SWEETWATER COUNTY — Both the Golden Hour Senior Center (GHSC) and the Young at Heart Community Center (YAH) are participating in this year’s AARP Wyoming Care for Critters program and still have plenty of tags for residents to choose from.
The Care of Critters program helps seniors pay for food, vaccines, and other items for their pets through donations, as well as funding from AARP Wyoming and Petco. In April, seniors over 60 years of age fill out an application form with their pet’s needs. Those requests are transferred to tags and then placed out in a public area for residents to take.
Right now, both centers could really use the communities’ help. GHSC has 48 tags left out of the 78 posted in their center. They range from a bag of kitty treats to $80 to help with vaccinations and vet care, according to GHSC activities and marketing coordinator Irish Kreis.
“The community can stop in and pick up and tag, and fulfill the requests or they can make a donation and I will do the shopping,” Kreis said.
For those who want to help out the GHSC, but can’t stop by and pick up a tag they can make an online donation.
The YAH center has 16 out of 18 tags left; and those tags are available at Petco, YAH activities coordinator and facilities secretary Jamie Loredo said. To participate in the YAH’s program, residents just need to stop by the store, find the dog house display, pick up a tag, and follow the instructions.
Loredo said she just checked the dog house display she made for the program over the weekend to see how many tags were left and was shocked to discover only two had been taken so far.
Due to the lack of participation, both of the centers have extended their deadlines until May 21. This will give residents more time to pick up a tag and purchase items.
“Every year is a little different, most years the tags only take seven days to be filled, this year due to COVID-19 and reduced foot traffic in the center, we still have tags left,” Kreis said.
A lot of the requests ask for dog and cat food, dog and cat beds, kitty litter, and treats or toys. However, some requests are more urgent and are asking residents to help pay for their pet’s medications or vaccinations. Loredo said the monetary donations go straight to the veterinarian and the dog or cat has their needs taken care of.
“Vaccinations are our biggest expense totaling about $1,100 this year,” Kreis said. “Next is food, we have a lot of seniors who need help with food during this event and during the year.”
For most seniors having a pet in their home is the only kind of companionship they have, and with the COVID-19 pandemic those senior and pet relationships became even stronger.
“It gives them that companionship they haven’t had, especially through COVID-19,” Loredo said.
Loredo said this program is truly needed for the seniors because they treat their pets like family members and they have a special bond.
Kreis agreed with Loredo about the special bond a senior develops with their pet.
“Seniors will forego their own needs to provide for their pets,” Kreis said. “The relationship between seniors and their pets is one of a kind, they are companions and for some seniors that live alone, they are the only constant in their lives.”
While both centers participate in the same program, it looks different for each community. At the GHSC donations are collected and then distributed to all seniors’ pets on May 27, while at the YAH, the items are distributed as the tags are completed. Both YAH and GHSC will have a luncheon sponsored by AARP as part of the program.