Community Stories Pets

Don’t Forget the Pets

By Kimberly Hurley 

Nobody expected this. 

The majority of the world is being told to stay home and avoid all social gatherings in the fear that the coronavirus pandemic, or COVID-19, will spread to more communities and infect many more people. And just a week before the first case of COVID-19 in Tennessee was announced, a tornado devastated metro Nashville. 

But neighbors and other Tennesseans have stepped up to help. 

Meet Tom 

Before the lockdown was really put into place, I met a man in a Target — we were over six feet apart, I promise — pushing several carts of food and supplies for all different animals, not just cats and dogs. 

If he hadn’t loaded several carts with products from the pet aisles, the man looked like a “normal” 60-something guy I would have assumed was either just buying snacks and other necessities or going crazy and buying every hand sanitizer he could find. There is no in-between right now.

“Wow, that’s a lot of pet stuff,” I said. 

He looked at me with a wide grin.

“I love animals!” He said, and introduced himself as Tom. 

At that point, I imagined Tom had numerous pets at home and was stocking up in case COVID-19 became a global apocalypse. 

Instead, what he said stunned me. 

Learning from the Past

Tom explained that he has always loved animals and has lived in the Donelson, Tennessee, neighborhood for over 30 years. He experienced the horrific flood that trampled Nashville in 2010, and he remembered seeing many pets and animals in need of food and supplies. He told me about how helpless he felt, and despite people needing help, animals were in dire need, too. At the time, he didn’t have the means to help much, but now, 10 years later, he decided he does. 

I asked Tom what he planned on doing with the pet food and supplies. He told me that when the tornado hit a few weeks ago, he drove to the areas that were hit the hardest and delivered a lot of stuff to the victims in person. Now, with the COVID-19 threat, he stated it is going to be more difficult to distribute items to those in need, but he is “committed to making it work.” He said he is a member of many different online communities and Facebook groups, where he communicates with neighbors and friends. 

Much like restaurants, Tom is planning on offering curbside pick-up for pet food and supplies for anyone in need at this time, free of charge or at whatever cost the people can manage. He has also recruited several individuals, including his children, to help him with a delivery service for seniors and others who are homebound or who lost their homes in the recent tornado. 

Tom told me he was loading up on all of the supplies he could get (and afford) at various stores and would help as many people as possible through this time. He said many people argue with him, and say humans are more important than pets, and that while protecting people is critical in these times, pets are also important and need to be cared for. 

Tom says his goal is to “help the animals so the people can help themselves.” 

Be Like Tom

Unfortunately, I did not get Tom’s last name or what forums and groups he belongs to. But he has left a mark on my life forever as his actions of generosity and selflessness made me realize how lucky I am and how much I truly have. 

Look into your community groups either online or by contacting local groups who may need help. Most of them are full of members who are willing to take care of one another in any time of need. Even if neighbors and friends cannot provide financial assistance or supplies, there are hundreds or thousands of people who are willing to provide emotional support and encouragement, which is absolutely critical during a pandemic like this one. 

Although COVID-19 is a massive issue that is hitting the globe hard, people like Tom take the time to care for their community, and that is what counts the most in times like these.

This story was originally published in the TRIBAL under the TRIBAL Premium Partner Program. More information about TRIBAL can be found at

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