Feeding the four-legged family members

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Community News

Published on January 11, 2012 with No Comments

The centers of attention were all tail-wagging and hand-licking.

Sarge, one of the dogs ready for a family, was working the crowd well.

A nondescript black mutt, his personality made it hard to believe he had not yet been scooped up. He did not fight with new arrivals, just welcomed them with a steady gaze and a friendly wiggle. He was there on behalf of Lakeshore Paws.

The Kibble Kitchen pet pantry had its annual Puppy Paws and Kitty Claws open house in the Portage Commons Plaza to spread the word about the pantry and the wide array of services it provides to Porter County families.

Pantry founder/executive director Michelle Duca said the new year is an especially great time to remember pets (and their owners) in need.

 “This is a time to remember those in our community who are less fortunate, and their pets are no exception,” Duca said. “The Kibble Kitchen is stocked solely through donations, and the need for assistance continues to grow daily.

With the New Year upon us, the need to help pets is renewed.

The next distribution is Saturday, Jan. 21, 9-11 a.m. Guidelines include being a resident of Porter County, proof of financial hardship (and a completed application with verifying documents), an ID photo and proof of address. The head of each household must be the applicant. There are no guarantees as food is limited.

At the open house, the Smoochie Pooch mobile pet spa was busily clipping toenails for free. A guy dressed up in a dog suit entertained the children. Balloons – spotted like the 101 Dalmatians, filled the store. Inside, a raffle was under way with donated prizes from an abundance of local business. You put your raffle ticket in the bag representing the prize you most wanted to win, so not everyone was in competition with everyone else.

A pet photographer was all set up for family portraits, available for purchase on the spot.

The pantry’s mission is simple: In hard economic times, folks who want to hold onto their pets have to find a way to feed them. There were stories of sharing the family’s food. There were stories of people cutting back on their own eating to make sure their pets stayed fed.

No family with a beloved pet wants to take the final solution of dropping it off at the shelter, but that has happened as well. The “No Pet Should Go Hungry” theme was available on a variety of T-shirts.

The pantry accepts donations any time. They even have some bird feed for those families with birds as pets. The majority of the donations are dog foods, but cats can be accommodated.

Dozens of new clients filled out the paperwork in the morning before the open house, qualifying for assistance.

Employee Beth Scheffer and Smoochie Pooch owner and founder Kim Wilson kept a steady stream of animal pedicures in progress, some clients a little more antsy than others.

“I was grooming animals and I thought ‘Why Not’ (about the mobile pet spa),” said Wilson. “It makes sense to come right to the house.” The busy business proved to her that the idea is a good one.

They will come to a retirement village, to group gatherings like this one or to individual homes and do shampoos, haircuts, nail trims, ear-cleanings and whatever else the animals need. Wilson has two mobile spas.

“Repeat business is 90 percent,” Wilson said. She is about to earn her Certified Master’s License.

Duca said the point of the open house is, “to bring awareness of the community of our new organization.”

The response was gratifying, with folks arriving right up to the end.

“Actually, we were surprised with the turnout,” Duca said. “We knew support was out there, but did not know how much. Some folks came to check us out from as far away as Chicago.”

She said the volunteers that have been with her since the group’s inception in January are loyal, hard workers.

“They make it work,” she said. Duca herself has decided to concentrate on the pantry and quit her regular job. So it is an inspirational commitment from her family as well.

So successful is the concept, she said, that bordering communities outside of Porter County have approached her to start new chapters.

Her group will have enough work, it is evident, answering Porter County’s needs. But they are willing to help new groups with ideas for affiliate charters. Duca said they could direct others to proper training.

Duca also said they are developing plans to stage events at schools or for other groups. “Any time we can educate the children, it’s an important idea,” said Duca.

A nice compliment they received late in the day was a visit from Porter County Commissioner Nancy Adams, who just came to show her support.

“That made us feel great,” said Duca.

At the end, Sarge decided his performance day was over.

As the first signs of dusk streaked against a beautiful blue sky, he was fast asleep, on his back, the warming sunshine settling on his belly, the very picture of contentment.

There was more good news. A family adopted him and he has a forever home.

For more information on the animal food pantry, call 219-734-6936 or visit www.thekibblekitchen.com.

For more information on Smoochie Pooch, call 219-617-9880 or visit smoochie-pooch.com.

For more information Lakeshore Paws, call 219-476-PAWS (7297) or visit www.lakeshorepaws.org.


Pet Pantry food drive


Best Buddies Pet Pantry is an all-volunteer 501c3 non-profit organization that also provides free donated pet food to Porter County residents in need. The pantry’s mission is to help reduce the number of pets given up to shelters due to lack of food and keep families and their pets together.

The pantry distributes pet food monthly at Duneland Community Center, 801 Broadway, Chesterton. All applicants must be 21 years old, a resident of Porter County, provide a valid Indiana driver’s license or state identification card and proof of their low-income status — Unemployment, Disability or Social Security.

There are almost 200 families registered; approximately 400 dogs and cats are eligible to receive pet food each month. Since the first public distribution in May, more than 5,000 pounds of pet food has been given to families in need. 

Pet items needed include dog and cat food, dog biscuits and dog and cat treats. 

Donations can be mailed to Best Buddies Pet Pantry, P.O. Box 695, Chesterton. For more information, e-mail bestbuddiespetpantry@yahoo.com. 

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About Mike Siroky

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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