Meeting the pet food need in the Snoqualmie Valley
May 23, 2012
In economic downtimes suffering is commonplace. Jobs are lost. Hours are cut. Money is scarce. When put in a tough financial position it’s hard to think about anything besides just getting by. So it’s no wonder that when people suffer, their pets suffer, too.
But good things are happening in the Snoqualmie Valley thanks to dedicated volunteers at the Snoqualmie Valley Pet Food Bank.
For the past four years the Pet Food Bank, inspired and started by Snoqualmie resident Louis Oien, has been handing out donated pet food at the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank in North Bend the first Wednesday of every month to low-income pet owners in need.
“I’m just thrilled to be part of it,” said Dusty Cavaliere, the current Pet Food Bank director.
Nicknamed “the pet food lady,” Cavaliere took over the program last August and has seen a steady increase in donations and need.
What began in 2008 with just 17 bags and 300 pounds of food has ballooned into 300 bags and roughly 2,300 pounds of food last April.
And the numbers continue to rise.
It is one of the largest pet-food distribution programs on the Eastside, with roughly 1,800 pounds of food — the maximum allowed — donated to the Pet Food Bank each month, according to the Seattle Humane Society.
While the majority of donations come from the humane society, Cavaliere has worked with local businesses, including Pet Place Market and U-Dirty Dog, to set up donation bins to help meet the need.
“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” Cathi Linden, of U-Dirty Dog, said. “Whatever we can do to give back, we’re there.”
Cavaliere has taken to Facebook and created a Pet Food Bank website to help increase exposure.
Community support in the Valley has been an overwhelmingly positive thing since the program’s inception.
“Neighbors will drop food off on my porch because they know,” Cavaliere said. “If people give me money, I buy pet food. If they give me food, I hand it out.”
While food is the primary requested item, anything and everything pet related is welcomed and given away. Used toys, dog collars, kitty litter — people appreciate it all, according to Cavaliere.
Still, requests continue to grow for food and the supply doesn’t always meet demand.
“We’re really a supplement. We don’t hand out enough food to sustain them for the month,” she said. “When donations are down, I give out less food.”
Getting the donated food from the humane society in Bellevue to the Pet Food Bank has been a task in and of itself since the program began, but Tracy Skylstad, owner of Pooch Play in North Bend, has been making the trip by truck since 2008.
Skylstad, who originally used her own truck to move the food, quickly switched to the dog bus (a converted King County Access bus she uses for Pooch Play) in order to accommodate the increased load.
Although it can take anywhere from a couple of hours up to four hours to transport, sort and bag the food, Skylstad said she is happy to help in any way she can.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are a very pet-friendly area,” she said. “People that have pets care about other people that have pets.”
The mission of the Pet Food Bank is to make a difference in the lives of low-income pet owners by offering food for their pets.
“For a lot of people out there who have lost their job or might be in a tough financial position, having a pet brings comfort,” Skylstad said. “You shouldn’t have to compromise having a pet for that.”
Jacob Rogers is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at www.snovalleystar.com.
How to help
Donate money or food to help low-income pet owners in need at www.facebook.com/svpetfoodbank.