By John M. Hayden
“Would you rescue me when I’m by myself?
When I need your love, if I need your help
Would you rescue me?” -One Republic
This year, almost everyone has needed to be rescued at some point, physically, financially, or emotionally. When we think of animal rescue, we think about going to the shelter, finding the right animal that matches our vibe, filling out the paperwork, and heading to their new furever home. In a perfect world, a pet can bring us ten to twenty years (or longer) of happy companionship. But, sometimes the unexpected happens and another rescue is needed.
Every year, thousands of people in Broward and Miami-Dade often become sick, elderly, or face devastating financial crises, and that can threaten their ability to hold their human-animal family together. That’s where The Pet Project comes in. This is a furtastic organization dedicated to keeping pets and their people together forever.
They run a pet food bank, making sure pets get the nutrition they need. It’s not just the four legged friends getting good nourishment. They also help collect and deliver healthy, nutritious food to the two-legged companions. Hundreds of Simply Fresh Farmers to Families boxes have been rounded up. From as far away as Bourbon Street Pub and New Orleans House in Key West to Hunters Nightclub in the heart of Wilton Manors, staff members (who are already facing their own challenges these days) take their time to promote the giveaways to their friends, collect the food, and set up the giveaways.
The Pet Project also helps organize veterinary care with a traveling van that can come in and provide needed vaccines to keep us with our animal companions. A few years ago they won a grant to buy a box truck so shut-ins with pets can still have some services delivered to their door.
There are also some hidden treasures waiting to be discovered at their thrift shop, Hidden Treasures. Sue Martino, Executive Director of The Pet Project says this is an integral part of the operation, “Hidden Treasures is a thrift store that benefits The Pet Project for Pets, runs completely by volunteers, and 100% of proceeds goes to The Pet Project.” They’re always taking donations, and you never know what you might find when you walk in. Sue told me they couldn’t even sell the craziest item ever donated because it was too big! “A huge crystal chandelier. [It] was so big we could not even hang it up. We donated it to Hunters Nightclub Wilton Manors as a thank you for their continued support.”
All this comes with one goal: keeping pets and people together. Way too often, people feel that surrendering their pet to a shelter is the only way. The Pet Project works with thousands of people so they don’t have to make this tough choice in tough times. It’s especially heart breaking for their elderly clients where a pet is the only remaining family or friend they have left. If the furry friend outlives their human companion, The Pet Project works to find a new, loving home for them. The amount of thought, compassion, and care that comes from this organization will make your heart smile.
Sue says it’s a community effort that keeps things running and keeps making The Pet Project a community success story. “The fact that we are serving many groups, pets, seniors, the disabled, terminally ill, and individuals who are out of work due to economic factors. If you are not an animal person maybe you care about seniors or maybe you care about the disabled. We appeal to many.”
The Pet Project in South Florida was founded in 2002 and primarily worked with HIV/AIDS patients whose health made it difficult to take care of themselves and their faithful pets. After about five years they were able to expand to serve the elderly, diabled, and terminally ill. Eventually, they partnered with the Humane Society to begin providing vouchers for discounts on vaccines and other basic veterinary care.
The expanded services and partnerships with other pet-loving foundations helped them keep expanding and start up several fundraisers each year, including A Pet Night Out, Bowl-A-Thon, A Female Impersonator Extravaganza, a 4th of July BBQ Bash, and more. That was, until COVID-19. Many fundraisers were and are cancelled, and hours are cut back. Between massive job losses and increased sickness, the need is only growing. Luckily, the volunteers are doing what they can to make it work and donations go a long way.
The Pet Project (along with Hidden Treasures Thrift Shop) is located at 2200 NW 9th Avenue in Wilton Manors. To see if they can help you or a loved one, or to make a donation, check out their website for updates on hours and services at www.ThePetProjectFL.org. Check out their short two-minute YouTube video here.