Senior Paw Project is ‘blessing’ to seniors in need of pet care

NEW MILFORD — For New Milford couple Lori Sgobbo and George Tucci, their life at Butter Brook Hill Apartments has been made happier with their rescue cat, Bella.

“She’s been a blessing,” said Sgobbo, 69. “We took her even though she has heart issues and dental issues. We wanted to give her a chance, and what a blessing. She is a total love.”

“Lori’s been in my life for 17 years, and the cat’s been with us for about three years, and it’s even more enjoyable having both,” said Tucci, 78. “We’re very happy with Bella. We hope she stays with us for a long time.”

But like some older pet owners, Sgobbo and Tucci have noticed how the rising costs of pet food, cat litter, veterinary visits and other care can be stressful for pet owners on fixed incomes.

That’s where the Senior Paw Project, which provides pet food, veterinary care assistance and foster/respite care to senior pet owners, can help.

The Senior Paw Project is a referral-based program through the Catherine Violet Hubbard Sanctuary, a Connecticut-based nonprofit organization that promotes compassion and healing through human-animal connections. The foundation was founded in honor of Catherine Violet Hubbard, a first grader who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

“We honor the human-animal bond,” said Jenny Hubbard, mother of Catherine Violet Hubbard and executive director of the sanctuary. “The sanctuary was created in honor of my daughter Catherine, and her commitment to the world was to care for the animals she came in contact with.”

The Senior Paw Project “is a hugely important part of that work,” Jenny Hubbard said. “We believe companion animals need to live at home with their caregivers, so to hear stories of older adults cashing in life insurance policies and struggling at the end of the month and making choices that shouldn’t be made made it clear to us that it’s important to step in, provide support to an often overlooked population, show what the animal-human bond looks like in action.”

The project partners with municipal housing authorities, nonprofit senior housing providers, food pantries and veterinarians to help older pet owners who are struggling to keep or care for their pets.

The assistance is much needed, said Kim Harrington, resident service coordinator for Butter Brook Hill Apartments

“Financially, it can be rough,” she said. “I’ve seen a couple of years ago one of our residents cashed in a life insurance policy so she could get medical care for her pet. Some people will get stressed when it comes to vaccination and vet visits.”

The Senior Paw Project serves 31 towns across Connecticut, including New Milford, and just over 200 seniors have participated, according to Chris Barrett, its project manager.

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