A Pocono food bank hopes to feed pets and help families

Aziz, an easygoing and outgoing Border Collie, traveled a long way from his native Baghdad, Iraq, to ​​a new home in the Poconos.

A black and white pooch who was recently adopted after his previous owner was posted to the Middle East has some hilarious stories to share about his new American family.

Already a revered pup whose name means bravery in Arabic, Aziz recently paid a visit to the Furry Friends Food Bank in Stroudsburg.

The nonprofit organization, which provides food, treats and pet supplies to animals in need, opened its doors in October. So far they have helped more than 100 families in the community.

The Furry Friends Food Bank was founded by Felicia Katz, a pet advocate and former vice president of a local animal shelter.

She was inspired to start the food bank after years of witnessing families abandon or give up their pets because they couldn’t provide them with essentials like food.

“It’s heartbreaking to see. It’s like losing a family member, but one you have to give up because you can’t afford to support them. And the dog or cat is confused, they don’t know what’s going on,” Katz said.

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According to the ASPCA, 6.5 million animals enter shelters each year — 3.3 million of those are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.

One particularly sad story from her time at the shelter struck a chord with Katz.

“A dog came into the shelter and he was skin and bones. His elderly owner’s grandchildren brought him after they visited and saw the dog in this terrible condition. I took him to the vet, he was so bad you could count his ribs. I ended up supporting him to the end. He lived another eight months, but we had to put him down. He was in so much pain.”

Katz worries about the seniors who own pets (Furry Friends has partnered with Meals on Wheels and The Valor Clinic, a nonprofit that helps veterans).

“I’ve seen older people not paying for their own medication or their own food to feed their pets instead,” she said. “I spoke to this one lady who has support and is ordering meals to share with her cats. That’s the kind of people that take care of animals out there and we’re just blind to it. It’s important that we take care of older people.”

With the economy in shaky shape, Katz also sympathizes with locals living paycheck to paycheck or the unemployed.

“With this pandemic, prices have gone up and people are struggling. I’ve had people come here who owned businesses that were closed due to COVID.

“Unfortunately, when people have families, they tend to neglect animals and pets at first. They end up reducing the pet’s feeding or going to a cheaper type of food,” she said. “I always tell my volunteers not to judge someone by their dress or what kind of car they drive because you don’t know what it was like for them two months ago. They could have been in a good financial position, but today is different.”

Katz carries a variety of brands thanks to generous donations and strives to teach owners how to safely switch from one type of food to another.

“If you switch to a better or different brand of food, your dog could get an upset stomach, so I always advise people to mix a little bit of pumpkin into their food,” she said. “I like educating people when they come in.”

Aziz’s owner, Mario Cirillo, says his pup was thrilled to munch on all the treats they picked up at Furry Friends.

“He got into it and loved the chicken and dog treats. We actually have three dogs and they all liked the food,” Cirillo said. “People were so nice, they even had feed for our pig Daisy. That evening we came home and everyone was happy. It’s a great organization.”

The food bank will accept donations at their main office at 6605 Route 209, Stroudsburg. There are also collection boxes at Headdress Salon (458 Oakwood Avenue, Stroudsburg), Pocono Bed & Biscuits (940 Ann St., Stroudsburg), Shirley Katz Insurance Offices (call 570-424-5710 for locations), and Berger’s Agway (2371 Route 209 Shiota).

The panel is open to the public by appointment only. For information call 570-688-6737 or Visit the site.

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