Eileen Kilcoyne shares a special bond with Ava, her 11-year-old black Labrador. Kilcoyne is blind, and Ava serves as her guide dog. Recently, it hasn't been as easy for Eileen to get around.
This is where Karin Magnuson comes in. Magnuson is a dedicated volunteer and a board member of "Paws New York," a non-profit organization that helps pet owners, many of whom are elderly or home-bound, continue caring for their animals.
"No one seems to think about this challenge of what happens when our lovely residents of New York get older or get ill and they're unable to take care of their pets," Magnuson said. "No one thinks about this."
Magnuson visits Eileen in her Chelsea apartment on a weekly basis. She makes sure that Ava, who just had surgery, has fresh food and water.
"They love these animals as if they were family, so the idea of having to give them up is just heartbreaking," said Magnuson. "It's sort of one of the reasons why they wake up in the morning: to be with their animals."
Since 2009, all around the city, this network of two thousand volunteers has helped seniors like Kilcoyne, who want to keep their pets at home with them.
"Oh, I don't know what I'd do without them. They do help me out a lot. Since I can't walk that good anymore, I can't go out," Kilcoyne said. "If I didn't have her, I don't know what I'd do — I would have to give up the dog, actually."
For Magnuson, the thought of someone having to give up their pet is heartbreaking. She said that for many of these seniors, their pets are their only companions. Magnuson will continue to do what she can to keep them together.
"They rely on these animals so much, and it would just break their heart and their spirit if they had to give them up," said Magnuson. "My hope is that more people realize this is an area of need and that more support is generated for this population."
For helping protect the relationship between people and their pets, Karin Magnuson is our New Yorker of the Week.