Charlene and her puppy Chocolate have been coming to Faithful Forgotten Best Friends (FFBF) for a few months now to get pet food and see the vet. She only comes when she is completely out of food, so as to not take it from others who need it more. She loves all of the people here, and it’s clear that the organization’s volunteers care for both Charlene and her pup immensely.
This story is common among those I spoke with when visiting Faithful Forgotten Best Friends’ distribution location, which is centered behind Holy Family Church at 584 W Broad Street in Columbus. The mood here is busy but jovial, with hundreds of people waiting in line to receive food for their much loved pets. One of the volunteers, Roger, has been working with FFBF since he started receiving donations from the organization 3 years ago. Roger met Connie Swackhammer, FFBF’s director, at a convenience store while he was homeless. Shortly after their chance meeting, he brought his dog, Kaiser, to receive food, and was overcome with the work the organization was doing. Roger asked what he could do to help, and was told by an ebullient Connie that he was welcome to volunteer. He started doing so, and has been volunteering ever since. Recently, Roger graduated from Jobs for Life and moved into an apartment. According to Roger, friends from FFBF were on hand to assist him in his move. FFBF’s mission is to feed and take care of the animals of the homeless in Central Ohio, and it is the only local organization to do so.
“Everyone here is registered prior to being served, and all low-income papers are checked. This organization saves people from taking food out of their own mouths to give to their pets,” Roger told me as he shuttled visiting dogs around to the volunteers, who know most of the pets by name.
“By keeping pets with their owners, we are keeping them out of the shelter” explained Connie. Not to mention the benefits of companionship that having a pet brings to those they serve.
One national organization that is providing food and care is Pets of the Homeless, based out of Nevada. I spoke with Executive Director Renee Lowry over the phone, who explained that POTH gets calls daily from all over the country, mainly regarding an animal that has been injured or fallen ill. When the vets, who are volunteers from all across the USA, find that a pet is not up to date on shots, they take care of the situation, which helps to prevent the spread of disease. The organization operates in the homeless community mainly through word of mouth: according to Renee, once a homeless community receives word of POTH, the organization will receive calls asking for vet care.
One of the main questions I had for both Renee and Connie was what to do when you come across a person who is homeless, particularly when that person has a pet. As humans, I believe we have a natural desire to help those around us, and I wanted to learn about the best way to be of assistance from those who are closest to the issue. Both mentioned that the best thing to do would be to contact their organizations, as both have contacts with vets that can assist the pet. FFBF also has a wonderful working relationship with Mount Caramel Outreach, who can provide medical care to the person in need.
Two things are for certain: Connie and Renee are doing excellent, much needed work, and they are endlessly busy with their clients. When Connie and I parted ways at the donation site, she was off to visit another homeless community in the area. Renee told me that her next call was to find a vet in Fairfield, California for a dog with Parvo. “Pets have saved these people’s lives as much as the people have saved the pets” Roger mentioned. And you can see that it’s true. – Erin Fisher Kenny
To find pet food drop off locations for Faithful Forgotten Best Friends, visit:
To find pet food drop off locations for Pets of the Homeless, visit:
Erin Fisher Kenny lives in Columbus with her husband and their three very fluffy cats. An animal lover and rescue advocate, she enjoys coffee, a good book and listening to the crows sing away in her yard.