Shared from the 1/28/2019 San Antonio Express eEdition

Pets getting food help, too

Charities long have known that some people share with their animals, but the need rose with the government shutdown

Photos by Carlos Javier Sanchez / Contributor

James Red Cloud Hill, his wife, Earla Red Cloud Hill, and their dog Babie are recipients of a Meals on Wheels pet food delivery program called AniMeals. It’s one of several such programs in the city.


Cathy Budzinski, from left, her son Ian, 8, and her mother, Rosario Budzinski, deliver pet food for AniMeals.

Carlos Javier Sanchez / Contributor

Earla Red Cloud Hill and Babie are helped by AniMeals, a Meals on Wheels pet food delivery program. Meals on Wheels makes monthly pet food deliveries to about 300 of its clients in the city.

Where to donate pet food and other pet supplies in San Antonio


11300 Nacogdoches Road or 210 Tuleta Drirve, 210-655-1481,


5200 Enrique M. Barrera Parkway DaisyCares: 210-872-2343, San Antonio Food Bank: 210-337-3663,


1 Haven for Hope Way, 210-220-2100,


4306 N.W. Loop 410, 210-735-5115,


4804 Fredericksburg Road, 210-226-7461,


PO Box 830006, San Antonio 78283, 210-370-7612,


PO Box 90325, San Antonio 78209, 210-237-9400,

James and Earla Red Cloud Hill were used to sharing their Meals on Wheels deliveries and their own food purchases with their four dogs and two cats. They couldn’t afford to also buy pet food.

A year ago, the senior couple saw an unexpected jump in the property taxes for their mobile home near Windcrest. Suddenly, the choice between how much they could eat and how much they could give their pets became even harder.

The solution came via an unexpected knock at the door, with Meals on Wheels volunteers bearing dog and cat food from the program’s Ani-Meals pet food assistance program.

Earla Red Cloud Hill calls Ani-Meals a lifesaver for her Chihuahuas Babie, Carmen and Cricket, her black cat Angel, her old Pomeranian Pollyanna and her old Persian cat Bluebell.

“They’re my family,” Red Cloud Hill said. “Not only do they keep us company, they can pick up on our feelings. Because there are times when I’m really feeling down and everything, and they can pick up on that. They keep us both pretty happy.”

Meals on Wheels and food banks around the country long knew some people shared donated meals with their pets, and that led to the founding of about 175 pet pantry and pet food assistance programs across the U.S., such as AniMeals.

The need increased recently because of the monthlong government shutdown, which sent many furloughed workers to seek help in feeding their families and pets.

“It’s not an illogical leap to think, yes, if you can’t get food for yourself, how are you going to get food for your pets?” said Forrest Myane, chief development officer for Meals on Wheels San Antonio. “So if they’re sharing their food with their pets, they’re not getting all the nutrition they need, and the pets aren’t getting all the nutrition they need.”

AniMeals, which launched in 2014, is one of several such programs in San Antonio, along with the DaisyCares Pet Food Program run in a partnership between DaisyCares and the San Antonio Food Bank.

Meals on Wheels San Antonio is among a fifth of the Meals on Wheels programs in the country that offer pet services. It makes monthly pet food deliveries to about 300 of its clients in the city.

The well-being of recipients often goes hand in paw with their pets. Myane said pets help offset loneliness and depression, which can affect the overall health of their owners — especially those too frail to leave their homes.

Such pet food assistance programs also help keep those animals in their homes rather than being surrendered to a shelter.

In 2009, during the Great Recession, attorney Ami Gordon launched DaisyCares, a nonprofit that provides pet food and veterinary care funds for pet owners in need.

It started at a time when she said pet surrender rates to Animal Care Services and other shelters had risen dramatically.

“I was inspired to help those parents keep their pets,” said Gordon, who named DaisyCares after her late Yorkie. “By providing pet food and vet care resources to families, they could also then have support during critical times so they could keep the pet with the family and not surrender them at a time when you need them more than ever.”

Last year alone, DaisyCares provided pet food to 29,000 families through the San Antonio Food Bank’s network of more than 500 nonprofit partners in 16 counties.

In the past few months, the Food Bank also has been offering food box and pet food delivery to low-income seniors, who often have a pet as their only companion.

A San Antonio mother of three, whose husband had been furloughed in the government shutdown, recently turned to the food bank to help feed her poodle mix.

The stay-at-home mom, who didn’t want to give her name, received a 15-pound bag of food for the dog and diapers for her1-year-old daughter.

“It gives me peace of mind to know that there’s a place that I can go to and get the help that I need when I need it,” the mother said, “not only for my kids but also for my pet.”

Large or small, however, such pet food assistance programs still need help of their own.

DaisyCares gave out some 335,000 pounds of pet food last year, but Gordon said the demand for pet food always exceeds what the organization can provide.

AniMeals in San Antonio has a few partnerships with veterinary clinics that donate their overstock, Myane said, but it relies mostly on volunteers to donate pet food, repackage it for distribution and deliver it to Meals on Wheels recipients.

Those volunteers, such as Cathy Budzinski and her son Ian, 8, often are pet owners themselves who know how vital animals are to their owners.

“Some of the people that are on our route, their dogs are like their kids,” said Budzinski, who has two blind rescue dogs herself.

The Budzinskis can’t help but get attached to their clients’ pets, too. Last year, Ian dipped into his own birthday money to give the Red Cloud Hills pet food for Thanksgiving and the holidays.

On a recent Saturday morning at the Red Cloud Hills’ home, Ian got some extra thanks, courtesy of many grateful licks from Babie, the elderly Chihuahua.

“It’s one thing to donate,” Budzinski said, “but when (Ian) sees these people and how much they light up, he gets it. He sees how what he’s doing is so important.”

It’s the kind of goodwill the Red Cloud Hills strive to share with others who could use a helping hand with their own furry family members.

“Not only does it help me out,” Earla Red Cloud Hill said outside her mobile home as she cuddled a shivering Babie, “but there’s people here that has dogs that can’t afford food. So what mine doesn’t eat, I give to them.”

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