NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – If you own a pet, you know they become part of the family and it can be heartbreaking if you can’t take care of them.
One woman in Queens is helping dogs and their owners stay together.
Oliver Twist is just a puppy, and his owner Linda Belickis is recovering from foot surgery. She wasn’t able to walk for weeks, so she contacted Corinne Conover.
Corinne started a non-profit called Paw It Forward, where volunteers walk dogs for free, when the owners are disabled, have cancer, or need temporary assistance like Linda.
LINK: Paw It Forward
Corinne started on the path of helping others after her sister died of Leukemia when they were children.
“I started working with the Leukemia Society when I was 9 with my father, and then I worked at LIJ hospital with cancer patients and children as a volunteer,” she told CBS2’s Cindy Hsu.
Then came Sonny, who tried to become a therapy dog, but he failed the test twice. So she made him a promise.
“I looked at him and said ‘Sonny, you will no be able to work in a hospital setting, but I know this is going to work, we can do this… we got this, we got this Sonny,'” she said.
That’s how she came up with Paw It Forward two years ago. She now has a team of nearly 40 volunteers.
“We have a range in age of volunteers from 4-years-old with their mom and dad to 65 that are retired and love the exercise and dogs,” Corinne said.
Heddy Schmidt and Zakia Rahman are volunteers who walk Cali. Her owner Bruce is 80 and is recovering from a fall.
“Really beautiful to be able to give Bruce and the other members an element of normalcy,” said Schmidt. “So they can have their pets and have their dogs and be happy and healthy. We just kind of take over and help them.”
The volunteers walk the dogs up to twice a day, and really love it.
“She is like a godsend, helping people. And we need more people like that,” said volunteer Spring Tobet.
Sonny passed away from cancer a few months ago, but Paw It Forward is part of his legacy.
Right now, the service is available in parts of Queens and the West Village, thanks to grants from organizations like Gilda’s Club NYC.
Corinne and her volunteers are hoping Paw It Forward expands worldwide.
For more information about Paw It Forward, click here or email CorinneConover[at]aol.com.
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