With that sentiment in mind, the Sedona Grace Foundation was born. The small nonprofit works to keep pets with their families - and out of shelters - by providing canine (and feline) care packages to pet owners who are struggling financially.
Like many other people who lose pets, Dave and Jill Cottone thought their dog left them too soon.
The couple had rescued a German-shepherd/Labrador-retriever mix from a shelter seven years earlier. Sedona was 10 in February 2011 when they put her down because of advanced cancer.
“Once in a while, you have an animal come into your life that is just different,” said Mrs. Cottone, of Dublin.
“There was something about her,” her husband added. “People just gravitated toward her.”
Though devastated, Mr. Cottone found solace — and a sense of purpose — in something that his wife said soon after the death.
“She told me: ‘As painful as it is for us to lose her, we had closure. Imagine what it would be like to have to give up a dog because you couldn’t afford them.’”
With that sentiment in mind, the Sedona Grace Foundation was born.
The small nonprofit works to keep pets with their families — and out of shelters — by providing canine (and feline) care packages to pet owners who are struggling financially.
The canine packages, which the couple deliver regularly to 11 area food pantries and two organizations that help the homeless, contain a 10-day supply of Purina dog food and 10 Milk-Bone biscuits.
“We could just do dog food,” Mr. Cottone noted, “but we wanted to do something nice.”
And what better way to honor their treat-adoring Sedona than to give goodies to other dogs?
The Cottones, who work in the credit-union industry, spent the first few months after their dog’s death filing paperwork to create the foundation, finding the best deals on high-quality pet food and figuring out the most efficient way to get the packages to pet owners in need.
Mrs. Cottone approached the Smoky Row Food Pantry on the Northwest Side about stocking care packages.
Anna Moreno, the pantry director, knew that some clients would benefit from the service, she said, but she couldn’t have imagined just how many. Each week, about 20 families pick up pet food at Smoky Row.
“If not for the Sedona Grace Foundation, they would need to get rid of their dogs,” Moreno said. “For older clients, ... (pets) are a reason for getting up in the morning. For families with little children, they’re part of the family.”
The 10 other pantries they now serve have likewise been surprised by the demand for the pet food.
Since 2011, the Cottones have assembled — while binge-watching 24 on Netflix, Mr. Cottone noted — and delivered more than 5,500 canine packages and 500 feline packages (which also contain a 10-day supply of dry food and a bag of treats).
That’s about 12 tons of pet food.
Mr. Cottone estimates that he and his wife each spend about 15 hours a week on the endeavor. Their two dogs — Shania and Madison, who both resemble Sedona — help with quality control.
The Cottones have funded much of the mission with their own money but have recently begun accepting donations and hosting pet-food drives.
“What we weren’t prepared for was hearing people were sharing half their dinner with their dog,” Mrs. Cottone said. “That’s what broke our hearts but let us know we were on the right path.”
Rodney McNamee knew that the table scraps he sometimes fed his 2-year-old black Labrador mix were unhealthful for Sabbath. Then he happened upon the Sedona Grace doggy bags at the Healthy Worthington Resource Center and Food Pantry.
“Them supplying the dog food is a help,” McNamee said during a pantry visit. “He means everything to me. He’s my home-security system and is so playful.”
And, like Sedona, he loves Milk-Bones.
“He sees that bag, and it’s over,” McNamee said.
Stephanie Clarkson picked up dog food the same day. Her 9-month-old boxer-greyhound mix, Sweets, was almost out of chow.
“I feel good that I can provide for my children and my dog; my dog is my child,” Clarkson said.
Sometimes, Sedona Grace offers more than edibles — flea collars in the summer; toys at Christmastime; and, possibly in the future, free spaying and neutering services.
Mr. Cottone, 40, acknowledged that the foundation has drawn criticism from some who ask why they feed dogs instead of people.
To that, Mrs. Cottone, 53, replies: The foundation allows families to put the money they save on pet food toward other purchases, such as groceries.
Plus, her husband noted, during difficult times a pet can offer comfort that’s unavailable elsewhere.
“I know people whose dog means the world to them,” he said. “Being able to feed them and give them a treat once in a while lets them enjoy their pet.”
For more information about the nonprofit, visit www.sedonagrace foundation.com.