Remember the pets during these tough times

It happened again. Jessie Belle turned up her nose at the cat treats from the dollar store. And as always, I tried to shame her with stories about all the poor starving cats in China.

But Jessie, being the spoiled, only cat that she is, doesn't care. She knows eventually she'll get her Friskies Party Mix, and I'll toss the bargain bag on the stack of uneaten treats that I tell her I'm sending to China where poor cats will appreciate them.

Charles and Katherine Pace of Auburn used to love treating their 11 dogs to anything they liked. Actually only five are theirs, but they took in six that had been abandoned by neighbors who moved away.

"My wife and I are total animal lovers. We couldn't let them be put down," Pace said.

There is no doubt that the Paces are animal lovers.

"My wife used to work at the Yellow River Game Ranch. She brought two baby General Lees home to raise. She bottle fed them and they even got into bed with us."

Everything was going well for the Paces until they both lost their jobs. Thankfully, Pace found Daffy's Pet Soup Kitchen in Lawrenceville.

"There's a great need for pet food," Daffy's founder Tom Wargo said. "Sixty percent of the people getting food from co-ops have pets. For a lot of these people, their pet is their only companion. They often share that food with their pets because they can't afford anything else. By supplying owners with pet food, everyone is better fed."

"By helping people feed their pets, it helps them keep them at home. They're not forced to bring them to Animal Control for an uncertain future," Mary Lou Respess of the Gwinnett Animal Shelter said.

In metro Atlanta, more than 200 animals are put down every day, many because their owners could not afford to feed them.

When Daffy's opened last fall, it caught on so well that branches opened in Athens and College Park and one is due to open soon in Grant Park.

"I get calls from all over the country with people asking for food and asking how to set up a pet food kitchen in their area," Wargo said.

Daffy's is not just a give away program. No one is turned away, but recipients are asked to donate five hours of community service each month. Thus, the more food that is distributed, the more help churches and charitable organizations receive.

"I get food here for my dog, Bo, and I volunteer at the Gwinnett Humane Society," Roy Barrett of Duluth said. "I'm disabled, but there are plenty of things I can do."

So far the pantry has never been bare. Stores donate pet food that is nearing the expiration date. Some people donate food and money on a one-time basis. I saved postage to China by passing along Jessie's perfectly good treats.

But the demand is getting greater. What Daffy's really needs is regular sponsorships: corporations, civic groups and caring individuals committing money on a regular basis. Anyone interested in helping can call Wargo at 404-345-6821 or visit www.daffyspetsoupkitchen.com

Anyone interested in adopting one of Pace's orphaned dogs can e-mail me. The dogs are all small, have their shots and are housebroken. And they're not picky about treats.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.

SideBar: Pet food dropoff locations

Lawrenceville-Suwanee Animal Hospital, P.C.

900 Lawrencevile-Suwanee Road, Lawrenceville

Pets Etc.

4955 Sugarloaf Parkway, Suite 116, Lawrenceville

Kauffman Tire

1275 Scenic Highway, Lawrenceville

The Paw Plex

3580 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, Suite A, Suwanee

Screenplay Video

4805 U.S. Highway 29, Lilburn

Camp Bow Wow

1795 Buford Highway, Suite 1A, Duluth

Shaggy Shampoo

700 Beaver Ruin Road, Suite G, Lilburn