SPLASH! Dock Diving

by Christy Doherty

As one of the fastest-growing canine sports in the world, dock diving is making a big splash with dogs and humans alike. Enthusiasts in the Northwest are fortunate that Hillsboro is home to an indoor dock diving facility.

The facility makes year-round practice and competition both possible and fun. “The dream of opening a combination rehab and indoor dock diving facility became real almost four years ago,” explains Diane Kunkle, certified Canine Rehab Practitioner, who co-owns Paws Aquatics Water Sports and Rehab with Julie Thomas.

In dock-diving events, dogs run the length of a dock and leap as far as possible into the water, competing for distance, height, or -- in timed events -- for speed. Human competitors throw a prized toy just out of reach, motivating dogs to keep their momentum and launch into the pool at the best-possible angle.

The sport offers variations on the diving theme. For example, an in-the-air retrieve event, the coveted dog toy is suspended four feet above the water to start, moving higher as dogs complete each level.

With its growing popularity, the sport is drawing a wider variety of breeds. “About 10 years ago, it was pretty much all Labs, but then the other breeds started to try it. Right now Whippets kind of rule the sport,” Kunkle explained.

When Spot Magazine attended a February dock diving event, a Whippet named Sounders jumped so far he touched the back of the pool -- a little over 33.5 feet. The impressive dive matched his world-record jump in December’s National competition.

It’s an equal-opportunity sport. Whether low-slung lap dog or tall Russian Wolfhound, in this game, size really doesn’t matter, and the mix of breeds is endless. The sport’s organizing body, North America Diving Dogs (NADD), divides dogs into two size divisions -- those 16 inches or taller at the withers, and those shorter. There are also divisions like novice, junior, senior, master and elite within each height category.

Splash BTR photo credit Amaya Frutkoff.png

Getting their Paws Wet

Dogs benefit from the equalizing effect of water, making the sport accessible to all sizes and ages. “All they need is a strong toy drive and a love for swimming,” Kunkle enthused. “We have two labs who still compete at age 14.”

Kunkle says new dogs get a slow introduction to the sport. “We start them off the side deck, only 8 inches off the water, before moving them to the dock,” she explained.

Jenn Zimmerly-Offinga of Hillsboro competes with Motive, a Boston Terrier whose food drive outpaces her interest in toys. The pair manage a compromise. “For Motive, it’s all about food,” Zimmerly-Offinga laughs. “She doesn’t work for free. Food IS her reward, and there’s no food allowed on the dock. We have to go flying right back to the crate, because she needs a paycheck. Some dogs are volunteers; some need a paycheck. Motive needs an edible paycheck.”

Her first diving dog, Hoodlum, was the 2015 NADD Senior Lapdog National Champion, inspiring many Boston Terriers and other “littles” to follow his example. Hoodlum’s success drew Zimmerly-Offinga’s friend from Canada, Mary Young, into dock diving. She has elite jumpers and announces at events.

Young’s dog, Swindle -- a female Belgian Malinois -- is an elite jumper who jumps far and high.  Swindle is “the best counter surfer around, and likes to sleep under the blankets at night curled in between her humans. She loves everything she does and gives 100% every time,” Young says.

Motive and Swindle went to Nationals last year, where almost 800 dogs competed. “I think there were about 20 dogs from the Pacific Northwest,” Zimmerly-Offinga enthused. The Pacific Northwest offers other diving event locales, including a mobile dock, but the indoor venue is a favorite of some dogs who -- like Motive – hate cold water.  “We call her Sensitive Sally because she doesn’t like to jump into cold water. She likes to jump at PAWS, because the water is warm.”

Zimmerly-Offinga is also training Frantic, a puppy Young gifted her. “Frantic is a Boston Terrier/Whippet/Staffy mix, all legs. He’s very cute, After I lost Hoodlum to GI lymphoma, I said I didn’t need another dog. At diving events, Mary kept saying I did, since Motive doesn’t like cold water. She ended up making a four-hour drive for a puppy I said I didn’t want, and she brought Frantic back.”

That’s what friends are for.

Diving All In

Competing with Quiver, the AKC National Champion Doberman, Teresa Ross of Vancouver, WA was amazed how quickly her dogs mastered diving. “We just started. Neither dog was swimming this summer; they were babies,” Ross explained. “and in August, Avatar was in her first competition.”

Dee Morasco of Amboy, WA was at the competition with her veteran Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Rex, who has been to Nationals in Florida three times. Morasco also brought along a puppy who was adjusting to the excitement. “I’ve been doing dock diving since 2003,” Morasco explained. “It’s a good family sport. Kids as young as 7 can be up there, because two people can be on the dock.”

It’s hard to just get a little bit into the sport. Mary Young confesses, “Oh yes I’m the addicted one. I have three dogs that compete: Swindle and Scandal, my two Belgian Malinois; and Quiz, an Australian Cattle Dog. They are all amazing!”

Immersed in dog sports for over 25 years, including flyball, agility, barn hunt, lure coursing, nose work, urban mushing, obedience, Superdogs and dock diving, Young finds “dock diving seems to be a much more family-friendly event and while people are competitive and want their dogs to do the best they can, the joy of watching all the different dogs and people on the dock is what it’s really all about.”  

Young still competes in agility and flyball, and teaches flyball classes at home in British Columbia, “But the dock diving community is powerful and much more welcoming for all newcomers of all the different size dogs/breeds/mixes – it just doesn’t matter.” 

A tiny jumper’s personal best may be nine feet where the big jumpers sail out 32 feet or farther, but “the human-dog team is what keeps people coming back,” Young asserts. “I live in BC Canada and drive to Oregon for all their events. What I love most about diving is the camaraderie amongst competitors encouraging and helping with each other. We are competitors, but most are friends first,” she said with a smile.

Maybe the sport is wildly popular because, at its heart, it’s all about fun – for people and dogs. “The dogs smile,” Zimmerly-Offinga laughed, “They really do. It’s such fun to see them with smiles on their faces when they’re jumping off the dock!”


Interested in seeing if your pup has a future in the sport? Kunkle offers introductions and assessments at PAWS. A first-time assessment is $65. “After that, dock diving lessons are $45. And on Saturdays from 2-5 there is open dock diving practice, at $25 per dog, no appointment required.” 503-640-4007 www.pawsrehab.net

Diving events require registering with NADD – North American Diving Dogs - $35 for the life of the dog. Each competition has entry fees.

For information on registering your dog with NADD and finding an event, go to NorthAmericaDivingDogs.com.

Photo credit:  Amaya Frutkoff

Photo credit: Amaya Frutkoff

Photo credit: Landon Treanor

Photo credit: Landon Treanor

Roo Yori: The K9 Ninja Warrior

As a young student athlete, Andrew “Roo” Yori had Ninja-level skills both on and off the sports field. Soccer was his favorite high school sport, although he competed in others too. As a college athlete he held the long-jump record at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and still graduated as the outstanding male senior with a degree in Biology. Whatever he takes on, he puts his full self into the effort.

Today, 41-year-old Roo Yori holds an impressively brainy job in the genome sequencing laboratory at Minnesota’s famous Mayo Clinic. But, true to form, he’s matching brains with brawn as a multi-season competitor on TV’s American Ninja Warrior.

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To the uninitiated, the show looks like an otherworldly display of super-human strength and agility. To devotees of high-intensity workout programs like CrossFit – another of Yori’s passions – the show’s competitions are a natural extension of the barrier-busting workouts that have desk jockeys and dedicated athletes jumping, climbing, crawling, and balancing like caped superheroes.

Training for the competition would keep any superhuman fully occupied with workout schedules, travel, and qualifying heats. But Yori is making the most of the exposure, using the spotlight to promote his passion for rescue dogs. He uses each televised competition as a fundraiser, urging fans to pledge a donation for each punishing obstacle he completes.

Photo credit: Josh Feeney

Photo credit: Josh Feeney

Remarkable Rescues

In his 2017 rookie season on American Ninja Warrior, Roo and his cheering section sported matching “Adopt A Dog” t-shirts, as his rescued dog Angus watched from the crowd. The now-departed Angus – a stately black Labrador mix with a graying muzzle and dignified air – served as the representative for the pack of beloved rescue dogs who have called the Yori household home.

It started when he and his wife, Clara, went to adopt a dog from the shelter where she worked. Roo instantly fell for the stately Angus, but his wife, Clara, had her heart set on a dog named Ajax. “We weren’t going to change each other’s minds, so we adopted both,” he remembers. The couple even timed the two dogs’ arrivals in the home to create a harmonious transition. “Ajax was doing well at the shelter, and it was a nice shelter, so he stayed there for about 10 days. Angus came home and got used to the house, and then Ajax came.”

Ajax and Angus soon became best friends, but Roo and Clara have made room in their home and family for other rescues who don’t get along with their dog siblings. With dedication and an abundance of dog smarts, they manage to keep a peaceful and active household no matter what canine characters currently live there.

His most famous rescue is the inspiration behind Yori’s Wallace the Pit Bull Foundation, which has raised more than $100,000 to promote rescue and adoption while tackling breed-related stigma. Wallace was a white and brown Pit Bull who had been slated for euthanasia. Soon after the Yoris adopted him, the muscular and driven dog demonstrated an over-the-top love for catching Frisbees. Under the training and guidance of his athlete dad, Wallace ultimately won the 2006 Cynosport World Games and the 2007 Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge National Championship for flying disc. He also inspired author Jim Gorant to pen a best-selling book, “Wallace – the Underdog who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls – one Flying Disc at a Time.”

The champion dog eventually succumbed to an aggressive cancer, but his image and story still grace the logo of the foundation he inspired and the line of merchandise that raises money for the cause, including “pawtographed” copies of his best-selling book.

It’s a responsibility. He’s my responsibility,” says Yori. “I need to make sure I’m managing him and his situations...

Smarts and Heart

The famous overachieving Wallace never fully overcame some of his pre-rescue quirks. “People assumed he did well with my dogs at home,” Yori remembers. “He didn’t. We had to rotate and manage at home. But he had a great life. I’d take him out on a long line and work with him and the Frisbee. When he was playing, he was focused. Working with him in the evening, in a big field where you can turn on the flood lights, those are some of my best memories.”

The hard-to-place dog thrived in his adoptive home because his training and competition provided structure, outlet, and Wallace-centered quality time.

“It’s a responsibility. He’s my responsibility,” says Yori. “I need to make sure I’m managing him and his situations, so he doesn’t get into something he isn’t ready to handle. It was a lot of management. I hate to say I was a little relieved when he retired, but I got to relax a little more.”

One of Wallace’s canine siblings, Hector, also enjoyed fame and raised money to help other dogs. Hector was one of 51 Pit Bulls rescued from the Michael Vick dog fighting case. The baby-faced brown Pittie overcame his traumatic history to pass the Canine Good Citizen test – TWICE – and become a Certified Therapy Dog. Visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and schools, Hector spent the rest of his life busting stereotypes and winning hearts.

As age and illness closed in on Hector, Yori hung a victorious sign around the dog, who stood gray-faced and peaceful on a picnic table, after seven years of happy life that seemed to have erased his memory of the two he’d spent in the violent world of dog fighting. The sign reads, “Vick, 2. Hector, 7. I win.”

Training for Success

The Yori dogs have since included a rescued Pitties, a three-legged Corgi, and an ever-growing cast of canines with sad histories and sweet dispositions. Nobody in the pack is training for competition like their predecessor Wallace, but Yori continues to find time to nurture each dog’s interests and abilities.

“It’s that quality time,” Yori says. More than accommodation for their disabilities or management for their temperament issues, the dogs need happy, structured play with their favorite humans.

Whether training for competition or just for fun, Yori looks for the games and activities that light up each dog’s disposition. He tries to give his highly driven dogs a playful challenge that approaches the edge of their abilities. Dogs with more physical limitations get less demanding workout sessions, focusing more on mental stimulation and quality bonding time.

“We do whatever the dog enjoys, as long as we remain safe.” The balanced approach keeps dogs injury-free, even while leaning hard into weight-pulling courses or impressive Frisbee acrobatics.

Without canine competitions on their calendar, the Yori dogs’ training time now focuses more on dog/human bonding. Still, they reap all the benefits of more intense training. “They learn self-control, and a tired dog is a good dog. It gives them an outlet and it gives you that time together. That’s exactly it. Those are some of the best memories, the best times.”

One of Roo’s current dogs is a round-faced brown Pittie who slightly resembles his predecessor, Hector. And, like Hector, Johnny is a dog-fighting survivor, with tattered and scarred ears that tell of his abusive past.

On a YouTube video created in his backyard, Yori recreates the American Ninja Warrior obstacle courses with a homemade dog agility course. In the video, a grinning and focused Johnny hops among wooden platforms, scurries under a cargo net, and scales a ramp. In an awesome display of drive and strength, Johnny climbs a platform to grab a knotted robe in his teeth, which he keeps clasped in his muscular jaws while the rope rolls down a trolley line. At the end of the course, Johnny stands victorious on top of the final obstacle and repeatedly pats a big red button with his paw, much like his human’s victorious finishes on the competitive TV show.

The agility video mimics a Ninja episode, down to the gravel-voiced play-by-play that Yori dubbed onto the video. “Aaand he does it! Just like that, Johnny hits the buzzer! To think back to where Johnny came from just a few years ago, found chained in a basement with nine other dogs, rescued, adopted, and now hitting his first buzzer on Canine Ninja Warrior!”

The muscular dog’s tail wags as he pats the red buzzer a few more times. The gravelly narration sums up the story of a Yori canine athlete. “Congratulations, Johnny. You earned it!”


https://www.youtube.com/user/rooyori

https://www.rooyori.com/


Michelle Blake, Managing Editor

Ask An Animal Lawyer: How can I get active for animals and become an advocate in my own city?

Ask an Animal Lawyer

By Elizabeth Holtz, Animal Legal Defense Fund

I’m thrilled to answer your question, thank you for asking. While most of us deeply love our companion animals, millions of animals still suffer in the United States. From puppy mills to factory farms to egregious acts of cruelty against animals that go unpunished, we have so much work to do.  

A good first step is to connect with local groups in your area that are already working on animal issues. It’s as easy as going to Facebook and searching for “animal” plus your state. You’ll likely find either a state chapter of a national organization or local groups working on a wide variety of issues. Sign up to join their email lists, and you’ll be alerted when legislators are considering animal protection bills. You can also join the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s action alert list at aldf.org/signup.

When asked, take action! Send an email, or even better, call your city, state, and federal legislators and urge them to protect animals by supporting positive (or opposing negative) bills. Other ways you can get involved are by attending protests (outside of a pet store that sells puppies or a roadside zoo, for example), volunteering at animal shelter, or fostering.

Want to take your advocacy to the next step? Work with your city or county legislator to enact an ordinance to protect animals – many animal control issues are handled at the local level. While lobbying at the state and federal level is important, it can be daunting for a single person. That’s often not the case in your hometown! I’ve met many people who single-handedly worked with their city council or county commission to pass an ordinance (the term for local laws).  Legislators at this level are usually much easier to contact. Especially in smaller to medium sized cities, you can simply pick up the phone or send an email and schedule a meeting for as early as next week. All you need is determination and background knowledge of the issue.

This column is too short to discuss all the laws that you might champion, but retail pet sale bans and protections for animals in cold weather are a few ideas to get you started.  Retail pet sale bans prohibit pet stores from selling puppies, kittens, and sometimes other animals, that come from breeders. Virtually all puppies sold at pet stores come from puppy mills, large-scale breeding operations where profit is more important than the animals. A retail pet sale ban requires pet stores to only offer dogs and cats from rescue groups or animal shelters – animals in desperate need of homes. Retail pet sale bans have taken off in the last decade with hundreds of cities and counties enacting them. As a result, California and Maryland recently became the first two states to pass similar laws at the state level. This is a great example of how change starts locally. These state laws likely wouldn’t be possible if smaller communities hadn’t taken the first step.

Protecting animals in cold weather isn’t a matter of comfort, it can be life and death. Dogs and other companion animals aren’t equipped to survive in low temperatures. They can quickly get frostbite and even freeze to death. Ordinances that require people to bring companion animals indoors when the temperature drops below a certain level (or in weather emergencies) are critical. Every year we receive reports of dogs freezing to death. In some cases, neighbors had complained or reported that a dog was left outdoors in extreme temperatures, but animal control was either powerless to act (or declined to). Clear ordinances – animals must be brought in if it drops below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, for example – are easier to enforce and thus more effective.

I hope these ideas help you get started in your mission to get active for animals. There are so many other areas you can get involved in at the local level – anti-tethering ordinances, bans on circuses with wild animals, ordinances protecting pit bull terriers – these two suggestions are just a start. Good luck!

As Campaigns Manager for Animal Legal Defense Fund, Elizabeth Holtz is grateful that her work allows her to educate people and empower them to speak out on behalf of animals. She earned her undergraduate degree at Pomona College in 2007 and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2011. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband Teddy, two rescue Chihuahuas (Alvin and the Colonel), and four rescue cats: Ripley, Prometheus, Jabba the Catt, and Pinguino.

As Campaigns Manager for Animal Legal Defense Fund, Elizabeth Holtz is grateful that her work allows her to educate people and empower them to speak out on behalf of animals. She earned her undergraduate degree at Pomona College in 2007 and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2011. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband Teddy, two rescue Chihuahuas (Alvin and the Colonel), and four rescue cats: Ripley, Prometheus, Jabba the Catt, and Pinguino.

Adorable Dog's Naughty Moment Goes Viral

Penn is a Wisconsin dog who likes to chew. His mom was a bit embarrassed when he turned his teeth loose on the plastic case for the movie she rented. But she later told friends on Facebook she was relieved she’d already taken the movie out of the box, so Penn only chewed on an empty case. So what the heck? The movie was fine, so Penn’s mom did this:

Penn’s apology.

Penn’s apology.

Somebody at Redbox has a big heart for canine shenanigans and fired off a Facebook post with the hashtag "#HelpFindPenn

The Facebook universe fell in love.

The Facebook universe fell in love.

The Facebook world jumped to Penn’s defense, posting comments like, “Don’t put Penn in the pen!” and warning the dog to not ID himself. And then this viral game got even cuter, when Redbox promised to be nice to Penn.

A few chew toys as a good investment

A few chew toys as a good investment

Pretty soon, Penn’s mom commented on the thread. She goes by Lexi Marie on Facebook, and it looks like Redbox is making good on the friendship promise. Lexi Marie posted a screenshot of her conversation with a Redbox rep.

Who’s a good boy?

Who’s a good boy?

Well played, Redbox.

Lucky dog, Penn.

We hope we get to see pictures of Penn’s gift when it arrives. We saw mention of pizza and chew toys. It’s hard to say which he’d like more.

The Ministry of Sticky the Kitty

Last fall, Chuck and Mikee Hawley were nursing their beloved dog, Jojo, through his final weeks of life. Between his age and illness, they knew the gentle black dog wouldn’t be with them much longer. They were making the most of their time with Jojo, while also thinking about the empty space his death would leave in their home and family.

They had thought about adopting a cat. “Sometimes I’d joke with my granddaughter that we were just going to go out and find a cat,” Chuck Hawley says. “But really, we knew that cats find people. If we waited, a cat would find us.”

But he never could have anticipated the way his next cat would find him. One October morning, Hawley was making his way through rainy commuter traffic on his way from his home in Silverton to his job at the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Salem. On the road in front of him, a tiny helpless kitten huddled dangerously close to passing cars. Hawley’s first thought was, why isn’t the kitten moving?

He pulled over to help, and he made a chilling discovery. The kitten was covered in sticky, industrial-type glue. His tail was stuck painfully to his side. His feet were stuck to the pavement. The kitten’s front paws lifted easily from the road. But his hind legs stretched from the strain as his back paws refused to release. “I decided to pick at the edge of the glue,” he remembers, “and that’s how I got him loose. The glue came up from the pavement. We took the glue with us.”

“I’m a surfer. I used to run through crazy what-if scenarios in my head,” Hawley recalls. “I’d think, What if a whale surfaced right below my surfboard and lifted me up? What if that group of mongooses attacked me? I have an imagination. But I never thought, what if I found a kitten glued to the road?”

Hawley, who only had about 100 Facebook friends, posted there about his unusual discovery. Then he called his wife, Mikee, and said he was on his way to the vet’s to have the kitten cared for. Mikee posted on their neighborhood website that Chuck had found a stray kitten glued to the street, and the media caught wind of the story. By the time Chuck and the kitten arrived at the veterinary clinic, TV news reporters were on the phone asking for interviews.

The story of the sticky kitten made international news and swelled Hawley’s Facebook following to 1,700. He received messages from people around the world who said Sticky’s story inspired them to reconnect to lost relatives or offer help to strangers in need.

“I don’t think I did anything different,” Hawley says, remembering how the flood of attention caught him off guard. “All I can think is that the cars in front of me didn’t see him, or they thought he was already dead. Who wouldn’t stop and help? Anyone can do something nice. It’s changed me. It changed my whole outlook on everything.”

It’s changed his family’s life as well. Mikee started a dedicated Facebook page for Sticky. The kitten now has 37,000 followers. Then the couple wondered how they could each help keep the kindness flowing.

Chuck had always wanted to write a children’s book. “I wanted to talk to kids about bullying. That came from a really rough 5th grade year I had. I always wanted to go talk to kids about things like that. But,” he laughs, “it turns out they won’t just let any guy roll into the school and talk to your kids about stuff.” He realized that Sticky and his story could help spread the message of kindness in a uniquely kid-friendly way. Hawley – a facilities maintenance coordinator at the Kroc Center – penned an inspiring children’s book in under two months. An artist friend illustrated it.

Mikee realized she could use her background in nonprofit management and accounting. “A friend had started a fundraiser to help pay for Jojo’s treatment,” she recalls. When they finally said goodbye to their beloved black dog in November, the donations were still coming in because of the excitement over Sticky.

Thanks to the helpless kitten and his unlikely rescue, Chuck Hawley is now a published author and motivational speaker. Mikee Hawley commutes to her accounting job in Portland every day and returns to Silverton in the evening to fill orders for Sticky t-shirts and hats and – appropriately enough – sticky notes. Every penny goes into a nonprofit fund. “It really started off just promoting random acts of kindness. Then I wanted to help low-income families pay for spay and neuter surgeries for their pets,” she says. They’ve sent pet food and kitten formula to individuals and rescue organizations. “As long as it’s doing good, we’ll just keep doing that.”

It’s now a ministry of sorts, carried out by unlikely ministers. “My boss is a pastor. He calls me a spiritual mutt,” Chuck jokes. The couple who practice no formal religion saw an opportunity to spread the universal message of all religions. “We really want to spread kindness. That’s our religion. Just be nice. Just take care of each other,” Mikee adds.

Sticky seems unaffected by his frequent public appearances and the charitable foundation that bears his name. He naps with the family’s newly adopted black dog, and in the evening he pounces on the boxes and packing materials while his parents prepare shipments of Sticky merchandise.

They planned none of it, but they want to keep it going as long as possible. “Like my grandma used to say,” Chuck adds, “’I guess you’re buying your angel wings.’”

Sticky+looking+up+with+his+book.jpg

Rescued feline goes viral for “deep thoughts”

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Colorado native Hayley Cassatt had a beloved childhood cat, names Six ,an orange Tabby. “He was just the best cat in the whole world,” she remembers .

After moving to Portland as an adult, Cassatt was ready to adopt a pet. She went to Cat Adoption Team in Sherwood with a specific wish: a male orange Tabby with a mellow, affectionate, charm-your-whiskers-off personality.

Instead, she met a young orange female Tabby who had been rescued from the streets with her litter of kittens. While of similar coloring, this cat didn’t have the plucky personality of her predecessor, Six. “She was a little weird,” Hayley remembers. “She’s just very shy and timid. Her kittens had all been adopted. I think she was at CAT for a while. I fell for her as somewhat of an underdog.”

Cassatt called her dad, a professional cartoonist who called himself the family’s Cat Butler. The pair shared a love of art and cats. She told her dad the cat wasn’t anything like their beloved Six, but that her heart was hooked anyway. His fatherly advice: adopt the weird cat and bring her home. 

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Becoming Andy

Unlike her predecessor, this cat isn’t much of a lap-warmer. She is affectionate with Cassatt, but no one else. “My best friends who live above me have a wiener dog. We’re convinced the dog is in love with her, but she’s stand-offish,” Cassatt laughs.

Still, the timid, stand-offish feline worked her way indelibly into Cassatt’s heart and home. “It’s not my home anymore,” she laughs, “it’s hers.”

Pondering names, Cassatt thought of the Spielberg movie The Goonies, filmed in Oregon. One lead character is a redhead named Andy. “It’s a favorite movie and one of the reasons I moved to the Pacific Northwest,” Cassatt explains. “And my grandma’s nickname growing up was Andy.”  

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She can’t remember now whether her dad met Andy, “but I sent lots of pictures and he loved her,” she recalls. Cancer claimed him, the person who had inspired her career and love of cats.

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Shortly after the painful loss of her father, Cassatt and Andy moved to a new home in SE Portland. Andy found a sunny window overlooking the street to be a perfect perch. “There’s a lot of foot traffic outside my house,” Cassatt says. Passersby would notice the fat, happy orange cat in the window, and the often-aloof Andy seemed to bask in the attention. Cassatt was inspired. “I thought I’d put up thought bubbles, sort of as an homage to my father.” 

A Different Kind of Affection

“I started with some Garfield quotes. I think the first one I ever did was ‘I Hate Mondays.’ And I did silly things like ‘Lasagna.’”

Drawing on large sheets, Cassatt cuts and tapes the images in Andy’s window, then photographs and posts them on Instagram.

“Travel Oregon saw her there and reposted it and it went a little viral,” Cassatt recalls. “It’s kind of funny because she has more followers than I do. I think the fame has sort of gone to her head a little. She’s a diva. She does glamour shots with her legs to the side. It’s cute.”

Cassatt doesn’t publicize her address, but there’s heavy foot traffic outside Andy’s window, and fans are delighted when they spot the famous Instagram cat, sharing her deep thoughts, and basking in the glow of her fame. 

The Glamorous Life

Now eight years old, Andy is a social media sensation and a beloved neighborhood fixture. People passing by light up when they spot the famous orange cat and her thought bubbles. “People will tell me, ‘Oh! That’s Deep Thoughts by Andy! I follow her on Instagram.”

“I really love that it makes people happy. That’s kind of the best thing about it,” says Cassatt. “She’s sort of up on a throne and she works it. I think she likes the sun, so when it’s warm she’s always there. Otherwise she’s on the floor in weird poses. She likes to sleep on her back. She’s just a weirdo.”

Follow Andy on Instagram @DeepThoughtsByAndy


Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.

When helping one serves many —patients, pets and hospital staff

Shannon Priem with FETCH dog Miss Poppy

Shannon Priem with FETCH dog Miss Poppy

Marketing/PR professional Shannon Priem of Salem says her first word as a child wasn’t “mommy” or “daddy,” but “kitty.”

Priem works part-time in marketing for Salem Health, and been a board member of the Willamette Humane Society for 10 years.  While both roles gave her plenty to do, five years ago the lifelong animal lover was inspired to do more.

“Our pet policy had gotten relaxed over the years” says Priem, “so patients brought all kinds of pets to their hospital rooms — including, on one occasion, a duck in a diaper.” This eventually took its toll on staff. “Nurses were changing litterboxes,” she says. That changed in 2013, when a new policy prohibited pets on the hospital campus “except service or therapy animals.”

The impact of the new policy on patients coming into the ER was quickly apparent to both Priem and security staff; patients frequently brought dogs with them to the ER, or panicked when they realized pets were left at home. “It didn’t take long to realize they might go AWOL (leave the hospital against medical advice) because they were more worried about their pet than their own health.”

Many patients in this type of scenario are older with little or no family or support, homeless, or otherwise struggling with slim resources, if any.

“Usually in cases like these,” Priem says, “good samaritans working at the hospital would say, ‘Okay, I’ll take care of the pet.’” The problem was, caring for animals took time and energy that staff needed to focus on patient care.

Bothered by the dilemma, Priem approached administration with an idea: “What if I could be your ace in the hole — your secret service on call, day or night to help?” Given the go-ahead, she brainstormed with security staff and soon began FETCH, Fido’s Emergency Team for Caring Hospitals.

“I look at it as, ‘if it’s got a heartbeat, we’ll care for them.’ They’re human. If that means caring for their dog or cat, then that’s what we’ll do,” says Priem. A gift from the Salem Health Foundation enabled FETCH to partner with the Willamette Humane Society for emergency boarding, helping even more animals.

Today, FETCH has a handful of stalwart volunteers — including some hospital staff — who will come day or night to take a pet, and five on call. Those who help or have helped range in age from teens to over 70.

FETCH is always “on call” for hospital care managers or social workers who typically help patients with limited resources with things like finding a skilled nursing facility, transportation home, etc. The group also works with hospital security staff.

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The need arises frequently — nowadays averaging two calls per week. Priem has many stories about the cases she’s handled — FETCH has cared for more than 110 animals since 2013, helping keep families together. “I’m not one to brag, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my FETCH team saved a couple of lives here and there,” she says.

She tells of one patient who arrived at the ER needing but refusing life-saving care when staff moved to take her dog.  She said, “If I can’t have Jonathon with me, I can’t go on living.”

Staff got Jonathan into her hospital room to wait for her after surgery. ”His little nose was pressed against a crack in the door for an hour; he knew she was coming,” says Priem. “When she arrived, he hopped in her bed to lick her face, and she soon went back to sleep. From that second, I knew we needed FETCH.”

Another story tells of a gentleman with a life-threatening infection who’d put up his dog in a motel and then walked several miles to the ER. A long-haul driver, after receiving help — for himself and his dog —told Priem, “You don’t even know me, and you rescued my dog from a motel.” The grateful gentleman said he was going to look into helping others this way when he got home.

Felix, a 25-pound cat, was left behind in a mobile home. Unable to care for or even lift him, the owner agreed to surrender him for rehoming. “Please find him a good home,” she begged Priem, who said there were three holds on Felix at WHS by prospective adoptive families the first day. Ultimately he was adopted by a counselor, and is reportedly now helping her with grief counseling.

Still another case was a woman who had been homeless for eight years. She had three old dogs who themselves needed medical care. With the help of WHS, the dogs got better. The woman also got better, then found a job and an apartment. “This is a woman who was on the streets for eight years, often going without food so she could feed her dogs!” Priem repeats, still overjoyed with the outcome.

Other cases underscore the value of FETCH to not only the humans it serves, but the pets.

One gentleman came in, leaving behind two Rottweiler/Pit mixes, which were ultimately surrendered to WHS.

“Ozzie was dangerous,” says Priem. “The best trainers at WHS worked with him for 10 months. They didn’t give up. We all saw a special light in his eyes, but there were times . . . I’d get ‘the call’ that he might not make it.

“Then one day it all just clicked, and Ozzie was a different dog. Shortly after, a veteran who had just lost his therapy dog came to WHS. Ozzie walked right up to him. The shelter staff told him, ‘He is your dog!’”

The partnership with WHS is vital to the success of FETCH. “At the drop of a hat an animal can get care and boarding at the shelter, while being in the protective custody of the Salem Health Foundation,” says Priem. “I’ll call and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got two Yorkies.’ They’ll ask if they need vaccinations; I’ll say yes, and they’ll say, ‘Bring them in.’”

“We’ve had pets at WHS for weeks at a time, belonging mostly to people facing health emergencies. But also who are homelessness, elderly, or have no family support.

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FETCH is strictly a private venture. Because volunteers go into unknown, potentially dangerous situations, Priem understands that for now, due to liability issues, it shouldn’t be a formal hospital service. “We assume all personal liability because the need is there, and worth the risk,” she says.  Starting with zero resources, Priem has created legal forms dealing with permissions, liabilities, and the like. She says the partnership between WHS and the Salem Health Foundation is invaluable. “They both fill a critical gap, because you can’t board a pet without current vaccines, and thanks to the foundation, we get that done quickly so our patients get peace of mind . . . and can heal.”

”Word of mouth has increased our work, which means staff really need us,” she says. “They really care about our patients, so I’ve become their hidden asset!”  If the need continues to grow, she says she hopes FETCH will become a more formalized hospital program.

For now, “A case manager [from the hospital] will call — I know there’s a pet in need just by the phone number — and I have forms for patients to sign so I can go feed the pet at home, or do whatever’s needed.”

Priem welcomes anyone interested in starting a program like FETCH in their community to contact her, and to use her forms. Volunteers are also needed to help with anything from feeding or fostering cats and dogs in their homes to donations of pet food and funds, which can be made to the Salem Health Foundation. Contact Priem at spriem@hotmail.com.


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Kristan Dael is a freelance writer and the alter ego of Jennifer Mccammon. She lives in Portland with her pups, and strives to produce articles that inform, edify, engage and entertain.