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Pet project

Grassroots effort helps pet owners in a pinch

Created date

January 25th, 2010

Boy Scouts aren t the only ones abiding by the motto Be prepared. Animal lovers at Charlestown have developed their own program to help each other out in a pinch. Not everyone who lives at Charlestown has family nearby, so we started this pet-sitting program to help people at a moment s notice, says Patricia (Pat) Terry-Genberg, head of the Charlestown Pet Lovers Group. It s a huge burden off people, knowing that they don t have to worry about their pets in an emergency.

[caption id="attachment_7586" align="alignright" width="280" caption=" I don t know what I would do without my dog, says Patricia Terry-Genberg, pictured with her spaniel, Katie. "][/caption] Vial of Life for pets

A retired nurse, Terry- Genberg modeled (and named) the program after Vial of Life, an initiative afforded to all two-legged Charlestown community members. Here s how the Vial of Life program works for Charlestown s four-legged residents:
  • Pet owners are asked to register their animals with the Pet Lovers Group upon moving to Charlestown.
  • Once registered, owners receive a refrigerator magnet with an insert for the pets pertinent information including name, what and when they eat, medications, where they hide, and where the litter box or leash is kept.
  • When security at Charlestown is called to a medical emergency, staff members immediately go to the refrigerator to retrieve the Charlestown resident s Vial of Life, a small container that holds the person s health information and emergency contacts. While retrieving the resident s information, security also checks for a magnet on the refrigerator indicating there is a pet in the household.
  • If a pet is present, security contacts Terry-Genberg, who then makes arrangements for the pet s care until family or friends are notified.
The length of time members of the Pet Lovers Group care for pets varies; it can be a matter of hours, days, or weeks. We have a lot of interaction with the families, says Terry-Genberg. If the person needs long-term pet-sitting, we work with the family to make the appropriate arrangements. The long and short of it is, it s a backup system so people who have pets can feel comfortable that if there is an emergency, their animals will be cared for and they don t have that worry on their shoulders. Connecting people with pets As the owner of a 13-yearold rescue dog named Katie, Terry-Genberg knows firsthand how important pets are to people. I don t know what I would do without my dog, she says. I would not have moved to Charlestown had the community not embraced pet owners. It is a very accepting atmosphere. We do what we can to help out our neighbors and work with whatever circumstancesthey are experiencing. Campus Security Supervisor Steve Hall has worked at Charlestown for 14 years and says the pet-sitting program has been a godsend. Figuring out who will take care of these pets has always been a challenge in the past for us, says Hall. What Mrs. Terry-Genberg and the Pet Lovers Group have done has been a great solution, and the owners and their families are always very appreciative. If you love animals and have the time to volunteer, it s a fantastic program that helps so many people. To date, more than 100 Charlestown pets are registered with the free program. Terry-Genberg, along with a team of volunteers, helps an average of two to three pet owners each month. We keep a list of volunteers in the community who are willing to help with the program, says Terry- Genberg. I try to match up volunteers with pets that are near their apartment home. That way, it s more convenient. Mary Leder has been volunteering as a pet-sitter since the program started five years ago. Leder lives at Charlestown with her 13-year-old tortoiseshell cat, Hazel. The program works very well for people like me, who live at Charlestown and have pets, says Leder. It s also a great opportunity for former pet owners to be involved with animals again without the long-term commitment. In addition to supporting the Vial of Life initiative, the Pet Lovers Group provides lists of local veterinarians, boarding facilities, and groomers for pet owners at Charlestown. Every spring, the group also hosts an annual pet day, welcoming animal guests and speakers from the Baltimore Zoo as well as veterinarians, animal trainers, pet show judges, and dancing dogs. A pet parade and blessing of the pets are included in the celebration.