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A pet-icularly special holiday

December 21, 2023 | By Emilie Jacques

The holidays are a time of giving, including to our furry friends. Thanks to the PetSmart Discovery Pet Grant, Copper Shores Meals on Wheels is making this holiday season a little more special with an extra treat for the four-legged companions of the seniors in the Meals on Wheels program. 

“Getting this funding from PetSmart really helped us to better understand the needs our seniors have with their pets,” said Kathleen Harter, program director of Copper Shores Meals on Wheels.

Staff individualized the gifts to each senior with a pet, making it a more personal and thoughtful gift.

After conducting a survey among the seniors, Meals on Wheels staff put together personalized gifts for the seniors based on their needs for pet care and play. The grant covered the cost of several cat carriers, scratch posts, grooming supplies, tennis balls, rope toys and more. 

“The highest needs that came out were for veterinarian care and vaccinations, as many homebound seniors have trouble getting to the vet,” said Harter. “This was followed by grooming and then toys so they can engage with their pets more.”

The needs survey will also help inform future program planning for Meals on Wheels, like possible veterinarian vaccination clinics for pet owners in the program or connecting them with volunteers who will walk their dog. By knowing what resources are needed most, Meals on Wheels staff can work to break down access barriers, and continue to deliver compassion to seniors.Catnip Mice

A special addition from Calumet High School students will be added to some of the gifts. High school students taking Susan Rosemurgy’s Studio Art class spent time earlier this school year making cat toys for seniors in the form of felt mice. Rosemurgy is a long-time friend and past colleague of Harter, who originally made the call for the request. 

“I feel like I've been waiting my entire career for someone to ask me and my students to make cat toys,” said Rosemurgy. “Some students worked to develop the pattern for the toys and make something that incorporates the embroidery they are being taught. So many of my students have cats that they wanted to make extras to take home.”

Like the seniors in the Meals on Wheels program, high school students also recognize the joy and meaning that having a pet can bring into your life.

“When you think about the value of a pet, we value pets for how much joy they bring into our lives and how much they are a part of the family,” explained Harter. “For any seniors who don’t have family, that pet is critical for fighting isolation, loneliness and depression, and helps seniors get out and socialize. Most importantly providing companionship to people who are isolated. It’s hard on seniors when they see their pet’s needs not being met, whether that’s through vet care, grooming or enrichment.”

Meals on Wheels drivers are hand-delivering these gifts and supplies in addition to regular meals. To learn more about the resources that Meals on Wheels provides for seniors in the Copper Country year round, visit coppershores.org/mealsonwheels.

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Emilie Jacques

Emilie Jacques

"I grew up in the area and graduated from Michigan Tech with a B.S. in Psychology, a minor in Communication Studies, and a minor in Media Production. I love the outdoors, camping, backpacking, hiking, and anything that will leave me with blisters and bug bites. I consider myself a huge nerd and spend much of my time thinking about DnD and consuming any high fantasy entertainment that I can." You can reach Emilie at ejacques@coppershores.org