The Coastal Star

Paws Up for Pets: Agency finds new homes for animals when pets, owners can't grow old together

By Arden Moore

From the day we adopt our pets, we promise to always be there for them. We whisper in their ears that we will care for them for their entire lives. We look forward to growing old together.

Our vows are well intended, but we can’t predict or control life’s wicked curveballs. Especially these days. Job loss, house foreclosures, sickness, hurricanes and unexpected deaths can swiftly separate us from the pets we love so dearly.

It is life’s sad reality that Lela Jordan knows too well. But rather than lament, she instinctively leaps into action when pets and their people need help the most.

Pinning down Lela for a lengthy chat can be challenging. She has so many places to visit and so many people and pets to assist. After a few misses, I finally connected with her. I am glad I was persistent.

Lela wears many “collars” in the community. Her full-time job is operating the
Vickers House, with two locations in West Palm Beach. This community resource
center caters to the homeless, mentally ill, undocumented immigrants and the
indigent. But her newest and most cherished role is supervising an offshoot of
the Elders on the Edge Program that is overseen by the Legal Aid Society. The
extension is aptly called Elders on the Edge Pet Fund.

“Many of the elderly who we help and who are in crisis also have pets and some of these pets are in crisis, too,” says Lela. “Some of these people are indigent, suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, need to be relocated into a nursing home that does not allow pets, or simply passed away.”

She continues, “The pets left behind don’t know what’s happening or why they are being uprooted. They look into my eyes. I try to convey to them that I have a responsibility to make sure that they are safe. They don’t know me, but they seem to trust me.”

When Lela met Gabby, the Labrador retriever’s flea-riddled body oozed blood and fluids. Her owner, a senior man no longer able to keep his home because of a losing battle with cancer, knew that Gabby desperately needed medical attention he could not provide for.

“As I was talking with his gentleman in his home, Gabby came over and put her face in my hand,” recalls Lela. “Her skin was raw from scratching herself due to the fleas. This man, a Navy veteran, understood that he had to surrender Gabby. She spent three months in a veterinary hospital and then recovered at a Lab rescue center before being placed with a nice family in northern Florida. The man is happy because he knows that Gabby is happy and healthy.”

Lela’s determination enables even special needs pets to find new, loving homes. When Tiger’s owner died in West Palm Beach, the 8-year-old cat needed someone willing to take him in and pay for medication to treat his chronic constipation. Lela went to work and in short time, placed Tiger, now named Oliver, with a feline-loving West Palm Beach police officer.

Since starting the pet fund in 2007, Lela has raised money for veterinary care and found new homes for nearly 70 dogs, cats, birds and, yes, even turtles.

Pets are our ageless allies. Their unconditional love can do wonders for our mental and physical health. My neighbor, Flo Frum, considers herself “86 years young” thanks, in part, to sharing her home with a spirited miniature Schnauzer named Buddy. She tells me that she looks forward to waking up each day because she knows “Buddy Barky” will be by her side.

If you would like to donate to this special program, please call Lela at (561)
804-4970 or send checks payable to the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County Inc., 423 Fern St., West Palm Beach, FL 33401. Please be sure to designate on your check to apply the money toward the Elders on the Edge Pet Fund. Your gesture can truly give a displaced pet a new leash on life.

Arden Moore, Founder of Four Legged, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author and professional speaker. She happily shares her home with two dogs, two cats and one overworked vacuum cleaner. Tune in to her “Oh Behave!” show on Pet Life and learn more by visiting

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