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Paws of Hope Christmas tree to benefit animals in need

December 16, 2014
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The Hampden Veterinary Clinic's Paws of Hope tree is deoco- rated with tags that could help less fortunate pet owners care for their animals all year long. (edge photo by Jodi Hersey) The Hampden Veterinary Clinic's Paws of Hope tree is deoco- rated with tags that could help less fortunate pet owners care for their animals all year long. (edge photo by Jodi Hersey)

HAMPDEN - A vet tech in Hampden has come up with a festive way to spread some holiday cheer at work this season while also helping out area pet owners in need. For several years, Heather Burgess and her husband have participated in the Hands of Hope Christmas program, where the needs of less fortunate families in Maine are written on gift tags that hang from decorated Christmas trees at various businesses. Generous shoppers then select a tag, purchase the listed item and return it to the business so it can be distributed by Hands of Hope to needy families in time for Christmas. That same idea gave Burgess the motivation to create a tree of her own, a Paws of Hope Christmas tree.

"There's probably 50 tags on it. There's tags for cat or dog food, nail trims, rabies vaccines or sick exams," said Burgess, who works at the Hampden Veterinary Clinic. "But this is different than a Hands of Hope tree because our tags aren't linked to a certain family. If you pay for, say, a nail trim, it goes into a charity box we have and we hand it out throughout the year to who we see fit."

Last week, Burgess put the finishing touches on the Paws of Hope tree that can be found in the lobby at the Hampden Veterinary Clinic.

"We have people throughout the year who can't afford things for their pet. Their pet will need two or three shots and they'll have to choose one shot over the other because they can't afford it all at once," she explained.

Since Burgess's boss, Doctor Barbara Farren, began providing vet care in Hampden, she has seen approximately 7,000 animals come through the doors.

"You'd be surprised at the incidents we see. We had a man come in who lives in his car with his dog. He called the clinic and said he had no money but his dog was itchy and he wanted help," explained Burgess. "Dr. Farren does a good job to help people when she can but he is someone who could benefit from the Paws of Hope tree."

The Paws of Hope tree also has tags with various dollar amounts on it for donors who just want to contribute a cash donation.

"It's going really well so far," said Burgess. "We've done $480 in donations in just four days. I think I may have to make up more tags."

If you'd like to donate to the Paws of Hope tree, stop by the Hampden Veterinary Clinic or call 945-4825.

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