From left to right, Lily and her brother Rhee were found on the doorstep of the El Cid Animal Clinic inWest Palm Beach. They were abandoned by a homeless family that no longer had the means to care for them. Attached was a note that ended with the words “Please forgive us.” (Damon Higgins/ThePalm BeachPost)
WEST PALM BEACH — Lela Jordan, director of Vickers House, cuddles Yuuki, a 12 year-old Maltese, inside El Cid Animal Clinic. Yuuki was owned by an elderly woman who had to be placed in a nursing home. “She has been adopted by a senior couple and is now very happy,” saidJordan. “She’s living the good life.” (Damon Higgins/ThePalm BeachPost)
Photo of Yuuki just after it was rescued. (Photo provided)
By Sonja Isger,Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Lela Jordan’s mission was to assist senior citizens who couldn’t pay their bills, were losing their homes, or could no longer live on their own. But one day while checking on a senior, she felt something cold and wet on her hand and discovered the nose of a Labrador retriever who needed help, too.
“She was sick, infected. The owner just could not take care of her anymore. (The owner) had cancer and other issues. He surrendered her to me, and I found Gabby a new home. And that kind of started it.”
That started the Elders on the Edge Pet Fund about a decade ago. ByJordan’s own estimate, the fund has helped relocate almost 100 dogs, cats, birds and two turtles.
Dianne Sauve, who heads the Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control services, saysJordanis selling her work short.
“If you’ve added all the animals she’s helped through that program, you’d be looking at four figures,” said Sauve, who has contactedJordanmore than once for help placing the animals of the aging. “We need about 200 of her.”
Jordan’s 9-to-5ish job is as the director of the Vickers House, a community resource center with two locations in West Palm Beach. In 2002, Jordanhelped create the Elders on the Edge program to assist seniors.
“Half the people I’d go to take care of had pets,”Jordansaid. “I couldn’t just walk out and leave the dog, the cat, the bird in a terrible situation. They don’t understand what’s happened. They don’t know the person doesn’t remember them or can’t bend over for them.”
Jordanusually learns about the elderly person’s needs first: City code enforcement calls because an officer notices a lawn that was once well-kept becoming habitually overgrown; a neighbor reports that someone needs help; a relative calls.
Jordanchecks on the senior and often finds a pet.
The most common move after that is heading for the vet’s office. Now they call her, too.
The folks at El Cid Animal Clinic dialed upJordanwhen a girl showed up asking for shampoo for her grandmother’s sick Maltese.
“That’s when we said shampoo is not going to cure this. The dog was in terrible, terrible conditions. She was close to death,”Jordanrecalled. Its owner suffered Alzheimer’s, and the dog suffered from the worst case of mange and a resulting infection.
Jordanfinds adoptive families for the animals through her vast contacts and endless emails. But this Maltese was spoken for by a volunteer at the Vickers House.
“I was visiting her for seven weeks at the vet,” said Alan Levine, a retiree living inWest Palm Beach. He and his wife had adopted fromJordanbefore.
“I would sit here and watch these poor pets come in and see (Jordan) go through all this anguish, and I knew I had to step up and adopt.”
A year after his first adoptee died, Levine was ready for a second.Jordannamed the Maltese Yuuki, when she found it was Japanese for brave, strong, tender princess, she said.
Jordanis up for any placement task, once managing to find homes for a couple’s 21 birds. He was had Alzheimer’s. She had Parkinson’s disease. “I found homes for all 21,” she triumphantly reports.
Sometimes the animals come to her, so to speak.
One morning, city workers alerted her that someone had parked a trailer home behind the Vickers House. The driver turned out to be a “little old Navy vet” with three cats and two turtles and a penchant for hoarding,Jordansaid.
After rummaging through his trailer, she dug up a number for a relative inWashington. The relative agreed to take the man, but not the pets.
“I had to promise him they would be well taken care of. He was in bad shape. His brain was in and out, but he cared about those animals. That’s the one thing he was for sure of,”Jordansaid.
She got the man a plane ticket toWashingtonand loaded the turtles and their aquarium and drove them to a new home inFort Lauderdale.
“Often the only alternative in these situations is to have the animal put to sleep,” said veterinarian Dr. Xavier Garcia at El Cid Animal Clinic. “Through my clientele I’ve been able to tap people who make donations and grants.” Garcia also offers his services at a discount, he said.
This week,Jordan’s heart strings were pulled again. But this time the pets – two cats – belong to a family that abandoned them with a note of regret explaining they’d recently become homeless and wanted the cats cared for.Jordanwants help finding the family in hopes of helping both them and the felines.
After all, whenJordandoes succeed it just feels right.
“I was able to go back to Gabby’s owner to show him a picture of her before he died. He was in tears he was so happy. That was his only friend, he didn’t have any family. He wanted her to go on and have a good life, and I was able to give that to him.”
For more information about the program, visit http://wpb.org/vickers-House/