Pets are excellent additions to the family, but what happens when you're unable to give a beloved pet what it needs because of age or illness? Enter Forest Hills resident Corinne Conover of "Paw It Forward."
Conover, who has dedicated most of her life to aiding cancer patients, is now spending her free time volunteering to walk dogs for the sick and elderly in the community.
"When I started this program, I thought it was just going to be me and my rescue dog, Sonny, helping a few neighbors," she said. "It started as a hobby eight months ago and has gained an overwhelming response. The community has just been amazing. I really had no idea so many people would volunteer."
As of January 2019, "Paw It Forward" has almost 50 volunteers. Conover and her team walk the dogs for a wide variety of people including a 27-year-old cancer patient and an 81-year-old senior citizen.
During the dog walks, she takes her own dog, a 12-year-old Yorkie-poodle Sonny, with her. Each walk lasts about one to two hours, as she walks the pups around Forest Park and The Overlook.
"These dogs get a tremendous amount of exercise and are able to go sniffing and exploring on all the hiking trails," she says.
Even with the rapid growth of “Paw It Forward,” Conover takes time to carefully pair volunteers with her clients, considering not only location but also a personal connection.
"The senior citizens love the company. We get invited into their homes for tea and for companionship, so I don't want them to have a revolving door of strangers. I want each person to have one or two people that they really connect with and get to know. It's just as much about the person as it is about the dog, too" Conover said of her program.
"Paw It Forward" currently has three Parker Towers residents involved with the program: two are clients, and one is a volunteer. (All asked to remain anonymous.)
“Our volunteer from Parker Towers is a lovely woman who has been with me since the get-go. She always says to me, ‘I love what I do, but I don’t want the publicity,’” Conover said, adding that most of her volunteers have the same altruistic sentiment.
Within the week, Conover plans to meet with attorneys to establish "Paw It Forward" as an official nonprofit and, then hold a fundraiser in May (date TBD) to finance a website. In the meantime, she wants to enlist more dogs and volunteers into the program.
If you're interested in the program, Conover can be reached at 516.554.1268 or by email at [email protected] with the subject "Paw It Forward."
Written by: Amber James
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