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United Way Blog

On National Pet Day, Reflect on the Importance of Ritual and Family


Pets love their people generously, and 88% of people who have pets consider them members of their families. To me, sharing meals together with both our human and animal family members is a perfect example of this generous two-way love. For many, feeding our pets is a daily ritual in more ways than one. Whether it’s our animal family members eagerly putting their snouts on our beds in the morning, willing for us to wake to feed them. Or our living alarm clocks getting the “zoomies” as they await their first meals of the day. Or a loud meow or bark reminding us that we didn’t immediately set out their dish of food once our feet hit the floor.

Pet parents know this morning mealtime isn’t just about feeding our pets; it is enjoying their quirky habits, accepting their uninhibited excitement, and continuing to ensure our bond with them is strong, knowing they depend on us for survival. That’s why it’s so tough when pet owners can’t afford or get out to buy pet food. That’s a problem that’s grown during the pandemic.

In 2021, Ride United: Last Mile Delivery, a United Way initiative that leverages DoorDash logistics to provide free deliveries of charitable food and essential items, expanded to deliver free pet food and supplies with support from PetSmart Charities. Called Pets Eating Too, the program delivers pet food and supplies to keep families healthy – including four-legged loved ones. Pets Eating Too has expanded from eight cities to 20, aiming to complete 40,000 deliveries this year. Typical pet deliveries include not only food, but also kitty litter, waste disposal bags, puppy training pads, senior incontinence supplies, harnesses, leashes, crates, mats, and basic toys. 

After receiving a free delivery, a Sioux Falls, SD family shared that, “This delivery was greatly appreciated as Charlie, my dog, was so excited someone brought him a gift. He is keeping it in sight to make sure no one takes it.” Elsewhere, we helped get food to service animals of those with disabilities and veterans. Another family in Ventura, CA, felt the financial burden that comes with pets with dietary restrictions, sharing, “I really needed dog food and it was so expensive, so this program has really helped our family. I have two dogs; one only eats wet food while the other eats a lot of kibbles. I'm glad this program was able to accommodate both of their needs.”

Just as we start our days, we often end our days with the same mealtime ritual. This time, more members of the family may be involved, even our toddlers who have learned to ask, “Are you ready to eat?” to the family dog. But no matter who fulfills this ritual, they get a quick nuzzle, appreciative bark, or an empty dish in return.

On National Pet Day, we encourage you to reflect on what it would mean for your family if you had to choose between feeding your pet or yourself. Donate today to help United Way ensure *all* members of families get the nutritious food they need. If you need assistance, dial 211 or visit 211.org to learn how to access food resources in your community.

Inspired by what you read? Change starts with you. Take action today to make a difference in your community.

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