ST. STEPHEN – To follow the Charlotte County SPCA (CCSPCA) Facebook page is to know a special former long-time resident of shelter, Casey.
“When we spoke of Casey, we often talked about wishing he could find ‘a hermit in the woods’ because his management needs were very high to keep both he and the community safe,” said Gail Flaherty, a founding member of the CCSPCA and board member.
“Unlike many dogs, Casey thrived at the shelter,” said Flaherty. “He loved the predictable schedule and his beloved caretakers. Casey had a big personality that could be seen in his photos and the stories of his antics, and he gathered a bit of a following on our social media page. Over his years with us, Casey had many sponsors that helped pay for his care and medical needs.
“Aside from his behaviour challenges, Casey did have a thyroid condition that required daily medication, and in his last years was also on medications for arthritis. Casey was humanely euthanized in December, 2021 when his health took a quick turn for the worst.
“He had such a big presence at the shelter that his loss was an emotional one for everyone who knew him. Because people had been so generous and loving about Casey, we felt that a way to honour him would be to continue a program in his name that helped other animals and paid forward the love he had received.”
And the program itself? Casey’s Cupboard, which launched at the end of March, aims to ensure no pet in the region goes without.
“The goal of this program is to help people help the animals under their care,” said Flaherty.
“Over the years we have sent any extra pet food to area food banks, as we do not have a lot of space to store extra food at the shelter, but we thought it was time to see what the actual needs are in our community,” said Flaherty. “The Volunteer Centre (of Charlotte County) is aware of our program and will send clients our way, or if it’s needed, they will arrange to pick up to take there.
“With rising costs of housing, food and gasoline, we felt we needed to attempt to get a community program started so that no pets go hungry and/or no person go hungry as they were spending so much taking care of a pet’s needs that they themselves were suffering,” she added.
And Flaherty isn’t wrong. With inflation in the country at a 30 year high of 5.7 per cent, the basic costs of living are skyrocketing while income remains relatively stagnant, despite the first of two provincial minimum wage hikes happening April 1. The minimum wage will increase another $1 on October 1, bringing it to $13.75 per hour.
But being paid minimum wage isn’t a stipulation to receiving help from Casey’s Cupboard.
“We want to stress that this program is open to all those who find themselves struggling these days,” said Flaherty. “Pandemic related losses and inflation, large rent increases; there are all sorts of reasons why more people are affected.”
And while shelters such as the CCSPCA are always short on funds for all the programs they run, Flaherty said thus far, Casey’s Cupboard has thrived via donations the shelter has received.
“At the moment, very few funds are being used for this project,” said Flaherty.
“We have received a fairly large amount of food that we are giving out, but we will spend if someone needs a specific type of food that we don’t have.
“For example, we had someone who needed grain free, small dog food we did not have, so we did purchased that.
“We are assessing a need and seeing what the barriers might be for someone using the service. Is it transportation? Is it that the hours are not compatible? Is it that people may feel there may be a stigma?
“We want to reach as many people as possible to see what the needs are in Charlotte County as far as food and pet care items,” she added.
Flaherty said ultimately, Casey’s Cupboard is an outreach program where the CCSPCA can collaborate with the community, and share items that maybe just work better in a home rather than a shelter setting, not only to get pet food to those who are financially struggling.
“We have an abundance of some things that are wonderful, but are taking up space and it seems a shame that they could be used by someone rather than sit in our warehouse it for a long time,” said Flaherty. “So if a pet owner was wanting to try a different type of dog harness or collar or a toy or puzzle game, or if you need a dog bed, a cat bed, blankets, or towels. Maybe you need to borrow a dog crate? Send us a message or give us a call. We will see what we have and will help if we can. This is a free service for all.
And if you don’t need anything from Casey’s Cupboard, you can donate specifically to the program as well.
“People can donate specifically to any program we offer,” said Flaherty. “In the future, if the program grows, we may be looking for volunteers who may be able to deliver or drop off to areas. There may be something specific needed that we don’t have that a person might donate monies for or they may have access to the product that they will donate.
“The roll of animal sheltering is changing; we can feel it here. Regardless of financial situation, people love their pets and want the best for them,” said Flaherty.
“The goal is to keep animals in their home, where that home loves and wants to keep that pet, but is having some short term struggles. There will always be emergency cases, where animals need to come in, or cruelty and neglect cases, but if there is a barrier that pops-up that we can help with, we want people to reach out and we will troubleshoot to see what can be done.”
CCSPCA Animal Attendant Shelly McLean is heading-up Casey’s Cupboard, and donations can be received at the back door of the shelter Monday, Thursday, and Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. If you would like to access Casey’s Cupboard resources, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the shelter between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday at 465-7657, and speak to staff or leave a voicemail.