By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Jennifer Lord began to call Athens home back in 2001, and like those of us who are transplants, her love affair with this town has only gotten more intense over the years. She came here by way of Atlanta, where she earned her undergrad degree in social work from Georgia State University, and she earned her MSW degree from the University of Alabama. Jennifer worked for a few years as a case worker for DHR, and has always enjoyed serving the community.
Jennifer says, “God gave me a heart for animals and I always rescued them, even as a kid in New Jersey.” Interestingly, that love for animals and having a sense of their level of distress served her well in her chosen field. She was one of the few social workers who proactively assessed her case not only from what she was observing regarding her human clients, but always made a point of looking at how the animals in the situation were being treated. “Animal cruelty often goes with abuse,” she said, and she would do what she could to help the endangered pets, too.
Over time, Jennifer has given back to our community in a number of ways. She worked with Hospice for three years. She faced the unusual challenge of working with inmates at the Limestone County Men’s Correctional Facility who were battling HIV/AIDS. She is also a breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in October of 2015, only a year after she married. Her last surgery was in May of 2017, and she is cancer free. The great changes in her life led her to start Home Sweet Home Pet Sitting so she could be a stay-at-home mom for her 12-year-old stepson. This is a role she never thought she would get a chance to fill and is enjoying immensely. Life is grand, full of purpose and adventure for their family, and as people of faith, they are most grateful for all their blessings in this holiday season.
Jennifer has been blessed to have rescue dogs and cats in her own home, and made me laugh as she told me about her 17-year-old who “talks” and acts as though he is a grumpy old man. He will make his specific dog sounds, and she imitates those sounds back to him while she tenderly tells him, “You don’t get to be grumpy.” She also volunteers for the Madison Animal Rescue Foundation, as well as Pet Peace of Mind program, a service that cares for pets while their human family members are in hospice.
Although some might find it a bit unorthodox, all of the skills Jennifer has gained over the years, combined with her experiences in social work, hospice, and at the correctional facility have been things she has been able to draw upon to give outstanding customer care for animal and human clients. Her determination to beat breast cancer permanently has served to give her focus as well as an understanding of the need to do work that one genuinely loves. Building a business where she gets to express her love for animals and be there for her stepson for Jennifer is “livin’ the dream.”
Jennifer actually began her business informally back in 2005, where she would care for the pets of friends and neighbors while they were away on vacation, visiting friends and family, or they simply needed extra help with their pets. “When pets are able to stay in their own home, they are much less stressed,” she said. She will feed, water and walk all the pets in the house, and will change kitty litter boxes. She will also water plants, dispense meds, and tend to human needs such as picking up the mail and sweeping the porch so it doesn’t appear that the homeowners are gone. Most importantly, Jennifer will spend at least 25-30 minutes with the animals each visit so they have that crucial human contact during the day while their pet parents are unavailable. She is currently pursuing certification in pet CPR and First Aid, and expects to be finished with her requirements by the beginning of 2018.
People who truly love their pets often have everything they need materially and probably more than enough. So, for the pet lovers in your life, a great gift this season would be to give a gift certificate from Home Sweet Home Pet Sitting so Jennifer can be there for those precious pets when their loved ones can’t.
To contact Jennifer Lord of Home Sweet Home Pet Sitting, you can call her at 256-651-8977, or email her at email@example.com
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner