Valentine’s Day is upon us, friends! It’s a day to celebrate the people (and pets!) in our lives that we love. According to Fortune.com, in 2016 Americans were expected to spend $19.7 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day. No, that’s not a type-o!
The five most commonly purchased items are boxes of chocolates, diamond earrings, a dozen roses, dinner for two, and bottles of champagne. These are amazing gifts, surely to be appreciated by the recipients.
But what about a gift that will last a little longer than it takes to finish that box of chocolates? How about making a donation to Phinney’s, or purchasing an item off our Amazon Wish List, in honor of someone you love? There’s no better way to show someone you love them by helping people and pets in need in their honor. While that crème brulee at the end of your Valentine’s Day dinner will taste amazing, there’s no better feeling than paying it forward.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
Mara Voukydis is one busy lady. She’s a lawyer, a mother and a Phinney’s Board Member. We recently chatted with Mara about why she volunteers with Phinney’s, and what she loves about it.
Introduce yourself to our readers!
Well, I’ll start by saying that while I love all animals, I am a crazy cat lady through and through. I have two rescue kitties, Vinnie and Hazel, rescued by the amazing organization Kitty Angels. My husband and baby and I are equally obsessed with them. They spent many years on the streets of Roxbury, and my family provided them with their first home. Getting to experience their transformation from terrified kitties to lap cats has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. And they are celebrities on the Kitty Angels Facebook page, by the way!
Kitties aside, I work as public interest lawyer. I am also passionate about (though not very good at!) community vegetable gardening and flower gardening.
How long have you been volunteering with Phinney’s?
I started volunteering with Phinney’s in 2012. I found out about Phinney’s because I used to work as a caseworker at an organization where I had a handful of clients that relied upon Phinney’s Friends, and really appreciated its services. I remember one of my sweetest clients tearing up as he talked to me about the volunteer that came to help him walk his dogs. I was really impressed with and touched by the mission. What a cool idea, helping people and animals!
What is your position with Phinney’s?
I’m a Board Member and the Co-chair of the Administration Committee. I help establish and review policies and procedures to help Phinney’s be as strong as it can be. I also initiated and coordinate the Aids Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC) part of Phinney’s Pet Boost Program. The idea behind that program was to revisit and reinvigorate Phinney’s founding mission to help people with HIV/AIDS and their animals. We collaborate with AAC client services unit to provide low-income clients with a supplementary source — a “boost”, if you will — of pet supplies.
For over a year I also walked an adorable and sweet beagle for a Phinney’s client. That was so fun!
What is your favorite thing about volunteering with Phinney’s?
I would have to say that for an all-volunteer organization, I am completely floored by the passion, professionalism, and integrity of our volunteers. This is embodied by Daniela, our President, and Judy, our VP, as well as all our volunteers. On the Board, we are very honest with each other. We have hard but productive conversations. I really love being on the Board.
Lastly, what would you tell someone interested in volunteering with Phinney’s or helping in other ways?
I’m going to answer this question with an example. The other day I was on the bus and I saw a really tired-looking man with a cat carrier that was literally attached to a rope hanging over his shoulder. Because of my experience with Phinney’s, I knew I should chat with him. It turns out he is homeless and his girlfriend is in the hospital, and so there was no one to care for her cat, whom he clearly adored. Although it was a really sad situation, I was so grateful to be able to say, “Hey, there’s this organization that might really be able to help you.” In that moment, I was incredibly grateful that Phinney’s existed, and I realized that we need to work to make it bigger and stronger, to increase the amount of foster homes and volunteers, and redouble our efforts so we can serve more people and animals. So that’s my appeal to potential volunteers!
Thanks so much, Mara, for chatting with us, and for all you do for Phinney’s!
Meet Comet and Sarge ! Both handsome boys are service dogs and loyal companions of their mom, who is legally blind and low-income.
Phinney’s Friends has been helping these two pups for many years, providing dog food and regular vet care to both of them. Also, our volunteers help them with nice breaks from their 24/7 job of serving their mom by taking them on regular walks at the nearby beach — their favorite place in the whole world!
Both Comet and Sarge had ultrasounds a few months ago, when the vet found out that Comet’s spleen was enlarged. It was then removed, and he is now doing fine and he’s cancer free! Happy Tails! Sarge has cardiomyopathy and had an echocardiogram done recently to document a baseline of his heart disease for future exams. Best of luck, sweet boy!
Just like us, service dogs also age and need more and more medical attention as they do so. A wonderful supporter of Phinney’s recently made a donation to sponsor Comet and Sarge in honor of her beautiful dogs who passed away. It was a lovely way for her to ensure that these amazing dogs will continue supporting their disabled mom and enjoying life, while remembering her own wonderful pets.
Every pet we help requires $250 to $2,000 worth of food and veterinary care every year. You can make a significant impact in the life of Comet and Sarge, or other well-deserving pets, by making a donation towards our Sponsor a Pet Program.
Click here and browse some of our pets in need of a financial boost. We accept check and credit card donations for this program. Become a Pet Godparent to pets like Comet and Sarge! On behalf of all the pets we help, thank you.
Phinney’s Friends celebrated its 20th anniversary on November 12, 2016, with a beautiful Holiday party. Paws for the Holidays took place at the elegant Pierce House in Lincoln, MA — a mansion generally used for weddings and receptions. We were so delighted when we heard dogs were welcome at the mansion! So we scheduled our festival there and started the preparations.
Do you love to pamper your pet? It’s natural to include pets in the holiday gift exchange, because aren’t all of the sweet soft cuddles worth something? Phinney’s has come up with some of our favorite gift ideas for your furry friends this year:
Don’t break the bank of Fido this year, instead put on your oven mitts and get baking. Your pups will love your homemade treats and you will know every ingredient that’s in them. Some of our favorites recipes come from renowned dog trainer Cesar Milan and from the well-known recipe website allrecipes.com.
Warm Sweaters and Coats
On the coldest of days your pets need to stay warm and cozy too. We suggest a cute cable knit sweater for your short haired pets or a nice puffy jacket for when the snow starts to fly. Your pets will look super stylish and feel comfy in even the coldest conditions.
Doesn’t your pet look the cutest when they are sweetly sleeping? Watch them cuddle up and fall fast asleep in some of these zzz-inducing pet beds: We like the Cat Cuddler bed, the luxurious Casper Dog bed, and even a cuddle hut for your parrot!
Tons of Toys
Let Santa bring your pets their favorite toys, stored in a nice wicker basket. Toys can be as simple as a feather tied to a string to keep your cats amused or a basic tennis ball to throw around with your pup. Any toy you give your furry family member they are sure to love.
Create a keepsake with your pet’s paw print to hang on the tree, or display on the mantle, every year. Here is a recipe for an affordable DIY salt dough paw print ornament.
No matter what type of holiday gift you bestow upon your pets this year, you know they will always thank you with lots of sweet and sloppy kisses. Happy Pawlidays!
Ken is a volunteer foster with Phinney’s Friends who fostered Mau Mau the cat while her dad looked for housing. We hope you enjoy his story, and we thank you, Ken, for helping Mau Mau in her time of need!
When my cat, Tui, passed away in February, 2016, at the age of 22, I knew I needed time to process the almost 20 years we had together, and that would mean remaining cat-less for a while and enjoying the new-found freedom of being able to come and go as I pleased. But in the back of my mind, I was thinking about opening up my place to foster cats through Phinney’s Friends. I was already familiar with the organization since Tui’s former vet had convinced me to do the Phinney’s Ride fundraiser a couple of times. Helping people who could not keep their pets seemed like a way I could readily contribute to the organization, while getting used to the idea of having a cat again without rushing into it.
After one successful foster in the spring, the opportunity to help Mau Mau came up. Poor Mau Mau had moved around quite a bit in the summer, but sadly her dad was homeless. When Phinney’s said Mau Mau needed a foster, I jumped at the chance and was encouraged when, the very first night, she emerged from under my bed and began happily rubbing against me and anything else nearby. I decided to lead her to her room and show her where all the important stuff was, but she never made it, ducking under the living room sofa where she stayed for two days. Our rapport went downhill from there. While at first she just looked at me, the next day she meowed but that gave way to hissing and finally growling. She then hid behind sofa pillows in the office, in what I would somewhat affectionately refer to as her “lair,” only emerging at night to feed and cast more spells on me.
I just wanted to be loved and love her back, but she would not hear of it – to the point that one day, when I lifted the pillow in my office to see her, I saw a cat in full fight or flight mode, ears pinned back, mumbling incantations and looking fierce. But at that moment I saw through her and, with some coaching from Daniela, President of Phinney’s, I realized it was not my job to be Mau Mau’s friend. Rather, my role was to provide her with a safe space until she could be reunited with her dad. That simplified matters quite a bit for me, and I set about doing everything I could to make her feel better about her environment, with no (or at least, with fewer) expectations.
I dutifully left her food and water, and talked to her every day. As long as I did not approach, she did not growl or hiss. After two weeks of apparently little progress, during one of my monologues, I saw her peek over her pillow and yawn. Progress? I mean, if she was bored, then she must have been off guarded a little, right? And then, a day or two later, something amazing happened. She waltzed right out from behind her pillow, came pretty close to me without flinching, made a side trip via her food, and went back to her lair. It was a lesson in measured progress.
Over the next week, Mau Mau and I got to the point where she would rub against me and even let me pet her. On some of these excursions from her pillow she would actually leave the office and explore my place. True, she had a somewhat disturbing habit of swatting at my feet without warning, along with a warrior cry. But as time went by, these swats seemed half-hearted, her tolerance for touch continued to improve, and she purred more and more freely. I discovered that she could even be a lap cat. (On her own terms, of course!)
Then there came the weekend that I had company. I allowed my friends to stay in my room and I took my chances on the sofa bed in Mau Mau’s domain. I survived! I remember Mau Mau actually being a lot less disruptive to my sleep than Tui ever was. One of my guests asked if Mau Mau’s name came from a Kenyan group of rebels that fought against the British army in the 1950s because, if so, it was apropos. It turns out she had indeed been so named!
Then, I was told that Mau Mau’s dad had secured housing and was ready to have her back. I was thrilled for them both. I came to the reunion at Mau Mau’s dad’s new place. Mau Mau immediately made herself comfortable in her new home, exploring every corner, while her dad spoke with her and comforted her. During our two months together, she never talked much apart from the growls early on or a meow here and there. But now she was speaking whole sentences and directing them at her dad. I imagined her saying, “Why did you leave me?” “Where have you been?” “I have been missing you.” “I am so glad to see you!” “I had a good time with Ken but never forgot about you.” And so on. I was also so pleased that during the reunion, Mau Mau still knew who I was and let me pet her and talk to her.
I never imagined that this story would have such a happy ending, especially given the way it started. But the best part for Mau Mau and her dad is that another happy story for them is just beginning, and I’m grateful I could play a part in it.
Hi Friends! Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, which kicks off the charitable season when many people focus on holiday and end-0f-year giving. It is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.
Please consider donating to Phinney’s Friends tomorrow, Giving Tuesday. Every little bit helps us work towards our mission of helping people and pets stay together in times of crisis.