Irene Pardo, Little Brothers’ International Intern from Spain, visits “Carl,”* a fiercely independent Finlander born in 1925. Carl lives in a remote area of Chassell Township, in a wood frame home so old and drafty you can feel the breeze whistling through the boards. He heats with a combination of wood and propane from a tank that is constantly running empty because he cannot afford to fill it. He is very proud and all his life has valued his self-sufficiency, which has made it humiliating for him to accept government assistance or other forms of “charity,” though he is in dire need.
Though once strong and vigorous, Carl’s legs now frequently give out. At times he loses the use of his legs completely and must get around his tiny, crowded house in a motorized scooter. Embarrassed about his “messy” home, he usually refused visitors.
Usually refused—but Irene was a different story. Emanating warmth and vitality, Irene slowly built up a trusting relationship with Carl, who eventually let her inside. What Irene saw was a man devoted to his pets, but no longer able to take care of them. His dog was ill, paralyzed, and lying on a make-shift gurney. Some of his twelve cats were affectionate, but others nearly feral, with kittens on the way. Because he has such difficulty walking, he could not carry his dog outside or clean up after his kitties.
Irene brought him food from Little Brothers’ food pantry and helped him fill out the complicated application forms for the V.A. and Community Action to receive funds for heat assistance. Going above and beyond what could be asked for, she also helped clean up the pet waste, and eventually was able to convince Carl to give eight of his cats to the Humane Society. For the remaining four cats, she was able to secure funding from KSNAG to get them spayed. She even found someone to pay for the euthanasia of his dog, which was both a relief and a source of great distress for Carl. The dog had been his loyal companion for years, and his cats a great source of comfort. To ease his anxiety, Irene accompanied him to the appointments and spent time with him afterward to make his homecoming less lonely.
No life is without hardship. But here at Little Brothers, we are thankful for Irene and other committed volunteers who help ease the pain and stand by our elderly friends so that they do not have to make those very tough decisions alone.