Celebrating Joan Dalton, founder of Project POOCH

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On any given day, Joan Dalton walks with a group along the razor-topped perimeter of MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, Oregon. She’s watchful for opportunities to praise and encourage her dog walkers — a select group of the facility’s incarcerated youth — and the dogs once considered unadoptable.

This is Project POOCH, which Dalton founded while working as vice-principal at MacLaren’s Lord High School. She saw parallels between abandoned dogs and the youth at her school. “Because of how they’ve been treated and the environment in which they were raised, they’ve acted out,” she says. “They are considered dangerous, so they’re locked up.”

Dalton saw hopelessness in too many students. Many had given up on school, most lacked skills or training, and their chances of finding meaningful employment upon returning to the community were low. Knowing the strength of the human/animal bond from research and personal experience,  she believed the dogs and youth could help each other.

Her love for animals began when her childhood best friend was a dog named Bugsy. He waited with Dalton for the school bus every morning and met her again each afternoon. They were inseparable.

One traumatic day, Bugsy caught one of the family’s chickens. Her parents took Joan and her siblings inside. Her mother pulled the blinds while her father got his shotgun. Joan knew exactly what this meant. Neither parent spoke a word.

The experience stayed with Dalton. She knew Bugsy wasn’t bad; he just hadn’t known better and had been left unsupervised.

Decades later, pondering ways to help her students earn high school credits, Dalton thought of Bugsy, and the many shelter dogs rejected for their behavior. She formed a vision to rehabilitate such dogs while teaching her students communication, job, and behavioral science skills.

She’d eventually leave her position as vice-principal and take a significant pay cut to head up POOCH, working grueling hours, even selling her house to cover living expenses.

Beginning with one youth and one dog, Project POOCH grew every year, as youth learned patience and accountability, developed caring bonds with dogs, and celebrated as previously unadoptable dogs went to permanent, loving homes. Later, youth would learn additional skills by helping remodel campus areas into a kennel and study area and creating an agility course and a meditation garden.

Over the years Dalton has worked to add more components to the program, including expanding kennels to teach construction skills and bringing in trainers, groomers, and veterinarians to deepen the youths’ knowledge. She brought in K9 officers to show youth different careers working with dogs .

The program became a model far and wide. POOCH graduates have a low recidivism rate, and Dalton has helped participants find employment upon release from MacLaren, realizing one of the program’s early goals. A number of youth have gone on to college with the help of scholarships from donors. The barrier-busting program has been featured in magazines, newscasts, and on Animal Planet. A Japanese film about POOCH airs regularly in Japan.

Now planning to hand over management to a new director, Dalton will be taking her work home with her. [NH1] She’s outfitted her home to provide sanctuary to older POOCH dogs who have never been adopted. Living among retired canines, she will write her memoir about POOCH.

“Hopefully it will raise awareness that everyone deserves a second chance. Whether it is an animal with behavior problems or a person who has been incarcerated, love and hard work can turn a life around,” she says.


POOCH dog Felix: Winning

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Eight years ago, Oregon State Penitentiary Assistant Superintendent Michael Yoder called Joan Dalton with an unusual request: he needed a dog to keep geese off the prison recreation yard.

Dalton knew just the dog — Felix. His parentage was a mystery, “So the POOCH youth compared him to photos in dog books and decided he most resembled a Munsterlander.” Experts describe the breed as affectionate, intelligent, and natural hunters that thrive on exercise.

Felix fit the description. Immediately, Dalton says, “he went wild chasing geese. Felix was a bit of a showoff as he demonstrated his skill and intelligence.”

Soon Felix began visiting the infirmary, improving inmate and staff morale. Inmate Michael McNeely, at OSP since Felix arrived, says, “Everybody loves Felix. He’s so smart; he can tell if somebody needs loving. Some people in here never get a visitor, and Felix makes a big difference to them.”

Inmate Steve Johnson handles Felix’s daily care, but others are quick to help. His popularity even pays his expenses: inmates and visitors line up to pay $1 for a photo with him.

And while the geese keep Felix challenged, so far, Felix is winning.


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Nancy Hill is a photojournalist currently living in Portland, although she anticipates moving to Salem very soon. As a child, Nancy's family always had a collie. She's continued the love of the breed all her life and now has a collie named Casper.

                       

In Loving Memory ~ Corina Ann Owens

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March 30, 1972  - April 27, 2018

The Portland pet community lost a treasured member recently with the passing of Corina Owens.  Known for her loving heart for pets and people, her keen business sense, and joyful spirit, Corina owned and operated Show Dogs Grooming Salon and Boutique in North Portland.

In addition to being a successful businesswoman, Corina was a beloved daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. She was an accomplished pianist, playing gospel at her church, at weddings, and for her own pleasure, everything from the Star Wars theme to her favorite love songs. 

A lifelong dog lover, at age 9 Corina played with her Aunt Teresa’s dog Poppy every day after school. Eventually Teresa gave Poppy to Corina. After Poppy, her family always had dogs, and it fostered a life-long love of canines and eventually inspired Corina's career.

Starring in a past episode of Spot Magazine’s People in the Neighborhood series, Corina talked about her inspiration for Show Dogs.

"I wanted to open a business," she said. "I was going over some ideas of what I could do every day and not get tired of it and it came to me — dogs!"

Corina is survived by her mother, grandmother, siblings, and nieces and nephews. She is also survived by her dogs Redd, Pepper, Brownie, Joc, Bailey, Poochie, and Lilly and a host of friends.

Corina's beautiful smile, giving spirit, and unselfish heart will truly be missed and never forgotten.

In Memory of Phyllis Johanson

"The brilliant person is the person who does brilliant things and tells no one." ~ author unknown

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Portland lost a real jewel of the animal community recently, when Phyllis Johanson passed away peacefully at her home, high in the West Hills, her husband of 62 years, George, at her side and her beloved cat Buster sleeping on her feet.

Born in 1925 in Sutton, Canada, Phyllis met her future husband George in 1955 in Ixmiquilpan, Hildalgo, Mexico, where they were both missionaries working to improve the conditions of the local people.

One day, George and Phyllis bonded over a kitten. Someone had tarred the poor kitten, and the two worked for days to save him.

George jokes about what occurred two weeks later. "I asked her to marry me. She said, ‘Do you like cats?’ I said yes, of course." Two weeks later they got hitched and soon established their home in Portland.

George says he saw a harbinger of his wife's soon to be vocation when a friend brought over two homeless kittens for Phyllis to choose from. Phyllis took both, and created clever hammocks out of a wooden clothes rack. Soon the Johansons had 10 cats, most found by their young son, Aaron.

Phyllis began a long and successful series of campaigns feeding feral cats around Portland. One location: the bushes in the parking lot of the City Club. For a year and a half, George drove Phyllis (who didn't drive) there every night around midnight. An accomplished artist, George says they supported each other throughout their 62 years together; Phyllis attended all his openings and inspired much of his work.

Phyllis found a new colony of needy cats at PGE Ballpark. She managed to arrange for the spay, neuter, and feeding of dozens of them. Working with the park managers, Phyllis convinced them the cats were a great asset, keeping the rodent population down. Once, she even went on the field to feed a cat during a game!

Phyllis then took her own game to a whole new level, joining forces with local vet, Dr. Ralph Plomondon, who was as passionate about pet overpopulation as she was. They worked together to change the status quo, the massive euthanasia numbers at local shelters at the time. They founded The Responsible Pet Ownership Council and did groundbreaking work, including printing and distributing low-cost spay and neuter coupons.

For about 10 years George says Phyllis gave her phone number to anyone who had pet problems. She spent hundreds of hours on the phone, day and night, counseling folks. She always said, "It is a people problem not a pet problem." George remembers one piece of advice Phyllis gave a person troubled by a barking dog next door. "Bake some cookies," she said, “and go over and talk to your neighbor and tell them their dog is lovely, but barks a bit." George still has dozens of notebooks filled with notes about Phyllis’s many cases.

Long before computers, Phyllis would spend hours on the phone, newspaper in front of her, matching lost and found pets and reuniting many pets and their people.

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Her helping heart and hands went beyond animals. Residing near the Vista Bridge (once known as Suicide Bridge), she would see folks ready to jump, and fly down the block to speak with them. She gave some a bit of cash, telling them to go get cleaned up. They always did.

Lisa Brown Sandmire, a volunteer with FRiends of Shelter Animals, another of Phyllis's projects, says, "The first time I met Phyllis at her home was so eye-opening for me. It was heartening to know there were people like that in the world. She was so plugged into the agencies and really knew how to get things done for animals."

Vida Lohnes, good friend and animal advocate, had a similar take. "In the ‘90s and beyond, I could always turn to Phyllis, look up to her, and consult with her. She had so many great ideas and was constantly testifying at agencies and hearings. One thing she always told me was to help animals, go local. She was practical, no nonsense. She was such a force.”

The list of Phyllis's accomplishments is huge, and we will never truly know all the amazing things she did, for people and animals. Very tight lipped, Phyllis never touted her accomplishments. But those lucky enough to know her knew, and so did she.


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Born in Washington, Connie Theil loves greyhounds, donkeys, cats, parrots, dogs, and crows. Now retired, Connie studies the Weimar Republic, gardens, refurnishes old furniture, rescues cats and dogs, and visits her son in Boston.

Jackson and the Dog Mamas

My Corgi Jackson has always had a passel of surrogate mommies, as I travel from time to time. First there was Raelene, editor of exotic romance novels, who cared for him as a puppy.  Barely three months old on his first sleepover, he was all boundless puppy energy and nuisance — chewing, biting fingers and toes, and peeing on his own schedule (which changed daily).  Raelene adored him, and he had a coveted spot on her bed at night.

Next came Jan, overseer of the Corgi Club rescue arm.  Jan and her husband Ed had Corgis, and Jackson became part of the pack that often included a few rescues. He loved their house — it was always filled with doggie “conversation,” and the treats were plentiful. Plus, Jan had a kiddie pool where Jackson loved cooling off after racing around the yard with the other dogs. He was in heaven!

In time, Sasha took over Jackson’s care when I was out of town. Sasha and her husband Eric’s Corgi, Ben, became Jackson’s best friend. Jackson adored the attention he got whenever he visited. When Ben passed away, Jackson began to stay with Barb.

Like all of Jackson’s caregivers, Barb showered him with love. Her husband Greg made delicious small treats, which he gave generously to their Corgi, Gigi, (and later Lulu), and Jackson. Barb treated Jackson like family — I saw her tender love for him grow as much as my own, especially as he began to age.

Jackson was, by all standards, a very lucky dog to have such wonderful, caring dog mommies in his life.

Then one day the unthinkable happened: Jackson’s dry right eye developed a massive infection and had to be removed. He’d developed arthritis in his right rear leg, sometimes making walking a challenge.  Around that time, I developed arthritis and needed a hip replacement.  Jackson’s depth perception was gone, and I could no longer carry him down and up the steps for his daily walk.  After climbing the nearby hills and hiking miles of Forest Park trails day after day, year after year, our life had come to a standstill. 

Enter the bevy of NW Portland dog mamas — professional dog walkers with hearts of gold and unbridled love for the dogs they walked. When a prospective dog walker gets on her hands and knees with your dog, lets him smell every part of her, and gives him soothing massages as part of the initial meet and greet, you know your dog will be in good hands.

Like all moms who must plan ahead for many exigencies, I knew I needed a primary dog walker as well as backup. In need of a dog walker seven days a week, I asked a neighbor if she could recommend someone. She suggested a woman named Ashley, whom she assured me was incredible with dogs. Jackson was 14 when Ashley started taking him on short morning walks 18 months ago. They still go every morning, walking in snow, pouring rain, and sunshine. 

Thanks to Ashley, Jackson was able to participate in the Corgi Walk in the Pearl this year, and I beamed with pride that my doggy could take part in the event inspired by him nine years ago. Ashley helps with trips to the vet or groomer. She and I have had long talks about the inevitable, and when I panic over some behavior, she calms me. She knows dogs in a way I can only envy.

Our backups are Michelle and Katie.  Michelle occasionally walked Jackson in the past, and is terrific with him. Katie lives next door, and is our dog whisperer. It’s amazing to watch her ability to communicate and interact with Jackson. He is nearly deaf now, but he knows when Katie — now our Sunday dog walker — arrives for his walk. He melts in her arms and hops alongside as they stroll around the block.

I see my dog walkers while driving around NW Portland, busy walking other people’s dogs. These dog mamas have filled an important role for those of us unable to give our dogs the daily exercise they need. Even more, they have extended the family for each dog. Our dogs have a second (and perhaps a third or fourth) mama who loves them.


Lynde Paule is organizer of the annual Corgi Walk in the Pearl, a benefit for OHS and Corgi Rescue. She and Jackson live in NW Portland.

 

For the Love of Callie

Beloved therapy dog lives on through fund she inspired

While people have become increasingly aware of the depth of the human/animal bond, now and then comes a story that surprises.  Like Callie’s — a Golden Retriever whose imprint remains alive and well long after she has passed on.

Callie bonded to humans right away, and was so loving toward them that she earned the role of therapy dog, visiting patients in homes, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes in Albany, Oregon.

Callie’s owner Tracy Calhoun is a hospice nurse at Samaritan Evergreen House, a facility which cares for people nearing the end of their lives. “Callie was a frequent visitor to hospice patients and their families in their places of residence,” she says.  

Sadly, Callie died of cancer in 2011 at age 6½, before the inpatient Hospice House was built. However, her life and work with patients lives on through a foundation she inspired, called “Callie’s Fund.”

“Many of Callie’s favorite families encouraged the establishment of a fund in her memory,” says Calhoun. “It has been used to help hospice patients' pets in various ways — like assisting with veterinary fees, purchasing supplies and food, paying adoption fees to local no-kill shelters for families who could not care for the patient's pet after the death, and assistance with adoption alternatives.”

Callie's Fund also offers financial support for the needs such as boarding costs of other therapy dogs, as well as food and treats for visiting pets, and the care of Syd —an outdoor therapy cat who adopted the hospice staff about 18 months ago. 

Prior to having Callie, Calhoun was involved with therapy dogs for many years, and helped develop a dog therapy program at another hospice facility in Washington State in the mid ’90s. She says there was much resistance to the idea at that time.

Thankfully, times have changed. While the work Callie did was with in-home patients, the hospice now has an inpatient facility with 12 beds, and an outpatient team serving 90 to 100 people in their homes.

When Callie was working, she would sometimes hold bedside vigils for dying patients, though Calhoun says they couldn’t always spend extended time with one person.

Nowadays, JJ — another Golden like Callie — is the primary therapy dog at Hospice House. “She has been with me since birth, and Callie was actually her nanny,” says Calhoun. “JJ works 12-hour shifts with me and has quite the Facebook following.”

Just like Callie, JJ does a lot for dying patients and their families. “She works off-leash here, so she often does rounds on her own,” says Calhoun. “I have had many families and staff tell me she visits rooms more often when someone is dying, and she will nudge a patient's hand if they are making a noise.”

Calhoun has also observed the calming effect JJ has on agitated patients. "When patients are actively dying, JJ often wants to be right on the bed. They settle nicely when she is with them, waiting for medication to take effect. Her ability to be a comfort — silly distraction or quiet calm presence — has been very helpful, and she often gets thank-yous and gifts.”

JJ also assists at regional crisis events and volunteers as a HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response K-9. She went to Oso, Washington twice after last year's landslide, and to the site of the shooting at Seattle Pacific University in June this year.

Calhoun and her co-workers at Hospice House are also actively building a therapy dog team that can visit patients regularly, since nurses there have long stretches off.

“JJ's sister just had puppies, and I will be keeping one of the females who will be JJ's understudy for therapy and hopefully crisis response work,” says Calhoun. “We also have a new young dog, Phoebe, who has been a certified therapy dog since she was 6 months old, and who often makes visits with her owner, our on-call nurse Jody Buktenica. Another dog, Marfa, owned by nurse Anne Arquette, visits patients in their homes." 

Calhoun says that the Samaritan Evergreen Hospice staff treats patients with animals very well. “They have frequently gone out of their way to assist and donate to our patients and families to provide for their pets, as well as re-homing animals whose owners have died,” she says. “Callie's Fund is an extension of the generosity shown by those hospice workers."  

Watch a video tribute to Callie on Vimeo:  https://vimeo.com/58309320 

JJ’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JJHospiceTherapyDog  

To learn more about pet therapy services offered by Samaritan Evergreen Hospice House, call 541-812-4669. 

For more information  about how to support Callie’s Fund, contact the Albany General Hospital Foundation at 541-812-4663


Vanessa Salvia's love for animals began as a child, when stray kittens just seemed to follow her home. She now lives on a sheep farm outside of Eugene, Oregon, with a llama named Linda, a dog, a cat, two horses, a rabbit and a patient husband.

 

On a Mission from Dog

Say what you will about Burning Man — the annual gathering of clothing-optional self-expression in the Nevada desert — the fact is, lives are changed by it. Often for the better.

Such was the case with Mike Minnick, an Austin, Texas-based man who, after attending the festival three years ago, decided to hit the road in a used truck with his adopted Border Collie mix, Bixby. “I decided to treat life as an adventure instead of a chore," he says.

While Mike was determined to see as much of the country as he could, his rig had other ideas — the truck broke down in the small west Texas burg of Terlingua. He couldn't afford repairs, but he was offered a school bus to live in and a bartending job so he could earn the funds to get back on the road.

It was in that dusty little town that Mike met the Coyote Brothers.

No, they weren't some notorious outlaw gang. They were siblings almost 11 months into a two-year cross-country bicycle trek.  Having temporarily set up camp in town, they ventured into the bar where Mike worked.

"When they started talking about their adventures, everybody else just shut up," Mike remembers.

Inspired, Mike researched cargo bikes, eventually buying one able to safely carry both his gear and Bixby. At the time a self-described complacent chain-smoker, he says after his new cycling friends blew through his excuses, he and his best friend set off.

That was 7500 miles and 30 states ago.

While on the road it occurred to Mike that he could use his trek to create awareness about shelter dogs like Bixby. "To me she's the absolute epitome of what a rescue dog can be — loyal as the day is long, super friendly, and just ready for whatever adventure is next."

So now he and his best friend drop by local shelters and animal welfare organizations in every town they visit, working to shine a light on the many homeless pets waiting for their forever families. Their efforts have made a big difference for dogs like Scout, a Border Collie from a shelter in Denton, Texas. Two days after the shelter featured Scout in a post about Mike and Bixby's visit, he had his forever home.

Mike also hopes to inspire kids to think of shelter animals when asking for a pet. With his rubber-chicken-adorned, bright orange bike, he's a natural attraction for young people.  During this interview, three curious boys — Evan, Ethan and Elijah McKinley — wandered over to meet this guy with the ready grin and the belly-rub-loving pooch in the basket.

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Mike, Bixby and the McKinley family

"We're fostering a Great Dane," Evan says.

"Well, fostering until we adopt," laughs Tyler, the boys' father.

After a few days in Portland, where Mike and Bixby visited both the Oregon Humane Society and The Pixie Project, Mike says he's impressed by the city's love of canines — and its friendliness to bicyclists.

"I want to hug this whole town," he says with a smile. "I haven't been honked at once."

That has not been the case everywhere.  In Florida, for example, Mike says drivers were less willing to share the road. "I took the advice of another cyclist down there and invested in an air horn," he says. "It came in very handy."

Mike and Bixby are headed next for Eugene, then down the Oregon and California coasts. They'll eventually wheel in to Petaluma, where they'll visit the headquarters of Yuba — the company that made Mike's cargo bike and that continues to help him out with parts and repairs.

And help is something Mike and Bixby need. They’re on a mission for shelter animals, but have yet to find a sponsor to at least partially finance the trek. Mike is also seeking someone willing to assist with updating his website and social media, so in addition to chronicling the ride, he can provide more exposure to the shelters and rescue animals he and Bixby meet.

Until then, man and dog exist on donations, pay from occasional odd jobs, and the goodwill of those who follow them on Facebook or at wheresbixby.com.

"Dreams are like sticks," Mike says, quoting a mantra he attributes to Bixby. "You just have to chase them."


Michele Coppola is a veteran Portland radio personality, copywriter and freelance writer who shares couch space with her three rescue pooches Lucy, Bailey, and Ginny, as well as Bryon, the stray man she married six years ago.

Fostering Harley

The first time I saw Harley, I was sure he was dead.  The black Cocker Spaniel mix lay motionless on his bed at the shelter.  He couldn’t be sleeping, not at 6 in the morning, potty/walk time!  Normally all the residents are awake, barking and ready to go even before the potty/walk team enters the kennel.  It’s loud.  Sleep is impossible; Harley must have passed away in the night, I thought sadly. 

Taught to approach all shelter dogs with care, I read Harley’s bio and called his name before opening the kennel door.  Nothing — not a twitch, not a quiver.  Calling to him again, I opened the door and stepped in.  Still no response.  I continued calling his name and taking baby steps until I reached his bed.  Nothing. 

With a sinking heart I reached out and gently stroked him.  When he jumped, rearing back to look at me, I was far more startled than he’d been by my touch.  I shrieked and fell against the wall, bringing my partner running.  Was I bitten?  Hurt?  What happened?  Sitting on the floor catching my breath, Harley stayed on his bed, calmly looking around.  So struck by the humor of the situation and how funny we must look, I started to laugh, knowing this would keep me laughing through the day.  Looking at me expectantly, Harley rose, yawned, and stretched.  I gathered myself, leashed him up, and out we went. 

No longer young, Harley seemed fuzzy and slow.  My last potty/walk of the morning, I took time, letting him look around and sniff as much as he wanted while I studied him.  He’d clearly had some training.  He was housebroken and walked nicely on leash, but his training must have ended there.  When I gave him a few basic commands — sit, come, stay, and down — he didn’t respond.  I moved behind him and clapped and called his name loudly.  When he didn’t react, I knew Harley was deaf. 

Back inside, I sat on Harley’s bed with him.  He’d shown no sign of aggression when I startled him earlier, nor had he been hesitant with me at all.  In fact, he’d been friendly, gentle, and sweet-tempered.  I lightly massaged his muscles for a while, giving him treats.  Holding his face in my hands and looking into his soft brown eyes, I saw a loving, dear old soul.  While reluctant to leave, I had to get home to walk my own two boys.  

Two days later I was back at the shelter for my usual daytime shift.  Starting at one end of the kennel, intending to spend a bit of time with each dog, I’d not gotten far when a staff member rushed in.  Pointing at Harley, she said, “Look!  Harley’s at his door barking at you!  I’ve never heard him bark before — I didn’t think he could!”  

Abandoning my routine, I headed for Harley.  The closer I got, the more excited he became.  Eager with anticipation, he looked like a youngster — barking, jumping, spinning, his entire body wagging.  If he was trying to be endearing, it worked.  He had me. 

Because of his age and deafness, it had been decided Harley would do better in a foster home than the kennel.  His quick bonding to me had not gone unnoticed.  Even though I’d never before provided foster care, when asked, I jumped at the chance.  Given immediate one-on-one training, I became a certified foster mom.  Harley would be going home with me. 

I just had one problem.  My husband, Jack, and I had downsized several years earlier to a home just the right size for us and Sam, our 65 lb. German Shepherd/Rotty/Chow mix.  When close friends could no longer keep Sam’s best friend Bozzy, he joined us.  Bozzy was a 100 lb. lap dog, a 10-year-old mix of Australian Shepherd and some very large breed.  Soon, I found, rescued, and brought home a cat, so compatible with everyone, I named him Buddy.  Jack teased that we’d have to add a room to accommodate anyone else.  Turning serious, he said, “Please, no more.”  He was right, and I agreed.  But Harley happened so fast I hadn’t had time to talk to him.  I wasn’t worried, though.  Not really.  Soft-hearted, kind, and patient, Jack loves animals as much as I do.  And this just seemed meant-to-be.  When he got home, I’d greet him with, “Surprise, honey!  It’s a boy!” 

Every time I came home, Sam, Bozzy, and Buddy, in that order, lined up just inside the door to greet me.  When I was home, all Bozzy wanted was to be close to me.  As soon as I opened the door, like he always did, he pushed Sam aside to get to me first. 

When Harley arrived I was the one pushed aside.  Buddy and I watched the canine ritual of circling and sniffing, sizing each other up.  And just like that, there were three, as comfortable as lifelong friends.  From there they moved almost as one, Harley getting the grand tour of the house and yard.  When Jack got home all three were snoozing in the living room. 

Jack wasn’t terribly surprised; he knew Harley had won me over, and could see he’d worked his magic on Sam, Bozzy, and Buddy as well.  By bedtime, Jack had joined us under Harley’s spell. 

That night as l fluffed Harley’s comforter, wondering where to put it, Sam went to his spot, his comforter on the floor on Jack’s side of the bed.  Bozzy’s comforter was on my side, but he didn’t go to it.  Following me to the foot of the bed, he waited until I put Harley’s comforter down.  With a contented sigh he settled in.  Harley went to Bozzy’s longtime spot by me, snuggling against the bed.  Beautiful Bozzy had given his bed to Harley. 

We knew Harley had found his forever home, forever family.  He had adopted us.   

We enjoyed watching the dynamics of our trio.  Sam and Bozzy knew there was something different about Harley, often sniffing his face, ears, and head.  They watched out for him on walks, even guiding at times.  Our small home wasn’t crowded.  It was cozy, and we were content. 

During Harley’s physical exam upon entering the shelter the vet found a small protuberance just below his right jaw she believed to be a foreign object.  I dropped him off the morning of surgery and went about my day.  

Soon I got a call from the shelter, saying it was urgent, get there now.  With Harley under anesthesia, the vet gently opened his mouth to show a tumor so large it covered slightly more than half his throat.  I had two options:  Let him go now or wake him up and take him home for the days he had left.  Days — not weeks or months — days.  I held him until the end. The vet and tech shed tears with me. 

Shock wore off; grief set in.  Jack and I shared our grief, talking about how little time we had with Harley, and how easily he’d fit our family.  That joy tempered our grief.  It was possible Harley’s last two weeks had been two of the best he’d known.  Warm and comfortable, he’d eaten well, and been part of our family. He’d been loved.  Knowing we’d been able to give him the gift of those two weeks gave us peace. 

Harley gave us more.  He changed us.  We learned what a tremendous difference we could make in the life of a shelter dog.  We’ve continued to foster dogs with medical needs, as well as those who wouldn’t thrive well in a kennel environment, until they’ve found their own forever homes. 

Harley honored us with his love.  This is how we honor him. 

Editor’s Note: Blaine submitted this story with a note saying:
"I don’t know how to say that last sentence.  How can I define his impact not only on us, but the friends and family who met him? Harley touched them all."  
Her words did it beautifully. 


Blaine Holland lives with her husband, Jack Shupe, in Troutdale with 1 dog and four cats. She says at MCAS she found what she was meant to do: join the dedicated people working to save animals, and write about it.

People in the Neighborhood: Meet Ann Schatz

Spot’s “People in the Neighborhood” is a personality series presented by Dignified Pet Services, features champions in animal welfare, as well as pet-loving celebs, and public and sports figures. 

Every Monday brings a new personality, dishing behind the scenes about their lives, their work, and their connection with animals.  In addition to fun, fascinating and illuminating tidbits, everyone who participates presents their personal rendition of the “People in the Neighborhood” song. 

To date episodes have starred Amanda Giese of Panda Paws Rescue, Antonio Harvey of Blazers team and broadcaster fame, Casey Newton of Wonder Puppy, Kelly Peterson of Fences for Fido, Kimberly Maus of KPTV12, Mitch Elliott of 105.1 The Buzz, Helen Raptis of KATU, Rojo the Therapy Llama, whose singing is not to be missed, and many others.

Enjoy this episode starring the fabulous Ann Schatz, and visit SpotMagazine.net/People-in-the-Neighborhood every week for the latest episode. 

To see, read (and listen!) to all to date, visit this complete gallery.


Venturing out in the recent freezing temperatures Spot Magazine caught up with veteran sportscaster Ann Schatz in the warm wood-hued living room of her NE Portland home. Twenty-year locals, especially those tuned into sports, know well the gravel-voiced Schatz, who in 1989 became the first female sportscaster in Portland television history when she was hired by KOIN

Schatz came to Portland by way of Omaha, Nebraska where she started her broadcast career as a weekend sports reporter, the first of her kind in that city also.  With a degree in journalism and mass communications, Schatz never set out to become a sportscaster — but sometimes, luck, opportunity and good mentoring choose a path for you.  Schatz’s path has taken her to where today she is still a sportscaster, now known as the voice of the Thorns, and the PAC 12 Network, and also a motivational speaker.  When we talked about her high school and college sports career as both a basketball and softball player I asked if she’d ever considered coaching.  She replied,  “God no.”  Schatz is a coach though — and when not teaching the fundamentals of defense and offense — her speaking skills certainly qualify as life coaching.  I can say this because I’ve heard her speak — and she’s good — very good.  Ann’s message always includes elements of inclusion and influence — influence in how we treat and respect others . . . how to make ourselves and others never feel “less than . . . .” 

When asked what Schatz would like people to know about her — outside the realm of her career she says, “I always want to hear people’s stories . . . I want to know about them.  I always want to listen.” 

Schatz and her partner, Lisa Hunefeld share their home with two black Labs — two pups as different as night and day.  Atticus is an aging senior gentleman who does his job of checking out a visitor and then quietly retires to snooze.  Cash, the younger girl — well, Cash is a whole different story.  Cash deems visitors as playmates who have dropped by solely for her amusement and entertainment.  Cash challenged me to a rousing game of tug o’ war — while Schatz sat by and fell into the familiar role of broadcaster — watching as Cash and I battled for supremacy.  Her first announcement — the rules of the game:  Simply put:  Cash’s house, Cash’s toys, Cash’s rules.  My whining about the rules was meant with a stern, “Tough apples.”  Ann Schatz does not favor whiners.  While I was being pulled off the furniture and onto the floor Schatz talked about the value of having pets, saying they bring humor, energy and connections into our lives and make us better people for it.  They also slobber on your camera lens. 

At this point both Cash and I were getting into trouble with our rambunctious game.  This brought forth the one other rule in the household:  “No dogs on the leather couch”  This was followed by “This time I really mean it . . . I really mean it . . . no dogs on the couch!” 

As I left the dog was on the couch. 

Tough apples, Schatz. 

Now, about that shoe.  See it there, the kinda ratty looking one with no laces?  Well, that shoe means a lot to Schatz.  This is her  “Oh-hell-the-puppy-has-to-pee-how-quickly-can-we-get-outside shoe.  Sometimes the answer is, “Not fast enough . . . uh-oh.”  It’s her well worn, well used, now & then peed upon sloggy puppy piddle shoe.

About our Sponsor

Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years.  In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance, this year Dec. 9th at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare.  Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani  live in Sherwood.


Marty Davis is a Portland writer and event photographer. She live in North Portland where is she closely watched over by Shasta, a bossy Aussie Shepherd.   She is herded on a daily basis.

Something about that blonde . . .

There’s something about a sweet-spirited, flirtatious, good-looking blonde.  And for the one you’re about to meet, these descriptors barely begin to cover his traits and accomplishments.  Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with him . . .  everyone does, and for good reason. 

He is a talented actor, but wholly unaffected by his fame.  In fact he speaks to his fans daily — over 200,000 of them follow him on Facebook.  He’s been featured in magazines, and has starred in music videos, on television and on stage.  He is also famous for his fierce dedication to eradicating cancer in both humans and animals. 

You might call him an over-Retriever, and go right ahead — he is Parker Pup, and his list of fantastic traits also includes easygoing.  Call him what you like, just be sure to call him for dinner! 

The blonde butterball joined the McFarling family six and half years ago, including two-legged parents, mom (Chris), dad (Dan) and daughter Jenn, and four-legged sister Goldens, Daisy (3), and Sophie (13).  

Named for the former OSU stadium where Dan went to school, Parker’s people created a website to celebrate the life and puppy antics of their adorable new boy.  Photos and videos flowed, showing the little tyke discovering toys, cats, children, the great outdoors, mugging for the camera in sweet and funny outfits, rough-housing with his sister, and executing his increasing repertoire of tricks.  Stealing our hearts with each passing month, and eventually year, Parker Pup grew up right before our eyes.   

The family loved the little guy and took him everywhere — work, church, festivals and gatherings.  A quick study, he sailed through puppy preschool and began obedience, agility and other training, passing the Canine Good Citizenship test at just 11 months of age.  Seemingly destined for great things, about Parker’s ultimate success, Jenn says, “It just happened . . . and we just went with it.” 

Incredibly cute photos and videos continued coming, of Parker and his sister Daisy celebrating birthdays and holidays, showing off Parker’s skills and adventures.  Just for fun, he was entered in a contest.  He won, was increasingly featured on dog-related websites, and his image even appeared on the big screen in Times Square.  Soon he was getting professional gigs in print ads, TV commercials and music videos. 

One big break came as a fluke.  A photo of Parker sent to StuffonMyMutt.com was picked up and printed by Vanity Fair alongside a column on — you guessed it — “Cuteness” in the December 2009 issue.  The McFarlings had no idea until they received a call from a friend living in France.  Jenn says she got the call one evening after celebrating her birthday with friends.  “I was ready for bed, in my pajamas, and ended up racing to the store to find a copy.”  

  The smile says it all:  Parker Pup loves his work

The smile says it all:  Parker Pup loves his work

His mellow temperament led Parker to animal assisted therapy work, with Dan as a natural partner. Working for the State of Oregon in the early ‘80s, Dan’s responsibilities included overseeing the rules governing health care facilities.  A firm believer in the power of pet therapy, one of his earliest acts was implementing rules to allow pets in nursing homes.  “Those same standards, which allow resident pets and pet therapy, are in effect today,” he is proud to point out. 

Parker spreads love and hope while visiting schools, libraries and hospitals.  A regular visitor at Doernbecher Children's Hospital and Oregon Health Sciences University, he not only soothes fearful  patients and families affected by cancer, but also alleviates stress of staff members.  When providing animal assisted therapy, or AAT, Parker provides more than a healing touch and warm cuddles.  As a performer with many tricks, he is able to break through fear, generate smiles where there were none, and laughter where it is vital.  While patients and staff thrive in his presence, Parker gets his due as well — he loves his work. 

“It’s easy to tell that Parker enjoys the visits,” says Dan.  “As he approaches one of his regular haunts, his enthusiasm is clear.  His ears perk up, his tail wags enthusiastically, and his pace quickens.  His posture tells me he is one happy fella approaching his therapy work!”  (Click here for more on Dan's experiences with Parker's therapy work).

In his work to eradicate cancer and heighten awareness, Parker participates in cancer walks on the West Coast as an advocate for the Morris Animal Foundation (MAF), a four-star charity dedicated to funding studies to advance veterinary medicine.  In existence for more than 60 years, the foundation is currently leading a global campaign to cure canine cancer in 10-20 years, while providing more effective treatments in the meantime.  Parker fundraises throughout the year for MAF, as well as the American Cancer Society, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  He raised over $10,000 last year for organizations working to find a cure. 

Parker’s connection to cancer started before he was born.  In 2006, Dan was diagnosed with an aggressive strain.  He is now cancer-free, but when faced with something like that, “You do a lot of bargaining,” Jenn says.  “I promised I would someday give back and do whatever I could to help.”   

Last year, cancer struck the family again, taking the McFarling’s beloved Daisy at just 9 years old, fueling Parker to gather over 2,100 names for a vest he wore at a cancer walk in the fall, bearing names of people and animals who were fighting or had lost their battle with the deadly disease. 

  Parker and Betty White were fast friends

Parker and Betty White were fast friends

Parker’s love and therapy also shows up in many unexpected places.  In October, the MAF celebrated its 65th anniversary with a Gala of Hope that included honoring longtime supporter and advocate Betty White.  Parker Pup was on the guest list.  Jenn says, “It was quite an honor as he was the only invited dog.” Laughing, she adds, “He actually received a real invitation!” 

Jenn says meeting Betty White was pretty great, saying it’s easy to tell she has a huge heart for dogs.  “When Parker walked into the room, the whole world stopped for Betty.  She stopped mid-conversation and got the biggest smile on her face.” 

Recently, Parker played Sandy in a production of Annie in Forest Grove.  His role of endearing mutt expanded as he provided comfort to the cast, crew and parents of two little girls killed in a hit and run.  One had been cast as an orphan in the show.    

Another recent happening:  Parker has been nominated in the Therapy Dog category of the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards.  It’s perfectly fitting — a hero in his family’s eyes and in the lives he touches — the awards celebrate the powerful relationship between people and dogs, recognizing exceptional canines doing extraordinary things.  Online voting narrows the field to three semi-finalists in eight categories, who are judged by a celebrity panel.  A unique black-tie affair televised on the Hallmark Channel celebrates the heroes on both ends of the leash.  (Go Parker!) 

So, what does this remarkable, busy boy do in his off-time?  “He is totally obsessed with balls,” says Jenn.  “If no one will throw one for him, he’ll make up his own games and entertain himself for hours batting at a ball or sleeping with one in his mouth.” 

These days, new 6-month-old little brother Reser (named for OSU stadium’s name today) also keeps him occupied.  

Hoping Reser might follow in his big brother’s paw-steps, Reser’s first step was enrolling in MAF’s Canine Lifetime Health Study.  One in two dogs of all breeds will get cancer; and one in four will die from it.  For Golden Retrievers, the risk is higher, with 60% dying from the disease.  MAF’s groundbreaking study is following 3,000 Goldens over their lifetimes to gain insights into preventing cancer, helping determine risk factors for canine diseases, and improving the health of future generations. 

Other than that, the family says with Reser they’re flying by the seat of their pants.  “He’s his own dog and pretty spunky, whereas Parker was mellow,”  Jenn says.  “He’ll have a job, we’re just not sure what that is yet.” 

If Parker is any inspiration, then wonderful things will happen. 

For more Parker Pup, go to ParkerPup.com and follow him at Facebook.com/ParkerPup

To read more about the Morris Animal Foundation, visit MorrisAnimalFoundation.org.  


Vonnie Harris is a freelance writer, and operator of Pet Stop Pit Stop pet sitting services in SW Washington.  She resides in Vancouver with Jessie (a yellow Lab), Pedro & Lorali (parrots), three chickens, and memories of Jake, her heart dog who recently passed on. Vonnie is “the face of Spot” at many Portland-area pet-related events, and the voice of Spot in social media outlets.

Chatting with Rubi Sullivan

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Rubi Sullivan is one of Portland’s most beloved animal pros and SIX-time Top Dog Award winner for Holistic Wellness Practitioner.  Come behind the scenes with Spot and get to know Rubi better . . . 

Spot: Did you ever dream growing up that you’d end up where you are professionally?

Rubi: No — I didn’t even know it was an option!

Spot: How did you get here?

Rubi: Growing up as an only child, being around animals all the time . . . seeing them go through the life cycle. We had many pets, and I always cared for them. I knew I had a drive to be around animals and pets. I went to college to be a teacher, thinking teaching was great and it would be fun; but while I love kids . . . it wasn’t the right fit at this point in my life. Then I discovered there were schools to learn animal massage, I went for it, and after school I knew I was doing the right thing. I feel so fortunate to do this every day.

Spot: What’s your favorite part of the job?

Rubi: When I get a dog that’s either tricky or new . . . to really have it understand why I’m there and enjoy its session.

Spot: What would “tricky” be?

Rubi: Oh, a pet that’s uncomfortable or nervous in the beginning . . . fearful or wiggly.

Spot: What’s your biggest challenge?

Rubi: [Laughing] . . . scheduling!

Spot: What are a few of the top benefits of massage?

Rubi: Better mobility. I’ve had owners tell me massage lengthens their pets’ lives.  Also, it warms my heart to see an uncomfortable dog enjoy his or herself and sink into the massage — a person getting to see their dog relax.

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Spot: What’s your dream for the future of animal massage?

Rubi: It would be amazing to have more massage therapists to provide dogs and cats these benefits. I see so many happy animals benefiting . . . so — more!

Spot: Where do you see the field of animal massage headed?

Rubi: There is a better understanding thanks to education available to pet owners. I see it trending up — with pet owners and therapists.

Spot: Do you get regular massages?

Rubi: I do! They help so much with my own muscle tension, stress relief and overall rejuvenation. They make a world of difference!