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Reaching Out to the Senior Community

Older and wiser, the retirement set can be great resource for shelters—and vice versa

James Jenkins, 91 years old, waits for his guests in his front yard, supporting himself with a cane. His two loyal dogs hover around, enjoying the day while keeping a watchful eye on their owner.

No longer able to drive, Jenkins relies on SHARE (Special Human-Animal Relationships), a Marin Humane Society program that assists homebound pet owners. Jenkins and other clients receive regular deliveries of donated dog and cat food, vet care assistance, basic pet medications—and a little friendly company. When the staff from Marin pull into the driveway, Jenkins lights up.

“The pets are part of their family—sometimes the only family they have nearby—and without this help, these owners may not be able to keep their pets,” says Carrie Harrington, communications manager for the Novato, Calif., shelter.

Keeping animals in their homes is what the SHARE program is all about. Needs vary with each situation, but eligible clients—typically seniors on a limited income, or HIV/AIDS patients living at home—receive deliveries of pet food, help with litter box cleaning or dog walking, or just routine well-being checks. Currently, the program assists approximately 250 area pet owners.

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