My journey with The Damien Center’s program Pets Are Wonderful Support NY Capital Region (PAWS) started because of the love of my first dog, a Rottweiler named Duchess.
Duchess was an incredible source of comfort to me when I found out I had HIV and subsequently had many illnesses and hospitalizations. She was a gentle soul, who could sense when I was ill, sitting at the end of the bed, keeping guard over me, and providing me with that unconditional love without judgement that I so desperately needed at that time.
After Duchess passed (she lived to 13 – longer than expected for Rottweilers), I was devastated. Shortly after, I was invited to a meeting at Albany Medical Center organized by our current PAWS Advisory Chair, Dr. Douglas Cohn, who was looking to start a program to help people with AIDS and their pets. A study had been done, showing the overwhelming need in our area, which existed in other cities, but not here.
I went to the meeting, solely thinking that it would be nice to help walk someone’s dog as I was missing my Duchess so much. I also saw too many of our members struggling with AIDS at the Damien Center, who had to give away their pets when they were ill, which was devastating for both the pet, who ended up at the overburdened shelters, and their owner, who now were truly alone.
Low and behold, I came out of that meeting in the Fall of 2002, after group consensus, agreeing to have the Damien Center take on this new program with the help of a strong advisory committee that still exists today. In the 14 years since, PAWS has helped countless people living with AIDS keep their pets – and continues today because of the generosity of our community.
I pledge to keep this program going, but need your help. I ask that you consider making PAWS your charity of choice – gifts both small and big all help. Please make your one-time or recurring gift to PAWS at http://2016damienfund.causevox.com/
Duchess is smiling from the Rainbow Bridge today – I can just feel it!