PETS for Life is a free community-led program that connects Sunshine Coast pet owners with like-minded, animal-loving volunteers. Starting at the Caloundra Community Centre in 2005, this unique program aims to help residents who may be isolated due to age or disability to continue to care for their beloved pets, while staying connected to their community.
Pets for Life ultimately builds relationships and links volunteers with pet owners who require help with tasks such as walking, grooming, feeding and/or medicating their pets.
GC&M News caught up with Beerwah resident Jan Moser, the owner of a gorgeous west highland white terrier or westie – Beau. Jan has been involved with the program for the past three years.
Q: How did you first get involved with the program?
I moved to Beerwah three and a half years ago and a friend in Maleny told me that she’d seen a flyer for the program. The following week I saw a story in GC&M News and contacted the program coordinator. I’m only in my early 60s but have an immune-neurological condition that limits my mobility, so finding out about Pets for Life and becoming involved as a pet owner with a disability has made a huge positive difference to mine and Beau’s lives.
Q: How does the program work?
I made contact with Caloundra Community Centre and Mark Wischnat, who coordinated the program at the time, came out and met with me and filled me in on all the details. All of the community volunteers are trained and safety (police) checked, which is important to know if you are letting people into your home.
It was wonderful. They matched me up with volunteers who lived nearby and we then met to see if we clicked. Since then, our friendships have flourished into lasting relationships and these volunteers have now become friends and part of my extended family.
One of the families, Clare Arico and her twin daughters, have been with me since I started, and it’s been lovely to have them be part of our lives. The program has really opened my life up again. It has benefited Beau and has brought so much happiness to us all.
Every Saturday, Clare and the girls come and pick up Beau and take him for a walk or a play in Skippy Park for an hour or so. My other volunteers come once a week and it’s up to them what they like to do. Sometimes they take Beau for a long walk or give him a bath – it’s whatever they like to do to help.
Q: What do you love about Pets for Life?
The program brings joy to the volunteers and the pet owners. It enhances the life of everyone involved and it provides an opportunity to nurture meaningful relationships, which is important for people who may be isolated or alone through age or disability.
Knowing that Beau is going to get a decent walk every week is a huge relief and its wonderful for him to also have extra people to love him and for him to be able to love back.
The program has been created with a lot of thought for people’s dignity and respect, and is exceptionally well managed.
The program coordinators are always very easy to contact and they also keep in contact with us very well. We also have public and private Facebook groups to connect. I would encourage people to get involved as either a volunteer or a pet owner requiring assistance – I tell people there is no other program like it around. It’s brilliant!
Main image: Clare, Billie and Jessica Arico with Beau and his owner Jan Moser