I am not a pet person, much to my mother’s disappointment considering I was raised in a household with more pets than people. I grew up with a dog, a hamster, a rabbit, birds, mice, a handful of cats, and a dozen fish. The way I see it, after spending eighteen years cleaning up after pets when I was living at home, owning animals is a lot of work for very little reward. However, the dog and cats never particularly liked me and the birds actually had it out for me, so maybe I’m bias. Now that I own a home and married a man with more than his share of allergies, pets most likely are NOT in my future.

Despite my indifference to domesticated animals, I absolutely understand the human-pet relationship. I understand that pets become members of the family, that being greeted by a wagging tail brings great joy, that petting a cat when one is feeling down is particularly uplifting, that it is incredibly hard to not welcome a sad, cold, and lonely animal into one’s home, and that caring for a pet gives people a sense of purpose.

There are a lot of pet owners and pets in Detroit. Unfortunately there are also a lot of neighborhoods that are underserved in the city. Detroit has pet service deserts, or places where there are not any pet stores or veterinary clinics; which means there are also a lot of pets on the street and in shelters. In recent years there have been a lot of articles like these: “Abandoned Dogs Roam Detroit in Packs as Humans Dwindle,” “Feral Cats Seen as Problematic in Detroit area,” “Detroit’s Stray Pets Overwhelm Rescue Workers.” and others about animal abuse. For a long time, the media painted this picture of the city – that Detroit is overcome with violence, drugs, animal cruelty, and neglect.

Today however, you may come across articles like this one that my pet-loving mother who still lives in my family’s home in Illinois was ever so excited to share with me: “Driving Change. In Detroit Pets for Life helps people and animals in need.”

It’s a great read and it tells a different story about Detroit – a city of “people-partners-who love their pets, whose hearts are in the same place, who work to solve problems, who often just need resources to make an impact.” It details Pets for Life’s modified and more holistic approach to animal welfare in “communities where there’s not enough money or access to basic services, and where people and animal’s are suffering together” (Allan, M.C.) By going door-to-door with treats, bags of food, and toys, actually talking with pet-owners, and sharing resources about free medical procedures and training classes, the organization is bringing services to people who otherwise would be unable to access or afford them. By doing so, they are bringing the community together and improving the lives of both pets and people.

Source: The Humane Society of the United States

I regularly see postings on Nextdoor about lost or stray dogs in my neighborhood. So last week, when I walked out my back door on my way to work and saw a small white furry face pressed up against the chain fence around my yard, I knew exactly what I would have to do. I quickly planned it out and approached the dog, let him sniff my hand, looked for a collar or tag, and cringed a little at the thought of a dog in my car if I had to take him to the Humane Society…Then I heard a familiar voice and looked up to see the man who regularly walks down the alley with his three dogs, except this time there were five dogs and a puppy. He goes “O hello, meet “insert dog name that I do not remember here” and I was so relieved. He proceeded to tell me about the new dogs he recently welcomed into his home from the cold and how they are now members of the pack.

Detroiters like this man are doing their part for the community, they are providing a home for cats and dogs without one. Combined with the efforts of Pets for Life, in time all pets in the city will have a home and all pet owners will have access to the services they need to care for them. Now that would be a great story.