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Preserving the human-animal bond

July 28, 2010
By Jayleen Heft

Fort Collins is a pet-friendly community, but what happens when a pet owner becomes unable to care for their pet due to disability, illness, or declining health? Pets Forever is a unique community outreach program designed to help low-income disabled, elderly, or ill Larimer County residents maintain ownership of their pets for as long as possible by providing needed help and resources.

Lori Kogan, associate professor of clinical sciences, is founder of Pets Forever.

Founder honored

Psychologist Lori Kogan, associate professor of clinical sciences and founder of the university-sponsored non-profit program, Pets Forever, recently was honored as one of 22 Northern Colorado “Women of Vision” by Colorado Women of Influence.

Honorees were selected based on their contributions to the well-being and empowerment of women and the betterment of their communities.

Pets Forever launched in 2009

“Pets Forever was launched in late summer of 2009 to fill what I identified as an unmet community need while also giving Colorado State University students meaningful community service projects,” Kogan says.

“Another plus is that students gain valuable hands-on experiences with animals as well as vulnerable members of our community.”

Pet ownership improves health, well-being

There is no doubt that people can develop powerful bonds with animals. Pet ownership has been linked to better overall physical and psychological health. Pets provide companionship and a sense of purpose, and they help their owners handle stress more effectively.

“Numerous research studies have shown that individuals with pets get sick less often and enjoy lower anxiety levels and improved cardiovascular health. Psychologically, pets help their owners with loneliness and depression,” Kogan says.

Pets Forever clients Catherine and dog Jimmy.

Direct services provided

Volunteers, including non-students, provide direct services for clients, including:

  • Home delivery of pet food and supplies
  • Dog walking
  • Litter box cleaning
  • Transportation of animals to and from veterinarians or groomers

By enrolling in a one-credit service-learning course, VS495 or VS796, undergraduate and graduate students can also earn academic credit and be part of the solution to a challenging issue in our community. The class meets once per week.

Clients forever grateful

"If it wasn't for Pet Forever volunteers, I don't know what would have happened,” client Dorothy Kiser says. “I love my dog with all my heart. She's really all I've got. You kids have saved her life."

Another thankful pet owner acknowledges her beloved dog only gets his needed exercise with the help of Forever Pets volunteers.

“Unfortunately, Gizmo would not get the walks that he gets without the services provided by Pets Forever,” Charlotte Van Hagen says. “He may get a time around the parking lot but that's not good enough for him, so he probably wouldn’t be as healthy as he is right now."

Kerri and her beautiful black dog Sophie benefit from the services of Pets Forever volunteers.

Volunteers reap rewards

Many Pets Forever volunteers see their own pets as members of their family and can’t imagine having to part with their companion for any reason.

“I know that, for some people including myself, pets are just like human family members, and the thought of losing them is unbearable,” says Layne Jarrett, a volunteer and third-year veterinary medicine student.

“Being able to see that I’m making some difference, even if it’s just a small one, in the lives of my clients and their pets is very rewarding.”

You can help

In less than one year, more than 60 local Larimer County residents have benefitted from Pets Forever services and volunteers. Currently, 25 clients and their pets are receiving regular services by Pets Forever volunteers.

Pets Forever is a collaborative effort with several groups including the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, community veterinarians, and local animal-related companies. Interested in providing financial support?

Anyone can become a Pets Forever volunteer if they are willing to devote a minimum of 5 hours a week, attend weekly meetings, and complete a background check. To volunteer, e-mail Kogan at