For Senior Pet Owners, Jimmy's Place Serves Critical Need
One man’s legacy inspires an innovative program—and brings hope to pet owners in Florida.
KISSIMMEE, Fla.—For many seniors who live alone or far away from family, their pets become dedicated companions. That bond can be so strong that many seniors put off medical care that requires an overnight stay at a hospital, because they have no one to care for their animals.
But now, seniors in Osceola County, Florida have a better option thanks to one man’s legacy of caring—Jimmy’s Place.
“Jimmy was the catalyst for it,” said Rob Dent, spokesman for the Osceola Council on Aging. “It’s really Jimmy’s legacy.”
It’s called Jimmy’s Place in honor of Jimmy Scarborough. And it’s the first pet hotel of its kind for seniors in Florida, providing a safe haven for pets when their owners are hospitalized.
“It’s a creative approach to long term healthcare and people’s relationship with their animals,” Dent said.
Jimmy’s wife, Pat, says it all started years ago when Jimmy was a volunteer with Meals on Wheels. She says he noticed seniors were sharing their meals with their pets, so Jimmy started buying pet food for the seniors. Then the Council jumped in.
“We started a campaign to collect donations of dog and cat food, which we began to share with all of our Meals on Wheels drivers,” Dent said.
Jimmy continued those efforts until he passed away in 1998. But Pat wanted to continue his legacy. So she made a request from those wishing to honor him; donate money or pet food, not flowers.
“If we could just get the culture changed to where people didn’t have to send flowers to a funeral,” Scarborough said. “They could do something for the living.”
Out of that effort sprung the idea for a senior pet hotel.
“Often, the ambulance is actually there and they’re in the throes of a heart attack and they refuse to get on the gurney because they’re not going to leave their pet,” Scarborough said. “You have a critical medical situation that’s really revolving around Fido. So now when that happens, the pet’s taken care of and momma can go to the hospital in peace,” she said.
Dent says the pet hotel serves a critical need for seniors in Osceola County.
“In many cases it’s their only companion and that companionship is critically important to people as they age in place. So having that dog or cat in a secure place like this gives them peace of mind,” Dent said.
The services are provided free of charge and the Council encourages people to pre-register their pets. Then, if something happens, volunteers can pick up the animal and bring it to the hotel.
“This is something we want to provide, especially for our low-income, elderly clients in our community,” Dent said. “That’s something that can be assured is there when they need it.”
The pet hotel can house up to ten pets, both cats and dogs. Dent says the local community has chipped in to help, making Jimmy’s Place a true community project.
As for Pat, she says Jimmy would be pleased, with one caveat.
“He would just say it had taken too long to get here and we’d better take care of the pets,” she said.”If not, he’ll come back and see about it!”
The Osceola Council on Aging says communities from New York to California have called, interested in starting their own “Jimmy’s Place.” For more information, log on to osceolagenerations.org.
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