When St. Petersburg resident Mark James, 61, lost his beloved elderly rescue dog, Hank, he knew a tombstone wouldn’t suffice.
James built a free pet supply pantry this month – the month Hank died – for anyone in need near his St. Petersburg home at the northwest corner of 65th Street and 3rd Avenue South.
The box, lovingly crafted with a sign that reads “Hank’s Bark Box,” has a constant selection of dog and cat food and is completely open, something that he felt was lacking from shelters that require proof of need. James’s box doesn’t require anything, but he has found that people sometimes leave notes.
Recently, he found a piece of paper thanking him from Tina and Sammy, a struggling college student and a 13-year-old king Charles spaniel.
Hank Lives On
“When I adopted Hank, I walked through the shelter and it was mayhem,” James said. “I walked all the way down and there was this little puppy sitting by himself, so quiet.”
Once the two got home, the script was flipped.
“If the wind blew, he barked,” James said. “He was very protective, always by my side. When he was diagnosed with cancer at 8 years old, that was very hard for me.”
James stocks the box himself, and also accepts donations to keep the spot full.
When James realized the wet food didn’t fare well in the Florida heat, he joined forces with Deb’s Laundry at 5000 Gulfport Blvd S. after learning that the laundromat has a similar, but indoor pet supply box.
The two pantry owners arrange trades and rearrange donations, depending on their needs.
“People love animals, I can see that by just how many people donated food,” James said. “I had people come to me saying, ‘My dog died six months ago and I still have this.’ Just that they saved their pet’s things speaks volumes.”