En español | When Genevieve Frederick visited New York City in 2006, she saw a homeless man on the sidewalk, begging. Lying next to him was a dog. Frederick wondered why a guy who can barely feed himself would have a pet.
"Then the answer became obvious," she recalls. "Pets are loyal, nonjudgmental companions that provide comfort and even protection and warmth. They may be a homeless person's only companion."
See also: Tails of love.
From that seemingly insignificant incident, Frederick, now 64, embarked on a mission that resulted in the founding of Pets of the Homeless, an organization that provides food and veterinary care for pets of homeless people throughout the United States and parts of Canada.
Returning home to Carson City, Nev., after that New York trip, Frederick began researching the plight of homeless people and their pets. What she found was mind-boggling: About 5 to 10 percent of the nation's estimated 3.5 million homeless people have at least one pet. In some areas, the figure is as high as 24 percent. Because few shelters allow animals, most pet-owning homeless individuals choose to stay with their four-legged friends. They sleep outdoors or in cars and tent camps.
Determined to help, Frederick launched Pets of the Homeless in 2007. She started by asking her dog's veterinarians, Gary Ailes and Woody Allen, to collect pet food donations. The local media picked up the story, and on the first day of collection, the donations filled a 55-gallon trash can.
Since then, other businesses have joined the effort, and drives have spurred contributions. At last count, more than 79 tons of pet food have been donated. In August, the organization sponsored its latest drive — the second national Give a Dog a Bone week, which encouraged people to bring pet food donations to a site near them.