Scheduling Debbie Wood’s interview over the phone was like talking with a lifelong friend, despite the fact that we’d never met. Her humor and niceness proved utterly sincere and delightful from the moment the smiling compact dynamo of energy greeted me at the door of the Bonnie L. Hays Small Animal Shelter in Hillsboro.
While Debbie is perhaps best known as an avid dog lover, advocate and longtime columnist, a quick glance at her storied career suggests she may in fact embody a little feline. Cats may have nine lives, but Debbie is giving them an impressive run: currently in her third career incarnation as Manager of Animal Services for Washington County, she keenly believes that we all must find and keep JOY in our work, she says. Laughter, smiles and fresh flowers weekly are some of thing ways she does just that.
Debbie’s illustrious professional career includes a long run as pet columnist for The Oregonian and author of not one, not two, but ELEVEN books on dog care.
Early on she worked in management and administration for low-income housing. Faced with an illness that left her temporarily unable to work, she dusted off old talents and wrote her way into a successful and exciting new career. The Tao of Bow Bow, Little Dogs: Training Your Pint-Sized Companion, Help for Your Shy Dog and The Dog Lover’s Guide to Dating: Using Cold Noses to Find Warm Hearts are just a few of the titles that led to Debbie being named Newspaper Person of the Year twice by the Dog Writers Association of America. She was also awarded the Veterinary Service Award from the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association — the highest honor the organization gives to non-veterinarians.
From 1998 -2008 Wood was the weekly pet columnist for The Oregonian. Every Tuesday devoted readers flipped to the Living Section for her wisdom on the care and loving of pets.
Debbie’s love for pets began with her own dogs, the first of which was her beloved Papillon, Goldie.
Today the manager of the Bonnie L. Hays Small Animal Shelter in Hillsboro, Debbie has mined yet another new set of work skills, skills that have allowed her and her staff to transform a “typical” shelter into a model workplace celebrating vitality, joy and excitement for the employees, the pets, and the community. Striving to redefine the animal shelter concept, Debbie says with apparent pride and joy, “What I am really great at is hiring good people — good people who do good work.”
Should you be so fortunate to spend an afternoon at Bonnie Hays with Debbie you might learn that the shelter sees 4000 strays annually, this year including two stray pigs found wandering the streets. Under her leadership, the shelter has reached a 60% reunification rate on stray dogs. Sadly the figure drops to a low 6% on lost or abandoned cats.
While Debbie’s accomplishments at the shelter are meritorious, her work is by no means done. Her goal is to stick around until a new shelter is built — though no one knows when that might be. In the meantime, however, animals will be cared for, employees will be valued, and Debbie Wood will provide a loving home for her newest Papillon, adopted from the shelter just a few weeks ago. What a lucky little dog!
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.