeks to not only find homes for these pets, but has also fostered relationships with local veterinarians to provide appropriate end-of-life care that allows for comfortable and love-filled final days.

Why do they do it?

Beyond simply being animal lovers, SPAAR’s founders Laura Broklebank and Jennifer Pease saw first-hand the gap that existed for senior animals when it came to finding homes and meeting high costs.  Each had experienced this with her own pets and witnessed it while assisting in local shelters.

On average, older pets tend to be both more expensive to care for and more difficult to find homes for.  This can make for a difficult set of circumstances but it is also exactly the reason why SPAAR exists.  An older pet can be the perfect match for some homes, and SPAAR wants to help make those connections.

How can you help?

As with all the groups that we will be profiling on Better the Burgh, SPAAR has a real need for financial assistance.  Even with the good relationship they enjoy with local vets, the hospice care in particular, can become very costly. Beyond this, in-kind donations are very much appreciated.  SPAAR tries to provide everything necessary for foster parts to care for their cats and dogs: food, toys, cleaning supplies and everything in between.

If you’d be interested in jumping in with both feet, SPAAR is also looking to add to its list of foster homes. There is an application and interview process, but your willingness to open up your home can give SPAAR the ability to meet the needs of even more senior animals from the Pittsburgh area.  Finally, many of the pets currently in foster care are also available for adoption.  The application process is fimilar to that for fostering, but you’d be helping to achieve SPAAR’s ultimate goal by providing a final, loving home for a cat or dog who would relish the chance to curl up next to you, share some warmth, and receive a thorough ear scratching.

If SPAAR sound like an organization you’d like to get behind, please visit their website via one of the links above to learn more.  And keep your eyes open for the fun events they are scheduled around town.  I’ll close with a little video I stumbled across that extols the virtues of owning an older dog.  I think you’ll find it is five minutes well spent.

Extravagant Love Makeover

Prior to my time in Pittsburgh I spent a few years working with an organization that provided respite care for homeless men and women in Washington, D.C. Most would come in broken, and hurting by a life lived on the streets.   Not infrequently, within a few days of receiving care, a new look would come across their faces.

Major problems don’t get solved in one day or even in a few weeks. But being cared for and the recognition that you are loved, can go a long way towards changing an attitude of hopelessness into a belief that more may just be possible. This is an approach that Denise Grave’s Extravagant Love Makeover Project has embraced by showering its participants with a day of attention, care, and, yes, love. Most of the big problems will still remain, but have no doubt: one day can indeed have a lasting impact for good.

What does Extravagant Love do?

On the surface, the Extravagant Love Project is a day of pampering each November for women who are in the midst of experiencing the most difficult sets of circumstances that life can throw at them. Women from shelters throughout the city are paired with volunteers who give them treatment that rivals the most luxurious spas in town. They spend the afternoon receiving manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, a new hairdo, and a new outfit. After this, they are whisked to a lavish ceremony hosted by the Pittsburgh Project, complete with dinner and a fashion show that allows the women to be the stars of the evening.

Where the Extravagant Love Makeover really makes its impact is in the genuine love with which these services are shared. It’s hard to really grasp the impact of what being made to feel special means to a person who’s life circumstances have put her in a place where she often ignored or rejected by the people around her.

The project’s founder, Denise Graves, works to make sure that all participants are the recipients of unconditional love throughout the day. Volunteers are prepped with training in regard to some of the how’s and why’s of homelessness, and are encouraged to allow natural friendship to grow as they remind the women that they are indeed loved.

 Why do they do it?

Ms. Graves makes it clear that the Extravagant Love Makeover is the outflow of her faith in God and the love that she has received. Each of us has a story, and we truly have no idea what another person has gone through to lead her to the place that she is in life now. Even at our very lowest points, our stories are not over. As long as there is life there can be hope. Often it takes some real encouragement and a tangible expression of love to begin believing that.

Ms. Graves notes that so many of the messages we hear in the present day tend to break things down into categories of “us” and “them.” But with the Extravagant Love Makeover, volunteers are looking to embrace what she calls “the power of we”. We are all made in God’s image. We are all important, and we all deserve to be recipients of love.

 How can you help?

With regards to immediate help, the needs are primarily financial. It takes a lot to organize this special day for the 100+ women who will have love lavished on them this November. The outfits, jewelry, and the full spa treatment are costly. If you are moved to help, donations are tax deductible and very much appreciated.

In the long term, there is a vision of growing the Extravagant Love Project here in Pittsburgh and in other cities. A plan for maintaining the relationships through ongoing friendships between the participants and volunteers is being developed. Conference weekends are being planned to help prepare volunteers and spread the vision to other locations.

To learn more, I’d recommend visiting the organization’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Extravagant-Love-Makeover-894707130599900/?fref=ts

You can reach out through their message button to find out about volunteering with, or donating to, this 501c3 organization.

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/109855364″>Extravagant Love Makeover | Our Stories</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/savisky”>Michael Savisky</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

 

Let’s Get this Started

I want Better the Burgh to be a place where people can come to be encouraged by all the good people and good things going on in the city of Pittsburgh.   At this point, my vision is pretty simple.  I want to visit as many charities, ministries, and non-profits serving the Pittsburgh metro area as I possibly can.  I want to get a feel for what they are doing and volunteer whenever possible.  And I want to share those experiences with you in the hopes that you might find a group that you feel connected to.

We all have various reasons for caring and wanting to help.  Sometimes it just seems hard to know where to begin or where to turn to start that process.  I’d like Better the Burgh to be that place for you.  Come here to learn about where good things are happening.  Maybe you’ll volunteer.  Maybe you’ll pray.  Maybe you’ll give money.  Maybe you’ll just help spread the word.  Any and all of those choice would be a great addition to what’s going on.

We are all operating with limited resources in some way, shape, or form.  Better the Burgh can be a short cut for you to join with your community to strengthen the work that is already being done.  Please read and please respond if and when you find a mission that calls your name.