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Colorado Pet Pantry Keeps Furry Family Members Fed

Stacy Nick
A line begins to form as Colorado Pet Pantry volunteers Brittany Cochran and Ed Glassgow unload donated items for the day's pet food bank.

On the third Tuesday of each month, a line forms in the parking lot at the Outreach United Resource Center in Longmont.

Brenda Garrison remembered driving past that line.

"I asked a lady what it was and she goes, 'Oh, it's a food pantry for pets,'" Garrison said. "And I was like, no!"

She didn't give the idea much thought afterwards -- until she was in a car accident and unable to work. Suddenly, Garrison said feeding her four dogs and one cat became challenging.

But when it came down to it, the pets ate before she did.

Credit Stacy Nick / KUNC
Volunteer Brittany Cochran helps load pet food into Brenda Garrison's truck as her granddaughter, Zoey, watches.

"No matter what," Garrison said, waiting in the line a few days before Thanksgiving. "I may eat just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but they're going to have their food. There's no choice there. That's just the way it is. Parents take care of their children. Period."

Eileen Lambert thinks people shouldn't have to make choices between eating and feeding their pets. Lambert is the executive director and founder of the Colorado Pet Pantry, a rotating food bank for dogs and cats that serves 23 locations around the state

"Unfortunately, you cannot buy pet food with food stamps, and most human food banks do not have pet food, or if they do, it's random -- we might have 5 pounds today but we won't have any tomorrow," Lambert said. "We found that sometimes people needed to relinquish their animals to shelters because they didn't have enough food for their family or their pets. We just wanted to help them bridge that gap."

When she started the pantry five years ago, Lambert talked with people who ran human food banks. What she heard was that if they gave their client food -- say, some chicken -- there was a good chance some of it was going to feed a family pet.

Credit Stacy Nick / KUNC
Colorado Pet Pantry Executive Director Eileen Lambert puts a leash on a puppy.

"For many people, their pets are like their family members and so humans get all sorts of help to try to meet their needs and often the pets get forgotten," said Joni Lynch, OUR Center's resource manager.

The pet pantry collaborates with area food banks and follows a similar, supplemental model, providing half of a pet's food needs, Lambert said.

"You don't want to cover 100 percent of the needs, because we don't want to necessarily encourage people to get more animals," she said.

Jordan DiMarco said she's seen a wide range of clients in her four years volunteering with the Pet Pantry.

"For a lot of them, it's just hard to make ends meet," DiMarco said. "Either they don't have a job or they're underworked, underpaid. We see some homeless and elderly people. Sometimes their dogs have special dietary needs. And this food can be pretty pricey."

Tyler Dutton has several jobs, including running a small water sports business and working at a local pub

Credit Stacy Nick / KUNC
Volunteer Brittany Cochran offers a treat to Stryder while his owner, Tyler Dutton, looks on.

Dutton picked up a bag of grain-free food for his dog, Stryder, a one-year-old Potcake that he rescued while working in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

"We have three dogs at the house -- three large dogs -- and trying to make sure that they eat right and get them healthy can get expensive, so it's been very helpful," he said.

In preparation for Thanksgiving, Dutton picked up something special for the dogs at the grocery store.

"There was just some clearance, discounted beef that was on sale, so I threw it in the freezer last week when I got it," he said. "And so, each dog will get a little steak for Thanksgiving."

Stacy was KUNC's arts and culture reporter from 2015 to 2021.
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