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Residents of rural Casar, North Carolina, know Mary Mayne is on her way when their dogs go crazy, barking and yelping the minute they catch sight of her van stuffed with canine goodies. Mayne, who travels many miles each day, bopping from house to rural house, often with her mother in tow, is the founder and operator of Gretta's Wish Pet Food Bank. The nonprofit organization provides free food, supplies, and veterinary services to elderly and low-income pet owners who can scarcely afford their own bills but are desperate to keep their precious pets. Before founding the charity, Mayne and her husband, John, ran a small sanctuary for disabled and mature pets from their home, which they still operate in addition to Gretta's Wish. A neighbor had heard about their refuge and called pleading for help in caring for her dogs, whom she couldn't bear to give up but could hardly afford to keep. "I thought, they're probably all she's got," Mayne says. "It would kill me if I was faced with the same situation, so I said, 'it's okay, we'll help you.'" Named for the cherished Doberman Mayne rescued from a shelter after her elderly owners let her loose, Gretta's Wish hands out more than 1,000 pounds of food a week to animals ranging from dogs and cats to pigs and donkeys. All veterinary services are offered free of charge, and supplies and other necessities are funded by donations. A town Girl Scout troop even built doghouses for the pups. With the current crummy economy and their remote location, the 40-plus pet owners Mayne assists "barely make anything themselves, so it's hard for them to survive," she says. "I look at how much I love my pets and see how expensive it is, but I can't imagine having to lose them. So we help these people keep their best friends."
Originally published on LHJ.com, September 2009.