Maine seniors get groceries delivered by sled dogs
- After watching seniors buy a few necessities, like eggs, milk and fruit, Hannah Lucas knew she wanted to help those most at risk of contracting serious illnesses from the COVID-19 virus.
- The 22-year-old started a grocery delivery service using her sled dogs.
- Now, two crews make four to six deliveries every day in northern Maine.
- Lucas hopes it will become a permanent service in his town, even after the pandemic.
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In New York, groceries are delivered across the city by bicycle. In suburban Atlanta, perishables can be transported in the trunk of a car.
But in Caribou, Maine, groceries are now delivered by dogs. The goal is to protect the most vulnerable people in the community, including the elderly and immunocompromised people who are at higher risk of dying from COVID-19.
Hannah Lucas, a 22-year-old who works at Circle K, knew she wanted to help after she noticed older adults coming to pick up some groceries.
“I would see old people coming in and only buying small amounts of food, like a gallon of milk, eggs, or fruit,” the 22-year-old told Insider. “And I really wanted to help minimize their risk with the ongoing pandemic.”
Lucas moved to Caribou for sled dog racing. She spends most of her time on the trails training with the Northlane Siberian Huskies and Seppala Siberian Sled Dog Team.
Lucas realized his team could deliver food to people, helping them avoid public spaces and reducing their risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Lucas posted his idea for a delivery service in a local Facebook group, and the response was overwhelming
“I didn’t really expect it to explode like this,” Lucas said, as it was clearly a service his community needed. So on March 5, she left and made two deliveries.
The next day, his orders tripled.
Lucas, his two handlers and 12 dogs are divided into two teams and make four to six deliveries a day.
“It’s really bigger than me to be able to know that I’m helping to keep these people safe,” Lucas said.
They receive requests by phone and Facebook, and plot a route along Maine’s interconnected trail system. Seniors and families meet at the opening of the trail.
Lucas described how grateful they are for the help. An elderly couple cried when they saw the dogs arrive, Lucas said.
“A lot of people really love seeing the dogs, and they’re always so grateful when they see us coming with their runs,” Lucas told Insider.
The dogs are happy to help. “They love it. As soon as we start pulling their harnesses off the wall, they kind of know they’ve got a chance to get out there and have fun.”
After seeing how much this service is needed in his rural community, Lucas is not planning to stop
“I actually hope I can still do grocery delivery for years to come, not just while the pandemic continues,” Lucas said.
In a few weeks, the warmer temperatures will melt the snow and she will have to suspend her sledding service.
But next winter, she said she hoped to get it back.