CARES and Meals on Wheels partner to help meal recipients feed their pets

“His name is Mickey, but I call him Pretty Boy,” Betty Miley said, cooing at her little black Chihuahua.

The south Macon woman on Monday morning had just been given two small bags of Pedigree dry dog food and a bag of treats for Mickey, plus a meal for herself.

“This is enough (dog food) to last ‘til next month, and I won’t have to worry about it,” Miley said.Central Georgia CARES, an animal welfare organization, has partnered with Meals on Wheels of Middle Georgia to provide food and treats to 96 pets every two weeks.

AC Pup, the mascot for CARES, tagged along as the two nonprofit agencies kicked off their joint venture by visiting several Meals on Wheels recipients, including 77-year-old Miley and James Hardwick, a 60-year-old Macon native from Fort Hill.

Three years ago a neighbor told Hardwick he had dogs he was going to sell to fight.

“Well, give one to me,” said Hardwick, a former motorcycle repairman.

That’s how Hardwick got Ruby, a now 3-year-old female mixed breed.

About the same time, Hardwick had open heart surgery, and he said Monday that Ruby gave him a reason to get out of bed every day.

“She is the reason I survived,” Hardwick said, pulling up his shirt to expose a vertical scar that stretched almost the entire length of his torso.

Hardwick said he had been paying $35 to $40 every month for dog food. That’s a lot for someone on a fixed income, he said.

He was surprised to find out about the help he could get with pet food, but Hardwick said he always makes sure Ruby has something to eat.

“She’s a healthy dog,” Hardwick said. “You can tell.”

Through the solicitation of grants, Meals on Wheels in Macon has been providing pet food to its clients since 2005, said Javonna Latimore, director of volunteers and marketing at Meals On Wheels. With CARES now helping to provide pet food, Latimore said the agency will be able to feed even more pets.

Pets such as Mickey and Ruby will now have a more dependable source of food.

“Meals on Wheels brings (pet) food sometimes, but he likes this other Pedigree better,” Miley said, pointing to her small but noisy dog.

Mickey, who used to bite in his younger days, still barks and snarls, but he’s always been a source of company for Miley in her one-bedroom apartment on Newburg Avenue.

“If I didn’t have him, I don’t know what in the world I would do,” Miley said.

Pet lovers will do whatever they can to feed their pets, even resorting to using their own food if they run out of pet food, said Patti Jones, the chairwoman of CARES.

“We want to make sure that all pets are well-nourished with the appropriate food,” she said.

CARES has set a goal to be able to provide veterinary services, such as vaccinations, spaying/neutering services and heartworm treatment, in addition to pet food, said Janet Battcher, a CARES board member. But the nonprofit always needs more monetary donations.

Along with money and volunteers, CARES also is requesting donations of Pedigree dry dog food and Nine Lives dry cat food to keep the Meals on Wheels recipients’ pets on a consistent diet.

“CARES has been in existence since 2009, and since that time it has been our mission to strengthen the bond between people and their pets,” Jones said. “This is why we exist.”

To learn more about ways to donate pet food or money to Central Georgia CARES, visit its website at

To find out how to volunteer or to make a monetary donation to Meals on Wheels of Middle Georgia, go online to

To contact writer Conner Wood, call 744-4489.