Founders' Story ~ Iliana Belinc

Pets are a gift in our lives, and they can serve a therapeutic purpose for ALL people. From mental illness to depression to autism to physical disabilities to imprisonment to homelessness, there is no challenge that pets can't help people to face. I learned this when I was very young, my grandfather rescuing dogs in Mexico all the way back in the 1950s, at a time when other people in his community viewed them as pests. As an orphan and abuse victim, he spent many nights sleeping outside, and it was the community dogs who showed him real love and respect. Vulnerable just as he was, they looked to him for care, and they formed a bond that I have always considered to be inspiring.

When I launched Pals N Pets in January 2018, I had some idea of the impact that pets could have on people's lives. I had had an experience with a homeless man, spotting him with a dog by his side. Watching these two together, I saw another man approach them and pet the dog, and the homeless man looked up at him with a deep, authentic smile. That passing moment of happiness inspired me to start asking some questions of myself. What could pets do for people? Specifically, what could they do for homeless people?

So, I went out and began engaging and talking with homeless pet owners about what their pets meant to them. Everything started to make sense to me. These homeless people found immense meaning in their pets' lives, sharing their whole worlds with their animals. It all started with a smile: today, Pals N Pets is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to serving homeless pet owners and their furry companions. We see it all the time, how important these animals are to their owners, discouraging crime, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and suicide and treating untold mental illnesses and ailments through the power of companionship and love. We offer support services specific to homeless pet owners and their pets, and working to educate the public with regards to these situations, winning hearts and minds the way that single smile won my heart and mind that fateful day.

"Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life. [including ourselves.]" - James Cromwell