Gifts To Our Community: My Dog Eats First
Betheny Buster had long been a pet lover and owner of Paws Pet Care when a conversation in 2013 led her to establish My Dog Eats First. While eating at a restaurant in the Highlands, she and her son noticed a homeless man and bought him something to eat. The man ensured his dog took a bite before he did, an act that touched Betheny’s heart and led her to do research on homelessness in Louisville.
“Through that research I came in contact with The Forgotten Louisville. I started volunteering, threw some dog and cat food into the back of my car, and had no idea what I was going to encounter,” Betheny says. While she saw plenty of organizations taking care of homeless people, she recognized a need to care for pets. She saw animals with skin and ear conditions as a result of “living out” and knew the animals needed to get their vaccinations. Over time, she also saw a need for housed individuals who, due to financial hardships, couldn’t provide the food their animals needed.
My Dog Eats First has a pet food bank in West Louisville that, prior to COVID-19, operated twice a month for the underserved. Due to the virus and the small size of the space, the organization has had to temporarily suspend its food bank operations. However, it is still meeting the needs of housed pet owners on an individual basis by responding to texts and phone calls.
Betheny and her team continue to help homeless pet owners by providing food and offering veterinary care to animals since they are outside and able to wear masks and social distance. “We are out meeting needs in some capacity every day,” she says. Recently, My Dog Eats First has tried to help deal with a parvo outbreak in a homeless camp.
“It’s really a beautiful thing to see a homeless individual care so much for a companion animal and that companion animal give that unconditional love and affection back to them,” she says. “Money or the lack thereof doesn’t dictate whether a person should have or feel love. That’s what a companion animal gives to a homeless individual.”